In Tennessee, many homeschool parents who have children that participate in organized sports have to ask the tough question: Do we continue homeschooling or allow our child to attend a public or a private school, so they may play in organized sports? It can be a “make or break” decision, and many previously homeschooled students end up entering the public or private school sector never to return to homeschooling again.
On March 11 of this year, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) revised its bylaws, which now allows homeschoolers that are enrolled in an umbrella school, like HomeLife Academy (Category IV Church-related School), to “try out for a local public or private school sports team as a homeschool student.”
That move by the TSSAA was hugely welcomed in the homeschool community, especially by parents and their children, who spend many months throughout their school year participating in athletic activities. Sports provide physical development and education for children. For some, participation may lead to a college scholarship enabling a child to acquire an otherwise unaffordable college education.
“Students will be required to register with the Local Education Agency (LEA) or Board of Education (BOE), but they will still be able to remain enrolled under their umbrella school of choice,” said HomeLife Academy’s Ken Shreeve. “Parent teachers must register their child by August 1 with the LEA or BOE to be in compliance with the Home School Rule that allows their child to try out. Parents may also be subject to the requirements of the Tenn Code Ann. Section 49-6-3050(b) from the TSSAA bylaws. Students must satisfy the academic requirements of the public or private school they attend.”
The next question is why remain enrolled under an umbrella school when enrollment through the BOE is free, especially since the student would already be eligible to try out for a sports team?
“HLA has served homeschool families for over 10 years. The benefits and support from HLA, including receiving official transcripts and diplomas, are services our families don’t want to lose. By remaining enrolled with HLA, those services and support will continue and their child will get to try out to participate in the sport of their choice at their local school.”
Shreeve made note that along with enrolling with the school by August 1, parents need to also notify the athletic director at the school of choice by August 15 that their child would like to try out.
“There are also fees that may apply like for insurance coverage, participation, school tuition, etc.,” said Shreeve. “Over the years, HLA has advocated with other entities for more rights for homeschool athletes under the TSSAA. I’m happy to say progress has been made, but we still have a way to go. I’m really hoping the requirement to register with the county will eventually be completely removed.”
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