Although the issue of homeschool student participation in public high school sports isn’t exactly a pressing national concern, it hits pretty close to home in our family–both our kids are competitive club-level swimmers who could contribute to the success of our local high school’s swim team (perennial runners-up in the county championships). I’m personally conflicted about the issue as far as my kids are concerned, but don’t want to bore our readers with those private concerns.
On the other hand, this Washington Post op-ed raises at least one issue that is of broader interest. The foundation of the author’s argument against homeschool participation in public school sports is that homeschoolers aren’t part of the high school community. In an obvious sense, they aren’t. They’re not in classes with the high school kids. But in another sense, they are. They live in the same neighborhoods, play on the same club sports teams, participate in the same “afterschool” activities (like scouts), and worship in the same churches. That sounds like community to me. (Okay, I know I’m painting with a broad brush. There’s a range of community engagement by homeeschool families, just as there is a range of community engagement with non-homeschool families.)
I recognize that public high schools (and public schools in general) are in many ways identified with their geographic communities. But it seems to me that to define community membership exclusively or largely in terms of high school attendance is to leave too little to the community as it’s defined informally (by “civil society”) and too much to the community as it’s defined by the government.
Let’s say there’s a boy named Johnny who attends basketball games at his neighborhood high school. His older brother goes there, as did his big sister. He attends the school’s summer basketball camp and is counting the seasons until he can try out for the team. For years, his mom has left work early to run the concession stand at the gym on game nights.
Now spring ahead a few years. Johnny attends that high school, knows most of the teachers by name, has learned what cafeteria food to avoid, can identify his locker by smell and has designs on a blue-eyed brunette in biology.
Johnny’s school is his life. Always has been. He’s not a just a member of the community–he’ s a member of his school community.
I repeat: “Johnny’s school is his life.” Or, as the author says later, the high school is the hub of the community. I think that that’s somewhat of an exaggeration, but to the extent that it is true, we’re permitting the government to define our children’s lives and the core of our communities. Would it not be better to permit “civil society” to play a larger role and government–at all levels–to play a smaller role in defining our lives?