Along with 16,000 other U.S. high school students, Erik A. Brodsky of Cortlandt Manor has been named a semi-finalist in the National Merit Scholarship Competition.
What sets Erik apart from most of the other Merit-orious names on the list of semi-finalists is that, while they are grouped under their high school, above Erik’s name is “Homeschool.”
Since preschool, the high school senior has been taught by his parents, as has his brother David, who was a 2019 National Merit Finalist and is now a sophomore at University of Texas-Dallas, majoring in computer science.
Erik says both he and his sibling wanted to be home schooled by their parents, Lucie Brodska (sic) and Tom Brodsky, natives of the Czech Republic (where naming conventions differ by gender). Erik will be majoring in math in college.
For most of his high school years, Erik has taken Advanced Placement (AP) and college courses, including math classes at Manhattanville College. Many of his AP courses are administered through an organization called Pennsylvania Home Schoolers. He also participates in the Westchester Area Math Circle.
Erik says his “proudest achievement” is being named one of 18 Honorable Mentions nationwide in the United States of America Junior Mathematical Olympiad (USA JMO), sponsored by Mathematical Association of America.
“I’m very into math,” says Erik. “I like abstract thinking and reasoning. The way I think works very well with how math works. It’s a natural subject for me. I consider myself lucky.”
Erik enjoys being able to explore math “more in-depth” as a home schooler than he would be able to in public school. “Being high schooled let me have a flexible education,” he notes. ***
In addition to the freedom to focus more intensely on subjects for which a student has the most affinity, another value of home schooling is learning how to manage time, a critical discipline in future success.
Erik explains that “There’s a lot less formal structure because the majority of online classes is independent study. You need to figure out how to manage it and do it at your own pace. There isn’t really a set block of time or the same formal structure as in a public school day.”
Socializing with other students and participation in scholastic sports also is notably different for the home schooled population. With his brother, Erik used to play racquet ball at Premiere Athletic Club in Montrose, but has never wanted to play competitive sports.
“Socially, I have a lot of friends around the country I’ve met through online classes,” says Erik. “We are very good friends with other local home schooled families, including through the Young Scholars program, but it’s been harder to keep in touch [in person] or have fun or whatever during the pandemic.”
Erik’s been able to stay connected with like-minded students through “stuff I’m interested in,” such as birding. He is vice president of New York State Young Birders Club, and has been active as well in the _____for all of his teen years.
“I like being outside a lot and looking at birds. It’s a lot of fun.” If he had to pick a favorite flier, it might be the Bald Eagle. He’s monitored them coming to roost on the Hudson River for Bedford Audubon.
Of all the things about being homeschooled that sets Erik apart from his peers, there’s one thing they might envy the most: He’s never gotten a report card.
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director and Associate Publisher of River Towns Media LLC.