As part of your PE curriculum, one option is to learn about the different track events. Most people already know how to run, and kids quickly realize that they’ll sprint short distances, but keep to a slower pace when running a whole mile. Hurdles are completely different, and it takes both instruction and practice to hurdle well.
The first thing to note is that racers run hurdles; they do not jump hurdles. Hurdles are a sprint.
This is a skill, so the typical methods of learning skills are applicable. First race over lines drawn on the ground, working on stride. Next introduce drills that will teach muscle memory so the legs know what to do. After that, race over a few very low obstacles (boxes or pillows should suffice), combining striding and hurdling techniques already practiced in isolation. Gradually increase the obstacle height. I recommend building your own hurdle so you’re not constantly jumping over boxes.
Following is a great video for beginning hurdlers:
It would be appropriate to do steps 1 & 2 from this video, then practice some leading leg drills and trailing leg drills. After those drills, go back and repeat step 2 before proceeding to step 3.
Good Drills – links to video:
- Trailing Leg Circles, Leading Leg Drill, and others you can ignore in the beginning
- Stretch for Hurdlers
Summary of ideal technique from IAAF’s hurdle guide:
- 8 strides between starting line and first hurdle
- 3 strides between hurdles
- first step is aggressive
- run on balls of the feet
- body position big & tall
- Take-off – well in front of the hurdle
- Leading leg
- knee comes up
- end of leading leg (below knee) extended forward
- foot of leading leg flexed
- shoulders parallel to the hurdle
- Trailing leg
- knee up
- leg drawn alongside body
- thigh parallel to the ground/hurdle
- toe up, foot flexed (dragging toes will catch the hurdle)
- reach opposite arm toward leading toe
- on ball of foot
- body leans forward
- trailing leg pulls forward quickly and contacts the ground briefly
- Leading leg
In my head, I think “hurdle, land, one two three, hurdle, land, one two three…
What would it cost to buy top-of-the-line curriculum for a middle schooler? Obviously every child is different, so the materials for one child might be different from what is used for another child. Still, everyone needs to study math, science, English, and social studies. Other classes are usually included, too: health, PE, art, music…
If I were starting from scratch to pull together materials for a middle schooler, here’s what I’d think about using:
$90 Lyrical Learning was written for middle schoolers. $30 for volume 1, which is an introduction to biological taxonomy. $30 for volume 2, Mammals, Ecology, and Biomes. $30 for Lyrical Earth Science – Geography. This would be a very fun, simple approach that would leave students well-prepared for high school biology. Some of the textbooks are available for less on eBay, so the cost could be lower. Anyone who knows me 3D should ask about borrowing this curriculum for an even greater savings.
For a very different approach, spend $65 for each middle-school set of the best college-prep science curriculum available. The Apologia series of texts began as the lectures of a college professor who taught homeschoolers what they’d need to know to succeed in college. Seventh graders should study General Science - the set includes a student textbook, a packet of tests, and an instructor’s answer key; these can be purchased separately, too. Eighth graders should study Physical Science. The current prices on eBay don’t look competitive, so just buy the materials new.
Language Arts (English)
$299 IEW B Deluxe Package - cost would be less if you find it on Craigslist or eBay (which I did). You should be able to recoup much of the cost by reselling it when you are finished with it, which makes the price a little less gasp-worthy. Even so, this is such an excellent curriculum that I believe it is worth every penny. Some people do this in one year; others take two years. The goal is not to “finish the book” but to develop good writing skills, so take the time you need to become a master. The Continuation B curriculum is $199 for another year’s curriculum.
There are numerous options, and every family needs to evaluate which one would best fit their needs
- $15 Phonetic Zoo - fun and extremely easy to implement; my #1 recommendation; 3-yrs
- $10 How to Spell - seems straightforward, but my family didn’t like this (but you might)
- $56 Spelling Power - includes 3rd grade through college in one book
- $40 Spelling Made Simple - haven’t used this, but the reviews sound good
- $12 per book/level Sequential Spelling - not difficult, but not as user-friendly as Phonetic Zoo
All the “must read” books are available for free through the public library. Many are also free for download on a Kindle. Some public schools are willing to share their reading lists. If not, look at Sonlight’s website for suggestions on what to read, then borrow those books from the library.
