Son needs to finish high school, but how?

Posted by Barbara F. Meltz  August 2, 2011 06:00 AM

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Hi Barbara,

I have been online all day trying to find answers to this question: What does a child do when he doesn't finish high school?

My oldest was Left Behind in a sense. How this all started is the High School he attended told him to continue at another school. So this was probably his chance to make up credits and attend his 5th year to graduate. But he was extremely lazy and not motivated at all. I then took him out and registered him into Job Corps. That didn't work out, due to many reasons. He is lacking 4 credits.

I don't know where to turn for help. I don't know what is a spamy site when looking for online courses, that he may take or even who to contact through the Dept of Ed. Or even if the Law No child left behind has effect on this.

Would you know where to look for help?
Thanks for reading

From: Cheryl, Milford, MA


Dear Cheryl,

When I called J.C. Considine in the media office at the State Department of Education, he said you're absolutely right, no on-line sites exist for solving this problem. So here are your choices:

1. Massachusetts school districts will allow a dual enrollment at a local community college where successful completion of an equivalent course (usually defined by a C or better) allows him to finish his requirements and receive his diploma. To make this happen, talk to the principal and find out what course(s) the district will accept. The problem is not getting in; community colleges in MA have open enrollment. The issue is making sure the high school will approve the credits. Get it in writing that X, Y & Z are what he needs to meet the requirements.

2. If he can't do the community college route, the other option is to go for a GED, the equivalent of a diploma. Check the Department of Education site here for how to accomplish that, or call the DOE assistance Hot Line at 800-447-8844.

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8 comments so far...
  1. Am I reading this right that your son would be in his 5th year of high school? So he's 18 or 19? Time to let him take on some responsibility for himself. He's an adult. His mother shouldn't be signing him up for Job Corps and doing all the leg work for community college for him. Stop babying him and give him his options: enroll in classes or get a job and start paying rent or move out.

    Posted by Marie August 2, 11 07:16 AM
  1. Dear Cheryl, there isn't a lot that YOU can do for your son. You can get an assessment of learning disabilities, in case there was something that previous schools missed out on.

    But YOU cannot get your son a job or anything else if HE doesn't want it. You can require your son to either be in school with passing grades, or to pay you rent if he wants to live at home. He will find out soon enough that HE needs a high school diploma when HE gets out and starts looking.

    You have to focus on your other children, and make sure that they all know that the rule will be stay in school or pay rent. Please do NOT bend any house rules about sharing housework chores or curfews. This may be a struggle at first, but your kids will be better prepared for the real world when they learn to respect such rules.

    Posted by Irene August 2, 11 08:10 AM
  1. Marie, I believe that is exactly what Cheryl IS doing-providing him his options. She just needs to know what they are first. We know so little about the situation that there is no need to kick Cheryl while she is down and assume we know the solution to her son's problems when we hardly know what happened. And I don't think focusing on her other children and forgetting about her son is realistic at all. He might be an actual adult but he is still her child. Kudos to Cheryl for trying to nip this in the bud.

    Posted by Linney August 2, 11 09:46 AM
  1. Tough love is the last thing you try- not the first. First you see if you can help somehow. You don't throw someone who is lacking organizational skills out into the world to sink or swim. Poverty and homelessness are huge hurdles to overcome. We like to think everyone can make it on their own here in America. It's not true.

    I would suggest Cheryl get in touch with NAMI. They can help people deal with relatives that may be suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. Her son might have some undiagnosed problems that are preventing him from moving forward. NAMI has some helpful information.

    Posted by scorpiorising August 2, 11 11:58 AM
  1. Dear Cheryl, All hope is not lost. You can also look for some online high school or online adult completion programs that can be completed at your son's own pace e.g. Excel High School Online. Try a search for accredited online high schools or high school equivalency diploma. Just be sure the schools you seek are registered with their State Department of Education and Regionally Accredited. Any other Accreditation besides Regional or DETC are not going to bring value to your son’s diploma. Best of luck in your search!

    Posted by Rod C August 2, 11 08:03 PM
  1. I got my GED the year I was supposed to graduate. It served me just fine. I didn't take any courses leading up to it, but I do know that some have done GED prep courses. It may be his best avenue. It won't hurt his future the way so many people like to have you believe. Trust me on that one.

    Posted by anon August 3, 11 07:44 AM
  1. My husband did not finish high school and to be honest did not really get his act together until he was 23 or so. Today he is in management at an international corporation. Here is what he recommends for wayward young men: 1) get a GED. 2) work at a physical labor job like construction or landscaping long enough to decide whether that is your "thing" or pick some other career. Do NOT start college and take out loans without a career plan if you have a history of not finishing things or are not a "school person". 3) If you pick a career path that requires education, take a certification course at a real college where you can eventually transfer those credits if you want to pursue a degree. 4) get an entry level job in your chosen field with your certificate. 5) work your butt off to move up, dress professionally, and remember that your most important job duty is to make your boss look good. No one will ever ask whether you finished high school.

