Deciding Between High Schools and Son's Unwillingness to Listen

Updated on May 24, 2011
S.T. asks from Castle Rock, CO
11 answers

Please provide some insight even if you are unfamiliar with schools. You probably have some suggestions on how to work best with my 14 year old son.

We feed into Douglas County High School. He is enrolled to go there this fall as a freshman. It is a good school and people usually love it there. Lots of good teachers. Fairly traditional high school - very old building and the college track (IB and AP programs) or vocational programs.

Been researching Castle View High School and feel it is a better fit for our son. It is only a few years old and has incredible technology. There are about 5 different academies and kids take most of their other classes with the same students in that academy. He is strong in math and loves computers. There is a Math, Science and Engineering academy and a E-Business Academy with lots of programming and web-design courses. Since you are able to take courses outside of your academy, it is a great way to get exposure to see if you really like something before you spend 2 college years trying to get your pre-reqs in only to find out you don't really want to do what you thought you did. They also have the seniors do an internship program. They have the latest and greatest technologies even a robotics lab. I would have loved to attended a high school like this.

My son is coming from a small charter school and has friends that are feeding into both schools, so it is not like he would not know anyone. My other son will definitely attend this school in 2 years as he loves engineering, so it would be nice if all the kids attended the same school.

He is making up crazy reasons not to go to CV - halls are too wide, they have stairs versus all one level, there is one programming language that DC has that CV does not and he really wants to take that language, CV just doesn't feel right and more. He has even said if he goes he will flunk out. I asked him who that really hurts in the long run. I also asked him if he felt he had more knowledge than some of the kids he babysits and he said yes. I asked if a high school senior has more knowledge than he does and he agreed as well as a college student. I told him that due to the decades we've been around and the college degrees, we have more insight into what is important in a high school. Sending him to this school would definitely cost me more time and money - carpooling, etc.

The other important thing is that CV does not cut for most sports. He has played a few sports in middle school, but would be unlikely to make a high school team that is limited. I really want him to get plugged in and have some friends as he is on the shy side. Sports is a good way to do it.

Any advice is appreciated. It is a big decision and I plan on doing a pro and con list.

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So What Happened?

Thanks for the insights. When we were out and about, I asked several kids and people their thoughts on the schools. I made up my own pro and con list and asked him to make up his own which he never did. We walked through my list and it did not seem like he was paying much attention. He also started to try to negotiate more things. I was ready to do the take away like on Shark Tank, but decided to just let it sit over night. We were out to lunch the next day, the cafe owner started talking to us and said he son just graduated from the engineering program at CV and loved it. He raved about that school and told him to go there. I asked Daniel what he was thinking about the choices over lunch. He rattled off about 7 reasons why he thinks he would prefer to go to CV and most of them were on my list! I was amazed that he actually listened. He did say that the opinions of so many others that we talked to mattered too. He always seemed so mortified when I would talk to people. He also said getting a used car for use during his last 2 years was a bonus. I thought it might be the only reason. Needless to say, he surprised me. He also seems to get that we are trying to do the best we can for him, especially since it means more time and money from us. I definitely listened to all the insights and really tried to make it his decision. Just needed to open his eyes to all the reasons. Thanks!

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answers from Chicago on

My opinion is that if he has a choice and does not like where he goes or feels forced to go to one over the other he has a stronger chance of not doing well in school; keep that in mind when making this decision.

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answers from Denver on

My daughter has occasionally told us reasons that she did or did not want to do something. They made no sense to me, much as your son's reasons about the halls being too wide make no sense to you. My daughter sees a therapist, as she has some chronic medical problems, and once I asked her therapist about these seemingly irrational reasons and excuses. The therapist explained to me that these are not irrational or crazy reasons. They are my daughter's way of telling me that she is not comfortable with the situation she is considering. The therapist told me to listen carefully to what is behind what she's saying: "I'm afraid", "I'm nervous", "I'm not ready to do this". It's not the same as telling a kid to do a chore and they make up an excuse ("My toe hurts. I can't make my bed." or "I can't take out the trash because it smells"). This is a way of sending a clear message but in their immature teen brains, they sometimes can't verbalize a concise campaign speech.

