The homeschool P.E. course, offered at G. Cecil Pruett Community Center Family YMCA in Canton, has more than 50 local homeschool students participating after fewer than three years of operation.
YMCA Aquatic and Wellness Director Peggy Donaldson said the program started out with fewer than 20 students and has seen a jump in the last year for the two-day-per-week program.
Donaldson said the YMCA is unique in that it is the only organization offering an accreditation of this type in north Georgia. She said if the program maintains high numbers, she will possibly add a second session.
“I think it’s skyrocketing because so many parents in this area have decided to stay at home and teach kids,” Donaldson said. “With the economy, a lot of parents have been laid off and feel they can teach their kids at home and be able to spend that quality time together.”
At an hour-long Wednesday session, several homeschool mothers watched from the bleachers as their children, ages 5 to 13, participated in warm-up activities and an obstacle course.
Co-instructor Tina Williams said her class participates in various activities each week, including kickball, hockey, soccer, spin classes, aerobics and will soon go on a trip to a bowling alley.
“We do everything that you would find in a traditional P.E. program,” Williams said.
Williams, who homeschooled her six adult children, also teaches diabetes prevention, group exercise classes and cycling at the Y and is a certified fitness instructor.
“I have my own fitness journey,” Williams said. “I lost 80 pounds about nine years ago, which is part of why this is so important to me. Childhood obesity is really a big problem for our country. We try to also talk to the kids about portion sizes and nutrition and encourage them to eat more fruits and veggies.”
Williams’ co-instructor, Jeannie Sullivan, is a certified special education teacher and also teaches preschool. She said her and Williams’ differing backgrounds provide a well-rounded approach to the fitness course.
“We focus on agility, strength training and cardiovascular health,” Sullivan said. “Our program focuses on the Presidential Physical Fitness Test and each activity we do incorporates some part of that.”
The Presidential Physical Fitness Test includes a pre- and post-test and is used to measure students’ physical fitness in many schools throughout the United States. Sullivan said this focus makes the homeschool fitness course’s lesson plans and class look similar to traditional school offerings.
Additionally, both Williams and Sullivan teach an afternoon fitness course available to all children.
Williams said the goal is to make fitness fun for the students as well as encouraging a mentoring environment between the older and younger children.
“They’re all encouraging to each other,” she said.
Student Whitney Reuschel, 11, sat out Wednesday as she had recently broken her ankle, but said she has always enjoyed the program, especially being able to run around and have lots of different activity options.
“They give you what you need to keep you focused and actually like it, not just keeping everybody at the same level,” Whitney said.
Her mother, Barb Reuschel, said Whitney’s other two siblings have also participated in the program since the family moved to Canton from Michigan in August 2009.
“This is the one homeschool activity we build the rest of our schedule around,” Reuschel said. “It’s an incredibly well-rounded program. The kids end the class and they’re sweaty from the cardio and they’re sore from the strength training. They’re learning teamwork, competition and they’re learning to be good sports—be good winners and good losers.”
Reuschel, who has always homeschooled her children from a faith-based perspective, said she also likes the mentor aspect of the program as it encourages working together.
“It’s great for kids of all different ages to get together socially,” she said.
Williams said she thinks the program has become more popular through word-of-mouth in the homeschool community.
“I think it’s popular as the word gets out in the community,” Williams said. “It fills a need for doing physical activity in a non-competitive way and what the Y brings is all of this cool equipment that even if I tried to teach this on my own, I couldn’t bring all of this.”
The program costs $50 for members and $75 for non-members, with the first child with a $10 reduction for each additional sibling. The next six-week session begins Feb. 25 and runs through April 3.
For more information, e-mail Peggy Donaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org.