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Why I pulled my daughter out of high school to teach her to code (joeeames.me)
42 points by tm33 778 days ago | hide | past | web | 112 comments | favorite



So she tried something new, discovered she loved it, and since you yourself love that same thing you're withdrawing her from all other outlets to try new things and focusing her on the thing that you love...

Or to put it another way, she tried web-design and liked it, she could have tried a dozen or more other things in high school (social or classes), but now instead you're dropping all of those opportunities, and putting her on this one unified path at the ripe old age of 16.

Online high school might get her a certificate she'll need for college (and certainly if she applies to a CS program all of this will be a benefit) but she is still missing opportunities to discover who she is and what she loves. Plus making friends...


This was my reaction too. School provides myriad things other than simply vocational training—that's a very significant sacrifice. It could well be that this was known, discussed, and the verdict came in that the sacrifice was worthwhile, but I hope any parents considering a similar path would consider the whole meal instead of merely one dish.

Another point: You can denigrate the liberal arts all you like ("wasting her time [...] taking yet another history class") and reject the argument that familiarity with them produces more well-rounded individuals, but a big portion of working in any knowledge-based profession will involve writing. I hope this young lady will also be able to have and take advantage of opportunities to become a better writer, because most of those opportunities before turning 18 happen in school.


Really wish I knew why everyone automatically assumes that homeschooling is useless...


I'll give it a shot: I wouldn't say useless at all, but the main reason I won't be homeschooling my children is that I don't think I'm smart enough to do a better job than an entire school full of educators.

I'm sure various arguments can be made for whether or not that's true of different people (and teachers), but I grew up in a pretty mediocre school system and still had very smart teachers teaching cool classes that were so, so good because of their very specialized knowledge. I can see how K-8 might be much easier to replace with homeschooling, but I have a hard time with secondary school.

If my mom had taught me high school chemistry, for example, she could have gone through the book and lessons with me with minimum difficulty. But I had a chemistry teacher who'd left being a college professor/researcher so he could be back with younger students, and he was amazingly smart and fun to learn from. I'd have missed that completely.

The author of the article comes from another angle entirely: It's a situation where the high school teachers' specialized knowledge isn't nearly good enough. I get that too. If I was a quantum physicist, I'd bet dollars to donuts I could cook up a better physics student than your average college-prep science class -- but that doesn't mean I'd be better at everything else that happens in high school, too.


Well, the other side is that home schoolers do have to pass the same kind of tests and prove that they learned chemistry, history, math, blah. And in my experience, I approached history, math, and english with the attitude of "Ugh, this stupid subject, do the bare minimum to get out of here", so an amazing teacher wouldn't have really changed how much I learned.


Truly amazing teachers can break through that. I never had any in high school but I certainly had a couple in college.


Maybe because of the author's attitude: " All of a sudden I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class, when she could be doing what she wanted to do with her life and spending all day learning skills that will help her in her chosen career." This is the worst reason to take someone out if school, and enough to make me think her homeschooling will be skewed. Learning history and other arts and sciences is not a waste. She doesn't need to learn a career at 16. She just needs to learn


Agreed 100%. Why would you take all that away? You can go to school and still learn how to code.


I can't disagree more. I wouldn't call high school an 'outlet to try new things'. If she learns to be a developer by the age of 18 how is she tied down from doing anything else? I would say that self discovery is amplified outside of a high school environment not stifled.

I also think networking and making friends is also augmented outside of high school.


It's absolutely a place to try new things. Sports, Music, Theatre, Clubs, Social Groups, etc. It's much harder to get that experience outside of a place that gives it to you.

Outside of high school where are you going to meet new friends? You made friends by doing the activities that the school provided. Because it found people in the same age range that had similar interest.

Not every high school is the same, but I don't agree with your statement at all.


> Outside of high school where are you going to meet new friends?

Sports clubs, theatre clubs, Scouts, neighbours, Homeschooling groups...


Presenting to large groups at conferences, teaching the governor...


Thank you. Thought I was losing my mind with all these apocalyptic comments on how a sixteen year old girl dropping out of high school with a cohesive plan, and parental guidance, would suddenly be completely socially challenged and lacking any other ways to gain insights into the world.


Are her parents going to be her friends?


I can have my parents as my friends, and friends my age. Is it so odd for a teenage girl to be close to the people that raised her?


As a counterpoint, I started programming when I was 5, and have known what I wanted to do since I was 7 (shortly after writing my first program that someone else used). I did my first commercial software project when I was 16, and got stuck in 'trying new things' for several years because people (for example, parents, family, teachers) around me told me that I didn't really know what I want.

Doing that set back my career by several years over where I could have been.

If this was happening at an earlier age, it would be more questionable, but for the vast majority of human history people already knew what they would be doing for their lives and had training and experience by the time they were 16. She is young enough to change her mind, and will still finish high school. As for the social aspect, did you miss the part where she will attend a different education program?


Your anecdote doesn't apply here so it isn't a counterpoint. You knew "when [you were] 5" in contrast to the article:

> Last year I kind of coerced my daughter into taking a Web Design class at her high school.

Just one year and since 5-7 aren't the same or even ballpark.

> She is young enough to change her mind, and will still finish high school.

I don't follow. She won't be attending High School as her parents have withdrawn her.

> As for the social aspect, did you miss the part where she will attend a different education program?

