Franticly pursuing better scores on government-required tests, more and more public schools are doing away with PE and recess to create more time for drills.

In my opinion, this is a huge mistake.

Desperate to escape that nagging fear of “falling behind”, homeschool families might be tempted to dispense with physical activity breaks as well, but that would result in bringing the mistakes of public school home. Homeschool families are not required to take the same tests, and we do not have to accommodate time-wasting activities like roll call, lining up for lunch, and waiting for a school bus. We HAVE time to spare for physical activity, and we should definitely take it!

This article explains the vital connection between motion and reading readiness. I like the explanation of how and why exercise fires up our brains, but I’ve known for a long time that the connection was there.

Our youngest child did not crawl. Instead, he locked his arms, Rambo-style, and “scooched” like an inchworm toward his goal. Later, he would orient himself perpendicular to a desired object and roll until he could reach it. At the time, it was simply an amusing quirk. But when he got to the age where children usually walk, run, and skip, he had trouble mastering those activities as well. Was it simply coincidence that he struggled to read? He also wrote his letters and words backward and showed several indications of mild dyslexia, so we consulted a couple of reading specialists whose opinions we respected.

Jan Bedell, the “brain trainer” from Little Giant Steps, had us do some preliminary exercises with him–offering a crayon, rolling a ball, watching him as he used the phone or a kaleidoscope to see which hand, foot, ear and eye he favored. Ideally a person who is right-handed will prefer their right eye, ear, and foot as well. A left-handed person will prefer to do other input and output activities with their left side. This is because our brains were designed to take information in from one side and flip it for storage on the other side of the brain. Then when we need to access the data, our brain searches for it and flips it back right again for output. But if a person is ambidextrous, with no decisive preference for either side, or cross-dominant (meaning that they prefer their right side for some activities and their left for others), the information can get garbled. The good news is that our brains can be retrained. (We really are marvelously and awesomely made!)

Art and music, though, are examples of creative processes that use both sides of the brain. The same fluidity that can cause physical delays or awkwardness and difficulty with reading and writing also results in creative talent that enriches the lives of some individuals who are cross-dominant. Since our son fell in that camp, we decided to take a more natural route and see how he fared.

At this point my mom, who was a reading specialist, suggested that we try giving him breaks to skip around the yard or have crawling relays down the hall with his sister. My husband often took both children outside for morning exercise in the back yard. Running, jumping jacks, windmills–I wish I could say that the morning exercises were as popular as the skipping and racing breaks, but that would be stretching the truth. Nevertheless, they worked! These are exactly the sort of cross-over drills suggested in the article above.

Gross motor development plays a big part in the development of fine motor skills. Click To Tweet

Gross motor development plays a big part in the development of fine motor skills–right down to the way our eyes track a line of words in a sentence or the way our hands form script.

Since we have the freedom of planning our homeschool days, be sure to include generous doses of physical freedom for your children!