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    An un-orientation letter to my dear “freshman”:

    You are now at the stage in which most teens enter high school. In a way, you are too, but you have chosen a different course than most, a familiar course, though it won’t always feel that way. You have been home educated your whole life, and I am proud of who you are and the active role you have taken in shaping your own education. You went on high school tours, filled out the forms, weighed the pros and cons, and decided that the best path forward for you right now is to maintain control of your time and your learning. For the record, I would have been equally proud of you if you had made a different choice. It was the self reflection and seriousness that you applied to this decision that was important and meaningful.

    All those other teens begin their high school experience with freshman orientation: a day in which they are shown where to go, given their class assignments, told the rules, and generally helped to become more comfortable and confident in their new school. But for a teen who is choosing an alternative path, I think a freshman un-orientation is more appropriate. “Orientation” can mean to find the relative position of something or someone (especially oneself) but I think you have a good understanding of where you are academically, developmentally, or otherwise. You have been given the time and tools to know yourself. Everything the conventional world tells you about finding your direction tends to be based on pre-approved destinations and you have a bigger imagination than that. There are more possibilities than that. Now is the time to un-orient yourself. To wander. To discover. The compass you will need most is your moral one, and the the only maps you will need are the ones you make yourself.  Examine the paths from those who have gone before you. Look at them, take what you need, design the rest, and then draw your own map. Use a pencil, because you may have to redraw some parts.

    There will be no tour on this un-orientation. You don’t need to be told where to go, because the answer is wherever you want. I’m happy, however, to give directions or suggestions should you need them. Over the next four years (and beyond!) you are going to find community and interesting experiences that may take you around the Bay Area, or around the world. This is what builds our resilience, our understanding, and our connections. You will need to learn how to navigate both physically and emotionally so you can trust your senses. I want you to constantly question what you think you know. Be open to being wrong. Be open to being right.

    Like it has always been, but at this point especially, your education is one of mutual agreement. I can’t force you to to learn or take a class (nor would I want to) so the responsibility of making decisions regarding your learning path is yours. I will help you and I will guide you, but this is a consensual education, a partnership. My advice is to choose classes and experiences that serve you in three ways: they are a tool to expand your knowledge about something you love, they scare you or push you out of your comfort zone, and/or they create an educational portfolio that gives you choices. I don’t know yet what your future will be, and neither do you. That’s fine. But the more you engage and participate in your own process, the more possibilities you build for yourself.

    The rules have not changed, just because you are now of high school age. Actually, they have never been as much rules as agreements, and they are still important. The first is to hold learning as sacred, because knowledge is power. Knowledge gives us the power to do the work we are called to do, to enjoy hobbies we love, to change our life or the lives around us, and to know ourselves and others better. How we decide to approach learning is very personal, and I will be there every step of the way to help you figure it out. I also expect us to continue our pact of honesty. It might be harder as you get older to identify or tell me why something isn’t working or why you don’t feel like doing something, but I implore you to try. I will never be angry or judgemental, but I need you to trust that I may have insight, just as I trust you to know when something needs to change. Speaking of trust, trust yourself. Surround yourself with the people and hobbies that reflect the kind of person you want to be. Listen to your intuition and ask for help when you need it. Show kindness and compassion every chance you get, and name it when kindness and compassion are shown to you.

    Finally, this is the part of the journey to adulthood where you take everything you have experienced and mastered so far and build the kind of grown-up you want to be. Be confident that you will get where you need to go. Life is not linear, and if you have taken anything from your years of homeschooling, let it be that we have always been shapeshifters and change agents. We have always adapted and used our creativity to learn, hack, innovate, make, and achieve. Continue to hone and sharpen this skill and you will be fine.

    You know that I love you more than life itself, more than space and time, and I am honored to be your mother and sharing in this adventure with you. Welcome to the high school years!

    Love, Mom