Teenagers – you can quit school and still get a good education!

Written By: webmaster - Dec• 24•05

by Lyn Loxton, – Home Education Network 2005

If you have found your way to this article, chances are you are having an unhappy time at school. Maybe you are being bullied, or are bored out of your mind or are just plain angry that your life is being wasted in the schoolyard. You may think you are a failure because teachers have said so and you may be failing exams at an impressive rate!

Chances are you are so angry and tired that you may drink more alcohol that you should Or have tried drugs more than once. There are probably even times when you begin to wonder if life is worth living……many of us do at some time.

First of all – you are NOT a failure – it is the school system that is failing you. You are an incredibly unique person and schools as they are today simply cannot cater for individuality. They have a set curriculum and set standards because this is the only way they can teach large groups of kids at once. This forces the kids to act the same and think the same and it also forces them into competition with each other both in an academic sense and a personal one. No room is left for individual thoughts and talents to be expressed or encouraged to a high degree. This is just the ways schools are and the only way they can ever be. If you wish to find out who that person inside you really is and if you wish to give him/her a shot at a real life for a change, maybe it is time to take off in another direction.

Unknowingly, you have already tried homeschooling for 5 years.

Firstly, the term homeschooling is actually misleading. School is what happens at school and only at school – education is what you can give yourself at home and out in the real world. The correct term therefore is home education or life education because it is from living life that you will find the education that is right for you.

Most of you have been in schools for so long now that you have forgotten what it is like to teach yourself about the wonders of the world and about the things that you are passionate about. In the first five years of your lives before you started school, you did nothing else but learn and wonder through the natural built-in curiosity that nature has endowed upon us all. This curiosity about life is our kick-start to learning how to survive in this world – how to walk, talk, eat, drink, run, write, read, operate the video remote and use a computer. For all of these things you didn’t need or have a curriculum or a qualified teacher in each subject. You just had the confidence and ability to teach yourselves what you needed to know. So you see, home education is not something that only hippies and whackos do, it is the way we were all meant to learn. Schools have only been around for 150 years or for three generations but in that time we seem to have entirely forgotten this!

If you had not been trotted off to the schoolyard at 5 years of age, you would have kept on learning in this way. You would have taught yourselves (with your parents guidance of course) to read and write, and to add and multiply and a million other interesting things just from day to day living because all these things are a part of our world. They are easy to learn when you are ready and don’t take up much time at all. At 5 you may not have been ready for these things, preferring instead to build Lego cities, or castles in the sand or painting works of art but at 10 suddenly a great interest in Egyptian mummies, or Harry Potter or War machines or algebra would have you scuttling down to the library to haul out great tomes on your favourite subjects and who knows where you would have ended up! This freedom to learn what you want, when you want is home education. This type of learning will happen all your life – apart from the 12 years that you are in school! For these years, most of what you learn will be controlled by others.

By the time many of you reach secondary schools, and particularly by mid way, you are often tired, angry and resentful. Resentful of the control others have over you, of pretending to be someone your not, of pressure to conform and pressure to succeed, of bad teachers, bullying, senseless homework about things that bore you to death. You have been in the schoolyard for so long now that you have not had the chance to observe the adult world and how life works in it and therefore you have not really had the chance to decide what you would like to do with your life – you have not had the opportunity for sampling.

In our society today, the school system is very powerful. It is drilled into us that we MUST attain the right pieces of paper if we are to make anything of ourselves – if we are to succeed and make pots of money (most people see this as success unfortunately), or if we are to realise the careers of our dreams.( Don’t forget as well, that the types of careers pushed by schools and society as the ultimate proof of success are often not really the ones we truly want for ourselves but are seen as the cool way to go. Its perfectly OK as well to join Greenpeace and help the natural world in its fight for survival, or to become a parent, or a truck driver or a friend lending a helping hand to neighbours or less fortunate communities around the world.)

Unfortunately, even after years of blood, sweat and tears, and you have the magical piece in your hand, there is no guarantee that you will find what you want. You may still have years of study ahead of you if you are lucky enough to get into the course of your dreams – if not – what then – extra study or a dead end job just to make ends meet.

