Fear or Freedom

In the 1980s in Texas the modern home school movement was in its infancy. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) had declared that home schools were not private schools and therefore were in violation of the compulsory attendance laws. The TEA encouraged school districts to prosecute home school families. More than 100 families in Texas were prosecuted for simply teaching their children at home.

When attorney Shelby Sharpe filed a class action lawsuit against the state of Texas to put an end to this legal harassment of home schooling families, it seemed like a very reasonable approach, to most of us. However, many home schoolers fell prey to fear-mongering arguments that this suit against the state would in fact result in more regulation rather than less. One group even went so far as to oppose the suit in court.

I’ll never forget speaking to a friend, who argued that his family had not had any problems so he didn’t see a need for this legal action, in spite of the scores of other families across Texas who had been prosecuted by the state. There were vigorous debates and arguments all over the state between those who saw this suit as an appropriate reaction to defend home schooling and those who saw it as simply an action that would draw the ire of the state and result in more state control.

From our perspective today, the Leeper decision was a huge victory that not only secured freedom for Texas home schoolers but that also had an impact across the nation.

Today a similar debate is raging over the legislation to allow home school students to participate in University Interscholastic League (UIL) activities (SB 929 & HB 1374). Interestingly, we are hearing the same kinds of arguments against this effort we heard 25 years ago against the Leeper lawsuit.

The major argument that we hear from home schoolers against these current bills is that passing this legislation would ultimately result in the regulation of all home schoolers. This fear is based on the assumption that if we receive some service from the state, we will be regulated. The premise of this argument is that if we don’t allow home schoolers to make this choice, our freedom will be secure henceforth and forever. That, of course, is a false premise.

One thing we can say from decades of experience is that some in Austin will always oppose the freedom that parents have in Texas to teach their children at home. Virtually every session we see bills filed to erode or limit that freedom. That is why THSC exists and why we spend a great deal of time and money each session monitoring legislation and killing any and every attempt to limit the right of parents in Texas to home school—things we have already done this session.

Those who argue that not passing this bill will keep us free are misinformed. The same arguments could have been made when we changed the law to force the public schools to allow home school students to take the PSAT because in some areas that’s the only place those tests are offered. Opponents could also have said the same thing when we changed the law to require public universities to recognized home school graduates as high school graduates and when federal law was amended to make home school graduates eligible for student loans or grants. When we passed laws to require community colleges to allow home school students to take dual credit classes the same as public school students; to guarantee that home schoolers receive child support benefits or public assistance; or to allow military enlistment, etc., the same things could have been said, but they were not. I could go on and on, but my point is that all of these changes that were made to allow home school students to have equal access to the same benefits as public school students could have been opposed on the same basis as the arguments made today against the “Tim Tebow Bills.” Why is it that only on this issue does the argument get raised by so many? I believe it is out of fear.

Texas is one of the freest home school states in the nation because we have worked diligently to change laws to eliminate artificial barriers against home schooling and have worked even harder to oppose any attempt to take away our freedom. We didn’t get here by cowering in our homes and hoping the government would not take our freedoms away if we didn’t do anything.

In 1913 UIL was established by the Texas Legislature, and its first constitution made it available for all students in Texas. Two years later that document was changed to allow only “white public school students” to participate. At that time, according to evidence presented at the Leeper vs. Arlington ISD case, as many as 80% of the students in Texas were being home schooled. UIL was forced in the late 1960s to allow minority students into UIL. It’s time that home school students are allowed back in as well!


