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“No Student Should Have to Limit Their Education”

What would your high school education look like if you could build it? It’s a question we never ask ourselves in a traditional public or even private school setting. Nevertheless, homeschool families not only ask the question, but answer it…every school year! Unlike traditional students, homeschoolers study at their own pace. They study the areas that they think are important—and interesting–and they do it on their own schedule–any day of the week or any time of day is acceptable.

It’s 2021, let’s build your “dream” high school

So, if you are a high school student, just for a minute or two, think on what you want to do after high school? Go to college? Start your career? Start your own business? Travel and live in another country or a US state? Work for the Peace Corps? It your choice!

If you build it, YOU will come

I’ve been an educator much of my professional life. Before that, I was in the military, where I flew in a fighter aircraft and expert on battlefield strategy and tactics. What my experience has taught me is that there are only four courses that should be required in high school: English I, II, III, IV. Everything else should be electives.

I know, I just shocked a lot of readers. Here’s my rationale:

It doesn’t matter if you are going to college, starting a career, starting a business…whatever your future plans are, what matters is that you know how to speak, write, understand, and read the English language. To be successful, you have to be able to navigate English at a very high level. Yes, there is much more to high school than English, but having a superior understanding of the English language and knowing how to read, write, speak and comprehend it, forms the DNA of learning.

Your first step is to vision what you want to do after high school, then simply build your high school learning system that gets you ready to live your vision after high school. Don’t just follow a path that is going to take you somewhere, build a path that will take you to where you want to go. The question is: “What do you want to do after high school?” Focus on the question—it is really important. Your high school experience is your answer to that question. If you get the right answer to the wrong question, your solution is useless. Make your life easier by building a high school learning experience that gets you where you want to go after high school and beyond. Get the right answer to the right question.

A mistake that too many of us make—and probably because it’s how our educational system is set up—is to think of high school as a series of courses that you string together over a four-year period. One course leads to another, then to another, and then another. In between, you might be able to take some electives that might interest you. Or not!

A better way to think of high school is as a piano that you can play in any way you like. Your courses are the kyes. A piano has 88 keys, and you can make up any song that you want by arranging the keystrokes on a sheet of music. You can create any kind of music, rhythm, song, melody—the possibilities are truly infinite.

Now think of your high school choices with hundreds of courses, programs, subject areas to choose from—just like the keys on a piano—and arrange them on a sheet of paper called a “High School Plan.” It is your “arrangement for learning” just like the song writer’s “arrangement for music.”

On a piano, each key denotes a different note and generates a wide range of sounds. In the high school you create, each course denotes a different subject area and a wide range of learning and understanding. It takes time to compose a song, so take your time when you compose your high school learning experience. Understand the learning options that are available at your local school and if they don’t meet your learning needs, then innovate and request to bring credible outside learning to your local high school education. Below are just a few innovative learning options.

What if you really could create your own high school? You can. Here’s how…

Setting Up Your High School at a Glance

Meet Citizens High School, your guide to setting up your own personal high school.

So, you decide…do you want a General Diploma or an Academic Diploma?

Choose A Diploma Path

General Diploma | 18 Credits

Prepares you for a General Career Path

  • 4 English (Required)
  • 2 Math (Choice of Elective)
  • 1 Science (Choice of Elective)
  • 1 Social Science (Choice of Elective)
  • 1 Life Skill (Choice of Elective)
  • 1 Leadership (Choice of Elective)
  • 8 Elective (Choice of an Elective)
Academic Diploma | 24 Credit

Prepares you for a College or University Path

  • 4 English (Require)
  • 4 Math (Choice of Elective)
  • 3 Science (Choice of Elective) 
  • 3 Social Science (Choice of Elective)
  • 10 Electives


  • In Fairfax County Virginia, the Standard (General) Diploma requires 22 Credits for graduation and allows only 4 electives.
  • In Fairfax County Virginia, the Advanced Study (Academic) Diploma requires 26 Credits for graduation and allows only 3 electives.

If you picked an Academic Diploma Path, you have decided to attend a college or university. Now comes the fun part! What courses do you want to take to get acceptance to the college or university of your choice? Once you decide, then arrange your high school curriculum so you have your best chance for acceptance and success.

If you picked a General Diploma Path, you have decided to pursue a professional career. Now comes the fun part! What courses do you want to take so you have the best chance of succeeding in your career choice?

Omnidirectional Electives! You Can Study in Any Direction You Like?
The learning environment is not limited
Things that you are passionate about should be part of your formal education
“Omnidirectional elective:”

Directed Reading: If you like to read? Read What You Love and earn Credit!

  • Read 4 books per year and earn 1 elective credit each year. In 4 years earn 4 credits
  • Choose your Directed Reading Topics. A new subject area ever 4 books!
  • Some popular topics:
    • African American Studies
    • Christian Philosophy
    • Military Studies
    • Women’s Studies
    • Biblical Studies
    • Career Studies
    • Parent & Child Development
    • Great Sports Figures

Cooking: If you like to cook or want to learn? Cook in any direction you want!

  • Over the year students prepare 1 meal every 2 weeks or 26 meals per year. Earn 1 credit
  • If taken during all 4 years of school, you will prepare 104 meals—Choose your cooking area!
  • Some popular cooking area:
    • Spanish
    • African
    • Mediterranean
    • Gama’s Cooking
    • TexMex
    • Grilling, Baking, Roasting, Braising
    • Greek French

Civics: Make Your Mark. Change Your World. Challenge Your Passion

  • Develop your leadership skills and deploy them for your community
  • Find your voice
  • Some popular courses and areas of interest:
    • US Government
    • Youth Civic Engagement and Advocacy
    • Social Problems
    • Introduction to Social Media
    • Protest and Civic Change
    • The Legacy of Nelson Mandela
    • Speech Communication and Debate
    • Criminal Justice Reform

IT: Earn High School Credit and Industry Certifications (Microsoft, Google, Adobe)

  • Apply knowledge to real world situations
  • Prepare yourself to be workforce ready
  • Some popular Information Technology Courses
    • 3 D Modeling
    • Animation
    • Foundations of Game Design
    • Digital Media Fundamentals
    • Certificate Microsoft 365
    • Google Fundamentals
    • Innovation and Entrepreneurship
    • Web Development

Life Skills: Choose Life Skills of Interest

  • Self-paced and asynchronous
  • Some popular Life Skills Topics
    • Money Management
    • Effective Communication
    • Reading Improvement
    • Critical Thinking
    • Study Skills
    • Home Repairs
    • Survival Skills—First Aid, Read a Map
    • Wellness and Mental Health

Embrace what you don’t know and set up courses that force you to try and find out what you don’t know. Remember, you are in charge. Things that you are passionate about should be part of your formal education.

The high school you build needs to have flexibility as part of its structure. Learning does not just happen between 8am and 2:30pm Monday thru Friday inside the schoolhouse. Flexibility means the freedom to learn what you need and at what pace and time of day and days of the week and weeks of the year.

You can’t build your “dream” high school by yourself. But it takes a team. You, your parents, a counselor, and a high school structure with the right flexibility and choices of learning options that meet the needs of your after-graduation plans.

For a closing thought, let Citizens High School be your guide and help you build a path to action.

Jim Etter

Jim Etter

Chief Executive Officer

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