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Gym Class In The Great Outdoors

In most states, you are required to teach your children some type of physical education. Some states have standards for PE, while others rely on the national standards. Even if you are homeschooling, you are expected to have structured, physical education instruction. With your self-sufficient lifestyle, you and your children probably already lead a pretty active lifestyle, but there are plenty of things that you can do to directly encourage even more physical activity.

Physical education does not necessarily have to be in a gym, and it does not have to mean playing basketball or learning about the rules for volleyball. A real physical education means getting plenty of exercise, trying a variety of activities, and developing an understanding for the importance of staying fit and being in good health. It does not require a ball or any other typical equipment. You can give your children an excellent physical education using what you have in your own backyard. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Chances are you live somewhere with a lot of wild spaces. If you have a lot of property, you can create a trail with your children. Do you take walks together already and follow a certain path? Turn that route into an actual trail. Make a couple of different loops to allow for different lengths of trails. Take field trips out into the woods or fields to clear plants, sticks, and rocks out of the intended trail. Where the land slopes up, you can cut steps into the ground, or place large rocks to act like steps. Use fallen branches and logs to create an edge on your trail. Just the act of creating the trail will provide you and the kids with plenty of physical activity with a purpose.
  • Use your new trail. Your trail can be used for a variety of purposes. You can start each day with a hike, for instance. Mark out miles on your trail and use it for running or jogging. Challenge your kids to run a mile and time them. Once each child has a time for their mile run, they can work towards doing it faster. As they become more fit, you can increase the distance as well. Invite other homeschooling groups over to use your track. You can even organize a track and field day and create events and ribbons for the winners of each one.
  • Mountain biking. When you’re not hiking and running, your trail can be a mountain biking path. If your kids have the right kinds of bicycles, they can use the track for riding. Just be sure when you are making the trail that you leave some space around any steps that you create that are wide enough for a bike to get up and down.
  • Another great use for your trail, or for a different area of the yard if you so choose, is circuit training. A circuit trail is a trail that includes stations for various exercises. The purpose is to run or walk around the trail, stopping at each station to stretch or exercise a different muscle group. Creating circuits is a good fitness lesson. You and your children will need to research different exercises to work all of your muscle groups. The activities do not have to be complex or involve very much equipment. They can be as simple as doing push-ups on the ground. For exercises that need some assistance, you can use tree branches, stumps, or large rocks. Be careful to take time to learn the exercises correctly, however, to avoid injuries.

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  • Have a scavenger hunt. A scavenger hunt is a great way to get your kids outside and running around. It is also a great way to combine physical fitness with another lesson. For instance, for a botany lesson, you could give them a list of different plants to find. For art, they can search out different colors and different shades of colors to make it more complex. To prove they have found their items, you can use a variety of techniques. The traditional method is to take pictures, but you can be more creative. For searching out plants, they can bring back a specimen and then create a plant book with pressed and preserved leaves. For the art lesson, they can draw their find with colored pencils.
  • Geocaching. You can take scavenger hunting to new technological levels with geocaching. This is a sport that many people play all over the world. The idea is to give a clue and a set of GPS coordinates. The seeker then finds that location and searches for something that has been hidden there ahead of time. The coordinates do not give the exact location, so that some searching still has to be done. Typically, the game is played by many people at once and when a buried treasure has been found, the finder leaves something with it, so the treasure accumulates. You can play this game on a small scale within your family or even include other homeschooling groups. Shoeboxes work well as receptacles for the hidden treasure.
  • Get in the garden. Gardening is a great way to get exercise. Teach your children how to grow food and get them involved in the process. Turning compost, turning soil, planting seeds, weeding, and creating fencing or growing boxes are all excellent ways to stay fit and to be active together as a family.
  • Play video games. It used to be that video games were synonymous with sitting on the couch for hours. With many that is still true, but today there are plenty of gaming systems that require a lot of action on the player’s part. They include games that simulate all kinds of sports: boxing, baseball, tennis, even archery. There are also dancing and fitness games that really get your blood pumping. These are great for rainy days or for when it is dark outside but the kids need some exercise.

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  • Play with toys. Getting exercise doesn’t have to be a chore. Think about some of the best toys you had as a kid. Chances are, they required physical activity. These older toys are inexpensive too, so you can afford to have them around for play time. Have a few hula hoops, jump ropes, and Frisbees around. Even a pogo stick and a skateboard can work. Use these toys for unstructured physical education. When the kids need to burn off some energy, they can play with the active toys.
  • Try dance. Kids love to dance, as long as you get them into it before they feel self-conscious. Dancing is a great way to get physically fit and often appeals to kids who otherwise don’t like exercise. Look for a local dance studio for lessons or get instructional videos and try some moves out at home.
  • Organize teams. Although you have plenty to do without them, traditional sports can also play a role in your physical education program. Because it is hard to play these games with only a few people, you will need to get other homeschoolers involved. If you can get enough other kids and their parents involved, you can get together to play softball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and even badminton. Whatever you have the equipment for and your children have the inclination to play is a good place to start. You may even be able to use space at a local public school after hours for games like floor hockey, dodge ball, or tennis. If you have enough homeschoolers to pull from, you might even consider getting teams together for competitive games. Of course, there is nothing wrong with just playing for fun too.

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