Does High School Prepare You For Real Life?

Have you ever thought long and hard about what you really learned in High School and if you ever actually use any of that stuff in “real life”?  Well, I have (thought about it, that is).  Wanna know the conclusion I came to?


Then hop on over to Christian Unschooling to find out.




  1. Is it really rhetorical?
    My recent post Almost Wordless Wednesday

  2. I'm sorry you didn't have a good high school experience. :-(

    I learned about advertising, I learned how to speak in public. I did learn the basics of cooking, sewing, wood working, balancing a checkbook, etc. I learned Spanish. I learned (and loved) how to be a teacher's assistant. I also learned how to be independent, stand up for myself, stand up for others and stand alone. In Drama, I learned to over come my fears. Then I learned the math, reading, history, etc. Maybe I can't sit here and recall exactly what I learned in those classes, but high school was a foundation for the rest of my life. The stuff I learned is so deeply ingrained now, that I don't even realize I am using what I learned. It's like getting in the car and putting on your seatbelt… but not remembering that you did it. It becomes so natural and so part of every day life.

    I won't answer your rhetorical question, out of respect for you. :-)
    My recent post Saving time- money and sanity

  3. Interesting post. Having read Linchpin by Seth Godin, he says that we have been brainwashed by our school systems that most of these things are crucial in real life. Our schools have us believe that we are educated to follow instructions. That's not what it's all about. We are called to be artists. Provide art and creativity to our everyday chores be it an accountant, lawyer or a stay at home mom. This is where we have lost our ways in this country. We have pushed art back and are teaching our children to “color inside the lines”. All this does is builds people to be “safe” and not to venture out and “make things”.
    My recent post I Am Technology- A Parable

  4. Interesting. I think you've just had some bad experiences…. maybe wrong place, wrong time. I remember you were talking about how your daughter was learning math when she was in school and I thought, what's wrong with her school?? I was a teacher and you are taught in college to teach math concepts in a variety of ways because not all children learn the same way. At my son's school, they teach several ways to solve different types of math problems so that the child can learn they way that makes sense to them. As someone who loved school enough to become a teacher, I always feel bad when people had crappy experiences.

    • I should probably add an asterisk up there to say that I really didn't have a bad experience. I just think, though the teachers were well meaning, most of what was taught (at least when I was there 10 years ago) isn't applicable to most people's daily lives. Which seems like an unfortunate waste of time to me. I know teachers don't like to hear that. Sorry, don't mean to offend!

  5. I can never seem to type out the words that convey all of what I am thinking when I read your posts on education. I type…..delete. Type…..delete.

    I love and respect you as a person and *want* to discuss these topics with you but I think I would end up causing tension unintentionally. (I have been known to do that from time to time!)

    I would guess that you got more out of high school than you are giving yourself credit for, at the very least.
    My recent post Almost Wordless Wednesday

    • It's possible. (that I got more out of it than I realize, not that you would end up causing tension)


      But, really. I just can't imagine that I learned anything from the place. Bleck. Some people might've, especially if they learned technical skillz. But I didn't.

  6. I feel like high school taught me a lot. I learned to love classic literature. I retained some elementary french. Like you said, I don't really remember that much from history or science…but I didn't really like those classes. I'm sure it was good for me to learn it at the time though. Overall, I think it introduced me to a broad spectrum of topics so that I could go on to college where I focused on more specialized ideas. Also, I attended a private school, so I did learn a lot about God, breaking down scripture and even memorizing passages. I think it all depends on the teacher and the student.

    • I feel like a developed an appreciation for classic literature while I was a teenager, but not from any of the readings in my literature classics. I loved the bronte sisters, and Jane Austen novels, etc, but I would buy them and read them on my own. Lol.

