Homeschool Gym Class

posted in: Blog 8

Over the past few years we have seen an increase in conversation around the concept of physical literacy. In May of 2014 The International Physical Literacy Association stated,

“Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.”

This is clearly different from fitness. Daily exercise with as little activity as walking will provide fitness. As most dictionaries simply define it as

“the condition of being physically fit and healthy.”

When it comes to schooled children they all receive gym class. Every single day these children get an hour, at least, of directed physical education instruction. Early elementary will provide more games than sports but as they reach junior high the content becomes increasingly structured. To be honest I hated gym in school and I was a pretty athletic kid. I can’t even say I hated team sports because I was in softball and ringette – two sports not typically offered in school physical education programs. It was more likely the disparate skill level among my classmates which made learning a drag in the face of all those “jocks”. Or it could have simply been the 1980’s gym strip – oh how I hated those shorts. However I did learn how to move and participated in other sports successfully as a result.

To be honest when I started homeschooling this was what kept me up at night, not math – gym class. As you scan mentally over your last few years and defend that play group your kids were in once or the fact that you hike and bike every summer with them, let me explain the difference.

What should gym class teach? The basic movement skills of physical literacy, as defined by the Canadian non-profit Sport For Life, are:

1. Athletics: run, jump, throw, and wheel.

2. Gymnastics: ABCs of athleticism (agility, balance, coordination, and speed). Including dance adds to rhythmic abilities.

3. Swimming: for water safety reasons; for balance in a buoyant environment; and as the foundation for all water-based sports.

4. Skating, slip, and slide movements: on ice, snow or water, the need to develop stability is required.

Without the basic movement skills, a child will have difficulty participating in any sport. For example, to enjoy baseball, basketball, cricket, football, netball, handball, rugby, and softball, the simple skill of catching must be mastered.

Are we as homeschoolers doing a good job of gym class? When I look at the list above and consider the past year my schooled 14 year old had, which included an incredible amount of physical exercise daily, I question whether I’m doing enough.

You can likely answer your facilitator’s questions about the activities your child is in outside of academics. It perhaps includes a list of a couple of teams, or at best they are more heavily engaged in an activity such as gymnastics or soccer than your average schooled child; decidedly a benefit of homeschooling.

However when evaluating a homeschool program and developing a yearly plan for Physical Education, seldom are homeschoolers asked, “and what about gym”?

This would be an odd question as we all know mimicking gym class at home is absurd. To be fair, because my facilitator is a phys. ed. teacher by trade, I’m asked in depth. But he doesn’t press me when I say “he’s in a swim club” and leave it at that. Largely I think due to the idea that fitness is enough. I certainly am not required to provide proof of whether he can throw a ball, catch a ball and hit a ball. Nor do I have to produce a log of his daily structured physical activity.

What can we do as homeschoolers to ensure physical literacy is an integral part of our week?

Luckily there are ways to include physical literacy in a homeschool program with or without outside help.

  1. The simplest solution is to do it yourself. Take them skating, teach them to swim, go play catch (or shoot hoops, or one on one soccer) in the park. This is easily incorporated daily as we certainly have time! There are guides and programs online, and your local board can offer good resources.
  2. The second option is an organized coop. And by organized I mean with instruction and direction.This is one way to create the opportunity to engage in team sports. Organize among a group of other families (developmental age is important so stay within 2 years at most) to capitalize on skills existing in the group. This can be done for free or at little cost with personally owned equipment. Ball sports can be focused on during warmer months to utilize outdoor facilities. Winter can include swimming and skating.
  3. Lastly join a sports program created for homeschoolers. These are likely only once a week and are meant to add value to an existing homeschool physical education plan, especially in the way of group games, team play and learning the rules of any given organized sport. Shooting hoops is a great way to build physical literacy but is not the game of basketball.  Here in Calgary there are a few general physical education classes offered at the YMCACardel Rec South and Trifecta Homeschool Program.

How do you promote physical literacy in your homeschool program? Is it even on your radar? Tell us your thoughts, share your story – even if it’s a picture of you in those god awful 80s bum hugger volleyball shorts. I promise we’ll laugh only a little.


8 Responses

  1. Angela

    Elemental Sport is a sport program geared towards elementary age home-schooled children, created & run by a homeschool parent in Calgary.


    Program Description:

    Elemental Sport is a program geared towards elementary school-age children, Kindergarten through Grade 6. Our focus is to teach the fundamental gross motor skills and the social aspects that are part of being on a sports team – cooperation, turn-taking, having fun, working together as a group towards a goal, and basic sports goal planning that are the base for team sports such as basketball, volleyball, football, floor hockey, baseball, and soccer. We focus on the fundamental skills for one of these sports for a six week duration, and then focus on a second sport for the remaining six weeks. Elemental Sport programs are play-based and active, and incorporate fun group games during each session that are less sport specific and more focused on team work, while still incorporating the skills of that session.

    As a homeschool parent myself, one of our goals in running this program, is for parents to have respite time to engage in healthy lifestyle choices near our selected facility, while their kids are learning as well. Finding this time for self-care is a so critical for parents who home-school. So when we select our locations, it is important to us to not just find a “gym”, but to be in a location that will benefit the whole family

    Warm regards,

    • Stacey Piercey

      Excellent Angela! Thanks for reaching out and sharing your program.

  2. Melinda

    Sports are also very good for practicing those hard to memorize facts, like times tables and spelling, especially for kids who can learn best while moving. Some of our faves are:
    Jumping on trampoline, ask question, after however many jumps they have to answer. Challenge them to answer after fewer jumps.
    Hopscotch: make the hopscotch, put in desired numbers, or letters, or whatever, quiz kids and they have to jump to the correct answer. Or throw the stone and they jump to where it lands and tell you what that number is a product of.
    Hop on number line.
    Throw ball, Frisbee, stuffies, whatever, while reciting facts.
    We also spell words with letters made with our bodies. This is very hard, and requires body awareness.

    There are so many others…

    • Stacey Piercey

      I love these ideas Melinda. Thanks!

  3. Clinton Weening

    BCS@Home with Bearspaw Christian School is offering Playball classes this upcoming year to our homeschool students.
    I have observed the great instruction they provide and have had conversations with them about the physical and academic benefits the program provides. We look forward to it.

    • Stacey Piercey

      Thanks Clinton! We have participated in a Playball program and I agree it’s a great program.

  4. Lynn Jobe

    Stacey has provided some good background for physical literacy. Kids are born to move and given the right start they will be active for life.

    Active for Life is a great resource for parents and educators. See the many articles, and free resources, sign up for monthly newsletters and be sure to connect via social media to be inspired but most importantly to get the HOW. Active for Life provides lots of ideas; easy ways to include more quality physical activity experiences in your program.

    • Stacey Piercey

      Lynn this is fantastic! Thank you for providing the resource.