Can Homeschoolers Play Sports?
For my 14-year-old daughter, Alana, golf is more than just a sport. It’s her passion. After a year or so of homeschooling, she informed us that she really wanted to “get into” golf after learning and playing informally for years. We signed her up for lessons with an LPGA golf professional and soon discovered the many advantages of homeschooling for her development as an athlete. I’m proud to say that she is one of those students who is reaping the benefits of homeschool sports.
Read on to discover how homeschooling can help your student harness the power of sports to lay a foundation for success in academics, and beyond.
Advantages of Homeschooling for Student Athletes
Sports for homeschoolers can offer many opportunities for growth and learning. In addition to advancing health and wellness, sports can improve self-discipline and instill responsibility. For youth who struggle with academics or the social transitions during middle and high school ages, homeschool sports can build confidence by structuring a self-concept that includes strengths as well as challenges, and by providing repeated opportunities for success. Homeschool athletics can be used as an opportunity for physical movement breaks between academic sessions, help to satisfy physical education goals, and bridge any socialization gaps.
Flexible Training and Coaching Schedule
Homeschooling’s high level of flexibility can make the pursuit of athletics easier in a lot of ways. Homeschool athletes often have access to practice times and coaching sessions that are unavailable to traditional public or private school students. Homeschool athletes may find that athletic fields, basketball courts, gymnasiums, driving ranges, and other recreational areas are less busy during the day when non-homeschoolers are in their brick-and-mortar schools.
With Time4Learning, Alana is able to create a flexible balance between academics and sports that extends through all seven days of the week. In the mornings, she stretches, exercises, and participates in early golf lessons with adults or with peers. In the afternoons, she often practices at the course or driving range before either of them get too busy. Time4Learning’s online lessons and other homeschool activities can be scheduled around her golf obligations—including in the evenings or on weekends.
Flexibility to Travel for Competitions
Using an online learning program like Time4Learning allows homeschoolers like us to be mobile. By not having to lug around textbooks and other curriculum materials, homeschool athletes can learn anywhere there is an Internet connection. For athletes who travel to compete, this flexibility enables travel time to remain productive. Alana, for example, can bring her laptop with her on long car rides to tournaments so that when she returns home, she does not have a pile of academic work to do. Traveling homeschool athletes can therefore save time on road trips, in airports, and in hotel rooms–time that can be spent on practice and exercise or hobbies and other fun activities.
Flexibility to Adjust Schedules to Promote Health
The flexible nature of homeschooling allows for scheduling around practice and competitions in a way that promotes health and success. Families who homeschool have more time to monitor their student’s meals to ensure proper nutrition. They can also modify schedules to promote proper sleep and energy levels. For example, Alana’s school schedule can be moved later in the day in order to adjust for a late night or to follow an intense practice or competition. She can regain energy, rest muscles, and be rejuvenated for success in both homeschool athletics and academics the next day.
For all of these reasons, it’s no wonder so many athletes choose to homeschool. Natalia, a competitive dancer who homeschools with Time4Learning is able to travel while homeschooling for competitions across the country, and use weekends “to catch up or to get ahead when she has a competition the following week.
Common Concerns for Homeschoolers Playing Sports
While the benefits of sports for homeschoolers and the advantages of homeschooling for athletes are both quite clear, there are some challenges for homeschool athletes because of legislation and logistics that are currently in place and have not yet caught up with the powerful trend that has made the homeschooling population nearly ten percent of our nation’s students. Because our state doesn’t require access to public school sports for homeschoolers, Alana’s golf experiences in high school–and maybe even college–may be limited compared to those of her public school peers. Here are two challenges your homeschool athlete may encounter:
Can Homeschoolers Play High School Sports?
Currently, there are over 30 U.S.states that allow homeschooled students to play public school sports. The Tim Tebow bill, also known as the “Equal Opportunity for Access in Education Act,” is a bill that makes this possible. It is named after Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, who was homeschooled throughout K-12 and went on to play for the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets.
The bill provides homeschool students with access to the benefits of public school competitive sports. Some of those states have limited the extent of the law by imposing strict requirements (sometimes even requiring part-time enrollment in classes) for participation. In other states, the Tim Tebow bill is being considered.
To find out whether homeschoolers can play high school sports where you live, check your state’s homeschooling laws. Even if your state has not passed the Tim Tebow bill, you may still want to contact your local school board, school district, or private school. If your state doesn’t allow homeschool students to participate, find out if there are additional ways to compete and get noticed through traveling sports teams or participation in local, state, or national competitions by accessing your homeschool and sports networks. If your state is currently considering passage of the Tim Tebow bill, you may want to share your opinion with state legislators and get on a list to be notified of progress on the bill. Perhaps you can become an advocate for your child and other homeschoolers who want to play sports!
Homeschoolers in College Athletics
Another concern of homeschooled athletes may be access to college sports and sports scholarships. Whether or not your child can play high school sports as a homeschooler may affect how many opportunities your child has to compete against peers and how your child can be seen and recruited by college coaches. Find out if there are additional ways to compete and get noticed (e.g., through traveling sports teams or participation in local, state, or national competitions) by accessing your homeschool and sports networks.
If your child wants to play Division 1 or Division 2 sports in college, you will need to check The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) website for the NCAA homeschool eligibility requirements. These include registration fees, ACT or SAT scores, official transcripts or homeschool documentation, a listing of completed core courses, proof of high school graduation, and a signed statement by the person who managed the homeschool program. Of course, eligibility to play college sports may also affect your child’s access to college sports scholarships, so make sure you know and understand NCAA homeschool eligibility requirements before your child begins homeschooling high school!
If you are like our family, with a talented athlete being homeschooled who is about to enter ninth grade, you have a vested interest in state decisions regarding your child’s access to high school sports. As with all things homeschooling, keeping current through research and networking can lead to more opportunities and better long-term outcomes for your child.