So I encourage you to respect what he's telling you. He's not saying he wants to drop out of school. He's not saying he won't go. He's being pretty clear, even if he doesn't quite understand the reasons himself and if his explanations don't make sense, about what school he wants to go to.

Yes, you may have the educational and age advantage, but he knows what's in his heart. Unless he's making a dangerous decision or breaking the law, try to let him make this decision. Make it clear that you expect him to do his best, and that you respect that he is interested in furthering his education. Make it very very clear that you'll support him. As he gets older, there are going to be lots of choices that he makes that wouldn't necessarily be the ones you would make, but that's what makes him special, and an individual!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I wonder if he's told you the real reason he has a preference for the other school. I would really doubt that his preference has to do with how wide the halls are ;-) I would try to really listen to him to get to the bottom of his feelings about this. One way to talk with teenagers is while driving in the car. Something about not having to look you in the eye while talking seems to work better and let them tell you what they are thinking. Really try hard to listen and not to interject your reasons and thoughts.

Have you visited both schools with him? That would be another time to let him tell you what he is thinking.

Another thing to keep in mind: isn't it possible to transfer between the two high schools even after beginning at one? My stepdaughter thought she knew which highschool she wanted to attend and we let her choose. Within the first quarter she realized she had made a mistake. She was able to transfer to the other school and graduated from there.

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answers from Austin on

Mom, he has to attend the school and be there 5 days a week for 4 years. If he is not happy, it will be a very long unhappy 4 years. Listen to ewhat he is telling you.

You have stated to him why you think the other school would be a good fit for him, but he is the one that has to be there.

I am familiar with these types of decisions because our kids also have choices for middle and then High School..

My experience is that the parents that strongly "encouraged" their kids to go to the school, the Parent felt was "best or the best fit".. Their kids (every one of these families that I know of) either ended up not doing that great academically, or eventually transferred to the original school the student wanted to attend.

Please respect your child's choices. High School is when the grades count.

Our daughter attended on high school even though she was accepted to what is considered the "more academically challenging high school".. She graduated as a National Merit Scholar and applied to 9 top tier colleges and was accepted to all 9 with each college offering their top scholarships.

She LOVED her high school. Yes, she would have also done great at the other school, but she really flourished at her neighborhood school. She loved all of her teachers and the environment.. These were "her people".

I strongly encourage you to allow your son to make the final decision and then the both of you not look back, but make the most positive experience at his choice in schools. Become involved and encourage him to do the same. You only have him for 4 more years. You want them to be happy productive years.

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answers from Kansas City on

I had to laugh at Sue W.'s response b/c my mom would ALWAYS make me drive her places "so I could have the car" but she really wanted to lock me in and talk to me about something! LOL! It works, but he might hate it! ;)

I do agree that maybe he has made his decision to go to the other school for some unknown reason and he just doesn't want to tell you what it is. Maybe he isn't as into engineering or robotics as people think he is?? Is Dad in this business? It sounds like maybe it's a family thing if your younger boy has inclinations for it too. If that's the case maybe he's scared to tell you guys that he wants to go down a different path or doesn't want to feel like he has to be the "math and science" guy. I think there are deeper concerns on his part. Taking a tour is a great idea, but you might try locking him in the car too! Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

my perspective will be a bit different because i didn't really parent that traditionally. my kids never gave me a ton of issues and so i guess i never felt a huge need to jam 'em into anything they hated. and as relaxed homeschoolers, they always had a big say in what they did academically, although they always listened to us and took our advice into consideration (even though they didn't always decide as we suggested.)
i do understand the perspective that age and experience have insights to offer that young'uns don't get, and that often kids DO like something they thought they'd hate. but in my experience, this usually happens if the child agrees, even if reluctantly, to go along with it. very rarely does a child who has been given no say in the matter really have a total change of heart.
the fact that he's making up 'crazy reasons' means that he's not comfortable sharing his real reasons with you, perhaps because he realizes that it won't make a difference. if your mind is made up, and his input won't have an impact, he doesn't have much incentive to bare his soul to you.
if you really feel this is so important that you're going to wield veto power, let him at least have the prospect of a change IF he really hates it. if he knows that he does have that bit of a say in the matter, he may be more willing to give it a shot with at least a somewhat open mind.
figure out some way of letting him be part of the decision-making process.

