Let Them Play Sports!

I am angry. And this is confusing, because I am not usually angry, or at least, not used to being angry at the people I’m angry at and defensive of the people I’m feeling defensive of. It’s this.

The Virginia Senate Education Committee has narrowly rejected a bill that would allow home-schooled students to play sports at public schools. … When one home-school advocate complained about not having access to public school sports paid for by his taxes, Sen. Richard Saslaw retorted, “You pay taxes that also go to purchase an F-22 fighter, that doesn’t mean you get to fly it.”

The reason?

The Fairfax County Democrat said parents “knew the ground rules when you opted to home school your kids” and made that choice.

Aaaaaaand, that’s why I’m angry.

Look, we’re talking about the kids here. Sure, the parents chose to homeschool, but the kids don’t usually have a choice in the matter. This is sort of like telling poor parents “you knew what you were getting into when you decided to have kids even though you’re poor, so no, you don’t get government assistance.” I mean, really? Kids born to poor kids deserve the same chance as everyone else, regardless of what you think of their parents’ choices.

I didn’t have any choice in being homeschooled, which I was, from kindergarten through high school. I lived in one of the 21 states that don’t let kids participate in public school sports. My parents decided they wanted my brothers to do sports, so they looked around for options. For a while they were driving three hours, round trip, to participate in a homeschool track team. This was just too much, so they ended up finding a public high school in the area that had one sport listed as a “club” rather than as a “team,” a loophole that allowed them to participate. One of my brothers had dreamed for years of a career as a military officer, and if it weren’t for that loophole that door would probably have been shut to him.

These kids are real people. They’re not some abstraction. They shouldn’t have to suffer being shut out of opportunities to do sports just because their parents chose to homeschool them. Homeschooled kids, especially those homeschooled for religious reasons, deserve every chance for socialization and interaction with public schooled kids that they can get.

Perhaps what upset me the most was the spiteful attitude of some of the commenters at Joe. My. God. There was this:

I agree with them. If you want to play football, go to a real school, pass your classes and compete with other students to be there.

And this:

When one home-school advocate complained about not having access to public school sports paid for by his taxes, Sen. Richard Saslaw retorted, “You pay taxes that also go to purchase an F-22 fighter, that doesn’t mean you get to fly it.”

Yup. And the taxes paid by many of us who don’t have children still go to support schools. That’s the way a society works.

And this:

The same people who complain about not having access to public school sports due to THEIR choice to home school their kids, knowing all too well the ground rules of said choice, have no problem to deny same-sex couples the right to marry, arguing that gay people have “a choice” to marry someone of the opposite sex and that marriage equality is a “special right” claimed by “special interest groups”. Typical Christian double standard.

And this:

The benefits of public schools, are also about social integration and teaching children how to get along with each other. However, half in and half out, can’t cut it. If there aren’t any AYSO or off campus sports or other programs in which the kid can get some training or experience, then form one?

And this:

They’ve opt out of the system, they can’t just selectively opt-in. Moreover, sports programs often have fees and are vulnerable to budget cuts (although music, art, school nurses and school psychologists usually get the heave-ho sooner).

And perhaps this hurt most because these are people who are supposed to be on “my team.” Suddenly I feel like I’m twelve years old again, jumpers and pigtails and all, and they’re pointing and laughing. They don’t care about me. They’re out to spite my parents, and it doesn’t matter if I get caught in the crossfire.

And so, I am angry.

To those who suggest that homeschoolers go elsewhere for sports, it’s not that simple. There are plenty of community leagues for younger kids, but those things generally phase out by the time kids are high school age because of the assumption that kids will participate in sports at their schools. Sure, homeschoolers could start their own teams, but that would mean having a parent with the ability to coach and someone willing to take on the responsibility of organizing them. And besides that, who would they play? Further, you’d have to have a huge population of homeschooled students to have enough to form actual teams. I lived in an area with a lot of homeschoolers, and still we didn’t have our own teams.

With all of that out of the way, I have to ask. Why can’t homeschooled kids opt in for some aspects of the public school system? Why do we hold up the fiction that it has to be all or nothing?

Money. Yes, there is the money issue. I get it, I really do, but you know what? I really resent the lawmaker’s quip about F-22s, and you know why? Because there are plenty of good reasons to keep a civilian from flying an F-22, but there are absolutely zero good reasons to keep a homeschooled student from playing sports at her local public school. Homeschool parents pay the same amount in property taxes as everyone else, and that tax money is earmarked for educating children. Why refuse to to let any of that money contribute to the education of homeschooled students, especially when they’re simply asking to opt into programs already open to public schooled students?

I do understand the issue on an individual school level, though. While the overall money available for education does not change when a student drops out of the public schools to be homeschooled, the amount of money a given school receives is based on the number of pupils the school has. So even though homeschool parents pay property taxes like everyone else, a given school has not been given funding to education the homeschool students in the area. But why not let the schools also receive funding based on what services homeschooled students make use of? Or, why not let homeschooled parents enroll their children in public school sports for a fee to cover the extra expense?

Finally, some have pointed out that kids are required to keep their grades up in order to play sports. Then why not require homeschooled students to pass some sort of test in order to participate in sports? The goal of requiring students to keep their grades up, as I understand it, is to ensure that students are not focusing on sports at the expense of academics. I don’t see why it’s not possible to ensure this with homeschooled kids as well.

In the end, I simply see no good reason not to let homeschooled students participate in public school sports, and plenty of really good reasons to let them. And the fact that 29 states do allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports tells me that it can be done.

So fine! Vote against letting homeschooled kids participate in public school sports! Pat yourselves on the back for pulling one over on those crazy homeschoolers! Feel all self righteous why don’t you! But while you do that, I’ll be the one thinking of the victims caught in the crossfire, the freckled and pigtailed homeschooled children who lack any say in the matter.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.wideopenground.com Lana

    Our homeschool group actually did have a basketball team for a while that played private schools. But it was just a while, when a parent was willing to do it. This makes me mad, too, because homeschool kids are people, too.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

    I see this more as an argument for separating athletics and academics.

    Instead of school-based teams, youth sports ought to be open to all children who are interested in playing. I don’t know how you would handle dividing into teams, though — maybe base that on school district, regardless of whether the kids are homeschooled or in the public schools? I dunno, if anyone has a better idea, I’m open.

    Granted, it’s all hypothetical for me, as I am and intend to remain child-free.

    • luckyducky

      No, no, no!

      Actually, I don’t feel that vehemently but I do know that school athletics makes them accessible for kids who wouldn’t otherwise get to play. The clubs and leagues are expensive.

      I just looked into a league for my 6yo soccer-loving kid because his school-affilitated team only plays in the fall and he started doing so much better at school after he started playing — structure, physical outlet, experiencing of being on a team — he made friends with the girls who played whereas before you would have thought girls had the plague. Anyway, at the school it is $100/yr to be involved in athletics (1 sport/season, for up to 3 seasons) which you can either pay or volunteer in some capacity to offset. The league — for 6 year olds, mind you — was $540 for 6 mo, so over $1000 for a year.

      I understand sports is not for everyone but they really to add to or make bearable the school experience for a lot of kids. And the physical aspect it an important part of school and cognitive development. PE just isn’t enough for some kids.

      I studied abroad for a year and the schools there didn’t have any extra-curriculuars at all. It was just a very different experience and not one that I preferred. I could see it being very easy to get isolated and alienated if you weren’t really good at school because it would be hard to find people with whom you had other things in common in that environment. Their high schools are themed (math & science, language, classical, different trades) so that helped but not an option in large parts of the country that are not densely populated enough to support themed high schools.

