When parents decide to home-school their children, they do so because they find public schools lacking for one reason or another. Although religious reasons top the list, parents also have practical concerns about curriculums, textbooks, peer pressure and bullying. The appeal of the movement is seen in its growth from 850,000 students in 1999 to 1.5 million today, according to the Department of Education.
In the past, the debate about home-schooling was usually limited to whether students were being shortchanged socially. But recently, a new issue has arisen: Should home-schooled students be permitted to play varsity sports at public high schools (“Home Schoolers Are Hoping to Don Varsity Jackets in Virginia,” The New York Times, Feb. 8)? Opponents argue that allowing them to do so will undermine academic-eligibility standards for high school students. That’s because states have established requirements such as a minimum number of classes students must take and pass in order to participate. If home-schooled students are allowed to play, it would create a double standard.
But I think there’s another factor at play. It was summed up best by Kenny Henderson, the executive director of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association: If a high school is not good enough for parents, why should its athletics? In other words, home-schooling parents can’t have it both ways. (Yet it’s important to note there is a precedent in what are known as Tim Tebow laws. Tebow was home schooled but played at a public high school in Jacksonville, Florida before going on to win a Heisman Trophy at the University of Florida.)
As readers of this column know, I support parental choice of schools. However, once parents opt to home-school their children, they have made their decision clear. With that choice comes consequences. Public schools should not be cafeterias where parents can pick and choose only those parts they like. They have a hard enough time maintaining academic standards as things stand. The 29 states that have Tebow laws don’t help. The argument made by Tebow-law supporters is that since parents of home-schooled children pay taxes to support public schools, their children should be able to try out for sports teams. But being on a team is not a right, as students who don’t make the cut know.
The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.