Is high school really that big of a deal?
January 30, 2012 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Am I really missing out on the traditional high school experience?

Here's the thing. I'm currently a homeschooled junior in high school who dual-enrolls at a community college. I have not homeschooled my entire school career. I was in the public system until 9th grade, when anxiety and depression overwhelmed me to the point of missing 2-4 days a week, crying constantly, anxious vomiting, severe headaches, anxiety and panic attacks--I had the whole works going on. Truancy officers got involved, my mother was at a loss, I was a basket case, and she pulled me out.

Since I dropped out of the public system, I've been seeing a therapist and taking medicine. My mental health improved enough just in time for the brand new dual-enrollment program. It's been nice. I'm making friends - the interim between 9th and present was extremely isolated, lots of "I can't leave the house," etc - and generally getting along pretty well. And I've begun to wonder. Should I try to go back to public school? Will I be missing anything? Is it worth it?

I like being a college student. I like not having to sit in a classroom for 8 hours a day and not doing busywork and taking interesting classes. I still feel a pang when I hear my new friends talking about their high school days or read about something someone's English teacher said. I have mild OCD which, of course, lends itself to the obsessive thoughts, but god, I'm having trouble rationalizing everything and I just want advice and some comfort, maybe.

I'm American. My area has no magnet/charter/privates I can afford that would suit me academically and socially.

The worst part is that I wouldn't even like high school. What do you think? If you'd rather contact me privately, please feel free to email me at
posted by anonymous to Education (54 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
You're missing some things that other people experience and experiencing some things that others miss. If what you're doing works for you, keep doing it.

I found high school academically very unchallenging, but I learned a lot of social skills there. It depends what your priorities are. There's no one right answer.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:09 PM on January 30, 2012

If you mean the typical "football games, homecoming, prom, eating lunch in the cafeteria" experience, then yes, I suppose you're missing out on that. But for most people, there is no typical high school experience, and many people are glad to be out of there as soon as they can.

If you're making friends, happy and healthy, I wouldn't worry about what you're missing, but instead appreciate the things you have.
posted by marcusesses at 10:10 PM on January 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

I had a pretty non-traumatic high school experience - some of it was even pretty okay - but it's not for everyone, that's okay, and while you might be missing out on some mythical High School Experience, you're having a different, equally valid experience.

There are always going to be things you miss out on in life - each choice you make means a road not taken (at least for now). It's okay. You'll continue to have all kinds of experiences, which you would have missed if you'd chosen something else.
posted by rtha at 10:11 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

IME, the high school experience is not at all as glorious as the movies, television, or other people make it to be, and if you're flourishing outside of regular high school, don't go back. Rock that alternative education. It'll benefit you far more than you'll ever know.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:12 PM on January 30, 2012 [21 favorites]

I know it seems this way at the moment, but high school won't be a big thing forever. If the only thing people can talk about is their time at high school, then they're probably not particularly interesting friends anyway. Once you've left college, people won't care what school you went to, or whether you did at all.

Yes, you're missing out on some things. Yes, there'll be conversations among groups of school friends that will make you a little jealous. In the long run though (and a few years isn't that much of a long run) it won't matter a jot. If you like college, and didn't like school, then you shouldn't go back for some vaguely identified experience that you're missing out on.
posted by twirlypen at 10:13 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I didn't go to high school. I was home schooled and did a lot of independent reading and college-level correspondence courses. I'm almost 30 now and not going to a normal high school has not ever caused me any problems at all. The isolation could be a problem, but it sounds like you have friends now. You are learning things and you are happy. You might not get exactly the same experiences that you see in high school movies, but you will do amazing fun wonderful things with your friends that are just as valuable. Do not worry about it.
posted by steinwald at 10:13 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you like what you're doing now, don't change.

High school becomes so insignificant in the scheme of things anyway.
posted by mleigh at 10:16 PM on January 30, 2012

Let's separate the ILLUSION of the high-school experience from the REALITY of it, okay?

The illusion of high school is the proms and parties and sports games and blah blah blah, as portrayed by television and movies and many generations' expectations.

The reality is sometimes pleasant, generally difficult, usually restrictive, fraught with peer pressure, the potential for bullying, and so on and so forth.

You're missing out on "being like everyone else". That's hard; it makes you an outsider in small ways that you can never quite remedy. It's also awesome, because it makes you different, it makes you unique - it gives you a perspective that others can never quite share, something that you bring to the table that no one else can.

The pangs are normal. There's no reason you have to let them get embedded, and become infected with regrets. Accept them, and move on, and keep being your awesome self. You're golden. No worries.
posted by mie at 10:19 PM on January 30, 2012 [16 favorites]

What I would have missed had I skipped high school would have been the friends my age. My best friend in 9th grade is still my best friend--we met in art class and bonded over how weird we were.