      The other 3 years, I went to a small enough high school that they didn’t cut anybody from anything so I had the good fortune to be able to do (not well) everything — I was in marching and concert band, on the tennis and track teams, manager of the baseball team, as well as participating in various academic competitions both individually and on teams. I changed from my tennis uniform to my band uniform in the car and joined the parade mid-route once — why I felt compelled to do so, I have no idea, I was terrible, knew I was terrible and knew the director knew I was terrible but it was important that I be in formation. Anyway, I would have been board stiff in high school if not for that and if it hadn’t been at school, I couldn’t have done 1/2 of it. I may have been able to play soccer (played on a traveling team for a couple of years) but one of those activities would have been so time consuming (schelping to-and-from practices and games — school teams get the big yellow bus) and expensive for my parents that that would have been it.

      • Anonymouse

        Funny, because my local rec league offers a season of soccer for ages 3 – 18 and costs $50 a season (about four months, unless they make the playoffs).

        Why should public schools be forced to let homeschoolers play on school leagues? Public school atheletes must maintain a minimum academic record and behave themselves; homeschooled kids have no such requirements.

        I am a homeschool parent, and the attitude of most of my fellow homeschoolers is very anti-public school. If they feel that way, they can stay out of the sports leagues and sign their kids up at the local YMCA or with the local religious school.

      • luckyducky

        *Sigh* yes there are less expensive options but alas among the many amenities that my city offers, a rec league is not among them. Aside from the $$ club teams, there are a handful less-expensive leagues around but they require team-sign up – which is why many of the city elementary schools have teams, it is mainly a convenient place parents to find 10-15 kids of the same age. The alternative is to drive out to ‘burbs and find a rec league that does not require you to be a resident… it adds 1hr the time it takes for practice and at least that for games depending on where they are. I am still on the hunt for another league team in the city.

  • Paige

    Can someone explain public school sports to a non-American?

    Is it using a public schools facilities to play sports?

    Thanks!

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      In addition to straight academics, public schools also have a variety of extracurricular activities, including some with academic focuses, like debate club, and some without academic focuses, such as sports teams. For younger children, there are community sports leagues, and I’m pretty sure that elementary schools don’t have sports teams. By the teens, though, sports are essentially all tied to the schools. So if you’re 16 and you play football, or volleyball, or basketball, you’ll be playing for your school, and you’ll practice at your school after hours. High schools have gymnasiums and sports fields. Different high school teams play against each other, and there’s lots of school spirit. I hope that makes it clear!

      • Paige

        Yup thanks, it makes more sense now :-)

    • Kate Monster

      The school arranges for facilities, equipment, a coach/coaches, uniforms, etc for that team. The school might not pay for everything–especially if a program is really popular, there are likely to be local sponsors who help out–but the players are all students from that school and the team is known as “The [School Name] [Mascots]“. The coaches are often employed by the school, either just as coaches or as teachers who are also coaches (at my high school, I’d say that about a third or more of the teachers also coached at least one sport). The school often provides rallies and support for the teams, and the team mascot kind of stays with you even after you graduate. Often, the mascot sort of expands to overtake the whole school–it isn’t just players who will refer to themselves as “mascots” it’s everybody to goes to the school. (Ex. Joe Q. Somebody’s High School; team: The Fightin’ Termites. Most students who are asked if they go to Somebody’s will say, “Yeah, I’m a Termite all right!” or something similar, even if they aren’t on any teams and couldn’t care less about school sports or spirit.) Some high school teams become a big deal in local sports; there are a few in my city that get major news coverage of their “big games”.

      • luckyducky

        Termites?

        Ah, well, the Zizzers (the middle school used to be the Whizzers–don’t know who’s bright idea that was) were rivals.

  • Mike

    I agree it seems very churlish to focus on the parent rather than on the child.

    • Anonymouse

      It seems very selfish to demand that children that don’t even attend a school get to play on school teams and deny spaces to children who actually do attend the school, just because some parents want a free ride and don’t want to pay to join the YMCA or any of the dozens of “Christian” sports leagues popping up, or even (god forbid) start their own league.

      • Mike

        I don’t understand the “free ride” comment. In terms of money, the parents pay the same taxes as everyone else and choose not to take advantage of what those taxes pay for. As far as denying spaces, that doesn’t make much sense to me. Anyone on any team is “Denying” someone a space if you want to think of it that way. The school system gets the same taxes so if we don’t feel like they provide adequate opportunities for the students I don’t see what that has to do with home schoolers specifically. Finally, it seems pretty clear to me that letting them join is in the best interests of the children.

    • Anonymouse

      @Mike: “I don’t understand the “free ride” comment. In terms of money, the parents pay the same taxes as everyone else ”

      Right, and taxes go into a big pool and pay for all kinds of things any individual person might or might not take advantage of. Like fire protection, police protection, roads and bridges and churches all over the state. You pay for fire protection even if your house never burns down but your neighbor’s does. The police arrive to investigate a burglary at stores you never shop at. You’re not crying about that. Why would you deny a place on the team to a student who actually attends the school, whose parents are involved in the school, just so some random person off the street can have the slot? School sports are just that…for the students of the school. There are any number of non-school groups–from YMCAs to county/town recreation leagues to Pop Warner and PeeWee sports to “Christian” teams–to offer a spot on the team to anyone who wants to join.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

    If your proposed regulations caught on –if homeschooled students had to pass academic tests to play on the teams and the schools received additional funds based on homeschool utilization of resources– then I’d completely agree with you. Kids shouldn’t be punished for their parents’ choices.

    But that’s not what’s being suggested or what the law in question was about. It was about letting homeschooled children play on public school teams, using public school resources, and not paying their full fair share towards it or having to meet the same requirements. That I have serious problems with. It sucks, and it’s not fair to the homeschooled kids to be denied sports. But it’s not fair to the public school kids to have to get less resources because the homeschoolers want something without paying for it either.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      It sucks, and it’s not fair to the homeschooled kids to be denied sports. But it’s not fair to the public school kids to have to get less resources because the homeschoolers want something without paying for it either.

      But they are paying for it. They pay taxes just like anyone else, and it’s those taxes that fund the public school sports teams. The state just isn’t dividing up the money in a way that reflects that. That might seem like a small nitpick, but I think it’s important.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Fair point. My general point still stands, though. Until and unless schools get compensated for non-students joining extracurricular activities, I’m going to come down on the side of excluding non-students.

        I was going to bring up “optional” fees (optional only in the sense that poor families are usually subsidized) and booster clubs, but there’s no reason homeschool families couldn’t do that as well, so on further reflection that point moots itself.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        What gets me is that public schools in many states, including the one where I grew up, won’t even do some sort of deal where homeschool students can pay to join the team. I mean, I think the solution has to do with how the money is allocated, and that homeschool students shouldn’t have to pay to join public school sports teams, but until the money issue is solved I don’t see why there couldn’t be some way for homeschool students to pay to join.

        And I want to be clear, too, that the thing that made me angry over this whole issue is not that people want to make sure the money is allocated correctly, but rather that so many people don’t seem to give a sh*t about the actual homeschooled kids.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Grr I wish there was an edit function in the comments. I thought of more things.

        As to paying taxes like everybody else- I pay lots of taxes for services I don’t use because for whatever reason I’m not eligible to use them. Just because I pay tax doesn’t mean I get access to every program government offers. If a requirement for eligibility is that you attend the school in question, I don’t have a problem with that. When the parents choose to forgo the public school system for their kids, they choose to forgo the entire thing. One can argue about eligibility requirements and whether you should have to attend the school or not; that’s a valid debate to have. I just don’t consider “but I pay taxes too” to be a valid argument for striking down eligibility requirements.

        Then, should public schools then be required to allow private school students to play on their teams too? Should private schools who get any federal money (and many do, through vouchers or other things) be required to allow homeschooled and public school children to access their sports teams, facilities, and coaches? Allowing non-students access to public school facilities and staff is setting a precedent. Could homeschoolers demand their own club? Complain about pro-science or pro-career or pro-college posters on the walls? Have access to the school library? How imbedded into the school can homeschoolers become? The wider ramifications of such a move concern me.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        I do understand that. Homeschooled kids are kids first. They’re people. The nitty-gritty details of stuff are much less important than recognizing that real people are involved in all sides of this tangled issue.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I don’t know all the details, but I did once hear a speaker from Canada explain that they allow much more homeschool/public school integration there than they do here. So I think those details are things that can be worked out.

        As for the taxes thing, I see your point, but I think there ends up being too much of a “nuh-uh! if you won’t do it all, you can’t have anything” sort of attitude going on. So you’re right that “I pay taxes too” is not a reason homeschoolers have to be allowed to opt in for sports. But I think I generally hear the “I pay taxes too” response after someone says “you’re not paying for the school, so you can’t do sports there.” And after that, it’s a perfectly reasonable response. And the solution, as I pointed out, is changing how the funds are allocated.

        And as to the school library and everything else, why not? I guess I’m still thinking from the perspective of the homeschooled child here. I just don’t understand why it has to be all or nothing, and I think making it all or nothing has negative ramifications for homeschooled children. Again, not saying this is all simple or obvious, I just think what perspective you’re coming at it from matters.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        I completely agree perspective matters. I was a public school student, and while my district didn’t struggle (much) with funding for most of the time I went, my senior year of high school we took a huge hit. There had to be huge across-the-board cuts to extracurricular activities, some teachers were laid off, and so on. From my perspective, students from “outside” would have been stealing resources we just didn’t have to give. Again, if payment had been required from either from the homeschool parents or from the state, I’d be much more accepting of homeschool kids using public resources. As it is currently, though, I just can’t countenance it.

        I’ll be honest, I’m very negative towards homeschooling and private schooling (though of course not homeschooled or privately schooled people, they didn’t have a choice in the matter) in general. I think overall it’s a travesty that people who want to cocoon their kids in wealth or religion can do so. So to me, anything that potentially negatively impacts public school kids for the benefit of others is a big red flag. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but I kinda think it should be.

        Obviously we disagree on this issue and will probably continue to do so, but that’s fine. It’s the civil dialogue that’s important.

      • Tess

        I hate these sorts of “us versus them” mentalities. I’ve seen homeschoolers harbor them towards public schoolers, public schoolers hold them towards private schoolers, etc, etc. (private schoolers doing it to, of course.)

        And honestly, I think making interactions between these “groups” through sports would do a world of good, actually getting these people to interact with each other instead of viewing everyone with a different schooling experience as the “other.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Tess, I don’t consider kids who have had different school experiences to be “other”. I do consider the wider ramifications of letting people opt out of the public school system, which we’re seeing now- underfunded schools, insufficiently trained and respected teachers, low priority on poverty mitigation, etc. Societally, banning homeschooling and private schooling is probably the best thing we could do to get everyone working together on fixing and funding the public school system. I don’t think it’ll happen, and I’m not entirely convinced it should happen as there are lots of other considerations too. But to me, protecting and improving the public school system from those who would undermine it because “it’s not my problem, I homeschool/private school/private tutor so I don’t want my taxes to go up to pay for those people” is of paramount importance. I’ve heard that refrain far too often. I’m one of those people, though much better off than most (white, upper-middle-class, straight, cis. My list of privilege is rather long). Every kid should have access to my advantages; safe home, safe school, adequate food, competent teachers, modern computers, books at home, tutoring in whatever subjects needed, extracurriculars they care about, access to music and art, etc. The best way to do that is a functional public school system integrated in the public services system, and the best way to do that is make everyone have a stake in it.

      • Anonymouse

        No, they are not paying for it. The parents’ taxes do not go 100% directly into the schools. The parents’ taxes go into a pot that supports all the churches that don’t pay taxes (they still get fire and police and water lines and telephone lines and all the other things our tax dollars pay for, but they get a free ride), maintains the roads, keeps power to the stoplights, and all the other things our taxes pay for.

      • Tess

        “The best way to do that is a functional public school system integrated in the public services system, and the best way to do that is make everyone have a stake in it.”

        Then I suppose I just don’t understand why we’re not on the same team. Wouldn’t participation in public school sports make non-public schooled families *more* interested in the state of the public schools, and *more* willing to contribute to them? Wouldn’t they suddenly feel like they had a stake in these schools?

        (and for the record, despite not sending us to public school or using any part of their services, my parents never grumbled about paying taxes that went to schools and in fact always supported more school bonds. Sure they didn’t contribute non-monetarily to the system the way parents of an attendee would, but I wouldn’t consider them “underminers” either. They valued education–for everyone.)

    • alr

      I could honestly see some parents pulling a kid who is academically failing out of school to “homeschool” on order to protect his ability to stay on a varsity team. I am not kidding you. It would happen. Some families will go to absolutely any length for their kids to play sports. I had a student that had four concussions in one football season and after being told by a neurologist that he should never play again, his parents doctor-shopped until they found one who would sign a release for him to continue the next season. I had parents stalk me and one try to bribe me to get a kid’s grade changed so he could play.

      As for sports in schools…if you think it is all great and fantastic, you haven’t really looked hard at what it does to the culture of our schools. Teachers are often hired based on coaching ability alone and retained no matter what their abilities in the classroom are. Coaches who want to be strong teachers are hampered by the fact that more importance is placed on their coaching role and it demands their time away from planning lessons and helping struggling students. Academic time is short changed for competitions to a level that is completely disruptive in certain seasons (track is a huge problem in small schools as one third or more of the students are absent one or two times a week for the entire season). And athletes are frequently a key component of bullying culture and rarely face consequences.

      Removing sports from secondary schools would be one of the fastest and most economically efficient ways of improving education in this country.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ WMDKitty

        And the rest of the students are forced to sit through “pep assemblies” and other assorted wastes of time dedicated to “our” teams.

        It’s school — I’m there to learn, stop wasting class-time with this stuff!

      • Anonymouse

        alr, I agree with you that removing competitive sports would drastically improve education. However, I have no problem with intramural sports just for fun. My university did this–each dorm put together a team of variously-capable people, and each dorm played the others. The school put practically zero dollars into it (we played a rotating series of sports–baseball, football, soccer, and rugby–on the same field at different times, and played basketball and volleyball in the school gym which already existed). There’s no reason why middle and high schools couldn’t do this as well. Because there were no trophies and no money involved, people played for fun and even the non-”stars” got a chance to play and have fun.

  • http://fidesquaerens.org/ Marta L.

    Reading this, I thought of two reasons why homeschooled kids maybe shouldn’t have access to school teams. One could be handled easily enough, but I’m not sure about the other one.

    My first concern is fairness. If Sally were a home-schooled high schooler who was quite a good softball pitcher, what school would she play for? She’s not a member of any one, and whatever school could attract her to play for them would have an advantage that schools limited to students from their geographical area lacked. Plus I guess private schools already have this advantage, since they offer athletic scholarships like universities do. That problem needs to be handled, but I suspect it could be.

    The other point is this: in high profile sports, the kid in some sense represents the school. It doesn’t seem quite fair if a student is part of that community and then gets nudged out of a first-string football position by someone who only wants to play the sport. Not because the homeschool kid doesn’t deserve the opportunity to play, but because there are some aspects of what that means that are hard to imagine him doing if he was only on the team.

    What this tells me is we need to uncouple athletics from schools. Offer some sort of public-financed program but remove it from representing a certain school. Homeschool kids need the outlet and their parents’ tax dollars support it as much as anybody’s. We should make it available to everyone, not just the kids in the public schools. I’m just not sure opening up the high school teams is the way to do it.

    But the comments? You have every right to be pissed. I was upset, and I don’t even necessairily disagree with what they’re saying about homeschool kids and athletics. I still find the reasoning asinine.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      First off, just require them to enroll in sports teams at the public school they’d go to if they attended public school. And second, my brothers didn’t have a whole lot of trouble having pride in the school they played for (in the sports “club”), so I think that objection is not as hard to overcome as you might think. I think it would be easy to make that a requirement—that if you want to play for the school, you need to be willing to make some show of school pride.

      As to what you say about separating sports from the schools, I totally see what you’re saying and on some level I absolutely agree. But I just don’t think that’s practical. It would take fundamentally changing how people approach the public high school for that to work.