Mostly with people much older than her. Look at some of the programs, they're adult education (i.e. people changing careers, or in-place of college). It is harder to socialise with people in different stages of their lives.


> Your anecdote doesn't apply here so it isn't a counterpoint.

Sure it does. When I was 16, despite knowing what I wanted to do, I succumbed to pressure from my parents and other family to 'try different things', which held me back.

> She won't be attending High School as her parents have withdrawn her.

Read, don't skim. She will attend classes to focus on development, while completing high school requirements online.

> Mostly with people much older than her.

So? My brother went to trade school and learned how to fix cars with people much older. My sister went to trade school and learned to be a hair stylist with people much older.

Like it or not, with industry looking to automate away the vast majority of blue collar work, software development skills will become a basic skill requirement and blue collar workers will be implementing the rules that automation follows, while white collar software development jobs will be the work creating the automation systems. (This is a massive simplification of some of the changes, but hey, I have a day job so I can't spend all day commenting :D)

Bottom line, the student will get a high school diploma, a marketable skill set, and a chance to be an early adopter of the disruptive changes to primary and secondary education that have been coming over the last generation.


The article states that she's going to finish high school online.


The general theme of the conversation down here seems to be around how "high school online" is a very, very different experience than "high school in high school." Socially, in particular.


There's an underlying assumption here that there are opportunities to be missed. She's already mostly through HS; this isn't like some isolated homeschooled situation. If you're 16, have an obvious lucrative career path right in front of you, you would be an idiot to spend hours writing AP History reports or whatever, especially if your interest in that topic is low.


16 isn't mostly through high school. Unless she's a year ahead, she is/was likely a sophomore, or only half-way through high school. And she's missing the best parts of those last two years - the large number of AP/IB courses offered at most American high schools.

And really, I'm not sure why anybody would be in such a rush to get a job. Money isn't everything.


How many tens of thousands of opportunity cost dollars would you pay to attend your high school's AP/IB courses?


Your point is diversifying experiences leads to more qualified decisions. Why can't America diversify educational experiences, to lead to more qualified educational tracks?


Take a look at the University Techical Colleges in the UK, eg for Life Sciences: http://utccambridge.co.uk/

Or for Computer Science: http://www.utcreading.co.uk/

Or for Mech Eng & manufacturing:http://www.derbymanufacturingutc.co.uk/


Palmer Luckey, inventor of the Oculus Rift, was homeschooled.

I wonder what opportunities he missed out on. Can he "socialize?" Maybe he would've done something better if he had taken AP History and went to prom.

Many questions...


That experience radically changed my opinion about my daughter’s future. All of a sudden I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class, when she could be doing what she wanted to do with her life and spending all day learning skills that will help her in her chosen career.

Because, you know, fuck History. What use is that?


That part shocked me the most. History is one of the most eye-opening subjects you can possibly learn, and requires significant critical thinking skills to be able to really understand things. Think a big codebase is complex? Try understanding the motivations behind ancient law systems, and how they affected their peoples over the centuries.

Not to mention the perspective it can offer people. There are so many things repeated throughout history which could have been avoided had people focused more on an objective understanding of the past.


Except that school doesn't teach any of that. It only focuses on bunch of facts like dates, without trying to penetrate the subject with any reasoning. After all, testing how one reasons is much, much more difficult than testing if he/she knows several dates correctly.

Moreover, structure of history classes is mostly time-based, without much correlation beside when something happened. But history could be split along different axes. How much connection is there between Russo-Swedish War and French Revolution, anyway? Why teach them one after another only because they happened at the same time?


My jaw dropped at this point. It's more like "fuck being a well-rounded person". Or fuck understanding references that educated people make in everyday life.


Maybe it's just me (and I'm not defending OP here) but looking back on my high-school history classes at age 24, we essentially covered the same shit we had all the previous years. Slightly more detail and different styles of homework but that's about it.


That's the entire point of history classes, and makes a lot more sense than saying "in your first class you will learn every fact between the year 0 and 1000, in your second class between 1001 and 1500, ...". It's much more effective to start off with by providing context, then as minds get more educated to get into details.

The object of high school history wasn't to teach you the names of all the kings of England. It was to give you a context to understand the modern world. [1]

[1] http://www.paulgraham.com/know.html


Don't be so incredulous. No where does he say "fuck being a well-rounded person." He thinks her time is being wasted in school which I think is certainly capable of being argued. Schools are designed to fit most people. By their very nature they're supposed to be good enough for everyone but rarely perfect for individuals.


So every homeschooled child is automatically ill-educated? Or maybe, a child with parents that actually care about their child and her interests is rather lucky?


I'll just say, even though public school history education may have its problems, at least generally its not taught by someone who considers studying history to be a waste of time.

"Let's try and breeze past this useless mumbo jumbo as fast as we can; we have a LOT of web frameworks to cover!"


I was a homeschooled kid whose father taught him programming. I still managed to learn the value of history.


If one is home-schooled by parents who give the child a well-rounded education, why not. In this case, one parent is explicitly considering history to be a useless topic.


No ancestor of your comment said anything about homeschooling.


No, they implied that she was going to get a horrible education doing it at home and online, which I would consider to be homeschooling.


Yes, they implied (or outright stated that) she was going to get a horrible education, but they did NOT imply that it was due to being homeschooled, nor did they imply that every homeschooled person would get a horrible education.