(I recently rewatched all of "Daria" and it was pretty accurate to my high school experience, both in the positives and the negatives. Might be worth a watch.)

I'd look for opportunities to meet people your own age. Try the teen section in your local library, or even get some sort of retail job at a place that employs a lot of teenagers. Or hey, do what we did--go to local shows at the VFW hall or whatever. Intermingling with your peers is valuable. The educational value, not so much.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:24 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

High school is jail.

I remember thinking I was "missing out" by not going to the Prom but almost 20 years down the line it couldn't possibly mean less to me. If I had it to do over I would finish HS early and start college. Live your life the way that's right for you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:27 PM on January 30, 2012 [15 favorites]

I went to public high school and it was boring, unproductive and lonely. I didn't learn any social skills. My sister never went to high school and got a GED and then went to college. She is better socially adjusted that I am!

As others have said, in the sum total of your life, high school doesn't count for much.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 10:30 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Public high school sucks, hard. You're not missing a damn thing.
posted by facetious at 10:33 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

(I didn't even have a bad HS experience, btw. I had friends, I had fun, no one picked on me. Our school didn't even have bullies really. It's just that, it's a holding pen to keep you off the street. There's no romanticizing that, if you're honest. My favorite thing about being an adult is that I get to choose what I want to do. I'm well over 30 and I'm thankful for that every day.)
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:39 PM on January 30, 2012

For most, it's irrelevant and quickly forgotten as soon as you're out. For many it's miserable. For some it's some central "best years of their life" period, but I recommend avoiding such people. You live a long time afterward.
posted by ead at 10:41 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

High school was godawful. I had the opportunity to do something much like you're doing now, and I turned it down. I now wish I had taken that road instead. Not that I am unhappy with where I am now, but in retrospect it was the wrong decision. If you like where you are now, stay on that track. There's nothing in high school that will matter to you in the long run.
posted by Scientist at 10:50 PM on January 30, 2012

I've known a number of people who took the dual enrollment option in our school district. (HS students take English and Govt/Econ with high school teachers in classroom on the community college campus and then regular college classes for the rest of their credits.) The program targets people who do not thrive in the social and/or academic (read: lots of structured homework and grade obsession) environment of our local high school. The students who do the program love it - or at least agree unanimously that it is better than high school.

My sense of it is that people who have a good social network in high school enjoy the experience. Those that don't fit in easily with the mainstream of their school are usually very relieved to get out of that place into the larger, more diverse, less judgemental atmosphere of most colleges.
posted by metahawk at 10:51 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are not missing anything. High school means so little in the scheme of things. I didn't go to Homecoming or the Prom or any of those things and I am perfectly fine and do not feel deprived. I also did not go to my 5, 10 or 20 year reunions. Rather, I remember walking out of the gym on my last day of Senior year, knowing that I would never have to be there again. It was a huge feeling of relief.

I would not worry about not having a traditional high school experience . . . and instead enjoy what works best for you and feel fortunate that you have the alternative option.
posted by ainsley at 10:53 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I really don't think you're missing anything and you're probably getting a far better education which will benefit you greatly in the long run.
If you fear missing the social aspect, just try to be patient until you get to university. In my experience university is 10000X of a better experience than high school. People are much more interested in you as a person than they are in high school, where you have to fit in to certain cliques. I just found that upon entering university a lot of stupidity was filtered out of my life. You get to choose who you're friends with much more and there are way more chances to pursue less mainstream activities than partying, football, cheerleading, etc.

tl;dr: Unless you really like football, cheerleading, cliques, etc...I don't think you will miss out on anything that you can't experience later on in college or university.
posted by costanza at 10:53 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

High school utterly pales in comparison to the awesome freedom, fun, and responsibility that is college. For me high school was utterly forgettable, and my real life started abruptly and effortlessly in college. You are missing nothing. YMMV.
posted by zeek321 at 11:02 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't look back!
posted by jbenben at 11:03 PM on January 30, 2012

You're probably not missing out on anything. High school is only a couple of years of your life. While I do have friends dating back to junior high school, my closest and deepest friends are from university, or those I made in my early 20s, after I had moved overseas.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:13 PM on January 30, 2012

For me, high school was hell.

Not because I was bullied, not because I had to keep up with the Joneses, not because my teachers were bad, not because there weren't any clubs to join, not because there weren't people I could be myself around, not because there weren't activities I probably would have liked, not because I couldn't keep good grades.

It was purely day-in-day-out monotony and the only thing I wanted to do was get my life rolling and my career blossoming. I couldn't stand sitting idly for hours and hours a day, listening to someone passionate about what they did but disenchanted by the zombified classrooms, and certainly not making enough money to do so. It was depressing all around.

