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Guest post by Karen Brandt: The Home of Happy Teenagers

I like to call it “the home of happy teenagers”.

When I stop by to pick up our daughter, I enter a floor below the action and get to listen in on the banter. Lucky the dog gazes down at me from the top of the stairs. I hear laughter and loving jibes between teens who know each other well and support each other fully. Echoes of four different beginner foreign languages float down to me: Spanish, French, Mandarin and Greek.

No one needs to worry about where to sit in a cafeteria – the kids just pile into the kitchen, sit at the big table and open their lunch. Gym class? The kids get to take a break mid-day and drink in the fresh air and sunshine of beautiful Maudslay State Park. On winter days, they might go rock-climbing at MetroRock or learn some dance steps at Aurora Dance Studio.

Our daughter is a sophomore, so she studies the core pillars of a classical education: Honors Chemistry, Geometry, European History, British Literature and Mandarin. Her teachers guide her through her course work, creating a framework of milestones that she can measure herself against as the school year progresses. Recently, our student/teacher/parent meeting reviewed the schedule for mastering the final chapters of the Chemistry curriculum, and starting the test prep for the SAT II Chemistry Subject Area test.

Our family is planning for the PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT and several SAT II Subject Area tests. Since our daughter is technically enrolled as a “homeschooler” — outsourcing all the teaching to Learning Outpost — we know our daughter’s college applications will get individual attention from admissions officers. Colleges have come to embrace self-directed learners and the value they bring to a campus community.

Educational experiences are a big component. Build a chicken coop speaking only Spanish… perform The Bald Soprano in French… play Wall Street Survivor with professionals. Kayak the Merrimack, solve the challenges of Boda Borg, hike to the Maine huts, visit the MFA and MIT… That’s just a few of this year’s experiences.

But also important is what we left behind. Our daughter was in high honors at a selective day prep school with a great bunch of friends. But she wouldn’t get home until 5:30, then she’d have just a half hour for dinner before diving into hours of homework — most of it filled with stress, angst and exhaustion. Late to bed, early to rise and do it all over again. There had to be a better way.

Once she made the tough decision to leave her school and join Learning Outpost, boom — we have our happy kid back again. And bonus – she sees her friends more than she ever did because she finally has time for a social life.

Balance and just the right amount of challenge. Isn’t that what we all want for our kids?