Monday, June 1, 2009

Out of League in Ivy League?

Today is the first day of June, which is very exciting because it means I get to flip a page on my Orlando Bloom calendar. May was cute, I haven't taken a sneak peek at June (at my age I have to cherish life's little surprises wherever I can find them), but I'm betting that it will be easy on the eyes.

June also means that school is almost out in our area, and all the local kids are breathing big sighs of relief. So there are parties to attend and graduation invitations to respond to with appropriate gifts. And this has led me to thinking about all of the graduation gifts I have given throughout the years. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't mind giving graduation gifts. Of all the gifts we are required to give and receive according to our cultural traditions, graduation gifts are the most meaningful, in my opinion. I mean, this is a kid who is leaving the nest. This is the moment that all of the everything led up to. Pretty momentous. I remember my own graduation in 1983. I remember the sad feeling that accompanied my exit from the school that had been my home for twelve years. I knew every inch of that school and it was mine. Likewise, the friends who had made up my entire world were now all going to fly off in different directions. It was definitely a sad/happy time.

Here is a pic of me at my high school graduation party, thrown in our neighborhood. Yes, my hair is pink. Yes, I am wearing awesome black, leather pants. Yes, I am sitting on a bathtub full of BEER. The drinkin' age was 18 and parents in those days (this party was thrown by a group of adults) were not as freaked out about being sued and stuff. Different times. Anyway, I still remember what the invitation said, and it was embarassing. My best friend knew about the invitations, her mom asked for her opinion about them, and My BFF recognized the potential for embarassment and said, "Oh yeah. These look great." So. The invitations for the punk/nerd party were thus:

Be Ye Punk or Be Ye Nerd
Dress Either Way But Be Absurd
There's a Real Cool Gal (there's a word that hasn't been used since the 40's)
She's a Fox (just how I want to be identified by my best friend's mother)
We Just Heard That Carol Rocks! (okay, I did rock)

So, for several weeks thereafter, I heard "Hey! There's a real cool gal!" and "What a fox!"

While I'm embarassing myself - let me post a pic of me in my prom dress. As Napolean Dynamite would say, I had puffy sleaves. In fact, if you google puffy sleaves - this picture turns up. They are the Grand Puff Diddy of Sleaves. God, but I LOVED that dress! The sweet boy next to me is Jeff - prom date turned husband.
And this picture? Just epitomizes the 80's. 18. It was all downhill from there. I would post a current picture now, but it would be humiliating. And if you think I haven't had enough humiliation in my life you can refer to the above party invitation.

So yeah, I don't mind buying gifts for my kids' friends, or my friends' children. Like I said, momentous occasion and all that. I still remember some of the gifts I received. In our little town, the seniors picked out items at local stores. The stores set the items on display with the students' names on them, and then people came in and paid for a portion of the gift or the entire gift. It was a nice way for the townsfolk to wish the kids well if they so chose. And in fact, many of the kind people here literally went and put down a few dollars on every single gift displayed, whether they knew the child, or not. (Couldn't do this today - the school has grown too large.)My friends and I all set out pairs of Kaepa tennis shoes (not very sentimental but it was a rage at the time). I also set out a little Jon Hart overnight bag that my friend's mother bought me and that I still carry to this day. Twister beads were very in. My parents bought me a turquoise strand and a gold strand. My history teacher bought me a little pewter guardian angel. I also remember getting a set of beach towels...

My own kids do not go to school. They are all thriving and doing really well. They're happy. As for graduation? We'll do something for them when the time comes (should they want to). When I was a kid my little Jewish grandmother used to say, "I hope I live long enough to see you graduate from school...." So now my dad says, "I hope I live long enough to see my grandkids not graduate from school..." So I'm thinking an un-graduation will be in order for our un-schooled kids.

Which leads me to a topic to discuss. I know, it has taken me awhile to arrive at my topic, but this is how I work. Anyway, in the San Antonio paper there was an article about a young man who has just been accepted to Yale. And he had been homeschooled. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, so what? Homeschooled kids get accepted to every single Ivy League school every single year yada yada yada. And you would be right. But this story is different. This kid graduated or un-graduated or whatever you want to call it, from Home School only to find that he, along with the vast majority of public and private school kids who apply to Yale, did not get accepted. And many people, unfamiliar with homeschooling, will come away from the article with the idea that he did not get accepted because he was homeschooled and homeschooled kids aren't getting adequate educations. They'll think to themselves that homeschooling does not work if you want to get your kid into Ivy League.

