Sports and physical fitness are incredibly important in American society. It only takes the watching of one professional game of anything to realize that we are a sports loving people. We overpay athletes, jump through enormous hoops to procure tickets and watch games, we root wholeheartedly and sincerely for “our team” and we delve into the depths of despair when they lose.
I’m sorry but I just don’t get it.
I really enjoy baseball a lot and I have even been lured into caring about a football season or two in my time, however the committed passion of the team enthusiast eludes me. I do however, recognize the importance of competition in sports and I am generally in favor of children participating in sports programs. In the right environment they learn cooperation and team work as well as the valuable life lesson in how to lose gracefully. There is also the, very important, physical fitness side to participating in athletic programs. We are an increasingly obese society and that is largely due to the fact that we are technologically savvy and therefore sedentary. In other words, we sit on our butts too much. And so do our children. Less than 20 % of adults get the recommended thirty minutes of exercise per day, and one in three children in this country are obese due to largely to fast food consumption and the fact that they spend an average of seven and half hours in front of a screen every day. (Source: CDC National Center for Health Statistics. 2008)To get a child outside and moving a few times a week is to give them good fitness habits that will hopefully carry on through life and prevent the onslaught of weight related diseases that are now plaguing so many people of my age.
So, as a home educating mom who is more inclined to tea and book than an afternoon at a field, how do I get my children involved in sports or fitness activities that will offer the all the benefits of sports programs and not break the bank? It can be done, but as usual, we homeschoolers have to be a little more creative in our approach. Here are five ways to not only get the Phys Ed requirement into your lesson plans but to really enjoy some physical activity with the kids as well.
1. CYO (Catholic Youth Organization)
Community sports teams are a great resource and we have found CYO to be a really good fit for our family. Like most community sports team the coaches are volunteers who are passionate about passing along the skills of their sports to young people. Unlike secular teams, games begin with prayer and the values of sportsmanship are of primary importance. Bad behavoir on the part of the kids and the parents is simply not tolerated. Our children have done track and basketball through the CYO league here in our parish, volleyball and cheerleading are also available. The cost is very reasonable and the seasons tend to be six to eight weeks which is manageable for a mom who is busy running a bunch of kids to different activities. If your parish does not have a CYO program you can look for one in a nearby parish. Living in the parish is not a requirement.
2. President's Council on Physical Fitness
The President’s Council on Physical Fitness is an excellent and free resource for homeschooling families who wish to increase their level of fitness as well as learn about wellness and nutrition. The website, has a section devoted to homeschoolers. It gives many options for participation and the whole family, including mom and dad, can be involved and earn awards. Children with special physical needs are also included and can participate in every level. This is an excellent option for homeschoolers who are willing to get up and move but prefer to do so in their own backyard. The website also links to the PALA + program which promotes physical fitness and good nutrition and encourages families to participate. This could work for both phys ed and health in an IHIP.
Another option for homeschool families is biking. A scheduled weekly family biking outing, with proper safety equipment is an excellent way to maintain fitness and coupled with a bicycle safety program, such as can be found at www.safetykids.org . Cycling can only be done seasonally in most areas of the country it is true but it is a great option for both fall and spring and should be considered a viable option, especially if you visit an ice skating or regular skating rink in the winter months to make up for the loss of outdoor activities. Right there is a year-long phys. ed. plan.
It seems weird to include technology in a post about getting off the couch but there are ways it can be useful, especially during the winter months when a variety of DVDs, Wii games and YouTube videos can help with exercise. I happen to enjoy the Leslie Sansone videos. They are all designed around walking two, three, four or five miles with some light weights involved. They are fast paced and since Mrs. Sansone is very upfront about being a Christian and the tone of the videos is pleasant and upbeat while the ladies are dressed appropriately for fitness activities. You need not be embarrassed if your sons are watching. I prefer these adult DVDs to the many children’s that are available because they are quieter and more focused on achieving fitness goals rather than loud music and silly behavior. In my home we also use the Wii for winter physical education. The Wii Fit program is excellent way for children to track their improvements in various fitness activities. There is strength training, aerobics, and balance games. The kids import their Miis into the game and they can customize their workouts and set the time for twenty, thirty or forty minutes. The newer versions include fun things like skateboarding and rhythm kung-fu. Another fun option is the Just Dance series of video games that is made for Wii, however be aware that the music can be a bit much for a homeschool household. There is, however, another option; a series called Dance Praise is a similar game set to praise and worship music which comes with a mat than can be hooked up to a computer so a game system is not even necessary.
Fit Bit is a handy little device provided you can make the investment. It's a wristband that tracks steps, calories burned, active minutes and even the quality of your sleep. I t can be a great tool toward making a couch potato more active. It also encourages the easiet method of exercise, walking, which is free, heart healthy, can accommodate all age groups when combined with wagons, strollers and slings. You can pair it up with science and call it a nature walk. You can combine it with religion and pray the rosary or walk to Mass every day. You can call it home economics and walk to the grocery store, where you can do a little math as well. How about everyone listens to a book and walk while doing literature? See an entire curriculum, literally at your feet.
And, if you dress properly, it can be done all year.
While this can be an expensive option there are ways to get your children the benefits of private instruction without having to sell one of them to the instructor. First, do a lot of research. Every school has its own policies and every owner wants new students. Perhaps a gym or dojo or dance studio would be willing to do a homeschool class once a week during the day (a time when the school is usually empty) for a discount if you can guarantee a certain amount of students. Propose a six week class to begin and see if it works from there. Most people are willing to commit to something short term.
Many school districts and libraries offer continuing education classes in the evenings. Your high schoolers might benefit from a once a week Zumba class and if they like it the instructor can be approached about further classes. Our district offers classes in golf, aerobics, pilates, volleyball and tennis.
Ask about multi child discounts. I have, in the past, received a considerable discount for our Irish step dance classes because I have had three girls enrolled and my high school student taught a class of three year olds. Dance teachers are often glad to have a little extra help with a class twenty three year-olds and are only too willing to give you a couple of dollars off to have an extra pair of hands in the room.
Incorporating physical education into your homeschooling life may take a little time in the beginning but with a little effort from mom and some research it can be a fufilling part of your week and will instill good habits in your children from an early age. The endorphins the kids get from all of the fresh air and exercise will also help them acheive well in the other subjects.
How do you do phys ed?
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