In schools there is a subject called “Health and Physical Education” (or some similar title. Subject names seem to change from generation to generation, country to country, and even State to State!) How do we, as homeschoolers, address this subject?
The first thing we need to do is understand the purpose and objectives of Health and PE. The Curriculum Framework (W.A.), which is now an outdated document – but good enough for our purposes in understanding education-speak, gives us this definition:
Health and Physical Education provides students with an understanding of health issues and the skills needed for confident participation in sport and recreational activities. This enables students to make responsible decisions about health and physical activity and to promote their own and other’s health and well-being.
I like looking at statements like this because it helps me think about what I’m planning for my kids and why. I may not want to follow the details of a said State-driven curriculum, mainly because it is age-based and class-room orientated, not family or individual friendly, but even so, it does help me see what I need to think about when planning activities for my kids.
Our WA Framework also lists 5 different areas to work with while unpacking this subject (summarised):
- Knowledge and understanding to help foster healthy lifestyle choices
- Attitudes and Values that promote healthy choices
- Skills for physical activity
- Self-management skills that enable them to make healthy choices
- Inter-personal Skills
Even as I summarise this framework, I am excited for the homeschool family because I can see that these things are generally an intricate part of family life – you don’t have to do too many extra lessons to cover these details.
How have we incorporated Health and PE into our homeschool / family life?
- Outside play was a regular part of our younger children’s day. They had outside toys to encourage activity: sandpit with spades and buckets, trees to climb, cubby to imagine, skipping ropes and hoola hoops, bat and balls, trampoline and bikes.
- As our children grew into middle school we noticed they ‘played’ outside less. We started to encourage them to specifically exercise – this was particularly important for the boys, as they needed that physical activity to help with their focus on study. We live on a farm so we encouraged bike riding and walking/running.
- We encouraged one team sport activity per year – t.ball, cricket, netball, soccer. Though we encourage competition when appropriate we also see sport as an activity for personal health and social interaction. Often sport is seen only in terms of team sport, and though that is an important aspect, it isn’t the only aspect.
- We’ve arranged for our kids to take private lessons or learn from friends: swimming, archery, tennis, darts, boxing, surfing, handball, skipping with a long rope and Elastics (old fashions school yard activities). This is about exposing our children to variety rather than them being experts.
- Through being with friends, youth groups and homeschool co-op they have had one off experiences such as abseiling, canoeing, knee-boarding and biscuiting, team-building activities, bike ride, fun run, table tennis, orienteering and fishing.
- As a family we enjoy camping and bushwalking.
- We also encouraged our children to understand various sports even though they didn’t play them. This was particularly important for the boys, as sport is one of those things that Australian men gather around, so knowledge about sport is a social skill (not just physical!)
- We talk about the physical and emotional changes happening in their body. This happens one on one, and at an appropriate time for each individual.
- We talk about marriage and purity (of emotions and body) openly in our family.
- We talk about our food choices both at the dinner table, and while grocery shopping. The kids have helped with the grocery shop since they are around 10 years old so they are learning to make healthy shopping choices.
- We give them the responsibility to take their own medications when necessary (age appropriately).
- One of our children, Naomi, has had medical issues, so the idea of how she has to look after herself is a part of our family understanding and knowledge.
- We talk about relational issues both within the family and out. The goal of our discussions is to give our children tools to build strong relationships: ability to resolve conflict, to work collaboratively, to discuss feelings and disagree appropriately, to build others up, to stand up for themselves and their neighbour etc.
- We work on their ability to manage their time and resources through giving them responsibility. For example Around 16 years of age the kids start to be responsible for their own bedtimes – based on knowing what sleep they need to be enthusiastic and responsible with their commitments the following day.
- We encourage follow through with commitments they take on – teams, projects, or activity.
- They learn to understand themselves, what makes them tick, what makes them stressed and how to look after themselves (and in doing so they also learn that others are different then they are, and will need different strategies).
- In our family we are aware of the impact of learning difficulties, and have had to work through what that looks like in a person’s life, and how that impacts the family. As a family we have been involved with others with learning differences, which has increased our awareness and empathy.
- We have friends with younger children; this has given our children opportunity to be comfortable around young kids, and helped them understand their needs. We have also started to be respite foster carers for a baby (who is now a toddler) which has given our kids a very hands-on experience with parenting.
I could keep on listing the different opportunities and choices we have made in our family that have helped our kids grow in their understanding and ability to lead a healthy life. Also I must say, that this list is an accumulative list, as I reflect back on different aspects, each one of these things wouldn’t have happened in one week but rather over many different seasons of life, over 15 or so years of homeschooling.
We often think of PE and feel inadequate to provide for our kids – but when we look at the whole subject we can be encouraged that we will be doing more than we thought we were.
If health or physical activity is not something that comes easy to your family you may that to be intentional about teaching these things to your kids – and yes, that will require making changes in the whole family, not just a school subject you cover with a lesson or two here and there.
When it comes to planning Health and Physical Education in our homeschool we need to look at the skills but not the way the schools develop those skills. We must be honest enough to look at our lifestyle and see what is missing and do something about it, and yet, at the same time, be aware that healthy family life will cover a lot of these things anyway.
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