On one hand, I totally agree with you. Despite that fact that I don't "use" it everyday, I think my liberal arts education (both in high school and college) was immensely useful in teaching me how to think.

On the other hand, done properly something like this could become a fine mentor/apprenticeship program for kids that don't want to follow the typical college route.

I guess it's easy to be reactionary about this piece because the author is so flippant about the uses of things outside of programming, and the fact that his enthusiasm seems to over-shadow his daughter's.


The field of history is fascinating and valuable but I completely understand this attitude towards history classes in the public high school system.

If you're really interested in history take a college level course. Grade and high school history subjects often contain absurdly simplified material -- sometimes to the point of incorrectness. One can miss high school history entirely and end up better informed.


> If you're really interested in history take a college level course.

This generally doesn't require dropping out of school. Most public high schools offer AP/IB courses, which are the equivalent of 1st year college courses. And, at least in my county, once a student surpasses that level, they are free to pursue subjects at the local community college, while finishing up the rest of high school with their classmates.


It doesn't require it, but it does help frame the issue as to whether high school is a "waste of time."

For example, much as you describe, I scaled back my high school senior year to less than a half day in order to make time for community college courses. If I did not partially pull myself out of high school I would not have had enough time to pursue my education.

Looking back decades later I am pleased with my choice.


The History taught in High School is knowingly inaccurate. I have a friend who is a historian and he refuses to teach High School because in his words "college curriculum requires that you teach inaccuracies, but High School curriculum requires that you literally lie to the students."


I was about to paste this quote because it sounds exactly like me at 16, when I convinced my parents to let me drop out and pursue a tech career. Over a decade later and i'm finally catching up with all the things I never learned and the social skills I never developed from living online for years. (Incidentally, i'm also seriously considering a career change, because who wants to be stuck inside at a desk all day for the rest of their life?)


One does not have to be in school to learn history. History was my favourite subject, other than my web classes, but just because I'm not in school doesn't mean I can't, you know, read historical literature for fun. Heaven forbid a teenage learns for the heck of it on weekends.


IMHO, fuck high school history class, yes. I learnt nothing of value there, except how nationalistic middle americans are.


As best as I remember high school, my junior and senior history classes were a repeat of the freshman and sophomore history classes. Basic American history and world history.


History was easily the worst-taught subject in the schools I attended (better than average midwestern U.S. schools).

For some reason, 90% of the time was taken up repeatedly poorly covering a small set of topics: the "fertile crescent" through Greece up to just before Alexander which I suppose satisfied some sort of ancient history requirement, jump ahead to spend a ton of time on the Age of Exploration, a brief stop at colonization and the War of Independence, a bunch more time on the Westward expansion/Native Americans (most time of any single topic or time period, easily) and then memorize a few terms related to the Civil War (Anaconda Plan, four or five important generals, half a dozen battles, etc.).

"Conestoga Wagons" and "Longhouses" must have been answers to test questions in at least five of twelve grades. "Ferdinand Magellan" in at least three.

The overall course of study left one with such an incomplete and disjointed understanding of history as to be nearly useless. I learned more history from 200-300 hours of various not-primarily-educational video games in the same time span than I did from school. We didn't cover American history well, let alone Western history, and certainly not world history. A single semester of Freshman world history in college covered more material and did it better with three hours a week and at a fairly leisurely pace.

[EDIT] I should clarify that my phrasing "fertile crescent through Greece up to just before Alexander" implies a much more complete coverage of early civilization that was actually achieved. Fertile crescent, Tigris and Euphrates, Phoenicians invented the alphabet, name-drop Peloponnesian War and Socrates on a fill-in-the-blanks test, aaaaand moving on to Christopher Columbus.


For me, it was reading the 1632 book series(Ring of Fire). Learned more Swedish/German/European history from fictional alternative history books then apparently EXISTED in my high school history books


She might be a history buff for all we know, but that does not mean it's best to spend 45 minutes a day, five times a week, plus homework on it.


From reading the post it seems like her dad made this decision for her, which feels a bit off to me. While the school may not have been serving her needs intellectually, I can see a strong argument for sticking it out socially. Then again, if she was already isolated or had strong friendships outside of school, maybe it's not such a big deal. Would enjoy hearing Katya's side of the story.


I will be making a blog shortly, so then you will be able to hear my side of the story c: My dad wasn't the one who forced me to do it, if anything I pushed him to let me pursue this career in a way I would never be able to do should I stay in high school. As for feeling isolated in school it wasn't so much that as I knew that only a few of my friends were really friends with me, while most were my ;friends' because I saw them five times a week. My friends fully support me in this and we plan on spending many weekends catching up. Plus, social networking is a thing so we can talk to each other from miles away. It's not as if as soon as I left high school I cut off all ties with my friends. "Nope, never mind, we aren't friends anymore cause I'm too good for school. I will now spend all my time being a social recluse and not conversing with anyone. Farewell" That'd be dumb


Three sort of related observations.

