Simplicity Monday: Children and Sports

It was a most beautiful fall weekend here in the Deep South…and I spent the majority of my weekend at a continuing education course for my physical therapy license renewal.  It was long hours in class, but very interesting information.  In the Pediatric Sports Medicine track I attended, there was a really interesting session regarding “Youth In Sports:  Are We Pushing Too Hard?” and I wanted to bring this information to you all because it is so important.

This information comes from the medical community – doctors, athletic trainers and therapists -  who love and care for student athletes and who really do want children to have free play and yes,  also to be on the field too,  but in a safe and healthy way.

The presentation opened up with a case study of a student athlete who was practicing a certain sport three hours a day, conditioning for an hour, plus scheduled practice at night, plus weekend tournaments, and was being homeschooled because there was not much time available for other activities.

The kicker?  The student was ten years old.

There were many other case studies of student athletes, who by the age of 15 or 16, had had three or more surgeries due to sports injuries, plus hours of rehabilitation.

The presentation went through how in the past, children played games that children created and ran themselves.  The goal was to have fun, the rules were flexible, teams and the players on the team were often switched,  and sometimes better “athletes” were given handicaps to compensate for their athletic prowess.   This was typical when I was growing up, and maybe when you were growing up as well.  Organized sports started somewhere around the later middle school years typically or even first year of high school.

A lot has changed in recent years.  Now forty million children sign up for organized sports each year in the United States.   In contrast to those games of childhood we remember, organized sports are led by adults, with adult rules that are inflexible.  The goal is winning, being better,  and working as a team to win a goal that is often adult-oriented (ie, MVP trophy, all-stars, etc), often with the best players leading and the rest of the children left behind.  The best facilities are often used for elite, hypercompetitive teams, along with the  best coaches while the “leftovers” often go into community sports where the fields or other equipment may not be as in good a condition and the coaches may be parent volunteers.  (Which in and of itself may not be a bad thing, but this particular session was looking at such factors as safety – for example,  the elite clubs may have better access to athletic trainers and medical personnel on the sidelines when injuries and concussion occur as opposed to parent-led clubs).  Most youth coaches, whether professional or a volunteer,  are not typically trained in childhood development so sometimes developmental readiness cues to play an organized sport are not known and the way practices are conducted completely miss the developmental stage of the child.

The kicker to all of this is that recent statistics show by age fourteen, 73 percent of children who were in organized sports DROP OUT.  It is no longer fun.  My family went through this ourselves last year with our then fifth grader, and I can attest to this. Continue reading

Judgment

This beautiful article about judgment, guilt and parenting is something I feel every parent should read:  http://www.lifewaysnorthamerica.org/blog/finding-grace-jennifer-sullivan

My favorite quote is this one:

I held this silent boy for sometime in my mind, carefully turning the situation over and over.  I had judged the father, and I also had judged the son.  In that moment, the boy taught me that all things are not what they seem.   He reminded me we each have a path and our stories are not the same.  Instead of passing judgment, I could have surrounded each person with love.  How else can we find happiness if we cannot elevate the other?  We must also look past our weaknesses, move forward, and enjoy this life fully by discovering our own grace.  I can only strive to do the very best in each moment and that is all.  Then I must remember that everyone else is doing the same.  I have come to realize that life is about balance and grace, not perfection.  We would succeed as parents if the lessons we offer our children were about acceptance, forgiveness, and love.  I must promise them this.

How many times a day as mothers do we judge ourselves?  Fill in the blank: “I am not (patient enough, strong enough, capable enough, smart enough, kind enough”, etc)”

How many times a day do we Continue reading

Computer Gaming and Children: Practical Advice

(As a Waldorf family, our instant answer to the question of computer gaming and children  is “no”!  Childhood lasts until age 21 and it is our job to protect our children. However, I also get mail from many families that are not Waldorf families, and their children are already playing computer games at young ages and playing a lot, so I asked my husband for some moderate thought on this issue.  You will notice he advocates strong limits on gaming for teenagers and to not start until the high school years or longer if possible.  There are many fun alternative ways to spend time, but for families who choose to have their teenagers participate in gaming, he lists the pitfalls to be aware of.  I appreciate his insight here. – Carrie)

For the last five years my lovely wife Carrie has been publishing her thoughts, ideas and experiences to the world in this blog.    In that five years I have supported her and this blog from both the emotional and technical side.  That’s not only my role as her husband, but as the father of our children.

