This commentary by home schooled New York City high school student Veronica Andreades appeared in the Wall Street Journal Sep. 9, 2013
“You’re home-schooled? That’s bad, right?” Another teenager started off a conversation with me that way recently. We’re both actresses, and we were waiting for a theater rehearsal to begin.
“Bad? Where did you get that idea?” I replied.
“Well, you don’t have any friends, right?”
“I have lots of friends,” I said, laughing to hide my annoyance.
Welcome to the life of a Manhattan home-schooler surrounded by supposedly open-minded liberals.
This was hardly the first time I’ve confronted unsolicited comments about going to school at home. Not long ago, after a ballet class (yes, home-schoolers sometimes sign up to study elsewhere), I mentioned in the locker room that I was being educated by my mother. One of the other dancers said: “No offense, but don’t your parents care about you being socialized?”
When I asked my mom why she chose to teach me, she said: “I did not want to be at the mercy of my ZIP Code.” When you’re from a middle-class family supported by a father who is a minister, chances are you aren’t going to live in a wealthy area and therefore in a good school district.
I’ve gotten used to seeing pained or perplexed reactions when I talk about going to school in my apartment, as if I’m this nerdy, introverted alien. The truth is that my parents wanted to give me the freedom to pursue my passions so I’d be better prepared for college and career.
Considering how often people mourn the failure of the U.S. school system, it’s remarkable that so many still recoil from the thought of learning at home. They might be surprised to learn that children receiving an education from their parents generally score higher than students in regular school. A 2009 study by the National Home Education Research Institute tracked nearly 12,000 home-schoolers and found that they score an average of 34 to 39 points higher than the average public-school student on standardized tests.
As for home-schoolers’ supposed deficit in socialization, research also shows that teenagers studying at the kitchen table can be more socially adept than their peers in the classroom. In a 2012 report on the social development of home-schoolers, Lisa Bergstrom of the University of Wisconsin found: “Many of these home-schooled children surpass their public school counterparts in all areas of development and are successful in college and in careers.” Contrary to the stereotype, I am regularly in social situations – like that locker room at the dance academy or the karate studio I go to in the East Village.
Although I enjoy figuring out chemistry problems while lying in bed, I do wish I could go to prom or attend a school basketball game. For years, I’ve also secretly desired to do my work on one of those chairs with the little desk attached.
Sure, I don’t know what a home room is. But I do know what goes into organizing a church retreat for 50 people. I can balance a budget and navigate an acting audition in New York on my own. The flexibility afforded by home-schooling allowed me to get a focused education while pursuing real-world skills and jobs.
So while others are convinced that home-schooling will stunt me, I take my inspiration from icons like Agatha Christie, Thomas Edison, Venus and Serena Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Sandra Day O’Connor and Charlie Chaplin – all of whom were taught in their own residences.