In my experience, I’ve found that there are usually three main views among people when it comes to matters of health.
There are those who roll their eyes at the topic, there are those who already know everything about it, and there are those who are always eager to learn more and do better. Perhaps you are like me and are hungry to learn more about the subject of health. If so, this article is for you.
While I can’t claim to know everything about any one field of learning, health is one subject that is near and dear to my heart. I am a Certified Natural Health Professional and, in a former life, I provided consultations and education through Turning Leaf Wellness to help others on their natural wellness journeys.
When you hear the word, “health” most people automatically assume the conversation is about our physical health. In natural wellness, however, I’ve learned to focus on three key areas of health.
Each of these three areas affects the others, so true wellness comes when they are all properly balanced. When addressing wellness in my practice, in life, and in homeschooling I always strive to achieve the right mix of all three. What does this look like for my family as we homeschool? Let’s break it down.
If I had to guess, I would say this is the health category that gets the most attention. It’s straightforward and easy to focus on. I tend to view it in two compartments; physical education and physical wellness.
Flexibility and funding for a wide range of physical education opportunities draw many families into homeschooling. As children excel in sports, homeschooling allows students to dig deep into the sport while still achieving academic success with an alternative schedule.
Most homeschool charters will allow for costs related to physical education to be reimbursed or paid outright from a student’s allotment as long as their Individual Learning Plan reflects PE as a course that they are studying.
But children who don’t aspire to become top athletes also have access to many great options for PE while homeschooling.
Here’s a shortlist of a few PE opportunities:
Eagle River Homeschool Classes at the Macdonald Center (www.eagleriverhomeschoolclasses.com) This program offers Jiu-Jitsu and more traditional PE classes focusing on field sports for grades K-8.
Jay’s Taekwondo (www.alaskataekwondo.com) offers homeschool lessons during the day.
Alaska Rock Gym (www.alaskarockgym.com) offers homeschool lessons during the day. While it’s a bit of a drive for many Eagle River homeschooling families, many find it is more than worth it.
Harry J. Macdonald Memorial Center (www.mcdonaldcenter.net) offers ice skating as well as turf time.
The Alaska Moving Arts Center (www.alaskamovingartscenter.org) offers a variety of classes including indoor playground time, martial arts, ballet, and tumbling.
Chugiak Youth Sports Association (https://clubs.bluesombrero.com/chugiak/) offers organized field sports such as soccer, basketball and more!
Also, there are many other local organized opportunities. The various local homeschool charters may also offer PE opportunities. Raven Eagle River Homeschool charter, for example, offers a Cross Country Ski Club. It’s a great way to get kids and families outside in the winter.
And while there are plenty of organized classes and opportunities, never underestimate the power of outdoor free play for your kids. It exercises so much more than just their bodies!
Physical Wellness is the second aspect of physical health that I focus on. I subscribe to a few basic physical wellness foundations that I believe are fairly applicable across the board.
Real Food. As a busy homeschooling parent who loves to educate my children in the kitchen as much as in nature and through workbooks, I still find myself in those situations where there isn’t enough time or energy to prepare the nutritious, real-food meals that I prefer. So, please, hear this from that place. I get it. I hit the drive-through sometimes too. But that said, nothing will do anyone better for their physical wellness than eating real food.
During our homeschool days, my kids and I talk about our food choices and what they mean for our bodies. We regularly look up the nutritional value of foods and discuss it, and I am always educating and encouraging my children with the best choices. I aim to help them learn how to take care of themselves while they are young so that they will be more purposeful in their physical wellness habits as they grow older.
Beyond teaching wellness through real-life experience, I also recommend checking out the nutritional curriculum called Real Food Nutrition for Kids from Food Renegade at their website (http://www.foodrenegade.com/).
Water. Water applies to everyone. Put down the soda, back away, and pick up a glass of water. Your body will thank you. A pretty common standard is to take your body weight, divide it in half, and drink that many ounces of water every day. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, but, in general, that is about where everyone should be.
Supplementation. Many Alaskans find they need to supplement their diet with vitamin D. I won’t direct anyone to try supplements without doing their own research and consulting with their Naturopath or Medical Doctor first, but I have seen that the right supplements can be very beneficial for some.
The 80/20 Rule. When it comes to following physical wellness standards, I have found it best to follow the 80/20 rule. Do what you know is best for your body at least 80 percent of the time. Anything more than this can cause too much stress which can lead to its own health problems down the road. So, when you’re on the go and find yourself in a situation where the drive-through is looking like your best option- don’t sweat it. Make the most nutritious choice on that board full of zero nutritious options and move on with your life. As long as you are doing what you are “supposed to do” 80 percent of the time, the other 20 percent is for when life happens – so roll with it and don’t stress it!
Mental and Emotional Health
Mental and emotional health are areas that are incredibly unique to each individual. I’ve found that they are also vitally important in the homeschool arena.
Many homeschool parents warn about those days when your children will struggle mentally and emotionally as they school. I see these moments as built-in opportunities to support and educate my kids in ways tailored to their unique personalities.
In those moments, take the time to stop and address the mental and emotional implications of what they are going through. Provide them with the guidance needed in these situations to recognize what is really provoking them. As they learn awareness, they can learn to accept their emotions, process them and move on.
We also work to provide different forums for growth for our kids through different types of people, settings, and age ranges for them to interact with. All of this helps them become well-rounded emotionally and mentally.
And finally, I relish the freedom and flexibility that homeschooling provides to take the day off or skip a subject one day, and use that time to explore emotions, blow off some steam with a hands-on activity or just relax together with a movie when my child is really struggling.
Building quite-time into your schedule each day allows children the opportunity to connect spiritually. Regardless of your religious beliefs, the awareness of something bigger than you can bring a sense of well-being, purpose, and contentedness to your life.
As homeschoolers, we have the flexibility to build our faith into our school days regularly. Every morning, our schedule includes Bible time. We study the Bible, work on scripture memorization, and each of us spends quiet time in prayer and reflection in our journals.
It is easy to bring spiritual health into the homeschool day and schedule. Either with dedicated time or by having it as an overall theme throughout each topic you study, this important part of life can be prioritized and woven into your activities.
Thoughts on Play
Integral to a child’s health is free-play and time outside. Many studies show that providing children with ample time outdoors is critical for their health. Check out this article written by Claire McCarthy, MD the Faculty Editor for Harvard Health Publishing for more information. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880)
McCarthy discusses six reasons children need to play outside. She highlights that time outside provides exercise, socialization, exposure to sunshine (vitamin D!), opportunities to develop executive function and risk-taking skills, and that it also builds an appreciation for nature. So whether it’s structured activities or just free time for the kids to play, don’t forget to incorporate time outside into your child’s homeschool program!
The topic of health is large and complex, but don’t let it overwhelm you. It may take a good deal of effort to incorporate all of these tools and tips into our lives, but with the resolve of the new year, let’s all encourage one another to continue to strive for that right balance. And remember, every little step counts. Each positive change is progress no matter how large or how small it is. And when life gets thrown at us and we fall dreadfully out of balance- don’t sweat it. Get up, shake it off, and get back to it.
Wherever you are is the best place to start!