Stories from Homeschooling Families

The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers (VaHomeschoolers) has heard from many Virginians who support the goal of creating opportunities for homeschooled students to participate in public school sports and activities.  Below, you can read a sampling of what Virginia families have told us. Please email us if you’d like to share your story. 

Family of Teachers Supports Homeschool Access

Our family attended one of the hearings in Richmond last year on the Tebow Bill and we were completely disappointed by the reaction of those speaking on behalf of the VHSL. Their hostility toward children who want to simply play sports was overwhelming. Ironic, considering the fact that they are an organization that is supposed to ensure fairness in sports for all student athletes.

We are from a family of public school teachers. The homeschooling parent in our family is a former teacher, her sister is a teacher–her husband is a teacher and football coach, and our grandfather was a teacher. All of whom support our decision to homeschool and participate in sports activities.

Most parents of children in public schools and coaches that we know are surprised to hear that homeschoolers are not allowed to play sports at public high schools. We support our local teams attending football games and other sports activities, seeing many friends from the community who many assume that since we are there, we are allowed to participate if we choose.

As we see it, the VHSL is a private, independent corporation that dictates to its “members” the rules of participation and who can or cannot access public fields and public services. How is that possible or legal?  How can “public” schools and, therefore, “public” teams belong to a league that discriminates? How can they have a monopoly on all public schools in Virginia?

The VHSL continually points to “fairness” as a reason homeschoolers should not be included in sports activities. We want our children to work hard, to excel academically, and to be productive members of our communities. Our family has been a member of our Prince William County Community for 20 years. For 11 of those years we have coached, refereed, and played with and against many athletes in our community that, now, at the high school level we are no longer “allowed” to participated with; fairness is all we ask.

 Micah Fitz (age 14) and Terri Erwin-Fitz, Bristow

Stronger Communities, More Choices

All parents are raising children who will one day lead our communities to meet the needs of all of our citizens. To do this they must be able to know all members of their community and work together in teams of people with diverse beliefs, backgrounds and priorities based on knowledge and not stereotypes. We give up an opportunity to teach this to all our children when we have policies that institutionally divide groups of children into “us” and “them.” It seems inconsistent, unnatural, and unhealthy for a our public school system to teach the value of tolerating and embracing diversity on one hand, while on the other hand saying that some students can’t play on our team because their families have made an educational choice (what is best for them) that happens to be different from public school.

My child interacts with children of all ages who go to public school, private school and homeschool. All are from families who want what is best for their children. We respect their choices and applaud this priority. With so many families today struggling to do what is best for their children under difficult circumstances, effective policies need to facilitate options and innovation, not impede them.  These bills represent an opportunity for children to learn to work together toward a common goal by capitalizing on what they have in common while respecting their differences.I implore you to not let this opportunity pass us by.

While the term “homeschoolers” may be efficient for policy discussions, please remember that we are first members of our community who just happen to homeschool. Many homeschooling parents are volunteers, coaches, and scout leaders who invest in the community’s children regardless of how the children are educated. We just ask for the same consideration.

 Laura Baldwin, Washington County

Boys Want to Play Ball!

My sons are 8 and 9 years old. They both have played baseball since they were 4 years old. Homeschooling was not our first choice, but now we all love it so much it is our only choice. But when it comes to sports, we have to take a pause on one dream to address another. They play Travel Baseball, Little League and in the past Pony “Rec” ball. They love ball, but after a certain age, their options are very limited unless they are in formal school, that offers baseball. I know very few kids make it to the pros, but why should they give up that dream for an education that is tailored to their needs? My youngest son is not even 9 yet and easily handling the 4th grade academic requirements, but emotionally he is still every bit of an 8 year old. But he loves to play ball!! Both of my sons know, at this time, in this state, if they wish to be “seen” playing ball they will have to attend “school” away from home. Not a happy prospect, but at this time they can’t pursue both dreams..

— Julia Thompson, Southampton County

Daughter Needs Homeschool Academics, Dreams of School Sports

I chose homeschooling this year for my 6th-grade daughter, Emma, for academic reasons. I felt that in school, Emma was losing her desire to learn, she was falling behind in math, and she was losing confidence in herself.  As a public high school teacher, I understand that if students leave elementary school with these characteristics, many times they continue to fall behind.

Because Emma is homeschooled, we have to pay almost $100 or more for her to play any sport. I think if she is athletically inclined in a sport she should be able to try out for a spot on the team at our local school. I understand the objections to allowing homeschoolers to participate. My athletic director at my former high school informed of all of them. But homeschooled students should not be kept from playing a sport for their community school due to those who wish to abuse the system. Legislation such as this year’s bills (HB 1442 and SB 812) should be put in place so those parents and education officials who seek to game the system will not be able to. My daughter is very disappointed that she will not get to play for her school this year or in high school. This is something she had been looking forward to since she watched her older brother play basketball for his school team.

 Annett Gilchrist, Chester, VA

My Kids Would Just Like the Opportunity to Try Out

I have six children, all homeschooled, ages 8-18. Not all are athletes, but the three that are, are quite good! Eve, my 15 year old, would like to try out for volleyball, gymnastics and diving. Anne, 10, is a diver and gymnast. Max is 8 and plays baseball and dives.

