Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

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Homeschool parents deservedly lose battle to get kids on public school teams

with 34 comments

This piece in the Joliet Herald News makes it sound like the Minooka (Ill.) school board members on the majority side of a recent 5-2 vote in favor of excluding homeschooled kids from sports made a decision tantamount to throwing those kids in the educational garbage can. To the contrary. The homeschooling parents already made their statement about public schools by not enrolling their children in them, so I don’t think they get the right to cherrypick when suddenly they decide the evil government school has something they want.

Before I get to that, a word from Chris Balkema, one of the board members who voted for allowing homeschoolers to play:

“Right now with students and parents who are paying our bills, the current policy discriminates against students who learn at home.”

This is laughable. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA. For if Balkema had even the slightest understanding of his state’s laws on homeschooling, and on the state high school athletic association’s rules on homeschoolers, he would have punted this dumb suggestion out the door, too. (Of course, asking a school board member to be educated and even-handed is usually a lot to ask.)

Illinois, actually, is a very friendly state to homeschoolers. A 1950 court decision allowed for homeschooling, treating those children as if they were enrolled in their own little private school. Today, Illinois is one of 10 states that does not require homeschooling parents to alert their public school district that they are teaching their kids at home. A 1974 federal court ruling said that parents in the state have to file some sort of progress report with the district, but no one ever enforces that. So Illinois parents have carte blanche to teach their kids at home without the government poking its nose inside the kitchen, or the dining room, or wherever the home classroom is.

In exchange for being left out of the claws of the local government-run school district, however, home-schooled students can’t participate in it. You might say, but they pay taxes to the district! True. But state funding of the schools is determined by actual attendance. So the homeschooling parents would end up getting services on state taxpayers’ dime. The only services Illinois law mandates are given to private as well as public school students are drivers’ education, and a limited amount of special education. That’s it. But that’s the price you pay for getting to teach your child exactly the way you want, when you want. The Illinois State Board of Education says that districts are under no obligation to provide anything else. They can, but they don’t have to.

Plus, the Illinois High School Association has clear rules on whether private school kids — and, remember, that’s what homeschoolers are — can play for a public school. The rules are, they can’t. If the testimony of Theon Hill at that Minooka board hearing is to be believed, his playing sports at Romeoville High School while still a homeschooler would have been a violation of this IHSA rule:

A student must attend a member school and may only represent in interscholastic competition the member school the student attends. For purposes of this by-law, the term “attend” shall mean that the student is enrolled at the member school,
and is taking at, or under arrangements approved by the member school, a minimum of twenty (20) credit hours of work
for which credit toward high school graduation will be granted by the member school upon the student’s completing and
passing the courses. The school which enrolls the student shall be exclusively responsible to verify the student’s compliance
with all of the eligibility requirements of all IHSA by-laws.

I know that many states have passed so-called “Tim Tebow laws,” allowing homeschool athletes to play school sports. Florida passed the first such law in 1996, though not because of Tebow, who wouldn’t bless high school fields with his presence for about another half-decade. However, Tebow is usually cited as Reason No. 1 for creating such a law, as if every homeschooler was a future Heisman Trophy winner.

Tim Tebow sez: “Hey, homeschool kids! You’re not going to not have sex with someone like this if you can’t play school sports!”

Even if a state doesn’t pass a Tim Tebow law, in some cases courts have allowed homeschoolers to play. One might say, activist courts, if they didn’t have the support of right-wing, Christian organizations such as the Home School Legal Defense Association. That makes those judges honest, common-sense kinds of people.

The Home School Legal Defense Association itself shows how homeschooling organizations — still overwhelming evangelical Christian, even as homeschooling has spread beyond its population (insufferable liberals instead call it “unschooling” to separate themselves from the conservative rabble) — try to play both sides of the high school football field chain-link fence.

After a West Virginia lawsuit the HSLDA supported successfully overturned the state’s rule preventing homeschoolers from playing public school sports, the victorious attorney declared that the “homeschooled are part of the public education system.” The HSLDA said, um, no, they’re not: “HSLDA disagrees with this statement. Homeschooled children are privately educated and have only minor contact with the public school system.”

Yes — only the contact that homeschool families choose to have, the kind that makes up for what homeschoolers lack, without exposing them too much to bad things like cooties, street gangs, and Catholics.

Look, homeschool parents: you’re either all-in, or you’re out. It doesn’t hurt to ask a public school if little Mordecai can play, but if it says no, don’t walk out in a huff and act like you’ve been denied your inalienable rights. Plenty of other parents across the country have set up networks of homeschool athletic leagues, bands, choirs, you name it. Don’t have one in your area? Here are some resources for starting one.

[youtubevid id=”1MD7JgRFZ1A”]

An example of a homeschool league. Also, an example of possible trademark infringement that might draw a letter from the NCAA.

Failing that, your local parks departments or independent sports leagues have teams that are open to anyone with only one qualification: the check clears. There are club teams you find as well. In fact, you’re better off with them if you think little Esther Homeschooler has a shot at a college scholarship, because most coaches scout elite leagues; they don’t even bother to look at school sports anymore.

For those Minooka, Ill., parents all upset that their kids aren’t going to be future Indians, if it means that much to you, put your kids in public schools. And trust that your influence doesn’t disappear the moment your child is out of your sight, and that you can still educate your child even when others are doing some of that work for you.

34 Responses

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  1. It would be nice if you could keep your tone more neutral and not include such seething contempt for those who, for reasons you probably aren’t in on (considering that you can’t have knowledge of all individual situations), have taken their children out of public school to educate them at home. Otherwise it seems like an informative, thought-provoking article. Now that I’ve read to the end, your tone really stinks, though. I wonder why you had to mix your personal agenda of strong disapproval/ridicule into this otherwise balanced piece.