  1. Gayle Ash says

    Thank you for your support of this bill. I know that several people on the town hall meeting expressed concerns that the existing homeschool sports associations would disappear if this bill is passed. My husband and I started our local homeschool sports association 7 years ago. We have had football, basketball, baseball, track, and volleyball. We have a vibrant organization with a great deal of team spirit, and it has meant so much to our families to have this opportunity. Regardless of the passage of this bill, I don’t see this going away. I know that many of our families are not interested in participating in public school offerings. For most of our athletes, the homeschool team is a great fit, and it is clearly the place where they will have the best experience. That will not change. However, for the few athletes we’ve had who could have benefitted from playing at the local public school, that option was not available if they wanted to continue their academic studies through their homeschool. Also, for the smaller towns, it is more difficult to get enough athletes together to field a team at all. Similarly, for lower socioeconomic areas, financial outlays required for equipment, uniforms, gym rentals, etc. can easily be beyond their financial ability. So homeschool athletic associations, as wonderful as they are, are largely made up of wealthier families in larger metropolitan areas. (Not all, I know, we are in a smaller area.) Obviously, we all pay our taxes. Just like I shouldn’t have to check all the books out of the public library in order to read the one I want, I shouldn’t have to enroll my child in a full slate of classes at the local public school in order to participate in the one offering in which I’d like to have him participate. This bill just makes sense. UIL was created to benefit the children of this state. I just want all the children to have an equal opportunity to experience the benefits their family would appreciate in athletics, music, etc. We believe in parental choice. This bill just expands the choices for homeschoolers, and ends another area of discrimination against homeschoolers. Thank you for all your work on this, Tim!

    • Rachel says

      Gayle, I so appreciate your humility! We were one of those rural homeschool families who had no options, especially after TAPPS quit allowing homeschool participation. Thank you for your thoughts!

    • Tim Lambert says


      Generally a committee takes testimony on a bill and leaves it “pending” which means awaiting further action or a vote. At the next meeting the committee often takes action on pending bills that they have already taken testimony on. It is likely we will see a vote on HB 1374 at the next meeting of the committee.

  2. Tres Bruffey says

    The following is my own opinion and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of LHCAA. I am writing independently.
    HB 1374 “Tebow Bill”

    For many, Tim Tebow is a positive homeschool roll model. Attaching his name to legislation may lead you to assume that it will bring positive things for homeschoolers. Before you make that assumption, I challenge you to consider the long-term results this legislation has had in multiple states.
    THSC supports this legislation, in fact Tim Lambert has written multiple articles about it – I have a link below where you can connect to them. While I have the utmost respect for Tim and THSC, I disagree on this issue.