I recommend Math-U-See for this level of mathematics. Middle schoolers who have mastered the basics of elementary arithmetic, fractions, decimals, and percents should be ready for pre-algebra in 7th grade, followed by algebra 1 in 8th grade. The student materials consist of a student workbook and a student test book, and costs $32 for a brand new set of the two books (they are not sold individually). Add the instructor’s manual/dvd set at $57, and this is expensive. You need all of these items, which makes it $89 to get them brand now, HOWEVER these, too, are often available on eBay for significantly less money – just make sure you’re getting both student books, and both the teacher’s manual and dvd.
Middle schoolers who are not up-to-speed on the basics need to master those before moving on – this is fairly common for public school kids who are being pulled out to homeschool. It’s also fairly common for everything to suddenly make sense, and kids to advance four or five grade levels of math within a few months. I highly recommend a basic set of flashcards, then online drills for basic facts, then using Life of Fred to have fun while learning fractions/decimals/percents. If your child really enjoyed and understood the Life of Fred approach, then you could use it for algebra. It costs significantly less than MUS.
Cost varies greatly depending on your subject and approach. Two different options would work well. Greenleaf’s instruction guide assigns projects and writing assignments. Story of the World is a four-volume series of very-easy-to-read history stories; there are also SOW activity books available for an additional cost. If it were me, I would use Greenleaf, and get Story of the World to supplement (if it’s not in the library).
- Greenleaf Curriculum - note that some of these are available on eBay at a cost savings
- The Story of the World
This, too, can sometimes be found on eBay.
Document physical activity to ensure the appropriate number of hours. Participation on community sports teams counts. Use of home exercise equipment does, too.
Use the public library for some books about art appreciation and drawing, and invest in some good drawing pencils - or sign up for art lessons through the parks department.
If 3D music lessons aren’t an option, I very much like the video guitar lessons from Worship Guitar Class. $30 per video, or $100 for all four which would take a few years to work through. Music123 and Musicians Friend both carry acceptable quality guitars for less than you’d pay in the local shop. If your guitar doesn’t have a built-in tuner, you’ll also want to buy an electric tuner.
Develop a schedule, and teach kids (if they don’t already know) how to cook, balance a checkbook, do laundry, and sew.
Bottom Line: Grand total, a top-notch 7th grade curriculum using this approach would be about $780 plus the price of music lessons. It could cost less if you use the library for some of the history books, and you should be able to sell some of the texts on eBay when you’re finished with them to make the final expense lower.
Breaststroke has changed greatly over the years. My family jokingly calls it “the whack-a-mole stroke,” and if you’ve ever watched Olympic racing, you understand why:
PULL – BREATH – KICK – GLIDE
Basic introduction to the competitive breast stroke:
There is a separate page dedicated to the kick, with tips on common errors and how to fix them.
Since I teach swimmers who are too short to stand in the water and touch bottom, I have them lay on the pool deck for their beginning arm stroke. It works well lay with face over the water, legs away from the pool, with shoulders just past the edge of the pool deck. The pull is just to the pool wall (which keeps them from pulling too far). We then do the arm pull hanging on a noodle, teaching the kick at a separate session.
Once swimmers have mastered the basics and developed good form for the beginning strokes (crawl, backstroke, elementary backstroke), they should begin to build endurance. It is important, however, not to work on endurance before teaching proper form — that just makes kids practice bad form, which is counterproductive.
As they develop endurance, you can also teach two new strokes:
- breast stroke
This video touches on all the key components of arm stroke, head position, scissor kick (top leg forward is key – if the bottom leg goes forward, that is a different stroke), etc. It is the best video I’ve found on sidestroke:
I like to first teach the scissor kick with kids holding onto the pool wall. Telling them “bend knees, top knee up to the chest (the bottom leg usually goes back automatically without specific instruction, but watch to make sure), straighten top leg forward as if you’re taking a giant step, snap legs together” and guiding their legs in the proper movements works well.
