Homeschooling, or home education directed by parents, is a growing alternative for many children across the country. The number of homeschooled children will grow between 5 to 12% each year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute. During the 2007-2008 school year, about 2 million children (grades Kindergarten to 12) were homeschooled. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling young athletes.
Homeschooling is a growing trend for elite athletes. Tim Tebow, a quarterback from the University of Florida, was the first homeschooled athlete to win the Heisman Trophy in 2007. Bode Miller, Olympic alpine skier, was homeschooled until the age of 10. Jason Taylor, Washington Redskins quarterback, was homeschooled and played for a public school team in Pennsylvania. Katie Hoff, Olympic swimmer and Shaun White, snowboarder and X Games gold medalist, were also homeschooled.
Homeschooling can give competitive young athletes the opportunity to change the balance of academics and athletics in their lives. It allows young athletes the freedom to travel to competitions without the burden of missing classes. This flexible schedule is an advantage for athletes such as elite swimmers who need proper nutrition and recovery time between practices and meets. Homeschooling advocate Paul Yetter, who coaches Katie Hoff, feels that homeschooling helps young athletes learn time management. Athletes with more flexible schedules must take the responsibility of balancing sports with their schoolwork.
Homeschooling provides athletes with more time to practice and train. For example, young tennis athletes may choose homeschooling so they can devote more time to their training. Junior tennis is more competitive than high school tennis, and a more attractive option for homeschooled athletes. Some home-educated tennis players train in hopes of playing collegiate or professional tennis.
Young homeschooled athletes have the opportunity to interact with other children their age through sports. Sports can help all children, no matter their schooling style, build confidence by mastering new skills or making new friends. Kids can learn lifelong lessons through sports such as cooperation and dedication.
Homeschooled athletes may find it harder to break into team sports. Some homeschoolers will form their own teams, which are advertised only by word-of-mouth. These teams are often financed through parents or fundraisers. Some public schools will allow homeschooled kids to play on their teams. Homeschoolers also may participate in sports teams offered by community programs and private schools. Teams run by homeschoolers in basketball, volleyball and soccer have organized leagues at the local and state level and have garnered national and regional championships.
Homeschooling may be a disadvantage for some young athletes. Some homeschooled athletes may not be allowed on school teams. Those who oppose homeschooling, including Rob Reich, a Stanford University political scientist, believe that homeschooling makes it more difficult for kids to receive a good education. Critics of homeschooled athletes believe that sports become more important than academics. Sometimes parents decide their kids’ athletic pursuits, rather than the young athletes themselves. In this case, kids may play sports to please their parents.
Critics also argue that homeschooling encourages kids to specialize in one sport at a young age. Specialization has its disadvantages. Young athletes may become burned out or suffer from overuse injuries.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to homeschooling young athletes. Parents should take these into account when deciding whether or not to homeschool their young athletes.
Many parents who homeschool their kids do so because they want them to be independent thinkers who take charge of their own education. These parents are known for encouraging their kids to follow their hearts. In this case, the students are likely to pick their own sport and pursue it because they love it–and for no other reason. This philosophy will benefit the athletes in the same way it benefits the students. The children and teens will play because they love the game.