On Wednesdays, Matthew participates in a gym class for five and six year old kids; I think there are nine in his class. It's an arrangement that has been worked out between a group of Manitoba homeschoolers and the University of Manitoba. His class is taught by a university student who has a degree in phys ed and who is enrolled in the faculty of education; best of all, she's really great with the kids. And the kids get exposure to lots of things, including gymnastics, fencing, rock wall climbing, and lots of other neat stuff...in addition to the usual sorts of gym activities.
Yesterday was my day to be a parent volunteer and I was so excited to get to do this. The parents aren't allowed to observe the gym class except when they volunteer, so this was my day to see what happens in class and what Matthew's participation is like.
For the first half hour of yesterday's class, the kids got to play in something called a "splunker." Now, perhaps you experienced parents out there might know what this is, but this parent didn't. Here's a picture of it:
Frankly, it doesn't look like much! But it's amazing. It's a maze inside, so kids climb and crawl through it. All nine kids were in the splunker at the time this photo was taken and the sound of laughter coming out of it was astounding. They played games where one kid would go in and hide a penny somewhere in the maze and then the other eight would dive in and scramble about to find it. They came out of the thing reluctantly, despite panting from exertion. I was surprised by it and delighted. Matthew loved it, too, especially because he found the penny on the first round of the games!
Taking a moment to rest!
After the splunker, the kids were off to the gym, traipsing one after the other down the hall:
They had a blast there, too, playing various versions of tag for half an hour...including something I'd never heard of before: toilet tag. Of course, this name met with roars of approval from the kids and they were all eager to get 'flushed'. In the game, once someone gets tagged by the person who's 'it', they have sink to one knee and hold out an arm; at this point, they wait for someone to come along and push down on their arm (ie. 'flush' the toilet) before being reactivated. As the tagged person is being flushed, they are to make a loud swooshing noise to resemble, well, a toilet. It was interesting!
Here's Matthew, having been tagged, waiting to be 'flushed':
And here he is again, seconds after being flushed, enjoying the exhilaration of running just for the joy of it!
I loved being a parent volunteer, though I may have been an 'uber-enthusiastic' parent - I was cheering for kids as they ran, playing with them 'on the run', encouraging the reluctant to jump in and engage the moment, giving high fives as they did something that delighted them. It was so great, too, seeing my boy engaged in this way - he's often been the one who gets freaked out by games like tag (he gets a bit panicky, thinking he might get tagged). But not yesterday - he was engaged from first to last moment and was often laughing as he ran. He also identified another boy of the same age that he'd like to get to know better, and so he went an introduced himself to the other boy, thinking that we'll do a playdate with him and his mom sometime soon.
It takes more than a tiny bit of effort to make gym class happen on Wednesdays: it's a twenty+ minute drive; we have to find parking in the maze of the university 'village;' we walk through a huge (cold) parking lot and a couple of buildings to get to where we're supposed to be; we (well, I) lug with us our winter garb, gym clothes, water bottle, snack, etc etc.; and then everything again in reverse. It takes two and a half hours (pretty much the afternoon) to make a one-hour gym class happen.
What I'd say though, especially after observing class myself yesterday, is that it's well worth the effort.