How much should high schooler's opinion matter when choosing a high school?

I have a 15 yo son who is a “late bloomer”, both physically and psychologically. He’s normal, just on the slow side, more of a follower than a leader, and very influenced by what his peers suggest. He knows he’s a late bloomer and looks to them for cues as to how to behave. We homeschooled him until 7th grade, then he went to middle school at our parish school, and continued on there as a freshman, where he is now. The school is very small (K-12, about 20 students per grade). He made friends with the boys in his class pretty easily. They come from well-to-do, well-respected families and aren’t into anything illegal, but I’m uncomfortable with the level of vulgar speech they use and the joking around they do about women’s bodies, racial stereotypes, that kind of thing. They go to Mass on Sundays but are not otherwise involved in their faith. They also are not very serious about academics: they pull mostly B’s and C’s and spend a lot of unsupervised time playing online video games. The games aren’t sexually graphic or overly violent- but they spend a **lot **of time on them and are not involved in any extracurricular activities, sports (the school is so small it doesn’t offer many), music, etc. My son hangs out with these kids at school but rarely interacts with them after school or on weekends, in part because we don’t allow him to spend as much time gaming so he’s not on the same “level” as they are. I hear third-hand of lots of things these other boys do together without my son, but I don’t think he’s aware of that.

The school itself is good, both academically and spiritually. The school chaplain is a devout and faithful man who is involved as much as he can be (which isn’t that much because of his duties at the parish as well as another parish down the road). Many of the teachers are wonderful and care about the students’ souls as well as their minds. My husband and I are growing increasingly worried about our son’s increasing dependence on these other boys, though: his desire to be like them, to benchmark normal as what they are doing. He is starting to adopt some of their mannerisms and jokes (as evidenced by text messages I’ve seen). He’s not interested in participating in any extracurriculars at school because none of his friends are. He’s still interested in his own hobbies for the most part (running, trumpet, outdoorsy stuff) but doesn’t talk about them much with his friends because they’re not interested and the conversation kind of … dies. Because of the very small size of the school, it is likely he will be with these same boys in almost all of his classes until graduation.

My husband wants to pull him out of the school for 10th-12th and homeschool him again. There is a very active Catholic homeschool co-op community in our town with some great families we know so he would not be isolated. My husband hopes he would make some new friends who would be more… inspiring? Bring him up rather than pull him down? Friends with whom he could share something positive. Our son does NOT like the idea. He has admitted that although he much prefers the homeschool lifestyle (the classes he’d take and the freedom of time he would have to pursue other interests), he doesn’t want to homeschool again solely because he doesn’t want to leave his friends. Which, of course, is most of the reason my husband wants to pull him out of school.

To be fair, DS is a pretty compliant kid and he wouldn’t pitch a rebellious fit over leaving his school, but he would be pretty upset about it. Not sure how long that would last and how much it would affect his learning. DH thinks he’s too peer-influenced and we need to pull him back and hold him close while we still can. Is he being over protective?

I’d see if there’s a way you can limit the contact with the friends. Presumably, if the teachers are doing their job, there’s not much that can be done during class itself. It sounds good that he’s not hanging out with them outside of school much. If he’s being inappropriate with a cell phone, IMO it’s time he lose privileges with it.

I would guess that his infatuation with these kids will probably not last long. He does have interests outside of them that he’s still pursuing, which is good. Or they might burn him (I had that happen in high school, though with girls it’s very different.) Not ideal, but sometimes kids learn the hard way. He’s old enough that unless people are involving him in something really awful, he should start being allowed to make his own choices about this kind of thing. Of course, I’d be disappointed and annoyed by these new behaviors too. But you can still enforce your rules and expectations in your home, and treat any violations accordingly.

As far as his hobbies - does the school offer track or cross country, or band? That would align with his interests and allow him to meet some people, and give him someone else to talk to in class. What does he want to do after college?

He’s old enough that unless people are involving him in something really awful, he should start being allowed to make his own choices about this kind of thing. Of course, I’d be disappointed and annoyed by these new behaviors too. But you can still enforce your rules and expectations in your home, and treat any violations accordingly.

