Although Tamara Van Engelen has been educated at home, it hasn’t kept the world from discovering her.
The North Central High School volleyball player is high on the recruiting list of colleges throughout the country.
She already has made visits to Long Beach State and the University of Washington. Illness forced postponement of another trip to the University of Arizona.
Expect her to pick a school relatively close to home because she has come to appreciate her tightknit family environment.
Van Engelen, a middle hitter for NC, has been considered one of the Greater Spokane League’s better players for the past three years.
For the past six, she has been homeschooled. The decision to teach Tamara at home was made after her mother, Susan, was not allowed to monitor a sex education class being taught at Indian Trail Elementary.
“I realized schools were not interested in working with parents,” Susan Van Engelen said. “I wanted to find an alternative to public education.”
A year after Tamara Van Engelen began homeschooling, she was asked to play on a volleyball team formed by Dave Menard, whose daughter, Sarah, is an NC teammate. Van Engelen’s parents encouraged her to try.
“It was more like making me, not encouraging me,” Van Engelen said. “I didn’t want to do it. I was into soccer and absolutely hated volleyball.”
Because of her height, 5-foot-10-1/2 by eighth grade, Van Engelen came to accept the fact that volleyball seemed the more sensible sport.
“I probably hated volleyball because I was really bad at volleyball,” she said. “It isn’t something you can just go out and do.
“Coach just put his face in his hand.”
She credits current Gonzaga Prep coach Steve Gillis, who recruited her for his USVBA team, with improving her game.
“It was a whole new thing to me,” Van Engelen said.
The club team traveled to California for tournaments against the best players in the country. College coaches saw Van Engelen’s potential.
Through it all, her parents remained committed to educating their children at home.
“Absolutely one of the reasons we homeschool is to protect the children,” Susan Van Engelen said. “Responsible parents do so.”
That doesn’t mean that her children are isolated. Being homeschooled allows free time for socializing and activities.
“I’d never be home if I was not homeschooled,” Tamara Van Engelen said.
Her mother said she believes her children get a broader education by being homeschooled, and lesson plans are more flexible. They can delve more deeply into a subject or study conventional textbooks.
Tamara Van Engelen agrees.
In many respects, she said, it has forced her to be more self-motivated and develop good study habits.
Although she just turned 17 on Tuesday, Van Engelen has met college requirements for admission and scored nearly 1,100 on her scholastic aptitude test.
“I think it will help in college,” she said of her homeschooling. “I think it will be easier for me.”
Not as easy, worries her mother, is the red tape she may have to go through to satisfy NCAA eligibility. They’ve been prepared to expect the worst in paperwork.
“Colleges accept the SAT score and a minimum of documentation of classes taken,” Susan Van Engelen said. “We don’t know what the NCAA will require.”
With recruiting trips out of the way, Tamara Van Engelen is now concentrating on helping North Central improve its 1-3 Greater Spokane League start.
“I think we could be a really good team,” she said. “Once we get our regular lineup together, I think we can do some damage.”
Van Engelen reflected on the past six years, which saw her change from grade school to home school, from soccer to college volleyball recruit. She wonders what it would be like had she stayed with soccer, remembering those early days of her volleyball career.
“Every day after practice I thought about quitting,” she said. “I stuck with it, and it worked out for the best.”
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