Bound For College Without A High School Diploma
May 30, 2005
New London, CT -- Mystic — Shortly after the yellow school buses leave the Field Crest neighborhood, the doorbell rings at 92 Dartmouth Drive.
Within a few moments, Erik Royce and his friends adjourn to the backyard to resume after-school wiffle ball games and discuss sports and the Yankee-Red Sox rivalry.
“After school” means something different for Royce, 17, than for the other players.
While his counterparts were moving through a schedule of classes at public school, Royce was in his room, moving at his own pace on a curriculum designed by his parents. And, while his friends studied secular textbooks, Royce's reading list included textbooks compiled by Christian scholars.
Royce's parents, Bob and Kerrie, are active in the Groton Bible Chapel. They were proud when Erik recently also decided to be baptized as a Christian.
The Royces say their son's homeschooling since fifth grade was not only a spiritual decision but a practical academic move to help him overcome a learning disability that resembles dyslexia.
In September, Royce will begin studying photonics, a branch of physics that is applied in telecommunications, at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich. He does not have an official transcript or diploma, but has passed a required placement exam.
Royce said he will not miss the pomp and circumstance of high school graduation.
“I'm not sentimental,” said Royce. “To me, it's no big deal. It's going from 12th grade to 13th.”
Royce's parents said the decision to homeschool their son was never a reaction against Groton schools. They said they have only fond memories of teachers at S.B. Butler Elementary School.
Their daughter, Kelly, homeschooled in grades 4-8, is currently a freshman at Fitch Senior High School. A younger son, Jeff, 12, is homeschooled and is in sixth grade.
Erik Royce began as a homeschooled student, spent second grade at the North Stonington Christian Academy, and in third grade entered S.B. Butler, where he experienced difficulty reading.
After fourth grade, the Royces felt that Erik would benefit from one-on-one attention. They attended the annual Massachusetts HOPE (Homeschool Organization of Parent Educators) Christian Homeschool Convention, a curriculum fair for homeschooling parents.
They have also become members of the Connecticut Homeschool Network (CHN), which provides resources to about 6,000 homeschool families, and Choose CT, a Christian homeschool organization in Southeastern Connecticut. The Royces set aside $1,000 annually for textbooks and school supplies, which has included everything from microscopes to fish for biology dissections.
Erik Royce studies during the day, beginning at about 9 a.m., and has summers off. The family has generally aligned vacations with public school holidays.
The state and local homeschool organizations also organize field trips and basketball at the nearby Freeman Hathaway School, where Royce enjoys working with smaller children to “bring them out of their shell and make sure everybody has a good time.” Royce has been active in a homeschool chess club, participates on a robotics team, and plays on the Home School Warriors, a competitive basketball team at Wildwood Christian School of the Norwich Alliance Church.
Royce said he has never regretted the decision and finds his curriculum has been comparable to that of his friends. His parents monitor his progress and administer tests.
“The benefit is that I have moved at my own pace. If I'm having trouble, I spend extra time. If I get it, I don't do 20 problems to prove it. I keep moving,” said Royce. “To me, the biggest difference between me and my friends is I don't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch the bus. Anyway, when we get together, we don't really talk about school. We talk about sports.”
It is in the humanities and science that the religious difference in Royce's education comes to the forefront. To illustrate this, Royce recalls a multiple choice test he took in fourth grade.
A question asked: “How was the Grand Canyon formed?” Scientists believe it was formed over millions of years by erosion. Creationists would argue that all geological formations and fossil deposits were laid down during the flood recorded in the biblical book of Genesis.
On the test, Royce gave his answer: “A flood.” The teacher marked it wrong. When he was given the test again, Royce circled the erosion answer, but wrote: “That's what your book says.”
Over the years, Royce has read seminal secular works, including George Orwell's “Animal Farm” and plays by William Shakespeare. But he often begins his school day by reading the Bible. Reading assignments can come from Total Language Plus, an Olympia, Wash., company that provides instruction “with a Christian perspective.” In Royce's textbooks, evolution is taught as a theory with “weaknesses.” The creation and evolution argument comprised 10 weeks of his studies.
“I feel that if we separate faith from schooling, God becomes compartmentalized,” said Royce.