Monday, August 6, 2007

Sports for Homeschoolers

If you've ever wished your child could be part of an organized athletic sport, but worry about the time and money you'd be spending, I hope that our story will show you that joining a team can be affordable and worth the time. Over the past ten years, my children have played soccer, baseball, volleyball, basketball, football, gymnastics and tennis. Our goals were to let them experience team play, to get out and get some exercise, and to help them see how skills can be learned and improved with steady practice.

Each started at about age 7 in our local Park and Rec soccer program. Eight weeks of practice (only one night a week) and eight games, and the season was over. Dad got involved in coaching with the second child and has continued since. At this level, no prior experience was necessary on his part, and when he coaches, he can set the practice times at times convenient to our family.

After a couple years of soccer, the children start basketball at our parish school. Requirements vary. Our children must be from a registered parish family and participate in religious ed classes. Our religious ed director lets us "homeschool" these classes. Here again, dad has helped coach some of the teams. The teams have generally been small, and the children get a lot of playing time. Our league encompasses a rural area, but even at that, we don't travel more than 30 minutes for a game. I often stay home with littler (and bigger!) children and let the athlete and dad go to the games. On days when we all go (and buy popcorn) it's a treat for the younger children.

The volleyball my girls have played has also been through our parish, while the Park and Rec offers football, tennis, etc. When an area gymnastics instructor opened a local gym, I called to see if she could provide classes for homeschooled children during the day. She was thrilled to be able to make some money during "downtime", AND offered us a greatly reduced tuition. Another bonus for us is that she herself teaches the classes. The children get top-notch instruction at a reduced rate!

As our family has grown, we've also placed siblings on teams together, even if the official guidelines would have separated them by age. For the past three years, my husband has coached a baseball team with two of his own children on it. Again, all we had to do was ask, and this was allowed. Our older children now assistant coach, and look forward to the day when they can get paid for refereeing.

If you are looking for an athletic opportunity for your child, make a few phone calls and see what's available in your area. Friends have found dance classes, golf lessons and more near their homes. Learning the basics of several sports has given our children a common area of interest, and a great outlet for their energy. They've made good friends, and we've met wonderful families. Sports equipment also makes for great gifts, and not a holiday goes by that they don't receive a new ball of some shape and size!

Finally, as a sort of addendum for those of you with little ones looking ahead, a quick story about our eldest daughter. At 7 on the soccer field, she was rather uncoordinated. At 8 and 9, she lacked stamina. By 11, she started growing taller. Today, at 14, she is 5' 10'' and on a volleyball team that received an invitation to a National level Junior Olympics tournament. We've never pushed her, and never spent a lot of money on sports, yet the steady progress she's made is something she's proud of. We already see the younger children following in her footsteps.

If you've been unsure as to how homeschoolers get involved in team sports, hopefully some of these ideas will help you!

contributed by Mary from Wisconsin

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