Useful Tips for Home School Families
Guest Post By Jay Harris
Homeschooling can be both a blessing and a challenge – and P.E. is the perfect example. On one hand, you have the freedom to provide your children with the exercise they so earnestly need and crave; on the other, you may lack the funds, space, or expertise to effectively make this happen. Ahh, the dilemmas of home schooling…
Fortunately, with a bit of guidance and dedication, you can easily turn your own backyard into an effective P.E. playground – a space for your children to play, learn, and grow. Here are a few helpful tips to get the ball rolling.
Organize your play space. Before you start picking out equipment and activities, consider what you are working with.
How big is your yard? Even if you are restricted to a relatively small area, there are ways to get the best out of every inch. Maximize your play space by clearing large objects and structures to the corners of your yard. Once you start putting in equipment, you should adhere to a six-foot ‘safety zone’ around each such structure. Try to cluster movable objects (ladders, hoses, etc.) around permanent ones (sheds, electric boxes, or HVAC units). Outdoor playsets and other such playground equipment can be moved around accordingly.
What type of ground cover do you already have? While alternative ground cover is recommended for playground equipment, a neatly-trimmed lawn is crucial for running children. Tend to ant beds, clear excess weeds or shrubs, and make sure your lawn is trimmed and even.
Consider your equipment. When picking out equipment, I prefer to stick to the classics. The simple freedom of outdoor swing sets and jungle gyms has always been a favorite for kids of all ages (including some adults I know)! If space is an issue, backyard playsets are compact, movable, and offer several activities in one structure. Depending on your space and budget, there is no shortage of playground equipment out there to fit your needs.
Consider alternative ground cover underneath such structures. Wood chips, rubber mulch, and sand make for much easier falls than grass.
Aside from simply providing equipment, it’s important to keep in mind the task at hand: creating a space that encourages organized, structured playtime in addition to free play. After all, you as a parent also assume the role as P.E. teacher and coach. With this in mind, be sure to find a variety of equipment and activities that encourage sportsmanship. Depending on the size of your family and the amount of space you are working with, include lawn games such as badminton, volleyball, croquet, Frisbee, football, basketball, or soccer. And always include equipment that can be used for independent practice, such as jump ropes or hula-hoops.
Make a schedule. Now that your backyard has been transformed into a genuine outdoor gym, you are ready to think about a P.E. routine. Just as children need unstructured playtime at recess, they also benefit enormously from organized physical activity – hence physical education. Before the start of the next school year, come up with a schedule. Set aside a time each day for recess, and a time each day for P.E. Just as they might find in a public school setting, this block of time should be structured, physically challenging, and educational.
Plan your activities ahead of time, and be ready to carry them out when the time comes. Think sports, games, personal competitions, and all-around good exercise routines. Consider starting with some stretches. Move on to a cardio warm-up such as jumping jacks or jogging. Now it’s time to move in to your activity for the day – something active and educational, but most importantly FUN! The internet can be a great resource for games and activities. If your kids come back from P.E. panting, sweaty, and EXCITED about the next session… well done!
As a loving home school parent, always remember your role. Lay down rules from the beginning, and don’t hesitate to enforce them. Keep safety in mind at all times, and don’t let your students push their limits! Most importantly, be an active participant in your child’s physical education. Play with them, teach, them, and nurture them as they grow.
Summer is a perfect time to get your yard prepped for the school year. With these tips in mind, creating an effective P.E. platform can be a fun activity for both you and your kids. Get them involved! A project such as this should not be thought of as a chore for Mom or Dad – rather, think of this as an exciting summer project for the whole family. When the school year rolls around, you’ll be ready to deliver a top-notch P.E. program from your own home.
Jay Harris is a Home Depot "on the floor" sales associate and a regular contributor to Home Depot's website. His interests include providing advice on backyard children’s swingsets and playsets.