    THSC’s premise of the Tebow Bill is that Homeschoolers should have access to the same activities as public school students. On the surface, it seems to be a great solution to meet the needs of homeschool families. It is important to look beyond the good intentions of the legislation and evaluate the consequences of the legislation. It is also important to examine what the legislation does and does not offer.
    Where are we today?
    Today, many Texans have options -they do exist. Homeshoolers work cooperatively to meet the needs of the homeschool community. Homeschool families in the Lubbock and surrounding community have worked together to provide a variety of activities for our kids: drama, ballet, art classes, soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, softball, the list goes on. We continue to add to our offerings. It is not perfect … at times, it has been difficult … but the bottom-line is … WE DID IT! These programs have been successful. We did it without placing our kids in the public school environment and we were able to preserve many of the values homeschool families hold near and dear. Lubbock is not alone; many homeschool communities in Texas have successfully pioneered opportunities for their homeschool children without the help of government. Thousands of homeschool children compete against public schools, private schools and homeschools. We operate free of TAPPS or UIL regulations. We are not locked out of any competition. Our Homeschool students have succeeded at the collegiate level too – receiving academic and athletic scholarships. Statewide, thousands of families needs are being met.
    How has Tebow style legislation impacted the homeschool community in other states?
    Many of you know that our own Lubbock Titans compete at National tournaments. Why is it that States allowing homeschooler to participate in UIL, have no teams at the national tournament? The reason, Tebow type legislation has thwarted the success of homeschool teams in those states. Once legislation passed, Homeschool families were unable to compete with the resources of the states and their public school systems. It sounds attractive – “You mean I can play on a team, play in a band, etc and not have to pay to do so? Where do I sign up?” Don’t be deceived, all things have a cost. It seems homeschoolers in these states shot themselves in the foot. The trade-off for homeschoolers being allowed to participate in the public schools was losing the homeschool programs and the homeschool environment that goes with them. In fact, both in Florida and Arizona where Tebow-style legislation was passed, homeschoolers ended up with fewer options. When we seek government assistance to meet our needs, government regulation follows and we may ultimately lose our options, or possibly even some of our freedom. It is the desire of THSC to have a free market for homesechoolers, which is a good thing. However, a free market fails to exist when government provides the service, makes the rules and enforces the rules. In those states, homeschool organizations providing activities have disappeared. Today, in those states with this legislation, homeschoolers only option for competitive sports or music is the public schools. My concern is that Texas would end up like the other states that have allowed homeschool students access to public school UIL activities.
    What does this legislation offer?
    I participated in the Town Hall meeting Tim Lambert conducted Monday night. I asked Tim what the history was behind this bill – why now? I didn’t fully understand his response but he explained they have pursued this for years. I wish I would have thought to ask him to quantify how many families this will really benefit. Does this benefit a few at the cost to the many? Who are the homeshcoolers seeking the passage of the legislation and how does that balance with the homeschoolers who are against this legislation. He did say that the calls to the Texas education committee were 3 in favor to every 1 against the legislation. I learned that the proposed legislation gives hope of access to UIL activities. It does not guarantee access to UIL activities. It would allow individuals (not teams) the opportunity to participate in UIL activities at the school in their district. It also mandates that UIL and TEA author the rules and regulations by which homeschoolers would participate. For homeschoolers, UIL would waive the full-time attendance requirement currently in force. Understandably, beyond a few exceptions, homeschoolers, seeking to participate in UIL events, would be required to follow current and future rules just like the public school students. The UIL rules are vast and they are designed to address public schools, not homeschools. The bill, if passed into law, would sunset (expire) a few years down the road. That means the same battles to keep it in force will have to be fought all over again- i.e. there is no guarantee what the law will look like in the future. Here are some of the eligibility rules Mr. Lambert described we would need to comply with in order to participate in a UIL event:
    1.) Pass a standardize test
    2.) Report grades to their school district demonstrating that they are passing their courses
    3.) Be subject to random drug testing at the school – the same as all their fellow athletes

    4.) You are only eligible to participate (play) for the school in your district
    UIL has additional rules governing all activities under their oversight. You are subject to those rules in addition to eligibility rules listed above.
    Thought should be given to what the legislation cannot provide.
    As would be expected, it does not guarantee participation in UIL activities. Understandably, homeschool students wanting to participate in any activity must try-out for available spots with the rest of the student population. How will homeschool kids be treated? Will they get a fair shake? I believe it is important to put myself in the educator’s position, considering where they may possibly stand. In essence we have said, “We don’t trust you to provide our children with an education, but we’re making an exception here to participate in this activity”. This is not necessarily how they would think, but it is something to consider.
    Since UIL would be required to write rules governing homeschool students, it is wise to ask, “Will they stop there?” I believe it is inevitable that they will eventually see it as necessary to write rules governing if or how UIL teams compete with homeschool teams. In New Mexico, public schools are not permitted to play homeschool teams. Already, in Lubbock, LISD does not allow competition with Homeschool or TAPPS teams (athletic, debate, choir, band, etc.). However, they do not yet govern our ability to compete in tournaments against those teams. If UIL writes rules governing against playing homeschool teams, LISD, along with all Texas school systems, would no longer be able to compete in tournaments of any kind where homeschoolers are competing. Tournament directors would be forced to keep homeschool competitors out of their tournaments in order for the tournament to survive. This would be detrimental to our current homeschool teams. The homeschool teams and clubs that exist in Texas today have been built through much sacrifice of time (some over many, many years–LHCAA included), money and energy of homeschool families. One might say a lot of blood, sweat, and tears have gone into these programs. Tim said on his blog ” It would not be a good policy decision to deny this option for all home schoolers in Texas to protect organizations that were established to give home schoolers opportunities not available to them because of exclusion from UIL and TAPPS.” I take issue with this comment on two counts. First, it is not about protecting “organizations” LHCAA is not seeking protection. The “organizations” are homeschool families who need protection. Second, our organization was formed to provide opportunities to homeschool families in a Christian environment not because we were excluded by UIL or TAPPS.

    I understand the desire to provide homeschoolers opportunities. I understand the dilemma faced by many rural homeschoolers and the challenges they face. However, after listening to Tim Lamberts discussion of the issues on Monday night, I do not have a comfort level that the legislation will accomplish what it is setting out to achieve. I think homeschoolers and THSC can arrive, together, at a much better solution.
    I would like to see THSC partner with homeschool organizations that are currently meeting families’ needs by facilitating communication, connecting those that have successful programs with those that want more activities. Why outsource our destiny to state agencies that have no vested interest in the homeschool community? Why legislate the UIL and TEA to write rules governing homeschool families? Is it prudent to believe that these governing bodies will suddenly become homeschool friendly because the law requires homeschoolers access to their teams or music programs? Are we really at the point where our hope is in a government solution? I don’t think we are. Homeschoolers are more resourceful than that. In fact, we have demonstrated that resourcefulness.
    This legislation would solve some problems and it opens many opportunities to homeschoolers that don’t currently have options. At the same time, it has real consequences as demonstrated in states that have adopted it. I am concerned about the potential consequences of this law. I challenge you to consider its benefits and its consequences, decide for yourself, and let your voice be heard.

    I think it is important that the homeschool community engage in the process and understand what is being proposed. By doing so, I believe that our community will reach a decision that is best for all homeschoolers.

    Please do not misunderstand my heart. I have no desire to enter into a divisive debate. I only want my concerns to be heard. Tim Lambert continues to be a champion of homeschool families in Texas. I do not question his dedication or pursuit of parental rights in Texas – his record speaks for itself. I highly respect and appreciate Mr. Lambert and will continue to do so regardless of the outcome of this legislation.

    Thanks for your time
    Tres Bruffey

    • Tim Lambert says


      Thanks for voicing your opinion and reasons for opposing this legislation. Perhaps we should have been more persistent in seeking feedback from you and other leaders in our earlier communication on this issue. I think your arguments are essentially that allowing home school families to choose to participate in UIL will eliminate the home school teams and leagues that are flourishing in the larger cities of Texas today. Other leaders of such groups disagree based on the very benefits that you outline of the home school teams and leagues.

      As Chairman Dutton, pointed out in his closing on the bill last night this simply allows home school students who wish to tryout for UIL activities to do so. The current UIL rules that apply to all public school students will apply to home school students with the exception of enrollment, attendance and credits. UIL will not be allowed to write specific rules for home school students under this bill. If home schoolers don’t want to participate under those rules they will not be required to do so.

