Homeschool P.E. Programs that Fit a Busy Schedule - Part Two
Sports and fitness are an important facet of the home school. An effective P.E. program fits into the homeschool schedule, rather than taking over. It comprises a variety of engaging activities that keep the kids challenged and interested. It must also be affordable.
Sports lessons and equipment can be costly for families on a single-income budget. Happily, it isn’t necessary to budget for high-powered, expensive programs. There are many low-cost alternatives available, if you know where to look.
The local homeschool community is a wonderful resource for low-cost sports. Some homeschoolers organize sports groups for their children, which may be coached by parents or a hired coach. If your homeschool community doesn’t have this option, consider starting such a group. Our local homeschoolers have formed a sports co-op that meets weekly. For a mere $35 each semester, participating kids learn baseball and soccer in the fall, and softball and basketball in the spring. Coaching is done by parents, and every parent must volunteer to help with other duties once a month. The group meets on Friday afternoons, when families are ready for a break. Both kids and parents enjoy the opportunity to socialize and exercise.
Another option within the homeschool community is trading services. I have tutored language arts in exchange for my daughter’s vaulting lessons with another homeschool mom. Take note of what other homeschool families are specializing in, and see if you can offer exchange lessons or services. Be creative, and realize that we often underestimate the value of our abilities. Your talent for cooking enough for an army, for example, could both answer another homeschool mom’s prayers and provide lessons in your child’s dream sport. You never know until you ask!
Non-profit sports clubs are another option. To find a non-profit team near you, ask other homeschool parents or try a Google search. This year my children have benefitted from biweekly workouts at a popular non-profit track club. They enjoyed cross country running in the fall and track in the spring, at only $50 per child per semester. Another source is the YMCA. A “Y” membership allows access to many fitness options. The YMCA offers financial assistance, making its programs accessible to anyone.
Junior colleges and universities sometimes offer youth sports programs. A university in our area provides a youth swim team. The team is reasonably priced, with an enrollment fee of $75 and dues of $80 per month for the first child and only $60 for additional children. That is certainly an expense; but the children swim every day for almost two hours and participate in competitive meets – lots of bang for your buck!
City Parks and Rec departments also offer a variety of sports lessons, although the recession has lessened these options in some areas. Parks and Rec lessons tend to be cheaper than private lessons, and signing up with friends reduces the cost further.
For a real shoe-string approach, consider joining a public charter school. Charter schools fund a wide variety of sports, which is how one of my children is able to participate in Pony Club. However, charters are not for everyone as they limit a parent’s freedom to select curriculum, and parents must be willing to have the oversight of a credentialed teacher. For some families, the free lessons and other perks are not worth the reduced independence.
One simple way to enjoy free or low-cost exercise is to regularly use local parks, preferably with another family. The parks in our area offer many activities, including hiking, biking, tennis, and swimming, which we enjoy with other families. The options are limited only by the kids’ creativity. Wide, inviting soccer fields, for example, practically beg younger children to invent fun and silly races. They don’t even realize they’re exercising!
If you aren’t this blessed with parks, remember that very little is needed for an adequate workout at home, or even at a local mall. Be sure to keep these options fun. The more game-like they appear, the more likely children are to participate.Various possibilities include the following:
Drive a neighborhood route to see how far it is. Children can walk, bike or jog this route (with parental supervision), adding to it as their fitness level increases. You will want to invest in quality running shoes and bike helmets.
Buy some simple equipment to create an exercise circuit at home. This could include a mini trampoline, soccer balls, climbing ropes, jump ropes, exercise bands, scooters, exercise balls, and more. Used sports equipment is often posted on Craigs List.
Use a local community center track for running and jogging. Children can run up and down the bleacher stairs for extra cardio and do strength training exercises on the grass.
Have the children walk or jog up stairs with their friends. Add other exercises, such as jumping jacks and sit-ups. Encourage them to gradually increase their speed and number of repetitions. Make a chart and log their progress for added motivation.
For rainy days, have some children’s exercise DVDs handy. We’ve used Tae Bo Kicks by Billy Banks and Kick to Get Fit Jr. by Rich Grogan. A search on Amazon will turn up more. And of course, if you’re blessed with a Wii by all means use it!
At-home fitness products for kids
If you have room in your home or yard, consider inviting a group of children over regularly to work through the President’s Challenge fitness program. Everything you need to participate is available for free at the website below, with a section dedicated to homeschoolers. Kids can compete for state championships and three levels of awards.
- The President's Challenge
Click on the link to learn more about The President's Challenge.
And of course, simply sending the children outside to play is a time-tested and effective means of exercise. A couple of squirt guns and other outdoor toys keep kids moving for hours.
Daily exercise is an essential component of the homeschool, and it’s important to find an affordable way to meet this need. Simple, inexpensive activities are sufficient to teach kids a lifestyle of fitness. Someday our kids will thank us.