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Choosing The Right College & Lacrosse Experience: Homeschool Edition

1 - Published March 7, 2012 by in High School

Editor’s Note: Richard Roy wrote a great post for us last week on kids AND parents making an informed college decision TOGETHER.  This week he’s back with another informative post, but the topic is a little different: How homeschool student-athletes can find the right college experience.  

Homeschooled kids make up a relatively small portion of the overall talent pool in lacrosse, but it’s an extremely interesting read for those outside of the homeschool world, and for homeschool kids and parents, it’s a fantastic resource and starting point.  We really appreciate Richard’s willingness to share his experiences and his opinion to help get the conversation started!

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We’ll start off with a little bit of my personal background, and why I chose to write this article.

My wife and I have nine children and all are, or have been, home schooled. My wife and I are quite well educated. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree; a Master’s of Science Degree and was working on a PhD in Environmental Toxicology before deciding that I needed to concentrate on my family instead of getting another degree.

My wife has an Associate’s Degree in Education and also studied special education/speech pathology before deciding that being a stay-at-home mom was her calling. We also are both products of Catholic elementary and/or high schools. This article is not about the pros and cons of home schooling or a political statement. It is about the realities that exist and is based on my experiences.

A little about home schooling:

Home schoolers and un-schoolers are becoming more common on high school and/or club lacrosse teams and more are looking to play in college. These terms are often used interchangeably. They are technically not the same, but we won’t dwell on the differences
between home schooling and un-schooling for the purposes of this article.

Everyone by now knows about Tim Tebow and that he was homeschooled. Everyone knows or has heard about “Tebowing” and that Tim Tebow is a very devout and very open about his Christian beliefs. However, not all homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians. Shaun White, Jason Taylor and Tamara McKinney, to name a few, were also home schooled and these individuals excelled in their respective sports.

Un-schoolers are also from homes of agnostics, atheists, lukewarm Christians, wiccans, animists, New Agers, or other belief traditions. Some parents choose to home school their children for a wide variety of reasons, not just religious. Some do so for political/ideological
reasons (for example, they may not believe that the state, let alone Federal government, has any say in their child’s education), some parents do so because of the quality of the local schools, immorality, bullying, violence in the schools, disputes with school administrators and/or teachers, etc.

The bottom line is that there are many valid reasons.

If a child has been “un-schooled” for an extended period of time they tend to have a very different perspective on the world. They tend not to be caught up about the trends, what is cool or what the latest and greatest fad is. Many people criticize home school parents as not “socializing” their children. But that is simply not correct, they are socialized.

A child actor is trained to entertain people at a very young age. He too is “socialized,” just in a different way than many of his age group peers. The definition of socialization is; a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

homeschool

Clearly ironic.

A typical un- schooler has grown up in a home with a different set norms, values, behavior, and social skills than a typical child that attended a “brick and mortar” school (public or private).

Things To Consider For The Homeschool Parents:

Choices!

So your child wants to go play college lacrosse. Well, here are some nuggets of advice. First, parents and the student need to have some serious discussions about what the kids wants to do with their life. What are the child’s interests?  And start looking at colleges and universities that offer the major(s) of interest. (See my previous article on making a college decision).

Also, you have to figure out at what level does the child want to play at NCAA, MCLA/NAIA, junior college, other?

If NCAA DI/DII is the goal, then your child needs to register with NCAA Clearinghouse. There are homeschool student-specific instructions for registering with the NCAA. The NJCAA also has eligibility requirements and there are homeschool student-specific
instructions for registering with the NJCAA. If he wants to play at the NCAA DIII or MCLA-club or NAIA level eligibility it is left up to the member institution’s athletic department to determine. Because the NAIA does not recognize lacrosse as a Championship Sport one does NOT need to register with the NAIA to play varsity lacrosse at a NAIA institution.

Preparation!

Regardless of the level that your son wants to play at, both the parents and student need to get their academic information in order to apply for eligibility AND acceptance into the institution of choice. Do NOT wait until April of their senior year to do this. Start documenting beginning freshman year. Start contacting college coaches and admission councilors early! Also, be sure you are following your state’s rules governing homeschooling. Some colleges and universities will require some type of proof that you have followed the regulations. All states are different and the rules governing homeschooling are always in a state of flux.

Be Ready For Anything!

Not all colleges and universities view homeschoolers with the same eye. Also, there are regional differences in the “acceptance” of home schooling. In my experience, colleges and universities in the south, Midwest and intermountain west are more “open” to home school
students than those in the Northeast. Also, private colleges, especially faith-based institutions, are very open to homeschooled students. Some very prestigious schools like Stanford and MIT are very open to home schooled students and have been for some time.

With the ever increasing popularity of home schooling many institutions are becoming more open to home schooled students less they lose out on tuition, room/board and fees! However, be aware there may still be some “hostility” directed at your child by individual members of the school’s faculty/administration solely because your child was home schooled, and regardless of the school’s admissions policy of homeschoolers. The faculty member or administrator may have a strong bias or belief about the “proper” methods and procedures of “education”.