      • Rachel says

        Our family was among those who had NO options other than public school or driving 80-100 miles to participate in organized homeschool sports, debate, or field trips. Once we found a way for our kids to play basketball at a small christian school, 45 miles away, we played your teams. I applaud you for the success of those teams, but they were/are no place for kids like mine. You have built a great program with great athletes who can compete at a high level. However, it does not meet the needs of those families who live in rural areas. It is not feasible for a family to drive 80-100 miles one way 4-6 days a week. Someone from your organization left countless messages on our answering machine over the years (which we appreciate) about open gym times, ect. It was 100 miles to Lubbock from our home. We had 4 kids, some of who were not old enough to play. Add to that, my boys are baseball players who played other sports just to have something to do. The closest homeschool baseball team was 5 hours away!
        My children all excelled in drama and speech related activities, but those had to be limited to participation in the summer months when our local fine arts council held their workshops. They could have been a part of One Act Play, ect IF UIL would have permitted it.
        I understand your and Marla’s concern about the impact this bill might have on your organization, but I assure you, if we lived within a feasible distance from a homeschool team or organization, we would have chosen it over a public school! We sent one to public school just to play baseball. It was a horrible situation for all of us! It wasn’t the sport itself that caused most of the grief, it was the hours spent at school.
        We were able to move before our next son started high school. He was able to play all four years of baseball at a Christian school. Our youngest was a member of a homeschool basketball team as well because of the move. She is NOT a basketball player; it was not a good fit for her. She was left with no other option but to go to that same Christian school where she is able to participate in other activities. However, she is still not able to do drama or speech as it is not offered at her school! If the bill passes into law, she could come back home and be a part of a drama/speech club in our district.
        I hope you can see that your wonderful organization will not be strongly affected by a bill that would give so many other homeschoolers more choices. I don’t know a homeschool parent that wouldn’t choose a homeschool team or club over a public school one!
        I hope you can see that there are more needs out there than what are being met by your organization. I know only two out my four kids would even come close to making one of your basketball teams as competitive as they are, so why would it hurt for them to have the option of taking part of the programs and sports they are good at in a public school? It’s really about freedoms and choice.
        I really do appreciate and congratulate you on the success of your organization! I’ve been in the homeschool arena for almost 20 years, and I know how hard you’ve all worked!

  3. Tres Bruffey says


    Yes, it would have been better if we discussed this matter face-to-face. Key leaders from homeschool organizations around-the-state had a round table discussion last summer in Austin. Had we known, it would have been a perfect opportunity for you to get feedback on the issue. While we appreciated Paul’s email request for LHCAA’s input on the bill in October, our concerns we shared seemed to fall on deaf ears. I also think if you saw the Texas homeshool basketball tournament, you would realize that homeschool teams aren’t limited to the larger cities of Texas.

    I know you work tirelessly with limited resources on our behalf. Thank you. Being stretched is the lot of many homeshcoolers – we all wear multiple hats to make it work. I hope you can still hear the voices of homeschool families over the noise of the legislature – we want to be part of the process.

    It is my hope that the concerns I expressed are all for not. In fact, I hope that I’m dead wrong. It is my earnest desire for homeschool kids to have opportunities regardless of where they live. Truly, I’m not against options. Please remain diligent in protecting those homeschoolers who have organized to serve their community as this moves forward.

  4. Maley Young says

    Just some food for thought.
    We are the only homeschooling family in our community of 2000 people.
    ( I found an index that recorded 9,198 populated communities in Texas)
    We live 110 miles from nearest homeschool sports league.
    We transferred our two older sons to public school to compete in team sports. The oldest received All-West Texas honors in football and has completed first year of college football. Both boys have received all-district honors in 5 collective sports. Our local school coaches asked our next child-our oldest daughter, to please come play on their high school teams. As a sophomore, she has now lettered in varsity volleyball, basketball and track, and she and her brother are on their way to regional track in two weeks.. Our youngest daughter would also like to pursue team sports. She is our only child still schooled at home.
    It would have been wonderful for the coaches to have been able to ask our children to join their programs while we continued to homeschool.

    However, their hands were tied by UIL rules (which by the way, in my opinion, contradict state law: Sec.A1.002.AAEQUAL EDUCATIONAL SERVICES OR OPPORTUNITIES.
    (a) An educational institution undertaking to provide education,
    services, or activities to any individual within the jurisdiction
    or geographical boundaries of the educational institution shall
    provide equal opportunities to all individuals within its
    jurisdiction or geographical boundaries pursuant to this code).

    So, the opportunity to participate in UIL activities could prove itself to be beneficial to certain families.