From what I remember, I socialized both with people I liked, and people I disliked, a lot more outside the high school building than inside during history class. During lectures and tests I usually zoned out and sometimes worked. She should be better off socially, as long as she doesn't sit on the couch and watch TV all day or whatever. (edited to clearly explain my opinion comes from kids "socializing" with kids results in little more than Lord of the Flies behavior, and hanging out in the real world instead of high school should be incredibly valuable to her)

Another observation is its highly culturally incorrect to say it, but she's missing out on the important work skill of just phoning it in and being patient while appearing to care. Sure, soon as the school bell rings, life can begin and she can boot up her computer. In the real world you're going to spend hours, maybe days, at diversity training and OSHA certs and PCI compliance and ISO9000 and the programming world for decades has been full of silver bullet dev fads that, much like the diet industry, mostly revolve around making the motivational speaker money rather than really "doing" anything. If they actually fixed anything they'd be out of a job, so you do the math there. And sometimes you'll simply have a boring pointless job, that's life. So this is the major malfunction of the plan.

For a couple centuries teens have been famous for doing crazy things, she'll probably turn out just fine even if everything does crash and burn. Its not like she's got 3 little kids and a spouse and mortgage and medical issues and elderly parents relying on her. A good way to learn how to survive and bounce back from failure, and how to avoid failure, is to fail, so weird as it sounds I hope for her future's sake she totally crashes and burns like only a teen can (metaphorically) ... she's young enough to stand back up, get dusted off and patched up (with a little parental help, probably), and learn how NOT to crash and burn when it really counts, later in life, when there's absolutely no one to rely on. Or the short version of the above is she's a teen, doing teen stuff, just like she's supposed to, at least in my opinion as old man parent.


I believe one of the benefits to this is that she won't learn to "phone it in." Why is it considered a skill to accept the status quo? If she is raised in and develops a life that is magnitudes more productive, perhaps she will impart that attribute on the world. Perhaps she'll start a company which doesn't accept the bureaucracy of the world as a necessity.


Something really struck me with this post (emphasis mine):

> I felt like public high school just wasn’t serving her best interests anymore, and it was time to do something radical on her behalf, and at 16, she just didn’t belong there anymore.

I can't decide whether it's just the way you wrote it, or whether you're genuinely making these decisions on behalf of your daughter.

Did your daughter feel like high school wasn't serving her best interests? I don't know, because you don't say in the post. It's all about you, and your actions. I would hope a sixteen year old would be at a point where he or she would have a degree of independence. I will be honest with you: if my parents had done this to my, my life would have been considerably worse. I code for a living, but I didn't learn any of those skills in High School, or college. I was a studio art major in college, and English Lit / Music in High School.

There is not necessarily anything wrong with a purely vocational education, although personally I think the humanities are vital. However, there is to me something wrong with unilaterally pulling your daughter out of high school because of the hopes and dreams you have for her.

I hope that really the problem is one of phrasing. The post would come out in a much better light if rather than portraying yourself as the decision maker it turned out actually, your daughter was the instigator. If that's the case, I apologize. But if it's not...well, that makes me uncomfortable. It seems like others here feel the same.


My dad is known to have a problem with clarity


A lot of people here seem to be grasping at straws to defend the status quo. Doing things like presenting at conferences, teaching the governor to code, etc., at age 16 are amazing experiences that are only available to people who are willing to do things differently.

And the judgements against her parents are unfortunate. This is one family doing something different. We need more people willing to do interesting things with their educational choices, not less. This is not something a parent would do lightly, without taking great care to discuss with her what she wants. Her parents probably know her far better, and care far more for her well being then anyone here does!

As far as missing out on liberal arts/other subjects... 1) she is still going to take high school online, and 2) it's not like high school education is all that great. A person could do better off teaching themselves at khan academy, and listening to history podcasts, and reading books that interest them.

I'm amazed how critical people are being, who know nothing about the person or situation.


The comments in this thread are why I hate talking about homeschooling with people who don't.

Albeit if he intends to not teach his daughter any history then he is doing her a great disservice. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. I think the sentiment he was expressing was similar to the one I expressed when I dropped out of high school at 16. I loved to learn, I loved to read (especially about history), I read my text books cover to cover, but I was bored and trapped inside a system that absolutely wasted my time (from my 16 y/o perspective). I loved to program and I was getting paid for it. Why sit in a school 8 hours a day, shuffling from room to room, dodging bullies, waiting on teachers to deal with disruptions, dealing with teachers who were incompetent or didn't care (never mind the few great ones). I did a spreadsheet with my own sort of ROI calc. School lost, and the rest is history.

I applaud him for doing this. She can still get into a great CS program at a great school. She'll certainly have more free time to prep for her entrance exams.

Also, regarding "teaching" things in homeschooling. Once a kid reaches a certain age there's not much you (or a public school teacher) can teach them better than Khan Academy, a great book, or a life experience.


I think the thing that bothers me (and, it seems, lots of other folks) most about this is the feeling that the daughter had very little say in the matter, when by that time, if you're presumably mature enough to start working toward a career, you're mature enough to have some say in what you do all day, every day, instead of high school.


This makes me uneasy from my own perspective, someone who changed majors in college, well older than 16.

What keeps me grounded and open minded to the approach is that my wife knew what she wanted to do from 6th grade on and while she grows and changes in that career, she is where she wanted to be.

Maybe people know what they want at 16, but I think the purpose of taking just another history class and opening themselves up to many things they didn't know about is important and keeps your skills versitile rather than atrophying all but one muscle.


I knew what I wanted to do when I was 8. I'm 27 now, and I've got a solid career ahead of me, doing what I wanted to do when I was 8. Couldn't be happier.