We are asking for the chance for our children to try out for teams. We aren’t asking for special consideration. We realize that in certain sports like basketball and baseball, chances would be slim. In others, like swimming, track, cross country, diving, and gymnastics, where skills, times, and scores speak for themselves, our homeschooled athletes could be a great asset to the high school team.

 Julie Fowler, Fairfax County

Staying Active as Part of the Local Community 

Our family supports homeschool access for two main reasons: one, keeping students active and two, mutualistic symbiosis. First, too often during these HS years the priority for exercise dwindles because of other responsibilities; however, keeping the children involved in sports and extracurriculars all through high school helps solidify the habit of being well balanced physically, emotionally, and academically. Who wouldn’t want their child well balanced and better prepared for the rigors of college or trade vocations after high school? Everyone agrees providing opportunities in sports and extracurricular activities to public school students is vital to their success; is that any less important for other students in the community? It shouldn’t be. Don’t be the one who discriminates between students. Make sports and activities available to ALL students in the community.

We hail from a small town, Culpeper. The high school years are challenging ones to find sports and extracurriculars for the homeschooled students in the immediate community to be involved in because there are such limited resources in terms of volunteers, field space, and league competition. Pooling what little resources we have together as a whole community with no discrimination as to school choice would be a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship. All community members would be able to come together as a team and encourage and support all students in their sports and activities. Both sets of children, homeschooled and public schooled, and their families, benefit when there is equal sports access, especially in small towns.

In closing, you will always find reasons NOT to move towards mutualism. We have heard about the administrative differences, the student work load differences, the fairness differences; but those can easily be worked out with a well balanced approach and teamwork. In fact, there is evidence of things working out just fine in many other states. Why not Virginia? Let us become a united commonwealth in helping students get active and stay active on public school property without discrimination as to school choice for our mutual benefit.

NOW is the time to show the students that we as leaders in the community are problem solvers; that we want our community to live, play and work together for our mutual benefit.

 Julie Canavan, Culpeper

A Champion Who Can’t Compete

My son Micah Pratt runs Cross Country. He is a member of the Peaks View Pacers Cross Country Team. This past season Micah became the fastest 8th grader from Virginia at the Foot Locker South Regional Championships. Micah and the Pacers run a full season against many schools, both private and public. However, they are not allowed under current law to run in the state championships because the state championships are sponsored by VHSL. Therefore my son Micah and his teammates are limited from experiencing the full potential of statewide competition and are not allowed to compete against champion teams from public schools, even though their parents contribute to the funding of public schools.

We live in Campbell County Virginia. We own a home in Campbell County. We pay taxes to Campbell County. Yet, we don’t receive any compensation from Campbell County or the Commonwealth of Virginia for home educating our children. Other families do. For example, my neighbors who choose to send their children to public schools receive the benefit of my tax dollars. So, on a simple economic level my family is receiving taxation without representation. But for me that is not the greater point.

The greater point for me is that there is a group of young, hardworking, disciplined, American citizens, who are discriminated against because they choose to home educate. This is wrong and should be changed.

— Joshua Pratt, Campbell County

Not a Homeschooler, But in Favor of Homeschool Sports Access

My children are not homeschooled, but I strongly support allowing homeschooled children to play sports in public schools. First, homeschoolers do not get a break on their taxes for not sending their children to public schools so they have a right to access some services provided by public schoolswhy not sports? Second, many sports programs within Virginia are pay-to-play. Allowing homeschooled children to play sports and pay the fee like the other students would increase the revenue generated. In addition, many schools cannot get enough players to adequately field teams. Allowing homeschooled children will help local teams fill the field. Overall there are many reasons for allowing home schooled children access to sports in public schools. The reasons for not allowing them to play don’t make any sense at all.

—  Rich Osedacz, Sterling

Teen Homeschooler Who Wants to Be Heard

My name is Lily Garay. I am 16 years old, a high school Junior, and have been home-schooled since the 2nd grade. It was my choice and still is today. Not because my parents forced me or told me horrible stories about public school, but because I decided that I needed a different learning structure. I currently attend Albemarle High School part time. I attended full time for the 2nd semester of my sophomore year, but decided that I needed to learn differently.

On the days I don’t go to Albemarle I study driver’s education, write (I am currently working on a book), work on my music, work on my online/offline businesses, and do some intern work for two magazines. I also help out at my church and other local ministries. I am fully bilingual in both English and Spanish. Because of my music I have traveled nationwide and to Puerto Rico. Not only do I sing, but I do public-speaking as well. I speak at conferences or to children/youth wherever I am asked. Oh I also go to the gym with my dad! He says that he’s my “phys ed teacher”. I let him think that.

 I would like to play basketball with some girls my age, but Upward (a Christian basketball team) doesn’t have a high-school program. If I wanted to I could enroll in SOCA or the YMCA, but being on a team that is more competitive would be nice. Even though I go to AHS part time I still cannot even try out for a sport! My parents pay the same tax as other students. The only difference between a public school student and me is that I have chosen to educate myself in a different way. I have learned a lot of things over my lifetime, but what I cannot seem to grasp is why I am not allowed to try out for a sport at my public school. Public. Even if the coach doesn’t pick me because I’m not the best, at least let me try out. Homeschoolers in Albemarle County are allowed to take music courses and other classes, but not allowed to try out for sports. How does this make any sense? I know that I am only one voice, but I am one voice that will be heard. Please pass the Tebow Bill.

—  Lily Garay, Albemarle

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