BareNaked High School Graduation!!!

Jenn wrote this about Aug 3, 2012 for the 2012 category.

How do you graduate three unschooled kids out of high school?  Buy a coffee shop, give them complete ownership and decision making power, and get out of their way.  After spending the last year bringing the coffee shop up to what it is now,  Greg and I realized that our kids are officially growing up.  Having unschooled them over the last ten years they have traveled thousands of miles, never taken tests, never kept grade levels, and accomplished more than most people who have had traditional schooling and careers.  A few months ago, we handed over the coffee shop to the kids at the ages of 19, 17, and 16 allowing them to do what they wanted with the business after learning the accounting, marketing, and business from the ground up.  They took complete ownership allowing us to work at home on our tech stuff and the completion of our ‘Becoming Barenaked’ book without having to be onsite with them.  For the last few months, Greg and I have hardly gone into the coffee shop and been in awe of what they are accomplishing all on their own.  That’s right!  They do it all and have been doing an incredible job of jumping in and learning hands on.  I wonder where they get that from?

When we bought the coffee shop, none of us knew what we were doing and learned together and for the first time allowing them to see what it takes to work the way we do.  They have always been young kids in most of our work and projects along the way and even though they have worked right by our sides, this is the first time that they have been able to be a real powerful force in what we’re doing.  This is their shop now and we get to sit back and watch them with the struggle and the success providing them advice when they need it and watching them handle all the aspects of running a business.  They deal with all the accounting, sales, marketing, health department, and customers.  They tell us what they’re gonna do and we trust them.  Feeling like we’re helping them gain the knowledge of the independence they were starting to seek as they prepare to enter the next chapter of their lives, we felt that they were well beyond high school level and decided to close the chapter on that part of our lives.

Not that a high school diploma means much to people like us, we know that it’s a tool to have in a world that lives within a system.  We looked into what it takes to graduate homeschooled kids in Texas and started to put together the graduation process.  It’s important to honor that rite of passage and we really wanted our kids to feel what that feels like not only in our lives, but the traditional sense as well.  Since we are recognized as a private school in Texas, the laws are very relaxed.  The parents decide when they think the kids are ready to graduate and simply grant them that honor and print a high school diploma.  They are not required to test out and as great as that sounds our kids felt like they didn’t want people to discredit their hard work without some sort of connection to the standard in which most people finish high school.  With that, we decided to download the TAKS test, Texas’s standardized high school exit level test, and started the process.

As we sat and took the tests, the kids could not believe how little value these tests had.  They laughed at most questions and became frustrated at some when they saw how confusing the tests try to be.  It was hard for them, having been able to have resource and the ability to ask and learn directly in their lives, to understand why society spends so much energy trying to confuse and complicate its people with these questions that hardly make sense rather than provide real education and teaching to accomplish the same goal.  They weren’t going to learn much off those tests, they were learning how to play the game and ultimately how to take tests.  Realizing that was the strategy rather than the learning they thought they would be doing, they took the tests and played the game.  For kids that haven’t been taught in a traditional school setting, they tested out with high scores and officially became high school graduates at our dinner table.   Since we’re recognized as a private school, we also got to choose our own name for our school.  We knew the name we would choose, something sacred and a place that set into motion the life we wanted.  The place where Greg won the mental lottery…Kalaloch.  Pronounced ‘Clay Lock’, it’s a place on the Olympic peninsula in Washington state where we spent many weekends since they were little.

Now, we get to plan the party and take all the graduation pictures we wanted!  That was my request.  To let me be all emotional and sentimental seeing my babies in cap and gown and have them participate in graduation speeches.  It was really important to Greg and I that they symbolize this step into their life and honor the accomplishment while acknowledging how they were truly educated by the experiences along the way.  We handmade their graduation tassels with shells to symbolize the beach in which we named our school after and Greg handmade and hammered out metal for the 2012.  They earned honorary sashes for the impeccable humanitarians they have always been and Greg attached a compass to them so that they may find their way in the world and always find their way back.   Rounding up a few caps and gowns, we created our own barenaked graduation and granted our kids what they had rightfully earned.  We hosted a party with our friends and Family and shared with them what education has really meant to us.  It had very little to do with those tests and everything to do with trust.  Trusting that the kids could be who they were meant to be and do whatever they set out to do.  And just like everything we’ve done, they did it together as the three.

6 Responses to “BareNaked High School Graduation!!!”

  1. Stephanie says:

    You inspired us years ago in your nightline segment to aspire to road school our kids. We are excited that next summer we will begin that journey. 5-6 months a year, we will be taking them to learn about this Country, and others, by visiting the places we learn about and getting to know the people in those places. Thanks for taking that drastic step out of the mainstream to inspire others!! I loved reading this post! It renewed my commitment to not worry about the Jones’ as school is concerned. There’s so much pressure to conform and think it’s important that our kids are at a particular level at a particular age. Our oldest is 7 and not reading much yet, but I want her to learn at her pace so she can enjoy learning, not hate it as often happens in our system. I’ll be checking out some of your other entries! Very cool to have found you again. Thanks for your time and example.

  2. Stephanie says:

    Oh, and I love that “just like everything we’ve done, they did it together as the three.” I hate to separate my kids so they go as a package deal to play with friends, etc. So cool that they did together. Way to create unity in your own family unit, too cool!!!

  3. Love this article! We are traveling full time and unschooling our 5 girls! We are planning something similar for when they get older! Great blog! Glad to see there are still free thinkers in the world!

  4. Just Greg says:

    Hey Troy, great to hear from you. Thanks for the comment. Was just on your site last week or week before through links or something. Hoping to get back and spend more time there. All our best! -Greg

  5. Lee says:

    Congratulations on looking behind the curtain. Yup; all about beating the test, not learning. SAT tests can be gamed even easier.

  6. Just Greg says:

    Yup. We actually looked at the GED, TAKS, STAAR, and SAT’s. They definitely ‘learned’ how to take tests through this run! Thanks for the comment Lee. -G

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