As a homeschool student who went all the way through high school and graduated, I am oh so familiar with the stereotype – nerdy, awkward, and socially inept. Oh, and let’s not forget “has never thrown a ball in their life, let alone participated in group sports.” Let’s face it, as we craft our children’s spiritual well-being, character, and mental aptitude, the world of sports can seem over-rated. But the truth is that everyone (even – and perhaps especially – homeschool children) need the physical fitness, regular activity, coordination, and team skills that come from physical education.
However, one will notice that the stereotypical gym teacher is male, while the stereotypical homeschool mom is, well, female. This should not hold us back! No matter your own level of personal fitness as a parent, we can all find ways to integrate a physical education component into our homeschool curriculum.
Homeschooling is a Team Sport
In almost all home school families, there are two parents around. Utilize this fact! Mom may not always feel the most physical (especially if very pregnant or with an infant to tend to), but that is where Dad can come in and pitch for a while. Find a schedule that allows both parents to use their strengths. Who knows, it may even provide some great father-child bonding time that would not have otherwise happened.
Just as with any other area, physical education can seem too big to tackle. But just because you are not good at math, science, or spelling, should your children miss out on these areas? Physical education is no different. Resolve to bring this into the curriculum in some way, starting now!
Perhaps you can coordinate a unit study about hard work, diligence, or other positive character trait with a notable athlete such as Jackie Robinson. Then let the main sport played by that athlete provide the framework for what activities you will chose. Maybe just set up an obstacle course around the yard and time each person on how fast they can get through it. Do jumping jacks each morning before breakfast, or stretches after lunch. Whatever it is, do something, and do it consistently.
Remember that even young children can benefit from regular exercise. But also keep in mind that little bodies cannot handle the same kind of stress (particularly lifting weights) that an adult can. If in doubt about what is developmentally appropriate, look it up or consult your family physician to get recommendations about what is best for your children.
When you first begin, even walking a mile may be hard for the kids – or for you! First, set goals for yourself as the teacher. These may include personal fitness goals that you would like to achieve, or just making a resolution to do something physical every day as a family. Make them achievable, realistic, and measurable.
Once you have your overall parameters set, establish additional personal goals for each member of the family. Try to involve your children in setting these goals so that they can feel a sense of ownership over the process. Do they want to be able to run a mile? Swim for half an hour, or throw a ball across the plate? Make sure to identify intermediate goals along the way so that everyone can see progress.
Physical activities can be a wonderful opportunity to widen your family’s social circle and learn other important lessons about teamwork, patience, and cooperation. You may find an interest with your children to join a martial arts class, or sign everyone up for an activity at the YMCA. Call around or search the web and you may even be surprised to learn that your local homeschool community has its own organized sports teams. Otherwise, explore the possibility of a community little league in your area. Of course, you must use discernment when exploring groups that may not share some of the same fundamental beliefs as your family. You’ll also need to consider the age and temperament of your children. For older children, these groups can provide them their first exposure to witnessing through their lifestyle and understanding that other people sometimes believe differently.
Even going to a local park and having a chance to play on the playground with other children can be a good learning experience. This is good not only for your children, but for others to see that homeschooled children are kids too, and that we are kind, considerate, and friendly, rather than the angry, shallow, and anti-social group that we are sometimes portrayed to be.
With every great effort comes great reward, and physical fitness is no different. Immediately, you will all probably notice increased mental acuity, energy, and stamina as you build the bodies that God has given you. Be sure to be patient and enthusiastic supporters of all your children, and reward not just the achievement but the effort.
Consider setting up even more physical fun as a reward for meeting the goals set by going out for go-carts, a baseball game, or other fun treat as a family at the end of each semester.
God made not only our minds, but our bodies too. We are commanded to care for them as His temple. Healthy living includes learning about our bodies and how to use them better, something that shouldn’t be neglected just because we homeschool. With a little effort and planning, every homeschool family can find joy and fulfillment from integrating physical education into the whole of their homeschool curriculum.