There is a common belief among homeschooling families that if you put your kids in sports, you lose out on all your family time and give in to a life of go-go-go, busy-busy-busy. While I think this can be the case, our family has found a balance between homeschool sports and living a slow, family-centric life. You don’t need to have just one or the other! A lot of the things I’m sharing are also applicable if you don’t homeschool your kids, especially if you’re struggling to find a balance with your family’s activities.
Finding our balance
I didn’t expect to be a sports mom. In fact, for a long time, we resisted organized sports and chose to find other ways to stay active and spend our time. We took regular hikes, we found a co-op with a gym class, and we chose to keep our evenings and weekends mostly free from regular obligations.
This was a great season for our family, and it was very necessary. We had babies and toddlers, and running back and forth from practice to practice wasn’t how we wanted to spend our time. Maintaining a slow pace of living was a high priority for us. It still is, but we have found a way to add sports into our schedule, while still avoiding the go-go-go pace that we have worked so hard to avoid.
About the time my oldest was 10, he had expressed a lot of interest in playing basketball. He was already playing basketball everyday in our driveway, but he wanted to join a team. So we dipped our toe in with our local park and rec basketball, and it was a great intro for us.
During the craziness of 2020, when most indoor sports were on pause, we found a local homeschool track and cross country team for him to give running a try. This turned out to be such an amazing gift to our family, because my younger kids quickly joined alongside him. In the last two years, my oldest has also joined a basketball team through a local church that is a combination of homeschool/virtual school/Christian school kids.
With a large family, we could easily spend all our time going from activity to activity, so we have chosen to limit our kids to these two teams for now. So we are a sports family now, but we have set boundaries around it. This means we have only one sport per season, and nothing in the summer. This has been a good balance for us, and leaves us with plenty of time to still go on hikes, have slow Saturday mornings at home, and continue to prioritize family meals by just adjusting when we have them.
What are your priorities?
Before you choose a team for your kids to join, you need to determine your family’s priorities and values. If you value being outside, will you have time to do that if your kids are doing a lot of indoor sports? If you value family dinners, does the practice or game schedule make time for that? If you prioritize going to church and Sabbath rest, does the team honor and respect that?
Keep these priorities and values in mind as you decide on a sports team. You may decide to make compromises for a short season, but remember that sports usually only get more intense and require more commitment as your kids get older, not less.
Finding homeschool sports
What options are out there for homeschoolers to play sports?
- homeschool organizations that have sports teams – these teams are more traditional, competing together like a school, often in a league with Christian schools or other homeschool teams, but they may compete against public schools as well
- local church teams or Christian schools that allow homeschoolers to play
- check your homeschool laws and see if your kids can join your local school’s team
- park and recreation teams (this is a good low commitment and low pressure option)
- Upward sports – this is a Christian organization that usually operates out of local churches, but has a park and rec level commitment
- club sports (these usually require try-outs, traveling, and higher commitment)
- 4-H or scouting groups may have some non-traditional sports options (like archery, canoeing, etc.)
- casual open gym days or homeschool groups that meet up to do non-competitive sports, just for fun
So how can you find a team for your kids?
I’ve found that local Facebook groups are the best way to find homeschool teams. You can ask for recommendations, find local teams, and you could even find a homeschool open gym or a group that’s meeting up to just play sports for fun, if you aren’t looking for an organized sports team.
Think outside the box when it comes to sports. You don’t need to stick to the sports that you might find in a school setting. I have seen homeschool climbing clubs, bowling teams, BMX teams, downhill ski clubs, hiking groups, mountain biking, archery, etc.
Choosing the right homeschool sports
If you decide that your family is ready to give homeschool sports a try, how do you choose the right team? Here are some questions to ask and things to consider:
- Can you make the schedule work for your family?
- Does the level of pressure or commitment align with your family’s priorities?
- Will we be able to have family time alongside sports?
- How many different sports are we willing to do?
- Are there any homeschool sports we can do during the day that wouldn’t take away from our family time in the evenings?
Your family certainly doesn’t have to choose to do organized sports. If it doesn’t fit your family lifestyle, find other ways to stay active!
But if you do choose to do homeschool sports, you will need to learn how to say no to other things. You cannot have each of your kids in different sports, do a co-op, take music lessons, do art classes, be involved in your church, go on field trips, and keep a rigorous academic pace. It will burn you and your kids out very quickly.
You cannot say yes to all of it!
So you need to decide where you will say yes and where you say no. It could change every season – maybe your kids participate in one sport during one season and then another season they get to take music lessons.
Our family chooses not to have many regular daytime commitments so that we can do the sports our kids love, but leave plenty of time for reading lots of books, playing games, and natural learning.
Setting these boundaries and keeping an unburdened schedule is important for your family’s mental health, to preserve your kids’ childhood, to maintain family togetherness and family dinner times, and to keep you all from burning out. Saying no to the rush and saying yes to giving your kids plenty of unstructured time to play and explore their interests will impact your family in incredible ways!