Parents who are dealing with struggling or at-risk teens at home often see alternative high schools as good options over mainstream education. Alternative schools use a variety of approaches that are different from mainstream schools or traditional education. There are many different kinds of alternative high schools and the approach that they take with students also vary widely.
Generally, alternative schools can be classified into four major categories:
- School choice – These are also called “schools within schools” or alternative classrooms within public schools which receive state funding. They are semi-autonomous classes that exist within mainstream school systems. They may be partially funded by private sectors as well. One example of school choice alternative education program are schools which specializes on one subject matter. For instance, schools for performing arts where most electives are about music, dance, or other related subjects. These schools are very useful for students who show exemplary aptitude in specific subject matters. They would be better nurtured in alternative high schools rather than mainstream schools.
- Alternative schools – These are schools which uses nontraditional teaching methods and academic curriculum. In the United States, alternative high schools information vary widely. There are schools that offer academic alternatives or new ways of learning things, and there are schools that offer programs which are specifically designed for teens with disciplinary challenges like troubled teens, out of control youth, and delinquents. The main issue with this kind of setup is that teens with learning differences or disabilities may be grouped with teens who have behavioral or attitude problems. More often than not, this can be detrimental to the learning and development of some students.
- Independent schools – This type of alternative high schools have more flexibility when it comes to their approach to education. An example would be schools that use experiential education where students learn through experience or through interacting with their environment
- Home-based schools – One of the most popular alternatives to traditional education. It’s an option that’s most considered by parents who are looking for flexibility because of political, religious, philosophical or other reasons. There are several different approaches to home schooling, including “unschoolers” or people who learn things based on their interest rather than following a traditional or recommended curriculum.
Different approaches may be beneficial to different situations. There are children who flourish more and learn more when taken out of traditional classrooms. If your teen is putting in the effort but just cannot excel in mainstream schools, or if your teen has struggles with other issues like poor attitude, challenging authority figures, and more, maybe it’s also time to consider taking them to a different environment where they can be helped with their issues and not just their studies.
Teens who have learning differences and disabilities or disorders like ADHD/ADD would also do better in alternative schools rather than in mainstream schools because their learning style is different from other students.
Getting to know what your teen really needs and finding the right response and intervention needed takes time and effort. A good first step to take is to accept when your teen needs more help than what he/she is getting right now.