    • Rosa

      We’ve had problems in my state with parents switching to “homeschool” to get around rules about school sports, especially at the high school level. To keep a kid eligible who wasn’t making grades or attendance standards, or to redshirt a talented kid after the fact (pull them out of middle school & put them on the same-grade team again the next year, so they are a year older than they would have been on the same-grade team otherwise), or to get to play for a school with a better team than the one the student was going to when they were schooled. It’s kind of insane how tricky parents of promising athletes can be, because small differences in high school teams can make a big difference if the kid plays at the college level. In Minnesota the most publicized cases have been hockey players, but in some places it’s basketball or football that are so high stakes.

      Since just about anyone can claim to be homeschooling because of the lack of regulation, it’s really hard to write rules for those situations and not hit all homeschoolers.

      • Rae

        When I was a homeschooler as a teenager, homeschoolers were generally prevented from playing high school sports for those reasons – unless the schools had a policy where the only way to be eligible was to attend the school under all of the local school district regulations, parents would pull all kinds of ridiculous shenanigans to try to get their child into the situation where it would be most advantageous for the student’s future as an athlete.

        On the other hand, in my experience, the extracirriculars like drama and art were generally welcoming of homeschool participation – I think it may partially be because those programs depend partially or entirely on their own fundraising, so the more people who are involved, the more beneficial it is to everyone involved, and also because there’s not the issues of competitiveness like there would be for sports.

      • ERB

        I think Rae makes excellent points and they are where my concerns arise.

        The test to allow students to play: who will create it, proctor it, & pay for it? How often will it be given? Will public school students be able to take it in lieu of traditional academic standards?

        How will grade and age be used to determine at what level a student should play? If homeschoolers have played in the past and taken time off, how is that time off regarded? (“Redshirting.”)

        Why stop at sports? Why not selective academics? Take a chemistry course or art class? Can students/their parents design their own curriculum using a combination of homeschool and public school classes? After all , they’re paying for those, too.

        All this needs to be regulated, reviewed, and managed by someone (time is money, let alone salaries).

        I believe you that the issues that arise may be resolvable. But the “freckled and pigtailed” homeschooler standing on the sidelines doesn’t move me any more than the “pimpled and awkward” public schooler pushed from a team by an underachieving ringer whose parents were willing to work the system by “homeschooling” to avoid academic suspension. There will always be someone standing on the sidelines because of the decisions of parents.

        I don’t know what the solutions are, but the competitive nature and influential force HS sports have in many high schools and communities is bordering on grotesque. Many are barely “team” sports anymore, with each player so concerned about their own, individual stats.

  • smrnda

    I agree that this penalizes kids for a choice their parents are making. Also, a lot of parents home school so they can isolate their kids, control everything they do, and prevent them from being exposed to new or different ideas. Playing sports might get kids like that a chance to encounter people and ideas that could broaden their horizons.

    As for kids playing on teams for schools they don’t attend, I’m aware that some small, rural schools have arrangements where, if a student wants to play a sport not offered by the school, they can play at a nearby school. It’s not the same, but kind of similar.

    If the idea is that this will discourage people from home schooling and get their kids in public school, it’ll only end with the kids not playing sports.

    Perhaps some people are concerned that home schooled kids might take up lucrative spots on sports teams and displace kids who actually attend the school. That issue should probably be part of a broader discussion as the the purpose of school sports, whether it’s to win or to encourage participation, or that home schooled students might be getting off easier in terms of policies about grades.

    On paying taxes for things you don’t use – I think that there are some things where it’s a good idea to restrict access perhaps, but only if there’s really some compelling interest. I don’t get to fly military aircraft for good reasons. Government assistance is usually only available on a means tested basis. But for school sports, I think there’s better reason to allow home schooled kids to play than not; if financing is an issue, have them pay a fee, but otherwise, I think the benefits outweigh any potential negatives.

    • Anonymouse

      Smrnda, what about the kids who go to that public school who would *love* to play on the team, but can’t because homeschoolers have stacked the team? How is that fair to the public school student?

      My taxes go to paying for fire and police protection for churches that I do not attend. That’s just the way it goes. If the homeschool parents want their children playing sports, they can enroll in the YMCA, the rec leagues or any of the dozens of “Christian” leagues that are out there.

  • luckyducky

    Do homeschool parents appreciate all of the interesting information and ideas that kids are exposed to on the bus to and from games/matches/meets and in the locker room?

    I count myself as sheltered (how, I really don’t know, no particular effort on my parents’ part) but had I not been involved in extracurriculars, I would have probably only managed to be slightly more worldly than if I’d been cloistered.

  • http://unpublishedforareason.blogspot.com Hannah M

    I was a homeschooler through high school (worked out great for me, I loved it) and then went to college to be a teacher. We had at least one heated education class where we debated this. My local school district growing up was very supportive of this kind of thing, and I was all for inclusion of homeschooled kids. I was one of very few. People in my class kept saying, “They chose this, they made this decision,” and I kept trying to point out that, um, NO. Generally, the children are NOT the ones making the decision on whether or not to be homeschooled. It’s the parents. They’re punishing the children for the parents’ decisions.

    There are ways to make this fair (I totally support a “sports fee” or “arts education fee” for homeschooled opt-ins – most of the ones I know would be willing to contribute in that situation). Refusing to consider these options flies in the face of anything we want to happen in the field of education. “If you don’t learn everything with us, we don’t want you to learn anything with us” is an ugly, ugly statement that has nothing to do with education and is much more about exclusion and a feeling of superiority… a feeling that does not persuade the parents, but only hurts the children.

    Public education is *not* allowed to make angry comments about homeschoolers not getting enough peer socialization, then reject those homeschoolers from actually *getting* peer socialization in after-school activities. You don’t get to be angry about both of those things, when one would help to fix the other.

  • BabyRaptor

    I wasn’t on any sports team when I was in high school, but I did choir, ROTC, Colourguard and Debate. And I can honestly say that, yeah. I’d have had issues with home school kids being involved. I had rules I had to follow to be allowed to stay in those activities. My grades had to be at a certain standard, there were behavioral and uniform rules, there were requirements for practices and performances…Lots of things that a home schooler could easily work around. And if they do and the team starts to suffer because the coach can’t monitor X person’s practice, why should the rest of the group suffer, or lose at competitions, or be embarrassed at performances/games for that? People being able to skirt the requirements isn’t fair to the other members of the group, regardless of the fact that everyones’ parents pay the same taxes.

    And then there’s the fact that extra curriculars are one of the huge things that high school students use on their college applications. Home schoolers have a lot more variance on what they can do in that area, because they aren’t as constrained on time and having to be in one place for ~10 hours a day. They can go out and volunteer, or they can choose to take extra classes, or things of that nature. Public school kids have limited options. So I don’t really see why it’s fair that those spots in those groups get taken away from someone who will probably actually need that activity on an application in the future.

    Lastly, I’m not seeing as much spite in those comments as you did, Libby. The guy complaining about double standards has a point in my opinion. I don’t see the suggestion to form one’s own group as spiteful either. It could be, I’m not denying that. I just don’t see it as such here.

    And yes, I’m aware that I’m espousing the unpopular opinion. I’m probably going to get a lot of not happy faces. But these are valid points that need to be considered.

  • Squire Bramble

    As an Australian, I apologise in advance if my questions/ comments sound insulting to American homeschoolers, parents or children.

    Libby Anne, from what I understand, your parents homeschooled because they wanted to shelter their children from secular influences. Why were they so keen to have your brothers play sport with children who were deemed unworthy to participate in grammar or maths lessons with them? It also seems to me this would undermine team cohesion – when little Timmy Anne has been made wary of his fellow players Ahmed and Krishna. How would your parents have reacted to learn that team-mate Jimmy has two fathers? What happens when it’s their turn to provide the team treat? If they are happy to put on a smile and talk to Mrs Al Musharif or James, Sr and partner Dave at the Termite’s team dinner – well, hurrah – but this looks pretty suspect from a secular Australian perspective.

