By Jessica Leavitt
Why is it that teaching Physical Education throws so many of us for a loop? Is it because we can’t go out and buy a curriculum? Is it because we aren’t familiar with the skills involved in PE? (Skills? Can’t I just send the kids out to play for 30 minutes?) Or, is it having to prove that we did more than just walk out the door? Maybe it’s a combination of all of these. Maybe it’s because baseball just isn’t fun with only two people. We each have our reasons that make teaching P.E. synonymous with having a tooth pulled. I promise that it doesn’t have to feel that way.
It’s a little-known secret that I taught P.E. for almost an entire year. I think that puts me in the category of “knows enough to be dangerous,” but I hope I can also be helpful. Physical Education looks different for each child, each family, and each age group, so take what works for you and leave the rest for someone else.
Let’s start with time. How much time should you be spending on P.E.? As much as you want! I hiked at least 10 miles a week with my children when everything closed down this past spring. You can also spend as little as 30 minutes a week for elementary and an hour a week for middle and high school. Maine’s 5210 Let’s Go initiative recommends 1 hour or more of physical activity each day, but that doesn’t mean you need to teach PE for an hour a day. Since we have our children all day, every day, we can choose which activity count as P.E. and record just that activity. My favorite examples of PE at home are a friend whose son rode his bike in their large barn practicing stunts all day … and another mother who has her four boys walk or run their mile-long road every day before starting school. If your child is a competitive athlete, there is no need to record all trainings and competitions. Simply include a copy of their athletic schedule in the portfolio. Which leads us to … recording P.E. in your portfolio.
Recording for P.E. can be as simple as a written entry. Here are some examples:
- Gross motor skills at playground 30:00: running, monkey bars, climbing up and down, skipping.
- Family tennis 45:00, including an intro to game rules.
- Cardio on a hike 1:30:00 , heart rate checked before and after hike.
- Dance Party on the Wii, 45:00
- Rec League Soccer, 60:00
Make sure you include the date so you can keep track of physical activity. You can also include photos of activities with dates and times. As mentioned earlier, a schedule of sports lessons, camps, or team schedules can be added directly to the portfolio as evidence. Several people have asked how to show evidence of growth or progress in P.E. It is not necessary to start timing fast balls or counting the number of jumps while skipping rope. If you have a younger child, you can mark down skills you notice: balances well on both legs, can throw overhand, can skip. For older children, you can include information about new skills learned: overhand serve in tennis, five new yoga poses, ran a mile under 7 minutes. These would be helpful (not necessary) for your reviewer, but more importantly will provide your child a nice, written record of their achievements. For a more official achievement record, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program has launched an at-home program for parents this year, which you can take advantage of for free.
No matter what you choose, or what your child chooses, keep the goal of Physical Education front and center: a healthy, active lifestyle that will last into adulthood.
Ideas for Physical Education activities:
Elementary P.E. skills - Running, climbing, jumping, skipping, basic gymnastics … Ball skills: throwing, catching, kicking, bouncing … Sports skills and rules … Extra ideas: dance moves, juggling, hula hoop, jump rope, bike and scooter riding, swimming, etc.
Find a more complete list of ideas for K-2 here and for 3-5 here (these are written for classroom use, but can be adapted).
Middle and High School skills - Sports/Physical Activity: lessons, teams, individual (martial arts, running, team sports, dancing, ultimate frisbee, rock climbing, winter sports, disc golf, hiking, yoga, aerobics, walking, weight lifting, etc.)
For this age range, you can let your teen choose an activity to pursue at home with the help of online videos, involve your teen in family outings (hiking, bowling, walking), or sign them up for an organized sport or physical activity outside of the home. Even better, you can sign up with them (with their permission)!
Jessica Leavitt is a former elementary teacher who now homeschools her two children. She enjoys camping and hiking with her family, loves children’s literature, and works from home part-time. Jessica supports the Early Learners group for Homeschoolers of Maine and believes in the importance of play for children of all ages.