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Socialization schmocialization: These teens tell it like it is
By Isabel Lyman
"School's out for summer," sang Alice Cooper, the shock-rocker. "School's out forever."
In the case of teenagers who are homeschooled, the latter statement is certainly true.
Meet four of them - three from Massachusetts and one from Oklahoma - who are among the growing number of American teens who have exchanged the dog-eat-dog world of high school and middle school to pursue academic excellence, entrepreneurial endeavors, travel, quality time with their families, and their dreams.
Here's how the four fared this past year.
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 over thirty credits and earned a 3.69 grade point average.
Naomi's work ethic and faith were cultivated during the time she and her three younger siblings were schooled at home by her parents. While she holds to a philosophy that "homeschooling isn't for lazy people," she agrees that one of the advantages of the lifestyle is that it offers teenagers the flexibility to make their own schedule.
That flexibility, in fact, has tremendous appeal to Wid III, my number two son, who is sixteen.
This school year, Wid spent his mornings studying biology, grammar, Algebra II, and American literature with his father, Wid II. He often devoted his afternoons to snowboarding, motocross, ice hockey, or paintball. Some of his other extra-curricular experiences, however, have a more educational bent.
He helped a group of veterans hang up American flags in downtown Amherst, Massachusetts on 9-11-01. Wid has worked on a roofing crew and pumps gas at a service station. Twice he has driven cross-country with his dad visiting places such as Niagara Falls, the UP of Michigan, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Naomi Haqq's learning experiences have had an international bent. As she did at age 14, she accompanied her father (Emmanuel Haqq) on a trip to India, where he engaged college-aged students in debates about science and Christianity. The endeavor fits his background; Dr. Haqq, a pastor, is a native of India with a doctorate in high energy physics from the University of Minnesota. On this trip, father and daughter also vacationed in Italy for a week.
During her high school years, Naomi attended youth group meetings, worked at a college dining hall, and played piano, but she didn't dance at a prom. Does she feel that she missed out on an adolescent rite of passage? Not really. "I went through a time when I wished I had more friends," Naomi admits. "But I played on a (public school) soccer team during my sophomore year and found the kids to be snobby and cliquish, even though I had been playing with many of them since seventh grade. Everybody seems to be the same in high school."
Wid would concur with that statement. This year, he had the opportunity to participate simultaneously on two sports teams in Bozeman, Montana. He was on a high school ice hockey team of which all his teammates attended public school, and he also participated on a high school basketball team of which all his teammates were homeschooled.
Of the compare-and-contrast experience he had this to say: "I liked hockey more because I am better at it, and my teammates were appreciative of my skills. But I prefer being with the basketball people, because I had more in common with them. They had cleaner language and more trustworthy behavior. The basketball team never had to apologize to any hotel staff." (This last statement is a reference to an episode in which several of his fellow skaters, attending an away game, threw plastic containers of cream into a hotel's swimming pool.)
Several of Wid's basketball teammates from Montana visited Massachusetts this summer. The homeschoolers attended a basketball camp with him at Amherst College and went deep-sea fishing in New Hampshire.
Miriam Anzovin, 17, is a self-motivated homeschooled student who also has a strong opinion about the negative encounters that pass as "socialization" in most modern 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 close-knit Jewish family. Her older brother, Raf Anzovin, who was also homeschooled, founded a computer animation studio during his teen years. In addition to applying herself to traditional high school subjects like biology and literature, Miriam is a serious student of Hebrew and Judaic studies.
"Homeschooling also allowed me to practice my religion unimpeded by school rules and ignorant faculty members," she says.
She is learning Filipino martial arts and American kenpo karate, and plans to begin training 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, and is currently at work on a second film. Miriam's older brother, Raf Anzovin, founded a computer animation studio when he was sixteen years old and counts Apple Computer among his clients.
Kyle Williams, age 13, resides in Guthrie, Oklahoma. He is a political columnist for WorldNetDaily, an Internet news site. His weekly commentary is titled "Veritas." He has written about the issue of socialization and made this observation: "Maybe if public schools learned from homeschoolers and focused less on socializing in class and focused more on learning, the average test score for public school students might be greater than 50 percent."
Kyle is the third of three children and is taught by his mother, Debbie Williams. This year, he began his lessons around 8:30 a.m. and studied constitutional law, earth science, economics, pre-algebra, grammar, and composition. The afternoons were spent playing sports, going to church activities, and catching up on current events.
"I was dying to get published in print or on a popular web site. I e-mailed my stuff to (editor) Joseph Farah with no expectations of being a columnist. But we talked for several days, and then I talked with the commentary editor. The rest is history," explains Kyle of how he became the site's youngest writer.
In addition to penning opinions, Kyle recently signed his first book contract with Thomas Nelson Publishers and WorldNetDaily. His topic? The culture wars.
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 quite 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 what they are doing, and, come fall, poised for another round of adventures in education. 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, author of The Homeschooling Revolution, can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org. She lives
in western Massachusetts.
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