    May 12, 2010 at 9:31 am

  2. Then again, I didn’t realize until now that basically all you write about is sports, so I guess that makes sense. Still, how about canning some of your bile? It doesn’t make a writer sound good and it doesn’t really entertain a reader (just the writer, entertaining himself.)


    May 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

  3. If I don’t entertain myself, you cretinous douchebag, I can’t entertain anyone else, you stupid know-nothing. How about you can it, buster?

    (In case you were wondering, that was a joke.)

    (To answer you question, I needed to mix my personal agenda because, well, I felt like it. I don’t have anything against homeschooling, but I do have something against homeschoolers who decide they need the public schools they despise so much only whenever it suits their needs.)

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 10:24 am

  4. Your jokes aren’t especially funny, since I didn’t say anything of the sort to you (“cretinous douchebag,” etc.) so the point of humor is probably lost on everyone but yourself.

    I share your personal agenda of believing that homeschoolers should accept a limitation of services based on their decision not to take advantage of public education; however, your writing sure does sound like you have more against them than that. It was rife with judgmental insults. Read it over if you are not sure.

    I’m not convinced they all “despise” the public school system, either. There are a variety of reasons to withdraw a child from public school and educate him/her at home. I bet you know and care very little about those reasons. That’s your right, of course, but your tone makes you sound excessively intolerant and like a big blowhard. Take it or leave it. If you want to sound like an A-hole, go ahead.


    May 12, 2010 at 10:33 am

  5. As someone who homeschools my kids, I’m always interested in interesting constructive argument and conversation about the nature and value of education in all its forms. Unfortunately your transparent hostility to homeschooling, and your many revealed misunderstandings of the terrain, takes a lot of the potential fun out of engaging with you in a fruitful discussion of the issue of sports access. For instance, “insufferable liberals” don’t call homeschooling “unschooling” to separate themselves from fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers, as per your characterization. Actually, “unschooling” is an approach to educating kids outside of an institutional setting, that has nothing to do with whether one practices any sort of religion. Many of us who homeschool without religious motive, call ourselves secular homeschoolers. You should google that term. You might learn something. Of course, you’ll be taken out of your comfort zone of beliefs about homeschoolers, and potentially robbed of your favorite tool, which appears to be lambaste rather than solid analysis.

    Here in Charlottesville, VA, my son has happily taken part in the band program at the local middle school. In our town, all other public school offerings are available to families who are taking some or most of the responsibility for educating their kids. I love that flexibility. We’d love to take part in sports, but because sports teams aren’t technically run by the schools, and the organization that runs them has a no-homeschool participation policy, sports access doesn’t currently exist. If you’d like to exchange views respectfully about the justice and potential benefits (as I currently see them) of allowing all of a city or district’s students to participate in school-based teams; and the injustice and potential drawbacks (as you currently see them) of opening up access, I’m be happy to oblige. We can have a back and forth in your column, or here in postings. Yours truly, a secular homeschooler who thinks its desirable and fair to open sports teams to kids of the right age who reside in a district. — Jen Downey


    May 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

  6. jendowney,
    No one in my family is into sports, so I’m not too interested in the sports aspect of this story. I am a mother of four, two of whom are doing extremely well in public school, one of whom is doing well, and one of whom is homeschooled and has a genetic condition and is disabled.

    The author called me “cretinous,” and a “douchebag” and seems very interested, judging from his other articles, in sports (thus the subject matter including sports) but seems even more interested in denigrating a group he probably cares little to learn more about. Considering that he has also posted a photo of a young lady and most likely without her permission has made reference to sex with her in the caption (I refer to this as a general observation on his character), the outlook for a civil debate with this author looks bleak. Better not to waste more time here – I know I won’t.


    May 12, 2010 at 10:50 am

  7. Cphocker, I am actually capable of civil debate. However, I’m wondering whether you’re capable of having a sense of humor.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

  8. Jen:

    My snark aside, I appreciate your comments. That sounds a bit odd to me that the school allows you to participate in activities as a homeschooler, but because sports aren’t school-sponsored, you can’t. I figured it would be more likely to be the other way around because at least with nonschool-sponsored programs, the only barrier to entry is whether your family can afford to pay the fee.

    Just so you know, my background is that my kids were at first in Catholic school, and then for various reasons we put them in public schools — and couldn’t be happier. The education is far better (and I’m not in a district anyone would consider the most top-shelf), the access is activities is better, and their exposure to people from many different walks of life is better. I know there are many different reasons for homeschooling, though most of the resources I’ve found online are of an evangelical Christian bent. I can understand it in a situation where things have become toxic at the public schools, and there is no viable alternative. But I think my kids are learning a lot by being around other kids every day, and I don’t mean just the creative use of swearing by one particular kid on their bus.

    As you might have guessed, where I have a problem with homeschool families demanding access to activities in the name of “I pay my taxes, too!” is that by nature of the arrangement you have created what is essentially a one- (or however many kids you have) person private school. The Catholic school kids aren’t playing on the public school sports team, or the band, so why do homeschoolers get special access?

    There are a lot of things we pay taxes for that about the greater good, and that we might choose to use or not use, or that we might have access to or might not have access to. My taxes go to pay for tanks, but I don’t think the Defense Department is going to let me demand to come in and drive one unless I sign up for the Army.

    I know that in some areas there are flex arrangements where homeschool students take some classes at school and some at home, and I have less of a problem with those students also participating in school activities. At least, for the purposes of getting state money, those students are counted. And with pay-to-play becoming the norm in many districts, that to me opens up the argument a little more. Again, at least the homeschool family is participating (beyond taxes) in the funding.

