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Eight athletes compete for 2 schools after home classes

Freeman Academy’s Jeffrey Graber, who is one of three homeschooled athletes in the Bobcats’ varsity starting lineup, is introduced prior to a boys’ high school basketball game against Baltic Thursday in Freeman. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Lindsey and Alicia Grassmid aren’t like most students who compete in athletics for Menno High School.

While their peers are sitting in class at the high school, the sisters do their schooling at home.

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“I am fine being homeschooled. I think it is fun,” said Lindsey Grassmid, who runs cross country and track at Menno. “It’s fun to run with the other kids and meet new people.”

Alicia, who is in cross country, track and basketball, and Lindsey are two of eight homeschooled kids who compete in varsity athletics this year from Mitchell area schools. In a survey conducted by The Daily Republic, only two of 39 area schools — Menno and Freeman Academy — have homeschooled students participating in high school athletics this year.

According to the South Dakota High School Activities Association 2013-14 athletic handbook, each school is allowed to either accept or deny athletic participation from homeschooled student-athletes. Each school district can install its own rules that the students must abide by in order to participate.

For example, the Mitchell School District requires alternative education students to take two courses per semester at a school in the district. One of the courses taken must be a core course, such as science, math, English or social studies, and for athletes to maintain eligibility, they must remain in the classes and pass them for the entire year.

Mitchell has no athletes who are homeschooled this school year, according to Activities Director Geoff Gross.

Freeman Academy provides athletic outlet

One school district that does not allow athletic participation for home-schooled students is Freeman. Because of the lack of opportunity at Freeman High School, some homeschooled athletes have opted to play at Freeman Academy.

The Freeman Academy boys’ basketball team includes three players who are homeschooled — Josh Stahl, Teagan Schroeder and Jeffrey Graber. The three players make up 60 percent of the Bobcats’ varsity starting lineup. This season Schroeder is averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Bobcats.

Schroeder and Stahl’s younger sisters, Jodie Stahl and Tiana Schroeder, each play for the Freeman Academy girls’ basketball team and are homeschooled. Seventh-grader Thaniel Schroder also participates for the Freeman Academy junior varsity boys’ basketball team.

“I would love to see homeschooled kids have the opportunity to play in the public system,” Freeman Academy boys’ basketball coach Joey Graber said. “If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you could play on a summer league team to get that experience, but in small towns those opportunities are tough.”

Graber, Jeffrey’s father, said his home-schooled athletes’ schedules are packed with academics, but during the season, academic study times are scheduled around practice.

“It’s a pretty big misnomer that homeschooled students don’t do any work and have an advantage on kids in traditional school,” Joey Graber said. “It all depends on the family and what they set up with the schedule. Most of the kids I know are very busy working on school work and projects all day.”

Family finds balance in Menno

From the beginning, Travis and Charity Grassmid have taken it one year at a time when homeschooling their children.

The Menno residents, who have six children, have moved around the country for Travis’ job as a pastor. He currently leads the Zion Reformed Church in Menno. When they moved to Menno two years ago, they were looking for an opportunity for their kids to participate in athletics, while being homeschooled.

Charity said her kids were granted the opportunity to participate in school-oriented athletics while completing alternative education by the Menno School Board.

The Grassmids’ homeschool schedule starts at 8:30 a.m. and finishes around 2:30 p.m. Charity said the schedules are flexible can be tailored to fit practice or game schedules.

“It is a very comfortable thing for us from the academic stand point,” Charity said. “I enjoy teaching and it helps us teach from our Christian curriculum. Depending on the season they are in, whether it is track or basketball, their day may finish early or late.”

The Grassmids’ seventh-grade son Joseph also competes for the Wolves. along with daughters Lindsey and Alicia.