    Also, while I don’t want to punish the homeschooled children, what about the public school children and their parents? They’ve put far more than money (taxes) into the public schools. Mr Dave and Mrs Al Musharif have been supporting the class since primary. They’ve been readers, drivers on field excursions, organised school fetes, served on parent-teacher committees and organised fund-raisers for the extracurricular programme. And what about Jimmy and Ahmed? They’ve had to keep up their marks (I assume that in America team players must maintain a certain level in their academic study) and participate in all the classes required by the state. That’s hard graft for a young person. I’ve read the stories of people who were homeschooled here with great interest; a common theme seems to be that homeschooling allows children to concentrate on subjects they love while glancing over things that weren’t so interesting. What’s to stop a Timmy Anne and his parents arranging his schedule around intense physical culture? He would certainly qualify for a spot on the first team, and a Jimmy or an Ahmed (who haven’t that advantage) will have to give up their place. I don’t think that’s fair to the public school boys or their parents, who are limited due to their commitment to participation in the culture of the public system.

    If the homeschool opt-in system had been made contingent upon the students’ passing standard state examinations, would your parents have been happy for your brothers to participate? Would they have risked exposing them to real science or history in exchange for a few team sports?

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      My parents wanted my brothers to play sports because they were, well, boys. Furthermore, like I said, to get into a military career, having been in sports in high school is usually a requirement.

      Also, as to the idea of examinations and “real science,” I don’t want you to get the idea that homeschooled kids who study from creationist textbooks don’t learn science.

      My parents decided to have me take some Advanced Placement tests at the end of my junior year. Basically, high schools often offer advanced versions of various classes, and if you take an “AP” test at the end of the year and pass it with a high enough score, most colleges will give you college credit for those subjects. I took the AP tests for biology and chemistry and scored so well that I got out of having to take two science classes in college—they just gave me the credit based on my scores. And yet, I studied from only creationist texts. The place where creationist texts differ is simply on the issue of evolution, and when it comes to that topic the ones I studied from still taught me what evolution was, even if just to refute it. Sure, it was a bit of a straw man version, but it was enough that I knew the correct answers to evolution questions on the AP exam.

      I guess what I’m saying is, it’s possible to make sure kids know the answers they’re expected to know while still teaching your kids that the reality is slightly different, per your religious views. History is the same—the fact that the parents teach the kids that God’s hand moves through history doesn’t mean kids don’t know why WWII actually started, etc.

      Now there are some homeschool curricula that are absolutely atrocious, and would give kids trouble taking some sort of standard examinations, and there are also homeschool parents who simply do a terrible job educating their kids, regardless of what textbooks they use (or at least pretend to be using). But the idea that the fact that parents teach their children that evolution is flawed and wrong automatically means that those kids couldn’t get good scores on a state examination is false.

      • Christine

        I’m impressed (and somewhat disturbed) that you were able to score 4′s on your AP science classes despite having been taught that pretty much the entire field is wrong. Disturbed mostly because it shows that the test really doesn’t evaluated comprehension that well.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        It it helps, I *did* check out AP prep guides from the library and spend a month going over them exhaustively. I could tell you what evolution said happened and why. I just didn’t believe it. Remember too that creationists will generally endorse “microevolution,” i.e. change within “kinds,” meaning that I did understand the basic concepts. I just didn’t think that you could extrapolate from that to what I was taught to call “macroevolution.” I also thought radio carbon dating was flawed, that the idea that the rock layers showed an evolutionary timeline was based on picking and choosing which columns to look at, that the salination of the ocean indicates a young earth, etc. But none of that prevented me from correctly answering the questions on an AP test. And remember, questions directly about evolution are only a very small part of the test.

      • Anonymouse

        Actually, Libby Anne, there is no requirement to play high school sports to join the military.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        My understanding is that it’s next to impossible to win a scholarship to one of the major military academies if you haven’t been involved in sports. In other words, I wasn’t simply talking about enlisting.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        But to be clear, Anonymous, I don’t have a problem disagreeing with you on this issue.

      • Squire Bramble

        ” My parents wanted my brothers to play sports because they were, well, boys. Furthermore, like I said, to get into a military career, having been in sports in high school is usually a requirement.”

        I’m still getting from this that your parents were willing to sacrifice principles when it was convenient for them _and_undermine the purpose and ethos of school sporting activities for everyone else. If something similar were proposed in NSW I’d be against it too. It’s one thing if homeschoolers are doing the same courses as the public school (as in distance learning); but here you have this situation that favours the children of parents trying to manipulate a system for their own ends, while children and parents who have put in the hard graft will be disadvantaged. Basically your brothers can spend nearly all morning in physical training, then rock up to the local comprehensive in the afternoon, taking the best spots on the teams. The kids who have to be at school by 8 will get the second string places. Unless homeschoolers are completing the state courses, there’s no way to make this even remotely equitable.

        I also noticed that you did not address the issues of team cohesion and good sportsmanship – perhaps this isn’t a ‘thing’ in American schools, but Aussie team parents are expected to support the entire team, not just their own child. Not going to lie, they often fall short of the mark; however, I can’t think that your brothers would be able to play effectively with a diverse bunch of mates when your parents have made it clear that the other players are not worthy of their attention or goodwill.

        I’m trying to be delicate as you have often written of your love for your parents, but I’m feeling a lot of contempt for them here. It’s a shame that homeschoolers can’t participate in public school sports teams, but it’s equally wrong to disadvantage other children because parents like these want to game the system.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        I can’t think that your brothers would be able to play effectively with a diverse bunch of mates when your parents have made it clear that the other players are not worthy of their attention or goodwill.

        The fact that my parents homeschooled us in large part because they wanted to shelter us from the “worldly influences” inherent in the public school system does not mean that they taught my siblings and I that public schooled children were not “worthy of our attention or goodwill.” You say you’re feeling a lot of contempt for my parents, fine. But my parents didn’t teach me to feel contempt for public schooled students. They felt foreign because I had no experience with anyone but homeschoolers, and also because I was taught that things like rock music or mini skirts or having boyfriends were “worldly” and not godly, yes. But that didn’t mean I thought they weren’t “worthy of my attention or goodwill,” or that I was incapable of being respectful. I was sheltered, but I wasn’t a monster.

        And like I said, my brothers did end up participating in a public school sports “club” and it wasn’t a problem. I’ve talked about it a lot with one of my brothers, and he said the other kids made fun of him for being homeschooled, but that it wasn’t a big deal, and that they all learned to work together just fine. He was good at the sport, and the others respected him for that. My parents attended their games and supported the whole team. I don’t see why you couldn’t just require that if you’re going to participate in X sport team, you have to support the team and treat the other players respectfully. And if you can’t do that, then sure, you can’t join or you get kicked out.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        And besides, not everyone who homeschools does it to isolate or indoctrinate their kids. Not all homeschoolers are even Christian. I may or may not agree with a given family’s reasons for homeschooling, and I have definitely voiced plenty of concerns about socialization, and I absolutely plan to have my kids in public school and be a responsible and involved parent, but I don’t think that a parent’s decision to homeschool their children should mean those children have no access to any of what public schools provide. In other words, I don’t buy that it has to be all or nothing. I understand your concerns, but I don’t think it’s impossible to find ways to deal with those concerns, and I don’t think the potential cons to allowing homeschoolers to participate in various aspects of public schools outweigh the benefits.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        Also, this:

        I’m still getting from this that your parents were willing to sacrifice principles when it was convenient for them _and_ undermine the purpose and ethos of school sporting activities for everyone else.

        Uh, no, and no. Letting my brothers do participate in a public school sports club didn’t sacrifice my parents’ principles, and it didn’t undermine the purpose and ethos of school sports for everyone else. And I’m not sure where you got the idea that it would.

        I grew up homeschooled by conservative evangelical parents, but we’re not talking about the Taliban here.

