What is a hacked education?

1 Nov

 

Open the door to your education.

photo by saavem at sxc.hu

For most people, high school means going to the local school for six or seven hours, taking the classes they tell you (or choosing from a limited number of options), sitting through four years, and then getting a pretty diploma at the end.

But that’s not your only option.

Have it your way

What if you could choose your education? I’m not talking about just picking which elective class you get to take this year. I’m talking about your entire education:

  • Where you go to school
  • When you go to school
  • How many years you’re in high school
  • How many hours a day you’re in school or doing homework
  • What classes you take
  • What you learn
  • How you learn

You can hack your education like this. Yes, YOU. And it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, many options are completely free, and more and more school districts are paying for the options that cost money.

Is it legal?

Yes, of course! IF you do it right. Dropping out of high school to follow your own hacked education plan is NOT legal, nor is it wise. But by following the procedures your state has set up for you (and every single state in the US has these procedures), you CAN hack your education.

Most of the time, you’ll probably refer to yourself as a “homeschooler” for legal purposes, but don’t let that limit your options.

So what are my options?

  • Stay in a regular high school and add amazing things to your education
  • Go to a regular high school for just a couple of classes–and use the extra time to learn even more
  • Completely avoid a regular high school and learn outside the box
  • Go to virtual school part-time or full-time
  • Take community college classes
  • “Unschool” yourself
  • Use your job as a class
  • Take FREE classes online or on your iPod from Harvard, Yale, MIT, and other prestigious schools
  • Travel
  • Go on field trips: museums, historical sites, your mom’s workplace, the local sanitation department
  • Read
  • Graduate early

Okay, I could keep going, but this is just a sprinkling of ideas. The key behind a hacked education is mix and match: take the best of these and use them to learn

An example, please

Monday morning: you sleep in until 10, then go to school for third period English and fourth period Algebra. Then you head over to your local community college where you take Biology 101 and this absolutely amazing filmmaking class by a guy who grew up with Speilberg. In the evening, you go to work at the local PetSmart, which counts as your economics class, since you write a paper once a month on things like how people spend money, what the average upsell is, and how much people spend on their impulse buys of the junk sitting around the cash register. After work, you sign in to your online history class and post a comment or two on the lesson.

Tuesday: after English and Algebra (which you have every day), you do whatever you want, since you don’t have any other classes today.

So how do I get started?

First things first: you need your parents’ permission. You absolutely cannot do this legally without your parents/guardians approving. But don’t despair! If that seems impossible, I have a long post series planned on how to convince the most reluctant parents.

Second: find and fulfill the legal requirements. You’ll be searching for the requirements on homeschooling, since that’s the way the law will classify your hacked education. The Home School Legal Defense Association has a list of resources by state: http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp. The laws usually list how many days of school per year are required (if any), what subjects you are required to study (if any), compulsory attendance age (usually until 18), and the steps you need to take to start a homeschool (hacked education) program.

For example, here in Texas, all you have to do is submit a letter to your school district, signed by your parents, that states that you intend, in good faith, to follow an education plan that will teach you good citizenship, reading, spelling, grammar, and math. That’s it.

Third: make and follow a plan. What exactly do you want to get out of high school? What do your parents think you ought to learn? Find ways to learn those things. If you want to go to a regular school for a couple of classes each day, talk to your school counselor. Some schools encourage it, some… let’s just say some don’t. Really, though, it is in the school’s best interest to keep you on the attendance records at least part-time, since they get money if you attend.

The third step is, of course, enormously huge, but I have tons of posts coming that will go through the steps on how to:

  • Apply to and attend community colleges
  • Get into virtual schools
  • Create your own classroom at the library
  • Use your job as a class
  • Graduate early
  • Use iTunes U and opencourseware to learn (for free!) from the most prestigious universities in the world

Post your comments and ideas

Besides tons of posts on each topic, I’m in the process of creating a course on hacking high school. Any ideas on specific things I should be sure to cover? What is holding YOU back from hacking your education? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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