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Physical Education at Home: An Interview with Dr. Roger Sayre

September 15–19, 2014   |   Vol. 120, Week 13

For overall excellence, children need sound minds and strong bodies. Dr. Roger Sayre, homeschooling father of 11 and longtime family practitioner, shares how physical education can enhance your home education and the importance of integrating regular exercise into your school day.
“Sweating does not have to be a painful experience. All it takes is some imagination and some basic equipment.”—Dr. Roger Sayre

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Are you covering all the essential subjects in your homeschool? Well, you may have accounted for reading, writing, and arithmetic—but is running on your list? This week on Home School Heartbeat, host Mike Farris and his guest Dr. Roger Sayre take a look at physical fitness in the homeschool program.

Mike Farris: This week, my guest is Dr. Roger Sayre. Roger is a homeschooling dad of 11 and a family practitioner in Pennsylvania. Roger, welcome to the program!

Dr. Roger Sayre: It’s good to be with you, Mike!

Mike: Roger, as far back as Plato, educators have been concerned with cultivating strong bodies as well as strong minds in their students. Why is physical fitness an important part of any family’s homeschooling program?

Dr. Sayre: Mike, I firmly believe that we should teach our children to be a good steward of both their mind and their body. I like to illustrate it this way: if God Himself showed me a building and said, “Roger, this place belongs to me, and I’m appointing you as custodian. Take care of this for me, will you?” What kind of job do you think I’d do? Well, you can bet I’d do my very best.

Remember that the Apostle Paul said our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. So, in a sense, we have been given the responsibility of caring for a building that belongs to God. We care for our bodies through regular exercise and good nutrition and adequate rest; it’s what God expects from us. Oh, by the way, our children learn best by our example.

Mike: That’s very true. Roger, this is a very timely message. The news is filled with reports on our culture’s growing problem with obesity. Can you shed any light on why this has become such a problem?

Dr. Sayre: Mike, we sure do have a growing problem! And a lot of people have made a lot of money making obesity seem complicated. In essence though, it’s the result of taking in more calories than we burn. God designed the human body to be very efficient, and when there is a surplus of calories, they’re simply shelved for future use. In the history of mankind, never has there been a civilization like ours, where food has been so plentiful and life so easy. As a result, many of us have developed built-in food pantries.

So, what’s the solution? Well, boiled down to the very bottom line, we have to eat less and exercise more. If we burn more calories than we take in, we will lose weight—we have to! But it takes self-discipline and patience, and those are qualities in short supply these days.

Mike: But what if a homeschooling parent has no idea how to start incorporating PE into the routine? What might a healthy physical education program look like for the average homeschooling family?

Dr. Roger Sayre: Mike, that question brings to mind an experience I had growing up. I remember in gym class our teacher saying, “OK kids! We have to get in shape today! The presidential physical fitness contest starts next week!”

I thought, “What? Get in shape today?”

You know, even as an impressionable 15-year-old, I knew that one gym class would never get me in shape for anything. Fitness is something that we obtain gradually, with daily attention to adequate exercise and a healthy diet.

I believe a good homeschool phys. ed. program is one that not only teaches kids the basics of the various sports, but also teaches fitness as a lifestyle. I recommend families make this fun—kick around a soccer ball or play a pick-up game of basketball, take the family out for a bike ride or a jog—but do it every day. Make sure the kids know that this is exercise time, and it’s for a purpose.

Exercise can be fun, but it has to be a daily part of our lives.

Mike: Roger, one of the greatest challenges in establishing a healthier lifestyle—for everyone, not just busy homeschoolers—is perseverance. Do you have any helpful advice for homeschooling families who are struggling to stick with a homeschooling program of physical education?

Dr. Sayre: Well Mike, someone once said, “Variety is the spice of life.” Sweating does not have to be a painful experience! To keep our daily exercise program from becoming drudgery, I think we need to mix it up a little. All it takes is some imagination and some basic equipment.

And here’s something I can’t stress enough: we need to work up a sweat right alongside of our children. Perhaps play a game of ultimate Frisbee one day, and go bike riding or jogging another. It’s helpful to have some indoor exercise equipment for those days when outdoor activities are impossible. Consider getting together with some neighborhood or homeschool families for phys. ed. day on a regular basis.

In our area, one of the local Christian colleges offers phys. ed. classes for homeschool students. This has really worked well for our family! The environment is healthy, and the education has been great. And the fellowship with other homeschooling families has been fun, not only for our kids, but for Mary and me as well.

Mike Farris: Roger, we’ve focused on exercise for the last few days. Are there any other essential elements of a physical education program that you’d like to recommend to our listeners?

Dr. Roger Sayre: It’s funny you should ask that question, Mike. Although we have stressed regular exercise in our family, I have become recently aware that our kids are lacking in the basic knowledge of some of the more common sports. My own childhood was consumed by participation in organized sports, so the rules and strategies of football, baseball, etc., are so ingrained in my mind that they’re second nature to me! But, like many homeschool children, my kids were helping to weed the garden at about the same age as I was learning to swing a bat.

You know, without question, sports can occupy a far-too-significant portion of our time and attention. But I think we, as homeschooling parents, are remiss if we fail to teach our kids the fundamentals of the common sports. Sports provide enjoyable opportunities for maintaining fitness and developing friendships. They also provide an environment for learning life skills that can be helpful for years to come.

Mike: Roger, thanks so much! I know my kids have always enjoyed playing sports in the community leagues and so on. It’s a really wonderful way to be involved in fitness. I’m Mike Farris.

Dr. Rodger Sayre

Rodger Sayre, MD, FAAFP, has been an HSLDA board member since 1997. He and his wife, Mary, have graduated 8 of their 11 children and continue to teach the rest at home in Pennsylvania. Dr. Sayre is certified as a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Medicine and is a Geisinger Medical Group associate with a busy practice in Tunkhannock.

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