After they begin getting the coordination of the scissor kick while holding the wall, they can practice with a kickboard. The scissor kick is practiced with the body on its side, leading arm forward with the hand holding a kickboard (emphasize straight elbow), the trailing arm (straight elbow) rests on the thigh. Ensure proper head position: ear is in the water, while mouth and nose remain out of the water. Also check for body position: on side, not leaning either to back or to stomach. Most of the power for sidestroke comes from the kick, so take a few lessons to perfect it.
Good kick explanation and demo (unfortunately embedding is disabled, so click through and forward to 1:06):
Once the body position and kick have been mastered, kids can add the stroke made with their trailing arm. Continue to hold a kickboard with the leading arm. As the top knee come up, the trailing hand comes up to the opposite shoulder; as the legs snap together, the trailing arm pushes water down to the thigh. This is much more easy to learn than the scissor kick, but still requires dedicated practice.
Next, switch the kickboard to the trailing hand and work on adding the leading arm’s stroke to the scissor kick.
Finally, remove the kickboard and put all the pieces together. Remember that even when all the individual components are done well in isolation, it takes some practice to put it all together. It’s common for everything to fall apart before things “click.” Be patient, and persevere. This is a great stroke to master.
Another quick sidestroke demonstration:
Every level of swimming lessons should reinforce proper technique in the five beginning skills:
- flutter kick
- streamline position (glides)
- treading water
Verify that all beginning skills were learned correctly, and that sloppy habits don’t develop. It is quite common to find children struggle with crawl stroke because they never learned the correct way to do bobs, don’t know how to kick effectively, and/or have poor body position in the water. Make certain that kids are solid in their basics before proceeding.
With bobs, remember that bubbles must always be blown out the nose, and a breath should be taken every time the head comes out of the water. Kids who can smoothly do five consecutive bobs without stopping in between for a huge breath are ready to add some games to their bobs. One game is for the children to face the wall as normal for bobs, but to turn and look back over their shoulder while taking a breath. Another game is to do “sideways bobs” – also called “talk to the fish, listen to the fish.” Instead of dunking up and down, kids lay facedown and blow bubbles (talk to the fish), then turn their heads to the side, ear in the water (listen to the fish) while taking a breath. Mastery of this skill will help tremendously when kids learn rotary breathing with their crawl stroke.
Swimmers at this level should be taught:
- crawl stroke
- back stroke
- elementary backstroke
Technically, freestyle means that the swimmer can pick which stroke is done. In the racing world, one stroke is definitely faster than the others, so in practice, freestyle is used interchangeably with crawl stroke. You will hear front crawl, American crawl, Australian crawl, and Trudgeon crawl. There are minor differences in these strokes, but those technicalities are more appropriate for swim team competition than for beginning swimming lessons.
There are three components to the crawl stroke:
- Arm stroke
You have already taught the kick, and have laid the groundwork for breathing. Now it’s time to add the arms. Young children can simply stand at the edge of the pool and practice windmilling their arms, then get into the water and be instructed to add arm circles to their glides; they should do sideways bobs when they need to take a breath. Proper technique can then be taught to kids who are now excited that they’ve learned to swim. If you like, you can isolate the arm stroke and work on it before letting kids swim on their own.
There are three parts of the arm stroke:
- Catch - fingers enter at an angle and “catch” the water
- Pull – the hand pulls water back past the hip (some view this as pulling the body forward past the hand)
- Recovery (raise elbow out of the water keeping it higher than wrist, finger tips pointed downward, and move arm forward through the air in preparation for the next stroke)
- Arms should not cross midline – both when entering water above the head, and when pulling water back past the leg
- Just like in bobs, bubbles should be blown out the nose while swimming
- Maintain a good kick from the hip with thighs close, toes pointed/relaxed, and knees relaxed but nearly straight
How to Perform Front Crawl for Beginners
How to Swim the Freestyle Stroke – Overview of Arm Motion
Top Freestyle Flutter Kick Mistakes
Swimming Efficiency – Body Position & Stroke
How to Pull Underwater in Freestyle Swimming
Freestyle Tempo High Elbow Position & Catch
Backstroke is done with a flutter kick. Make sure the swimmer’s hips stay up on top of the water. The arm motion is: thumb out, pinkie in, bend the elbow, catch the water and push it to your feet
Teaching a Child the Backstroke
How to Teach a Child the Backstroke
Learn to Swim Backstroke – fix a common mistake
Whether you say, “up – out – squeeze – hold” or “chicken – airplane – soldier – glide,” children will have fun learning this easy stroke.
