Homeschooler helps Panthers succeed on field

Sophomore Peter Boylan one of two running backs on this year’s football team

Panther running back Peter Boylan (left) has been homeschooled by his mother Diane (right) his entire life. Washington is one of 10 states that allows homeschoolers to play sports in public schools.

Peter Boylan makes time for homeschool and football.

The Washougal Panthers football team is on a two-game winning streak after beating their league rivals, the Ridgefield Spudders, 35-19 Sept. 29, in Ridgefield, and a homeschooled running back is a big part of the team’s success.

Peter Boylan, who has attended class at home his entire life, has been a nice addition for the young football team this season.

Peter is one of two million American youth who go to school at home, according to the National Homeschool Association.

“It’s nice to have the freedom that homeschooling gives you,” Peter said.

His mother, Diane, is a former school teacher who has been helping her children learn at home since moving to Washington from Virginia in 2001.

“My husband and I started praying about it. As Christians, we just felt strongly that we should be homeschooling, and we’ve been homeschooling ever since,” Diane said.

Peter is the youngest of the Boylan clan. His two older brothers, Peter and Karl, and sister, Rebecca, have all graduated from high school at home. All three of the older Boylans also played sports for Washougal High School. Peter’s brother Karl played football.

“I went to my brother’s games when he was playing for Washougal, and that really got me into football,” Peter said.

Washington one of few states where homeschoolers can join school teams

Washington is one of 10 states that allow homeschooled students to participate in public school sports.

Many are surprised to learn that the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA), which regulates high school sports in the state, is not a state agency but a private nonprofit formed in 1905 to “create equitable playing conditions between high school sports teams in Washington,” according to the organization’s website at wiaa.com.

The WIAA has worked with the Washington Homeschool Association since 1999, making it possible for homeschoolers like the Boylans to participate on local sports teams with their public school peers.

“Thankfully, Washington allows our kids to play sports, do music or even take a few classes,” Diane said. Peter not only plays football, he also takes Spanish classes at Washougal High.

“It’s just been fun for them to play sports, and it’s been fun for us to watch them,” Diane said. “Being that they are home all day, it gives them a chance to be with their peers and learn to work as part of a team.”

Fellow players and coaches praise Peter Boylan’s work ethic. He plays running back for this year’s Washougal football team, switching off with junior Brevan Bea, the Panther team leader who also plays linebacker on the defensive side. It means Boylan gets to run against Bea everyday in practice — something he credits for his rapid improvement as a sophomore.

“Whenever Brevan is playing linebacker and I’m playing running back in practice, it’s a real challenge to get by him because he’s the best linebacker in the league,” Peter said.

Bea feels the same way about his younger teammate.

“Peter is a really hard worker. It’s always a competition between us in practice, so it’s really good to know I have someone who can help me out on the offense side,” Bea said.

Peter’s work ethic in the weight room helped him increase his weight from 145 at the end of last football season to 175 pounds at the start of this season. His goal is to one day play football at a Division 1 college.

“My favorite college is any Division 1 college that gives me a scholarship,” Peter said.

Having switched to running back from receiver this year, the sophomore knows achieving that goal will take a tremendous amount of focus, dedication and work.

“Even before I started playing football for Washougal as a freshman, I played with my older brothers, which really helped me because they are five and six years older than me, and it’s always made me tougher I guess,” Peter said. “I just love playing football.”

At home, Peter now studies on his own schedule, fitting football practice and gym workouts in between academic lessons.

“As they get older, especially (in) high school, the goal is to get them to be more independent,” Diane said. “Peter knows what he needs to get done each week, and it doesn’t matter when he does the work as long as it gets done.”

The flexible homeschool schedule has allowed the Boylans to go on vacation together and spend more family time together at home.

“I would never tell someone who is not homeschooling that (they) are wrong, because homeschooling is a deeply personal decision,” Diane said. “I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s always worked for us.”

As the Panthers move into the second half of the season, the team is making fewer penalties and learning how to pull out victories in close games.

Peter vows to keep his nose to the grindstone, and said his team still needs a lot of work if it hopes to make it to the postseason.

“We are starting to play better. I definitely think we have a chance to make the playoffs this year,” Peter said.

Perhaps the best news of all for Panther fans is that Peter — along with every starting skill player on the Washougal team — are young and will be back on the field at Fishback Stadium next year.