What About Sports?
- Friday, April 06, 2007
There are a lot of parents who get very concerned about home schooling their children when they start thinking about sports. With the amount of money that is being spent to build the best in athletic facilities at some public and private schools, and the disproportionate emphasis on sports programs in high schools across our land, many parents refuse to consider home schooling because they don't want to deprive their children of the athletic opportunities provided in institutional high school. The place that sports holds in many families seems to be quite immense in the grand scheme of things. Modern American life gives the athlete very high marks! We need to be careful not to overemphasize sports on our child's agenda. Spiritual and mental development are also required for a well-rounded student. That should go without saying for most of us.
On the other hand, giving home-school students a well-rounded sports program, especially in high school, should not be neglected any more than a good academic curriculum would be. We need to "love the Lord our God with ... all our strength" as well as our mind, heart, and soul. And when our children excel at a sport, it usually is because they are disciplined and dedicated, important qualities to instill in our children. Sports programs can help to build this. Studies also show that students who do well athletically are generally more disciplined and accomplished in their academic life as well.
But providing sports opportunities to our children in home school settings is certainly a challenge. There aren't a lot of facility options available to home schoolers in many states. When the children aren't enrolled in the public schools, there may be a reluctance to provide facilities to them. Some states have laws that provide the student equal access to the athletic facilities of the local schools. In others, such as New York where we live, the children have no access to these facilities. Many families will supplement with memberships in local YMCA's, YWCA's, or other athletic programs.
Can parents give their children the same quality of experiences athletically that children receive in public or private schools? We believe that with a commitment by the parents, any child can have a great athletic experience if he or she wants one. And in many regards it can be even better than what is offered in the other options. It all comes down to what parents are willing to do to provide such opportunities.
When Jeremiah was around 11 he showed a strong interest in basketball. He even shared with us that he wanted to play some day in college. (The end of the story is that he did make his college team, then decided to "red shirt" in order to focus on academics in his freshman year.) But as we knew, he wasn't going to be able to build a skill unless he could play through high school. So what were we to do? David had the answer. He would start a team! He would be the coach. This is a dad who knew nothing about the game except what he had seen played by others in high school and on TV. But within a few months of seeing the crisis, there was a team of seven boys from the area, all homeschoolers, playing together in a local Jewish Community Center. They lost a lot that first year. And even in the second. We tell the story in detail in our book, The Guidance Manual for the Christian Home School.
The point here is that we as parents can give our kids alternatives that show them how much they are valued. With summer approaching, sports camps are also a great way to help your children gain skills. There are a host of Christian organizations with great programs for young prospective athletes. Search the Web for ones in your state. We would be very surprised if there wasn't at least one or two within a few hundred miles of your home.
For some families, the alternative will be to find a personal instructor to work with your child, in much the same way that you would find a piano teacher for a child who wants to learn to play. Up until high school, the local YMCA or other sports center will be a way to give your child the ability to develop specific skills. Parents are always needed to coach and work in your local baseball or soccer program. (And with the question of "socialization" always looming, what better way to show that our kids are adequately being exposed to other kids, than having them play in a local sports program!)
Then comes the high school days, when you will get the opportunity to go to the Lord and ask for wisdom on how to give your son or daughter the sports experience of a lifetime. It gives new insight to the Scripture that says, "... and my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
One other very important option is the local Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) program. The AAU Web site (www.aausports.org) is filled with lists of sports programs in many states. For the college-bound student, getting on an AAU squad in their specialty is imperative.
One other point ... most of the time, the dad will be the one to lead here. Make the effort and you may find your child will end up with so much more than he or she would get in the local schools. Ultimately, there will be gratitude beyond words as our children realize how much we care for every aspect of their education!
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