People can die if they don’t know how to swim. Nobody is going to die due to their inability to solve quadratic equations. It is perfectly acceptable to let a few subjects slide for a month or two, if that’s what it takes to find time to go to a pool and teach kids how to swim (provided you still fulfill all your state’s laws regarding home education).
Teaching swimming is every bit as wonderful as teaching reading. It’s fun to see kids quickly gain a new skill. The ability to swim means kids are much less likely to drown if they ever find themselves unexpectedly in the water. It also means they can go to pool parties, head to the lake with friends, or float the river in an inner tube. What a privilege to teach such a fun, useful skill.
Swimming skill is taught step-by-step, just like music, math, and basketball. It’s quite effective to break strokes down into their individual components, teach one piece at a time, then put it all together. Don’t Shoot the Dog, by Karen Pryor, is a secular book that does not mention swimming specifically but provides excellent tips on how to teach any skill. A look at the Suzuki violin method will provide additional philosophy about how to teach skills well. Everything you know about educational theory is applicable to swimming lessons.
It is important for teachers to position themselves so that they can always see all the children in their class.
Brand new kids can start by sitting on the edge of the pool and splashing. They can make a cup with their hands and blow bubbles in the water that they scoop up (something that I encourage people to have their kids do at home in the bathtub).
A beginning swimming class/individual should:
- learn to bob up and down in the water,
- perform a good flutter kick,
- maintain a good streamline position,
- tread water, and
After beginners learn to do these things well, the basic swimming strokes will be much easier.
Bobs – This teaches two things. First, the swimmer learns to put his face in water. Second, when done properly, this skill will help kids later when they learn to do rhythmic breathing.
Proper technique is for the swimmer to hold on to the edge of the pool and blow bubbles out the nose while the head is submerged. When I teach bobs, I submerge my own head so that I can check to see that bubbles are coming out of the child’s nose, not the mouth. First-time beginning swimmers can learn this in one or two lessons. Children who have practiced doing this skill wrong might take longer to master blowing bubbles out the nose. I usually tell parents that this is something kids should practice at home in the bathtub.
After a child can do one bob properly, we move on to two bobs done smoothly with no pause in between. The head comes up briefly for a quick breath, then submerges again. Shoulders should remain in the water. Sometimes kids will make the mistake of thrusting themselves high out of the water and gasping for air before going back down. Make a clear distinction between doing one bob two times, and doing two smooth, consecutive bobs. Once kids do two well, we move on to three. Only when they can do three bobs well do we progress to four consecutive bobs. Next would be five and we remain at five, paying attention to technique, for about a month to develop proficiency. After kids have begun to swim and have become quite proficient at five bobs, they can move directly to ten without the need to gradually increase, but that would be an advanced beginner skill.
Flutter Kick – Good form is extremely important. Some kids who haven’t been taught a proper flutter kick look like they’re thrashing in the water; others look like they’re riding a bike. Teach correct technique early so that kids don’t develop bad habits that are difficult to unlearn. Thighs should be together, toes should be pointed, and legs should be mostly straight (relaxed, flexible knees, not rigid knees) with the kick originating in the hip. Kick pushes down then lifts up; there is little splash. The thighs should remain mostly parallel to the pool floor, and should never be perpendicular to the floor of the pool.
