One of the subjects all schools need to offer each year is Physical Education and Health. We all remember these classes when we were in school, right? Did you have P.E. in elementary school? I remember a time of day we used to play some kind of team sport like volley ball or four square. Pretty much everyone has nightmares about picking teams. I remember having to dress in a uniform when I started Jr. High., which was pretty much the worst part of the new school. From then on it was “dressing out”, stretching and running, and some kind of team sport for fifty minutes a day. Health was similar. Videos and workbooks about things that were so obvious, boring, or embarrassing to discuss in room full of peers.
I realize I have an unhealthy relationship with my school days. Is there anyone that looked forward to those classes or at least had a good time while there? Did anyone leave school with a healthy attitude toward daily exercise and nutrition due to the influence of those twelve years of classes? My guess is probably not.
So how do we, as homeschoolers, “offer” this subject in a better way? That’s the real point of homeschooling isn’t it, to make a more personalized and productive education option for our kids?
I’d like to write about what we’ve done through the years out as an example, not of what you should do with your kids, but of an alternative to the classes we took at school.
For elementary school aged kids, getting out to the park regularly, going for walks, jumping rope, hiking the hills, running games, etc., are all acceptable forms of P.E. And you need to “offer it”, not force them to play. I’m not an active person naturally. I’ve never been enthusiastic about any sport. I’ve never felt the need to exercise on a daily basis or workout at the gym. But I do love the outdoors and I realize my kids are way more active being kids than I am. We always had jump ropes, hoops, balls, bikes, etc. in the yard. I put it on my planner to ask the boys if they’d like to learn a game I used to play when I was a kid, like jump rope, hopscotch, or hand ball. They usually very excited about that and if they weren’t we did something else. I wrote it down on my planner, “played jump rope – 30 minutes”. P.E. DONE
Your local parks and recreation department can be really helpful as your kids get older and want to try new things. Karate, Soccer, Baseball, even Yoga can be pretty cheap to start out. And if someone is interested in learning more or going beyond what the class offers, you can look around the neighborhood for regular classes. Write that down in the planner and P.E. is done. It doesn’t need to be 45 minutes daily. Regular, one, two, three days a week is fine.
Jr. High and High School are different. Your kids are really coming into their own. They know what they like and don’t like. Team sports or solitary pursuits. If you have a teen that really isn’t into the idea of getting regular exercise or sports, you’re not alone. This is where we need to get creative. The state says our school needs to “offer” physical education. So we offer it, that doesn’t mean he has to learn it. I know that sounds crazy. But there are lots of ways to offer a subject that gets them learning without the sweat. Yes, you could force him to take karate or baseball but is that really going to build him into a better person? Will he come away from your school with a life skill that takes him into adulthood?
The better option in my opinion is to start doing more active things yourself and asking your teens to come along. Go for a daily walk around the neighborhood, take a hike, practice yoga, etc. Ask them if they’d like to join you. They might not the first fifty times. But they do see that you think the exercise is important and they may follow suit. But they may not. It’s really up to them. As in all education, it’s the example you set not the curriculum you use that is most important.
“Health” can be done in a similar way. At any age, planning meals and going to the grocery store is a great way to learn about nutrition. Watching tv shows, YouTube videos, and reading books about how your body works and how you can stay healthy are free. A regular check up at the doctor or dentist can be a learning adventure. When one of my sons cut his arm in a tree, the subject of blood and why you have it came up. We went to the library that day and found some cute books about blood and watched a “Magic School Bus” that afternoon. They were interested, so it just flowed. The same thing happened when one of our friends had a bad cold and couldn’t come to play. We just had to learn about how germs work and how best to defend ourselves.
There are great books and videos online that teach adolescents about the changes their bodies are going through without the embarrassing public class. If you can’t find them, go on one of the bigger statewide chat groups online and ask what other people have used. You can review them before you offer them to your kids to be sure they are appropriate for your family. If it was a video or website, I’d leave it open in my browser and tell the boys there was an interesting article there, or share it with them in an email. If I bought a book or borrowed it from the library, I’d leave it on the coffee table for them to check out if they were interested. Being open to talk about things like this as they grow up helps as well. Young kids that have been told the real answers to their questions as they’ve asked them, without silly euphemisms or awkward “you’ll find out when you’re older” dismissals, tend to be more relaxed teenagers.
Write these things down in your planner as they come up through the weeks and years. The details don’t need to be planned out in advance. According to California’s education code, private schools only need to offer all the subjects that the public schools offer. Big schools need to plan ahead with so many students in each class, but as a small private school with only a couple students we don’t need that much planning. Also, we don’t need to do something different for each of our kids depending on their grade. If you have a 6, 9, and 11 year old at your school, PE and Health can be the same for all of them. They are all going to explore to their own individual needs. You just need to be there to encourage and support them.
My sons took up motocross a few years ago. At first it was just riding dirt bikes but then they wanted to race. They started watching their favorite motocross racers on TV and online videos. I got them magazine subscriptions. After a while they started asking for a mountain bike to ride daily and imposed on themselves a regular workout routine they found in one of their magazines. They also started going to the grocery store with me and asking that I make certain high protein and low sugar foods to help build muscles. They are almost adults and do things the same way an adult would. They find an interest, look into it, research, discover, work. It goes round and round until they feel they have done enough, or move on to another goal.
What are you doing to encourage physical education and health this year?