      • Squire Bramble

        Libby Anne, I appreciate that you don’t want to see your parents as hypocrites or people undermining a system; however, whether it is intentional or not they were putting others at a disadvantage for their own gain.

        You say you were not brought up to feel contempt for secularists – well and good, but this is rather like the “love the sinner” posturing that fundamentalists take in relation to gay people. Your brothers had to be protected from the “worldly influences” of these other families in a classroom setting, but when the prospect of a sport scholarship is dangled in front of your parents, suddenly association with the heathen is acceptable? It is clear that the only factor that was changed was the financial incentive. That’s not a lesson I would care to have the public school children learn (implicitly or explicitly) – that they’re only worth socializing with if the superior homeschooler has something to gain. That does undermine the ethos of team sports. The contempt is there, even if your parents were not aware of it – it does reflect poorly on them.

        Thinking it over, it is probable that your parents may not have allowed your brothers to participate on the type of team I was imagining – Sydney public schools can be extremely diverse, and if they played football there they would certainly find a large number of Muslim, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox players, to say nothing of atheists and gays. It is not inconsistent to send their children to play with an homogenous, mostly Protestant public school population, whose families differed only in degree of practice of their faith.

        I have to agree with the original comments on Joe.My.God., and the commenters here have made excellent points above about the advantages homeschoolers have to manipulate the system. I don’t anticipate that this would ever be an issue in Australia, as secular homeschoolers follow the same curriculum, usually because they are distance learners in remote areas. The religious homeschoolers would keep their children away from the diverse teams: in any case, sports culture here is *extremely* secular.

      • Anonymouse

        Squire Bramble, I’m getting the same vibe as you. I started homeschooling when my DS was in high school because he was ready for university-level work in some areas but not others, and the most efficient way to handle it was to take some college classes and some high-school level classes where appropriate. The homeschool support group we belong to (there are literally dozens in my area to choose from) offers weekly baseball, another group offers martial arts, while yet another hosts a weekly roller skating. Not only that, but there are “Christian” basketball and football and soccer leagues if one cares to join (one must be “the right sort of Christian”) to join. There’s also the YMCA and the town rec league that offer baseball, football, and lacrosse.

        That’s not what Libby Anne’s parents appear to have wanted, however. They wanted the sports scholarships and other perks that are available to larger, high-school sports systems. In other words, they didn’t want their children in public school, but they sure wanted to take advantage of the perks of public school. It’s entirely possible that regular public-school children were not able to make the team because her homeschooled brothers were on it.

        While it’s not true everywhere, in many areas public school has a wide range of children from a wide range of religious, ethnic, social, and financial backgrounds. Libby Anne’s parents did not want her and her brothers associating with such children…unless they were a payoff (i.e. sports scholarships). At least at the US Naval Academy, there is NO requirement for a student to have played high school sports to be admitted: http://www.usna.edu/Admissions/steps.htm

  • Callie

    I’m not familiar with the US school system, but I taught in the Australian public school system for a while and one thing I do remember from that time is how all-encompassing a school’s insurance has to be. Is it possible that one reason for excluding home-schooled students from participating in school sports – which often involve the possibility of physical danger, unlike what can reasonably be expected for most ‘visitors’ to a campus – is that schools can’t get insurance to cover them? Especially for the situations where they’re playing off-campus? Writing that policy could be something of a nightmare.

  • Meyli

    This seems so weird to me. At my highschool, you had to pay a $200 activity fee to play any sport or be in any club. Itwould seem fair to let homeschoolers pay the same.
    As long as their grades are monitored like in-school students, I don’t see a reason to exclude them.

  • swimr1

    I’m trying to think of a sport (besides football and maybe basketball) that doesn’t have an equivalent or even better “club sport” alternative. Most Olympic sports have a year-round alternative to school teams. They are usually coached by coaches that actually have an educated background in the sport and in coaching (unlike many high school teams that are coached by teachers who opt to coach to supplement their teaching salaries – and aren’t very well trained in coaching the sport they coach).

    I know that swimming at the club level, for instance, is much more prestigious than high school swimming. The best high school swimmers all swim USAS year round and just swim for their high school teams for fun. These programs are all available to homeschool kids all year long. I guess the real problem is football…

    • luckyducky

      Money, money, money, and time.

      I played tennis and ran track in high school and played on a traveling soccer team. My high school athletic fee was like $20/sport (it was absurdly low even at the time) and that covered bus travel to and from matches/meets and possibly even hotels and food for State (2-day). Some of the regular matches/meets were 2+hrs away (I grew up in a rural area).

      It meant my friend who was on food stamps still got to be on the team. It meant most of us could do as many activities as we could manage even if we weren’t great. We might warm the bench and only a few of us pursue a competitive athletic career beyond high school but that really wasn’t what was important. We played because we enjoyed it, we learned about team work and discipline, we trained and maintain a reasonably healthy body, we made friends (my relay team and I were messaging back and forth watching the Olympics — graduated year ago and not a single one of us has run a race around a track since then but we’ve got a common experience that we appreciate).

      The traveling soccer team would be the equivalent of club but soccer was new enough to the area that there was a “club” but a group of girls from 2 counties who really wanted to play and were halfway decent to good (D-I good). I was only halfway decent. But it involved several hours every week of my parents driving us to the next town for practice and then driving 2-6 hrs each way (plus hotels) on more weekends than I can count for us to play in tourneys and a handful of other traveling teams.

      I know there are people who are really committed to their child(ren)’s athletic career that they are willing to put that kind of time and money in but it just isn’t an option for everyone and if you aren’t really good to great it can be really difficult to justify.

      • Anonymouse

        @luckyducky, if you use the money issue for sports, you might as well give the homeschooling students free books and supplies, as well–something most high schools do. When I was in the National Honor Society in high school, one of our obligations was to tutor for free our classmates who were struggling. Should homeschoolers get free tutoring? After all, their parents would have to pay money for that, as well (as I know, because I had to pay a private tutor for Calculus help for my DS). What about lab equpiment? High schools provide microscopes and test tubes and chemicals and other costly equipment for students taking Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Should they be provided free to homeschooling parents because that’s stuff’s expensive, too? What about computers for computer programming languages and graphic design? Adobe Creative Suite is expensive; should each homeschooler get a free Mac and CS6 because hey, that costs a lot of money?

      • luckyducky

        I really wasn’t making one argument or the other about whether or not homeschool kids should be allowed to play on public school teams. I was just making the observation that club teams do not offer an equivalent opportunity.

        We all make choices and whether or not the choice to homeschool should include the consequence of not having the opportunity to play sports at relatively low cost is one I really don’t feel qualified to speak on. I think the impact of include/excluding homeschool students varies significantly based on location (rural vs. suburban vs. urban). I grew up in a rural area and we didn’t have the homeschool student issue that I know of but if they had been excluded they just wouldn’t have had other opportunities for most sports — there were no clubs or leagues. I now live in an urban area with an active homeschool network that organizes teams who play against smaller private and parochial schools and there are plenty of club opportunities for those who desire a higher level of competition.

        Am very aware of the limited resources public schools are working with (hello, fundraiser of the week) but I don’t find the argument that homeschool students are would cost so much to include is all that compelling. Yes, it is much more expensive for the individual to play a club sport but that doesn’t mean it is so much more expensive for a school to include homeschool students. The marginal cost for a school to provide school sports is pretty small. It doesn’t cost the school (much*) more to have another student or two on the bus, the uniforms are already purchased and have probably been around for 20yrs (at least if you are on a girl’s team), and the coach is there whether there are 11 or 12 students. Of course, if there are many, many homeschool students vying for spots, it would be different… but 1 or 2 per sport…

        And my county has a special school district that provides services (not curricula and books) to parochial, private, and homeschool students. I admit, I don’t know how unique this is and it probably a response to the unique needs of this community — a strong tradition of parochial education… and arm twisting . I don’t mind, I would rather students have that support than not and while refusing to provide them may lead some parents to opt for public schools that are mandated by law to provide those services, I think it is far more likely that the students just wouldn’t get them or would get only as much as their parents could afford.

