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Practical Homeschooling® :

How to Put a Little More Exercise into Your Day

By Heather Chapman
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #76, 2007.

Hints for a more active school day.
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Heather Chapman

Whenever I step on the scale, I hold my breath. I have often wondered if the weight of the air in my lungs is raising that number, but can't seem to relax until I've seen that the little digital figure is the same or lower than it was the last time.

I'm sure you can understand my exasperation when (while holding my breath) I see that my weight has increased by four pounds. What could I possibly have done to gain four pounds? I realize that I've been eating a few too many cheese curls... and then there were those chocolate brownies I made... But, I argue with myself, these things are not bad as long as kept to a minimum.

I think I need more exercise. This time I have to laugh at myself. I am moving constantly. I am tired at the end of the day... no, make that exhausted. And I'm considering the possibility that I'm not getting enough activity?

I homeschool four girls ages 10-17. I run downstairs to help Rockie on the computer and then back upstairs to the main floor and stand behind Melanie to hear her vocabulary words. I run upstairs to the second floor searching for a wire hanger for Vallery's mobile she's making in art class and then back to the basement to find a wire cutter for her to cut it with. When I sit down to correct Rockie's math assignment, I find myself back in the basement taking clothes out of the dryer and then up two flights of stairs to fold them and put them away. I sit down again to finish the math correcting and jump up again because I just remembered I forgot to pick the red tomatoes growing outside the back door. And I'm wondering if I get enough activity?

No, I was moving, but it wasn't the productive exercise my body needs in order to burn the calories I'm obviously consuming. I need to think of ways to get more exercise into my day.

Mornings? No, If there's any part of the day I cherish as my own it is the morning. No demands on me just yet. A quiet house and a much needed few minutes to wake up and collect myself before the hectic day begins. The evenings are also out of the question because I've simply run out of energy.

My solution: Bring exercise into my school day and make the girls a part of it. This is a good solution for two reasons:

  1. It is a good way for me to meet my body's requirements without sacrificing my "alone" time.

  2. The girls need the activity as much as I do.

It has worked wonderfully. Here are some ideas that worked for us.

Have physical education with your kids. Oftentimes I have found myself acting more like a referee than like one of the players. Get in there. Get sweaty, get dirty. Run, laugh, and play. It's good for you!

We play several different games-soccer, tennis, basketball, chase, etc. With the different age groups I found that competitively it wasn't always an even match. I try to team up one older child and one younger, or me and the two younger against the two older. I come as close as I possibly can. I also have invented different activities that are noncompetitive, but still keep us moving. Here are some:

In soccer we play "Keep Away Ball Pass." There are two teams and I am the opponent. The teams each have a ball. Each team has to continually kick the ball back and forth between its members and toward the goal. I try to kick the ball away from them and send them chasing it.

The pre-game jog. Before playing tennis we sometimes take our racquets and balls and practice bouncing the balls onto the court while jogging around the perimeter. Same with basketball. Jog around the court while dribbling the ball. It's also a good way to keep moving while catching your breath when you see your younger ones getting a little winded before the older ones.

Indoor aerobics was another fun idea. It takes a little bit of moving furniture to get us all in a space large enough to move freely without hitting each other (by accident that is). But oh, how we laugh! We start with one particular exercise, such as jumping jacks. We do that to the count of eight or 16 and then add another exercise. So now we have jumping jacks and then squats. To this we add a third exercise, always returning to the first one and going through them in the order they were added. It is amusing to try to remember them in the correct order and we always laugh when someone messes up. More times than not I have been the one who forgets, sending everyone scrambling to figure out what we were supposed to be doing next and what count we were on. I try to get up to ten different activities with jogging in between as we figure out what the next step is. It is also fun to try to coordinate different arm motions with different leg activities. You end up laughing at each other's and your own lack of grace.

In the winter we go sledding. This is not only fun, but good exercise, because whoever comes down the hill must then drag their sled back up the hill. The steeper and larger the hill the better the sledding. The day after our sledding adventures I am always sore in my legs from climbing and my behind from becoming airborne and not landing gracefully!

Walk instead of drive. The library is about half a mile from our house so we often walk rather than drive. Same with the park, and the tennis courts. My parents live about a mile from me, so sometimes we walk over to their house. Even if it takes you 15 minutes longer to reach your destination, it is worth it.

We make up games as we walk. For instance, racing to the next stop sign or walking backward up the hill. It's a good way to work on public safety with younger children and there are lots of word games to play with the older children. We once named every puddle we saw after a lake or sea. Once we went through the alphabet thinking of names of U.S. cities that begin with each letter. This was inspired by one of the street signs we passed.

Picnics are another good idea. We often walk to a park or an empty field (we live in a small town), eat lunch, and then walk back. Hiking is also a fun exercise. Of course, it can be educational as well.

Take a good look at your day and make a few adjustments to get yourself and your kids moving a little more and a little faster. You'll be pleased with the results.

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