Homeschool Friendly Campus: Lopes Up to that | Wender Mind Kids

Homeschool Friendly Campus: Lopes Up to that

Homeschooling Teen Magazine listed Grand Canyon University as one of the top homeschool-friendly colleges.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Jaron Tubbs remembers his mother trying to steer the admissions process. As a homeschool parent, she was his teacher, principal, and high school counselor, all rolled into one.

“Traditionally you would have this college counselor that would be there. In this case it was my mom trying to figure it out and wearing a few different hats. Thankfully, there’s a really good team here that was able to help her through that process — and was able to help me through that process,” said Tubbs, who received his bachelor’s degree from Grand Canyon University in 2020 and is pursuing his master’s degree in leadership and is now the coordinator for the K12 Educational Development Team.

Sheila Jones, executive director of Homeschool Academic Alliances, said GCU offers everything from dual-enrollment classes to homeschool-specific admissions advisors to support the homeschooling community.

But one memory sticks with him as he navigated the college world: “We’ve always had people reaching out to us,” he said.

One of them was Sheila JonesExecutive Director of Homeschool Academic Alliances.

“Sheila actually met my mom at a Starbucks once,” Tubbs said. “She said, ‘Okay, show me all the papers you have.'”

This attention to the unique needs of homeschoolers is one of the reasons GCU was recently named to their list of the 20 Best Homeschooling Friendly Colleges by Homeschooling Teen Magazine, an e-zine written by homeschooled teens. GCU compiled the list along with campuses like the University of Alaska, Dallas Baptist University, and Azusa Pacific University, to name a few.

“Our goal is to be known as the most homeschool-friendly university in the world, and we won’t give up until we achieve that,” Jones said.

She has a big heart for homeschooled students. She believes they haven’t always received the attention they deserve.

“They weren’t desirable kids,” Jones said. “People were like, ‘Oh, they’re homeschooled. Maybe they’re not that well prepared.’ ‘Your mother does your transcript,’ and so on. … They’re used to having to really defend themselves and stand up for themselves.”

Jones has discovered the opposite about the home-schooled students who have called GCU home.

“We find that these children are killing it. They are well prepared and simply phenomenal children. They come in with a Christian worldview. They are self-starters. They are used to handling things on their own and are phenomenal at finding and using resources.

Homeschool students in 2017 get help refining their business ideas from the GCU New Business Development Center.

“Once we fully understood them and looked beyond common homeschool myths, we realized what a catch these kids are and what a gift they are to our campus.”

One way GCU serves the homeschool community is through low-cost, online, dual-enrollment courses — college-level courses that students can take during high school that count towards college credits. You also have access to strategic advice for dual enrollments.

These courses are a “huge draw” for home-study families, the university admissions adviser said Sarah Margason. And because of the flexibility in their schedule, many of those taking these dual courses are homeschoolers, Jones added. Depending on how many dual-credit classes students take, they can shorten their time in college and graduate in three years instead of four.

Arizona residents also have GCU’s STEM Scholars program, which allows qualified junior and senior Arizona high school students to earn one year of college credit in science, technology, engineering, and math—at no cost.

“This is a big deal for our homeschool kids, whose parents often live on a single income,” Jones said.

The university has connected to the home education community in other ways.

In 2017, K12 Educational Development partnered with the GCU New Business Development Center to offer a seven-week home-schooled business training course for 13-17 year old students. It helped entrepreneurial students translate their ideas into more elaborate business plans.

K12 Educational Development supports the homeschooling community with the New and Used Curriculum Sale.

K12 Educational Development was also a primary sponsor of the New and Used Curriculum Sale hosted by the Arizona State Ambassador Team for the nonprofit arm of the Home School Legal Defense Association. The annual event features coveted educational materials for homeschool families, which can be quite the expense.

And in 2021, the GCU campus was the site of the Arizona Families for Home Education Convention.

In addition to these initiatives and events, GCU is offering travel reimbursement to campus for a homeschool student and accompanying parent. The university also advertises a homeschool-specific scholarship and homeschool-specific admissions advisors.

“They (the counselors) know homeschoolers, they understand their credentials. Things like that mean a lot to these families,” Jones said.

What also strengthens GCU as a homeschool-friendly campus, Margason said, is that “we take homeschool transcripts at face value, don’t need a book list, or need to defend their education.” GCU also does not require ACT or SAT scores. The university accepts CLEP (the College Level Examination Program), concurrent enrollment, and “often accepts more courses than other universities.”

Margason added that GCU connects to the home education community with free live lessons, free tutoring, college prep workshops, and transcript review and assistance.

Weston Smith, owner of LUX Longboards, came to GCU as a homeschool student. (Photo by Ralph Freso)

WestonSmithwho graduated with a masters from GCU earlier this year and whose company LUX Longboards has an office at the university’s incubator, Canyon Ventures, was himself homeschooled while growing up in Flagstaff.

“There’s actually a HUGE Flagstaff homeschool community that’s coming to GCU,” Smith said. “They have a dedicated college admissions counselor in Flagstaff for homeschoolers.”

His parents began their family’s home school journey with his older sister, who they felt was ready to go to first grade but was too young by public school requirements. Rather than hold her back for a year, they chose homeschooling.

Homeschool families at GCU are assigned dedicated academic advisors and have the opportunity to apply for homeschool-specific scholarships.

Smith, who also attended engineering public school classes after reaching high school age, appreciated the personal attention he received and recalls one of the blessings of his home teaching years: “We learned about the Revolutionary War, and we went to Virginia and went to all the sites, to Williamsburg, stuff like that. That’s how we did our training – lots of practice.”

His creativity was allowed to flourish, he said.

He’s found many of the same qualities at GCU that help him continue to thrive: that personal attention from the smaller campus environment, focus on hands-on work, and dedication to the faith that’s essential to many homeschool families.

“The opportunity to be with other like-minded people — people who are grounded and have a basis of faith — who have that core value is great,” Smith said.

But most of all, he really found that homeschool-friendly sense of community.

“There’s no judgment,” Smith said. “Sometimes there’s a stigma behind homeschooling — ‘Oh, you’re homeschooled, you’re weird.’ That happened. Instead you come here and it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re homeschooled. Cool!'”

GCU Senior Writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

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