The answers to those questions will greatly depend on the homeschoolign laws in your state. So start there. If you live in a state where homeschooled kids are able to participate in public school sports, then you've got it made! Hurrah! You live in an inclusive state and you get to take advantage of some of the tax dollars that you are already paying into the public school system! wahoo!
But if you life in a state like North Carolina where the state leaves homeschoolers' involvements in public school sports at the discretion of each school administration, (but every single school "prohibits" homeschool participation in any school activity), then you've got more work to do. If playing sports is really important to your homeschool, then you've got to be ready to 1) do some research 2) do some driving and 3) do some check writing. So it all comes down to priorities. How bad do you really want Jonny to play baseball?
Most of us grew up playing a sport and want that same experience for our kids even if they don't go to public school. I know I did and I do want that for my kids. So here is where we generally have luck finding sporting opportunities for our kids.
1) Your city leagues. If your city has a parks and rec program this is a good place to start. If you live in city limits you will generally have a better rate than for participants that live over city lines. I find that the difference is not very much so if the next town over has a better program you may want to check into it.
2) YMCA. I've had mixed feelings about the YMCA over the years, but the Y here in NC gets my thumbs up. We are members at the Y again and have had positive experiences playing sports there. In addition to their sports, my older girls are now old enough to join me for fitness classes! How fun is that! These are the kids I used to drop off at child-watch while I exercised. Now they join me in the cardio room or at the weight lifting class. I must be getting old.
3) Churches. Many large churches, especially here in the south, sponsor or host private sports teams that are open to the community. These teams are generally more focused on sportsmanship and character building than skills training and competition. But your child will still get a great team experience and will likely gain something greater than just a sport in the process. We've done all kinds of sports through churches from volleyball, to soccer, to basketball, to track and field.
4) Homeschool Leagues. If you're lucky enough to live in a place that actually has private homeschool leagues and you don't mind paying several hundred dollars per season, per student, and then driving them do the various games, then this is a good place to look. You can do a quick google search to find homeschool leagues in your state. Here's information for NC: https://www.nche.com/activities/sports/
5) Health Clubs: Some health clubs are ready and willing to capitalize on the homeschool community by offering day-time sports and clinics for homeschool athletes. We have swim and tennis clubs in the area that offer these sports to homeschoolers. If your local gym doesn't offer a program like this currently, then it might be worth suggesting it to the gym administration, especially if you're willing to help coach! Cross-fit often has kids programs and we even had a great homeschool program back in WA. Check them out too.
Ok, so you found a program you like for each kid...how do you juggle the practice routine? We like to find programs where we can get at least two kids enrolled at the same time and if possible we try to get them on similar practice schedules when the option is given to parents. For example, we currently have 3 of our kids all playing basketball through a program called UPWARD that is hosted at a local church. It does mean that we have eight consecutive Saturdays that are 100% consumed by back-to-back basketball games...but at least we get it all done in one big swoop and we don't feel as scattered throughout the week.
And paying for it all? Well, some of those options I mentioned are going to be cheaper than others. I find that the churches and the city leagues are the most affordable, so that's usually the route we go. If your child is especially good at a sport and you want to pursue it in depth, then of course it will require more financial support from you. But we have found that our kids really enjoy the process of team sports rather than the outcome and so far we're ok with just allowing them to be well rounded in a variety of sports rather than diving deep into any one particular endeavor. That may change! We'll see.
Maybe all you need to do is organize a free ongoing event where kids can come play together and enjoy a variety of sports for free! When we moved to NC I started a dodge ball "club" for my son and it was super fun (and free)!
Honestly, the hardest part for me is just keeping up with all the sports seasons and getting the kids enrolled on time! I often find that I miss enrollment dead lines for sports programs because I just can't keep up with all the emails in my inbox or keep on top of all the programs in our area and what they offer during different times of the year. It does take some serious organization to make it all happen for each of your kids. So I guess you have to decide how much time you're willing to put into sports on the back end so that your kids get the experience your hoping for.
Anyway, this has been on my mind lately because our basketball season is about to wind down and I've got to look around for what's next: Soccer? Softball? Tennis? The emails are starting to swirl around in my inbox! I've got to get it together.
Here's a look at my daughter's latest basketball game through a church sponsored league. It's not the church we attend, but I dont' mind that. They are good people who love God. I do love that they start with a prayer!
|this is actually my son's team|