Drawing by Sofia Polgar

This time, they weren’t rooked
Homeschool champs score 3 firsts

Ray Parker
The Arizona Republic
May 3, 2006 12:00 AM

Given the chance to play, they proved they were champions.

A team of 16 homeschool students from the Southeast Valley, entering the Arizona Scholastic State Chess Championship for the first time, took first place, the first state title by a homeschool team.

Called the Chevalier Noir (Black Knight) Academy, the players were among about 750 players who competed for the state championship in Gilbert.

“We’re hoping to pave the way for other homeschool teams,” said Joan Harmonick of Mesa, whose team included students from Mesa, Gilbert, and Queen Creek.

The competitors, as young as kindergartners, played on 375 chessboards inside the Gilbert High gymnasium last weekend.

“Everybody was really excited about having it at Gilbert High, . . . and there were about 2,000 people overall,” said Lynn Schucker of the Gilbert Parents Chess Alliance, which sponsored the state tournament.

Harmonick, a home educator, has been petitioning for years to allow homeschool teams a chance to compete. She said she’s made progress with both the Arizona Chess Federation and the U.S. Chess Federation, the largest chess organization in the nation, with 90,000 members.

Those organizations’ rules essentially said team members had to come from the same school, which excluded homeschoolers. But Harmonick argued homeschoolers should be allowed to form teams because other schools take students from anywhere, such a private, parochial or magnet schools.

“We’ve been allowed to compete as individuals . . . but this year we became the first homeschool team to win a state team championship,” Harmonick said.

To read the rest of the article, please click here.

I see similar successes with the homeschoolers in Austin, TX and other parts of the country. I think scholastic organizers should start to allow homeschool teams to compete. I urge the USCF to do the same with homeschool teams as well as club teams. The children should not be penalized because they are homeschooled or because they attend schools with no chess programs. The best interest of the children should always come first!
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