Although she’s only equivalent to Grade 9 by age and this semester is taking three academic Grade 12 courses, school has ended up being fairly unchallenging for Fiona. She picked up a DL Spanish course in October to fill her days and that helped while it lasted. It’s not like she’s completely miserable; she enjoys her teachers and friends, and she is certainly learning something. But considering she finishes almost all of her work in class, and has a 99.5% average in courses that are among the most advanced the school offers, it’s safe to say that she will not be adequately challenged in the years to come. There is only one more math course (Calculus) available at her school, and she can’t enrol in it until January 2019 at the earliest since priority is given to Grade 12 students and it is over-subscribed this year. She’s got half the senior sciences completed already.

She’ll still have 24 credits (6 courses) left to do after this semester ends in order to meet the graduation requirements, and we were hoping she would stretch those out over a few more years. But I think she’s going to need higher level learning, and I’m not quite sure how to fill that need.

She learns wonderfully in a teacher-led classroom amongst older, enthusiastic students. She is very relationship-driven as a learner and she loves having personal connections with her teachers, particularly if the connections involve shared dry, dark senses of humour. So reverting to online solitary learning isn’t ideal, even though she’ll do it (as with Spanish) to serve a purpose. It just doesn’t light her fire, though.

Community college enrolment or cross-enrolment would be ideal, except that we don’t have a college nearby that offers academic courses. And being 14, she isn’t about to head off to university or to the city for work experience, nor can she do a work-travel gap year abroad. And she’s not particularly interested in a language exchange: she would likely have to drop dance, she is reticent about what would surely if only for liability reasons be a far more controlling environment than she enjoys here, and she’s not particularly interested in language immersion anyway.

She has more energy for dance, which now takes up between 17 and 20 hours a week. She arrives at the studio rested and eager for challenge, which is a lovely change from her over-stretched tired demeanor last year. And she still has enough time in her weekdays to practice violin for at least a few minutes a day. We’ve also got a couple of trips organized for her this year, a marine biology guided education trip to Baja in March and a three-week backpacking style trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos in January-February with some family friends. She’ll have some catching up to do at school as a result, which will create some short-term challenge. All of which is great for now, and generally she is happy. But … for how long will the current situation continue to meet her needs? Not long, I expect.

So we’re starting to look outside the box again.

Will school ever be the whole story?

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