By Lee Binz
Teaching P.E. outside the box is one of the greatest joys of homeschooling. Whether your child is a current couch potato or destined for professional sports, all children can benefit from homeschool P.E. You can keep them always challenged, but never overwhelmed, by choosing the appropriate physical education experience for your child. Starting where they are, you can help them become more physically fit for the rest of their life, while also preparing them for college or career goals.
P.E. stands for "physical education,” not only “physical exercise.” You can create the perfect high school P.E. class for your child because it can be a helpful combination of education and exercise. After all, some kids are very active in sports, and all you have to do is count the hours they spend breaking a sweat. For kids who are not so active, it helps to think outside the box. Your child could take CPR classes or study health instead. Some kids who hate P.E. love swing-dancing or computer games requiring movement. Any physical activity that breaks a sweat counts!
Colleges and careers may require 2 to 4 years of P.E. in high school. Although many colleges don’t require P.E., others expect to see P.E. classes, seeing it as a “socialization” issue. Some military careers, as well as military and police academies, want to see some proof of physical fitness. And if your child is into sports, the NCAA will expect to see P.E. classes on the transcript.
Children can earn P.E. credits without a curriculum. Be specific with class titles. Instead of calling the class “P.E.” or “Physical Education,” create a second name for your class that gives more information. A homeschool P.E. class might be called, “P.E.: Personal Fitness with Health,” or “P.E.: Basketball and Soccer.” Consider the wide variety of physical education options available, and then think outside the box!
Grades and Credits
There are two ways to count credits. One way is by using a standard textbook or curriculum, which is uncommon for P.E. class. The second way is by counting or estimating hours. One high school P.E. credit is 120 to 180 hours, and 60 to 90 hours is a ½ credit. If your child works on the class the whole school year, then that one hour per day is one whole credit, and half hour per day is a ½ credit. In general, it’s best to give only one P.E. credit per year, even if your child racks up a huge numbers of hours.
P.E. grades are always subjective, even in public schools, but providing grades helps colleges understand your homeschool. You already evaluate P.E. in many ways, even if you don’t realize it. You think about whether your child does the work (schools call it “attendance”) their level of effort, demonstration of specific skills or teamwork, understanding of concepts, personal fitness goals achieved, and consider any reading or discussion. Estimate your child’s grade, keeping in mind all these ways of evaluating.
A grade of “A” or 4.0 means the child shows mastery of your goals, meets your high expectations, or loves what they are doing. A grade of “B” or 3.0 means they did well, but it’s definitely not worth an “A.” A grade of “C” or 2.0 means it was a bad experience, not good at all, but they did enough to meet your minimum requirements.
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Your homeschool P.E. class could focus on education rather than exercise. A focus on education may be a good fit for bookish children. Choose a focus for the year, or mix and match unit studies together until your child has enough hours for one P.E. class.
Focus on Health
You could focus on health in your P.E. class. Check your state homeschool law, because sometimes health is a requirement for graduation, but it’s unlikely your child needs a health credit every year of high school. We liked the health books by Susan Boe. Written for Christian Schools, these books assume the student lives in a reasonably healthy environment, without sex or drugs. They cover physical, spiritual, and social health.
For Junior High or Middle School -Total Health: Talking About Life’s Changes by Susan Boe
For High School: Total Health: Choices for a Winning Lifestyle by Susan Boe
Focus on Relationships
Relationship and purity studies can be a health related topic as well. You can read and discuss issues about dating. Consider these popular books:
For younger teens, Passport to Purity by Dennis and Barbara Rainey
For older teens, age 14-19, When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy
For young adults, Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
Focus on Nutrition
Some families will research essential oils, healing herbs, or other natural remedies. This study time could make up a nutrition course. There are excellent classes available from The Great Courses. You can focus on healthy eating with this course: Nutrition Made Clear
Focus on First Aid
First aid, lifeguard, and CPR classes from the American Red Cross or your local fire station would be a great addition to any P.E. class. As a registered nurse, I encourage all families to certify in CPR and maintain certification (yearly or so depending on your state). Your child’s CPR certification becomes a way you can evaluate P.E. class.
