Sunday, May 18, 2008

Catholic Schools and homeschooling?

What relationship is appropriate for the local Catholic high school to have with the homeschooling community? Current events spur my interest in the topic. My school's past administrator allowed home schooled children to participate in athletics and co-curricular activities if they attended for one period (at least religion) and paid partial tuition. These students were then able to participate on athletic teams that did not have cut policies.

Throughout this school year a number of families have raised issue with the eligibility of these students. To complicate matters this policy runs afoul of our state high school athletic association which requires students to attend for at least twenty credit hours a week or for the local school to approve and verify that twenty hours of instruction are taking place at each home these students are coming from.

Our school leadership team debated the issue and decided to adjust the practice for coming years by stating clearly that athletics and co-curricular activities are viewed as extension of our school day and are reserved for fully enrolled students. The basic premise of the school's position is that it is an all or nothing deal. Families should not view the Catholic high school as a salad bar where if one wants they can choose athletics and reject all the other offerings. The school's leadership team also articulated a justice issue when it comes to determining athletic eligibility. Not all students are being treated in a fair manner or are held to the same standard. This of course has lead to a rather energetic reaction by the local homeschool community that views the change as a horrible loss.

I've met with a handful of families about the issue and fielded a large number of anticipated phone calls. The argument from the home schoolers can basically be articulated in the following way. These families contribute to their parishes, the parishes help sponsor the high school, therefore they should be able to participate as they please. I understand the merits of this argument but I don't think it holds much weight. I've had families say directly to me that they can do a better job at home but need us to provide the athletic opportunity. Talk about being used. I understand the parish argument but then again doesn't the Church by sponsoring a Catholic school say that this is the primary way we choose to offer Catholic education? Then again the subsidy only accounts for 10% of the operating expenses.

Where are other schools at with this issue? What am I missing? Choices have consequences. Homeschooling has some tremendous benefits in terms of contact time and freedom, but every choice has its drawback. Am I missing something? Is my school being "petty" and narrow minded?


Claire Thompson said...

Hi, I teach at a school for home school students whose families have chosen to home school through the public system. Even though my students are part of the school district, they are not automatically allowed to participate in athletics at the bricks and mortar schools in the district. Sometimes the smaller schools with shrinking enrollments seem loathe to allow district home schoolers to participate in extra curricular activities at their schools. The home schooler may have made a big difference to the school had they chosen to enroll there.

I'm not sure there is a right or wrong answer to the question you've posed, but I do believe that the home school families do not have a right to participate in extra curricular activities at bricks and mortar schools. Probably the most important thing it that a school have a clearly defined policy on this, whatever direction it chooses to go. Just my 2 cents.

Charlie A. Roy said...

I agree a clearly defined policy is needed. So far the survey results indicate the vast majority of Catholic Schools (above 90%) do not alloy home schoolers to participate.

There seems to be a trend of home school families to seek out joint efforts when and where it is convenient. The growth of online learning is intriguing to me.