    I do not expect these arguments, whether they are presented like an academic paper or like an a-hole blogger, to sway any homeschool family. The beauty of this blog is I get to say how I feel — and you do, too. Thanks for reading.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 11:07 am

  9. The “hey I pay my taxes too!” bit pisses me off. So? You have every right to enroll your kids in school. And, we all pay taxes for things that don’t directly benefit us– leaving aside that public education benefits us all at least indirectly.
    I don’t have kids, but I vote “yes” for the school levy whenever the district has to come begging. (It has been about 97 years since the state supreme court ruled the way schools are funded in our state is unconstitutional. We were supposed to come up with a more equitable plan. Mostly, our lawmakers waited for the issue to fade away…)
    Anyway– these parents strike me as whiners. You’re right– why don’t they investigate the offerings from their parks and rec department?


    May 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

  10. Duly noted cphocker. Mike — I look forward to responding to you, after I finish the day’s work.


    May 12, 2010 at 12:15 pm

  11. Add me to the list of people who were saddened by your homeschool comments. Painting homeschoolers as either HSLDA or “unschoolers” is missing the segment of homeschoolers that is growing the fastest: learning disabled. Many autism spectrum. We aren’t homeschooling out of ideology, but out of necessity.

    I like public schools, and support them. However, after several years of an unfunded IEP, attempts to mainstream my youngest into a 30:1 ratio class despite his severe learning disabilities (but above average intelligence), I homeschooled. The district told me the only way they could handle his learning disabilities in a ratio that was appropriate was to put him in a class with no educational content. He told them he wanted to go to college, and they said they couldn’t fund the IEP to keep him in academic classes until we “tried” their proposed plan to show it wouldn’t work. Everyone knew it would waste a third year. He had failed the last two years but been socially promoted over my objections.

    We could have sued. We decided to save the money and use it to provide services our son needed at home. It would have been good if many of the speech and sports programs he had been in while at public school had remained available. Social services at the county level is usually coordinated by the school. We had to take over that part now too. Our district allows homeschoolers access to absolutely nothing. School budget problems are more severe now, and the lawyer who we talked to tells us that our experience is becoming more common now. But, we were one of the first pushed out in this method. It was years ago.

    My son is starting tech. college this week, with some modifications but regular entry and regular classes. He got his GED at 17. My public school district has gotten worse. The non-academic “babysitting” program they wanted me to use was just sued by parents and the local disabilities alliance for abusing the children in the program. The school district is now also now trying to desegregate (I’m in the south) and I am actively fighting for my public school still. They served my non-disabled child very well. The homeschool mailing list in my area which supports children with disabilities continues to explode in membership.

    Thing about which children you are further dumping on the floor when you take this stance. Look here:
    This isn’t just me.

    I’m not worried about the sports world missing the next Tebow. I’m worried about these children missing the world.


    May 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

  12. Hechicera:

    I can totally understand why you did what you did (although I’m not seeing the connection between what I wrote and the link you provided). Special needs is always a complicated issue, and some districts are far better equipped (in budget and brainpower) to handle it than others. I also know that in many states there is an assumption that most private schools (including homeschool situations) aren’t equipped to handle special needs, so provisions are made to allow any student in the district to access programs through the schools — with varying levels of access and success, obviously.

    For what it’s worth, your situation wasn’t the intended target.

    I can understand why people will feel disaffection with their public schools and seek alternatives. My problem is with parents who then turn around and demand access to extracurricular activities because “My taxes pay for it, too!” like the Minooka parents at that board meeting.

    In many other states, more opportunities are provided to homeschoolers by law, but often that comes with the price of those parents having to submit lesson plans to their public schools, or have their kids evaluated by them, or something where the school itself gets more control. That’s why you see some homeschool advocates online who are more in line with a relationship like the one in Illinois — their stance is that if you start demanding services from your public school, that school is going to stick its nose into your business, and do you really want that?

    Thanks for your response. Good luck.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 1:14 pm

  13. I have been reading Cook’s “blog” on and off for some time. I am worried about him and he should be too. He is slipping away and I have to wonder if he is playing-with-a full deck.

    There is a new book that may help him. Bob-man. i want to help you. If you can read this -without-using a potty mouth and act like a big boy then you are ok. But frankly, you should not be involved with anything that has the word YOUTH in it.


    The Surprising Truth About Self-Image: Seven Signs That Point to the “Unhealthy Self-Image” Problem You Didn’t Know You Had
    You might think you feel pretty darn good about yourself.

    But how healthy is your self-image, really? Author and child psychiatrist Warren B. Seiler Jr., M.D., reveals some unexpected symptoms that might open your eyes to how you really see yourself—and how that perception is hurting you.

    Little Rock, AR (May 2010)—What does the phrase “unhealthy self-image” mean to you? Most likely, you picture someone who thinks she’s fat even though she’s at her ideal body weight, a cringing wallflower, or a (potentially) vibrant conversationalist who’s too intimidated to speak up.

    And it’s true: an unhealthy self-image can manifest itself through these types of behaviors. But according to author and child and adolescent psychiatrist Warren B. Seiler Jr., self-image problems also manifest in ways you haven’t considered—ways that might even apply to you.

    “Individuals with unhealthy self-images aren’t always meek and weak and easy to manipulate,” points out Dr. Seiler, author of the new book Battling the Enemy Within: Conquering the causes of inner struggle and unhappiness (“In fact, they can be attractive and successful, but underneath it all they simply don’t have an inner sense of well-being—and for many of them, learning that their self-image is unhealthy would come as quite a shock.”

    Dr. Seiler, who’s been a child and adolescent psychiatrist for over 30 years, has worked time and time again with individuals who erroneously blamed their problems and stumbling blocks on outside factors. In reality, though, their unhappiness was deeply rooted in how they viewed themselves.

