The level of enthusiasm varies from region to region, but there is no question that sports is more important than education to most high-school students. This is as true of homeschooled children as of their private- and public-school counterparts. For while personal instruction tailored to the individual is a much superior method of learning algebra, Latin and Shakespeare, it is impossible to play football alone unless a Playstation is involved.
The laws vary from state to state, but in those school districts where homeschool participation in sports is banned, parents who wanted to give their children the chance to participate in team sports often opted for lawsuits and political lobbying in the interest of forcing public schools to allow athletes not attending those schools to play on their sports teams. However, this is a short-sighted and sub-optimal strategy for five reasons.
First, it teaches reliance on the courts and legislatures to correct a perceived injustice rather than personal initiative. Is running to Mommy Government at the first sign of difficulty truly the lesson most homeschooling parents wish to teach their children?
Second, by creating an emotional involvement with the local public school, athletic participation strengthens the very institution that should be encouraged to wither away.
Third, even if such efforts are successful, the ability to participate is unlikely to be permitted for long, as what a legislature can give under pressure, it can also take away.
Fourth, it fails to build an alternative structure for future generations of homeschooled children.
And fifth, it often doesn’t work.
And while it may be churlish and unjust to deny homeschooled children the right to play for the same institutions that are funded by their parents’ taxes, one can hardly expect coaches and athletic directors who belong to the National Education Association to embrace what is quite literally the competition and a potential threat to their financial livelihood.
So I found it encouraging to note in the Washington Times that just as their predecessors did not shirk from providing children with an academic option, modern homeschoolers are beginning to work together to offer their children sporting options as well:
Home-schooling parents in Frederick County, learning that their children could not play on high school football teams, decided not to punt. They formed their own squad instead. “My son and daughter have not been able to play football or cheer because the [community] programs end at eighth grade,” says Terry Delph, who with fellow home-school mother Nancy Werking co-founded the Central Maryland Christian Crusaders …
The Crusaders and their cheerleader squad for girls yesterday held their second informal practice at St. Stephen’s Reformed Episcopal Church in Eldersburg, Md. Official practices are set to begin July 31. The football team currently includes 28 boys, while nine girls have signed up as cheerleaders.
The separation of school and sport is hardly a new concept. Already, some of the most elite teams in the country have very little to do with school – the basketball academies that regularly send players to the NBA and NCAA Division One programs aren’t exactly devoted to academics – and in Europe nearly all sporting competition revolves around athletic clubs, not schools, which has likely helped Europe surpass the United States in both academic and athletic performance.
Public schools that can’t teach children how to read or speak English are nothing new, but when a team full of NBA All-Stars can’t even medal in basketball, then one must truly fear for the future of America.
Some thinking outside the conventional will no doubt be necessary, but allies may well be found in the churches, community centers and even professional sports teams. For example, some of the richest and most famous professional teams in the world hail from multi-sport athletic clubs, including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, which also sponsor numerous children’s squads from the first grade level on up.
It will not be an easy or a short-term endeavor to recreate an entire sporting infrastructure, but it can be done, and with the energetic growth of homeschooling, it is quite likely that it will be done. And as with standardized tests and spelling bees, success in the field of sports will eventually attract the best athletes to these extra-curricular sporting organizations, thus furthering the American enthusiasm for the development of children devoid of government control.