I have heard many a homeschooling mother ask questions to the affect of, “How do you get your kids to do P.E.?” It’s made me laugh out loud. “Are you kidding me?” I’ve thought to myself. My question has always been, “How do you get your kids to STOP doing P.E.?” It just goes to show that we all have different strengths and challenges. (And we should never laugh at each other.)
From baseball to basketball, sledding to fox ‘n’ geese, laser tag to Just Dance™, swimming to hiking, I have a much harder time getting my kids to hold still. They even bounce their legs and/or dance with their upper body while doing their schoolwork. None of us can sit “normally” in a chair for very long—it’s actually painful. Because my children are such movers and shakers, and because they are heavily involved in organized sports leagues, I’ve never worried about them getting enough exercise. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still physical things for us all to learn or that winter doesn’t challenge us.
Below is a list of ideas for incorporating more physical education into your homeschool, all year long.
Begin with the basics.
*Start with teaching and practicing some basic skills such as playing catch with a baseball, dribbling a basketball, doing jumping jacks, jumping rope, walking a balance beam, doing a somersault, etc. You may think these things trivial, but they are essential for developing coordination, both physically and mentally.
*Teach the basic rules of play of a variety of common sports and give them a try. (This can mean try a recreational league, or just give it a go in family home evening.) You never know, your children may discover talents and passions that lead in the direction of their life’s mission. Even if you’re not a particularly athletic family, it’s a good idea to have a basic education in sports. I’ve never wanted my children to have to sit something out because they feel physically awkward or athletically uninformed. I could write a dissertation on the value of sports in children’s lives, but suffice it to say that physical education can be a great tool for building confidence. Many social skills are learned in organized sports as well.
*Learn and/or make up lots of different physical games. Many ideas are just a click away on the internet, or you can get a good game book like “The Pocket Guide to Games” by Bart King.
*Go and do. Set aside days in your homeschool schedule for hiking and biking and enjoying the seasons.
Having enough bodies. Many physical activities require a larger number of people than you have in your family.
*Adapt games to your family size. My husband will divide our kids into 2 teams and then play quarterback both ways in flag football.
*A group in Utah County, Utah arranged a P.E. program with a local university. The undergraduates in the university’s physical education program “practice” on a group of homeschoolers, benefiting everyone.
*Organize a homeschool P.E. day once a week or twice a month, or whatever your needs are. Use a park or someone’s yard. A group where I live was able to use the gym at the National Guard armory at one point while one of the Guard’s homeschooling fathers was teaching self defense there.
*Find a professional who is willing to give a group discount for doing a class in the middle of the day. When coaches and teachers find there’s an untapped resource before 4:00 pm, they’re happy to offer something like karate or gymnastics to groups of homeschoolers.
The challenge of winter.
*Embrace the season. Besides sledding (which naturally requires lots of uphill climbing that is good for the heart) there is also snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and of course downhill skiing to enjoy.
*When many roads are icy and crowded, church parking lots are often clear and empty. Load up your car with bikes and skateboards and head to the parking lot for a safe riding zone.
*Visit an indoor fitness or recreation center. If you live in the right place, you can do almost anything indoors, including running, swimming, and tennis.
*Winter is a good time to check out exercise DVDs. The whole family can give it a try! Videos on belly dancing and tai chi also enhance social studies lessons.
*I have some kids who really work up a sweat dancing with Just Dance™. Some video games can be healthy!
*Speaking of dancing, just turn on some music and move!
*Make hopscotch squares with carpet remnants. Our squares have been hopped on a lot over the years.
Equipment and other costs—managing what isn’t free.
*Used tennis rackets, baseball bats and other equipment can be found in thrift stores or classifieds.
*Ask for these things for gifts. One Christmas my husband’s brother surprised us with an indoor basketball arcade game that has been a lifesaver on many a day too cold to go outside.
*We cashed in my husband’s frequent flier miles from business trips to get a free ping pong table.
*Lift tickets, recreational center passes, bowling alley gift cards, etc. can all be given as gifts from you to your children for birthdays and holidays.
*Reward systems can be set up to make a trip to an indoor trampoline park or a soft play climbing gym or the rental of snowshoes a goal everyone is trying to earn with behavior or schoolwork or chores.
Moms like to move it, too!
As much as I’d like to be my old skinny self, for me fitness is more about being able to go and do the things my kids are doing. I want to be able to have a foot race with them and not need CPR. For the most part, just doing what they’re doing and playing right along with them is good enough. My now high school baseball pitchers started out playing as much catch with me in the middle of the day as they ever did with their dad after work. But as my kids have grown and advanced in their athletic goals, I find myself more on bleacher duty watching them than on active duty moving as much as they do. A few more quick ideas for adding movement to a mom’s day:
*Stash a set of small hand weights on the bookshelves. Work your arms while your children read aloud.
*Listen to music while folding laundry or doing dishes and dance during your chores.
*When things get testy and tense, jump up and call a jumping jacks contest, with you leading the way. It burns calories and frustrations.
*During recess, don’t just send the kids out to play. Go out with them and take a brisk walk around the block or demonstrate a jump rope game from your own childhood.
Exercise and physical education are important. As a woman who has found exercise to be absolutely necessary in maintaining not just physical but also mental and emotional health for myself, and as a mother who has seen the behavior and focus benefits from sports and activity in my children’s lives, I hope everyone will find ways to “move it.”