    “Often—on the surface—individuals who have an unhealthy self-image are attractive, thriving, and popular,” Seiler notes. “But underlying their social and monetary success is a marked lack of inner peace and comfort—they simply don’t experience any real joy in life.”
    “I’ve noticed that these people often use shortcuts like alcohol, drugs, the relentless pursuit of continued success, and the acquisition of material things as a means of experiencing inner peace,” he adds. “This strategy might work for awhile, but ultimately the only way to banish anxiety and uneasiness is through the hard work it takes to develop a healthy self-image.”

    So, what exactly does a person with an unhealthy self-image look like? How can you tell if you’re one of them? And most importantly, how can you go about working toward a healthier life?

    Read on for some of Seiler’s insights, beginning with qualities that often accompany an unhealthy self-image:

    You’re tightly wound. Would you say that you often experience an inner sense of well-being? Or are you more likely to be anxious, uneasy, stressed out, or upset? If you answered “yes” to the second question but not the first, chances are your self-image isn’t where it needs to be. But wait, you object. I value myself and my well-being pretty highly! The last thing I want to do is “settle.” Why else would I be running myself ragged if not in pursuit of happiness?
    “Well,” Seiler responds, “You’re obviously working long hours and piling too much on your plate because you’re looking for a sense of inner peace that you don’t currently possess.

    You’re overburdened, overstressed, and on a hair trigger because you’re trying to build up comfort through external as opposed to internal means. Here’s the bottom line: to the degree your self-image is healthy, it automatically causes you to experience inner peace, comfort, and happiness.”

    You’re fiercely independent. There’s no arguing the fact that our society idealizes the rugged individualist—you know, the person who blazes his own trail with no regard to naysayers, who bucks convention, and who looks to no one but himself for help. After all, this person has got it figured out, right? Maybe not. According to Seiler, the belief that being truly independent means not needing help or validation from anyone is patently false—and it’s a symptom of an ailing self-image.
    “Believe it or not, true independence is a state in which you recognize your responsibility to strengthen your weaknesses—to seek advice and counsel from whatever good source is available,” Seiler explains. “People who falsely believe that they need only themselves to function are usually afraid of and incapable of genuine commitment. They’re unable to look honestly at themselves; they lack the maturity to recognize and confront their strengths and weaknesses.”

    You’re quietly destructive. As we all know, destructiveness isn’t always dramatic. It doesn’t have to include imploding buildings, or even a house that’s been trashed in a fit of anger. Destructive behaviors can be quieter, or even “normal”: drinking just a bit too much, using too many mood-altering prescription drugs, overeating, overworking, being overly critical of a spouse, failing to be responsible in school or at work—just to name a few examples.
    “Even if they haven’t articulated it to themselves, these people know that everything isn’t ‘right’ in their lives,” says Seiler. “They can sense that somewhere a piece is missing. And so they attempt to alleviate that feeling (which is actually the neurotic guilt that is caused by the simple presence of the unhealthy self-image) with behaviors that are ultimately self-defeating. It’s a vicious cycle, to these destructive behaviors bring about pain and emotional discomfort, which temporarily eliminates the underlying sense of neurotic guilt. As this unhealthy neurotic guilt begins to rise again, the cycle of self-destructive behaviors repeats itself. This process of self-destructiveness may repeat itself over and over again (sometimes forever) unless the individual recognizes and confronts it.

    Unfortunately, these self-destructive behaviors often hurt others, too—not just the individual who’s engaging in them.”

    You underachieve—sometimes subtly. Sure, some folks with unhealthy self-images underachieve in the traditional way—they procrastinate, they never seem to accomplish much, and they’re stuck in dead-end jobs. However, even “superstars” can be underachievers…the areas they neglect just aren’t as evident. Here’s an example: a senior financial analyst has reached the pinnacle of his career, but he’s also overweight and is embroiled in a messy divorce. Although he has been successful in his career, he has underachieved in terms of physical health and family relationships. Why? On some level, he doesn’t think he’s worth putting that much effort into.
    “Those with a healthy self-image aren’t egomaniacs, but they do know their own self-worth, and they capitalize on the assets they’ve been given—and that includes ‘soft skills’ like relationship-building,” Seiler points out.

    “On the flip side, those with an unhealthy self-image experience themselves on some level to be bad, rotten, or worthless. So why would they shed blood, sweat, and tears to improve something (in this case, themselves!) they don’t think is worth all that much in the first place?”

    You’re overly aggressive. There are two ways to go on the offensive. You can look at the terrain ahead of you and map out the route that allows you the easiest passage—and causes the least disturbance to your surroundings. Or you can just barrel full steam ahead like a football lineman, running roughshod over everyone and everything. Both get you to your destination—but only one earns you true respect. Does it surprise you to learn that people with unhealthy self-images don’t understand this distinction?

    “Individuals with unhealthy self-images simply don’t grasp the difference between being aggressive and being assertive,” Seiler points out. “They often believe that by lashing out at or dominating others, they’re building themselves up. In reality, though, they’re just accumulating more and more guilt, which prompts even more aggressive behaviors.”
    You’re missing the Good Samaritan gene. Sure, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and to some extent you have to look out for yourself. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take a few minutes to lend a helping hand along the way! Say you’re rushing into work (late) and you drop your briefcase in the lobby. Keeping in mind that we are all a combination of both healthy and unhealthy self-images, a coworker with a predominately healthy self-image will stop and help you gather up your papers. A coworker without a predominately healthy self-image will probably walk on by…and maybe even snicker at you as you scramble around to gather up your disheveled files.

    “Individuals with unhealthy self-images sometimes get their kicks through the misfortune of others,” asserts Seiler. “It’s not that they lack empathy—they, along with sociopaths and con artists, are able to understand what another person is feeling quite well. The distinguishing factor is they lack kindness to go along with that empathy. They are not able to treat others according to their needs, and are likely to spin others’ misfortunes to their own ego’s advantage: at least I’m better off than that guy!”