During this time, many of you will fall by the school wayside. Deep unhappiness with your lives and feelings of utter despair and failure in the eyes of school people can end up in alcohol and drug abuse, behavioural problems, depression and sadly suicidal thoughts and actions. Your life is very precious, you only have one chance to live it and you must realise that you are quite capable educating yourself in the way that makes you happy and content with your life. You should be the master of all your learning. You should be the one in control because only you know you.

Home education and the desire to teach yourself everything about life, is still where you left it when you were five. It is probably still alive and well. Think about the passions you have now. It might be competitive horse riding, computer programming, animal breeding, web design, fashion design, dirt bikes – whatever it is – you can bet that all the knowledge you have acquired about your interest has come from your desire to learn about it and not from school. You are still educating yourself and you can keep on doing this in whatever field you choose. Many of you though may have lost sight of this ability to self-teach after years of controlled learning but it will come again with time. You have to trust that it will happen and give yourself all the time you need. Once you have found your focus and your goals in life, there are many options to choose from. I will give the tertiary options for Victoria Australia at the end of this article but for all states and countries there would be similar options.

The one major downside you will find is that your parents and most other well schooled adults in your lives will be mortified with the thought of you leaving school at this stage. They will tell you that you will end up jobless, unqualified for anything useful in life. It is not their fault – they have been taught to believe this and for them no other option is possible. Maybe you could ask them about all the things they have learned since they left school, all the life changes they have made, the computer skills they have taught themselves, the business they have started up, the house they have decorated, the old car they have remodelled, the law degree they have just started at 45 – all without a curriculum and schoolyard. Maybe they will get the idea!

Another thing you could do here is to write down all your thoughts about your aims and goals in life and your reasons for wanting to leave school and try something else. This may give your parents the chance to quietly absorb what you are trying to communicate to them. Most parents sincerely want only your happiness, and in the end may become your greatest supporter. You just need to give them a chance to get used to the idea.

Whatever happens, you can home educate at any age – you don’t need to enrol in anything, you don’t need the permission of the Education department to leave school, especially if you are 15 and over, your parents don’t need to oversee your learning in any way although many of them are very happy to help you out in any way they can.

By the way – millions of teenagers through-out the world are teaching themselves at home and they have had no trouble in getting into any University of their choice and taking up the career of their choice. We have published results from a world-wide study about the effectiveness of home education on this web page. You might like to take a look at this one. Home Schooling Works and invite your parents to as well.

You can do your VCE from home if you wish to have that piece of paper. Many careers do not even require this, so once you have decided to pursue something, have a look through a VTAC guide and see what requirements you need. If you need Year 11 English or Math, you can do this through CAE or AYCE (See website) or TAFE or teach yourself through books and ask for a special entry exam.

There are many doors open to you if you know where to look – it is up to you to start beating paths to them and opening them up for yourself and for others to follow. School is but one option – if it doesn’t suit you, for your life’s’ sake – try something else. I can assure you that you won’t regret it.

Recommended reading

Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Lewellyn. This book is a worthwhile read if you can get hold of it. Grace explains how it feels to leave school, how to explain yourself to your friends, maybe even indeed take them with you. She explains the lack of freedom you have in schools and what to do when you are finally out. She also looks at many different subjects and gives you ideas of how to get started in many different careers.

You can purchase the book through Amazon.com new or used books through this website – go to Recommended Reading. While you are there have a read of John Taylor Gatto’s Curriculum of Necessity – might put into perspective all of those issues with school and why it is so important to leave. John has been a teacher for 30 years and knows how you feel.

Talk to Home Educated Teenagers

If you would like to talk to the kids that are doing it, you can connect with them through aislinn@nulloptushome.com.au Please title email ATTENTION HOME EDUCATED TEENAGERS.

A lot of these kids have left schools at various times in their lives, others have tried it for a while and still others have never been.

Talk to Home Educating Parents

If you wish to call and talk to someone about your choices or Home Education in general, you can phone 9517 7107 and someone will call you back. If your parents wish to talk about it also please get them to ring.

Before you post a comment or question

We really feel for all the teens suffering in school and desperate for help but please keep in mind that we are volunteers home educating our own families in between trying to help others find useful information. Many of the questions posted in response to this article are similar and it would make our jobs easier if you could check these articles  and also look through the comments to see if your question has already been answered.

Also, issue 128 of Otherways contained details of many alternative pathways to university and further education.


