Derek Self has never stepped foot inside a formal classroom. He has never had to worry about wading through the masses to locate his homeroom or waited in the cafeteria lunch line.
And all this is just fine with Self.
"I've been homeschooled all my life," said Self, 18. "I think it's a blessing for me, actually."
Newsome High School's loss has been Cambridge Christian's gain. Self, who is zoned for the Wolves' district, plays baseball for the Lancers. Self and Cambridge Christian wrapped up the district tournament last week and began play in the 1A region quarterfinals Tuesday.
Self's mother, Luisa, has been his primary teacher throughout his schooling. She handled the all instructing while Self was developing, hammering home the basics.
"She taught me reading, writing, math," he said. "She was able to give me a great foundation."
Self said he uses tutors occasionally now for more advanced coursework, such as Algebra II and chemistry. His mother keeps track of his work, dictates a schedule and is responsible for turning in his tests to the county and state.
"A lot of people think homeschooled kids are just lucky and get to sleep all day," Self said. "That's not at all how it is. In some ways, it's more difficult than regular school."
Regardless of where Self receives his education, he has shined on the baseball diamond. He is 4-0 this season with a 1.35 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 31 innings. Self isn't overpowering on the mound, but he features a nasty curveball and changeup that give his fastball the appearance of a little more zip.
"His off-speed stuff are his main pitches," Lancers coach Rick Shears said. "When he's mixing them up, he's extremely tough."
That was evidenced last month when Self tossed a no-hitter against Shorecrest to help the Lancers capture the Bay Conference Championship. When not on the mound, Self plays centerfield and bats leadoff. He's hitting .415 with six doubles, 15 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
"He makes our offense go," Shears said. "When he gets on, he can use his speed and set up the big boys down the order."
Self will head to Webber International University next season on a baseball scholarship and will get a chance to pitch and play the field. He said his homeschooling experience has prepared him well for the challenge.
"I think it will help because I already know how to work and study on my own and how to allot time," Self said. "I know it will be tough too, but I think I am a step ahead of most people in that regard."
As for the rest of this year, Self has plenty to anticipate. He's part of a talented Lancers' pitching staff that includes college-bound Peter Miller (FSU), Matt Fishman (Quincy University) and Logan McDougall (Union University). That type of depth has the Lancers thinking that a return to the 1A state championship is well within reach — Cambridge has lost in the last two state finals.
"We played a much tougher schedule this year, and I think that has helped us prepare," Self said. "We're ready."
Brandon Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.