(This article was excerpted from our 6th Parent/Teacher/Tutor course, which deals with the Homeschool Day, extracurricular activities and scheduling. You can learn more about this course at www.StepsEd.com)
As much as some of us may not wish to admit it, we each carry around a body. If we don’t care for it, it will stop supporting our wishes and actions, and become a problem. A student old enough to study even rudimentary history, science, language or math is certainly old enough to start learning how to care for their body.
P.E. is often limited in the mind to exercise, but it should be much more than that. It should include an understanding of how the body works, and what it needs to work well. This would include an education in correct diet, use and misuse of drugs, an understanding of the mechanics of the body, and other demi-subjects.
That said, young bodies need exercise. And as so much of education involves simply sitting still and reading or looking, P.E. does often and rightly focus most of its attention of physical activities. This generally takes the form of either exercise (non-competitive against others), and games.
How much physical activity does your student need? Well, that’s going to depend entirely on the student. P.E., like all studies, should really be student-centric. Some students can handle a lot of P.E., and they want it. Young athletes need to be challenged. If the desire and health factors are in place, a student may wish to play a team sport with a league, ride a horse, play tennis, you name it. (By the way, I consider dance and dance training a form of P.E., and so do many schools and school districts.) For such students, having rigorous P.E. every day, or several days a week, may well be exactly what they want.
Of course, available resources may be an issue. A student who wants to play Little League ball in a town without a team may need to change his plans a bit. Or you (mom and dad) may need to help start a team. A family with limited resources may not be able to afford tee fees on the golf course.
Other students may be progressively either less able or less willing to have that intensive a P.E. regimen. There are students who have special interests in P.E., in which they might be more willing to work. Perhaps they like a certain sport, or dance, or like to run. It would be a good idea for the teacher/tutor to ask.
A questionnaire could be given to the student, like this:
On a scale of one-five, five being “great, I love it and love to do it”, and one being “I hate it and never want to do it”, rate each of these:
General Exercise (Push-Ups; Sit-Ups, etc.)
Riding a Bicycle
Riding a Horse
Playing (allow the student to enter any other sports that interest them)
Any other exercise-like activity (allow the student to enter their interests)
The questionnaire will give you a better idea of the physical activities your student might be interested in doing. Accommodating the student in this regard will make your job much easier. It’s pretty hard to make a student do exercise or play games that he hates.
It isn’t just the choice of the kind of exercise that should be addressed, but the intensity of it, as well. Some student can do a lot of P.E., and others either physically can’t, or they just don’t want to. That said, SOME P.E. is really needed. Young bodies should be in motion unless a physical condition prevents it. Most states require a certain amount of P.E., though the requirements are often laughable. In Los Angeles (where I live, in California), they used to require 30 minutes, twice a week. This sort of generalization is destructive. Most children need more outdoor time than this, much more. Some can’t even tolerate that much.
In doing a P.E. regimen, the student should also be taught about anatomy, and diet. He should be shown how the body functions, how muscles move the skeleton, etc., so that he comes to understand what exercise actually does to keep him healthy. He should be educated in the dangers of obesity, the dangers of sugar, caffeine, junk food and the like.
Let’s point out one important concern. Today, obesity is on a terrifying rampage. The percentage of overweight people in America alone is very, very high, over 63%! Over 1/4th of the people in America are considered obese, or dangerously overweight! Folks, in allowing this, we are pushing our children into a life of ill-health, and likely early death. We should want much better for them, and we should educate them accordingly.
They also need to learn that a diet that lacks clean drinking water in significant quantities is dangerous and unhealthy. They need to be educated as to the danger of “recreational” and even prescription drugs. P.E. should effectively prepare the student physically to live a good and healthy life.
So in determining a P.E. curricula, it probably should take into account and include:
-The students needs and limits.
-The available resources.
-The student’s well being. (Does the curricula explain how to do the exercise in a safe manner?)
-The comprehensiveness of the curricula.
On this last point, it is true that the student could learn about such things as diet, the mechanics of the body, and even the rules of a sport from other sources than a single course or curricula. It is also true that a YMCA swim class, a dance class, a sport league or club may take on the majority of PE “teaching”, if that’s the direction you chose to go. (These are examples of organizations outside of schools that help with P.E. needs.)