Congrats on becoming a firefighter/astronaut/race car driver.


I can't even imagine that. What was it you wanted to do?


Computer Programmer. Got my first computer when I was 8, all it had on it was basic OS utils, and that either included a copy of QBasic, or I got a copy from somewhere. Never looked back


It's not my job to be a backseat parent. But the attitude in our field of "Up with CS, everything else is crap" needs to stop.

There's a certain ego endemic to our field, stoked by politicians who worship the "STEM fields", that other fields are "less important" or "less useful". Maybe my view is skewed because, both in high school and college, I was blessed with stellar history teachers. Understanding how the world works - what makes people, people, the situations that have led people to where they are today - learning what we can repeat and what we can avoid repeating? There's a whole lot of value in that, and this attitude contributes heavily to the lack of human decency in our field.

Even from a purely "practical" perspective, the gap between being good at "coding" and being good at "writing software" is the "writing". Probably the most prolific engineer I know from my alma mater was an history and philosophy major, and I honestly believe a great writer is closer to being a great software engineer than a great algorithmist.

And yet my alma mater creates and harbors a culture where CS majors above history majors in the academic hierarchy.


> There's a whole lot of value in that, and this attitude contributes heavily to the lack of human decency in our field.

That's a really good point—I hadn't made that connection, but I think you're absolutely right.


Probably the most important aspect of high school is learning to socialize and making friends. It's a shame you're taking that away from her. There will be time for coding later, she has her whole life ahead of her. Let her be a kid while she still can.


> All of a sudden I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class

Isn't it at least a bit more important whether she was frustrated? Did she want to be "pulled out"? Or did she leave?

I say this as someone who switched schools a few times, both of which was due to having a terrible time and my parents offering.

But I had a normal highschool experience, learned a lot about civics and a bit about history and literature. I mucked about with computers in my spare time, did a math undergrad, work in software dev now. I had a lot of support from my family, but they never made my decisions for me.

Ed: And I'm literally one of those devs who was given a book on programming at age 10 and never looked back. But at no point was highschool a waste of time. (Middle school, on the other hand...)


I genuinely wanted to be pulled out of high school. I don't know how it was in your day, but at this pint in time high school is about passing, not learning.


I was hoping from the title this was a biting parody of the pervasive 'everyone, learn to code, right now, drop everything else it's all that's important' culture. Instead it's a full embrace. What a truly terrible idea. If you, as an adult, want to go all in on this silly meme yourself by all means feel free but don't allow, help, or encourage your children to. There's so much more out there to explore.


Sounds like she will be getting plenty of socialization in this new program, and because she is finishing highschool online she is going to get a well rounded education. I don't see this any different than a Montessori or a trade school route.

It may not be the right trend to set for everyone but I think it's just as naïve to think that traditional public / private highschool or homeschool / online school is the right path for everyone. It's a case by case basis, Our school system as we know it hasn't been around for very long and as a matter of a fact is criticized pretty heavy for being inefficient. I wasn't around in the Greek / Roman days but I'm sure they did things pretty different and they probably had inefficiencies and benefits to what they did.

Lastly I feel a lot of the criticism comes from FUD. Finding something you love to do is not as common as you might think and is a huge factor in success. I took an unconventional education myself and found the most important aspect of all my of learning was that I did something I loved and I tackled it hard which lit my desires for all kinds of other knowledge.


I pulled myself out of high school at age 16 because I felt it was holding me back from progressing in comp sci. Worst fucking decision of my life; please encourage let alone force this on anybody else.

My high school didn't have a computer science program at all (late 90's), but I grew up during the dot-com boom in silicon valley. My friends were getting internships at web and networking companies over summer earning an unhealthy amount of money for a teenager. I tried my hand at writing some computer games, and found I liked making games even more than playing them. So I thought: screw high school and all these classes which have fuck all to do with what I'm interested in.

What actually happened is that within a year I found out that like any teenager I had no clue what really interested me, except that it was easy to find stuff which interested me more than being a code monkey. Yet I was getting more and more locked into that as a career path.

Also, my social circle went to hell. I was neither with a cohort of friends my age I could relate to and could relate to me, nor did I get to share in the typical senior year of high school, and freshman year of college rites of passage. I did not really know what I was missing until later.

I jumped around a lot trying to undo mistakes and find something I really liked, which ended up costing me a small fortune in debt via 8 years of college.

In the end I still write code instead of doing something more intellectually and emotionally satisfying to me like archaeology or art conservation. Why? Because some mistakes can't be so easily undone. I enjoy what I do, and am paid well enough to support my family. But sometimes I wonder what could have been, and why in the world my parents let me do this...


I don't think High School is so great. I hated it more than I can possibly express, and I went to one of the best public High Schools in the country.

I dropped out and only regret it ~every other Thursday, and then only because I think I would have enjoyed college, if I had picked the right one. And then only because I would have possibly enjoyed the friends and networking benefits.

I strongly feel, based on observation and anecdotal evidence, that traditional school encourages people to need guidance their whole lives. If the social and networking benefit can be replaced, anyone who can self-direct learning is better off without the classroom structure. That goes double for people of above average intelligence, and should be logarithmically more true in this day of infinite internet information. Obviously this doesn't apply to accredited professions.

