Friday, August 24, 2012

Chapter 4: Physical Education

This was a really short section, but I think Scott makes one point here that is particularly relevant for homeschooling younger children.  He stresses that Charlotte Mason's approach to physical education was two-fold: 
:: Formal drills and training in sport and exercise, and
:: And a general attention to the physical needs of the child while in the schoolroom.  
The former is what comes to mind when we think about a physical education curriculum, and it not only is important for our health but also helps to develop what Mason calls "habitudes," or "those half-physical and half-moral habits of life that make things 'as easy to do as not'" (189).  Self-discipline makes it easier to act rightly in our daily duties.  

The latter approach is, I think, the key addition here, though.  To help along that habit of attention so important to this kind of learning, the teacher must be watchful over "signs of nervous tension in students" and, in response to that extra energy, have the child take a few minutes to run around outdoors, for example.  As Scott notes, "When recess as well as drill is made a regular part of the student's schedule, the child's learning is enhanced, glassy stares are avoided, and fidgetiness is minimized."  As a mother of a 6-year-old boy, I appreciate this advice.  When I keep lessons short and add in some kind of movement between subjects (getting the laundry out of the dryer, running out to get the mail, galloping around the living room, chasing the baby around, even standing up to sing), I see much better focus from my little guy during lessons.  And I think this is an advantage we have as homeschoolers: as parents, we are more attuned to our "students" and can anticipate these signs.  More than that, we have the freedom of structuring our days as we wish and can build in as many little breaks as needed.  This just isn't as possible in a traditional classroom.  And reading Charlotte Mason's thoughts on this contrast with the current trend of many schools throughout the nation in moving toward fewer recesses and PE sessions, hoping to accomplish more in the classroom as a result.  The irony is, of course, that more time spent in the classroom does not mean that more is being learned, particularly when little bodies are desperate for movement and little minds start to wander. 

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