Homeschoolers and Public School Sports
here has been a recent push from some members of the homeschooling community to pressure the state legislature to force equal access for homeschoolers to play sports in public schools. Some families feel they pay taxes and should get some return from the public schools (even if they don’t want their child to attend there full-time). I would encourage you to consider some of the reasons homeschooling parents may not actually want to push for their child to play on a public school team, and even more importantly, why involving the legislature is ill-advised.
1. When public school / homeschool partnerships were introduced in Michigan, allowing homeschoolers to have their co-op classes paid for by the local public school system, it ended up killing the majority of existing homeschool support groups and privately funded co-ops in our state. The huge network of homeschool groups that offered multiple levels of support and activities died because it’s hard to compete with “free.” It ended up giving us far less options and choices than before. I think we can safely assume the same thing will happen to our existing homeschool sports leagues here in MI if the public school becomes our go-to for sports as well as co-op classes.
2. In some states, in order to play public school sports, you need to register as a “part-time public school student,” which provides state funding for the local public school. Over time, this would increase the tax burden on citizens in the state as public school enrollment increases. (Perhaps this concern could be addressed in the legislative process by simply not allowing this when an equal access bill is drafted, but it would be a potential concern.) I do not want to increase the reach and power of the public school system by providing it with increased funding that cause our taxes to go even higher.
3. Is the social environment of the public school system something we really want our students to be involved in? Do you as a parent want your child hearing all the locker room talk and being in an environment where filthy and sexually charged language is rampant? While there is no guarantee this could never happen with a homeschool sports team, the likelihood is far less. For girls, they would need to be braced for the fact that they could be forced to play on teams with biological males. Such is the state of the public school system today.
4. The more your child is engaged in the activities of the public school, it becomes his social culture. His teammates become his friends. He is going to be far more eager to attend public school as a full-time student once he is on a team and his friends are pressuring him to go to the school. If you have decided that homeschooling is best for him, do you really want to invite a battle of him wanting to go in a different direction?
5. The public school wants to attract homeschoolers back to their system (because each student in Michigan represents $14,624 (in 2023) and they use bait like free co-op classes and sports to do so (as they often get at least partial funding for homeschooled student who participate in public school classes or activities). Should the government really be our go-to for all of our needs in life? Why can’t we create our own systems and programs without always looking to the government to be our savior and provider? If fact, we can! And we have! We have created an entirely privately-funded system of sports in Michigan and we can continue to expand it. Our privately-funded programs can remain unregulated by government control and political correctness.
6. We have seen in other states that allow equal access for sports scenarios where the entire homeschooling movement gets bad publicity because of homeschoolers being on sports teams. There is always that public school dad who thinks his kid is going to be the next NFL superstar, and his son was bumped off the team by some homeschooler “who thinks he is too good to go to public school.” The accusation is that homeschoolers are elitist, and they don’t want to be part of the normal social life of the public school, but they want to cherry-pick the perks and get benefits without really putting in the work and living the same lifestyle as everyone else. So, having homeschoolers on a public school team can sometimes sour people’s attitudes towards all homeschoolers because of the perceived injustices committed by a few.
7. In Michigan, we are currently in a legislative environment where politicians who support homeschooling are in the minority, so it can be unwise to introduce ANY homeschool legislation at this time because it waves a red flag about our presence to those would like to regulate us. In many situations, out of sight out of mind is best when the political situation is hostile to homeschooling.
8. The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is “a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by over 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools that enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.”
I have seen petitions floating around on social media asking for the legislature to regulate the MHSAA and force them to allow homeschoolers to play on public school teams. For the government to begin dictating policy to a non-profit is a bad precedent on many levels. We want private schools and homeschools to be able to play against each other’s teams without the government dictating policy about how that happens.
As Deanna Ervin, a Michigan homeschool group leader of F.A.I.T.H. in Lapeer, said in a social media post:
“(W)e began homeschool sports in our area 19 years ago because we wanted these opportunities for our homeschool children, without the inclusion of the other aspects of public-school indoctrination. Homeschool sports have a fantastic momentum, and the types of sports are continually growing. Scouting at homeschool tournaments has become very real and homeschool athletes are getting the recognition they deserve and even earning scholarships in some cases.”
I believe we should continue to support and expand the wonderful homeschooling sports programs in Michigan that are parent-led and parent-directed. This gives us the ultimate freedom to enjoy sports in an environment that encourages our values and does not increase the control and dominance of the government school system as the only option within our state. If homeschoolers can play public school sports, it is almost certain that homeschool teams will disappear as most homeschoolers flock back to the public school teams, which leaves us with less “school choice” than we started with! Do we really want an environment where our only choice is for our kids to play sports on a public school team? As it currently stands, we can begin our games with prayer, we can invite our own sponsors and choose our own schedule. We have freedom and flexibility as homeschoolers in our own leagues because we aren’t regulated by the state. It is for these reasons, as well as others, that we need to be very careful about assuming that equal access for homeschoolers into the public school system will be for the ultimate good and benefit of the broader homeschooling community.
Israel Wayne is a homeschooled graduate and homeschooling father of 11 who lives near Kalamazoo, MI. Israel is an author and conference speaker and director of www.FamilyRenewal.org.