You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


  1. susan wight says:

    Hi Sam,
    Sorry to hear you’ve been having such a tough time at school. Rest assured you are not the only one who hates it!
    It is possible to get an education at home and it is legal to do so. The legal requirements for SA are here http://www.sa.gov.au/subject/Education,+skills+and+learning/Schools/Alternative+schooling/Home+education
    Show your mum and see what she says. If she needs support and information, tell her to email me at coordinator@nullhome-ed.vic.edu.au
    Lots of teens do leave school and still get a good education and go on to uni and careers. I can fill her in on the options available as you progress.
    All the best

  2. jahalia jamieson says:

    my names jahalia and im getting bullied a lot in high school im 14yrs old and live in QLD,and i was wondering if you have to tell anyone your doing home education or do i just tell my school, ive put up with being bullied from grade 5 all the way through to grade 9 which is this year and its getting harder for me to find ways to live,im really depressed and hate school, i refuse to go but i don’t want my mums payments for me getting cut off,
    and i don’t want to go through distance education because my mum works and wont have the time to travel also i have a job, so i was just wondering if you could answer my questions
    1)is it free
    2)can you do it in QLD
    3)do i have to tell my school im doing home education so that they unroll me from my current school
    4)does my mum have to register me in anything to be able to start doing home education

    thank you for reading this an i hope to hear back from you
    kind regards
    jahalia jamieson :D

  3. susan wight says:

    Hi Jahalia,
    Sorry to hear about the tough time you have had.
    1)Home education can be free (depends on the resources you choose)
    2) it can be done in Queensland
    3&4) I’m unsure whether you have to inform your school but legally, approval is required from The Home Education Unit Ph 3405 3916 or 1800 677 176 Web: http://education.qld.gov.au/parents/home-education/index.html and there is quite a procedure to go through to get approval.

    Other options include:

    a) Distance Education – You say you don’t want to do that because you won’t have time to travel. The Distance Ed I’m talking about doesn’t involve travel, they send the work to you or deliver it via the internet. See http://education.qld.gov.au/curriculum/distance/ for details.
    b) Open Uni (minimum age is 11 years old and many first year subjects don’t have prerequisites)
    b) A christian distance education organisation – I don’t have up to date info but you could try googling for them. Some are American fundamentalist ones.

    All the best,

  4. Concerned Nan says:

    My 15 y/o grandson in Perth WA is failing at school and becoming a management problem both at home and school. His parents are at the end of their tether.

    Can he leave home to live with a relative?
    can he leave school?

    He has a weekend job for a few hours, at the moment.

    I feel the whole family
    is becoming very damaged by his behaviour.

    Formal counselling has not helped. My sense is that he needs to leave the home (one younger sibling now “hates” him, and my son has, in despairing moments, said the same.

    Please help me to help them.

  5. Sophie Sloup says:

    My names Sophie and I’m in year 8 this year at school and I live in Victoria. Ever since I started school I have hated it and after starting high school it has just gotten worse. This year I started at a new school as I thought it would help but it just keeps getting worse. I feel home education would be the best option for me but my parents don’t have the time to educate me. I’ve been researching home education but I just don’t know where to start with everything. I was wondering if there is some sort of online school that I could do at my age and if there are tutors that could teach me instead of my parents.
    Thankyou for reading.
    Sophie Sloup

  6. susan wight says:

    Hi Sophie, check out Distance Education http://www.distance.vic.edu.au/ and see if you fit any of their eligibility criteria (or even if your school would approve you under the ‘school recommendation’ category) Another option worth considering is the AYCE programme which involves attendance one day a week and completing the rest of the work at home. There are various campuses around the state although the main one is at Yea High School. Hope that helps, all the best

  7. susan wight says:

    Hi Joanne, It does sound like your son and his family are having a pretty tough time. Depending on your grandson’s interests, Open University or Open TAFE may be options for him – there is no minimum age for either and they could allow him to bypass the rest of school and get on with learning in a direction where he can see a purpose.

    As to home education itself, because the laws and available options surrounding home education differ from state to state, I suggest you contact the WA Home Based Learning Network coordinator@nullhbln.org.au

    Another option could be the WA Distance Education service http://www.side.wa.edu.au/index.php but I am unfamiliar with their eligibility criteria and, if he finds the school curriculum uninteresting or irrelevant, Distance Ed would just transfer the problem from school to home as the curriculum is the same, only the location and delivery changes.

