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Homeschool grad, Trevor Barron, from Pittsburgh region took part in London Olympics-- men's race walking
Susan Richman, 8/5/2012

I know many homeschoolers have been enjoying watching the London Summer Olympics this past week-- and I'm sure many are finding ways to truly use this as a wonderful learning experience, too. If you want great ideas for further learning, see this website: http://simplehomeschool.net/the-olympics/

photo of Trevor Barron in the 2012 Olympic Trials race.

My special thanks to longterm homeschool advocate and conservative political candidate Sue Ann Means of Bethel Park PA for alerting me to the story of homeschool graduate Trevor Barron. Trevor just competed on Saturday, August 4th, in the London Olympics-- at just age 19, he was the youngest competitor ever in the mens' 20 kilometer race-walking competition. He finished a very respectable 26th place in the event, out of 56 competitors-- it was the 2nd best time in his life, and he was all smiles upon finishing. Racewalking is a much more common sport in other countries-- but I think that perhaps Trevor's pluck and courage and drive just may spark more *homeschoolers* to look into this unique sport. 

Trevor's story is especially inspiring, because he has overcome some daunting challenges in his life. At age 8 he was diagnosed with an unusual form of epilepsy, and the family opted to homeschool Trevor for 2nd and 3rd grade while he adjusted to needed medications. By age 13 his medications were no longer working for him, and the family opted for brain surgery at PGH Children's Hospital. He worked very hard to recuperate quickly and fully, and is now seizure free. He also got right back to his varied athletic endeavors, including track and field at the Bethel Park High School. Earlier Trevor had been a serious competitive swimmer, but had to stop that sport when seizures began hitting during swim meets. Here's how the PGH Post-Gazette explained this in an August 3, 2012 article:

Swimming was Trevor's first love, and he had emerged as one of the best swimmers in the East Region. But in the fall of 2005, he was swimming the 200-meter individual medley when he was struck by a seizure in the middle of the race. He was dragged from the pool and helped to the deck, where Bruce [Trevor's father] came to be by his side.

Deep down, Bruce knew what this latest seizure meant for Trevor.

"My wife and I had a friend with epilepsy, and she drowned in the bathtub," Bruce said.

He got back into racewalking, a sport he'd learned about when younger, and eventually opted for homeschooling during his 11th and 12th grade years to enable him to have more time for Olympic-level training and international competitions. Again, here's a quote from the PGH Post-Gazette feature story:

Racewalkers have to follow two rules, according to the International Association of Athletics Federations: First, at least a part of one foot must be touching the ground at all times. Second, the advancing leg must be straightened (not bent at the knee) from the moment of first contact with the ground until the vertical upright position.

To stay in accordance, racewalkers move their hips and arms in a way that critics consider more feminine than masculine. Trevor would train in South Park where many of his classmates could see him practicing his peculiar sport, and he struggled to block out the snickers and name-calling.

"I was very susceptible to the ridicule I was receiving," Trevor said.

So susceptible that he decided to leave the sport after his first international competition in May 2008 and become a runner, a period which lasted six months. Trevor watched the Beijing Olympics and realized that he was missing out on the chance of a lifetime, to compete and make new friends all over the world. And because of what? Some kids?

"I just said, 'I'm doing this, and I'm going to London,' " Trevor said. "I'm going to the Olympics, and what are they doing? They're just wasting their time without understanding what I'm doing."

If you look into the biographies of many Olympic athletes, homeschooling quite often plays a role-- these young people need a way to have focused time for their training, and are often needing to travel extensively for competitions and special coaching. They need a flexible approach that allows them to make the best used of their time. Here's one neat quote about this from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article on Trevor: 

The Barron family went all-in for London 2012. Because Nancy's job working with visually impaired children could pay the bills, Bruce, a freelance writer, had the time to home-school Trevor for his final two years of high school. Home-schooling freed Trevor to travel wherever he needed to go for racewalking, and it gave father and son plenty to discuss as they walked thousands of miles together through South Park.

Trevor's training regimen demanded that he walk 130 kilometers (about 85 miles) a week, and Bruce wasn't going to let him do it alone. Bruce was already in good shape, but he would push himself to the limit, jogging just about all of those miles next to Trevor, ready with water whenever the boy was thirsty. They would talk about school topics such as Russian history and calculus as they traversed the park, day after day, and Trevor was ever-appreciative of his father's commitment.

"I probably wouldn't still be training if he didn't support me in that way," Trevor said.

Here's a link to a short piece about other Olympic competitors who found homeschooling a help while training for their events. And this fabulous website (mentioned in my opening paragraph as having lots of terrific resources for homeschoolers related to the Olympics) has another listing of Olympic hopefuls who were homeschooled extensively. Here's a quote from this site from Gabby Douglas, 16-year-old gymnastics gold medal winner, about the impact of homeschooling on her life:

Here’s what Gabby had to say when I asked how homeschooling has impacted her life:

Being homeschooled gives me the freedom not to be confined to just a classroom for learning.  I’m learning everywhere, everyday.  My classroom really is the world!  I travel to competitions in countries all of the world and we use that as party of my studies.

I work at my own pace which allows me to follow my gymnastics dreams. Being homeschooled also helps build my self-discipline and time management.  I have to balance priorities and school is definitely a very important one to me.”

Hope everyone is enjoying the Olympics-- and enjoying seeing how homeschooling has been a help to many terrific young athletes! 


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