There's so much unnecessary drama, and anymore it all ends up on Facebook anyways so what are you really missing? Social experience? I was a loner. I ate lunch by myself or in a small group of people I only really sat with so as not to look like a total outcast. I did manage to wrangle together a group of friends during my senior year that continues to be a support group today (through IRC, no less), but I've found solace in other online social circles that double as potential job networking opportunities.

You don't say whether or not you've been in the area long, and if you've accumulated friends there that are worth being around outside of school. A large part of why I didn't enjoy middle or high school (middle was technically worse, simply because of how many reality checks and culture shocks I had) was because I didn't know anyone and my family was too much an irreparable mess to try to fall back on.

I took a vocational school for the last two years that ate up the second half of my days junior and senior year. While I enjoyed the opportunity to be out of the general high school setting and around people that wanted to take life by the horns as I did, I did not meet anyone there that held the same passion as I did either years.

I regretted not taking college courses, despite knowing I probably wouldn't be going to college, simply because I think there is a lot more to glean there than from certain types of courses at a vocational school, even if it were general studies. I did try to put myself through [state] college a few years later for a few months, before realizing the syllabuses and general information about the degree on the website were total bull.

To me, with the internet and our friend OCD, it is impossible to not outpace your peers intellectually. Just in writing this question and the eloquence with which you write, you're ahead of the game. Now you just need to focus that bravery and braininess.

So what do you want to pursue? What is your passion? Are there apprenticeships or internships you could get involved in? Possibly through the college or your own high school you could take work-based learning, which is supposed to be pro-bono, but sometimes they'll pay you under the table out of guilt.

Good luck out there, and don't ever worry you're missing out on anything if you know it isn't what you want to do.
posted by june made him a gemini at 11:14 PM on January 30, 2012

Yeah, after reviewing the other comments, life really started in university for me. It was so much easier to just be who I wanted to be. High school is not natural.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:14 PM on January 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just piping back in to say--I was a weirdo. I had a bad, bad time in middle school. I was not into cheerleading or football (I did go to my prom, with my gay best friend, who I brought on a leash. Ah, gothyness! Anyway, we had a blast) But by the end of sophomore year, I'd found a great group of weird, creative, queer friends, who I treasure to this day. Is high school often romanticized and sometimes overrated? Sure. But it doesn't sound like you have any same-age friends, and the kind of creative energy you find among your friends when you're 16 and they're 16 can be really amazing. And this is speaking as someone who, intellectually and academically, loved college way more. So seriously, consider doing some extracurriculars with your age-mates--theater groups or art classes or something like that. It'd be a shame to throw the baby--the potential to find other awesome kids who are really like you and are at the same stage in your life--out with the bathwater, which is the wider suck of the high school experience.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:16 PM on January 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nope. Not at all.
posted by unknowncommand at 11:40 PM on January 30, 2012

Your situation sounds quite similar to what mine was when I was your age - I dropped out of high school at about age 14 (not sure what US grade that would be but I suspect probably around the same age you left) for similar reasons of anxiety and depression. I managed to get through most of high school on my own, then went to a college (what you in the US would call community college) to get the qualifications I needed to get into university, then went to university. I occasionally wondered if I was missing out on something vital and should make the effort to go back, but ultimately I decided that the stress would not be worth it; after all, I had good reasons for hating it and leaving in the first place. Actually I feel that the homeschooling and college experience was a much better preparation for university, as I was already used to having to study independently and attending lectures that were entirely different to what people experienced in school. You may feel like you're missing out on the 'normal' experience, but I think it is actually the case that most people will miss out on the valuable and interesting experiences you are having now.
posted by maybeandroid at 11:59 PM on January 30, 2012

I don't think you need High School. But as an anxious weirdo with un-diagnosed ADD, I feel I ignored a lot of Life Lessons I could have learned in High School. In college, I was able to skate by on a mix of ADD-fueld hyperfocus study sessions and an anxiety fueled paper-writing schedule.

The erratic schedule of college created a mask for my mental health issues. I chased classes that fed into my hyperfocus, and dismissed the occasional C because everyone hates math. I was convinced that my success was proof that High School was this prison, and I had entered the magical Real World where the weirdos flourish.

Graduation was a huge problem for me. I wasn't disciplined enough to justify staying in my academic cocoon. Networking and interviewing required social skills I had let atrophy. Suddenly my anxiety was working against me, and I hit a huge depressive episode, sleeping 18 hour days and engaging in self-destructive behavior. Most difficult was having to break my prior bad habits of "Getting Things Done" in a way that didn't require procrastination and abject terror.