    Apparently there is no set ‘leaving home’ age in WA (see http://www.communities.wa.gov.au/communities-in-focus/parenting_and_children/parentingwa/parenting-questions/teenagers/Pages/Leaving-home.aspx) and, if everyone is agreeable, there is no reason why your grandson couldn’t come to live with you or another relative.

    As far as school leaving age, it is 17 in WA http://leavingschoolinfo.com.au/info_ageforleaving.php but if he transferred to another full time learning situation (eg TAFE, Open University, correspondence course) or work (eg apprenticeship, training, or job) that would be considered acceptable.

    An open and honest talk to your grandson about what his interests are and where he sees his future may open up new areas of research. It sounds to me like he is just finding school irrelevant and possibly feeling trapped in the system. If he mentions a particular area of interest and you aren’t sure where to go with that, feel free to drop me an email at coordinator@nullhome-ed.vic.edu.au and I’ll see what I can find for him.

    All the best with finding the right path for him and alleviating the stress for all.

  8. Samantha Buchanan says:

    HI,My name is Samantha and i am from Victoria. I have 4 children,21 year old daughter who is in university ,12 year old in grade 6 ,4 year old son who is in kindergarten and has just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and My 15 year old daughter who has not been to school for a year now. She suffers from panic attacks, depression and anxiety. These problems all started due to bullying at school.It has come to the point where she cannot even leave the house. She is seeing a doctor about her problems and i have just enrolled her in home schooling . Could you please let me know what she is meant to be learning in year ten as i am unsure and she wants to learn and keep up with her education.
    thank you.

  9. Debbie says:

    My grand daughter refuses to go to school. She is 14 years old and has changed schools 4 times since year seven and now in year nine. She is quiet and doesn’t socialise much but spends a lot of time on the computer (not facebook etc but generating her own computer games and she now types 90 words per minute). She feels she is “dumb” but is very bright but has missed so much school she is a long way behind her peers. She has said she is in all the “dumb” classes and the kids don’t learn anything. I think she is embarrassed because she is behind. She also has been bullied badly and this she is ugly (she is very pretty). She doesn’t have much self esteem at all.
    We are in NSW in a good area but just don’t know where to go to get help. The schools have not been that helpful either. At the moment, she is not at school although my daughter has been to the school to discuss this with them. She was only at the last school for two days and ran into a girl who had bullied her at another school so refused to go back. My daughter had just spent $300 on new uniforms, again and she is a low income earner. What can we do??

  10. susan wight says:

    Hi Debbie,
    I am sorry to hear about your granddaughter’s school experiences but am sad to say, it is not uncommon. The options to consider are:
    1. home education – details for registering in NSW are here http://www.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/home-schooling/index.html but it is much more complex in NSW than in Victoria.
    2. You could see if the Distance Education centre will enrol her – they basically provide education to people in remote locations. Their equivalent in Victoria do accept students outside the guidelines in some circumstances but I don’t have any experience with the NSW one. Try http://rde.nsw.edu.au/ or http://oten.tafensw.edu.au/
    3. Open University – given how bright she is this is a serious option. The minimum age is 11 and first year subjects often have no prerequisites. Take a look there at their undergraduate IT units http://www.open.edu.au/courses/it/ugrd 2 units counts at a time counts as being a full-time student. I recommend one to begin with.
    4. Open TAFE is worth considering also http://openlearning.tafe.qld.gov.au/

    It sounds like your granddaughter really needs to move on from school and start learning in the area of her own interests. Open Uni/Open TAFE would allow her to do that. Note that both can lead onto a traditional university place.
    All the best, Sue

  11. susan wight says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Sorry to hear about your daughter’s troubles. Rest assured she can still get a good education outside school. Options for you:
    1)The Victorian Level 10 curriculum is available here http://ausvels.vcaa.vic.edu.au/Level10
    2)It is also possible to purchase materials from distance ed – contact them through http://www.distance.vic.edu.au/ (note this isn’t the same as enrolling, you just buy the materials and supervise them yourself.
    3) Given your daughter’s situation, you could see if enrolling in Distance Ed is an option – although the basic eligibility is distance or medical reasons, they do take some students under a ‘school referral’ category and some outside the guidelines. Note that if you enrol there, you de-register with the VRQA.
    4) It is also possible to educate her by following her interests, picking and choosing resources to match – see our resources section for ideas.
    5) Open University and Open TAFE are also options – the minimum age is 11 and many first year subjects don’t have prerequisites. (again, this requires de-registration with the VRQA)
    6) There may be a certificate course at your local TAFE that appeals to her – a cert IV can lead onto a diploma or to uni entry depending on what direction she wishes to take. (again, this requires de-registration with the VRQA)

