At age 13, Simone Biles broke down in tears. She had decided not to attend a normal high school, opting for homeschooling in order to practice her gymnastics.
“I was just so lonely all the time,” Biles told The Undefeated’s Lonnae O’Neal. “I missed, like, all my friends at school and stuff. But I mean, in the end, it worked out.”
That would be an understatement. In 2013, she became the United States champion at the U.S. National Gymnastics Championships, and then went on to win the 2013 World Championships in Belgium.
At the global event, she won four medals — two of them gold — and became the first female African-American all-around world champion. In 2014 and 2015, she held on to her title, and racked up 10 gold medals from those three world championships. At the Olympics, she has already won the gold medal with the women’s Team U.S.A.
“I think it inspires a lot of the little girls out there to go in the gym and train harder,” Biles told The Hollywood Reporter‘s Natalie Jarvey about the first World Championship victory. “They say, ‘oh, maybe I can achieve it since she achieved it, just like Gabby Douglas was the first African American to win the [women’s Olympic] all-around title.’ I think it just pushes all of them.”
Biles sacrificed a great deal for the opportunity to train: There would be no prom, no after-school activities, no comaraderie with fellow classmates. But she took the risk. “I decided that I wanted to be better. I didn’t just want to throw my skills, I wanted them to look good.”
The future Olympian adopted an intensive training and competition schedule, which made it impossible to follow the traditional high school track. “If I had a competition, I had to leave [school] for like a month; I would take my schoolwork with me,” she told Jarvey. “I didn’t get the high school opportunity, but it always worked out.”
Biles originally planned to pursue a traditional college experience, but decided instead to go pro, signing up with the sports agency Octagon, the same company which represents the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.
Homeschooling has become more popular in recent decades for many reasons. Some parents hesitate to entrust their children’s education to public schools, fearing an overly secular education, or perhaps just a mediocre one. Homeschooling provides yet another option for parents to choose, and Biles’ story goes to show the huge opportunity it can afford.
Biles is also a Christian who attends church regularly. Shortly after her birth, the future Olympian was actually put into foster care because her mother struggled with drug addiction. Her grandfather and his wife adopted her and her sister when they were young, and raised them in a Christian homeschooling atmosphere in Spring, a suburb of Houston, Texas.
Never let anyone tell you Christian homeschoolers can’t win Olympic gold medals. Simone Biles is not only proof that they can, but that the flexibility of homeschooling can propel you to world championships.