It is hard to believe that in the year 2013 that states within our country are still debating over homeschool laws – and that the arguments are still so full of ignorance. In Virginia there is currently a battle over the possibility of homeschooled students to participate in public school sports and activities.
- Opponents worry that opening the doors for homeschooled students to participate in sports will lead to parents picking and choosing which school (or homeschool) they want their child to attend for anything from Algebra to Concert Choir – that it will become a messy game for educators and families.
- Opponents also worry that homeschooled students who participate in public school sports will have an unfair advantage because they will have more time for practicing and perfecting their skills.
Years ago these arguments would have made me worry, too. I would have worried about the messy game of intertwining high school sports and homeschooling. But then I had children. And I chose to homeschool. And then I had boys – boys who love sports. Fortunately we live in a state with comparatively progressive homeschooling laws, and I knew that I could continue to homeschool and my kids could participate in sports if they wanted to do so.
The Painful Mess of Homeschooling and Sports
It hasn’t been without mess. We tried to take advantage of a portion of the law that allows for homeschool families to become their own educational entities within the state and become a partner with another school outside of your own district. We live 6 miles from a k-12 school that is not our district school but where my kids had participated in community education sports since they were 5 years old.
In this small town everyone knew that we homeschooled – and it was OK. The coaches, teammates, and even parents of teammates wanted my children to continue to participate in sports once my kids reached high school level. In fact, when my son was entering 7th grade his wrestling coaches approached me and asked me to see if we could make this partnership work. They wanted him to wrestle Varsity.
We jumped through the paperwork hoops. And then the school got a new Athletic Director. As wrestling season approached, we had our paperwork completed and were just waiting for the AD to sign for the school. I made inquiries and was told that “these things take time”. By the time the first day of wrestling practice arrived, my gut was in a knowing-mother-knot.
I made one final attempt to ask about the signature. I told the AD that my son was just hours from beginning the grueling wrestling practices, and that his coaches were counting on him to be a part of the team. I also told him that it would be devastatingly unfair to send my son to these practices, and then not allow him to actually compete because there was not a signature on the line.
It was then that I received an email from the AD stating that at this time the school had decided not to allow a homeschool student to participate out of district. My son was devastated. His coaches, his teammates, and their parents were extremely upset. They knew that for 6 years our family had participated fully in this school’s wrestling program even though we homeschooled. We had even taken over running the concession stands during youth tournaments and hosting the youth fundraiser. This new AD probably still does not comprehend the anguish he caused, especially because he waited until the 11th hour to let us know. It was the first day of wrestling season. My son would have to go from preparing with the teammates he had practiced with for years to jumping ship and playing for our home address district (15 miles from our home and considered the longtime rivals).
I felt I had failed my son.
This painful lesson in the laws and nuances of homeschooling and sports left indelible marks. My son went from preparing to wrestle Varsity in 7th grade to never competitively wrestling again. He struggled with feelings of “not being good enough” because he was homeschooled. He felt he let his coaches down in some way. As his mother, I felt extreme guilt and hopelessness – I felt as though for the first time homeschooling was keeping my kids from doing something they loved.
Yes – our son could have moved on to the school that is in our district. In our state the law says that homeschooled students can participate in their own school districts. We had not considered this as a great choice for our family for several reasons – the first and foremost being logistics. Within 7 minutes I could drive one way to the school where my kids always played in youth leagues. Our district school, however, is 3xs the distance each way. And it is not in the direction of our library, the grocery stores we use, or anyplace else we need to be. It was a logistical thorn in our side, but we still encouraged our son to go out for the team and told him we would drive him every day for practices.
His age and the tactless way the other school had gone about the situation made him loathe the thought. He did agree to try helping coach the youth wrestling league at the new school, but he still never wrestled again.
The pain, frustration, and challenges of this situation did leave marks, and made us reevaluate our decision to homeschool. Here we had an athletic son who found his passion and excitement in competing in sports. Homeschooling seemed to be hindering that. We talked with him about what he wanted for his education. I prayed every day for an answer – an answer that would help my son continue to grow and that I would feel good about again as a homeschooling mom.
Tomorrow I’ll write more about the answers to those prayers.
Do you homeschool and have kids who play on public school teams?