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The Spring 2016 semester saw the successful debut of the Concordia Homeschool Physical Education & Sport Program, a mutually beneficial project aimed at providing physical education opportunities for homeschooled children, and practical, hands-on training for aspiring physical education teachers at Concordia University, St. Paul.
Around 75 homeschool students ranging in age from kindergarten to 12th grade participated in the program on a weekly basis on Concordia’s campus. Split into four age-appropriate groups, the eight-week program introduced children to various activities, skills and team play. Some families traveled over 90 minutes each direction to attend.
“Homeschool students are typically not afforded structured physical education opportunities, so a university homeschool physical education program represents a logical service learning opportunity to help our community.” Program director Dr. Matthew Buns, assistant professor of kinesiology and health sciences, said.
Concordia students played an instrumental role in the success of the program, as they helped out in a variety of areas. Each lesson was led by a combination of physical education majors, elementary education majors, biology major and a former Lutheran elementary teacher. Additionally, several Golden Bear athletic teams assisted with specific lessons, including student athletes from the women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball teams, and the men’s and women’s track & field team. Associate Athletic Director Regan McAthie also assisted with several volleyball lessons.
“Because teaching and learning are two sides of the same process; a challenge for Concordia students was understanding how children learn in order to teach them effectively,” Dr. Buns said. “This program allowed our students to apply research on best practices in physical education and demonstrate main concepts and methods in real-world settings.”
Dr. Buns said when Concordia initially proposed the program in the summer of 2015 the response was very positive from parents and area homeschool associations. He added that the challenge was not in finding interested families, but in being able to accommodate all of them with a high-quality program.
“I am not aware of any other university homeschool programs in the Twin Cities,” Dr. Buns said. “Since the number of children being homeschooled far surpasses the growth of traditional public school education, I hope that more universities will model the program we started at Concordia which is rooted in Christian principles and seeks to integrate faith into content.”
The program will continue this fall with plans to offer it every fall and spring semester moving forward. Dr. Buns said one of the goals of the program is giving all homeschooled children the opportunity to participate in a physical education program.
“This past semester included a little bit of everything – blood, sweat, tears and even a little vomit,” Dr. Buns said. “Yet the kids kept coming back for more.”