Former MNOHS student Austin Tenter from Sauk Rapids, Minnesota wrote this post as part of the Student Leadership Projects Advisory.  Austin described why online learning is a good alternative for him.

When I was little I remember hearing of kids getting home schooled or going to online school and I was soooo jealous.  They got to stay at home while I was stuck for several hours, in a bright classroom, on a hard plastic chair.  I never saw school as good.  Every morning I would curse having to wake up at 6:30 to walk to that brick building across the field from my house.  I could look out the window and see it every day and I never once thought happy thoughts. Sure it’s a great social experience, but everything else just never really felt right for me.

A big part of this was the teachers. At an early age I analyzed them as unfair. I remember one Monday morning with everyone taking their seats and pulling out their homework, but I had nothing to show. I remember having a legitimate reason. My teacher walked up to me and asked where my homework was.  It was actually at home, finished somewhere on the dining or coffee table. And as I started to explain myself I was cut off by a hand with one pointed finger raised as if telling me to be quiet. He bent over and said, “There are a lot of excuses out there to not have done your homework.” I agreed in my head and started to explain what had happened once more, but this time he raised his voice with a stern “No excuses.” This is where I started to perceive the teacher as the “bad guy.”  I felt like I needed a 100% bulletproof reason for my actions, but a teacher could just say “I’m an adult so you have to listen” whenever I asked a question. But hey you’re a kid so you have to suck it up.

I went through years of school like this, never actually enjoying my time there. As I moved through middle school my grades slowly declined over the months. I would pass the tests, but when it came to homework I never did it. A lot of kids didn’t. I would learn in class because I was stuck there for 7 hours anyway. Then I would go home with sheets of paper with the same problems we were doing all day. I understand practice makes perfect but it felt like I was a janitor mopping floors all day just to come home to dust. I remember even at a young age I saw a news cast talking about homework barely helping and not improving kids’ knowledge so that didn’t help the situation. Why should I have to sit here for seven hours doing work and then have you throw more of the same work at me to do at home!?  By now some of the teachers were even giving me a hard time. Everything felt like it was getting flipped upside down and my grades plummeted as I went into a darker state of mind for a while.

I was searching for alternative schooling when I stumbled across MNOHS. At this time I was willing to try anything so my parents signed me up. The very first meeting I went to was so… refreshing. I was greeted by a “Hello Austin! Good morning!” at a small welcoming of new students and it already felt right. The teachers always seem to be smiling and just the tone of their voices made me feel welcomed. Even the students were really helpful. It wasn’t a clique-filled school of popularity contests. It was a few kids in one classroom trying to get their work done together. Better than 7 hours of school and having to come home to more school.

I look at all my assignments at the beginning of the week to get an understanding of what has to be done when.  Then, I can get my work done on my own time, which is really the number one reason why I love this school.  Sure it has to be done by the end of the week, but I don’t have to sit for seven hours at a desk doing it.  I can do a few hours in the morning, have some lunch, play some video games, and go back to finish my homework.  I’m good at the work and learning, because I do it when I want to.  I feel like I actually want to be going to school, which I haven’t felt in a long, long time.

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