This doesn't mean being self-taught is so great either. Mentors are everything. But High School isn't typically a bastion of real, useful, mentorship.


High school isn't much about learning all the different subjects, it's much more about learning how to behave with people aka social skill. The author should put his daughter back into high school again in order not to have a socially incompetent daughter when she's older.


Homeschooling father here.

My fear -- and the fear of our immediate family -- at the beginning of homeschooling was that the kids would suffer socially. What we've discovered in the 1.5 years since starting is that the opposite has happened.

Here in Colorado, homeschooling has been on the rise so finding other homeschooling families is relatively easy. Local groups meet on a regular basis: the kids socialize with other kids, the parents cross-pollenate with other parents.

My kids have more friends now than when they were in conventional school (both charter and "regular" public schools), and they were hardly loners then. They also get to socialize more with their friends since they have dedicated time for that, instead of during hurried lunchtimes and between classes. And yes, annoying kids are also homeschooled so my children still have to learn and refine those social coping skills during the get-togethers.

I realize that there is a wide variation in homeschooling experiences, but don't believe the myth about a lack of socialization: if it is important to the parents, it can be easily dealt with.

An additional note regarding the OP itself and the author removing his daughter from conventional school simply to learn web development: I'm not convinced it was the right idea. His comment about his child being "stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class" rubs me the wrong way for the same reason it does many other commenters here on HN; at that age, being exposed to different things is not only good but necessary to build critical thinking skills and broaden horizons. While it is possible that the author had other reasons to homeschool his daughter than simply to immerse her into the world of software development, he doesn't do a good job of detailing them.


Don't fool yourself into believing it is the same as public school. I was homeschooled until 9th grade and during that time we were always actively engaged with other homeschooling families. Still, there is no substitute for being around your peers 40 hours a week. Which is good and a bad thing.

Going into public school was a big shock for me and even more so for my brother who only went to public school senior year of high school. It took both of us years to catch up in social skills. Be aware you are making a tradeoff, whether you think so or not.


Be aware you are making a tradeoff, whether you think so or not.

Oh, we're keenly aware that there's a trade-off. Both my wife & I went through the public school system, and until the last few years considered homeschooling to be "weird".

We're also keenly aware that there's nothing to be gained from forced exposure to apathetic/incompetent "teachers" (more like classroom managers than mentors or instructors) and the occasional junior sociopath. Being bored, unchallenged and unhappy with a group of other bored, unchallenged and unhappy kids results in no additional intellectual or emotional payoff after a couple of days.

Middle school -- where my children are currently, age-wise and academically -- and high school are not the same social experience as elementary school. Yes, there's plenty of socialization....but generally not the kind of socialization that many consider pleasant. And there appears to be far less actual learning taking place now than when I went to public school a quarter-century ago; instruction has been largely replaced with standardized test-taking and the preparation for those specific tests.

Homeschooling, like public schooling, is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. However, I know my children and have observed their behavior when dealing with not only their peers, but adults and younger children. Socialization isn't my top concern at this point: ensuring that they have a solid foundation in language, math, science and critical-thinking skills is.


I think your young years should be wasted on frivolous fun, travel, and getting yourself banged up doing all the things that youth benefits the most. Fuck having a career. You have another 60 years to work.

I find the parent's motives noble, but he clearly had to work hard to get her to go to this class, which I don't think is a good idea for kids. At the very least they may feel like they have no choice (because they live under your roof), or they might develop an unhealthy dependency ('dad will love me if I do this class, right?'). Obviously parents should try to expose their kids to different things, but I wish they'd stop short of 'pushing'.


Woah. Reading the comments here is absolutely surreal, am I still on HN?

Traditional high school is absolutely not a place where you go to "learn how to socialize" or you get to learn all about "history" and being a "well rounded person. It's a place where, for the most part, you go to get babysat so your parents can go to work and not have to worry about you.

Very surprised at the reaction here, where in a different context I'd imagine the same people would be talking about the failures of public education instead of how much a sixteen year old is supposedly missing out on by dropping out.


Without knowing all the facts surrounding this choice, it is rather difficult to judge if this decision was ill-conceived. But as a father of a home-schooled 5yr old, I find myself constantly questioning the value/trade-offs of traditional education paths rooted in a paradigm that doesn't quite fit todays' world. With a bit of planning, History and Socialization skills can definitely be learnt outside the High School System. I am all for a blended learning experience, taking the best of the traditional approach and mixing with unconventional learning opportunities.


Let's be honest, nobody knows the best way to raise their children. It is entirely possible that someday his daughter will participate in similar discussion whether it is worth homeschooling kids and will say that she'd been home schooled and turned out very successful.

However, while reading the post, I felt annoyed with the author's attitude toward public education and especially the spiteful comment about history. Partially perhaps because I liked history lessons at school and still do like the subject and partially because I think that a person must have a well-rounded education.

Also, I believe that that it doesn't make such a huge difference when one starts programming and maybe pushing the child towards it too early might do more harm than good. I have discovered programming completely by myself in the last school year when I was 17 or 18. Many guys who studied together at university had started programming several years earlier and they definitely knew more at the time, however the differences mostly disappeared in a couple years. And those who still were better, they either were much smarter or worked harder and the coding experience or lack thereof that everybody brought from teenage years didn't really matter that much.