Secret Tip Legs – Propulsion
Secret Tip Legs – Inertia
Freestyle Kick in Water
Four Common Kicking Mistakes
Streamline Position - Also called glide, arrows, or rockets, this step helps swimmers learn proper body position in the water. Swimmers lock hands together overhead, hug their ears with their arms, and gently push-off the side of the pool. The face must be in the water (kids who are doing bobs properly know how to blow bubbles out their nose while their face is in the water). With the face in the water, eyes should be looking down at the bottom of pool (not forward at the wall or the teacher). Standing in front of the swimmer, you should not be able to see the forehead, only the top of the head. The head, hips, knees, and feet should all be in a straight line.
First, swimmers simply push-off the edge and glide while holding their ankles together. Later, a good kick can be added. Adding the kick is a new skill, and you might be surprised at the number of kids who can do both the glide and the kick components well, but have difficulty combining the two. Persevere and it will all come together.
Streamline Position for Freestyle Stroke
Treading Water - There are many different ways to tread water. The most efficient kick is the eggbeater, and I begin teaching this kick in the very first class so that students can spend the entire session practicing. This is the kick used by lifeguards and synchronized swimmers, so although there are less effective ways to tread water, when teaching, you might as well teach kids the best method possible.
Kids can practice this leg motion at home, sitting either in an office chair (center stand, no legs) or on the toilet.
We begin sitting on the edge of the pool with knees spread wide, and the soles of the feet on the pool wall. Kids begin with one leg, making a circle by taking the foot toward the outside, then forward and in to the middle, then back to rest on the wall. When they are proficient at circling one leg the correct way, we switch and work on circles with the other leg. Only after each leg can make circles well do we combine both legs together. The next teaching stage would have kids in the water with backs against the edge of the pool, arms supporting themselves on the edge of the pool. Check that kids are still bent at the waist (as if still seated), and that the foot is flexed (no pointed toes for this). Often it will be necessary to correct the direction they are moving their legs. Some people suggest having them think about riding a bike backwards, but I find that makes them circle their legs the wrong direction. Do what works for you. When good form is demonstrated, kids can move away from the wall – perhaps holding a kickboard or noodle. Only after a good kick is mastered do I have kids add a sculling arm motion.
Beginners demonstrate mastery by treading water for at least ten seconds.
How to do an Eggbeater Kick
Eggbeater Kick for Synchronized Swimming
Eggbeater Kick (underwater camera, no instruction, just demo from different angles)
How to Teach a Child to Tread Water
Floating – beginners should learn to float both on their face (face in the water) and on their back. It can be fun to have kids sit on the side of the pool deck and see how long they can hold their breath. It’s simple to remind kids who don’t think they can front-float for ten seconds that they already demonstrated that they can hold their breath for twenty seconds
How to Teach a Child to Float in Water
How To Float in Water
Once beginners have mastered these five skills, they are ready to swim.
Telling students, “It is questionable how practical or applicable this skill is today,” is probably not the best way to get their interest or convince them that logarithms are worth learning. I am extremely disappointed in the way our math curriculum presents logs. He makes this fun and easy topic confusing and frustrating.
My oldest child ditched Math-U-See’s pre-calc explanation of logs and worked through Life of Fred’s advanced algebra chapter on logarithms. One week later, he encountered a problem in his physics text that required the use of logs. He knew exactly what to do.
My daughters, however, don’t like Life of Fred, so I am writing a basic no-nonsense chapter for them to learn logarithms. Instead of beginning with a confusing definition and tedious exercises, I start with an easy ”here’s how they work” and gradually work into the definition.
This study of logarithms includes:
- Introduction to Logarithms
- Log Laws
- Evaluating Logarithms
- Using Logarithm Tables
- More on Log Tables
- Using Logs to Solve Exponential Equations
- Practical Application of Logarithms
- Antilogs, Why?
- Logarithm Definition
- Common Logs
- Another Log Law
- Natural Logs
If you’d like to work through these lessons on logarithms, I’d appreciate feedback. I’ll post a few chapters at a time. Links provided as I work out the bugs:
- Lessons 1-5 (with answers)
- Common Log Table (this log table is needed in lesson 4)
- Lessons 6-10 (with answers)
- Lessons 11-
A common log table with seven decimal places can be found here, but is not needed for this unit.