Homeschool Physical Education is a topic that surfaces every so often on homeschooling lists. Somehow it always surprises me, the country mom whose day begins with feeding the horses and saddling the pony, but I realize that my life isn't typical. This is a real question and a real issue in today's world where obesity is rampant and opportunities for exercise must be sought out. Gone are the days when a kid got on his bike and took off for the day to explore woods and creeks, play ball with his friends and fish. So, in the world as it is today, how does a homeschool family organize physical activity?
The real question is: Should you offer a course in Physical Education, as most schools do, or should you simply incorporate physical activity into your daily life? I think the answer is obvious.
I will begin by mentioning recreational league sports. Most communities have organized sports teams for children from kindergarten to high school: soccer; baseball; football; cheerleading. Participating in these seasonal activities could serve as both exercise and playtime. They are also generally inexpensive and close to home.
If you aren't a fan of organized sports why not try dance, roller skating, bowling or horseback riding lessons? Some of these options can be quite costly (riding, dance) and others (bowling, skating) are relatively inexpensive. Look in your telephone book and see what your community has to offer. Check at the library and community center. Churches also often have extra-curriculars, especially in small towns where there aren't a lot of options to keep kids, teens in particular, occupied, in shape and out of trouble.
If you just can't afford to pay for your child to participate in anything with a price then you're just going to have to be creative. Try doing morning calisthenics, jog together, ride bikes or power walk. Play Mother-May-I or any of a hundred other movement games. If you have teens assign them tasks like mowing the grass or washing the car. Movement does not have to be conscripted to a physical education class. My friend, Melina, is a health coach and she believes that it's dangerous to relegate PE to specific time slots. Kids need access to physical activity all of the time and especially before serious lessons take place (author's note: especially for kinetic children!). 3x a week for 20 minutes is the way schools handle physical education but this does not set up a healthy approach to staying fit. It's a lifestyle, not a course.
On the subject of homeschool P.E. another friend, Lydia, says:
"After experiencing a few at the YMCA, I have decided I don't have any time
for "Homeschool P.E." classes. I have all kinds of time for bike-riding,
swimming, hiking, wrestling with the dog, martial arts, cartwheels, climbing
trees, kicking a ball around, dancing, and playing instruments. I am trying
to teach them PE as part of an active lifestyle involving all kinds of
different pursuits, and have no plans to teach him what a side-out is, or
why some kids have to sit on the bench, or how to stand and watch other kids
climb a rope. "
Both of my parents were body builders and opened a health food store in the early '60's. Dad was Mr. Virginia once and Mom held the Guinness World Record for Women's Squats (weight) for a while. Dad is still fit, Mom not so much. I grew up in a household where working out was just a natural part of daily life, like watching the news or taking a shower. It has stood me in good stead as I come into middle age and while I don't have access to a gym for working out, I do a lot of physical activity each day and eat well. I watch as many of my peers struggle daily with weight and more importantly with horrible body images which often are not realistic. I know from experience that incorporating physical activity into our lives can pay off big and am trying to pass this on to my own children.
Like all things homeschooling, you have to put in some thought and work to find the proper approach for your family but try to think outside the 'Health and Physical Education' box. The best thing you can teach your child is to enjoy physical activity, whatever form it takes. That's truly what will set them up for a lifetime of fitness and confidence.
Bettina Colonna Essert is a native of the Virginia/North Carolina borderland. She currently lives on a 'farmette' in rural NE NC with her husband, 2 home schooled children and a menagerie of farm animals. Bettina is an Equine Sports Massage Therapist. .