Home-Schooled Students Adjust to Andover With Ease

The Yankes family was first introduced to PA when their mother began teaching at summer session and “realized how amazing boarding school could be.” Rebecca “Q” Yankes ’07 and her brother Andrew Yankes ’08 applied and enrolled together in 2004. However, the Yankes children differed greatly from most hopeful applicants – they had been home-schooled for their entire academic careers. A number of students at Phillips Academy have received home-schooling for at least a year during their life. However, unlike the Yankes, many students were home-schooled for a few years, not their entire academic career. Students who have been home-schooled have adapted fairly well to Phillips Academy life, despite the common misconception that home-schooled students have difficulty making new friends or maintaining relationships. Jocelyn Gully ’07 said about her transition, “I wouldn’t say it was hard, just a little overwhelming because there were so many people…it was sort of the normal shock that most people go through.” However, PA did present some challenges academically. Gully ’07 said that she had to learn how to take notes in class. When Lucretia Witte ‘06 switched to a traditional private school, after spending seventh grade at home, she received the worst grade she’d ever gotten on a geography test. Witte said, “It was like a slap in the face. My parents had never made me do things I didn’t like…I had to push myself in ways that I wasn’t fond of doing.” Witte, who was home-schooled in the fourth as well, found the transition easy and had no trouble making friends after fourth grade, but had more difficulty after seventh. Yankes ’07 said, “As far as making friends I’ve been really good at that my whole life. There’s a stereotype that home-schoolers don’t have any friends, but it’s wrong. Or it’s not necessarily true.” The Gully sisters had a unique situation in which both their best friends, who were also sisters, were home-schooled as well. Therefore, they were able to work and play together often. Home-schooling allowed to schedule work hours around her ballet lessons; Lucretia Witte ’06 was able to travel with her family, while other kids attended classes; Jocelyn Gully ’07 visited a wildlife rehabilitation center in Maine to supplement her regular science curriculum. The Yankes were home-schooled because of the poor schooling system in her area. Yankes ’07 said “As much as I loved [being home-schooled] I feel like once you go to Andover, there’s no turning back.” The most popular aspect of home-school life seems to be the freedom; students and parents can create their own schedules. Witte found home-schooling to be “really valuable for cultural education,” because the lack of schedule permitted her to travel while others were in classes. She also enjoyed her ability to train for her main sport, tennis, as well as learn other, new ones. Gully ’07 said “if we felt like exploring something it was no problem because all our books were at home so we could do a project if we wanted to.” Hanna Gully ’09 said that although her and her sister were home-schooled, her mother never let them wear pajamas to school, to maintain decorum. A common theme among former home-schooled students at Phillips Academy is their independence. Witte said, “I sort of picked up how my mom acted towards other adults and it made me more comfortable with people outside my own age group…It made me a little bit more assertive.” Yankes ’07 said, “I’m very independent because of home-schooling so I don’t need a lot of help…with most of my subjects. I’m really good at intuitive thinking and figuring stuff out on my own.” Along with the independence, self-motivation, and lack of structure, came the unique opportunity to individualize a curriculum. Witte spent much of her home-school days reading books. Yankes ’07 told her mother which subjects she was interested in, and then taught herself using a new textbook. Gully ’09 liked that “the curriculum could be geared towards [her] interests and strengths.” Another advantage to home-schooling is the frequent absence of homework. However, tutors taught Gully ’07 in addition to her parents, so she often had to complete work for them. Witte said a disadvantage of home-schooling was the lack of continuity with school friends, but that she was able to stay in touch with a lot of children her age through extracurricular activities in her town. Although home-schooling was rare before the 1990s, it has become increasingly popular.