1521721_834043066656083_7306683100154554155_nLast year Fiona had two siblings at home full-time, and lived in a home with all her stuff, reams of amenities and a bedroom of her own. This year she has no siblings (or siblings’ friends) around home, and half her life is spent sort of killing time at a house in Nelson that we share but don’t feel at home in, bereft of “stuff” and personal space. Dance is great. Gymnastics is good. Violin and choir are going fine. But in between there are a lot of hours.

Next year she wants to do more ballet, and Sophie will still be in school in Nelson, so we’ll still need an place there. But it’s clear we need two bedrooms, damn the expense. That will help.

But she’s also wanting more than just a comfortable place to watch Netflix or practice braiding her hair. She’s craving some organized and challenging learning opportunities. Opportunities where there’s a bit of external accountability, some new experiences and relationships, and the intellectual challenge she wants. She dreams big, and she feels the constraints of her chronological age keenly. She would very much like to be attending university in, say, Edinburgh or Auckland, preferably studying psychology or architecture.

She knows that’s not practical, though, because she is only just turning 12. And the baby steps (working through the Khan Academy MCAT psychology lectures online, for example) are not sufficient. While she finds open courseware and other online learning aids interesting, she isn’t so much craving the content of university as the experience.

Yes, she’s probably romanticizing university a bit. But I get it. Her current unschooling doesn’t feel connected enough to the larger academic world nor is it providing a framework for her to challenge herself against. High school will only go part way, she knows that. She’s looking further ahead.

And at first, that university aspiration seemed impossibly far away. Even thinking about it made her feel hopeless. She wants to go the route of a high school diploma, and that requires completing 20 full courses at the Grade 10-12 level. She’s only “Grade 6 age.” So young still. But then we sat down, figured out where she’s at, and looked at what the options are ahead. That seemingly endless path from now to then got a lot shorter as we connected the dots.

This year, thanks to a double grade-skip in the DL program, she’s considered an 8th grader. She’s already got most of what she needs for a high school music credit in hand; she’ll just need to schedule the actual theory and practical examinations at some point in the next year or two.

Next year, as a 9th grader, she can register at SelfDesign as a DL student and take up to two high school courses. If we made those English and Science, that would give her two more courses prior to actually officially being in Grade 10.

The following year, as a 10th-grader, she could challenge the Math 10 course. (Since she’s already halfway through the course, that’s a no-brainer.) Then she could enrol in Math 11, and a slate of 7 other courses to make up a full course-load. She’d likely do the first semester through SelfDesign High, and the second semester in the regular high school in Nelson, where she could get labs and options that benefit from in-person learning.

That puts her up to 12 courses. That will mean she’ll only need a further 8 courses to graduate, and that’s a full course-load for one year. So the upshot is that within a few months of turning 15 she could have a high school graduation diploma.

Now, I doubt that she will actually want to head off to university at that point. I expect she’ll want to instead fit in some AP courses, some work, some travel and various other educational options and life experiences. I’m no way convinced that continuing to accelerate her academic learning to this degree is ideal.

But seeing that it is at least possible? That woke her up in a big way.

Looking ahead

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