    Posted by DC August 3, 11 11:47 PM
  1. Most of DC's advice is good. But definitely white collar professionals will care whether your finished high school. In fact, you will always be at a disadvantage if you don't have a bachelor's degree. My sister has had this problem for years. But I think DC probably means that there are other avenues to supporting yourself after dropping out of school with professional trade or blue collar jobs. Which is true. A GED should suffice because on-the-job experience is the most important thing.

    I also agree that mom has every right to help her guide her teen son. If he were twenty-five, still at home and uneducated, it might be a different story.

    Posted by ep August 4, 11 11:49 AM
 
8 comments so far...
  1. Am I reading this right that your son would be in his 5th year of high school? So he's 18 or 19? Time to let him take on some responsibility for himself. He's an adult. His mother shouldn't be signing him up for Job Corps and doing all the leg work for community college for him. Stop babying him and give him his options: enroll in classes or get a job and start paying rent or move out.

    Posted by Marie August 2, 11 07:16 AM
  1. Dear Cheryl, there isn't a lot that YOU can do for your son. You can get an assessment of learning disabilities, in case there was something that previous schools missed out on.

    But YOU cannot get your son a job or anything else if HE doesn't want it. You can require your son to either be in school with passing grades, or to pay you rent if he wants to live at home. He will find out soon enough that HE needs a high school diploma when HE gets out and starts looking.

    You have to focus on your other children, and make sure that they all know that the rule will be stay in school or pay rent. Please do NOT bend any house rules about sharing housework chores or curfews. This may be a struggle at first, but your kids will be better prepared for the real world when they learn to respect such rules.

    Posted by Irene August 2, 11 08:10 AM
  1. Marie, I believe that is exactly what Cheryl IS doing-providing him his options. She just needs to know what they are first. We know so little about the situation that there is no need to kick Cheryl while she is down and assume we know the solution to her son's problems when we hardly know what happened. And I don't think focusing on her other children and forgetting about her son is realistic at all. He might be an actual adult but he is still her child. Kudos to Cheryl for trying to nip this in the bud.

    Posted by Linney August 2, 11 09:46 AM
  1. Tough love is the last thing you try- not the first. First you see if you can help somehow. You don't throw someone who is lacking organizational skills out into the world to sink or swim. Poverty and homelessness are huge hurdles to overcome. We like to think everyone can make it on their own here in America. It's not true.

    I would suggest Cheryl get in touch with NAMI. They can help people deal with relatives that may be suffering from mental illnesses such as depression. Her son might have some undiagnosed problems that are preventing him from moving forward. NAMI has some helpful information.

    Posted by scorpiorising August 2, 11 11:58 AM
  1. Dear Cheryl, All hope is not lost. You can also look for some online high school or online adult completion programs that can be completed at your son's own pace e.g. Excel High School Online. Try a search for accredited online high schools or high school equivalency diploma. Just be sure the schools you seek are registered with their State Department of Education and Regionally Accredited. Any other Accreditation besides Regional or DETC are not going to bring value to your son’s diploma. Best of luck in your search!

    Posted by Rod C August 2, 11 08:03 PM
  1. I got my GED the year I was supposed to graduate. It served me just fine. I didn't take any courses leading up to it, but I do know that some have done GED prep courses. It may be his best avenue. It won't hurt his future the way so many people like to have you believe. Trust me on that one.

    Posted by anon August 3, 11 07:44 AM
  1. My husband did not finish high school and to be honest did not really get his act together until he was 23 or so. Today he is in management at an international corporation. Here is what he recommends for wayward young men: 1) get a GED. 2) work at a physical labor job like construction or landscaping long enough to decide whether that is your "thing" or pick some other career. Do NOT start college and take out loans without a career plan if you have a history of not finishing things or are not a "school person". 3) If you pick a career path that requires education, take a certification course at a real college where you can eventually transfer those credits if you want to pursue a degree. 4) get an entry level job in your chosen field with your certificate. 5) work your butt off to move up, dress professionally, and remember that your most important job duty is to make your boss look good. No one will ever ask whether you finished high school.

    Posted by DC August 3, 11 11:47 PM
  1. Most of DC's advice is good. But definitely white collar professionals will care whether your finished high school. In fact, you will always be at a disadvantage if you don't have a bachelor's degree. My sister has had this problem for years. But I think DC probably means that there are other avenues to supporting yourself after dropping out of school with professional trade or blue collar jobs. Which is true. A GED should suffice because on-the-job experience is the most important thing.

    I also agree that mom has every right to help her guide her teen son. If he were twenty-five, still at home and uneducated, it might be a different story.

    Posted by ep August 4, 11 11:49 AM
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About the author

Barbara F. Meltz is a freelance writer, parenting consultant, and author of "Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding How Your Children See the World." She won several awards for her weekly "Child Caring" column in the Globe, including the 2008 American Psychological Association Print Excellence award. Barbara is available as a speaker for parent groups.

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