No one ever accused me of being a boring kid.
Just the opposite—nothing could stop me from playing an impromptu game of hide-and-seek at the local Walmart.
I can only imagine my parents’ panic each time I disappeared to frolic in the folds of clothing. Had my parents simply crossed their fingers, fervently prayed that I would someday learn to behave, and left it at that, one could hardly have blamed them.
Thankfully, they did more than just that. My parents actively sought out ways for me to expend my youthful energy. These included registering me in organized sports leagues, signing me up for fitness classes, and sending me outside to do yardwork. (Maybe they hoped this would save them from a heart attack the next time they went shopping.)
Whatever their reason, it was good for me. And with recent studies suggesting that regular physical activity contributes towards improved academic performance and brain health in children—combined with your child’s limitless reserves of energy—it may be time for you to consider implementing some sort of P.E. into your homeschool routine!
Here are some ideas to get you started:
1. Bodyweight exercises on the kitchen floor.
The most popular bodyweight exercises are, in no particular order: Push-ups, sit-ups, and squats. If your child starts getting antsy while doing schoolwork, allow him or her to take a bit of a break by doing bodyweight exercises. Set a rep goal: “Do 25 push-ups. Do 30 sit-ups. You did 30 yesterday, so do 35 today!” The best thing about bodyweight exercises are that higher-rep sets can drain a child’s excess energy quickly, and they don’t require any equipment or additional effort from you!
2. Martial arts classes.
If your child seems to need a more structured environment, consider signing him or her up for group martial arts classes. You’d be surprised how many companies offer child-only courses in all sorts of disciplines—karate, taekwondo, jiu-jitsu, just to name a few. These classes are generally tailored to your child’s age range, are welcoming to girls and boys alike, and have safety as an utmost priority. Check Yelp or Google Reviews for high-quality classes near you; maybe there’s even a co-op that offers martial arts lessons!
3. Traditional athletics.
This may seem like the most daunting option thus far, and rightly so. Your ability to register your homeschooler in traditional sports leagues can vary from state-to-state. I lived in Hawai’i, where equal access for homeschoolers is generally accepted—this meant I was able to participate in sanctioned soccer, basketball, and a flag football league. If your state allows it, this may be a possibility to investigate.
4. Non-traditional athletics.
Of course, participating in traditional sports leagues may not always be possible. If this is the case in your area, you may want to throw a Hail Mary, as it were: Are there any private organizations that offer non-traditional sports? Ultimate frisbee is a popular sport among homeschoolers, as is fencing, to a lesser extent. Rock climbing has also become a popular alternative to conventional athletics—if your kid is partial to climbing all over you anyway, why not give him a rock wall?
5. Family gym membership.
When I was in middle school, my dad decided it was time to hit the gym. For some reason, he decided to take me with him. I endured the agony of the treadmill, the dumbbells (the lightest I could find), and even the weight machines. It was difficult but worth it. I did it with my dad, and this experience is something that has stuck with me ever since. (Granted, that gym craze of his expired after about a month, as these things are apt to do. But I cherish the memory nevertheless. Plus, that early exposure encouraged me to regularly incorporate the gym into my routine later.) Maybe this is what your child needs: a regular, weekly time when you and your homeschooler find a local gym, rack up the load, and bond over a bench press.
6. DVD programs.
If your child’s P.E. regimen demands structure and organization, but the nearest gym class is an hour away, why not bring the heat to your own living room? There are numerous DVD programs dedicated to simulating a group-exercise environment; I’ve had fun with the “Insanity” program, as have many of my friends. If you’d like to include P.E. in curriculum, but can’t find an outside organization, DVD programs can be a great option!
7. Weekend hikes.
Of course, nothing beats going outside and surveying the beauty of creation while on a nice, long hike. Find some mountain ranges or trails near you, and take the entire family! Encourage them to run up and down the trail, if there’s room—I guarantee you, it won’t last long. (Just don’t make the hike too long, or else prepare for the inevitable, “Is it over yet?”)
With so many options, the world of physical education might seem intimidating—my best advice is, just jump right in! You’ll never know what works until you try it. Who knows, your child might find a new sport or physical activity he or she loves!
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis.