Don’t you need a high school diploma to go to university or be successful in life?

This may have been true at one point, but now the very simple answer is “No.” Every student can be admitted to university without a high school diploma. Not holding an official, accredited, provincial high school diploma is not a barrier to entering the post-secondary university system. There are thousands of students right now in Canada that do not go to high school and the majority of them go on to college or university, get jobs, and lead fulfilling and successful lives.

Without holding a high school diploma, you would typically be admitted to university in one of three ways: as a homeschooler, by enrolling in an open university, or as a mature student. A complete summary of how to get into university without a high school diploma can be found here. Throughout, mentors at Compass are available to help with the college/university admissions process.

As self-directed learning has become more and more common, university admissions officers are not only accepting homeschoolers into their programs, they are also noting that people who have been directing their own education through their teen years make some of the best students of all. A self-directed path offers teens the opportunity to develop their own interests and self-motivation, acquire real-life skills, and foster an ability to use the many resources that the world has to offer. The best predictor of who will stay in university is those who have already developed good work habits. A self-directed learner who has responsibly used his or her time to accomplish goals can certainly stand out from the crowd in the college/university admissions process.


When you say “homeschooling,” does that mean I will end up teaching my child at home?

There are many different models of homeschooling. Replicating school at home – with parent as teacher and child as student – is certainly one of them. This is not what we mean by homeschooling, however. Homeschooling to us is the legal mechanism that allows teens to leave school to pursue their own educational interests. Very rarely do Compass parents actually sit down and provide direct instruction to their children, although this can certainly be part of the overall educational plan if it works for everyone involved.


Is leaving school legal?

Homeschooling is legal in every part of Canada. Once your child registers as a homeschooler with the local school district, they are free to begin to build their own life and start learning the things that they want to learn. The Compass approach is to blend the interests of the child with parental requirements into a plan that works for everyone involved.


What if my child sits around and does nothing or just plays video games all day?

We believe that everyone is born with an innate desire to learn, which is why small children are always questioning and trying to learn more about the world. As a result of different factors – including years of traditional schooling – many kids lose this innate desire to learn. Part of our job at Compass is to help teens rediscover their love of learning and to give them the time, space, support, and resources they need. So when a child leaves school, especially if they have had a difficult time there, one common reaction to their newfound freedom is to do absolutely nothing. What we see is that, after awhile, sitting around doing nothing starts to look less and less appealing, especially when compared to all of the amazing ways that our members spend their time. While this process can often be very trying for parents and Compass staff, many times it is exactly what the young person needs to recover from a particularly stressful school career. After this period of adjustment, we’ve seen that almost all kids do find something they are passionate about and rediscover their natural desire to learn. Also, not all kids experience this adjustment period. Some leave school and immediately embrace their newfound freedom to direct their own learning.


Won’t my child miss out on all the social and extracurricular aspects of school?

One of the most important aspects of Compass is our positive social atmosphere. Everyone is welcomed and valued as a member of our learning community. Our staff projects a friendly, respectful, and caring attitude that sets the tone for the rest of the community.

We can help link Compass teens to community-based activities, such as local arts programming or recreational sports teams. In addition, as we grow as a learning community, we would be excited to offer more arts programing, such as theatre, in-house.


How do I know this approach to education can really work?

We encourage you to check out the North Star program in Hadley, Massachusetts ( North Star is our model, with over 16 years of experience and great success helping nearly a thousand teens direct their own lives and learning.


How are you different from a school?

While we have many characteristics in common with schools, there are a few defining features of Compass that set us apart. Most importantly, all classes, workshops, tutorials, trips and activities at Compass are voluntary. We highly recommend certain activities, but ultimately the decision to participate is up to the member and their family. Second, we do not require mandatory attendance at Compass. Members are free to come and go from our centre throughout the day. Third, we do not have a required curriculum that members must follow. We truly believe in helping kids find their own passions and helping them set and achieve their own goals. Finally, we do not offer credits, graduations, or diplomas. However, if an academic transcript based on learning and activities while at Compass is needed by a member for college or university applications, we are happy to work with the family and member to create this. To sum up, Compass’ structure allows for life-changing transformations in kids who are looking for something different than what traditional schools can offer.



*adapted with permission from Princeton Learning Cooperative