This is sort of my thought as well, but hubby is more hesitant for a couple of reasons:

  1. I think it’s more than an infatuation with these kids, and he doesn’t see it diminishing. The school is super-small, his class is very girl-heavy, and these 4 kids are basically the only boys in his grade. There really isn’t much chance for him to meet any other kids (boys, at least) in his grade. The other 4 are closer, having been in school together since kinder, though.
  2. I’m glad, too, that they don’t spend much time together outside of school. In school, there’s plenty of chance for trouble, though: lunch, bus ride, even in class. Teachers are good but the school gave everyone ipads this year (awful idea) which makes it very easy for them to communicate all class period if they want to, without getting caught. Of course DS says they don’t do this much but I have my suspicions.
  3. Extracurriculars: he does band, which is a class. Hasn’t really gotten to know any of the other kids in the class. There is a cross country team but he’s not interested because none of his friends are doing it. There’s a chess club, small robotics club, quiz bowl… none of which he wants to do because none of his friends do those kinds of things. It’s maddening. We have a youth group at our church but the amount of homework that the school gives out (that’s another issue, LOTS and LOTS of homework) means that he can’t afford to take a weeknight off to go to that and maybe meet some new kids. Plus he doesn’t really want to, because… you guessed it, his friends don’t go.

You might sit him down and ask him what he thinks is going to happen to his friends after high school - what are their ambitions, how likely are they to achieve them, and ask what he would like to do and achieve and what he needs to do.

He probably won’t like the questions, and may not even give you good answers, but it would give him something to think about.

We home schooled our kids, and it’s no guarantee that they will make the kind of decisions you want them to in the future. I have seen many, many home school kids from wonderful, devout families reject the Faith later on. (just as kids from public and Catholic schools do…)

I suggest you evaluate your motives for each method of schooling. And talk to your son about his motives as well.

You are fussing that the kids aren’t involved yet it is too small for extracurriculars? That isn’t very fair.
What red flags are you seeing? That teenage boys play video games and they joke and talk about girls? Yeah, pretty normal.
Like, these kids aren’t into drugs or going to a kegger on the weekends or anything like that are they?
What exactly do y’all expect in a friend for your child?

They come from well-to-do, well-respected families and aren’t into anything illegal, but I’m uncomfortable with the level of vulgar speech they use and the joking around they do about women’s bodies, racial stereotypes, that kind of thing. They go to Mass on Sundays but are not otherwise involved in their faith. They also are not very serious about academics: they pull mostly B’s and C’s and spend a lot of unsupervised time playing online video games. The games aren’t sexually graphic or overly violent- but they spend a lot of time on them and are not involved in any extracurricular activities, sports (the school is so small it doesn’t offer many), music, etc.

Let’s see…Vulgarity, racism, sexism, heavy video game playing… Sounds like this is less of a “school” issue than really a “peer” issue.

“Well-to-do” families usually means parents are too busy working, and “keeping up with the Joneses” to spend quality family time. This usually leads to kids getting into trouble - drugs, drinking, and worse.

Some of this you can chalk up to adolescence, and I don’t necessarily agree with being overprotective.

By the same token, I think you have to get creative to deter the influence of this crowd. How about music lessons? How about taking up golf, tennis, or swimming - more individualized sports? How about classes in art or painting? Kids need a healthy distraction.

Eventually, he is going to get exposed to a lot of this nonsense - It’s the nature of the secular, modernist culture that keeps getting worse as time passes. You can’t screen him from this secular culture, but you can give him tools to help him deal with these realities.

Make him stronger, don’t try to hide him. Educate him.

Instead, try to nurture his strengths and keep strong communication ties. Discuss racism, sexism, and how bad language is inappropriate at the dinner table. Educate him. To combat racism, take him to cultural museums, for example, to show him about other cultures - such as a Jewish or African-American History museum.

Is there an opportunity for him to meet kids in other grades?

Most of my friends were actually in other grades, not my own.

A lot of times, no matter what the age/grade, it’s really hard the first year to make friends. It’s really the second/third year when friendships are solidified.

It may also help your son to figure out that these are kids he shouldn’t hang around than have his parents pull him out of the school.

Parents can’t always protect their kids from “bad” people and it’s important for them to know that not all Catholics are the same.

