Sports and Homeschooling Can Be Winning Combinations
We were at a crossroads. Suddenly it was about more than just a Friday night football game. Our struggles and efforts to provide our sports-loving son with opportunities were backfiring. Our decision to homeschool was now something we questioned – not because we thought that homeschooling itself was not working, but because for the first time, homeschooling was not providing one of our children with a path toward his passion.
Do Homeschooled Kids Need Team Sports?
Sure – people told us to encourage him to play solo sports – golf, running, etc., where he could still compete but didn’t need a “team” in order to do it. We were also encouraged to form our own homeschool teams. However, we live in a rural area and although we have a great network of families sharing the journey, I already knew that we would be extremely fortunate to form just one single team. And then who would we play against? This was simply not an option. Besides – our son does do solo sports – he has completed 5k and 10k races, golfs, and bikes. He also thrives on teamwork in athletics and his favorite sports just happen to be football and baseball.
We have always had an open door policy with our children and their education – we want them to be on an education path that fulfills them and opens opportunities. So we gave our son the choice we have always said we would – only this time I felt that he really might decide to enroll in public school in order to continue to play with the teams he had worked so hard to fit into all those years ago. I did a lot of praying during those weeks – that I would support my son without bias, and that he would have strength to make a healthy and positive decision that was best for him.
The junior high years are not easy and I did not envy my son’s decision. He could choose to play sports in our resident district where he knew not a single person and he would be the new, homeschooler, in 7th grade. He could choose to open enroll in the closer school where he has already participated in sports for years and no longer be homeschooled. He could leave his team sports behind and try to find another way to channel his passions. I waited and prayed some more.
My son came to his own conclusions – and I couldn’t have been prouder. He decided to move forward at the new school with sports. It was not this decision to venture out of his comfort zone that made me most proud (although I can only imagine the inner strength it took to walk into that locker room the first day) – it was because of the reasons he gave.
He didn’t want to be in a school that lacked integrity.
He told me that no matter how much he loved playing for his former team, he couldn’t imagine attending a school where people were treated so disrespectfully, and he would never choose to open enroll there. He said that he could have understood if the school board members would have been up front with him and said that this type of agreement between homeschools and the school was not possible, but that is not what they did. They strung along an 11 year-old child for months, knowing he was completing the paperwork, and knowing that the coaches wanted him to wrestle Varsity.
We later learned that this school had made their decision weeks before we were informed, and that had I not pushed for an answer, they were going to allow him to practice with the team (when he had zero possibility of being able to compete). My son learned an adult-sized lesson about maturity, responsibility, integrity, and trust.
So he moved on. He signed up to play baseball in his resident school district and hasn’t looked back. Yes – the treks each day to practice are disruptive in our schedule and our gas budget. Yes – it took a few weeks for my son to feel comfortable in his own skin as “the homeschooled kid” who joined the team. But he now flourishes as “the homeschooled kid” on both the football and baseball teams – winter he saves for curling which is community based.
Sure – some of the parents at the school raise their eyebrows. But then they see my son on the field. They hear their own kids talk about “the homeschooled kid” who is on the team (and who does pretty well). And they get to know our son – who has now become a bridge. He has made friends, learned more athletic skills, and feels like one of the team.
For my son it might be just the thrill of running on the field, hitting the game winning ball, or making that awesome tackle. But I see the bridge his perseverance and participation have created. He has been a positive example in the community of a “homeschooled kid” – and how of how education paths can be different, but it doesn’t mean that the value of the person is different.
Homeschooling and sports do not have to be mutually exclusive. Through merging the two we can help our kids demonstrate the positives that come from inclusiveness. Hopefully some day we will look back and wonder how there were ever laws that prevented homeschooled children from participating in public school athletics. Until then, let’s keep building bridges.