Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Physical Education

I read Michelle Obama in Newsweek last night, making her argument to feed our children well and to get moving. She had things to say about how our modern life style of driving kids to school, playing electronically instead of physically after school, and school lunches are leading to childhood obesity. Got me thinking about our PE program.

One of my motivations for homeschooling was better health. Our local schools are cutting down on recess and PE times. While our state has strict standards for food offered to children at school (only whole wheat flour used, maximum amount of total fat in the lunches, no sugar allowed...) children have free choice about what to eat among what's offered and they routinely skip the salad bar. I went head to head with the school principal this year, too. While no soda pop is allowed to be sold on school grounds during school hours, by anybody, the Booster Club is offering Italian sodas right after school lets out every Thursday. What? It is unhealthy for children to drink soda at 2:59 PM, but at 3:00 it's fine? I lost that one, but I my cranky voice was heard by a lot of people.

I have to say that Mi'ita is what I call "a baby giant." Last weekend I saw Mi'ita with her friend, T, who used to be about an inch shorter than her. Now Mi'ita is almost 6 inches taller than T. She is immense. Certainly not fat, but far from skinny. She's inherited my body (except in a giant size) and twice a week PE will not cut it.

So what do we do? Mi'ita has ballet twice per week, horseback riding lessons twice a month, bike riding with her dad once a week, and lots of walking. We walk everywhere, every day. In addition to that, we're trying to add the swim team, if she can pass her tryout in a week and a half. Wish her luck! That will round things out very nicely and she will have practice two hours a day three days a week.

And food? I try to cook with whole foods, there is a green vegetable with every dinner, and fruit is her snack option. We are far from perfect (while we were traveling, we were FAR from perfect) but I think her diet is better for staying at home.

That said, she does not have regular eating times. We are at home and she has snacks and lunch when she's hungry. When she's growing it seems like she eats constantly. If I buy those cutie oranges in the store, five pounds will go down her gullet in a couple days. Sometimes I wonder if I should regulate how much and how often she eats instead of just what she eats. I've been thinking hard on that because I think she does eat when she's bored or more likely just because she likes the taste of something, not because she's hungry. Opinions?

Also, she is a sedentary child by nature. She likes to read and she reads constantly. I don't let her watch TV on school days (except educational programs) and her computer time is only school related. But how can I tell her to put her book down and go out to play? There is very little out there for kids to do. She is an only child in a neighborhood where if you look out the window on a school day, there is no one out there riding a bike or roller skating or playing jacks. She won't go out by herself. If we invite kids over (which we do regularly) she plays, but otherwise she is reading a book.

I don't know if Michelle would approve. I'm trying, though.


  1. As a mom of two girls who would rather do just about anything but play outside, even with each other, I feel your pain. We put in a whole play structure (used, found on Craigslist) just to encourage said play. What do they do? Bring out a book and sit on it to read.

    We try to walk and bike everywhere feasible, including daily to school (roughly 3/4 of a mile away), and both are playing indoor soccer this spring (one-hour practices twice a week), but I am at a loss as to what else to do. We do allow dessert after dinner, and I do pack a couple cookies in their lunch, but sweets aren't an option otherwise. I serve skim milk, we eat whole-grain bread, don't put sugar on our cereals, only very rarely have pop or chips ... it's tough.

    Here's what I would suggest, and what I finally did with Rebecca when we'd both heard one harmful comment too many: Go to the doctor. If the doctor, and ONLY the doctor, agrees that your "baby giant" is undertall for her weight, then have the doctor help you get on a specific nutrition/portion size and exercise plan. You may truly not need one.
    At our visit, we learned that while Rebecca's weight is outpacing her height in an unhealthy way, the doctor did not feel portion control or dining timing changes were necessary. Increase physical exercise to a minimum half-hour per day (one hour is better), he said, and we'll track her for six months. If weight continues to outpace height, THEN we'll talk diet. We've had one check so far and she's holding steady.

    Our doc also noted that puberty is just around the corner, and with that, EVERYTHING will change. So I think as long as you are doing your level best to be healthy in the meantime, you're just fine, and so is your beautiful girl. :)

  2. I feel your struggle, Ineka. When I was a kid so many of the things available to today's children just didn't exist. It was outside to find something to do or die of boredom sitting still.
    I am so pleased to hear you are tackling this problem so persistently. Good luck, dear heart!