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answers from Sacramento on

My girls are not in high school yet, so I am coming at this from the perspective of one whose parents "made" me go to a school they knew to be best for me. I really thought I wanted to go to the public high school in our district. I was very excited about it. My parents, however, wanted me to attend a Catholic girls' boarding school 2 hours from our house - because the academics were far superior, the sports teams were better, the arts program was phenomenal, etc. I remember making up all kinds of reasons that I didn't want to go - I didn't want to wear uniforms, I didn't want to live in a dorm, I didn't want to do laundry in a coin-operated machine (I didn't think of the hallways being too wide, but that's a good one!). My REAL reason for not wanting to go was that a girl in my junior high told me that all the girls who would attend this boarding school would be rich and would make fun of me for being middle-class. I wouldn't have ever told my parents that because it would have hurt their feelings, but I was terrified that I wouldn't have friends and would be out of my league academically and socially.

Anyhow, my parents insisted. They told me if I hated it after 1 year, I could come back home and go to public school. Well, I went off to school, as terrified as I could be. And I LOVED the school my parents had chosen for me! I mean, I just absolutely LOVED it! I made a ton of friends (with whom I am still friends all these years later), I excelled academically, went to the top-10 university of my choice. Had I done what I wanted to do, I really don't think these things would have happened. I'd have been a mediocre student at a mediocre school. My parents had SO much more experience, and they knew me better than I knew myself - they knew I needed a push, and they did it. I am forever grateful that my parents "made" me go to the school that they knew was best for me. I think your son will be, too. Do what you know is best for him!

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answers from Eugene on

I didn't give my son a choice but I did listen to his reasons for wanting to go to a different school (because he has friends there). Friends are important but the program at the charter school seemed perfect for his learning style and interests, so that's where he's going. Like other moms here, I told my son to give it a year, and we would re-evaluate. He did really well this year and is planning to go back to the charter school next year.

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answers from Boston on

I hope you get some good answers that help you to help him get on board now, but in case he resists, in my family my parents "made" one of my younger brothers and my younger sister try the school that they thought was a better fit for a year. If they tried their best and still didn't like it after the first year, they were free to switch to another school. If they tried to deliberately torpedo that year, they lost the ability to choose. There were many girls in my high school (a private girls school) who did NOT want to be there in 9th grade but fell in love with the place and stayed the whole four years.

In my family, my younger sister went to my HS for a year, then to public school, then to another co-ed private school closer to home that was a good fit for her. My brother did 2 years at a private HS before my parents relented and let him go public (that was a mistake but that's a different story). Anyway, don't be afraid to draw the line if you have to, but if after a year he really isn't happy, then let him try the other school.

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answers from New York on

I went through a similar situation with my daughter, after doing research and listing pros and cons together, hubby and I gave her our decision and the reasons, but let her make the decision. In the end she agreed with us.

Discuss it with him. Tell him your opinions of the schools, both good and bad. Really listen to what he says, some of his reasons may seem ridiculous, but most of them will be valid. See if either school has a "shadowing" program.

You can suggest that he try CV for a year and then decide if he wants to stay or not.



answers from San Francisco on

I'm torn, because I mostly agree with Laurie, but I also know that sometimes kids fears or prejudices get in their way of trying something initially, that they end up liking once they are forced to try it.

I think if he has friends at both schools, and you know the other school will be the best fit for him (not the one YOU prefer, but the best fit for him), then make him go to the one you want. You can tell him that if he is really miserable there after a semester, he can switch schools.

He doesn't seem to have a good reason for preferring the other school, other than some fear or aversion that you don't know about. Maybe you can get to the root of it.

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