    Will your community provide a “level playing field”? All organizations, clubs, and leagues have competition within their own participants. Some get the lead, others support the lead. Should opposing an opportunity because of the fear of not getting a “fair shake” be the driving force of that very opposition? Our children have worked hard (including clinics and camps) and have had to prove themselves on the playing fields, along with everyone else in their school. UIL is an entity of COMPETITION; by participating in it’s program, a competitor does so with this knowledge, regardless of how they choose to facilitate their education. Whether public, private, or elite, competitive organizations operate under regulations and award personal skill and team dedication. Homeschool involvement with UIL is an avenue to compete, not necessarily an avenue for extracurricular involvement. Are there biases to overcome? Sure, just as in biases that public school children face everyday. Is this opportunity for everyone? Probably not. Does UIL overtly offer the moral compass that we desire as part of its mission? No. Would participating in UIL require the acceptance of their guidelines just as with the acceptance of the guidelines when we choose to participate in the College Board rules concerning the SAT, ACT, AP programs, etc.? Yes. Are homeschool students who play sports in homeschool leagues and continue their athletic pursuits in college required to enroll in those very colleges in order to play; and are they required to follow the same guidelines as their teammates?
    I believe the true question remains in the area of personal choice. I would love to have been able to offer my children a homeschool league. Even within that option, they would need to work hard to compete. If we had the option to homeschool and participate in UIL, we would understand that we are involved to compete and that comes with its victories and its defeats.
    To sum it up: We as a family have made our on choices within our capabilities. My opinion is not to sway support either way or to oppose my brothers and sisters in Christ, but rather to offer another view in one particular area. May we will walk in wisdom, please God with our faith and trust Him to deliver what we truly need regarding this legislation.

  5. Maley Young says

    I am having difficulty finding HB 1374 on the House committee schedule. Do you know when discussion will resume?

    • Tim Lambert says

      A bill left pending in committee will not be brought up again for further testimony but only for a vote. Chairman Aycock just told me he will not bring the bill up for a vote this week.

  6. says

    The big difference between Leeper and this bill is simply this:

    Leeper was about getting the government out of our home schools and families and requiring the TEA to obey what has now been the law respecting private schools for nearly 100 years.

    This Tebow bill is about getting homeschools back into the government school.

    This is backwards for several reasons. First, we should be encouraging people to flee government schools, not because they are so bad (which they are), but because they are so wrong. Education, including athletics, is the responsibility of families, not the civil government.

    Secondly, it would result in homeschool students being supported by tax dollars. This also is wrong. We shouldn’t have our hand in other people’s pockets to educate our children. We need to be defunding government schools, not sending them more students. This bill is going in the wrong direction.

    Government schools need students to survive like mosquitoes need blood. As Christians our goal is to see “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This means we need to be praying and working to close the doors of government schools, not demanding they accept our children back on a part time basis.

    But I do thank THSC for their many other labors on behalf of homeschooling families.

    Peter Allison

    • Tim Lambert says


      My point was that home schoolers opposed the filing of the lawsuit using the same arguments that are being used today. “It will bring more regulation on all home schoolers.” That did not happen then and I do not believe it will happen today. You may argue on whether or not it is best to be out of a government school, but our major argument has always been that a parent has a right to make these decisions for their children and when we begin to use the same argument that our long time opponents make (Parents should not be allowed to make some decisions regarding the education of their children.) we have given away our key position and could regret that in the future.

  7. Rebecca Jemison says

    My home school group is posting opposing views on this bill. One of the major concerns is that we would have to provide third party testing at the beginning of each school year. Has this been changed? I am for allowing UIL participation, but not for testing each year.

    • Tim Lambert says


      The standardized test is only required the first six weeks every other year. If the parent chooses to not do that the student can begin to participate the second six weeks if the parent assures the school that the student is passing all courses. We choose a third party to avoid allowing the school to do the testing.

  8. says

    Can public schools require homeschool students to take end of course tests when they come into public school from being home schooled? My homeschool friends disagree on this.

    • Tim Lambert says

      If you are referring to a home school student who is enrolling into a public school, the public school has the authority to use some kind of testing instrument to evaluate and give the student credit for coursework done at home. Most public schools will not recognize course work done in a home school since they are unaccredited private schools. One of the tools that some schools use is an end of course test. If the student passes the end of course test they get credit for that semester course. Other schools require home school transfers to take credit-by-exam tests to get credit for courses taken at a home school. Let me know if that does not address your question.