As homeschoolers, we get to decide what our kids will do for physical education, or P.E. as it is usually called. I have a theory that most homeschool parents do not have fond memories of P.E. class, and as a result, our kids have creative choices instead. Our kids get their P.E. time by taking classes in dance, swim, gymnastics, jujitsu, kickboxing, or yoga. Sometimes they join a youth sports team and try out soccer or softball. My kids have done those too. But this year, I’m also teaching a homeschool P.E. class just for them. What will I cover? And why put us through that?
There are three main reasons I want to teach P.E. this year. The first is that I want my kids to be strong and healthy and practicing some sports ball basics can help with that. Even if they only pass a ball together, they are getting some exercise and getting outside for a while.
Second, I want them to have basic skills with sports balls for social reasons. People can randomly throw a ball at you or invite you to play. You need to at least be able to catch the ball. Having even a very basic grasp on a sport could make it easier to hang out with friends who like sports balls. Thankfully, this is a temporary stage of life, but my kids are still in the part of life where that could happen.
Third, learning to play any sport, even a little, helps develop coordination and can help with integrating the different parts of the brain to work better together. Bouncing a basketball while walking, for example, requires you to move your feet, arm, and hand together at a pace that keeps control of the ball. This is a very complex skill as far as your brain is concerned, and helps you make excellent connections that can help you have better coordination in everyday life.
But what exactly am I planning to do?
I’m going to break down my plans and help you make a plan, too. Just in case this sounds like a good idea! We are going to work on some basic ball skills for basketball, football, and 4-Square.
My kids are middle school age, so I’m shopping for balls that are for ages 12-14. Did you know sports balls come in sizes? They do! A little bit of research can help you choose the right size for each.
Using a ball that is way too big or way too small is not going to be as fun as using the right size. So take some time to look into this. If your child isn’t going to be playing on a team, you don’t have to stress about getting it perfect. Using a size 6 vs. 7 may not matter much for goofing off. However, asking your child who is the right size for a 6 to use a 3, is going to make a difference.
I got a very cheap, Jr. size football. It is actually a bit smaller than ideal for my son, but a good size for my daughter. They are basically going to just work on passing it. I was in the marching band. I’ve seen someone throw a football. Honestly, we might ask a friend to demonstrate more than I know.
I like how throwing a football builds shoulder muscles as they bring it back differently than the other balls for passing. The act of catching a football requires bilateral coordination and using both hands together. Tossing it sideways, instead of a forward throw, means we have another way to work on that throwing and catching skill.
I’ve purchased a size 6 basketball, which is also the size that I’ve read is preferred for adult women. We are going to work on passing, bounce passes, passing it from your own left hand to right while bouncing it, dribbling while walking, and if that actually works, dribbling while running.
At some point, we’ll take the ball to a local park and they can try to actually throw it through the hoop. For me, that is the last step though. I know people get excited about scoring in sports, but not me. The ability to throw the ball to a person is definitely Step 1. Throwing it at a backboard is much harder. So we will wait until they’ve built some muscles and have a feel for throwing the ball. I would honestly not know how to do this stuff at all if it weren’t for my high school P.E. class, so I guess it was helpful after all.
My favorite is the playground ball I purchased for 4-Square. Actually, I think the kids already know how to play and we will plan to draw the squares on a friend’s driveway and let the kids play together some. We will also use it to kick back and forth. Kicking a ball requires balance as you basically stand on one foot while the other kicks. I’d love to try setting up a game of kickball with some friends. However, teaching homeschoolers to play kickball is weirdly hard. I’ve tried before. Maybe now that they are older it will go better.
If all those go well, I do have a few other ideas. We need to work on learning to throw and catch a frisbee. At least one of my kids looks like a collegiate Ultimate Frisbee player, so we gotta prep for that. A little advice, spend a few more dollars and get a quality frisbee. The $5 one is actually better than the $1 one. That little big heavier plastic makes a difference.
At one point, we had a bunch of soccer balls and the kids kicked them around. Since we’ve done it before, I’ll be asking them if they want one before I get one the right size. Or maybe that will be the plan for next spring. Spreading out my plans and not trying to do everything at once tends to be better for us. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for ideas to try with other sports. We aren’t the most athletic family, but I know that trying things while they are young will make my kids more likely to do them when they are adults. Exercising and developing muscles and coordination now will actually make them stronger, more coordinated adults. I want that for them.
Of course, there are other family activities like hiking, kayaking, and bike riding that count as P.E. too. But those are things we just do, the sports balls stuff I have to work on.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.