    You don’t want the best for others. Ever had a “frenemy?” You know, the friend who puts on a show of being “there for you” but still manages to pepper the conversation with stinging little jabs and backhanded compliments? Well, turns out Mom was right when she told your seven-year-old self to ignore your friends’ teasing: they’re just jealous.

    “It’s impossible for a person with an unhealthy self-image to relate to you from a place devoid of jealousy or malice,” explains Seiler. “Whether they know it or not, they’re looking for validation—and every time something goes well for you, they feel threatened. Hence, they try to minimize your good fortune instead of just being happy for you.”

    Chances are BOB, you identified with at least one or two of the above indicators of an unhealthy self-image. If so, don’t jump to the conclusion that you’re a terrible person—these qualities are present in all of us, whether it’s to a large degree or a small one. However, do be honest with yourself about your faults…and about where they originate.

    “What most people fail to do is take personal responsibility for the way they are and for changing themselves,” says Seiler. “They want to blame everyone and everything ‘out there.’ I’ll be honest—finding the willpower to quit making these self-defeating mistakes is very difficult. The process of weakening and ultimately eliminating the unhealthy self-image gets harder before it gets easier. But you’ll find that if you force yourself to act in a healthy manner, it will become less and less difficult…and eventually, this healthy process will reinforce itself to the point that you begin to transcend life’s difficulties with optimism and confidence.”


    May 12, 2010 at 1:23 pm

  14. Bob–take a vacation, a laxitive and get some help man. You really have no clue about youth or sports.


    May 12, 2010 at 1:24 pm

  15. I agree I wasn’t the intended target. My goal in posting was to make sure the lens you saw homeschoolers with wasn’t limited to ideological ones, and the desire access to programs at public schools wasn’t limited to sports. Homeschoolers now more than ever are not a homogeneous group.

    The correlation with my link is to show that in many districts it isn’t just an academic choice, but perhaps a physical safety choice to homeschool a disabled child. Note Wake County, NC is one of the recent lawsuits on that link about abuse of disabled children in public schools. I’m rather familiar with it, as it is my district. It is the 19th largest district in the nation, and in a fairly well off area of North Carolina encompassing one of the major bedroom communities for Research Triangle Park. Still, the programs for disabled are underfunded and poorly trained staff it seems simply handcuffed autistic children they did not know how to deal with! Abuses in districts with more funding issues are proportionally worse than handcuffs, with at least one death.

    Like you say, once you factor in the disabled, it gets to be a more complicated issue.


    May 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

  16. People homeschool for a lot of different reasons. I know hundreds of homeschooling families, none of whom chose homeschooling to make a statement against the government. It’s about the individual kids’ needs.

    Public school is public, the purpose of which is to provide an education to all children. We all pay taxes for it. It shouldn’t be able to exclude any group, even if the kids only chose to participate part-time.

    Sara McGrath

    May 12, 2010 at 2:49 pm

  17. Public schools make exclusions all the time, even for those kids enrolled there full-time. Kids get cut from teams. Only a certain number of kids can get into a certain class. You can’t ride the bus unless you live a certain distance away. There are minimum standards to get into magnet schools.

    Anyway, public schools will enroll anyone who lives inside its district boundaries. As I’ve said, if you homeschool, great. But don’t expect to have the public school bend over backward for you when you come back demanding it does something for you and your unenrolled child.

    As a practical matter — and I presume most homeschool parents do this — I would think any parents considering homeschool should check and know the laws and rules in their state, and talk with the local school district in advance to see what services your child is eligible to use there. Deciding what to do with your child’s schooling is an emotional decision (I have four kids — I know this), but that would at least hold out the possibility of having these conversations in as objective a setting as possible.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 3:15 pm

  18. I appreciate your worry and caring, shouldweplay. I also appreciate the assumption, based on the release you posted, that on the outside I’m attractive, thriving and popular.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 3:20 pm

  19. A vacation I could use. A laxative — not quite as necessary.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 3:22 pm

  20. Alright, Bob, let’s find the brass tacks and start this dialogue. Looking at your original and subsequent posts on sports access, am I correct in taking from them that one of your strongest objections to homeschoolers playing on school-sponsored sports teams is that as you put it: “”you’re either all-in, or you’re out” of the public school system. In other words, by your lights, if you decide to take on the responsibility for educating your child, than you have somehow disqualified your child from making any use of public education resources. Is that a fair assessment?

    I find that view rather arbitrary. You’re identifying “students who participate full time” as the proper beneficiaries of a community-supported sports program largely based on their status as students who participate full time. This sounds an awful lot like a circular argument. Why exactly should that be so? Why exactly should the participation by a child who attends the local school “all day” be prioritized over one who makes only partial or no use of its academic offerings? Is it because attending school is some sort of punishment, and playing on a team is a perk or a reward? I can’t believe you’d think that, so what exactly justifies such a priority in your eyes? How does opening teams to local homeschooled kids exact a cost, that they aren’t already proportionally bearing, or would be happy to bear? Believe me, homseschool parents tend to be a very involved, do-it-for-yourself lot. They’ll do their share as sports team boosters.

    From my perspective, its a neighborhood or a town that constitutes a learning community. Within that community we have young learners. The local school system is one educational resource within the community. All families with kids support it, yes, through taxes, AND they are all entitled to make use of it. Right now, most families make full time use of local schools, some make part time use of them, and some largely do their own thing. But to conclude that, given that reality, only those who participate all day should have the opportunity to play on sports teams, feels again, arbitrary, and not much of an argument.

