Thursday, July 29, 2004

Public school sports vs. Homeschool academics...

In Held Back to Get Ahead, from the L. A. Times (free registration required), we read about an apparently growing trend in which parents hold their children back a year in order to better position them for athletics. Consider the following: 
By eighth grade, Perry Webster had little doubt about his talent as a basketball player, but he also knew that when he reached high school, he might have to ride the bench for a while. It's something many young athletes go through, waiting to grow bigger and stronger. Webster took a different route.   With his parents' blessing, he chose to repeat his final year of middle school, staying behind as his friends moved on. This tactic, he hoped, might eventually "help me with getting a scholarship for basketball, which might help me with the rest of my life." …at Los Alisos Intermediate School in Mission Viejo, where Webster spent an extra year, Principal Jerry Ray sees a growing problem. "In my first 10 years, we probably had only one or two cases," Ray said. "In the last several years, there have been at least that many per year." Some school districts frown upon the practice, forcing parents to home-school or move their child to another district if they want to repeat. Ray's district gives parents the final say. The administrator worries about plucking children out of the educational cycle, taking them away from their peers where they might feel like "fish out of water." "Until Perry [Webster] came along, I'd never seen a success story, and I'm not even sure whether I'd call him a success story yet," Ray said. "Basically, you're giving up a year of a child's life on a bet that it will work out."
  Yeah… unless a nasty little thing like a sport’s injury gets in the way. From a father who had his three children repeat kindergarten:
"I never saw the negative," he said. "Even in third grade, my kids were a little older, a little bigger, a little more mature. Maybe at that point they become the ball monitor because of it. We thought it was important for our kids to be leaders instead of followers."
  Even if it means giving them an unfair advantage, huh? I’ll grant that his kids were a little older and bigger, but simply because they’re sitting in a class of kids a year younger doesn’t make them more mature. I guess it’s never occurred to him that leaders can’t be leaders unless there’s someone around to follow. Finally, from Webster’s father:
"We wanted him to have a chance to be 18 years old his [entire] senior year because he is an athlete," Del Webster said. "We thought physically that would be the fairest and best way to go."
  That must mean that sports trumps academics. Of course, couch the issue as that of “fairness” and you’ve got a slam-dunk argument (pun intended). My personal situation was entirely different. I started kindergarten at a private school at 4 years of age. Throughout my schooldays I was always the youngest kid in the class. There were times I despised that fact (e.g., like… during puberty), yet there was one specific moment that I adored it – the day I graduated from High School at age 17. Now I’ll agree that keeping a kid back or moving them ahead is not for everyone, but what does it say about the priorities of some parents when they’re motivating factor for holding their children back in school is how well they’ll do in sports? Consider that the age / grade issue within the Homeschool movement is whether the child should graduate at an earlier age than his peers? The issue of academics typically holds a higher priority than that of sports. As far as maturity, what would one expect of a younger child possibly enrolled in AP level classes, with older classmates, at the local junior college? Contrast that with a 4th grade-age kid stuck in a class full of 3rd grade-age classmates. Who will influence whom? We, as parents, need to be reminded that we also teach our children by our actions and priorities.

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