I don't think that you should feel bad about skipping the High School experience. But definitely take stock of the peculiarities College offers that won't be available in many of your Future Jobs. There will likely be a few mediocre to bad early jobs that will feel a lot like High School Re-Dux. You do not need to stay in these jobs. But you will want to make sure you have your mental-health issues in a place where you can deal with life's curveballs. If you maintain a good relationship with your therapist, this shouldn't be a problem.
posted by politikitty at 11:59 PM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you are anything like me, but throughout my life I've often gotten a feeling that I NEED to have a certain experience or I will always regret it. Say, living in NYC. So I go and have the experience and even if I wasn't that into it and have no desire to repeat it, I still feel very satisfied afterwards. On the other hand, for the experiences I felt this way about but passed up, it's a really mixed bag. A few I don't regret in the least and have no interest in now. A few, I still feel I would have enjoyed them but can see how they really would have set my life back and I'm grateful I went another way. And a few, I am still wistful about decades later sometimes going back to the age of 5! You need to figure out if you are the same way or not. If you are, you probably also wistful about some experiences you didn't have, going back years. If you can think of several specific experiences before the age of say, 10, that you regret not going for, then you're probably somewhat the same way. However if you think back on your younger experience and there's not really anything you still care about, then I think this is likely to be the same way.

One thing to consider: going to ONE high school class. In my school, home-schoolers would usually come in for the science courses so that they could use the school's lab resources, and sometimes the language classes. I would suggest this as a compromise with yourself. If you do this you might be eligible to play sports or be in the choir or student government/etc. if you want. Also, even if you are a home schooler, you might still be able to attend prom and the other "memorable" social events. However, what makes those events enjoyable is being there with all of your friends. So if I were you I'd only do this if you've made a lot of friends at the particular school you're thinking about going to.
posted by cairdeas at 12:35 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a lot of bullshit in high school, but I had a great time playing music with my friends.

I guess it's a chicken-egg thing.

I wasn't a jock, so music (specifically, playing in a few different crappy rock bands) meant a lot to me.

If I hadn't been subjected to the bullshit that is high school, maybe I wouldn't have found a creative outlet in music.

Go figure. but I guess you'll be fine without it.
posted by bardic at 12:50 AM on January 31, 2012

No. You're not really missing anything. The comparison to jails above is apt; it seems to me that high schools are designed only to segregate the teenaged population from everyone else, while training them to tolerate monotony and mindlessness.

You have friends in college. Build those relationships. All the fond memories from my youth center on relationships with friends. The setting, high school vs. college vs. whatever, is irrelevant.
posted by jraenar at 1:42 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Focus on the present and your cool new friends!

Some people have a great time in high school, others have a shitty time of it.

I did have a shitty time in high school and was outraged when my mom told me it was my attitude that was shitty, not that people in my school. More years than I care to think later, I know she was right. I did miss out on a lot by refusing to make friends in HS, but that's okay - I made up for it in later life.

If you regret not making friends in high school you can do that now. It's ok. You're not less of a person by not having the traditional high school experience.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:14 AM on January 31, 2012

I really hated high school, namely because my parents moved around so much, I ended up being a new kid more than once. It was lonely and I don't miss it one iota.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:33 AM on January 31, 2012

A lot of people are criticizing high school but not really answering your question. Yes high school sucks for a lot of people, and you would be one of them if you went to yours. But you asked whether you're missing out, and the answer is "yes." You're always going to miss out on one thing by choosing another.

It sounds like what you're doing is perfect for you academically and mentally, and both of those are really important. And it sounds like socially you're starting to connect as well, which is great. But if the people you're connecting with socially are traditional college-age students, then they're not your peers with regard to age and experience, and that may be what you're feeling like you're missing out on.

You were in the public schools until 9th grade, so you probably have friends from before who are now at the high school. Are you still in touch with them? Did you pull back from them when you were really struggling? My son is a high school senior who has been through (is still going through) exactly what you've gone through. He's being homeschooled right now through our district's homebound instruction program. High school has been a nightmare for him. And for a while he was overly conscious of how "awkward" it was to get back in touch with friends he'd withdrawn from. But he's been doing that more, and it's helping him to feel a little bit less "separate" from everything, and a little bit less freakishly different.

So he has a few kids who he skateboards with and they're enrolled in the high school so he meets them after school sometimes. And his brother is in the theater group at school so he'll occasionally go to a play there. He is in touch via facebook with everyone he's ever known so he gets regular invites (which he ignores -- large parties are not his thing). He plays guitar and jams now & then with a few guys he used to go to school with. And he does have an art elective that will require him to go to school now & then for assignments.

And his friends, acquaintances, people he doesn't even know -- every single one of them has been cool to him about his situation. Middle school is over. There's no teasing, no backstabbing, no cruelty. After the first difficult (for him) conversation of "where have you been? what's going on with you?" his peers are totally accepting and they move on to "wanna hang out?" or "your favorite band sucks" or whatever.