"All of a sudden I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class, when she could be doing what she wanted to do with her life and spending all day learning skills that will help her in her chosen career."

Wasting her time taking a history class? Oh, I don't know, maybe something about being a well-rounded citizen who understands how society works from a non-programming stand-point. Also, learning is so much more than just the facts and what's going to land you a job. And formal education, more than anything, is about the informal education you get while not in the classroom -- like learning to interact with others, learning other perspectives, meeting and getting along with people who are different than you, and the list goes on, and on, and on.


I'm not a parent and I don't know this kid and I'm certainly not in a place to judge.

That said, I will say that I enjoyed finished high school. Having that piece of my teenage experience was nice and I was able to judge my other passions with studies fairly easily. It was nice to meet other kids, make friends, go to prom, have that experience growing up.

It's great that this girl is passionate about something but committing to a career path so early in life makes me a little hesitant.

Also, I'm glad I "wasted" my time with the liberal arts. I probably won't use the literature or the history I learned from school in my career but I think it was a good experience.


I want my daughter to be able to program, absolutely. But that doesn't mean I want her to be a programmer. I want her to be able to take programming and apply it to other interests she has—which means having other interests—which means being exposed to things and ideas she's not currently familiar with to learn what she likes and doesn't like. Pulling her out of the place we have set aside for that, in order to devote herself to being a full time programmer, seems like a step backwards. Being 16 should be about broadening your horizons, not narrowing them.


One of my biggest regrets is that when I was sixteen I didn't pursue an opportunity to quit high school and do something more fulfilling. I spent the last two years of high school working at a grocery store, working at a game store, and trying to stay awake in class while coasting through with a B average. I got to college, changed majors half a dozen times, got an English degree, worked as a research assistant for a biology professor, where I was in charge of the website and became a self-taught web developer. This lead to me co-founding a software startup and becoming a successful entrepreneur and product manager.

Just because this young woman is currently learning to code and is going through a good old-fashioned apprenticeship with her dad doesn't mean that she'll necessarily become a professional programmer, any more than my profession at 16 led me to be a grocer or retailer. But what I learned about retail and mail-order sales at the game store really helped me when I went on to build one of the first ecommerce engines in the 90s. What I learned about HTML and design doing websites about ecology in college was essential to my entrepreneurship later on.

So the negative comments about this father pressuring his daughter or all the fabulous high school opportunities she'll miss out on are really rubbing me the wrong way. High school kids need guidance, and there's no harm whatsoever in encouraging them to focus their energies in one particular area, even if that means shutting out other opportunities. She's a young person, and she'll have plenty of time to consider other things, especially if she ends up going to college in a couple of years. Even if she doesn't end up being a software developer for her permanent career, this youthful experience will form a firm foundation, even if she ends up in finance, or business, or medicine. Couldn't all of those fields use a few more people who know (or once knew) how to code?

My coding skills are now woefully out of date. But I understand enough about how to make software that when I'm working with an engineering team, I have realistic notions about what can and can't be done, and roughly how hard it will be. But because my dad wasn't as engaged as this guy, I also have some ace grocery bagging skills are are really just wasting space in my brain.


I support this purely on the basis that people should experiment more, even when (perhaps especially when) there is a real risk to the experiment. Bravo, and I hope it works out.


Poor girl. You can learn to code, web development, or any kind of those hard skills almost anytime at your life phase, but man, your highschool life is just once, can't miss that..


Honesty, I don’t feel high school is doing me as much good as DevMountain can. Yes, high school will offer me the opportunity to spend 7 hours, 5 days a week with people my age, but I don’t enjoy the company of the vast majority of them. And yeah, I won’t be able to go to high school dances, but I never planned to. I’m not a huge fan of spending the night dancing with a clammy hand boy I don’t particularly like. It’s just not my thing. Dumb movies with my friends on weekends? I can do that whether or not I’m enrolled in school, and that’s how I would care to spend time with my friends. So no, not poor me. I’m quite a lucky kid (:


I was frustrated that she was stuck wasting her time in high school taking yet another history class

You don't go to school purely for knowledge. We are social creatures and should be learning how to interact socially as much as we should be learning about calculus.

College is the same way, whether it's undergraduate or postgraduate. By taking his daughter out of school he is implicitly making the tradeoff that coding is more important than any social interaction with her peers. That seems dangerous.


Is this some kind of home schooling thing?

Or compulsory education just till 16 and then everyone is on their own?

I think it's dangerous... learned a bunch of interesting stuff after I was 16 in school.


In 1999, I took a Sun Certification class. The instructor told us a story of a kid whose parents said, "we have a $200K college fund for you, you can attend 4 years of college or take every Sun Certification class". He chose the certs.

In 1999, this 20 year old kid (only took two years to get every cert) was making $300K/year.

I assume that got cut a lot in 2000, but at least for a while it seemed to be a pretty good strategy.


Good strategy about money? maybe. Good strategy about life? really unclear.


It was a bad life strategy. I've met other kids like this. While they are super-smart in their field, they are terribly "unrounded" in anything else, including basic life skills like social interactions.


People tend to think brilliance and money is the end goal and often neglect that having a good amount of social capital is also useful.


You're basically describing every PhD candidate I've ever met.


By the same principle, this girl will be also pulled of a CS degree becase the man will be frustrated again that she will be stuck wasting her time in college taking yet another set of computer architecture, operating systems, compiler design or data structures and algorithm classes; when she could be doing what she wanted to do with her life and spending all day learning the next web development framework.