        *It depends on whether the sd owns their buses or contracts a company. I think the companies may have a formula that includes number of students in their fee.

      • Anonymouse

        I notice that all the hand-wringing is about sports, sports, sports. Why? So the homeschooled students can get something else out of it, like scholarships. You never hear anyone say, “We just luuuuuuuuv the school and my son has wanted to be a Fighting Quzzle since he was a toddler!” It’s very telling what the REAL incentive is–to get something from the system without putting in, at the expense of those who do put in.

      • luckyducky

        I really don’t think that homeschool students do/would have significantly different motivations for playing high school sports thank other kids. Very few students are good enough to score a sports scholarship that actually covers enough to justify the the amount of work and expense goes into getting and maintaining it. There are plenty of other, probably more effective ways homeschool kids could pad their college and scholarship applications. Don’t get me wrong, 1/2 of my high school (~350 students) football team thought they were going pro… and about 3 of them ended up playing D-III third string. But even they were partially to mostly motivated by the desire to play, be on the team, etc. , like the rest of us who had no illusions about competing in any serious way after graduation.

      • Anonymouse

        @luckyducky “I really don’t think that homeschool students do/would have significantly different motivations for playing high school sports thank other kids.”

        Then why all the (general) emphasis on forcing homeschooled kids onto public school teams? There are any number of outside leagues for any kid to play on.

      • luckyducky

        I think you are overestimating the number of other opportunities. I would bet for the families who are pushing/would push for inclusion there are limited to no other options. There may be no league/club equivalent either because there just isn’t commonly a league equivalent (football) or there aren’t leagues/clubs at all (rural areas).

        If the homeschool child were a tennis or swimming star, no problem, there are plenty of club opportunities for what are essentially individual sports. It gets trickier when you are talking about team sports, though soccer and lacrosse are club-friendly, and even some individual sports (track and field) don’t have the club/league infrastructure. And then there are team sports that just either do not offer the same level of competition (basketball) or aren’t available at all.

  • Anne

    I’m not entirely sure where I stand on this issue. I understand the arguments in favor but I also have a general feeling that school programs should be for students of that school. But I think part of your anger is misdirected when you keep pointing out that the kids didn’t chose this and shouldn’t be limited by their parents’ choices.

    Except that kids are limited by their parents’ choices all the time. Parents chose to buy into certain school districts, or send their kids to private schools, all the time. Parents can uproot their families and move across the country or across the world all the time with huge impacts on their children. Parents chose to remove their children from the schools because they want to impact their children. That’s the idea. I don’t have a ton of sympathy for people who buy land next to airports (because it’s cheaper) and then complain about the airplane noise (which is why it’s cheaper). That was the deal. I feel a huge amount of sympathy for the children in either situation, but this is something parents get to do regardless of the impact.

    Again, I’m not saying that homeschooled children should or shouldn’t be barred, I’m still working through my feelings on that, but more of your anger should be directed at the parents who are ultimately responsible for the decisions they made.

  • Pam

    I can’t really disagree with you on this one Libby Ann.
    I have a different but similar view on the issue. I went to a Catholic grade school and high school. We’ll call it St. Slytherin. It was awful but that is a different story.
    There was a big push to get the state/county (can’t remember which) to pay for math and science books because after all our parents paid taxes. According to the argument they paid twice for school. The governement said no, public schools are offered as a service from taxes so if you want to take your money else where that is your choice. It’s like paying for a private police or fire service rather the public PD/FD than complaining when your house is is robbed/on fire.
    Religion also came into play as it was seen that the parents did not want their children mixing with the rest of the ‘unwashed’ masses. Did the children’s rights come into play – not really. It was all about money. If you choose to remove yourself from the mainstream you can’t pick and choose when you want to be back in it.

    • Pam

      That should be agree with you. Stupid brain telling the fingers to type wrong words

  • Christine

    I honestly don’t see why year-round sports are so important. I only ever played in the summer, and I probably could have made it on to sports teams (we had intra-mural ones in high school, and my elementary school was small enough that I think any girls who tried out made it in if they had basic competency).

    I do think, however, that some sort of code of conduct-type contract should be required if you’re going to have homeschoolers playing on the public school teams. At my high school, we’d occasionally have a bus for students who wanted to watch a game at a another school (depending on funding, risk of riot, how easy it was to walk/bus there if the school didn’t provide, etc). This wasn’t just the students who were playing – they represented the school. So expecting a commitment to the team and to the school (of some sort) isn’t entirely unreasonable. This could also cover things like treating students from different backgrounds with respect, grades (although that would require the parents to enforce it, which becomes too similar to parents holding other clubs on a string as threat/punishment.)

  • swimr1

    There’s also the argument that there are limited resources available to school teams. Most teams have to limit the number of students allowed on the team because they just don’t have the resources to let everyone who wants to join be on the team. If you start opening up high school teams to the general public there will be fewer spots for students who go to the school. And more demand on coaches. Like I said above, there are other alternatives to school teams available in almost every sport. As for football – I wish we’d divorce the sport from education entirely as it has become almost entirely about profit over anything else.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      There’s also a point where even with open admission, the team gets unreasonably big. If you had a baseball team with 50 players, most of them aren’t going to get to do much. With community leagues it’s easier to just add more teams–my softball league had at least 3 teams of girls who mostly went to the same high school.

      School teams are probably more competitive, though that’s not necessarily a plus if you’re playing for fun and are not particularly athletic (not that community leagues are necessarily good in that regard–I spent a lot of time warming the bench–but I was at least able to get on the roster).

  • Tess

    ““If you don’t learn everything with us, we don’t want you to learn anything with us” is an ugly, ugly statement that has nothing to do with education and is much more about exclusion and a feeling of superiority…”
    (Hannah M)

    And that, really, is the root of the exasperation on one side of things here, I think. Not everyone who was/is homeschooled is an isolationist, and even for those who are, does that mean public schools should respond in kind? That will only make things worse. Once again, I’d rather there be more interaction between those with different education backgrounds than less. It makes for fewer heated discussions, less prejudice, and more understanding.

  • Thomas

    I dunno. I’m a product of public schools. I understand very well the frustration with pretentious homeschoolers who want to have a “prom” and play sports, but don’t want to deal with all the shit that comes with being in a real school. Yeah, I said it. A real school. Sorry. You don’t get to take your kids out of the system and then complain when you don’t get the fun parts of the system. Prom’s overrated anyway.

    I also want to express my anger as a theater brat about how the homeschooling kids who were given the PRIVILEGE of using our facilities and participating in productions all got speaking roles whereas the regular students (most of whom were darker-skinned than the homeschoolers) were in the ensemble, and had to be in several productions before they got a speaking role. The problem was not with homeschool kids getting good parts — sure, some of them were talented. The problem is the proportion of home school kids who got leading roles in comparison to the normal students, even when the roles were ill suited to them (like some skinny blonde chick getting to be Tracy Turnblad in “Hairspray”, but she was a homeschooler, so whatever!)

  • Noelle

    Homeschool and privately schooled children usually don’t qualify for the speech and occupational therapy services provided by the public school system either.

    I was never in sports, never wanted to be, hated required PE classes with a vengeance, and found the popular school sports culture to be weird, exclusionary, and akin to a religious revival complete with chanting and singing. So I can’t fully appreciate why anyone outside the system would want to take part in it. But, to each his own, I guess.

    Aside from the very popular sports, like boys football and basketball, most school sporting programs struggle financially. Opening spots for paying customers would help with revenue, but it brings up a problem of schools recruiting non-students to have stronger teams. Sports are totally blown out proportion in school, and high-performing athletes are community celebrities. There are already parents, mostly of boys, who will hold their child back a year in kindergarten, for the sole purpose of hoping he’ll be older and stronger and better able to handle competitive sports come high school. All schools have academic standards for athletes. You can’t play if you don’t maintain a certain GPA. Teachers are sometimes pressured to pass failing students in time for a game. What’s to keep a parent from pulling a failing student one week to homeschool and the next week suddenly declare him a straight-A genius who can go on to quarterback and lead the team to State?

