The Washington Times
December 4, 2007

Washington Times Op-ed—Extracurricular Activities on Rise

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

America is recognized for its “can-do spirit,” an attitude whereby people confront the challenges before them without being defeatist. This quality is essential because a nation cannot make progress unless individuals are willing to step forward and take a risk.

Homeschoolers have that can-do spirit. In the early 1990s, despite the growing evidence of the academic and social success of homeschoolers, the homeschool movement ran into an obstacle.

The children of the homeschool pioneers of the 1980s were old enough to attend high school, and growing numbers of homeschool parents and children became conflicted about continuing homeschooling because of the desire for their children to participate in the extracurricular activities available at public school, such as sports, drama, band and debate.

Homeschoolers, therefore, were faced with a challenge. If to attend school was not an option, then the homeschool movement needed to answer this question: How are we going to respond to the wishes of parents who want their children to participate in extracurricular activities?

This is where the homeschooling can-do spirit kicked in. There was a need to construct alternatives to the public school programs. Homeschool parents volunteered their time and talent and began to tackle an incredibly difficult task.

Over the past 15 years, we have seen amazing results. Homeschoolers have developed their own sports leagues, bands, drama programs and debate leagues. These programs are larger and more developed than many people realize.

For example, Georgia and Texas have homeschool football teams. Some people may think that the standards in homeschool football are not as high as traditional high school football, however, two former players of the Georgia Force are now on college teams.

Football is certainly the hardest sport to develop a homeschool alternative for, which is why it is far more common to find homeschool basketball and soccer teams. In both basketball and soccer homeschoolers have national tournaments and most homeschoolers now have an opportunity to play for either a basketball or soccer team.

Homeschoolers have not just developed sports leagues and programs, however, they also have looked to replicate other aspects of high school. There is a national debate league for homeschoolers that holds an annual national debate championship. More than 5,000 students participate in the program.

Other activities such as band and drama also are being developed. More homeschoolers have the opportunity to display their musical and creative talents.

Due to the size and scope of the homeschool movement, it is clear that every level of these types of programs are not available for all homeschoolers.

For example, to develop a football program there has to be a concentration of homeschoolers and willing parents to make the program work. It also helps to have community facilities that can accommodate homeschoolers.

But the lesson is that it can be done.

Moreover, the future of these programs is assured because, according to the best estimates, homeschooling itself is growing at 7 percent to 15 percent per year. Sports leagues and other extracurricular activities will continue to flourish as more parents decide to homeschool.

Homeschooling parents have exhibited the can-do spirit. They are not afraid of new challenges even though it requires much effort to keep these programs moving forward. Challenging the conventional wisdom is something homeschoolers do everyday. The can-do spirit has won and homeschoolers are breaking the mold once again.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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