      I think the broad spectrum answer is the standard issue one. But as I've had to think more about these things, I've started to question whether it's necessary or if there could be a better way. (like not being forced to do the subjects you don't really like) (even though that sounds unbalanced and educationally heretical at first glance)

      • Funny, I learned to HATE Hemingway and the others we were forced to read (except for my AP English class which I credit for getting me an easy A in college Philosophy–really, exactly the same stuff taught by a much better teacher (he sat there and asked questions and refused to say whether anyone was right or wrong. We would argue ourselves out of our answers then someone else would step in.) High school taught me that I was very different than the other kids and that starting a conversation by asking people what books they liked to read was the wrong way to go about it. High school taught me that teachers are human and often don't know much more than the students–when I knew a lot about something because I was passionate about it I would know more than the teachers and have to prove that I was right and I barely put my hand up in the first place for fear of saying the wrong thing. High school taught me that reading the books assigned to everyone else was more fun than reading the ones YOU are supposed to read, that the library was the best hang out place because you would get free books when they cleaned off the shelves, and that teachers tend to stick with what they are comfortable with–just like everyone else. I learned that there were certain subjects that my brain just couldn't do (dyslexia/dysgraphia) and that my parents couldn't care less if that was why I could not pass chemistry no matter how hard I tried. My parents were both teachers as well and knew most of my teachers and they were no more experts than anyone else though they were the reason I went and became a teacher–determined to do things differently, and I did until I realized after listening to my special ed students get made fun of in the teachers lounge by my fellow teachers (who had been MY teachers) that my children were NEVER SETTING FOOT in that or any other school. Essentially what I learned was negative but as far as actual scholastic stuff–everything I did learn was stuff that I WANTED to learn and which I learned far more in depth than anything the teachers had to teach.

  7. Its an interesting subject. Education is, obviously, insanely important and there are many teachers who do an excellent job. But, in general, the process doesn't work for MANY kids. I think most of us don't really start retaining information until we seek it out ourselves as adults, because we get to choose it. I really think we would do better for kids if we would give them (and their parents) more control over their education.

    That presents its own set of problems because it means that we have to trust parents and students to be actively engaged in their education. Sadly, many simply don't have the time or inclination to “own” their education. Young people do need to be guided and *ahem* motivated in their education but who's job is that? Um, everybody's? Mom, Dad, Aunt Janet, the pastor, the youth pastor, your neigbor. We stick them in a school and say its someone else's job & complain when they “can't read good.”

    • I agree, everything I retained was learned after I sought it out myself as an adult.

      A don't necessarily agree with compulsory education, although I know some people benefit from it. Not most. But some.

  8. I understand what you are saying. Actually, I hated school all the way through including college until I got into what I really loved. But, I must say, I would be a different person today if I had not received an education. I can type my thoughts out for you because of my education as can you. The most important person in my life is Jesus. How could I read His Word for myself if I was illiterate? I think if you could turn back the clock and take away all your education, you would be surprised at what it did in teaching you to think and reason. This helps you in your everyday life with the practical side of life like running a household. If I had children now would I send them to school? Absolutely not! I would homeschool but I would still want them to have an education even if they never go to college. Even if you can not remember the equation you had to stuff into your mind for math, can you not see how, as a whole education can be a foundation for things to be built on in your life?

    • But I didn't learn how to read in high school, I learned that in elementary school. And I also don't think, by and large, we learn how to reason in school. Logic and reasoning come from exploration, and failure, and inquisitiveness. And in school we almost exclusively learn in an “this = that” format. (There have been many studies about the psychology behind that)

      So, I'm obviously not anti-learning. We love learning! I just think broad spectrum compulsory education is mostly ineffective. It's a hard truth without a simple answer!

      • It's not ineffective for EVERYBODY though. Which goes back to what a blessing it is that we have so many options to choose from when it comes to education.
        My recent post Saving time- money and sanity

        • Sure, I'm glad for the minority of people that are prepared for real life by the current public high school education system. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't open the door to a discussion on a change, a reform, a different way of thinking. Especially if most children actually are not benefiting or being equipped by a system.

