By Carla McKeown
When Ronda and Allen Rose decided more than a decade ago to home-school their children, they were warned that getting into college wouldn’t be easy, that their kids would have to get a GED to prove that they were educated.
Now that their oldest son, Andy, has earned his high school diploma and will head off to Baylor University in the fall, the Roses are pleasantly surprised to find out it wasn’t all that difficult after all.
Either the advice was inaccurate or times have changed in the past 12-13 years, but not only did Andy, 19, get accepted into Baylor, he was recruited by the university’s School of Music and will be attending on music and academic scholarships.
Ronda found out that not only do most colleges welcome home-school students, some, like Baylor, even have special committees for considering the applications of those who were taught at home.
To some extent, the family found home-schooling to be a benefit, rather than a hindrance, to getting into college. For example, when Ronda first started seeking music lessons for her three children, she found many of the music teachers were booked solid and had no openings for new students. Once Ronda explained that her kids were home-schooled and had a flexible schedule, more opportunities were available to then.
“We had more time because we weren’t stuck on a regular schedule,” she said. “Also, the kids had more time to practice every day. And, they do practice a lot of hours.”
It was that persistence that led to all three Rose children to pursue their musical interests. Andy plays the piano and organ; Madison, 16, plays the violin; and Josh, 14, plays the guitar.
Andy takes lessons from Frances and Edwin Key in Olney and Dr. Kiyo Watanae in Wichita Falls. Several years ago, Edwin Key encouraged Andy to attend organ camp at Baylor. It was there he made the connections that eventually led to his current plans of attending Baylor this fall.
Andy’s hard work, talent and networking were key to his college scholarships, and his mother says those avenues can help students who are home-schooled or who attend public or private schools. However, the process can be more daunting for the home-schooled.
“There’s no guidance counselor for us,” Ronda said. “It’s just mom and dad.
“We know lots of home-school families, and I think a lot of the kids find something they’re interested in and pursue it,” she said. “Many of the colleges have summer camps that serve as recruitment tools, very similar to Andy’s experience. Home-school families need to start building those relationships when the kids are in junior high.”
Ronda said they have come across scholarships for students in 4-H and who are active in stock shows. Many home-school families use professionally produced curriculums, and some of those companies offer scholarships.
“I thought if we didn’t have a guidance counselor, we were shot,” Ronda said. “But there are many opportunities out there. Home-school families can look to trade organizations, guilds, whatever your child is interested in…many offer scholarships. It’s a networking thing, who you know.”
Ronda said one of the benefits of home-schooling is that the families are often able to explore many areas of interest.
“The kids can go to a neighbor and learn to weld or take violin lessons from a teacher who might not be able to fit them into a regular schedule. We have friends who kids have learned falconry,” she says.
Andy’s interests aren’t limited to music. From his grandfather, he learned to build computers. Then, he combined his computer and music skills to digitize an organ.
“We can get software that makes it sound like the organ at Westminster or Notre Dame,” Ronda said.
Andy said he expects that he will pursue a career as a church organist, but his dreams go a bit beyond that.
“I want to experiment with this (the digital organ) some more,” he said. “I was able to put this together much cheaper than you can buy a commercial one. It might be a good idea for smaller churches that can’t afford one. I want to experiment some more and see about marketing it.”