For many years, one of our favorite homeschool group activities was the weekly event known as Outdoor Games Day. It was started by a family whose kids had formerly gone to a Waldorf school, where physical education classes consisted of games in a nearby field.
The 12-year-old son in the family asked his mom about organizing a similar activity with other homeschoolers, so she helped him to put together one himself. (Teachers call this kind of support "scaffolding.")
It took a little bit of preparation, but once it caught on, Outdoor Games Day became an institution in the local homeschooling community. Here's how it works, and suggestions for setting it up yourself:
What is Outdoor Games Day?
Outdoor Games Day is a chance for homeschoolers to get together for physical exercise and socializing. It's not gym class, but it is a great way for homeschooling families to provide the benefits of physical education to their kids.
Many homeschool support groups hold regular "park days," but the nice thing about Outdoor Games Day is that the kids are in charge. They decide what to play, pick teams, and adjust the rules as needed to fit the children who show up.
Along with learning new games and developing new skills, kids get to practice sportsmanship and leadership. And it brings together different families that might not take part in the same activities because their children are different ages.
Do Your Research
Like the family in my homeschool group, you can use organizing your own Outdoor Games Day as a learning opportunity for your kids. Have them brainstorm a list of games they think would work well. Look at some books and websites for tips on what kind of games to choose, or to find new ones they can teach to the group. You can even research historic games or popular games from other countries. Or try some cooperative games that offer fun and activity without winners and losers.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Find the Right Location
The spot you choose for Outdoor Games Day should be convenient to get to and available at the time you want it. A city rec field that's empty during the school day is ideal. Some other things to look for that will make the event appealing:
- Enough open space for one or more groups to play at the same time
- Shady area for parents to sit
- Play area for toddlers within sight but away from the main action
- Drinking fountains and bathrooms
Equipment You'll Need
Make sure you've got anything that's required for your game (although it's usually possible to improvise). Some suggestions:
- Balls of different sizes
- Traffic cones to help mark off boundaries
- Colorful bandanas or other items that can serve as flags or markers
- Drinks and snacks as a welcome gesture for the first meeting or two
Publicize and Nurture the Event
Have your kids think about how to word an invitation to get other families interested, and ways to keep them coming back week after week. You will probably have to help them by contacting local parents in your area to make sure you've got enough people to play.
Also try to send weekly reminders and updates in case of bad weather. If you can, show up to all the meetings so someone is there to welcome new families, at least at the beginning. If you must miss a week, see if another parent will agree to fill in. Once it catches on, Outdoor Games Day can run itself, and families that enjoy the event will be happy to help make it a continuing success.