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Homeschool perspective: How my life was impacted by extracurriculars

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Although home-school parents pay taxes for public schools and school facilities, Texas law currently prohibits home-school students from participating in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities. Two bills have been filed in the 87th Texas Legislature that would allow home-school students equal access to extra curricular activities offered by public school – HB 547 by Rep. James Frank (R-Wichita Falls) and SB 491 by Sen. Angela Paxton (R-McKinney).

As a current THSC Watchman and an 18-year-old home-school graduate, I’m currently living in Austin for the 87th Texas Legislature, but I grew up in McKinney, Texas. In high school, I was involved with a lot of extracurriculars such as speech and debate, soccer, and music.

I realize more now as I watch my brother growing up, how every parent has a dual blessing and curse of desiring to aid and develop their children to thrive in their dreams, ambitions, and talents. This is obviously a blessing, but the curse is that they often struggle with finding the right programs or being able to make it work logistically or financially.

Ever since I could walk I wanted to play soccer, so as soon as I turned 5 years old I donned a uniform and my first set of tiny cleats and began playing in a recreational league. However, the recreational league didn’t last very long. By fourth grade, I was recruited by a coach for a club team.

Over time, due to the expensive costs of the uniform, tuition, tournament fees, and other related costs, it wasn’t feasible anymore. So my first year of middle school, I stopped playing. Thankfully due to the population, Dallas has many private homeschooling options for students and so I was blessed to be able to play soccer for both HSAA (Home School Athletics Association) and TSHA (Texas Storm Homeschool Athletics) from seventh grade through my senior year.

The fact that extracurricular opportunities are scarce doesn’t just affect athletics. It also extends to academics.

When I was young, I was never sure what I wanted to do when I grew up. It tended to fluctuate from scientist, to lawyer, to who knows what. However, I was blessed to participate in the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA), which is a national organization devoted to helping homeschool students learn and refine their skills in public speaking, debate, logic and critical thinking.

If it wasn’t for that program, I would have missed out on being a THSC Watchmen. The skills and confidence I gained will forever be invaluable.

Obviously a theme of “opportunity” is woven throughout my story. If we were to rewind my life and remove each one of those extracurricular opportunities, I would not only be in a very different place, but I would also be a very different person.

So many families either cannot afford extracurriculars or they are required to spend an excessive amount of funds on gas, tournament fees, tuition, and the list goes on…

In a parallel universe, if my family were unable to afford the extracurricular activities I participated in, they would have been forced to choose between giving me the education that they believed was best or the extracurricular activity access through UIL and the public school.

Jayla Ward is a homeschool graduate from McKinney, Texas, she is currently working as a legislative liaison for Texas Home School Coalition in the Texas Legislature, and she plans to attend Oral Roberts University in the fall of 2021.

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