Editor’s note: This article first published on May 4, 2017.
Most parents rely on organized sports and school physical education programs to get their kids active. But what if your child doesn’t go to a “normal” school or play organized sports?
In February 2017, Active for Life presented a video session on physical literacy for the Canadian Online Homeschool Conference. Following the conference, we were interested to know what homeschool parents were doing to get active and develop physical literacy with their kids. Did they take an approach that was radically different from other parents? We asked a few of the conference attendees to share their experiences.
Jackelyn in B.C.
Jackelyn homeschools eight children who vary widely in age from six years old to 18. She sees physical activity as being very important to their education.
“I think it is really important to provide opportunities for children to be active. If not with bikes or balls, then doing something else,” says Jackelyn. “We can’t just tell them to go out and do something—we have to be there sometimes, do things with them, and make it fun.”
“We don’t do any organized sport, but we have a whole crew that plays games together. We have swings, bikes, and go for walks, hikes, and swimming together on a scheduled basis with the whole family.”
Jackelyn and her kids often discuss healthy eating and promoting a healthy life style. They also work on body awareness, balance, and how the right and left brain work together to learn.
“You have to make a conscious decision to go out and do things, but it makes for a much happier and healthier family,” says Jackelyn.
Brian in Ontario
Brian is an active homeschooling blogger who homeschools a son, 5, and a daughter, 3. His approach to physical activity and physical literacy is to combine education and physical activity at every opportunity.
“We play at the playgrounds, but we also play in the natural areas of town,” says Brian. “Large hills, steep hills, rocky and rooty terrain. They aren’t just having the time of their lives going up and down the hill—they are learning about gravity, strategy, tension, and even rock climbing basics—or about the types of trees, seasonal conditions, and the animals and bugs we see.”
Brian also applies a special “spin” on physical literacy and activity: riding unicycles.
“I am an avid unicyclist and I’ve been doing it as essentially my sole form of exercise for about 15 years,” he says. “I could go on for hours about how unicycling has an incredible impact on every aspect of education. It’s a great workout and incredibly self-motivating while building self-confidence and determination, and the amount of knowledge my kids have gotten from theirs before they can even ride them is varied and ongoing.”
Even family violin lessons on Skype are folded into outdoor activity.
“Why do a violin lesson in front of the computer on the table, when they can sit atop that steep hill they just climbed with the phone and a violin?” says Brian. “Whatever we are doing, and whatever they are into, there is a fun way to keep them active and excited about being active. And the more educational you make physical activity, the less you have to schedule as well.”
Natalie in New Brunswick
Natalie is homeschooling a 12-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl.
“With a very active boy, I’ve always known how important physical activity is for the whole child,” says Natalie. “When he moves, he learns so much better and his mood improves dramatically. To that end, much of our homeschool is auditory so he can listen and do other things like Lego, colouring, and rolling around rather than sitting and writing. My daughter finds it easier to sit so my challenge there has been to make her move more.”
For Natalie and her kids, summer and fall are easier for physical activity because of the availability of parks, biking, and walking into town for the library and the mail. They also like to go hiking and fishing. Winter is more challenging.
“I find the colder weather harder, but we do have an active homeschool group,” says Natalie. “We have gym days twice a month for one-and-a-half hours, and swimming lessons run for 10 weeks in fall and spring. Outside of those 20 weeks, I try and take them swimming once a week.”
“This past month, I’ve introduced them both to Jiu-Jitsu and they love it. They go twice a week for two-and-a-half hours, and they have put the futon mattress on the floor in the attic and are happy practicing fighting with each other.”
Next winter, Natalie would like to get snowshoes for the family and get the kids to try skiing.
“It’s very important to me that they get into good habits at a young age, and that they are encouraged to be active and make healthy food choices,” says Natalie. “In some ways I see these life lessons as more important than some other subjects!”