My nine-year-old homeschooled son loves sports. I’d been feeling challenged with finding him homeschool learning opportunities that deal with sports, other than the sports themselves. I realized that time spent in sports provides chances to learn things like game rules, making new moves and social skills. But I was worried about him spending so much time moving that he would not improve his reading and writing skills. I also started to notice that both my sons enjoyed school work more and worked faster directly after playing hard outside. I realized myself that the best times for writing were right after a long walk or a workout. But still I tried to think up ways to interest Lucas in language skill projects that involved sports. Reading about sports history? No, Mom. Writing about last night’s game or a sports hero? Nope. So my question was how to engage Lucas in a learning environment of his own design, but that which would satisfy my need to know he’s improving his language skills?
While I was planning to write about sports and learning I came across this TedTalks video by Neuroscientist, Daniel Wolpert, where he explains that, “Movement is the only way you have of affecting the world around you. Everything goes through contractions of the muscles.” And he goes on to convince us that brains evolved solely to move. Everything our body does involves series of movements.
I wonder if this works backwards. I mean we all have heard about the links between movement and brain growth. Does all his movement give him an edge in language skills? Or can it only be done by actually practicing reading and writing?
I look at my son, who has learned to read and write at his own pace. I watch him work extremely hard to master movements and strategy in hockey, basketball, baseball, soccer and all the made-up sports that he and his siblings and friends have played over the years. He has found something he loves to do and spends as much time as possible practicing and improving.
This morning I asked him (again) what lessons he wanted to take this summer (his brother and sister take piano and Spanish, respectively). After his initial, negative reaction, I talked to him a little more, feeling bad that they are getting something he’s not. I suggested he could take anything that interested him. He was vehement, “No, Mom. No Lessons. Only sports.”
The thing is, when he’s not doing sports he’s doing things like putting the pool ladder together, without instructions. And building things like this robotic zamboni:
So OK. He’s not spending the same amount of time as school kids reading and writing. A typical writing assignment to him may be a condolence card to his grandfather directly after the World Series. And he spends more than the average kid moving because he has more time. His communication skills, social skills and attention span are good. He’s extremely helpful at home and seems happy. Though I still worry at times that we’re not doing enough reading and writing, seeing him in action in life and sports puts my mind at ease.