Uhhhh....actually? This is so not the case. In fact, Stanford says that although its population of homeschooled grads is small, they actually tend to get accepted at a higher rate than the school kids. So. Homeschooling does and can work if your goal is Ivy League. Howeffa, here is the kicker. Most good schools are looking for kids who have been exposed to many ideas. They want kids who are (here is your buzzword for the day) well-rounded. And not just in a varsity volleyball and yearbook editor way. They want kids who are passionate, who have pursued interests with zeal and gusto, and who are eager to hear about new ways of doing things, new ways of thinking, new possibilities for creating a future that is better than what we've got going right now. They want kids who are going to contribute something to their student population.

The young man who had graduated from Home School definitely was a go-getter. He definitely had a curious mind and was out to make a change in the world. I know this because when he didn't get into Yale? He didn't quit. In fact, he enrolled himself in a local prep school (at the age of 18) as a Sophomore. He was so impressive in his quest for knowledge and an education that the community at St. Mary's Hall (the prep school) did everything they could to accommodate him (Yay St. Mary's Hall!!) He graduated in two years (not four) and at the age of 20, was just accepted to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and Stanford. Sounds like a great kid. But why, you might ask, did he have to do this? Well, the article stated that his homeschool education had been a religious one. And there you have it.

Although something like 83% of homeschooling parents homeschool for religious reasons, Harvard says that the homeschoolers they accept, typically do not fall into this category. Why? What is wrong with religion? Nothing. In fact, you can study religion and theology at all of the Ivy League schools; where you will be exposed to ALL religions, to the origins and nature of religion, to the philosophy behind're going to question religion in order to study it.

That is not how religion is taught in religious home schools. In my experience, most people who homeschool for religious reasons (and this does not include religious people who happen to homeschool) do so in order to protect their children from new ideas and foreign philosophies. They don't want their kids to question (which is the single most important component of any education); they want them to bend their wills and accept on faith. So you can see how if you raise a kid this way, and you've truly done your job, you end up with a kid who basically knows very little about differing ideas, philosophies and opinions. And if they do know of these things, the exposure has been so that they might learn how to refute these differing ideas, philosophies, and opinions. This does not fall into the category of well-rounded, according to higher learning institutions.

In my experience, this works out fine for most of these families because their goals rarely include sending their kids into the secular world of higher education. There are many religiously fundamental colleges and Bible schools that cater to this type of education and many of these young people end up in those institutions where their ideas are enforced and their convictions deepened. But occasionally you get the little wild hair who says, "I want to see what's out there. I want to go to Yale." And then he does whatever it takes to get himself there. Which is way impressive. Some might say he has had a calling. In fact, I would like to buy this young man a pair of Kaepas.

Oh, and before I end, let me add this thought that I just had. Let's assume that this kid had received NO valuable education whatsoever, in his entire 12 years of homeschooling (which is obviously not so). He STILL crammed it all into two years. And that is pretty much my mantra. Wait until they're old enough to reason, old enough to understand the necessity of learning the information, or until they're at least slightly interested in it, and whoala! The kid learns. An early start doesn't give anyone an advantage in a real education. It just ensures that they will hear the same things over and over again, year after year, until they either a) learn it or b) quit listening.

Read the article about this young man and his journey to Yale here.

So this is an enthusiastic Sardine Mama saying, Go Class of 2009! You Rock! (That is what we used to say in 1983). Now go out and save the planet so I can take a nap secure in the knowledge that you are now on duty. Awesome! (We said that in the 80's, too). Rocking Awesome! (even better)


  1. Super post, Carol! I read that article too and thought this was such an impressive young man. I didn't really dwell on the homeschooling bit, though, which is important. I think the most important thing a child can get out of education and growing up is a strong sense of motivation and an inquisitive mind. Unfortunately, these are not always easy things to cultivate in a child. It has a lot to do with their personality. (I say this because I'm worried about our little/not so little anymore ADD boy, Andrew.)

  2. Did you know this kid is a friend of Elliot's? He stayed with Dawn's (Elliot's girlfriend)family for awhile. Small world, isn't it?

  3. Love this. Thank you.

    We've suddenly got a bee in our bonnet that we want the kids to go to Stanford. Hubby and I have been going around and around about "what it takes". This post gave me another great perspective on it.

    TY TY TY!