Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fun Activities=PE

One area of homeschooling that I feel I have really dropped the ball on is Physical Education. I have really overbooked my schedule this year, but unfortunately, I will have to stay with it at least until the end of the school year. Benjamin has a couple opportunities during the week to get outside and play, but not nearly enough physical activity for what he needs. One of my main motivators for homeschooling was to help him get the PT and OT that he needs on a more regular basis. I feel like I have succeeded in a lot of the OT aspects, but failed miserably in the PT aspects.

For the last 6 months or so, Benjamin has been asking to do gymnastics. I just couldn't see how I was going to possibly fit one more activity into my time (or financial) budget. However, after sneaking a peek at the gymnastics class during his sister's dance class at the local Y last Friday, I decided that I need to make it a priority for him to get into gymnastics.

My fear with Benjamin being in gymnastics was that his gross motor skills are much lower than a typical grade-schooler, but because he is 7, they won't let him be in a preschool class. Plus, I don't really need him socializing with kids 3-4 years younger than him. He already gets that at home with Kate. I don't want him to get hurt during a grade school class where the teachers assume that he will be able to do things that he simply cannot do. I took gymnastics as a kid at a big gym. There were lots of different classes going on at one time and only one instructor per group of about 10 kids. If you couldn't do a skill by yourself, they kind of just passed you on and that was that. The Y seems to have the perfect solution for us. This Y has a "Kids Fitness" class that incorporates gross motor, gymnastics, stretching, strengthening, and cardio skills into one class. Because it covers a variety of areas, the age group is ages 5-8. This means that Ben would be in a class with kids that are closer to his gross motor and social skills, but still be able to be around kids his own age. In a class of 11 kids, there are two teachers, meaning more eyes and hands. Plus, they are very willing to have Ben in the class and for him to work at the level that he feels comfortable with. The gym is also fairly small and there is only one class at a time. This means that Ben won't go wandering off  or get distracted during class like he might in a big gym.  For safety reasons, I am going to be shadowing and helping Ben for the time being. I am hoping that by the end of this session that he will be able to do most of the skills independently or just with the instructor's help, but he needs to build up some more strength and gross motor skills before I feel he will get the most out of the class without another adult to assist him. What I like is that this class is separate from their kids' gymnastics class for the same age group. It seems like this class requires a lower level of gymnastics skills than the gymnastics class. That makes it a better fit for a kid who has a lot of problems with gross motor skills.

The good news: Ben LOVED it, tried everything, and was super excited and motivated to be there. The kids and instructors were all wonderful and accepting. One little boy also decided to help Ben do the activities by demonstrating them for him. Ben loved that and wanted to try and do what the other boy was doing. And, I finally feel like he is getting enough physical activity in this class. T-ball starts up again in a few weeks, so that will be 2 days of planned physical activity. I don't feel that is good enough, honestly, but at least it is a start. My goal is to be more conscious of how much time he has to ACTIVELY play outside. He is great about going outside and doing non-active things like playing in the sandbox or sidewalk chalk, but it is important to me that he gets the physical in as well.

That smile tells it all. Somebody is in his element.

Other things that I want to try to fit in more physical activity:
  • Kids Wii Fit. We got the game for Christmas and have used it once or twice, but I need to have him do it a lot more.
  • Regular walks to the park on non-rainy days. We started out the school year doing this 3-4 times a week and now we only get it in every once in a great while. 
  • Getting the bounce house up! We used to have our bounce house up and in use every afternoon for at least 30 minutes to an hour. It fit perfectly in our basement and was a fun and easy gross motor activity for the kids. Our basement is now in use and since August, the bounce house has been sitting in our garage on a shelf. I think it is time that I figure out how and where we can use it on a regular basis... maybe in the garage if I pull my car out?
  • 15 minutes of PT a day. I would love for me to be able to have an entire hour set aside to do PT with my boys, but really that is just plain not going to be possible at this time. 
  • 30 minutes in the pool at the Y a week... maybe twice a week. Benjamin LOVES the water and can swim independently with a swim vest on. It is great physical activity for him and I only have lame excuses (like I am EXHAUSTED and want a nap!) that I don't do it more often. I think that I need to schedule it in...maybe it can be a reward on certain days for finishing his academic work quickly...maybe a fun family activity on the weekends?
  • A different Y has a free kids' fitness class in the afternoons.  They play group games and work on different skills. I have gotten permission to take Ben and help him if he needs it, but I haven't been able to schedule it in as of yet.
Does anyone else have problems fitting in regular physical activity? I know that it is a really common occurrence for kids with CP, but I am wondering if it occurs fairly often with homeschooled kids as well. Any other ideas?

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