Teen success begins at home: adolescence is a troubled time, but home education offers benefits for young people when they need it most -- as illustrated by the success stories of four homeschooled teens. (Education).
Some families, however, have discovered that homeschooling helps make this tumultuous season more manageable. Here s how four teenagers -- three from Massachusetts and one from Oklahoma -- have fared while taking the road less traveled, to paraphrase Robert Frost.
Eighteen-year-old Naomi Haqq of Belchertown, Massachusetts, is the kind of young woman that would make many parents proud. She has strong moral convictions, is employed as a hotel front-desk clerk, and is following in her mother's footsteps by studying nursing. At age 16, she was accepted into the University of Massachusetts' (Amherst) dual-enrollment program and has accrued 33 credits, earning a 3.69 grade point average.
Naomi's work ethic and faith were cultivated while she and her three younger siblings were schooled at home by her parents. Indeed, she holds to a philosophy that "homeschooling isn't for lazy people." She is among the growing number of American teenagers exchanging the dog-eat-dog world of high school and middle school for the pursuit of academic excellence and entrepreneurial endeavors, and travel. These homeschooled young people get more time with their families, participate in internships, and do volunteer work. Indeed, one of the biggest advantages of being a homeschooler is that you have more flexibility to chase your dreams and choose your interests, like Wid, my number two son (age 16).
In the mornings, Wid studies biology, grammar, Algebra II, and American literature with his dad. He often devotes his afternoons to snowboarding, riding motocross, ice hockey, or playing paintball games. Some of his other extra-curricular experiences, however, have a more educational bent.
He has shared his bedroom with boys from urban New York City through the Fresh Air Fund program and eats Cuban food with his Costa Rican grandmother in Miami. His name has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Dallas Morning News, and the Boston Herald. He helped a group of veterans hang up American flags in downtown Amherst, Massachusetts, on 9-11. Wid has worked on a roofing crew, pumps gas at a service station, and networks via the Internet with teen-aged homeschoolers from around the United States.
Naomi Haqq has also had learning adventures. At 14, she accompanied her father (Emmanuel Haqq) on an excursion throughout northern and southern India, where he engaged college-aged students in debates about science and Christianity. The endeavor fits his background. Dr. Haqq is a native of India with a doctorate in highenergy physics from the University of Minnesota. He also happens to be a pastor.
During her high school years, Naomi attended youth group meetings, worked at a college dining hall, and played piano.
Miriam Anzovin, 17, is a self-motivated homeschooled student who disapproves of the negative socialization that occurs in most modem schools. She has been a homeschooler for three years and previously attended both private and public schools. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
"The mindless self-interest of some teenagers I've met, who attend high school, certainly does not make me want to go back. I found that when I was in school the cliques and social hierarchy bring out the worst in people. When I left school, it was as if somebody had yelled 'wake up already' at me. The things that get in the way of getting an education, like dating and parent bashing, were gone," notes Miriam.
Miriam is the middle child in a closeknit Jewish family. Her older brother, Raf Anzovin, also homeschooled, founded a computer animation studio when he was 16 years old. In addition to applying herself to traditional high school subjects like anatomy and literature, Miriam studies Hebrew and Judaism.
"Homeschooling also allowed me to practice my religion unimpeded by school rules and ignorant faculty members," she says.
She has studied tae kwon do and tai chi sword, is learning Filipino martial arts and American kenpo karate, and plans to train in Krav Maga, the Israeli system of self-defense. Miriam would like to become Hollywood's first "Orthodox Jewish fight choreographer." She directed, edited, and starred in "Sisters of Fury," a short action film in which two warriors battle for a priceless artifact.
Kyle Williams, 13, resides in Guthrie, Oklahoma. He is the third of three children and is taught by his mother. Kyle begins his lessons around 8:30 a.m. and studies constitutional law, earth science, economics, pre-algebra, grammar, and composition. During the afternoons, he plays sports, attends church activities, and catches up on the news. The latter is extremely important to Kyle, since he is the youngest opinion columnist at WorldNetDaily, an Internet news site. He has also recently signed a contract to write a book.
Kyle, who traveled to Washington, D.C., last year to deliver a speech before the National Press Club, thinks that homeschooling has broadened him as a person. "I'm able to communicate better with adults and children, learn necessary life skills, and become closer to my family." He says that apart from the responsibility of "having to cook my own lunch," he is very content to learn at home. His future goals include attending law school after he earns a degree in journalism.
No doubt about it. These homeschooled teens are gung-ho about their educational choice. They are also preparing themselves, early in life, for adulthood. As Miriam puts it, "I think that high school just puts off the inevitable in terms of organizing your life, being responsible, and learning how to be self-directed."
Isabel Lyman, a homeschooling mom, holds a doctoral degree in social science and is the author of The Homescholling Revolution (2000).