  9. I bet you learned the word “voracious”…that's totally an SAT word and you used it above. So you can probably at least add that to the elementary espanol!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today…if you liked the egg post, you'll probably appreciate my other temper tantrum…. Glad to meet you!!
    My recent post The Egg Hunt

  10. I guess it depends where you go to high school. yeah, probably a lot of them stink. And I had a horrible high school experience, btw ;) but I got a great education and I wouldn't trade it. I DO remember some of the things I learned, and even though you're right that I forgot a lot of it too, learning it helped me learn how I learn and gave me the confidence that I can do anything I put my mind to. Maybe other people learn that about themselves in other ways, but a good education is how I learned it. My experience, combined with knowing some very unmotivated people that wouldn't have exposed themselves to learning on their own, makes me ok with traditional education, although I believe parents should be very involved because you're right, the “system” isn't perfect. Few things are ;)

    The ultimate point is, people have different values, and traditional education is a value to some people, for a variety of reasons. Maybe you see their reasons as wrong or pointless, maybe they even ARE (my hubby grew up in a high school football town), but those still are their values and maybe they think some of the things you value are off too. We all just have to live out what we believe and hope that the good stuff shows to others. If something is good, then it eventually will, won't it ;)

    Here's a question for you, Jessica– how do you feel about house churches vs. traditional churches that meet in a building? Crazily enough, I prefer to have my children grow up going to a building that becomes familiar to them, I felt the same about my high school, actually. What a silly thing, right? But it's something that I value and upon examining it I haven't found any severe problems with it, and so I integrate it into the decisions I make about my family. I have a lot of friends that insist that house churches are better, but it just isn't how I want to do things at this point in my life. For example.

    I am going to assume for the best that with these types of posts you are not trying to prove yourself or something whacked, but are merely trying to encourage people to examine why they think a certain way. I think that it IS good to examine why we hold to certain traditions or theories. But just because people come up with a different answer than you about something doesn't mean they haven't done that. Like the classic “mommy wars:” Circumcision or no? Home birth or hospital? Sleep routines or demand feeding? Do I really think these people on either side have not done their research? No, of course they have. Just like I have, because my kids are dear to me and I am going to think long and hard about the choices I make on their behalf. My mantra is “everyone has reasons for what they believe about any given thing, and I need to give them credit for that and hope they do the same for me.”

    • I'm not sure if it's wise to switch gears within this post about something as huge has church! But in one sentence – I think house churches are the intended and most natural version for the body of Christ to meet in.

      And you're right, my goal is usually to get people to think. Because, in my experience, most people actually have not researched things. They're just going along with the flow that they grew up in.

  11. I'm not meaning to totally switch gears, I was just thinking about why I like more traditional stuff and the church example popped into my head and I wondered what you thought of it. It probably IS the more historically accurate idea, but I like me a church building, haha!

    I suppose I'm a more “traditional” sort, holding to recent norms in many things, and you strike me as the type who runs from anything remotely traditional. Just because I'm traditional doesn't mean I just go with the flow without thinking about stuff though. I see people jumping on a bandwagon with faddish stuff and I run screaming the instant anything smells slightly like “the cool thing to do,” LOL. I like my traditional stuff, but I do think about it first. Maybe you're right that many people don't think about it first, but I like to think that many actually do think things through and have their reasons for stuff. Or at least I like to give them the benefit of the doubt on that.

  12. You know I love ya, and I love the way that your kiddos are learning with their unschooling, but it seems to me that you're advocating that a 6th grade education is sufficient for most folks. Ask anyone who has a 6th grade education and they'll tell you: they are not prepared for everything the world throws at them.

    My recent post A Special Delivery Twelve Years Later

    • I'll be the first to admit that methods are totally out-of-whack in most schools and there is too much of a push for everyone to be college-ready (when the reality is that not everyone *needs* a traditional college education). HOWEVER, just because I don't sit around analyzing literature or doing algebraic equations doesn't mean I don't use those higher level thinking skills that I acquired during that time. I use the literary analysis skills that I obtained to determine whether a source is reliable and what the author's intent is in writing/producing a particular article/news story. Even though I hated math and never thought I'd ever use algebra in real life, the reality is that I used it constantly when doing data analysis for my small business making sure that I was operating efficiently (that's fancy-talk for “making sure I wasn't wasting a boat-load of $”).

