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Summer Fun & Fitness Ideas-- for the whole family....
Susan Richman, 7/12/2010

I was browsing about online this morning, and came upon a program that USA Today is running this summer-- it's their Family Fitness Challenge, where families are encouraged to do unusual and different activities together... like trying hoola hooping, making a funny dance video of themselves, going on an overnight camping trip (even to the backyard!), and more. The article I read had some great quotes from psychologists who pointed out some truths that many of us homeschoolers have known... that kids can sometimes be in TOO many structured activities, involving lots of driving and chauffeuring, lots of stress over getting there at the right time, having the uniform all ready, practicing in between official practices, and more. Though many of these are wonderful activities, it's also nice to have a *balance* of less structures times, when kids can, well, just play. And when parents can join in the fun without feeling they have to be looking at the clock or the rearview mirror in heavy traffic... So I thought homeschooling families might love these ideas from USA Today-- see this link:

www.usatoday.com/news/health -- and you'll see the feature.

One point hit home with me--

And when you break out of the ordinary, the experience may end up "an entry in the family scrapbook," says Frank Farley, a psychologist at Temple University in Philadelphia and former president of the American Psychological Association. It's the coming together to try something new and different that underlies the bonding phenomenon, he says.

"If you are doing something humdrum that you've done over and over in the past, that won't work," Farley says. "You have to do something novel, something a little different; then it becomes an adventure."

For example, camping out overnight can be a pretty amazing family experience, he says. Or spending the day canoeing at a local lake. Or whitewater rafting, if you're a more adventurous family.

"There is a lot of shared screaming and laughter," Farley says. "This is really fun for all ages. My two oldest sisters tried whitewater rafting in their 70s, and they loved it. It was a 'big-T' — a thrilling experience."

The T-factor is important for creating some memorable family experiences, he says. "The things that produce thrill include novelty, uncertainty, variety and intensity," he says.

Farley says that when family members gather together, they'll regale each other with these experiences for years to come.

This made me think of how my husband Howard and all our kids love to talk about their favorite camping weekends with the Hill family (our oldest son Jesse's inlaws), a family tradition that started in Jesse's teens and is still continuing, now with the '2nd generation' grandkids joining in the fun. Probably my husband's favorite story is of the time they were hit by the edge of a hurricane, and the forest they were hiking in was at best a vast soggy swamp, at worst a raging river. Though they were faced with some real dangers, and they were obviously soaked and at times a bit overwhelmed and miserable, what they remember looking back is a shared time of challenge. The memory of how they were able to start a campfire even in those very wet conditions is something they never tire of retelling-- and these types of intense experiences I think can go a long way in helping anyone feel they can take on a major future challenge, too.  

And I also loved hearing in the USA Today feature about families using hoola hoops, as just this year I learned how to make my own hoola hoops  (see:  http://www.jasonunbound.com/hoops.html -- would be a fun homeschool project for a middleschool age homeschooler, and could be a great little business for a kid, or a way to make fun gifts for others...), and rediscovered this fun type of exercise. I also found that 'hooping' is now a growing 'fitness trend' among many adults, with classes popping up all over the place. I was delighted to introduce my grandkids to 'hooping'-- and to give them a few 'made by grandma' hoops to take home. And seeing the shining delight on 9-year-old Sarah's face as she expertly 'hooped' for all of us was a joy for all of us! And hooping 'fever' spread as she then visited her Hill grandparents (and aunts and uncles) and showed them-- and everyone there joined in and gave it a try. Reminded me, too, of how easy it can be to let our kids have quick 'exercise breaks' in the midst of our homeschooling days-- "In 10 minutes after starting this math time, let's take a 'hoops' break!" No driving time, no 'lessons', no uniform to launder, no payment... just a fun speedy time of 'getting moving'. Reminded me of the time when Jesse was little, and needed some extra 'boosts' while practicing piano-- after completing each point in his practice, he'd do things like run about the 'circle route' of our home (from the livingroom, to the hallway, to the dining room, through the project room, and back to the piano in the livingroom...) several times, or even 'bounce' the route on one of those fun bouncy balls with the handles, or 'jump' on an inflated ball with a round 'platform' around it (think of something that looks like the planet Saturn-- wonder if these are still available??). He'd come back refreshed and ready to do the next task in piano-- energized and focused. Exercise can do that.

Hope to hear from many of you below on ways you've had fun with your kids this summer-- and gotten in some surprise (and thrilling!) adventures in the mix. Enjoy!


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