    Sure that’s the way its been. Because when school-based sports teams came into existence, there didn’t exist a sizeable contingent of families who recognized alternative educational possibilities outside of the 100% compulsory institution-based variety. Kids simply went to school and that was that.

    But now that contingent of families exist. We are a reality. I shudder when recall other things schools have resisted along the way: desegration, funding girls’ sports teams, including kids with special needs.etc. I think schools can handle the relatively minor reorientation that sports teams belong to every of-age kid in the community, no matter what their educational path.

    I’d like to get a little pie in the sky here, and say I’d really appreciate if parents modeled an attitude of inclusiveness rather than resentment towards those who choose not to attend school full-time. Maybe even thank us for freeing up resources for other kids. We don’t get mad at people if they choose not go to the park five days a week, or bar them from going there at all if they don’t want to be there all day, five days a week. Nor do we say, Tut-tut, if you want to be allowed to play in the park, you are required to play in the sandbox, hang from the monkey bars, and use every other piece of equipment here, or else, no using any of it. To me, keeping homeschooled kids off of teams looks like discrimination based on a sort of strange petulance. There’s no logical, ethical or other compelling reason to discriminate in this way. (In 24 states, homeschool kids have the right to take part). There doesn’t have to be any extra cost involved.


    May 12, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  21. Is this real? Am I really getting a lecture on inclusiveness from someone who made the intentional decision to keep her kids away from a collective school environment? And am I really hearing homeschooler rights lumped in with desegregation, funding girls’ teams and kids with special needs, all of which deal with people discriminated against for who they were, not the decisions they made? Wow. Just wow.

    However, if you would like a logical, ethical and compelling reason for homeschool families not to be able to pick and choose school sports and activities at their whim, I’ll give it to you.

    To start — your park analogy is flawed. A school is organized, a park is not. Your child can go to the park at any appointed time without affecting anybody else, unless there’s a fight over a particular swing.

    A school has rules and regulations, and while you might call it a bureaucracy, they exist for a reason. And the reasons stem from the decision to let a student (or nonstudent) play or not has consequences for other people — never mind the philosophical argument that a homeschool child is the equivalent of a private school child, and on no planet does a private school child play on a public school team. (The Virginia High School League, which set rules for sports in your state, specifically defines a homeschoolers as the equivalent of a private schooler.)

    First, there is the argument that the team represents the school, and as such should be made up of its students. Believe me, if you want to see something really make a froth-at-the-mouth argument about keeping homeschoolers out of school sports, you can hear from the parents of actually enrolled students who kids were bumped aside for your child. Every kid doesn’t make the team.

    Second, there IS an extra cost involved. Even though you pay taxes, funding is also set through average daily attendance. So if your kid is on a team, it’s a kid who isn’t getting funding for your school. There is a cost to outfitting a team member, transporting that team member, and other costs — none of which would be funded in full, as they would be with full-time students.

    Third, allowing homeschool kids to play can set up a system rife with abuse. Without some sort of educational standard for the homeschooled child (which a lot of states don’t require), you have the possibility that some 6-foot-11 shot-blocking machine becomes a “homeschooled” kid on your team. Given the athletic tricks coaches try to pull within the system as it stands (especially at private schools), don’t think that wouldn’t happen.

    That’s why there are a lot of hoops a homeschooled child would have to jump through to play — hoops that a lot of parents don’t want to deal with, which is why homeschool sports leagues have popped up nationwide (or why homeschool parents take advantage of nonschool-affliated programs). In Virginia, if I’ve read the rules right, you have to alert the local school district you are homeschooling, but the most you have to do after that is maybe send a list of subjects (not a detailed description of what is taught — just a list), and maybe have your child take standardized tests, unless you have an educator who signs off that your child is advancing.

    Assuming Virginia passes a law requiring public schools to accept homeschoolers on their teams, the Virginia High School League would still set eligibility requirements — the minimum class load, grade point average, whatever. Basically, you would be handing over your curriculum to the Virginia High School League, instead of having the freedom to craft it as you wish. Again, that’s why a lot of homeschool families have formed their own sports leagues. Their kids can play sports, but they don’t have to satisfy someone else’s rules, other than be a certified homeschooled child.

    By the way, the rules apply to interscholastic sports, but not to intramurals or any activity within a school. So, for example, a homeschooled child could play with the orchestra — but not in a state competition against other schools. However, there is another issue — insurance. Schools’ liability and accident insurance policies cover their own students. If your child gets hurt — or your child hurts someone else — the school most likely isn’t covered for any damages it might incur, because your child is not an enrolled student. In short, your child is a liability risk.

    Obviously, there are ways all of this might be mitigated, and homeschooled students allowed on school sports teams. But it’s not as easy as snapping your fingers and making it happen. And it also can have profound effects on how you educate your child, and the control you have over educating your child. So be careful what you wish for.

    Bob Cook

    May 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

  22. Let’s start where you started. You ask:

    “Is this real? Am I really getting a lecture on inclusiveness from someone who made the intentional decision to keep her kids away from a collective school environment?”

    Yes, that’s right. I feel fully competent to speak to the issue of inclusiveness as it relates to sports access. Inclusiveness means to welcome anyone in. To include rather than to exclude. As in, any family is welcome to homeschool in whatever manner they’d like. Public school systems which only allow full-time students to play on teams, are not being inclusive of all the kids living in their districts who would like to play on a team. (And contrary to your earlier facile suggestions, its not always easy for homeschooled kids to find a non-school based team to play on).

