Tim Tebow’s life story is now familiar to football fans, who know this about the Denver Broncos quarterback:

* He was born in the Philippines to Christian missionaries.

* His mother was very ill while pregnant with him and was urged by doctors to have an abortion, but she refused.

* He has been very public about the centrality of his Christian faith in his life.

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Tim Tebow was the first home-schooler to be nominated for the Heisman Trophy, which he won in 2007 (as the only sophomore to ever claim the prize). When he was nominated, he said: “That’s really cool. A lot of times people have this stereotype of home-schoolers as not very athletic — it’s like, go win a spelling bee or something like that. It’s an honor for me to be the first one to do that.”

According to the Web site of the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association , the Tebows began home-schooling their children in 1982, well before the movement was launched by families who wanted to instill Christian values in their children. The movement later expanded to include a diverse range of families. Some parents, as my colleague Lenny Bernstein has reported , choose to home-school their children so they can train strenuously in a particular sport.

About 1.5 million American children were home-schooled in 2007, the most recent year for which data are available, according to the U.S. Education Department.

In the early days of the movement, students who were home-schooled were not allowed to participate in athletics at their local public schools. A 1996 law in Florida, where the Tebow family was living, changed that, and Tim Tebow began playing football, first at a Christian academy and then at a public high school, where, despite controversy about his status as a home-schooled student, he led the team to a state championship and became nationally known.

He later led the University of Florida to two national championships and was drafted by the Broncos. Saturday night he will lead the Broncos in a divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Tebow’s record in Florida persuaded some other states to give home-schoolers the same kind of athletic opportunities as he had in high school, but other states still leave it up to the individual school district.


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