Home-schooled youngsters in Colorado are taught courses in their homes by their parents, and that education can certainly extend beyond the home classroom, on field trips, for example.
But what about the physical education portion of their home-schooling? For that, the Monument (Colo.) Ice Rinks developed its Little Rookies Home School Hockey program.
“In Colorado and nationwide, [home schooling] is becoming more popular,” said Al Pedersen, Monument Ice Rinks director and former NHL defenseman. “Our main goal is to give kids the opportunity to try the sport.
“Within their home-school structure, this fulfills their physical education requirement. Parents are quite pleased with the program.”
Kids ages 6-14 are eligible for this non-body-checking program that focuses on teaching hockey skills and having fun.
“We have an introduction-to-hockey program that runs every Saturday and is 100 percent free and includes all the equipment the kids need,” Pedersen said. “From there we have the Junior Rookies Level 1 and Level 2, Little Rookies Home School and then we have the Big Rookies, which is for adults.”
The program is broken into three levels based on kids’ abilities.
“Some kids are more athletic than others,” Pedersen said. “You don’t set up the kids to fail. Skill set is the main factor. Age is not. The emphasis is on skating, skating and skating.
“We emphasize that our number-one rule is safety and the number-two rule is fun. We also use figure skating coaches for the skating portion. It’s broken down into skating, puck handling and some sort of game at the end of every session.”
The Little Rookies program runs for eight weeks and only costs $99, with the fee covering coaching, loaner equipment and ice time. Sessions are scheduled for early Friday afternoons, which enable students to continue their home-schooling and then be driven to the rink for a physical education component.
“A lot of kids, when they hear it’s an inexpensive program and they have a chance to try something different, they’re excited,” Pedersen said. “Many have never have tried hockey.
“You can see the smiles on their faces. They all feel like mini-Transformers once they put on the gear.”
Social media is one way to inform the home-schooling public about the Little Rookies program, but Pedersen has found there’s an even better way.
“The best marketing tool is word of mouth,” he said. “And another aspect of the program that’s unique with home-school families is, if they have multiple kids — in some cases there are four kids in a family — we offer multi-child discounts.”
Eager marketing has helped Monument Ice Rinks, which contains two sheets of ice and is always looking for new ways to encourage people to lace up their skates. The facility is also home to the Colorado Rampage, which is one of four USA Hockey Model Associations in Colorado.
“We like to fill up those daytime hours,” Pedersen said. “You like to keep things going full-tilt year-round. We’ve had success with our figure skating program, and also in growing hockey with Try Hockey For Free Days, plus the Little Rookies program.”
A total of 25 kids are registered for the Little Rookies Home School program this session.
“Monument is just north of Colorado Springs,” Pedersen said. “Twenty-five kids is a lot in a little town [Monument’s population is approximately 5,800], as opposed to 25 kids in a city like Chicago.
“I think the key stat is the retention rate. We’ve worked hard and are very fortunate that our programs have been well received. Our word of mouth has been very strong. The home school families in Colorado are becoming more numerous and we’re excited to be a part of that group and provide an opportunity for these kids to learn about hockey as part of their physical education.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.