    Your wording — “keep her kids away from a collective school environment” — seems to assume that I chose to homeschool my kids to avoid their mixing with people different from themselves, and that to homeschool is to exclude. While there may be some families that choose homeschooling for that reason, I have yet to meet any in my personal wide world of homeschoolers. Its certainly not my family’s desire. But consider this, diversity is not just a possibility at a school. Life is full of opportunities to meet, and spend time with people of all ages, and from all walks of life. Neighbors, shop-keepers, kids at the playground, people you meet while volunteering, or attending community events,etc. Especially when you’re not cooped up in school five days a week. Also, in case you realize this, but homeschoolers don’t sit at home in their basements, talking only to each other and the walls. Its an old saw among homeschoolers, that, we’re never home.

    You ask,(frothy with indignation, I might add): “And am I really hearing homeschooler rights lumped in with desegregation, funding girls’ teams and kids with special needs, all of which deal with people discriminated against for who they were, not the decisions they made? Wow. Just wow.

    Read what I wrote more carefully. I specifically did not lump homeschooler “rights” as you characterize them with the other things I mentioned in terms of the meaningfulness of their impact. I said that the reorientation necessary for schools to open up teams to part or full time homeschoolers was MINOR compared with what was entailed when schools finally BEGRUDGINGLY went along with desegregation, girls’ teams and accommodating students with special needs. My point was that schools have a record of resisting even the changes most obviously connected with justice and fairness for huge numbers of students, but eventually against all the naysayers, those changes were made without all the hellish consequences foreseen by the very school systems that opposed them. I’m equally confident, that in the case of an issue of relatively MINOR importance, such as allowing homeschoolers to play on school teams, schools will find when all is said and done, that they can handle the change in policy easily. No big deal.

    And now, I have to go to sleep. I’ll answer your list of claimed ethical, logical and/or compelling reasons to keep homeschoolers off of teams, tomorrow.


    May 13, 2010 at 12:21 am

  23. Feel free to respond. As for me, I’m done.

    Bob Cook

    May 13, 2010 at 12:43 am

  24. You’re done? Wow, just wow. cphocker was right. Classic bully move. Say your piece, and then flee the room. I guess you are much more interested in being right, than figuring out what is true. You’d make an excellent fundamentalist. Oh, wait, apparently, you already are one. Different set of sacred cows and received truths, but same manner of interacting with those who are doing things differently than you are.


    May 13, 2010 at 8:03 am

  25. How can I flee the room? This is my site!

    Anyway, “I’m done” means I’m spoken my piece, and rather than engage in a circular, infinite debate where it’s clear neither side is going to change its tune, I’m letting what I say stand. You and others can debate whether it’s right or wrong, and whether I’m an asshole or not. I’m comfortable with any conclusion you reach.

    But, just in case anyone needs it, to summarize:

    1. If you choose to homeschool your child, great. That’s your right. I wouldn’t do it, and, yes, I wonder if some parents do it for doctrinaire reasons that have less to do with education and more to do with controlling influences on their kids. But I also know many parents do it out of frustration with what their local schools have to offer. So be it. In the end, they’re your kids, and I’m busy enough raising my own to worry too much about yours. If homeschooling works for you and your children, that’s great.

    2. Homeschooling is a private school-type arrangement, which means that like other private school kids, you don’t necessarily have the right to demand public school services that an enrolled student would receive. The “I pay my taxes” argument is weak. There are a lot of things our taxes go toward that are for the collective good, and from which we don’t necessarily derive a first-hand benefit. Plus, the money you pay in property taxes to the school doesn’t come close to the full cost of educating your child.

    3. If you feel, as a homeschool parent, that you must have services from the public school, be prepared to have to meet any state law or regulation regarding your child’s education. In other words, don’t be shocked if the demand to put your homeschooled child in school sports means the school suddenly, when it never asked before, wants to see your curriculum, has your child take standardized tests, or otherwise wants some check to ensure your child is meeting academic eligibility standards put upon full-time enrolled students. If you feel your child’s education is better served by not participating in the school bureaucracy — which could be the right decision — then don’t be shocked if a school does not allow your child to participate in sports.

    Bob Cook

    May 13, 2010 at 10:50 am

  26. Such a typical attitude from those who support the absolute 100% decline of the public education system in America. They see kids as tools. A way to make a political statement – but parents who homeschool, like me, see our kids are people. People we want to succeed, not people we want to drop off at the local government institution for mind-games and babysitting. Personally, I could care less about the sports teams as my children aren’t big into playing sports – but I pay taxes to the schools. I pay for other children’s textbooks and sports equipment. So if I wanted to send my child to school for sports it would only seem fair that I get some of what I pay for. But, whatever. This article by Bob Cook only shows their fear of, and contempt for, parents who love their children enough to pay for their education TWICE. It’s OK Bob Cook, your homeschool-o-phobia doesn’t bother me. It’s just another pathetic attempt to uphold the utter failure of what this country called “education”. You don’t have to worry your pretty-little head about what the homeschoolers do – our kids will be making policy in a another decade and we’ll make the sports exclusion right. And while his comments reek of cover you’re a** backtracking – his article is clear. How funny it is that children will miss out on an opportunity because the Bob Cook’s of the world feel the need to vilify parents who take education seriously. Just hilarious. I’ve got a 12 year old who’s more mature than this fool.


    May 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm

  27. I don’t fear homeschooling. I fear insufferable homeschooling parents who think they’re better than the rest of us because THEY CARE SO MUCH ABOUT THEIR KIDS!!!!!!! unlike the rest of us parents, who by comparison encourage our children to play in traffic.

    Get over yourselves. Please. You’re doing what all of us parents do — make the choices we feel are best for our children. Some of us, though, understand there are consequences for our decisions, and that sometimes to get what we want for our children, we might have to sacrifice something.

