22 August 2007

School: What's New This Year {Part III}

As far as I can tell, the state of California has no physical education requirement for kindergarteners. Now that I think of it, I suppose they cannot have many real requirements for kindergarten at all, seeing as kindergarten is below the legal age for required school attendance. I know that Santa Barbara county requires 200 minutes of physical edcucation for every 10 days of school {which works out to an average of 20 minutes per day}. No wonder so many kids have trouble sitting still.

Homegrown Physical Education
This year, I am requiring 45 minutes to one hour of physical education per day. Currently, this takes the form of a tricycle ride that lasts from about 8:30-9:30 a.m., depending on how many birds we spot along the way. I supervise this ride while walking and pushing a double stroller.

My son, when he plays outside, tends to involve himself in projects that don't actually exert his body. He might, for instance, build a road for his truck. He might take something apart and put it back together. He might throw things at his younger sister and end up with a timeout.

So I decided that the only way I could make sure he had strength, speed, endurance, and stamina, was to build it into our schedule. {There is also the losing-the-baby-weight issue to be considered.} We are also trying to convince some friends to join us. Two weeks ago, when it was cooler, his friends H. and E. rode along while their mother walked with me. We hope this happens again. It will be easier to convince people when the summer sun becomes less summery.

Double Credit
The long journey is great for fulfilling our birding purposes as well. Our first day of school was when we traversed about a mile or so away to find the Burrowing Owl. I am also aware of the haunts of a Red Tailed Hawk and a Turkey Vulture that we can walk to. And, of course, there are the little birds, the sparrows and killdeers and starlings, that flit around as we traipse along. There is never any shortage of birds.

Also, we have the chance to get in tune with the seasons. A. faces me in the stroller, and as we walk, I talk to her, pointing and naming the things we see, explaining the weather.

Lastly, there is the nearby construction site. If I could only capture the absolute joy on my boy's face when he sees the bulldozers pass by. We try to walk that direction a couple times a week, and usually there is payoff in some form of heavy machinery.

Side Benefits
I don't do this to help my son sit still. I do this because I think it is healthy for me, healthy for him, and a great addition to our way of life. However, I cannot deny that, after being out and about in the morning, the midmorning hours pass peacefully, with everyone ready to sit and learn {except for the baby, who sleeps the rest of the morning away}. Wiggles are rare because they all escaped during the hour of exertion.

Resting, I am reminded, is a resting from something. If my child is having difficulty being at rest during his time of instruction or read-aloud, this shows me that he needs to have something difficult to do beforehand. Hard work and physical exertion grant children the ability to rest and listen and absorb what they are taught.