Mine is still in elementary, but I know that I want him to have more of a balanced view of the world than I had when I entered college.

I grew up as a “Christians can’t do this and that” evangelical, so going to college was a huge shocker for me because a lot of the good Christians I knew also enjoyed a beer once in awhile. Even though I went to public schools, my family wasn’t too involved with the greater community and we really just kept to ourselves. Then, I went to a really liberal college and wow doesn’t really cover some of the things that were just in your face that weren’t when I was at home.

It’s good and right to protect our kids, but you can’t protect them forever. As one of my parent friends said, “it’s hard when you have teenagers because they have opinions and sometimes their reasoning makes sense.”

Good luck.

Also, the kids that you think are perfect little angels, can be the baddest kids. I know. I was the teacher’s pet. The VP of our school’s honor society, cheerleader, softball player, in the French club, member of the Key Club, etc. I always had manners in front of parents. I was the “perfect kid” or so that’s what parents and teachers thought. My peers knew otherwise. I had a kid in class say something to the effect that I was snobby and probably didn’t know how to have fun. A friend of mine spoke up and said, " it’s because you don’t hang with her on the weekends. She was dancing on the back of a pickup with a bottle of vodka in her hand Saturday night." And that was me. Very involved, very well respected among parents and teachers, heathen when on the weekends. Thank God Facebook wasn’t popular when I was in high school. Oh and in college, we just didn’t take pictures of our shenanigans, didn’t want the sorority to fine you. :wink:

I think it will be hard to put this genie back in its bottle.

I believe you are far better having him learn to navigate the world that awaits him than protect him from it. After all, in a few years, you won’t be there to guide him.

At least now, you can offer opinions on language, vulgarity, time spent on games and the nature of those games.

I went to a Catholic school through sixth grade. I finally couldn’t take the small class sizes anymore - I needed to go somewhere else where I could reinvent myself. I simply told my parents, “Next year, I’m going to the public school”. I had no idea how hard this was on my parents until years later. They let me make my own choice - and they offered me no resistance - but I now realize that behind the scenes it wasn’t a given.

I did fall into some bad habits. I met some awful “friends”. I was somewhat enchanted by some of their bad behavior. But I never went over to the deep end. I didn’t try alcohol or drugs that were so prevalent in that time. On the other hand, I didn’t want my parents or anyone else to know that I rejected those things either. I kind of enjoyed having a bit of a rough image.

I’m trying to imagine what would have happened had my parents tried to reign me in. I’m pretty sure I would have rebelled. I would have probably made their lives as miserable as they were attempting to make mine. I don’t know if I would have sabotaged my grades, but I probably would have tried had it occurred to me.

One thing that kept calling me back was a story that a priest had told the class in fifth or sixth grade. I don’t know why it stuck in my mind, but it did. His story was about a bus driver who could always identify the kids who had gone to a Catholic school verses a public school by their behavior - FOR THE FIRST YEAR. But then, the behavior of the kids who had gone to the Catholic school became worse and worse until he could no longer tell them apart. I guess his story is it is up to each of us to be vigilant to our own behavior.

On the other hand, at some point, your son is going to enter the real world. The question is - are you going to be there or not while he guides his way through it?

My own children aren’t teenagers yet - but I’ve seen plenty of kids go through the rough times of adolescence. They all eventually get beyond that stage. But it takes its toll on the adults around them.

So the essential problem is that you want teenage friends for your teenage son who do not get B’s and C’s, who do not make vulgar jokes and who do not play many video games. And you have these standards for his friends despite the fact that these are friends that he does not see on a recreational basis.

The truth? I think you’re going to have a tough time finding friends for him that pull straight A’s, never make inappropriate jokes and, in the year 2015, don’t play many video games.

But… if you really believe that the kids in the homeschool co-op are angels, then is it possible to get him involved in some of their non-schoolwork activities? Is that possible even if he’s not currently being homeschooled? Perhaps he would make friends with those kids and then he would be more amenable to homeschooling when you bring it up later on?