You can remain connected to your high school to the extent that you choose. In my jurisdiction, public schools are required to make extracurricular activities available to homeschooled students. Not sure of the exact rules but I know there have been homeschooled kids in my other son's plays, there are homeschooled kids in the orchestra/chorus, and I suspect probably on the sports teams as well. So if there are extracurricular things you are interested in doing, you can probably dip your toes in the "traditional" high school world while benefiting from what sounds like a great solution for you.
posted by headnsouth at 3:41 AM on January 31, 2012 [7 favorites]

My only concern for you is that you not rush to the finish line. I knew a guy like you in college- homeschooled, took a lot of college courses as a teen, graduated 2 years before his friends. And then he was lost- nothing but the work force for him. Not a blast at 20. Go to high school, don't go to high school, but whatever you do, make sure you're making time for whatever fun youthful stuff you want to do. Travel abroad, take time off, do fun internships.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:30 AM on January 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

You know, I frequently wish I could do college over again. Sometimes I'm nostalgic for the experience, other times I'm frustrated at myself for not taking advantage of my time there: if only I'd made more friends, given serious thought to my career, worked on projects I was afraid to do, gotten treatment for what was obviously raging depression, etc.

High school, though? I don't have any strong affection or antipathy for high school. There were parts I liked and parts I hated, but mostly it was a generally-okay place with a few friends and a whole bunch of the same boring old placeholder people I'd been seeing in the halls for the past six to twelve years and would never see again. I get nostalgic for the era when I was in high school--my car, my cat, '90s music, that awesome Abercrombie shirt I had--but high school itself was sort of just where they put me for seven hours a day.

For a lot of people, high school is little more than a waiting room. But in ten years, maybe you'll have the same dull achy longing for your high school experience that I do for my college years. I think it'd be good for you to try it out, just a bit, with the option of backing out if you hate it. Find a way to get a little of that experience if you can, like taking one class or extracurricular if your school will let you, and see if you find it valuable.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:38 AM on January 31, 2012

Keep doing what you are doing, make more college friends. For someone like you (I was somewhat like that but undiagnosed back in the day) High school sucks. There is no experience there that will be pleasant or meaningful for you, just more hurt. The "typical" high school experience is, I suspect, a myth, unless you are an extrovert who succeeds moderately well in all areas, does not make waves, and is "popular". For most kids, especially those who are introverted, bright, sensitive, and in any way different, it is usually hell, unless you go to a very unsual school.

You are lucky that your mom pulled you out and got you help. In another year high school will be behind you and real life with a diverse group of people, many of whom you can relate to and enjoy, will start. No need to go back, keep going forward.
posted by mermayd at 5:02 AM on January 31, 2012

High school is the worst part of life. If you have the option of skipping it in favor of better things, for the love of god, DO IT.
posted by two lights above the sea at 5:17 AM on January 31, 2012

If you're happy now and were miserable before, don't go back! The High School Experience isn't that worth it! Most people hated high school, and it sounds like you would. And already did.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:57 AM on January 31, 2012

I'm unsure what provoked me to comment, but here's my 2 cents:

I really enjoyed high school; I wasn't uber-popular, but I was an athlete and had membership in service clubs and did a little theatre and NHS and took the "smart-kid" classes. I had a lot of friends, some of whom I'm still friends with today. I have severe OCD and anxiety, but have been un-medicated since my early 20's, so there are times when such anxiety certainly gets the best of me, and a lot of it manifested in my teenage years. I turned out okay (career, house, little debt). I went to an academically-challenging public high school in the late 90s and early 00s. I learned a great deal and had many eye-opening experiences; I enjoyed dances and football games and musicals and the like. In fact, a few months ago, we had our 10 year reunion, and everyone got on tremendously and we drank beer and told stories and had a good time. No one is the same person that they were, and old feuds are water under the bridge.

I hated university. I graduated from high school and went to college at 17, and had no idea what to do with my life. At 17, I was still under graduated licensing (which meant I couldn't drive after 9 PM, couldn't go to the clubs or R-rated movies with my friends). I went to a large, mid-tier state school where I graduated in 3 years cum laude and never opened a book. I was bored, unmotivated, and I worked a lot. I wish I could "do" college over again.

OTOH, my best friend went to high school in the 80s and was a jock, relatively popular, and absolutely hated his high school experience. His kids are high school and college age now, and after having had discussions with them, I'm not sure I'd want to go to public high school in the age of Facebook and Smartphones and all the other stressors that have developed over the past 10-15 years. It seems much more difficult.