I think you can teach her to code, while she still goes to high school. The 'why' is not explained convincingly enough.


As a person that learned to code (and had a paying job as a programmer since 10th grade) in high school - you are overdoing it.


Doesn't 16 seem like the kinda age that kids should start making decisions for themselves? This really reads a lot like the dad was making all the decisions here.

Good for her, for sure, and well done. Still seems a bit fishy though.


Yes, she would be wasting time in History class, but she would also be missing Mathematics class or Physics class, Chemistry or Biology class. God forbid economics (if they teach that in USA). Being good developer is also about able to write out articles, so English class does help there. The OP is privy to his situation more than I am so, I give a lot of benefit of doubt, I would not let my daughter quit unless she is solving real world problems and making some real dough off of it. That would be the standard I would aspire for dropping out of High school. Now College is a different story, I do not recommend if the person is already proficient coder.


Why did you waste your time learning those subject if you can read from reddit or several tech news and popsci site?


To honest formal education/credential-ism had rather positive effect on my life, one of its benefits is I was able to immigrate to US, without a college degree and getting a passing grade in the aforementioned subjects I would not have made it. As surprising as it sounds, coming to America was my goal 15 years ago.

Learning for Learning sake was the new bug that caught me after I landed on these shores.


Frankly this is pretty irresponsible thing to do. What if she wants to try electronics, robots, physics or even medicine ? Does she have any way to experience those things ? Web programming might be cool right now but in 10 years it might be replaced by something else. Rather than just focusing on Web programming build your own curriculum around her interests if you think her high school is wasting time.


I'm curious, how many of the naysayers here have kids?


Why I pulled my son out of school to learn chimney sweeping

"He thinks it's great, like getting to climb a climbing frame all the time; that's all he liked doing in school anyway."


she is 16..not like she skipped out of HS completely


As a high schooler in a similar situation (am a web developer, have spoken at a conf before, likely taking a full-time job once graduated in June), I just want to give my two cents.

First off, I applaud her for doing what she's done so far. I think many people here forget the confidence that takes at 16, and especially with the pressures of public high schools for everyone to conform into the perfect image of a "teenager", it's great that she's found her passion and is pursuing it. Keep it up.

Now, about pulling her out of high school. I think it's really something on a case-by-case basis, and not something that should just be judged here by people without all of the facts. I think the biggest takeaway is that if she's happy with this path, then she should do it. Simple as that.

Personally, though, I wouldn't choose to do that. I've had the opportunity to do so, and I did consider it for a while. In the end though, I've decided to finish high school at a public school. I have a few reasons behind this:

1. My friend group. While I don't know what her social situation was like, for me, my friends have been very important to my success. As a group, we're diverse in our interests. We all have different ideas for what we want to do next, and how we're going to get there. This is what makes it awesome. The tech industry is, largely, a monoculture. So, I think it's very important to have people around you who are diverse, so you can grow as a person by knowing someone else's ways, views and ideas. This is important in high school especially, since it's the time when you're finding out who you really are.

2. Class selection. Building on the last reason's spiel on diversity, I definitely think having a diverse class selection is great. When I started high school, I already enjoyed programming, and was considering it as a career. So, my class choices were chosen to be everything I needed to move onto a good post-secondary program. However, the next year, I needed an extra class to fill out my timetable, and on a whim decided to take a film class. This turned out to be one of the greatest decisions I'd made. I got to meet some really great people (that are some of my close friends now!), the class itself was extremely enjoyable, and it really opened my eyes that not everything has to be focused on one goal. If anything, taking this course that wouldn't be for post-secondary has helped my career, since I have an additional outlet to be creative in, plus another potential career path that I'd enjoy for later.

3. Social situations. Again on diversity (I think this is becoming a theme here... ;-)), public school gives you the, uh, "opportunity" to deal with many... interesting people. In other words, you have to deal with people that aren't like you. While it's not always easy, I think it's one of the biggest things that public schooling can teach you. In life, not everyone is like you, and if you're immersing yourself in a monoculture early, you miss out on being able to deal with these people. It's a life skill, and for anyone wanting to move up into any sort of management, it's something that I think is necessary.

Overall though, this is all just my opinion. I'm not here to say that what this father did was wrong, and that his daughter will regret this, blah blah blah. In the end, I'm sure she'll be just fine, and likely be successful. Doing things differently is great, and while it may not always be 100% optimal, that's also life. Nothing is 100% optimal. We're all just trying to make the best choices we can. This father thinks he's done so, and good on him.


If this really comes from a high schooler, I can say that you are going to do really well in life :)


Teaching your daughter the flavor of the month Javascript framework, pulling her out of high school due to a moment of fame and referencing "nice new monitors and as many couches as chairs." as "The classroom even looks pretty silicon valley-ish".

Anyone else has any finishing ingredient of this recipe for disaster? Ah right, forcing feminism in tech by pushing your daughter into speaking at public events.


I would not say it is disaster, it is a strong father imposing his vision over his daughter, the intentions and integrity are commendable, but he has to also consider "what he does not know", she may be really interested in Programming but a Mathematics and Physics foundation would help her in field of Game Programming or knowledge of Biology etc. would help with Bioinformatics. Things of that nature.




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