When I think of physical education, the first thing that comes to mind is organized sports and jumping jacks. There is nothing wrong with either of those things, but I was not eager to “go there” in our homeschool. However, it recently dawned on me that P.E. is more than learning the rules to softball or perfecting “sit and reach.” Teaching our children to live active lifestyles sets them up for better health and a more balanced life. Contrary to my previous belief, P.E. is actually a critical part of the homeschooling equation.
It’s no question that an active lifestyle is important to keep our bodies fit and to increase circulation. It’s also key to give our bodies a chance to move, especially when paired with many of the sedentary jobs (including school work) our modern world requires.
The key is finding a way to help our children build the right habits that will make an active lifestyle easy for them to maintain throughout their lives. It’s more than just blocking off a class period. It’s about building healthy habits together as a family. Here are a few tips to help you and your family integrate P.E. into your homeschool routine in lasting and effective ways.
It starts with you
It’s one thing to tell your child being active is important, but to watch from the sidelines while she plays sports or runs that obstacle course you set up in the backyard. It’s a totally different ball game when you set a good example by the way you live your own life. So, how is your physical activity? How do you want to show your children that exercise is important in your life? You don’t have to run a marathon; a daily after-lunch walk is a great place to start.
Include the whole family
Any time you can work on physical activity together as a family, it will help build momentum and keep everyone engaged. My husband’s family are all runners. He and his siblings and his dad will get together for races. It’s fun to hear them all talk when they are training together, even though they are spread out all over the world. My son has started riding his bike with my husband sometimes when he goes for runs, and before long he will be ready to run the 5K while my husband runs the marathon or half marathon.
Maybe your family enjoys biking, swimming, playing a team sport, or even hiking or backpacking. You can even get creative and work on little challenges together like jumping rope, keeping track of who walks the most steps in a day, or more. If you go to the playground, run around and hang on the equipment with your kids. Doing activities that include the whole family also gives you more quality time together, and that’s certainly a plus.
Replace a passive activity with an active one
There are so many passive things we can do in our families. If we can replace even one of those activities with something more active, even once a week, that may make a big difference. Can you walk or bike for one errand each week instead of taking the car? Think about doing some stretching or walking in place while you listen to a book on tape. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot and power walk to the store. Take a family walk in the evening instead of sitting around the house together. You can even practice spelling or vocabulary words or study for a test while moving. By simply replacing one passive activity with an active one, you can make a big difference in building an active lifestyle for your family.
Get outside on the weekends
It’s harder to be sedentary when you are outside. You can go for a walk, play frisbee — even blowing bubbles can get you moving. Make it a goal to get outside every single weekend, even when the weather is no fun. Then, get moving with your kids. My family loves spending Sabbath outside. We usually go for a really long hike. We don’t go fast, but just stretching our legs and getting out there in God’s creation does something amazing for the soul.
Take Active Breaks
When you are sitting or doing a task that requires sedentary focusing for long periods of time, get in the habit of setting timers for you and your kids. Get up and take a 10-minute walk around the house or jog in place. Whatever you do, make it active. Don’t simply move from the desk to the couch and “veg out.” Be intentional and get moving. Shoot a few hoops, toss a ball in the front yard. It doesn’t have to be something long or involved.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. You may notice that the more active you and your family are, the easier it will be to be more active over time. I truly believe that by integrating activity throughout your life and not just having a 30-minute class period in your school schedule (though that’s not bad either), you will be setting an example and putting the right habits in place to help your kids be healthy and balanced for life.