Enjoy your time now; make several different types of friends. SPEND THE TIME FINDING A UNIVERSITY THAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU. Take interesting classes, travel, and experience being a young person before the marriage/divorce/LTR, debt, work BS comes into play. Remember that in 10-20 years, no one (other than your parents) will care what kind of person you were at 16. Because you won't be the same.
posted by sara is disenchanted at 6:05 AM on January 31, 2012

The only two high school experiences that made me who I am today were sports and having an after-school/summer job. The rest of high school ranged somewhere between totally optional and downright horrible. But in high school I discovered running and learned that it was was something I could be good at with practice as opposed to requiring some innate athletic ability. It made me more confident and disciplined and it's something I still do today. Having a job where I was accountable to adults who were not my parents was also key in developing confidence and independence as a young person. I'd recommend them both. And they are things you can do without having to be enrolled in traditional high school. There are lots of recreational sports teams and leagues, plus classes in things like dance or yoga if those are more in line with your interests. I would definitely recommend some type of physical activity. It's also a good way to meet people your age and make friends.
posted by bbq_ribs at 6:10 AM on January 31, 2012

I think you're going to get mostly the "High school is the worst part of life" crowd here. For many of us, it was the worst part of life. That being said, maybe it won't be for you. It will change you, it will change your life. I think that's about the only thing we could say for sure. I'm solidly in the "High school is the worst part of life" club, and yet I find myself wanting to recommend you do in fact go. Odd that.
posted by Blake at 6:18 AM on January 31, 2012

Should I try to go back to public school? Will I be missing anything? Is it worth it?

It sounds like traditional high school isn't a good fit for you, and it will make you unhappy.

I liked high school, but insofar as "it made me the man I am today," it's because I learned to academically focus and thrive, which led to better opportunities down the road in college and graduate school. If high school isn't going to provide those things for you, then no, it's not worth it. You will miss some things (prom, the occasional football game, varsity sports), but it doesn't sound like that really matters to you, and there are substitutes, like recreational sports leagues, that you might want to pursue.

There are a bunch of things that I got out of high school, but that's because it was a good experience, and because those experiences existed. If I didn't go to high school, I wouldn't have anything that I would have felt like I missed out on.

Also, advice for your 20s: avoid anyone who talks about high school a lot.
posted by deanc at 6:23 AM on January 31, 2012

Full disclosure - homeschooled/dual enrolled all through HS and graduated early to move on to bigger and better things years ahead of my buddies still stuck in the grind of hall passes and homeroom. Acknowledge that it's not for everyone though, etc, etc...

From the experiences of friends in public HS, you're not missing much. You've got a good thing going, you're on a roll and your college stuff you're doing will count for more in the future (in terms of college going forward) than just being lumped in as "highschool work." I say you're in the home stretch and if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

I made many friends from various walks of life and different ages in community college (as the 15 year old, 98lb, homeschooled shrimp-punk) that I'm still close with now, in my late 20's, whereas most of my friends that went to public highschool are not all that close with anyone from their highschool years. Anecdotal, obviously, but in my circle of friends, anyhow, its true. Though this may purely be because I hang out with a bunch of nerds. :)

Love deanc's advice too! I'm cracking up thinking of my husband's zany uncle (in his 30's) and his constant facebook statii about the "cool kids" in HS... I'm pretty sure nobody was actually cool in HS. Except the Fonz, of course.
posted by takoukla at 6:45 AM on January 31, 2012

My senior year of high school, there was a homeschooled kid who came for (I think) two classes. If you want to give thought to returning to the high school, it might be worth exploring whether that is an option. Or whether there's dual-enrollment between the high school and the community college, so you might have one class at the high school and the rest at the community college or something.

It is worth noting, though, that the 'hey, remember when X happened in high school' thing is probably magnified at the community college compared to many universities, let alone the greater world, because the community college is (probably) drawing from a smaller area, and there's a greater chance the students of 'typical' college age went to high school together. I went to a large state university, where most people had at least someone from their high school there, but, for the most part, I only met my friends' high school friends once or twice because people went their separate ways. (I was from another state and knew no one. I remember being a bit bewildered that everyone had taken art history in high school. I don't think any of the schools where I grew up offered art history. Mine did on paper, but the class never happened.)

Realistically, though, I doubt you're missing out on much. The people I know who had non-traditional high school experiences (either homeschooling or dual-enrollment at a university for their last two years) don't seem to regret it. They're a bit curious about what they missed, but that's it really.
posted by hoyland at 6:50 AM on January 31, 2012

I really enjoyed high school. It was the first time I did school activities (after-school clubs, etc) because I truly enjoyed them not because I somehow thought I was supposed to. It was the first time I had friends who I'd see for fun outside of school activites. But I wasn't "popular". My friends were not the cool kids. I had people to eat lunch with and there was never the kind of cafeteria drama you see on TV because frankly nobody I knew would be a main character on a TV show, and nobody like that would've cared what happened in my backwater half of the population.

I really liked high school though. Looking back on it, it was important for me to be involved in a large group and its subgroups, and to have some friends and be in a situation where I didn't really have enemies. I learned a lot about how to be a social creature. I learned even more in college, though. And even more at my first job. There are plenty of things you *could* get in high school, but also plenty of other places to get those same life lessons. There's an archetypal "high school experience" that gets talked about, because people like to talk about the first time they experienced something, and that's the context for a lot of "firsts". But you're getting those firsts elsewhere, and it doesn't matter what the context is.

Someone talks about typical high school experiences not because Band Camp Is An Experience Not To Be Missed but because they took away from it a feeling of belonging, teamwork, pranking around, finding their personal place on the 0 to 10 scales of mischief, authority, and skills. You're doing something that I think is HolyCrapAwesome - you're taking college classes. You're learning your social skills from people a couple of years older than you, and that's nothing but a benefit. Think of it as a year's worth of immaturity that you get to skip dealing with.

A friend who recently retired from teaching high school English commented on how she loved watching graduation, and everyone saying goodbye, and hanging on each other sobbing how this was the best time ever, and nothing could ever compare, and you're my best friend forever and we'll email all the time even if we go to different colleges... the same every year. She would watch this maudlin drama and think of the steady flow of former students who stop back by to visit a couple years later, exchange news and gossip, and they're all about what's going on in their lives now, and no, I haven't heard from Jeff, we kind of lost touch once we weren't in your class every day. No matter how convinced these graduates were that life was at its pinnacle, the world just kept moving, and she loved watching high school get swept away - kind of a weird opinion for a teacher you might think, but it's probably based in a daily perspective on all the immature crap that's going on, and how much more there is to the world.

tl;dr - you will look back fondly and tell stories about on anything that you do in your late teen years because it's a time of learning things, but almost no-one thinks of that period as an essential and fantastically great time of their lives, because it just keeps getting better.
posted by aimedwander at 7:31 AM on January 31, 2012

Depending on what state you live in, you may have a right, as a homeschooled student, to participate in extracurriculars at whatever would be your high school. If it's the contact with other students your age and the "trappings" of high school that you miss, perhaps you could play a sport (possibly a club sport, rules for non-enrolled students competing can be difficult) or join a club that interests you, or play in the school marching band, make a few friends, attend a few basketball games with your friends, maybe go to a dance.

Just because the American high school experience is something most Americans have in COMMON doesn't mean that it is a) for everyone or b) necessarily awesome. (I had a pretty good high school experience, but I think it's pretty sad when people look back on that as the BEST DAYS OF THEIR LIVESSSSS!!!!!) If you feel isolated by missing that experience (which, I had a friend in college who spent high school on a houseboat ALL OVER THE WORLD doing awesome stuff, and everyone was jealous and she had a great time and was grateful, but sometimes felt a bit isolated that she'd missed these other, very common, experiences that most of us had -- even if you like what you're doing and wouldn't change it, it can be hard to miss a common experience), maybe there are other common experiences you can pursue to feel like you have more in common with others -- like become a big fan of your local pro football or baseball team. Or engage with the live music scene that's popular around you. Or something. It's pretty human to want to have shared experiences.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:33 AM on January 31, 2012

I was homeschooled from 2nd grade to 10th grade, at which I point I entered community college as a dual enrollment student, as you're doing now, and then went to a 4 year college. As I'm sure people have written in the comments, everyone's experiences are different, but having gone to college, and worked jobs, and gone to graduate school with people who went to high school:

No. You are not necessarily missing anything important. You are probably missing out on the drama and ostracism that results from locking up teenagers for 8 hours a day and forcing them to do little of importance. It's like Lord of the Flies.

As far as the future goes, and being thought "weird": If/when you go to a four year school, you might mention that you were homeschooled and people will ask you "Oh, what was that like?" and that will pretty much be the end of any differences between you. Most of the people I interact with ( nerdy academic over-achievers who studied engineering in college) were miserable in high school. By the time you leave college, nobody will remember that you were homeschooled, and it will probably come up very seldom as you get jobs and move on through your adult life.

As you're seeing in community college, the "real world" as in college and jobs, is very different from high school. You are allowed to have purpose and agency. You're allowed to make your own schedule. High school is utterly unlike the real world, and I don't think there's anything you could have gained from it that would have made your life better or helped you later on. Being homeschooled and going to community college actually made me a BETTER college student than many of my peers, because I already knew what it was like to be self-motivated.

