The teens are back and it’s fantastic. For the first time since we opened our door nearly four years ago, we’re open five days a week. We are spending our Fridays working on a collective project we’re not yet ready to reveal. But I can let you in on some of the ways that young people at Compass can and do spend their time.

At Compass, teens do ‘school-like’ things like take classes. They also can request tutorials: in the past few days alone we’ve had teens request everything from Russian and website design to wood-working and agricultural systems. We can also link teens with community mentors and it’s our goal to greatly increase the number of our community partners this year. In fact, I’d love it if you would email me the names of any companies, organizations, or individuals you think would be interested in learning more about Compass.

Here are a few other exciting things you can do if you’ve chosen to take charge of your own education:

  1. If you think you are university-bound, you can take a ‘Head Start’ class at Ottawa University. They cost a mere $150 per class and can count as a means of assessment should a young person wish to apply full-time AND those credits can then be applied toward a degree. Universities are businesses. They want good applicants and will find a way to assess you to see if you meet their criteria. If you want to read more about The University Question, you may be interested in reading this.
  2. If you are the artsy type and hope to pursue your art as a career, you can use all the time that you would have been sitting in classes in which you are not invested to create your portfolio and generally hone your craft. We have one teen at Compass who is doing just that. We have connected her with the homeschooling advisor at Algonquin College… Wait what? Algonquin College has someone whose job it is to help non-traditional applicants apply to Algonquin? Yes, that’s right, his name is Jonathan Holmes and it’s his job to meet you at his office or Tim Hortons near your house and advise you on how to apply. He’s also apparently Algonquin College’s “bow-tie guy”. Anyway, back to our teen who is happily working on her art portfolio at Compass while also taking an online grade 12 English class: she will achieve the same outcome as someone who may have spent the past 4 years putting a great deal of energy into fighting a system that didn’t work for her or him.
  3. Apply point #2 to musicians, athletes, writers, entrepreneurs, etc.
  4. You can start a business or a non-profit and learn useful skills as you need to learn them and with support from mentors.


My main takeaway points here are the following:

  • Learning that is relevant and intrinsically motivated is the deepest learning and will produce better results.
  • There is more than one path to success in life. In fact, I would argue that someone who is learning who they are, what drives them, and how to achieve their aims is in a better position to meet the demands of the 21st century job market.


If you know of a teen who is suffering because of school, please share this post with them. School works for some kids, but not all. We’re not here to ‘down’ school; we’re here to provide an alternative.