Should You Homeschool High School? (Part 3)

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By Katherine O’Brien, MA CCPS

Katherine O’Brien, MA CCPS is a Catholic homeschooling mother of six who has homeschooled since 1998.  She is the founder of Celtic College Consultants and has served college bound teens all across the US since 2004.  Students in her recent classes were offered over $225,000 each, on average, in merit scholarships. In 2017, Katherine compiled and released Every Catholic’s Guide to College: The 315 Best US Colleges & Universities for Practicing Catholics, 2018.  It is available on Amazon.com.  Kolbe Academy families are eligible for 10% off of all services.

Continuing our series on aspects to consider, from a college prep perspective, when considering whether to homeschool high school or not, we here consider athletic participation and college recruitment, various “soft” skills students need to develop during the high school years in order to be successful on campus, and how to stay Catholic while in college.

Athletics

It IS possible for homeschooled athletes to be recruited by a college team. Although the NCAA reminds us that only 2% of high school athletes win athletic scholarships, it IS possible.  There are two aspects to consider: being seen by coaches and becoming and maintaining academic eligibility.  Sometimes homeschooled students can play on the public high school’s team.  Sometimes they are recruited through their club teams or other avenues.

Student athletes must register with NCAA and NAIA eligibility centers, both of which have guidelines for homeschooled students to follow in order to be eligible to be recruited.  Check the guidelines early on and frequently to ensure that the curricula and courses you choose meet the guidelines.

In reality, most college coaches don’t waste their time watching high school athletics; they watch club athletes.  If you are in a good club, you’ll be seen by plenty of coaches.  In general, nonetheless, you need to be proactive about promoting yourself and letting coaches know of your athletic abilities.  With the new rules, they won’t be able to reach out to you until junior year but that doesn’t stop you from reaching out to them every month or two to keep them updated about your activities and accomplishments.  They can keep an eye out for you when they are observing.

It’s essential that athletes train well.  Perhaps you can join an adult team or work out with another team in your club.  You may be able to compete at “open events,” especially for track, cross country, tennis, and swimming events.  Another option, of course, is the local gym.

Maturity & Life Skills

Colleges are reporting a number of characteristics of freshman that are making it difficult for them to be successful.  Each student’s strengths and weaknesses and situations differ from their peers, no matter how they are educated. 

Students need to be able to manage their time well.  The structured life of home and high school is absent on campus.  Students need to be able to prioritize and create routines on their own.

Personal skills like self-care (everything from hygiene to managing stress in healthy ways to managing loneliness and balancing work and relaxation), assertiveness, the ability to ask for help as needed, knowing how to keep safe in various situations and how to avoid risky behaviors are essential.  The ability to create, monitor, and manage a budget is also a necessary “soft” skill on campus.

Students need to develop strong relationship skills in order to resolve conflicts that arise, work collaboratively with peers and professors, and accept constructive criticism.  Students can develop the skills needed to effectively work with others in a number of ways which include participating in team sports, clubs, and other group based extracurricular activities.  Working on service activities/projects and at a job are other opportunities high school students have to develop these skills.

Sometimes, a person needs to lead a project, take charge of a situation, etc.  Many students have not learned how to do that before they arrive on campus.  That deficit makes many facets of adjusting to life on campus quite difficult.

Young people need to know how to carry on a conversation, ask questions, listen actively, and maintain eye contact.  These skills are important when working with professors, dealing with other students in the dorms, on jobs, and during interviews.  An internship in a professional setting is another way students can develop and hone these skills.

Another important skill is the ability to look at problems from a number of perspectives and to solve them in creative ways.  Sometimes there is no pre-determined path to the solution; students need to be able to create one.  Dealing with disappointments and set backs is an aspect of problem solving that students also need to learn to handle successfully.  Experiential learning based courses can help students learn these things.  Activities in unfamiliar settings can help, too, like Cotillion or debate, or anything outside the student’s comfort zone.

Independence/Study Skills

Successful college students need college level study skills.  These include excellent note taking skills, efficient study skills, effective test taking strategies, solid time management skills, and the ability to avoid procrastination.  Be sure that your student knows that effective studying involves notepaper, not a highlighter, and not a computer (at least not as a primary tool).  Being able to participate in class is essential. Proactively seeking answers to questions that linger after class is essential.  It often matters just as much that a student understands how to find an answer as that s/he can give the correct one.  Memorizing the textbook and definitions might be adequate to get good marks in high school; it isn’t at college. 

How to Survive as a Catholic

No matter what college or university you attend, you must choose to incorporate your faith into your life at college.  For the first time, you must motivate yourself to get out of bed and to Mass, alone.  Given the fact that human beings are social creatures, finding a group of peers who will reinforce your best habits (like getting enough sleep, eating well, and practicing your faith) is absolutely essential.  College students must be intentional about forming a group of friends who will support their goals, who share their values, and who will challenge them to become better versions of themselves.  At college, for the first time, you choose your peers.  You’ll have your dorm mates, but you won’t necessarily spend much time with them.  The same holds true for the students in your classes and those with whom you may work.

Choose your college carefully.  I strongly recommend getting a copy of Every Catholic’s Guide to College, The Best 315 US Colleges & Universities for Practicing Catholics from Amazon.com and using it to explore possible campuses.  In addition to information about admissions, academics, and financial aspects of each college, the Guide includes a profile of the Catholic community on campus.  And, only colleges with strong support for Catholic life were included in the Guide.  In July 2018, the 2019 version will be released; it will feature an index of the colleges by the majors they offer.  You’ll be able to find, for example, all the schools that offer a major in economics, or physics, or industrial engineering. 

Remember that you must choose to spend time with people in order to create your inner circle of peers.  The Catholic community on campus is the perfect place to find those people.

More to Come…

In the next installment, I will address financial aid, scholarships, and a few additional skills needed to be successful on today’s college campus