By Kathy Ceceri
Homeschoolers, like other kids, need exercise to stay healthy. So even if your state doesn't regulate how you provide physical education, finding ways to help your kids be active and fit is still a good thing to do. And it's not that hard, because you have a wide variety of options for homeschooling PE.
If your child already participates in one or more regular physical activities, that can be enough for homeschooling purposes. But if you'd like your kids to get more exercise, or you're looking for instruction, coaching, or opportunities for competition, here are some ideas to get you started:
In most cases, what counts as PE can be as structured or spontaneous as you and your kids would like. Formal classes with trained instructors are helpful, but you can teach your child your favorite sport yourself as well. Or you may find an Online PE program that provides instruction as well as exercise. But while you're free to make required reading and written tests part of your homeschool PE, the activity itself is all that's really needed.
Activities that might not be part of the physical education program in a school, like swing dancing or kayaking, are perfectly acceptable. So are activities you can do indoors. Homeschool PE can be a way to have fun with other kids. Or you and your kids can participate together -- it not only sets a good example, it also helps strengthen family bonds.
Homeschoolers can even participate in competitive sports. Team sports help develop cooperation, but individual sports also help kids develop perseverance and focus. In areas where joining a school team is not an option, there may be school clubs open to non-students, but many sports have their own competitive organizations separate from schools altogether.
For many kids -- particularly little ones -- just running around outside may be enough. In my state's required quarterly reports, I list this as "unstructured play outdoors." You can also count your regular family activities, like taking walks or playing catch.
It's worth investing in backyard play equipment (Compare Prices) like swings, slides, and trampolines to give kids easy access throughout the day. But you don't have to spend a fortune or need a lot of space. Our first house with its small city yard came with a tire swing hanging from a large tree. My husband and sons used scrap lumber to add a treehouse with a slide and room for a fireman's pole.
You can also come up with your own activities. In a recent Forum discussion, one reader said her girls loved water games that she made up. "Water relay (you take two large containers and have them carry water from one to the other with small buckets) and splash tag are always a favorite."
Joining in games with other kids is a great way to combine socialization with exercise. Playing a "pick up" game of kickball or tag is much less common than a generation ago, but that doesn't mean your kids can't invite some neighbors to revive the tradition.
You can also organize a local homeschool Park Day, where families get together when most kids are in school and make use of fields and playground equipment when it's empty. For many years my local support group met weekly for "Outdoor Games Day." Started by a family with older kids, all the activities were decided by the children who took part.
Another way to get in some exercise without a lot of planning is to take advantage of free or low-cost parks and recreation facilities in your area. You can use bike paths and nature trails on your own or with other homeschooling families whenever you like.
When it's warm, head to a public beach or pool. After a snowfall, send out a message to other homeschoolers to meet a local sledding hill for the afternoon. It's a great way to hang out with other families, especially when there's a range of ages to accommodate.
You can also check to see if your local state or town park or nature center offers tours or classes for kids and families. Some have educators on staff who are happy to discuss creating regular programs for homeschoolers.
I did this when my sons were little, and we were able to enjoy hikes, nature walks and history tours, that were educational as well as good exercise. We even learned how to use a map and compass and navigate with a GPS on the trail, and got to try snowshoeing -- with the cost of equipment included in the minimal fee.
Communities, nonprofit organizations, and private facilities often offer sports programs open to all children. They may require registration and a membership or entrance fee for use of their equipment, but they usually also offer instruction and sometimes host competitive teams.
These can be a good alternative in places where homeschoolers cannot participate in public school sports. Some even offer classes or programs specifically for homeschoolers. Possibilities include: