The Washington Times
May 25, 1999

Joint Fitness Program Benefits Child, Parent

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
May 25, 1999

I share the pleasant opportunity of writing this column with Kim Huber, a home school mom and leader from Pennsylvania. During this past year Kim and I, quite independently, have lost a substantial amount of weight. After shedding 80 pounds, Kim looks great. I lost 40 pounds and am under strict orders from my wife not to lose any more.

Both of us lost weight by combining a reduction of our eating to common-sense levels with a regular program of walking and other exercise. We compared notes and found that each of us walks more than four miles a day.

So what has this got to do with home schooling?

Home-schooling parents are in a unique position to turn our physical education program for our children into an opportunity for our own physical fitness as well.

During my first year in law school, I taught physical education in a Catholic elementary school. I was hired based on my experience of working in and supervising city and county summer programs for swimming and other recreation.

To me, a child’s physical education program—at least in the home-school context—should embrace three components. First, the child should be given an opportunity to be personally fit.

Second, the child should be given opportunities to learn and be exposed to a variety of fitness games and activities with the hope that he or she will find something that will become a lifetime habit for fitness. And third, it should be fun.

I love team sports and have coached girl’s softball for more than a decade. My 12-and-under girls team is off to a 3-0 start and we are having a great time. Three of the 11 girls on my team are home schooled. It is a great opportunity for both fitness and appropriate socialization.

But one of the things I do as the coach is always to run with the girls when I have them run the bases or take a lap around the perimeter of the field. I also pitch batting practice for about an hour. By participating with the girls, I am taking at least some steps for my own fitness.

This can offer a good model for home-school fitness programs. I encourage parents to find some activities that are appropriate for their children and then actively participate yourself.

Walking, running, basic exercises, swimming, or weight training (after reaching an appropriate age) should be the kinds of components used for conditioning. Competitive sports are a bonus, not a substitute for basic conditioning.

The habit of conditioning is so important because participation in team sports tends to fade away during the teen years and typically is non-existent after age 18.
For long-range fitness purposes, it is better to teach a child to play golf (and carry his or her bag) than it is to play team sports. Again, I love and encourage team sports for kids. But in terms of creating lifelong patterns for fitness, people are more likely to play golf than rugby in their 40s.

So, home-school moms and dads, (and it’s OK if others do this as well), do you want to lose some extra weight that may have been plaguing you for a while? Eat just one reasonable serving of food at each meal. Cut out excess fat. And begin a regular program of fitness activity with your children to help yourself today and help them for years to come.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.