controllerThroughout that time, Carrie would often ask guests to post and add to the conversation where it makes sense.The topic of computer gaming and its impact on children is a question that Carrie has received frequently, though in recent months the requests and comments about this subject have increased.   Clearly this is a subject that should be addressed and Carrie has very nicely asked me to post on this subject. Continue reading

The Twelve Year Old

Here is the picture of the true physical being of a twelve year old:

The forces of growth now become active in the bony system of the body.  The muscles, which were previously bound up with the rhythmic system, become part of the mechanical working of the skeleton….Limb activity appears clumsy when this process begins, and this is made more complicated by the further accelerated growth of the physical body.  The girls have already shown growth in their height and weight, but now it is the boys who take a turn and begin to make visible changes.  If you watch closely, you will notice that the girls start to develop hips and the indentation of the waist, also the breasts begin to form.  Other changes that are not as easy to see are fuller lips and the cheekbones, which begin to emerge from the skull. – Eurythmy for the Elementary Grade by Francine Adams

Rudolf Steiner talked about how this time, the sixth grade year, is a time where the bones are first perceptible.  The child is moving into a heavier, more muscular, time of development.  In this way, things like copper rod exercises as done in eurythmy in the Waldorf Schools show that the rod is indeed the extension of this perceptible bone and provide the challenge and precision a twelve year body needs.  This year of sixth grade and being twelve is a time of challenge, precision, looking forward.

Many twelve- year-olds seem to detest movement outside of a favored sport or two, but they also seem to love a challenge. Something specific such as hiking,  or learning a skill such as how to paddleboard or kayak, can really fill the child’s need for challenge.  They really need you as a model to get out and be physical, and to be outside and be physical as a family.  They need you to help initiate it all.  In Waldorf Schools, gymnastics becomes an adjunct for geometry (Bothmer Gymnastics).  We cannot bring that at home, but we can do our best to bring in movement and also a social experience, so important for twelve year olds.

So, there is this heaviness of the child on the earth that I just described, but there is also Continue reading

The Stranger

This is an amusing yet sobering  piece written by an anonymous person about the stranger living in his home growing up.  It is well- worth the short read.

The  Stranger

A   few years after I was born, my Dad met a stranger  who  was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was  fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and  soon invited him to live with our family. The  stranger  was quickly accepted and was around

from  then on.   As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my  family.  In my young mind, he had a special niche.

 

My  parents were complementary instructors: Mom  taught  me good from evil, and Dad taught me to obey.  But  the stranger… he was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures,  mysteries  and comedies.  If  I wanted to know anything about Continue reading

Freedom Versus Form

This has been a season where the theme of freedom versus form has been coming up repeatedly in my life, and as usual, I took this as a sign that I should write about this subject for my readers.

During one of the first few weeks on her Yahoo Group for homeschool planning called “Sketching It Out” that in homeschooling, Lisa Boisvert Mackenzie wrote something to the effect that we have a freedom so different than what is found in the Waldorf schools in bringing the impulses of Waldorf Education to the home, but then we have to create the form.  I have been mulling this thought around for several weeks now, where it has been germinating in my heart.  I  know from my own experiences in talking to  so many mothers and families that creating the form seems to be the most challenging part for families not just in homeschooling, but in parenting.

A small example in  parenting, for example,  Continue reading

Games Children (Should) Play

A large part of Waldorf Education includes an actual curriculum for games, that leads into sports in the middle school years.  There is a wonderful book called, “Child’s Play 1 &2” by Wil van Haren and Rudolf Kischnick that goes through what games correspond developmentally with what ages, and I thought I would detail some of this for those of you planning your homeschooling year, or even just for parents who don’t remember many childhood games or what ages they played certain games!

I love this quote from page 114 of this book:  True games are a source of health in which the child’s soul is repeatedly submerged, if he is not to miss our on the most valuable things.  However, this is not the only requirement.  In order to build up and play games and activities which are close to real life, it is important to have a thorough knowledge of the child’s essential core, on the one hand, and the moral value of the game relating to the particular stage of the child’s development, on the other.  The metamorphoses in the child’s development sometimes require one thing, sometimes another.  We should not lose sight of the child and his experiences of the world around him.  In themselves, games are worthless if they are not played at the right time and with the appropriate spiritual attitude.

From about ages four to seven, Continue reading