Home-taught boy gets close to SAT perfection Pasadena youth scores 1,590, making him part of scholar competition

March 15, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Joshua D. Wentz woke up one morning in April, read the Bible, drank a glass of orange juice and came within 10 points of perfection on a nationwide college entrance exam.

His secret? Home schooling.

"It has made a great difference," said the 17-year-old Pasadena resident. "I think I learned a lot at home I don't think I would have been able to learn in school."

Because he scored 1,590 out of a possible 1,600 points on his Scholastic Assessment Test, Josh is one of 2,600 high school students competing in the 1996 Presidential Scholars Program. The 33-year-old national contest honors 141 U.S. high school students for high scores on either the SAT or the American College Test.

Melinda Kitchell, a spokeswoman for the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, which selects the finalists, said the panel usually reviews five to six home-schooled student transcripts.

"It's definitely not [the] first time," Ms. Kitchell said. "But he scored high, and he made the cut. He's obviously a well-educated and exemplary student."

Josh said he didn't do anything unusual on the day of the exam. He said he spends an hour every morning reading the Bible and praying.

But Josh did admit he slipped in one request during his morning prayers.

"I prayed [God] would give me a good score, and he did," Josh said. "I was really happy."

Josh was taken out of public schools after he finished kindergarten, his mother, Paula, said. Mrs. Wentz and her husband, the Rev. David Wentz, said the move was not a slap at the quality of public schools.

"The main reason for me was I saw how much time going to kindergarten took away from the family," Mrs. Wentz said. "I saw how little time there was for us to interact with him and be a part of his life."

Mr. and Mrs. Wentz also decided a religious school was not for their son.

"Catholic schools and private schools are the same as public schools in terms of regimens and requirements," Mrs. Wentz said. "We like the freedom of pursuing individual interests."

So Mr. and Mrs. Wentz began to teach Josh and his four siblings at home with textbooks they bought at bookstores. Mrs. Wentz also bought a computer and a microscope to enhance her children's education.

When they moved to their Mountain Road home about five years ago from Accokeek, the family converted the basement into a spacious classroom with separate cubicles for each child.

Josh, who would have been a senior this year, said he has enjoyed learning at home.

"Some high school students I know say, 'I'd love to be able to jump ahead and not have to follow the book,' " said Josh, whose typical school day runs from 7: 30 a.m. to 4: 30 p.m. "The advantage is that I'm able to learn on my own pace with my family rather than learning in five days dictated by public schools."

Josh has been offered a full academic scholarship to attend Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., where he will major in communications and missions.

Josh said he would like to become a missionary in an Islamic country, preaching the Bible a potentially risky career that worries his parents.

But Mr. Wentz said he believes his son will succeed in whatever he does.

"He is an extraordinary young man," said Mr. Wentz, pastor of Magothy United Methodist Church on Mountain Road. "He's intense and serious. We're very proud of him."

Pub Date: 3/15/96

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