I have been homeschooling for ten years and have always felt that physical education is one of the weak links in our homeschool. Friends and family have responded to my worries with, "Aw, come on! Your kids run around and play more than most kids their age!" While it is true that my children have more time to ride bikes and run around the yard than most school children do, I still felt like we could be doing better at developing skills and habits that would make not only my children's bodies stronger, but also their minds.
Physical Education for Children Schooled at Home by Diane Taylor outlines a program that homeschool families (or co-ops) can easily implement to help children develop physical fitness as well as locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills. Mrs. Taylor earned her degree in Elementary Education and Physical Education and Recreation. She taught in public schools for fourteen years and has been teaching P.E. classes for homeschooled children for the last 15 years. I met Mrs. Taylor this summer at a homeschool convention, and her passion for helping homeschoolers in this vital area immediately captured my attention.
According to Mrs. Taylor, the goals of home physical education should be to teach children how to be active, to give them opportunity to be active, and to help them learn to enjoy activity. She writes, "Children require a variety of physical activities. They need to learn what their bodies can do and how to manage their bodies effectively in a variety of situations and challenges. Learning to manage the body leads to greater control over gross motor movement, increased skills, and visual-spatial perception."
The inexpensive textbook is divided into three parts. The first section explains the philosophy behind the program and offers lists of objectives, skills, and rules. Mrs. Taylor also advises how to start a physical education program in your home or with a group of friends. The next section describes and explains all the games and activities. Mrs. Taylor outlines the skills that will be practiced, what age level the activity is appropriate for, what equipment will be required, and where to play. She gives clear and detailed directions, using diagrams whenever necessary. Finally, Mrs. Taylor offers a year's worth of detailed lesson plans for several different scenarios: small (family) or large (co-op) classes of first through third graders or fourth through sixth graders.
Here is a partial list of the games and activities included in the textbook: Balloons, Basketball Activities, Beanbag Activities, Chinese Jump Rope, Dodgeball, Tag, Four Square, Frisbee Activities, Hopscotch, Hula Hoop, Jacks, Juggling, Long and Short Jump Rope, Kickball, Marbles, Obstacle Course, Relays, Running, Simon Says, Soccer, Target Toss, and Ten Pin. Supplies for all of these activities are available from www.peisfun.com. Our family received a jump rope kit, which has been a huge hit. We often bring out the long jump rope when we have guests, and it is fun (and hilarious) to watch everyone try to run in and jump. My children squealed with delight when even their grandparents tried to jump! Then those competitive souls among us try to beat each other's number of jumps. And all the while, no one realizes how much exercise we all are getting! The Chinese jump rope is an excellent indoor game because it does not involve rotating anything overhead--a perfect rainy day activity. Laminated instructions are included in the jump rope kit; they are also included in the textbook.
I'd like to close by sharing something I've recently learned about the connection between physical education and learning. Our family eye doctor recently diagnosed my 11-year-old son with vision difficulties that have contributed to his reading problems. These problems involve how his eyes work together, not his visual acuity (he has 20/20 vision.) I was very surprised to discover that a good part of my son's weekly vision therapy involves working on the skills outlined in Physical Education for Children Schooled at Home. If your child has learning problems, you might like to explore this avenue for helping him or her.
Physical Education for Children Schooled at Home program is my favorite homeschool find of the year. Diane Taylor has a vision and the enthusiasm to see it through. She has done the homeschool community a great service in creating this program. Highly recommended!