Federal Relations

Bright Spots in Home Schooling

January 11, 2007  

Skating by the books

By Cherise Ryan

At the age of 8, Zachariah Szabo (now 17) decided to teach himself ice skating.

Zachariah Szabo
Homeschooler Zachariah Szabo placed 13th at the 2007 U.S. Junior Figure Skating Championships.

He checked out whole baskets full of library books on figure skating, studied the diagrams of jumps and positions, and practiced at a local ice rink.

“I usually brought a book on the ice with me, studied whatever I was working on, and left it on the walls of the rink while I practiced the move,” explains Zachariah. “One of my favorite books, Figure Skating with Carlo Fassi, had diagrams and drawings of each jump, and I tried to follow each position.”

“It was difficult to learn that way but it made ends meet since my parents didn’t have enough money to spend on private lessons at that time.”

Zachariah now competes in local and national events. He won his first competition at age 9 and recently won the first place gold medal in the 2006 Intermediate Championships for the Eastern Great Lakes Region. In late fall 2006, Zachariah placed 13th in the United States Junior Figure Skating Championships held in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

“The U.S. Junior Championships were very fun and exciting since they were in my home area. I did not skate my best, but I feel that my skating skills and spins have improved since last year’s junior championships,” says Zachariah. He hopes to skate in the 2008 junior championships and eventually to make it to the U.S. National Figure Skating Championships, a level preceding the Olympics.

Zachariah’s practice schedule includes hours of on-ice conditioning, and off-ice dance and tumbling lessons. Several years ago he started working with two ice skating coaches based in Indianapolis, traveling there every two months to stay for a week—and more often before competitions. He also trains with a coach in Cleveland.

The teen’s newest venture, a website, reflects his rising profile. While he originally set it up so that friends and extended family could stay updated on his competitions, it has turned into a place for media to find out about him. “I hope that some major organizations come across it and deem me worthy of their sponsorship,” says Zachariah.

In the meantime, the teenager funds his own skating by giving lessons. “I decided to teach because I wanted to help pay for my skating and I also eventually would like to be a coach and a choreographer. Starting [teaching] at the age I did should give me a lot of experience. I have been teaching for about three years now.”

Zachariah also gives presentations at libraries and group meetings for kids to “show them that if they want to do something that their situation doesn’t allow, there are still ways for them to do it.” He adds, “I hope to be an inspiration for someone who is either looking for a good hobby or looking to fulfill his or her dream.”

An only child, Zachariah has been homeschooled for 11 years. He is an honor student who was included in the 2007 edition of Who’s Who Among American High School Students, and is now a member of Phi Theta Kappa at Cuyahoga Community College, where he is taking a few classes. Zachariah hopes to amass enough credits to graduate from high school in 2008 with an associate’s degree. He would like to then pursue a BFA in photography and jewelry design.

“Being a homeschooler made me very driven and determined in everything that I do since there was no schoolteacher holding my hand through each and every step,” says Zachariah. He says homeschooling helped him cultivate the self-motivation that prompted him to learn about ice skating through reading.

“Homeschooling also helps in my schedule with skating. Many skaters become homeschoolers so they can have more time on the ice every day, and they sometimes let their schoolwork slide behind. The open schedule is just a perk of homeschooling for me. Education is very important to me (something I pick up from my mom). I am determined not to let skating take over my schoolwork.”

Zachariah enjoys many other activities and volunteer work, but he hopes to “take skating as far as it will take me . . . If I make it further [than Nationals], that would be great, but I will be happy with just making it to Nationals. I think competing internationally would be awesome, too.”

Track Zachariah’s progress on his website.

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