Focus on Fitness
There are many ways to include fitness in everyday life. Look for opportunities to cover P.E. outside the box.
Physical Exercise Outside the Box
A personal fitness class can be as simple as counting everything that breaks a sweat. Yard work, manual labor, and playing basketball in the backyard all count as personal fitness. If you take fitness seriously in your family, you may want to include weight training, strength training, and cardio into your daily routine. Indoor or outdoor exercises count, and no gym membership or sports teams are necessary.
Sports Teams and Socialization
Sports teams are a great way to collect P.E. hours, and it doesn’t matter what kind of sports team your child is on. Sometimes teams will come with a rough social environment, of course. My children were involved in organized sports, making summer an interesting time. In a secular sports league, they were exposed to some unsavory behavior and vocabulary. Because the exposure was limited, these issues didn’t become part of my children’s psyches. Instead, they could observe this behavior as if from a distance. We could discuss the negative socialization without them taking it on as a personality trait.
If your child is participating in team sports or sport camps, it can be an eye-opener for them. They can learn what socialization is like in school, but because it’s not an all-day and all-year experience, and with appropriate "de-briefing" they are unlikely to face any negative consequences.
From golf to running, there are many individual sports to choose from, some with a socialization component. Golf, for example, is a great opportunity for walking and talking together. Look into the First Tee program. First Tee provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values such as confidence, perseverance, and judgment through golf and character education. First Tee offers wonderful college scholarships for participation, with a mission to promote healthy choices in teens. Read more about First Tee.
Summer is a great time for learning new skills – especially skills that count as P.E. Kids can learn skills such as bowling, swimming, ice skating, or inline skating. They might participate in a fun run, marathon, or walk-a-thon for charity to learn how to give. Gather a group of friends and enjoy day hikes, mid-day picnicking, or active outdoor games. Camping with family or friends can encourage great outdoor skills that count for P.E.
Kids who love to play more than anything are perfect candidates for learning real skills. On their own, they may learn new games, new sports, and try new skills with their friends. If you meet with other homeschoolers at a park, encourage everyone to bring outdoor games. Search your closets for badminton, croquet, bocce, or volleyball gear.
If your child loves books, you can pursue physical education by buying books to encourage physical fitness. Many books have detailed photos or drawings of exercises. For a child who hates exercise, you may want to try 8 Minutes in the Morning by Jorge Cruise. It’s a quick read, with some chapters on healthy living – diet, exercise, sleep, etc. There is a section describing exercises that can be completed in 8 minutes a day
Science minded children may enjoy the Charlotte Mason style of learning. A nature handbook or field guide may send them off to the wilderness, contentedly learning as they enjoy nature.
Artists may not gravitate toward soccer, but they may be involved in dance. Whether they love swing, ballroom, or ballet, anything that breaks a sweat can count as P.E., so dance certainly fits the bill. Young artists often have more than enough credits for fine arts, so it’s easy to put their dance hours in the P.E. category.
If your artistic child is not a dancer, focus on the art they love. A bike, a backpack, and some art supplies may be all they need for a summer P.E. credit. They can hike or bike to a scenic vista to sketch, paint, or draw. New drawing supplies may be the only motivation needed!
An artist may also be drawn to musical concerts in the park. Find your park department schedule, and determine if they hold music or theater performances. An artist might be convinced to spend time in the park playing Frisbee or soccer before performances, or enjoy the music while playing active games. Exercising with their favorite music might be just the ticket. For some, this means a stationary bicycle or jogging with classical music accompaniment.
Take advantage of the auditory learning style. Auditory learners may be motivated to do aerobics by downloading fast-paced music on their MP3 player or smartphone that they can enjoy while taking a walk. An auditory learner may find audio books so enjoyable that they will even go for long walks, hikes, or bike rides while listening to great literature. Be sure to include these books on their reading list, carefully labeled as audio books.