  12. Jarrad says:

    Hi I’m 15 and in year ten (WA) I go to school once a week out of choice because I feel like the school I’m in doesn’t offer enough options for kids my age and it would be better to learn by experience. Recently my mother has discussed ideas of opening a Cafe and ever since I was 12 I have wanted to be a chef. I was just wondering if I drop out of school and work with my mother can I go back and get my Western Australian Cert. of secondary school finishing. If I do does that mean I need to do a uni bridging coarse or go to tafe/ night school etc…

  13. susan wight says:

    Hi Jarrod, you can certainly pick up your WACE later on if you wish to or do a bridging course or use Open Uni to gain qualifications. I am not sure what the school leaving age is for WA – see https://hbln.org.au/ (our sister group in WA) who will be able to help you with local info. There may also be local options for picking up hospitality certificates via TAFE which you may be able to do in combination with working with your mum.
    All the best with finding the right balance and having a great future. You know what you want to do, go for it!

  14. Rachel says:

    Hi, I’m fifteen and looking to leave school in eight weeks once I’ve finished year ten. I haven’t talked to my mum about it and was wondering how I could talk to her about it. I’ve always loved school but now feel as though the school system is failing me. I’ve been unusually stressed and tired, something I’m not used to feeling. I’m enrolling to do TAFE next year for a diploma in nursing which is something I’ve always wanted to do. Any advice on how to talk to my mum about leaving to focus full-time on study/TAFE?
    Thanks. [Queensland]

  15. Izzey McNamara says:

    Hi, I’m 18 and I’m in my last year in secondary school in Ireland!
    I hate school and I find it very stressful and boring and nothing seems to be sticking into my head!
    I still want to get a good job and stuff and my family think I’m crazy when I say I want to quit school!
    But if there’s a way of leaving and still getting educated and be able to get a proper job then I would leave!

  16. susan wight says:

    Hi Izzey, yes it is very possible to quit school and get a good education. Maybe Open University has something to interest you. Check out http://www.open.ac.uk or contact the English home ed organisation Edeucation Otherwise for other local options http://www.educationotherwise.net/

    We mainly know about Australian options – one that could work for you from Ireland is our own version of Open University http://www.open.edu.au There are generally no prerequisites for first year subjects and you can use a few subjects to apply for a traditional uni place when you are ready.

    All the best with finding the right options for you. Rest assured, there is life outside school.

  17. susan wight says:

    Hi Rachel,
    It sounds like you have a plan which is great, it is just having that conversation with your mum that feels daunting. Perhaps asking her to read this article might be a good starter. Sometimes reading something is a non-confrontational way to open up the topic – you could print it off, give it to her and ask her to have a read. Tell her you came across it and would like to have a chat about your career path. Putting it that way may prevent her from going into a spin of ‘OMG you want to drop out and RUIN YOUR LIFE!’ Reading the article can remind parents of issues they themselves had with school, when you do have your conversation you could talk about how you really want to get started on learning relevant things to your career and so much of school is about crowd control and you are stuck with people who don’t want to learn. As a parent, she no doubt wants to ensure your future options aren’t limited by this decision. But you have a plan to work towards your chosen career via TAFE. Another option worth considering is picking up undergraduate university units via Open Universities Australia. They do have three first year health subjects listed:

    Two of them have no prerequisites and the third requires you either to have completed one of their Study Skills units (see the Before you Start link ) or one of the other units.
    With decent results, you can use these subjects instead of an ATAR school to get into an on campus nursing position and will be given credit for them. So you’d be out nursing faster this way than plodding through VCE and then starting uni. To get into nursing on campus, you may need to do a science bridging course, but open uni also have those available.

    All the best with the big talk. If your mum wishes to talk to a home ed parent about how school leavers can still get into a career, she’s welcome to give me a call on 54395134.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>