School Survival

Has school destroyed your creativity and self-confidence? I'm working on a book called Recovering From School, to help you heal the damage caused. Join the Patreon or Newsletter to be notified about updates. Paid Patreon members will get early draft previews, as well as a free digital copy when it's done.

Alternatives to school

The best alternative:

Self-Directed Education (SDE)

Self-directed education literally means learning from your own self-chosen activities and life experiences. Unschooling (more about that further below) is a form of Self-Directed Education, but there are others too. Even some types of schools where you can learn what you want, when you want, and the "teachers" are basically there to help you if you want help. If you prefer a structured learning environment, you can have that too. Hopefully someday all forced schooling will be done away with and SDE will prevail.

We have a list of SDE sites and a search engine for them here: [SDE Search] [SDE list].

Other Alternatives

Here are a few short descriptions of some of the more common alternatives to public schools. Most will have links to pages where you can find further info.

Highly Recommended: Three full (free) chapters from the Teenage Liberation Handbook.


Homeschooling – also called home education or home school – is the education of children at home, typically by parents or guardians, rather than in a public or private school.
If you have cool parents, this could work quite well. This is also often done among different families as a team effort - say your mom teaches maths and your neighbours' dad teaches history or something. Here is some advice on how to get homeschooled. If you're wondering where homeschoolers learn social skills, read this.


Basically like homeschooling, except there are no "set" lesson plans. You learn about whatever interests you, when it interests you. Usually the hardest idea for parents to swallow :P
Unschooling is also sometimes called natural learning, child-led learning, discovery learning, delight-led learning, or child-directed learning.

Online Schooling

Instead of physically sitting in class, you can take all the same courses online from the comfort of your own home. There are some courses that still require you to physically go to a building to take an exam or for some other reason, but these are considered to be hybrids. Click the heading for more detailed information and links.

Dropping out / getting a GED

In North America, you can get the GED which is pretty much equivalent to a High School Diploma.
The Tests of General Educational Development, or GED Tests, is a battery of five tests that, when passed, certifies the taker has American or Canadian high school-level academic skills.

Note that the GED is only in North America... we don't have much information on similar options in other countries, but here is some advice on how to leave high school early in Australia (and get into university early). If you know of anything similar to a GED in other countries, please let me know.

Here's some advice on whether or not you should drop out, and how to drop out if you decide to do so. Here's a list of noteworthy people who dropped out.

Charter schools

Written by: Happy Camper

An independent studies program. They aren't completely common or widely available yet but it is definitely worth looking into. It's a homeschool program for middle schoolers and highschoolers that allow them to still graduate with a high school diploma. Right now I cover my US History credit through a sheet of 40 short essay questions, have a basic english curriculum in which I will be doing various projects on various books mostly to do with American Literature, and possibly a few essays, I also have a series of vocab questions to go through to prepare me for the SAT, any book I read in my free time I can count down as long as I do a small report on it, I go in to the public school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays to cover my language credit and take a french class with the local public school kids. ... more about Charter schools

Start College Early

Written by: Dan Copulsky

There are a bunch of colleges with programs to admit students to start college without having finished high school and other colleges that don't have formalized programs to do this but will occasionally admit students after their junior years.

I'm a student at Simon's Rock, which is a college aimed exclusively at taking kids after their sophomore or junior year. It's a place that's made a lot of kids who hated high school a lot happier. I always find it aggravating to know that it's an option that would make a lot of people happier but that most people aren't aware of.

General Private Schools

(Also known as Independent Schools)

An independent school is a school which is not dependent upon national or local government for financing its operation and is instead operated by tuition charges, gifts, and in some cases the investment yield of an endowment.

Private schools have the potential to be a lot better than public ones, but sadly a lot of them are just more expensive versions of public schools with most of the same problems. But still, there may be a GOOD private school in your area, so look around.

I was at a private school for the last few years of high school, and it was a lot more bearable than the public schools I was at, though it was still run on the same basic ideas of doing lots of schoolwork and writing tests.

Alternative Private Schools

Waldorf schools

The Waldorf approach emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. The education's overarching goal is to provide young people the basis with which to develop into free, moral and integrated individuals and to aid every child in the unfolding of his or her unique destiny. Schools and teachers are given considerable freedom to define curricula within collegial structures.


The Montessori method is an educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings, though some Montessori high schools exist.

The method is characterized by an emphasis on self-directed activity on the part of the child and clinical observation on the part of the teacher. It stresses the importance of adapting the child's learning environment to his developmental level, and of the role of physical activity in absorbing academic concepts and practical skills.

The role of a teacher is to introduce children to materials and then remain a “silent presence” in the classroom.

Democratic Schools

A democratic school is a school that centers on democratic principles and participatory democracy with "full and equal" participation from both students and staff. Another tenet of democratic schools is giving students the power to choose what to do with their time. There are no required classes, and sometimes there is no requirement to take classes at all.
Here is an incomplete list of all the democratic schools in the world. Currently there are 208 schools in 29 countries listed. That same site also has lots more information.

Free Schools

A free school, often intentionally spelled free skool, is a decentralized network in which skills, information, and knowledge are shared without hierarchy or the institutional environment of formal schooling. The open structure of a free school is intended to encourage self-reliance, critical consciousness, and personal development.

Free schools have their roots in the anarchist Modern Schools of Spain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is, at heart, non-institutional and non-authoritarian. The meaning of the "free" of free schools is not restricted to monetary cost, and can refer to an emphasis on free speech and open learning.


Because many parents are more likely to trust paper than some internet site, here are some recommended books explaining why school is bad, guides on how to unschool/homeschool and various other things.

  1. "Free to Learn" by Peter Gray: Explores the power of play, curiosity, and self-directed learning in nurturing education outside the classroom.
  2. "Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling" by John Taylor Gatto: Reveals how the traditional education system stifles creativity and critical thinking, providing insights into a more liberating approach.
  3. "Instead of Education: Ways to Help People Do Things Better" by John Holt: Challenges the conventional concept of schooling and advocates for self-directed learning and individual autonomy.
  4. "The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education" by Grace Llewellyn: A practical guide for teens seeking alternatives to traditional schooling, exploring unschooling and self-directed learning.
  5. "Summerhill School: A New View of Childhood" by A S Neill: Provides an in-depth look at the Summerhill school and its philosophy of education, emphasizing freedom, respect, and self-expression.

Alternative Jobs & Sources of Income

Alternatives to the "graduate, go to college/university, get a job, work until you retire and die" model of life that is commonly encouraged by way too many people. The possibilities are actually infinite, but that doesn't mean we can't make a list of ideas to get you started. :)

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