Homeschool PE

Dear Reader,

As I work ym way through Charlotte Mason’s fifth volume, Formation of Character, I am up to the section on physical training. Charlotte calls for two or three hours of activity per day:

“Skipping-rope, shuttle-cock, rounders, cricket, tennis, archery, hockey, cannot
be too much encouraged. Long country walks with an object, say, the getting of
botanical specimens, should be promoted on at least two days a week. Every day,
two or three hours in the open air should be secured, and when that is not
possible, on account of the weather, the evening should end with a carpet dance,
or with good romping games.” (p.194)

It seems like a noble goal but we may well ask with her, “Where is the time to come from?” Her immediate answer is that “That is a question requiring serious consideration on the part of mothers” (p.194). As Charlotte acknowledges, this task becomes harder as children get older and have more demands on their time:

“The younger children, who have fewer or no home tasks, and take less time for practising, will have the more for play. But, if the schoolgirl is to get two or three hours intact, she will owe it to her mother’s firmness as much as to her good management. In the first place, that the school tasks be done, and done well, in the assigned time, should be a most fixed law. The young people will maintain that it is impossible, but let the mother insist; she will thereby cultivate the habit of attention, the very key to success in every pursuit, as well as secure for her children’s enjoyment the time they would dissipate if left to themselves. It seldom happens that home work is given which should occupy more than an hour to an hour and a half, and a longer time is spent in the habit of mental dawdling––a real wasting of brain substance. It is a mistake to suppose that efforts in this direction run counter to the intention of the teachers; on the contrary, the greatest impediment they meet with is that mental inertness in the children, who will rather dawdle for an hour over a task than brace the attention for five minutes’ steady effort. There is promise that a certain strain will, by-and-by, be taken off home life by the removal of homework or evening ‘preparation’ from the school curriculum. Teachers will gradually discover that if they let their pupils work from fitting books in the three or four school hours, more ground will be covered in less time, and the occasion for home tasks (or evening work in schools) will disappear.

Firmness on the mother’s part in enforcing promptness in the taking off and putting on of outdoor clothes, etc., and punctuality at meals, and in not allowing one occupation to overlap another, secures many a half-hour of pleasant leisure for the young people, and has the double advantage of also making them feel themselves under a firm home rule.” (pp.194-196)

Of course, if our children are in school, we cannot control how much homework they are given. And teachers have yet to discover as Charlotte hoped they would that the need for home work disappears.

The task Charlotte puts before is here is a daunting one. On some spring days we manage to achieve it, but I will admit that most of the year we fail. And not because we are so occupied with other worthy tasks usually. There are many other things which intrude themselves in a modern world. Charlotte couldn’t even begin to imagine the many screens, big and little, which we have to compete with.

Do you manage even two hours a day of physical activity for your kids? How much outdoor time? I would love more practical suggestions on how to increase these things in our lives.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by phillipsgirll on March 15, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Living in a neighborhood with lots of kids and space to play, my kids are much more motivated to be outside and it is usually active play. I’m very grateful for this. Other nieghborhoods have been small with no kids and it was a chore to get out, although we did more parks and lakes that way. Some days it is 2-4 hours. Other days its hardly none. I decided long ago not to beat myself up about hours of outdoor time. We just strive for outdoor time most days of the week.


    • I wish we lived in such a neighborhood. We have no neighbor kids to play with. When we have homeschool park days we will be there for hours though. So I guess for us it averages out over a week too. I also like your idea of taking things outside. I need to do that more.


  2. A daunting challenge indeed! With the weather chilly, we struggle to get more than an hour of quality outdoor time. Your post is so timely. With the upcoming warmer weather, I have been thinking about ways to get my sons out more. We will do most of our studies outside come April, but to get my eldest son up and running around usually means I need to be out there encouraging him in active play while my 4 year old runs circles around us. Our daily rhythm will incorporate exercise such as skip-counting hopscotch with math, running & exploring with nature studies, ball throwing with grammar (I catch the ball & tell my son “Noun!” – I throw it back & he catches it and tells me a noun.). Our reading / narration time is spent on a swing or hammock & history may mean reenacting it in our back yard.

    Thanks for sharing on Creative Learning – you have given us good things to think about.


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