Are homeschoolers allowed to play sports on public school teams?


Young Man Lifting Weights

Homeschoolers being allowed to play sports on public school teams is a hot topic among communities and public officials. Personally, I believe this is headed in an upward trend of soon being inclusive to all students. But what about the law and options as it stands now in 2020?

Homeschoolers are allowed to play public school sports in 33 states. Participation in public school sports depends on state or local board policies. Homeschool athletes can join recreational teams, some private competition teams as well as homeschool leagues.

At the time of research, 33 states have passed the Tim Tebow Bill/Law/Act although some of those states have provisions that require part-time enrollment in the public school or special permission from the local district.

These are the 33 states that have passed laws to allow homeschoolers to participate on public school sports teams although some of them may have rigorous participation requirements:

  • Alabama- Tim Tebow “Bill”
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas- Tim Tebow “Bill”
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Idaho- requires part-time enrollment
  • Illinois – requires part-time enrollment
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky- Tim Tebow “Bill”
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland – allows competition with private schools that include homeschool athletes
  • Massachusetts- requires local district approval
  • Michigan – requires part-time enrollment
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri – requires part-time enrollment
  • Nebraska – requires part-time enrollment
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota- requires local district approval
  • Ohio – requires part-time enrollment
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island- requires local district approval
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota- requires local district approval
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

These 17 states prohibit homeschooled athletes from participating on public school teams (at time of research) although some have legislation that is pending:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

What is the Tim Tebow Law?

Tim Tebow was a homeschooled student athlete who became an NFL quarterback. He was allowed to play for his public high school in Pennsylvania, went on to lead the Florida Gators to two national championships and joined the NFL. 

Since then, many states have passed legislation to give homeschoolers access to public school sports. These educational laws are often called Equal Access Athletics, Tim Tebow Law, Tim Tebow Bill, or Tim Tebow Act. 

Tebow speaks out to media outlets in favor of allowing homeschooled athletes to play for local teams in the states that prohibit their participation. Someone asked him about being the first homeschooler to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy and below is his response:

“That’s really cool. A lot of times people have this stereotype of homeschoolers as not very athletic – it’s like, go win a spelling bee or something like that – it’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”

Tebow has made a lasting impression both in the sport of football as well as educational legislation for the rights of homeschooled athletes. 

It’s important to note that some of the states that have passed the Tim Tebow law still have state or local requirements that often make the process complicated for homeschool families.

Parents continue to ask, Can homeschoolers play sports in Georgia? Can homeschoolers play sports in Indiana? Can homeschoolers play sports in Florida? because some states prohibit participation and even those that allow participation often have additional requirements.

To understand the laws in your state, consult with your local co-op groups and check your states’ Department of Education website.

Why do some states pass Tim Tebow laws and others do not? 

Good question. There are strong proponents and opponents on both sides of the issue. 

Those who advocate for the law remind their elected officials that parents pay educational taxes and this is about inclusion and equal opportunities among students, regardless of the educational framework being used. Opponents say that schools do not receive funding for homeschooled athletes even though they pay property taxes.

Some homeschooling parents are cautious about these laws turning into more government regulation over homeschooling programs. For example, parents being required to show documentation of grades in states where homeschooled students previously did not have to provide grades creates a conflict of interest.

Those who have been very vocal about not passing the law, including California and West Virginia, strongly believe that the students should be on campus full-time to participate on their teams.

From personal reference, I am in state where legislation has not passed, yet we had a homeschooled student on our high school football team. He enrolled in the high school for 2 classes to count as full time (on a block schedule). He took one physical education class on campus and the other (online class) off campus.

If your homeschooled athlete really wants to participate on a local high school team in a state that has not passed legislation, taking virtual courses through the school may provide a way to participate. Some homeschoolers have the option of accredited online schools where they can earn a diploma as well as meet eligibility for athletic programs.

What alternatives are there for states that do not allow homeschoolers to participate on public school teams?

Teen Practicing Archery

Recreation teams/YMCAs-

Recreation teams are community based and do not require enrollment in a particular school. These teams are usually an option through middle school and cover a variety of sports. Check with your local recreation department to see what sports are available .

Homeschool teams-

As the number of homeschool students continues to grow, more local co-ops are forming teams that can play and compete with other teams as private school entities.

Private school teams-

Some private school teams need additional players to compete and join with local homeschool athletes to form teams. Private schools may have their own eligibility requirements for homeschooled athletes to participate.

Travel teams-

Travel teams are not typically school-location dependent. These are often highly competitive and require try-outs. They include students from all different educational backgrounds, including public school students, who want to compete with teams throughout their state. There are travel teams for many different sports.

Unique (lifetime) sports-

Although my home state prioritizes football as important as food and shelter, there are other unique sports that exist outside of public schools that may allow students, no matter their educational program, to participate.

Maybe your child is interested in some of these sports that are not dependent on educational programs:

  • Bowling
  • Marble Racing
  • Cherry pit spitting (yes, a real thing!)
  • Put put
  • Juggling
  • Cornhole
  • Cycling
  • Archery
  • Skeet shooting
  • Fencing
  • Martial Arts
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Gymnastics
  • Sailling
  • Swimming
  • Kickball

While these may be location dependent, there are some unique sports where communities, churches, co-ops, or various groups may have organized teams. These could also be more lifetime sports that students could continue to enjoy for years to come.

Can homeschoolers get athletic scholarships?

Yes. Eligibility is specific to the college and sport of interest, but there are many homeschool athletes who receive and benefit from college athletic scholarships. 

Can you have PE in homeschool? 

Child balancing on exercise ball

Of course! Some states require regular pe to be part of the homeschool curriculum. Some local homeschool co-ops join together to provide pe activities and families can also create their own activities. 

Research shows kids need at least one hour of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity. Their physical well-being improves concentration and overall abilities with health and managing stress.

One advantage that homeschool families have is the option to use local recreation facilities, YMCA’s, hiking trails and parks during the day for exercise and physical education. 

This is also an area that’s growing online with more and more options for exercise and workouts with p.e. Teachers, coaches, dancers and yoga instructors. For younger students, Go Noodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga offer great activities to keep students engaged and moving. 

For older students who may like specialized training, there are Youtube channels, apps and videos with access to free training. 

If you are looking for something that doesn’t exist, ask your local community groups. If there is enough interest, it may be a way to start a group activity or option such as a swim team. 

HSPN.net is a site for homeschoolers who want to start a team or look for a team.

In conclusion, it is possible and encouraging that options for homeschool athletes continue to grow and provide opportunities to play the same sports as public school students.

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