    Answer me this, simpleschooling: if government schools are nothing but mindgames or whatever, why would you even want your kids there for sports? Mind you, they are run by the same entity and people for which you expressed your utter contempt. This is what I don’t get. To me, this is the same mindset as “Keep the government away from my Medicare!” You’re contradicting yourself. I just don’t get why you want to fight so hard to be a part of something you dislike so much. And if it’s about taxes — well, clearly you resent your taxes going toward other people’s education. If that’s the case, all I can say is, thanks for paying to educate my children!

    Bob Cook

    May 13, 2010 at 10:02 pm

  28. What’s with the Jewish names???


    May 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm

  29. For purposes of this article, they are Old Testament Biblical names.

    Bob Cook

    May 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm

  30. Bob Cook – I feel sort of sorry for you. Can you seriously look a parent in the face in this day and age and say Public Education is GOOD? Really?

    Homeschoolers only want a better educational experience for their children, but sadly this this opens the door for parents who don’t make education their top priority, to feel insecure and offended. That’s what the anti-homeschoolers are all about. They don’t want to homeschool, they can’t homeschool, they want two cars and a flat screen in every room so mom must go to work everyday, they think “only other people’s schools are bad”, they pretend all homeschooled children are anti-social freaks and all homeschool parents are religious fanatics…but deep down they know they are wrong. They know that if they took it upon themselves to educate their own children not only would they have a better relationship with them, they’d be giving them a superior one on one education akin to a private tutor.

    But IF the non-homeschoolers allowed themselves to feel this, that would mean they were wrong. And there is only one thing worse than being wrong – and that’s the other side being right.

    So Bob Cook and the Bob Cooks of the world – I say rise up against homeschoolers who want to play sports! Tell them what idiots they are – er maybe douchebags is better – and proclaim that anyone who DARE slip outside the Public School System be banned from ALL contact – ESPECIALLY – gasp – from SPORTS! For that is what they DESERVE, those thankless parents who think they are so much better than the rest of us…

    Grow up.


    May 17, 2010 at 9:57 am

  31. Actually, I can say public education is good. After trying Catholic school for a few years (yes, I cared enough to pay twice for education), I found the public schools to be a much better education all around — better curriculum, better activities, better experience among the other students. As I’ve mentioned many times, I don’t have a problem with homeschooling, per se. If you think it’s best for your kids, then do it. I don’t think it would be best for mine, so I don’t.

    The question I still haven’t seen answered is why, if public education is so awful, you would fight for your child to be include in school-sponsored activities. These are the same administrators, teachers and students that you find toxic for your own child when it comes to everyday education. They will still be involved in sports, band, theater, etc. If I’m demonizing anyone, it’s homeschool families who want to have it both ways: on one hand they believe (maybe rightly so, depending on where you live) that the public education system is the worst possible place for their child, yet they demand that same system bend to meet every need, on the homeschoolers’ terms, where, frankly, homeschooling falls short.

    This is what I objected to from the Minooka parents, which I why I wrote what I wrote. If homeschoolers want to meet all the academic standards required for full-time public school kids to participate in activities, then I think there’s a way to make it work for homeschoolers to do that (even if I, personally, still think homeschooling is the equivalent of operating a private school, and students and parents at private schools tend not to demand they be allowed to participate in public school activities).

    My other question to homeschooling parents is, do you want to cede control of your child’s education to meet those standards. Because if you don’t already, you will have to submit a detailed lesson plan for each subject taught, make sure those subjects are consistent with public school graduation requirements, and provide evidence of grades so that your student would meet the minimum grade-point average standard. As I’ve mentioned, this is why you see homeschool leagues across the country — because many homeschooling parents don’t want to do that.

    Believe it or not, in public schools, participating in extracurricular activities is not an entitlement — it’s a privilege. At least, in my school district it is.

    Bob Cook

    May 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

  32. Bob, I thought you were “done,” “out of here” or however you phrased your prior refusal to communicate further once you had asked someone to sock it to you but then you couldn’t take it (you dish it out but you can’t take it)

    Stop mentioning the Catholic schools as they don’t work for purposes of arguments presented here. Everyone knows that they are inferior to the public schools, on average. That doesn’t mean that all private schools are. Catholic schools are in their own special sub-group of private schools, not belonging with the rest of private schools for almost any classification purposes for the very reason that it’s well-known that public schools are better than Catholic schools.


    May 17, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  33. I thought I was done, but new arguments got presented, so I came back. Also, commenters kept missing the point, so I came back. Anyway, it might surprise you to learn, CP, that there are still plenty of people who inherently think Catholic schools are better than public schools.

    Also, I’m back because I’m still looking for the answers to my questions:

    1. Why does a homeschooling parent who finds public schools so reprehensible (and I understand not all do) want their child to participate in any activity there? Not “because I pay taxes” — emotionally, why are you comfortable with your child in the environment of the same authorities who you feel like would fail your child in a classroom setting?
    2. Are you, as a homeschooling parent, willing to change how you teach, and give the public school some authority over your curriculum and grading practices, so your child can meet public-school and state athletic association academic standards for organized school extracurricular activities?

    Bob Cook

    May 17, 2010 at 2:01 pm

  34. Is it our fault how the government spends our tax dollars? My child is the most beautiful, confident, energetic child. He is also one of the most beautiful physical specimens that God has created. I have three children, but he is my first and obviously designed to play sports. The problem is that he has had a serious speech delay from early on and has endured one year of public school in which he has gone from an extremely outgoing and confident boy, to an angry and tearful boy struggling to communicate and hating school. He had two years of a Christian preschool prior to public school in which he excelled and was happy about learning. Is it wrong to protect and positively reinforce my child at home and still want the best for him physically. Luckily the Christian school in the area takes home school athletes and there is also the YMCA. I doubt that the public school here is getting scouted anyway, since they lease their speech teacher and don’t offer speech to anyone unless demanded or you have your advocate.


    July 1, 2010 at 2:53 pm

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