Also, since you said your son is not really hanging out with the boys in his school on the weekends, what is he doing for fun on the weekends? He doesn’t have any friends that he’s seeing over the weekend? I mean, I’m just curious… because if so, that sounds like he’s pretty isolated already so maybe this love he has for his friends at school is solely due to the fact that that is the only time he’s interacting with peers. You know what I mean? If that’s what’s happening then any possibility to socialize within this homeschool co-op might be quite welcome to him.

If he’s not doing anything else on the weekends, is it possible that you could take some of those hobbies that he has (running, outdoorsy stuff, trumpet, etc.) and involve him in activities with kids that aren’t necessarily in that school?

So he doesn’t want to leave his friends, but there is a good homeschool community. What about his past homeschooling experience is making him apprehensive? Is it that he did NOT have many friends in the community when he was homeschooled before? Or did he have a group of friends, and is he just being short sighted by not recognizing that he will have that again. I would say that at his age, and with him having experienced both situations, his opinion is valuable and important, but not the last word. If I did decide to pull him from school, I would want very much for him to be ok with my decision. I think the best way to do that is to make it so that he is going TO something, rather than just going AWAY from his friends. Can you get connected / reconnected with the homeschool group ahead of time? Can you somehow get him to meet the peer group? Can you reassure him that he doesn’t have to totally lose his friends just because he isn’t going to school with them? I realize that the hope is that he will separate from them, but perhaps that has to happen gradually, as he gains more connections with other homeschoolers. Of course there is the matter of his upcoming young adulthood, and the eventual entrance into peer groups that are likely worse influences on him than the kids he is friends with now. I don’t mean to say that he needs to stay with a bad peer group now to prepare for the future, but if you do ultimately decide that the best way to navigate the negative peer group right now is to avoid it, you will need a plan for how to help him deal with it in a few years when he can’t avoid it anymore. I’m a homeschooler who is concerned about peer groups as well, but I don’t know if the best thing for your son would be the separation from this group, or continued (or more intense) involvement and coaching from you and dh on how to deal with the group. And I’m sure you know that the homeschool peer group may have its problems too - so just be sure that you have realistic expectations. As a homeschooler of kids nearing high school age, I have thought a lot about this for our own lives - it’s a tough decision. I will say a prayer for your discernment.

As he gets older, you will, of course, have more difficulty shielding your son from the world. Having said that, the most important thing for him is not socialization but education. If he is not doing extremely well at school and he can do better home-schooled, then he should be home-schooled.

JMO - yes.

You mention your son’s not a leader type (yet). I suggest you and your DH work to strengthen him in that area and thus start having HIM influence his friends. Best idea is to find something (rock climbing, robotic competition, lazer tag league) that interests your son - and that would sound cool to his friends - that none of them have done before. Get involved as the parent leaders of the endeavor (hosting it at your house, providing transport, etc) and get the other parents on board (if possible). Use the example of you and your DH to become surrogate role models for these young men, and since everyone’s starting out at the same level, would give your son a chance to be in a quasi-leadership role.

Another option - mandate your DS pick something outside of hanging with these guys that he’d like to do and help him do it. Tell him it’s the price of staying in the high school - he has to find a sport or club that meets with your approval. Busy teens are too tired to get into trouble, extra-curriculars boost self-esteem, and he’d meet other teens.

I have three boys in or almost in their teen years. I’d say the odds of any of their male friends not cussing or playing video games is nil, and I’d say almost every one of my older teens friends makes some raunchy remarks. I can’t control any of that. :shrug: What I can - and DO - control is what my reaction is (would be) if my son started cussing, made inappropriate comments and/or tried getting away with playing unacceptable (or simply too much) video games. I’ve made the consequences very clear to them about that from a very early age. Good friends are great - but perfect friends are rare.

Yep......... Your right..... Again...


Another issue to carefully consider is how accepting of a newcomer the homeschool group will be to new high schooler. My husband was in the military and we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of homeschool groups. And the ugly are HORRIFIC to anyone who is new and just happens to have been in a traditional school most recently - although, a parochial school might not be seen as bad. My older two had a hard time finding their place in our hs group when we moved here (they were 11 and 13) and they’d been hsed forever!

What if you level with him? You don’t like his friends and you want to home school to limit their influence, If he’s so set against that, you want him to put in more effort to make new friends by joining cross country and becoming a boy scout, or whatever.

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