Memail me if you ever want to talk about homeschooling, careers, college etc. I worried too when I was in your position that I would get left behind in some way, but I've seen that it really was not the case at all.
posted by permiechickie at 8:50 AM on January 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have an ex whose entire family was homeschooled but he matriculated into a local high school for his junior and senior years to participate in track. The homeschool association they were a part of was very active and I think that they had many of the same experiences traditional high schoolers have, just less on the day-to-day-ness.

I can't tell you whether high school is "worth it" but I can tell you that there are other ways to have some of the experiences that you may feel you are missing out on.
posted by sm1tten at 10:17 AM on January 31, 2012

The biggest thing you learn in high school is how to identify things you want to explore, and how to make decisions that will set you on a path you enjoy.

I was homeschooled/dual-enrolled for 9th grade, went back to school for 10th grade, and changed schools once more for my last two years. I followed the high-achieving, yearbook-editor-not-athlete track.

For me, the decision to return was easy to make. I liked homeschooling and te advantages of taking college classes. I earned a lot of confidence in myself during my middle school, homeschooled years. However, I was lonely, and I wanted new experiences. When I returned to traditional school setting, I took the strong mental health I had developed and blossomed with the array of new activities and social opportunities in front of me. Plus, I had the strong sense of "well, some of this is BS, but I'm happy with the other parts, and that's good."

Reading your question, it sounds like your decision is also easy to make. Where for me, I saw Traditional HS as an opportunity, you see non-traditional academics as your growth area. Shoot- go for it! Take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

FWIW, My brother chose to continue on a non-traditional track through high school because that was what he wanted to do. he went on to college and a successful career in CS and is doing just fine.
posted by samthemander at 11:38 AM on January 31, 2012

At best, high school was rather boring. It was mostly a collection of assholes and I was happy to leave it behind. High school can get you involved in a lot of extra curricular activities that can, potentially make you a well-rounded adult with a variety of interests. The thing is, most people drop those activities when they graduate and never pick them up again. If you can figure out how to involve yourself in extra curricular activities outside of high school, you will get the benefit long after 18. High school is not necessary and I wish I had graduated a year early to get out of that environment.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:07 PM on January 31, 2012

When I saw this question I immediately thought of Danielle Fong, who "made a jailbreak from junior high" and ended up in college. You might get a kick out of her story.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:21 PM on January 31, 2012

I had some friends and family that were home-schooled for most or all of their K-12 years. Some, in hindsight, worried that they missed out on prime social opportunities. Universally, after hearing enough high school stories from other people, they decided they weren't missing anything and were far better off being home-schooled.

High school was hell for me, and even if I could go back in time and do it all over again I wouldn't, not for a million dollars. I barely made it out alive the first time.
posted by xedrik at 2:14 PM on January 31, 2012

Here's the deal: Some people get a lot out of the high school experience, and some people come away with absolutely nothing. I was in the later category. HS wasn't a difficult experience, but I felt like my life was at a standstill and that I wasn't progressing intellectually or spiritually. During my first semester at Community College, I learned more- socially and academically- than I took away from my entire high school career.
posted by oxfordcomma at 2:25 PM on January 31, 2012

Like you, I was homeschooled for part of high school. I went back to school (small, rural, private) in the middle of 10th grade because I was really struggling to teach myself Biology and Geometry. I hated it at first, but in the end, I'm really glad I went. It pushed me to try things and meet people I wouldn't have normally.

But that was at a private school - not a good one, mind you, but a small meh one.

My first real day in a public high school was as a teacher. Because of homeschooling, I graduated HS at 17, college at 20, and started teaching at 21. By the way, if I could do it over, I'd definitely take more time in college and not rush into a career so is all kinds of awesome! Work is okay, but not nearly as fun.

Being a HS teacher was a shock, especially at first - the amount of "seat time" is a total crime in most schools. There are certainly things I hate about the institution of public education in the US. You sound like the kind of student I love to teach - someone who is bright, super capable, but struggles to "do" school. But it also sounds like your school isn't my school, and it was unworkable for you. If you are successful now, then keep at what you're doing. In most states, there is a law that allows you to play sports, be in plays, join clubs, and do other extra-curricular activities EVEN IF you're homeschooled. I played softball for the public high school as a 9th grader, even though I was homeschooled. So that could be an option that would make the best of both worlds.

Just as anecdata, currently I have a student who was homeschooled until 9th grade and now is in 11th grade. He said that coming to public school was a trade-off, but one that he was happy with. He liked being self-directed in his learning, but also likes having teachers explain things and people to work with on projects. YMMV, obviously, as it sounds like your circumstances were different from his.

There are costs and benefits to either decision. But the positive changes in your mental health do not sound insignificant. Weigh that carefully and don't assume that it will be any better than the first time around. Kids can be really awful. But you sound great, and I'd be stoked to have you as a student. Good luck!
posted by guster4lovers at 3:26 PM on January 31, 2012

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