    Someone else brought up another point, many extracurricular activities like sports only offer a certain number of spots. Many regular public school students don’t get to play a sport or act in the school play or do an activity they’d enjoy because other students already beat them out. If there are already no spots, where does one put the homeschooler? Do they enter a lottery or try out only if there are remaining spots?

    I’d like to see a compromise, but it’ll take changing the current culture of school extracurricular activities in general.

    If the homeschooler wants to play sports, then he or she can take the place of a student who doesn’t care at the required pep rallies. I hated those things

    • alr

      Valid question shows up here about school’s classification for competitions as well. Most state associations group schools by size for athletic competition (arts and music as well where it is offered). A school with 2500 students does not play against a school with 250. How are classifications determined if schools suddenly have access to homeschool students? If every homeschool kid in a given district is counted and none of those kids play sports, it could alter the school’s classification, forcing them to play against larger schools when they are not benefiting from that available population. I’m sure that states take such issues into account when making this decision.

      Age restrictions and recruiting issues are also something that has to be considered. In my state, recruiting athletes on the high school level is absolutely forbidden. Coaches can be permanently banned and schools can be declared ineligible in a sport. Allowing home schoolers could lead to attempts to recruit athletes. Districts with open enrollment (where students can choose their high school within the district rather than being geographically assigned) could not very well deny the option to choose a school to home schooled students, either, so “go to your nearest public school” is not necessarily a viable solution to the potential for recruiting of home schooled athletes.

      In other words, it is not really a simple matter.

      • Tess

        “In other words, it is not really a simple matter.”

        And yet 29 states seem to have figured it out just fine. Anybody from one of these states who can comment on how it’s going? (homeschoolers are a very small fraction of the population anyway, and then only a fraction of that will actually participate, so I’m not sure how visible these effects even are)

        (not directed at anyone in particular, but at this general thread) Geez, the tribalism that is formed regarding where/how you went to school! I’m glad I’m an adult now and can, simply by keeping my mouth shut, avoid being pidgeonholed into any of these camps of students anymore. :P I guess I just don’t understand the exclusivity and refusal to invite “outsiders” into “communities” (which are actually public schools, and as institutes of learning, should be able to provide [some or all] instruction to anyone who needs it. But then again I’m an information junkie, so I’ll support any increase in the dissemination of knowledge. I’d support classes being a la carte too, and open to any child, regardless of where they primarily get other knowledge (private or home). The more information out there in everyone’s grasp, the happier things are! :D Go ahead everyone, pick out the myriad potential fairness problems/logistical difficulties with that–but at least enjoy the fact that it’s still a very lovely thought…)

  • Christine

    Given that a lot of the complaints are about homeschooled athletes taking spaces that could go to the public school students, one fix for that would be that if a certain area (e.g. a city) had enough home school students to form a team, they would have to be one team in the rotation. And yes, this would basically be the same thing as playing in a regular league, down to a parent coach, which could cause trouble if it was an isolationist family who provided the coach, but a code of conduct for the coaches would help with that. And yes, there are other logistical problems, but this opens up spaces. (Someone who can’t get on the team when there’s 5 homeschoolers trying out wouldn’t have gotten an athletic scholarship anyhow, and can find a different extra-curricular to round out their admissions).

    • Anonymouse

      Christine, I agree with the first part of your comment–homeschool leagues. My area already does that. As to a public school student hoping to play but being squeezed off a team by a homeschool not getting a scholarship–that’s not the point. I ran track and did gymnastics in high school because I loved it, not because I was looking for a scholarship. Many students want to play for the love of it, but it appears that the homeschoolers demanding to be on a public school team have an ulterior motive in mind. That is a real tragedy, to deny a kid going to a school a chance to play so some kid who doesn’t even go to the school can try for a scholarship.

      • Christine

        Actually I didn’t reference homeschool leagues anywhere in my comment. It isn’t at all what I was trying to suggest.

      • Anonymouse

        @Christine: “one fix for that would be that if a certain area (e.g. a city) had enough home school students to form a team, they would have to be one team in the rotation. ”

        Sorry. that sounded like you were talking about homeschool leagues.

  • Noelle

    Looking through these comments, I see many of us repeating the themes of how the school sports culture can be toxic. And I’m glad to see I am not the only one who hates pep rallies. I would assume that parents who choose to school at home were trying to avoid this type of stuff, and I’m a little surprised to see they want in on it. Libby, you may have no idea what we non-athletic kids went through. And how could you? Do you want to know more? School sports are not always the fun + exercise you seem to be thinking here.

    • luckyducky

      Yes, sports culture can be toxic but it doesn’t have to be. The pep rallies and high status stuff was reserved for the football team and, to a lesser extent, boys’ basketball team at my high school. I get the sense that it is pretty consistent across the US, maybe substituting hockey, lacrosse, or soccer in a few places, but always boys. The girls’ teams are pretty much ignored, there were never pep rallies for us even when the girls’ teams did really well, like win State one year.

      Yes, I really disliked how the football team and players were so privileged and the effect it had on those boys — they were awful. I dislike it so much that there would have to be some very compelling arguments for me to allow my own son to play on whatever is/are the privileged team(s) (football and hockey are already out because of the high risk of neurological damage). However, for the rest of us, sports was a positive formative experience – learning teamwork, time management, and doing something physical that we enjoyed. It wasn’t about jocks vs. nerds (there was too much overlap for that to be a meaningful distinction), I got about as much recognition and status for got to State in tract as I did for going to State for an academic competition — outside of my circle of friends, essentially nothing.

      And while sports isn’t for everyone, expanding women’s athletics has been really central in the women’s movement and can have a really positive influence on girls.

      • Anonymouse

        Sports can be very beneficial for girls. Sports doesn’t have to take place at a public school, though.

      • Noelle

        My high school did atendence mandatory pep assemblies for any team that was doing well. This included some girl as well as boy sports. Being forced to cheer for something didn’t endear it to me. Kinda did the opposite. Were it optional, and not treated like a tent revival, I would likely feel differently.

        But that’s my hang-up. I know many people of both genders who did enjoy their sporting activities in their schools. It’s not fair of me to begrudge them their good experiences because mine were bad. I was a small and uncoordinated kid, who got picked last for every team in gym, never could make a ball do whatever it was a ball was supposed to do, and was taunted plenty for being a clumsy nerd through 9th grade. The last few years were in a different school and I was allowed to be my introverted nerdy self in peace, excepting the bothersome assemblies.

        Sports should be good fun, exercise, and skill building for everyone who wants to participate, regardless of gender.

  • Caitlin

    Our son attends public school, but it’s a magnet that has no sports. He isn’t allowed to play sports for a different school’s team. He also can’t join any of the other schools’ clubs or participate in their plays or join thire debate team (something he would REALLY enjoy). Why? Because we chose to send him to a school that doesn’t have any of that (because we decided there were so many other advantages to the school he does attend). Who can attend school activities is not a homeschool issue–it’s more about whether kids can play a sport or be involved as a participating member in any activity at a school they don’t attend.

    • Anonymouse

      Caitlin, I agree with you. The parents who choose not to send their kids to a public school are the ones who are choosing for their children. If they’re angry at the public school that their children can’t play on a public school team, then their anger is misplaced–they should be angry at themselves, because it was their decision to keep the child out of the school.

  • DataSnake

    I like the idea of requiring that homeschool student athletes pass tests to show they’re keeping up academically. The parents of one of my middle school classmates decided to homeschool her throughout high school so that she could spend her time practicing soccer instead of studying. The parents were convinced she’d “go pro” right out of high school and never need to worry about grades. Long story short, they were wrong. They made the stupid call, and she was the one who paid the price (she’s currently working her way through a the local community college, so it’s not like they ruined her whole life, it’s still sad that she’s four years behind where she should be).

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