A Great Way To Prep!

I would seriously consider enrolling your child in community college classes during their “high school” years to begin to prepare them for academic life in college. The concept of “hard” deadlines and schedules are new to some un-schoolers. In my opinion, community college would be more appropriate means to “socialize” your child to college classes than the local high school. An added benefit of doing this is that these credits can count towards both high school academic requirements AND may be transferable to the college of choice and count as either an elective or core requirement, therefore; saving you some money.

Be Careful And Work Together!

The parents AND the un-schooled athlete must shop carefully! This is a huge decision and the cultural changes and adjustments will be dramatic for the recruit. You must asked many questions of the schools and the coaches. Talk to players and former players. Go on multiple visits if you can. A college coach lose interest rapidly in my oldest son as soon as it became apparent he was homeschooled.

It did not matter that he was 6’5’ 220 lbs, ran a 4.6 forty, scored an average over 40 goals a year, made First Team All-Conference two years in a row and made the All-State Team his senior year! The issue to the coach was that my son was a “homeschooler”! Be prepared for this. Just keep looking, there are over 500 college lacrosse programs out there and the list is growing. The friendlier the school (admissions, administration and athletics) is towards homeschooling the better. Remember, you the parents and student-athlete are in control because it is your choice and it is your money!

For The College Coach:

Generally speaking, un-schooled student-athletes are a different beast. They are typically more mature than your average high school graduate/lacrosse player, not caught up in the flow, the tilt, accessorizing, and the “Lax Bro” mentality. Also, it is highly likely they have not been exposed to too much, or any, of the unfortunate reality of what passes as lacrosse “culture” today.

Rather, they have likely spent much of their free time doing 4H projects, participating in a variety of efforts that build leadership skills, church, caring for siblings, doing things as a family, participating in many social/community service projects, have possibly started their own web sites, blogs or even their own successful businesses. Many are entrepreneurial in spirit.

If you lack leadership, maturity and responsibility on your team then having multiple un-schoolers on your team may be just what the doctor ordered.

In my experience, un-schoolers will identify more with the older members of the team, adults (read coaches and faculty) than their peers because they are at different levels of maturity and socialization.  The un-schooled recruit may want to hang out with you more than his team mates because he identifies more with an adult.

If you have not read up on the history of compulsory education, the real reason behind it and the advent of high school sports and its intent in the United States then you are in for a shock! One of the primary reasons many parents un-school their children and are
suspicious of organized school sports is because of the reasons and justifications of why both of these “institutions” exist.

I would venture to say that if you are a dictatorial coach, motivate by intimidation, do not accept questioning, are a “this is the way we have always done it” kind of coach, or can not or will not give well thought out reasoned and rational explanations for strategy, other than “do it because I said so” then you and the un-schooler are probably a bad mix.

If you are a “teacher” of lacrosse, are willing to become an even better teacher, are also willing to be a student, and become a better communicator then you and the un-schooler should be a great combination.

To many un-schoolers faith, family, learning/exploration is foremost in their lives, NOT lacrosse! If you expect your recruit to put lacrosse first 24/7/365 and put these other important aspects of their lives on the back burner for four years then this is going to be an issue. Lacrosse has its place and there is a time to put it on the front burner but, there IS a time to put it on the back burner. Lacrosse may be YOUR life, but it may not be your home schooled recruit’s life.

Be prepared to be watched! Your un-schooler recruit will likely be constantly observing you and your staff’s actions, what you say, how you follow through, etc. They are observers! It is part of their socialization to be curious, critical of many accepted paradigms, and a bit suspicious.  If you and/or your assistant coaches are hypocritical, unethical or undermine each other then you will likely lose this recruit.

Be prepared to be watched critically by the parents. And I am not talking game-day strategy. I am speaking of YOU (including assistant coaches) as a person of influence (positive or negative), your treatment of the recruit/player, treatment of the team, your values and your actions.

To Sum Up:

From a un-schooling parent’s point of view, an 18 year old male is not an adult! I am around a lot of teen age boys. Frankly, I have seen flat worms that had more going on cerebrally than a teen age boy! A male’s brain is not fully formed until he is at least 24 years old. They are very impressionable and easily influenced. Un-schooling parents have not invested 18 years in their child, sacrificed income (many homeschool families are single income families) and are now spending hard-earned money on a college education just to have the values they have instilled in their child be undermined by playing college lacrosse.

So coaches, be thoughtful. If having a un-schooler and family involved in your program is not your cup of tea just politely suggest other programs the recruit and family should look at.  However, if you want to help change the culture of the game, culture on your team from one of underage/binge drinking, drugs, partying, irresponsibility, entitlement mentality, etc, then adding a few un-schoolers on your team can help you make the transition.

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