      My recent post A Special Delivery Twelve Years Later

      • Truthfully, it is not the facts and figures that is important in education (that's the lowest form of higher-order thinking); it's learning how to synthesize/apply what you've learned. Most of that is taught during jr. high/high school when the brain has finally matured enough to do those things (until age 11 or 12, everyone thinks in more concrete terms; 12+ is when the brain is ready to do more abstract thought).

        So, the point is: I agree with you (kinda)…but I disagree (mostly). ;)
        My recent post A Special Delivery Twelve Years Later

        • P.S. I'm sorry you didn't get to take Home Ec in school. It fills that “real world” gap nicely. For me, it just reinforced those skills that I had already been taught at home (checkbook balancing, food prep, baby care, etc). I just wish I could have taken auto shop as well! B)
          My recent post A Special Delivery Twelve Years Later

        • That was a lot of commenting! LOL.

          I'm not saying that most people only need a 6th grade “education”, but certainly that it seems a little silly to spend 4 years teaching people things they mostly won't ever need again. So maybe we need to consider thinking outside of the box, or differently, about what happens to “educate” a kid from the ages of 14-18.

          And I'm of the opinion that, basically, people learn what they need. Like you with your business, for example. If I started a business right now, I would have to figure that sort of thing out too. But I honestly don't have a magical math foundation buried deep inside of me, I don't think. I would learn as I go, find the resources I needed, and include a healthy does of trial and error, I'm sure! :)

  13. The best thing that I learned in High School was how to type. I use this skill all day, every day. It has made my life easier and me far more efficient.

  14. I learned a lot of things in high school. Mostly things I am trying to un-learn now. Things like it really matters what other people think of you. And it's important to be competitive. And like sleep and healthy eating habits and happiness are not as important as going to school and getting homework done. And that school is the only thing I am good at. Just a few of the (not) wonderful lessons I learned in high school. Yeah, I could have done without it. :)
    My recent post Mom To the Rescue!

  15. exactly why i homeschool/unschool. enough said. Oh ya-and thanks for your blog…I LoOovE iT

  16. Jennifer L says:

    Well instead of giving you my experience in high school which was about 20 years ago, I will give you my daughter's experience. She (a homeschooled child) decided to complete her senior year in a brick and mortar high school. This was mostly due to people (especially grown-ups who she looked up to) telling her how she was missing out on socialization, a “real” education, etc… It turns out she was LEARNING a lot more in our unschooling environment than she is in this institution. So no 6th grade education in our home…. actually our 6th graders are learning a lot more at home than they would in a brick and mortar setting since we don't go by grade, but by passion. I'm not sure why people are under the misconception that unschooled kids are not learning. My kids are not only learning, but they are learning things they will actually use in their career and their future. And I can also share with you that most of the unschooling families I know have children who are very career minded since they are given the opportunity to study what they like and want to do/be when they grow up. This is unlike most of their peers who sometimes don't figure it out until way into college (some even after that). The adult unschooled children I know excel in college or what ever other means they took for their future because they are career driven. This is due to the fact that they were allowed to concentrate on their future instead of being pooled together with their peers and forced to learn at the same speed and what everyone else was learning.

    My daughter further states there is A LOT of repetitive stuff being taught and A LOT of busy work. This takes up a lot of her time unnecessarily which would be better used in her concentrating on her career choice. She has not been allowed to study what she wants (which is what her career would require) because things she will not need and are useless to her for her career or her future are “required” to be taught. Everybody is learning the same thing at the same time even if they grasped what was being taught days before. She comes home very upset and sometimes in tears because the majority (not all, but the majority) of the kids there are there to hang out with their friends and have no interest in learning (some even having sex in the bathrooms and bragging about it). Most of them don't even know (or care to know) what they want to do or be when they grow up. I personally feel this is because they are forced to learn a little of ALL careers instead of becoming passionate and learning everything they need to learn about what they actually want to do or become when they grow up. During her “study hall” she gets made fun of for actually “studying” because most of the kids there would rather hang out and talk. Because she is a dancer and takes dance classes plus teaches dance after school, study hall is the only time she has to concentrate on her career choice (which is Marine Biology). When she gets home she's usually too exhausted mentally and physically to study or concentrate on her career choice. Her study hall teacher allows the kids to do whatever they want (including hanging out at his desk) during this time so it makes it quite difficult for her to concentrate on her studies in “study hall”. Right now it seems the most important thing in that school for the student, teachers, and honestly our community is Football, Baseball, Fishing, and whatever other sport is in “season” at the time. A lot of “class time” is taken to discuss that.