Whether shooting, hunting, or archery, there are many ways to include outdoor education in a P.E. class. Olympic sports, such as archery or shooting, can also be considered part of P.E. Camping, hiking, snowshoeing and other outdoor recreation would be an awesome addition. My Gold Care Club members are often involved in Boy Scouts, and they spend hundreds of hours doing outdoor activities each year. I suggest only creating one P.E. credit per year, and “Outdoor Education” might be a good title.
Some teens are all about the computer. A computer-based option might be a good fit, as long as you carefully make sure your sweet child is moving while they play. Some of the gaming systems involving movement are Xbox One with Kinect, PlayStation 4 with Move controllers, and the Nintendo Switch.
Search for movement-based games if you already have a gaming console. Wii Fit U and Wii Sports Club are games for the older Wii U game console, which offers fitness games including yoga, strength, and stamina. On the PlayStation 4 (and previous consoles), you can play Just Dance. Dance, Dance Revolution is available for the computer using a USB-attachable soft dance pad. Xbox One (and previous consoles) has Nike+ Kinect Training and other fitness games. There are too many movement-based options to list. When choosing a computer-based interactive fitness game, look for one that helps the child elevate their heart rate. If they are only moving their arms, then it’s not exercise or education … it’s merely a computer game. And be extremely careful to read ratings on any game before you purchase.
Physical Education Over-achievers
Sometimes parents focus so much on teaching P.E. that they forget what their children are already doing. If your child is already involved in a sport or scouting, then they are probably getting all the P.E. they need. But there are others who are over-achievers in the physical education area.
Kids who enjoy physical fitness may be motivated by the Congressional Award program. This program has four focus areas: Volunteer Public Service, Personal Development, Physical Fitness, and Expedition/Exploration. This is also a great way to be noticed by your congressman, if your child is interested in attending a military academy someday. Look into the Congressional Award to see if you can create a significant award out of P.E. for fun. Read more about the Congressional Award Program.
Military and Police Academy
Military academies, police training, and the ROTC place a high value on physical fitness. It can help if your child’s level of fitness is measurable in some way. For example, measurable fitness might mean your child is a member of a sports team, competes in a marathon, or attained Eagle Scout. If your child is involved in physical activity, and can document it, they will have the advantage.
The NCAA regulates athletes and organizes the athletic programs of many college sports. NCAA stands for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. If you don't know what it is, you probably aren't worried about it at all. But if you do know what it means, then as a homeschool parent you may feel stressed or insecure. The NCAA can be a challenge, but it’s a challenge for all parents, not only homeschoolers. If your child loves sports, and would like to continue in college, it's a good idea to do a little research on the NCAA early in high school. The rules change over time, and your child must obey all their rules to play their college sports.
The NCAA does accept independently homeschooled students. There may not be a benefit to attending an online school or program. The NCAA recently gave a statement that it will no longer accept coursework from 24 different virtual schools that are affiliated with K12 Inc. Apparently, there were concerns about a large dropout rate, some inadequate coursework, and grading was done overseas in India.
The NCAA requires thorough academic records, so maintain your child’s transcript and course descriptions every year. They offer an NCAA Eligibility Toolkit for lots of information on how to complete the process as an independent homeschool. Families who are interested in NCAA sports should read all of the information provided, and check back regularly. Search the NCAA website for the word "homeschool." Look at the helpful information they provide, designed to make it easier for independent homeschoolers to navigate the process while staying within their guidelines. Register with the NCAA Eligibility Center during junior year. The NCAA Eligibility Center will determine whether homeschooled, college-bound student-athletes will be eligible.
Each year, read over every page and link provided. Jumping through hoops is one of the things all parents have to do in order to participate with the NCAA. It's not unique for homeschoolers, it's for all students. Granted, it doesn't look easy, but it does look possible. If it's worth it to your student, you should be successful handling this as an independent homeschooler.
The Final Exam
The final exam in this class is truly health and fitness. You know your child best, and you are in the best position to know how to encourage health and fitness in your own child. Personal fitness is a challenge for many adults. When kids become teenagers, they can learn about health and fitness the same way adults do. What are you doing to be physically fit? Encourage your child to become a fit adult.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school . Get Lee's FREE Resource Guide "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com/freebies.
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