{Homegrown Kids} PE for Homeschoolers

This article was written by me and originally appeared in a newspaper produced by The Boerne Star.

As she looked forward to the 2012-2013 school year, Leon Springs resident Laura Moerdyk had an epiphany.

“After having my four children in two seasons of soccer, swim, ballet, basketball, and track and the craziness that came with that, I sat down and thought about what it is that I truly wanted from organized sports. I came to the conclusion that I wanted them all to have a fit and healthy lifestyle and the ability to jump into a variety of athletic situations,” said Moerdyk. “I wanted them to be able to participate, feel confident in their abilities, and have fun in a variety of sports and playground games.”

Moerdyk, a former public school teacher with a masters in education who now homeschools her five children, wanted to nurture these skills in her children during the day rather than the evening “so that it didn’t interrupt the dinner table and family time. I knew I needed to protect my family and not feel like we were being torn in different directions as our family unity is more valued than the individual.”

Drawing upon her own background as a star soccer athlete—as a teen she was selected to the Under 16 Olympic National team—and building upon her role as the curriculum designer for her family, Moerdyk decided to customize something to fit the needs of her brood and other area homeschoolers.

“I had to make a change from depending on other athletic organizations and customize one that works for my family and others who could benefit from the same type of thing,” said Moerdyk. “Albert also had a desire to start something for his own children so we brainstormed together and the idea for SHAPE was birthed as our children played together at a local playground.”

SHAPE stands for “Staying Healthy and Active in Physical Education“, and “Albert” is Alberto Cordova, an assistant professor of health and kinesiology at UTSA’s College of Education and Human Development.

Cordova is also a homeschool dad. Therefore, the SHAPE program blends professional and personal interests.

“Physical activity in our society has diminished, whether because of time, work, busy-ness, motivation, etcetera. The same is true for homeschoolers. We cannot afford to keep this mindset therefore Coach Laura and I felt that our kids needed structured physical activity,” said Cordova.

Together Cordova and Moerdyk came up with a plan. Twice a week in a park the pair would offer physical education classes designed to build athletic skills and playful camaraderie. They made flyers to promote the class and shared the information via homeschool groups.

Response was initially slow in coming, in part because the concept is novel and most people aren’t used to the idea of paying for a physical education class.

“If you look at the public school systems, paying either in money or in time to ‘enrichment activities’ is a foreign idea. Time and money is thought to be essential for math, science, and reading, but research shows that children (and adults) that are physically active are more productive and healthier. In other words fit individuals have ‘fit’ brains,” said Cordova. “Homeschoolers have the flexibility to choose what is important and to instill that in their children. They are able to mentor, model, and teach what is important—just as analytical thinking and logic are important—so is being healthy and being intentional about our choices.”

“I think many families run out of time and money to pay for fitness and athletic opportunities as the focus is more on academics,” said Moerdyk. “What they don’t realize is how beneficial carving time out during the school day for fitness is for their children. It helps them be more motivated and productive. [Parents] think perhaps doing one season of a given sport or going to the playground is enough over the course of the year. However, children need daily and weekly exercise throughout the year.”

Mona Gutierrez decided to enroll her daughter Evalin, an athletic fourth-grade homeschool student, in the first session of the fall semester.

“The class was convenient for us, a good price, and I always try to encourage good health and fitness for my family. Having a P.E. class to participate in is nice because it offers more than walking or biking around the neighborhood, and it compliments other sport activities.” said Gutierrez. “Love the class. Love the coaches. Actually, their bios had me sold on the class before anything. They seemed amazing and even after meeting them there is no doubt they are awesome and have a passion for what they do. You see them passing that on to the kids, too.”

As for Evalin’s opinion on the class, Gutierrez said, “I asked Ev what she thought of it, and she gave me a ‘thumbs up’ sign and said ‘It’s good.’”