    Unfortunately my daughter didn't tell me any of this until I caught her in her room the other night at about 2 am (when she had to be up at 6:30am to go to the brick and mortar school) studying her Marine Biology books because she wasn't able to do it in study hall and isn't allowed to do it at any other time during “school”. She gets home totally beat from having to do so many time consuming school work/activities….. and mostly things she will never use again (like football/phys ed and no she doesn't need it because she gets plenty of exercise in dance which is something else she likes). Unfortunately there is only about a month left of “school” so no sense in pulling her out now.

  17. Jennifer L. says:

    And yes, for those wondering, I am heartbroken that my daughter was too embarrassed to tell me how much she HATES wasting her time in “school” and would rather be home LEARNING what she needs to know for her future. Although she's happy I allowed her to make her own choices of which she is now suffering the consequence of, she told me in tears and in-between sobs how she wishes there was a way I could have made it more clear of what “school” was really like and how she wishes she would have listened to me instead of everyone else. I did try and make it as clear as I could remember, but going against people she also loved (mostly family) and looked up to it became quite difficult to go against the “norm”. They made “school” sound like it was the most important thing ever made and made the high school socialization part of it sound so intriguing and necessary, that she wanted to experience it for herself (and she hates going to the games which everyone told her she would love). Now she regrets it and feels like she lost a whole year of actually being productive in something she cares so passionately for. Oh well…. we live and we learn. Thankfully it was only one year and hopefully her brothers and sisters will learn from her mistake.

    • Wow, thanks for your story Jennifer. I'm sorry about your daughter, but as we unschoolers no, life lessons are the best kind, I guess?

      I think a big part of why your daughter has been so unsatisfied is because she has lived and understand the freedom in being able to follower her passions fully in an unschooling lifestyle.

      And I think that, even the people that enjoyed and learned things in highschool, don't fully understand what it could have been like to not be tied down to most of the nonsense involved. But your daughter did understand how better life and learning was on the outside. :)

      • P.S. I so should have reread over that. I said “no” instead of “know”! Snort! Plus many other typos. Hahaha.

      • Jennifer L. says:

        You know it's funny, but that's exactly how my daughter explained it to someone who was trying to tell her she doesn't like school because I ruined the whole “school” experience for her. She has experienced both worlds while he has only experienced one. He doesn't understand the freedom she had in learning which also gave her the opportunity to study what she likes more in depth. The way she puts it (and I agree), once you start getting into the nitty-gritty of something and really enjoying it, is when they pull the plug because now we have to study something else. Something I might have not interest in learn so will spend the rest of class day dreaming about what I would love to be reading/learning.

        Also, I'm not sure how giving my children the love for learning by facilitating the tools they would need to become passionate and career minded was ruining anything for them. And they get all the socialization they need from their other passions like dance for her and my middle daughter, baseball for my youngest son, and extreme sporting for my oldest son. My youngest daughter is only 2 months old, but she will soon have me running around with whatever her little heart becomes passionate about. LOL

  18. Michelle in Mx says:

    I learned that a full-effort, hear-poured-out, what-I-thought-was-SUPER-cool, art project (a person figure made out of safety pins) was only worth a “B”.
    My recent post Well- its May

  19. The main thing that I learned in high school (sadly) is that you will be classified in a certain group of people according to the clothes you wear. I also learned to decipher what the teachers expected and so that is what I would give them.
    Did I learn any skills for real life? Like one of the other comments, I’m glad I learned how to type.
    History & Literature were so boring because of the way they were taught, but I love them now as an adult and have learned so much through homeschooling my own children.
    Overall, I didn’t have a bad experience in school because I had such a good group of friends around me, but no, it did not prepare me for ‘real life’.