Around the country the continuing dilemma of some homeschooling families is what to do for sport activities.Â The situation is by no means uniform as some communities have many activities for children and teens available to residents,Â while mostÂ others have the majority of their sporting actitivties tied to school enrollment.Â A recent news article is from Alabama.
MontgomeryAdvertiser.com, Montgomery, Alabama, 5 September 2005 School choices must be made
Beyond that, however, there are valid concerns about accountability and potential misuse. "When a player was at a basketball game and misbehaved, who would he answer to?" asked Dan Washburn, executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association. The association does not permit home-schooled students to take part in athletics at public schools.
The coach.Â The player would answer to the coach. Coaches make players run laps, do pushups, sit on benches, or boots them from the team.Â That’s what coaches do.Â
- Washburn noted that although home-schooled students do have to meet some academic standards, these may not be the specific standards public schools require for participation in athletics.
The AmericanÂ tradition of connecting to schoolsÂ so many of the activitiesÂ for children and teenagers, might be traced to the example set by schools in England, as demonstrated by the fictionalÂ Quidditch teamsÂ in the Harry Potter series of books.Â The English have connected many of their children’s non-schooling activities to their schools.Â Americans have much the same model.Â
But what ifÂ our cultureÂ became moreÂ German insteadÂ (the spectre of theÂ now-defunct-state-of-Prussia school-model notwithstanding)? The contemporaryÂ German model of ‘extra-curricular activities’Â is so ‘extra’ that they aren’t even a part ofÂ a school’s activities, they’re community activities.Â The ‘extra-ness’ is extended because, for many of the activities, adults areÂ also membersÂ of the club, and instruct and mentor their younger colleagues.Â
Among the community clubs ("Vereine")Â in our villageÂ in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, were chess, small-animal breeding, bird-breeding, shooting, fishing, soccer, dog-breeding in general, choirs, Hohner accordion, judo, Karneval (like Mardi Gras), fruit gardening, tennis, tobacco (tobacco grew in many of theÂ fields behind our house), tennis, table tennis, German shepherd-breeding, and horseback riding.Â My daughters, even as Americans who didn’t attend local schools,Â were members of the horseback riding club.Â
Some of the clubs even had sub-clubs, as with the Shooting Club’s band.Â Â At the beginning of the hunting season,Â the band (adults and teens)Â marched around town playing hunting songs.Â Â There was no parade per seÂ (although an oompah-permit may have been involved), just the band celebrating the beginning of the season with (perhaps as part of the percussion section) the shootersÂ firingÂ blasts into the airÂ at apparently appropriate moments.Â It was memorable.
If children’s sportsÂ becomeÂ community activities divorced from schools, the entire question of GPA-entitlement goes out the window.Â Entitlement to the activity could be based on residency so that all the children in an area would be eligible to participate, unless,Â of course, the programs are meant to be exclusive.Â Are extra-curriculars meant as carrots or enrichment?Â
The community modelÂ isÂ the sameÂ one that has beenÂ used for decades by military youth centers around the world.Â Through youth centers, I learned to sail, my brother was a pool shark,Â one son played football, another played basketball, and the daughters rode horses.Â IfÂ parents are willing to pay the fees, and if the kiddies behave themselves, the children are enrolled.Â The AmericanÂ town I now live in uses this for their swim team.Â "The Swim Team accepts anyone ages 6 through High SchoolÂ that [sic] can swim the length of the pool."Â
How would a coach concerned about the academic progress of a player be able to determine that status? What’s to prevent a parent from assuring a coach that Junior is acing all his algebra tests at home, whether he is or not?
Leaving aside theÂ implication thatÂ homeschooling parents lie,Â what does algebra have to do with eitherÂ "Junior’s" desire, orÂ need,Â to participate in sporting activities?Â Â In the case of my present community’s swim team, nothing.Â The kids have to be able to swim the length of the pool.Â (And why the deprecation of calling the homeschooled child "Junior" and insinuating that he isn’t indeedÂ "acing" algebra?)
The connection between GPA and the ability to pass, punt and kick, is spurious.Â Children of all academic stripes are involved in existing community sportsÂ programs, in military youth activities, and programsÂ run by organizations such asÂ Big Brother/Big Sister andÂ theÂ YMCA, demonstrating a need for all children to find a place for healthy activity.Â The problem appears to be that there aren’t enough groups in enough areas of the country, or that school programs have tied up the majority of the players.
Galliher would go even further, extending these opportunities to students at private schools without athletic programs of their own. One has to wonder just what he sees the role of public schools to be.
Exactly!Â What is the role of public schools?Â Â Are the schools meant for educating children, or for providingÂ a selection-process for a community’s high-profile sporting activities?Â Are the children there to be educated, or to provide good P.R.?
Academics and athletics bothÂ have merit, and all children should be eligible to participate regardless of their standing in the other program, whichever one that is.Â How would it look to deny children enrollment in biologyÂ class because they couldn’t climb the rope in the gymnasium and touch the ceiling?Â "Sorry, noÂ ninety-pound weaklings/fat, four-eyed nerdsÂ in biology class. You didn’t ace P.E.Â If you want to take the college-track courses, you have to be fit."Â Given the health crisis in American society, perhaps more children in sporting programs is as important as children acing algebra.
- The decision to home-school or to send children to a private school is up to the individual family, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with either choice. But with that choice has to come the realization that one is choosing not to be part of the public school system. Put simply, you’re in or you’re out. Picking and choosing shouldn’t be an option.
On the one hand I agree that it is fickle to reject the academic services of a public school and thenÂ show up at the doorÂ insisting that, as a tax-paying citizen, your child should be re-admitted forÂ the sporting program.Â Retirees, childless couples, andÂ single adults do not use the schools, but they fund them.Â There is no ticket to ride just because you pay taxes.Â But, with a community’s resources tied up inÂ a largeÂ schooling/athletic program, and most of the kids already participating there, where areÂ the non-public-school-usingÂ families, or the non-varsity-skilled players,Â to go?Â
It would seem to be fairer to divorce schooling from athletics and other extra activities, and either split off the tax monies that fund high-profile programsÂ to give more childrenÂ a chance to participate, or allow the citizens to keep the money and pay for what they want.
Children need toÂ growÂ up healthyÂ as well as beingÂ academically prepared for adulthood