What Counts for P.E.?

Could I count Zumba classes or maybe even walking as P.E.? How about bowling or swimming?

I see questions like these online periodically. Perhaps they are followed by responses that declare that they won’t count unless instruction is involved or that give some other warnings of what it would take to actually count for a high school credit.

Perhaps it’s because I spent quite a number of years attending and later teaching in a wide variety of schools. Maybe it’s because my husband still works in schools. Whatever the reason, these sorts of questions always make me think about what schools would count. Maybe the people asking the questions have forgotten their school days, but I remember so many days when we sat around in the gym doing nothing but talking as we watched the football team practice because the weather was bad and the regular P.E. class was at the bottom of the list when it came to using the gymnasium. But sitting around watching others counted just fine as far as the public school was concerned; they didn’t make us repeat those classes later on. I remember several weeks when our P.E. class was taken to a local canal to play in the water–of course I wouldn’t recommend cavorting in a canal due to safety issues, but the idea that just goofing around in the water was enough to count should remove a lot of worries about whether a specific physical activity would count.

I don’t remember instruction coming with all of our P.E. activities, either. When we walked the track, we just walked. We were ordered to wear the P.E. uniform and take a shower, too, if we wanted all the points possible. But we got credit for being there and doing the assigned activity, even if the activity was sitting around doing nothing or watching a movie that had nothing to do with the subject or going to a school assembly or watching a basketball tournament held at our school.

So what do we count for P.E. in our homeschool? I count any physical activity–running and playing tag, cavorting on the beach, biking, bowling, racing about a park on our homeschool support group’s park days (as well as days that we just go to the park), hiking trails, playing twister, etc. as well as playing soccer with our homeschool support group or being involved in some sort of sport or instruction with (or without) instruction going on. I count them whether I assigned the activity or they chose to do it; as long as they are moving and working off steam, I count it. I count learning the rules to sports and then watching a game to see how those rules are used, as well as playing the sport themselves. I count the hours spent on a paint ball course or playing laser tag, as well as time spent learning first aid, safety, and other aspects of health.

And I certainly wouldn’t urge others to log 150 hours of instruction to count as a credit as I’ve seen some do. My research shows that the definition of a credit hour was originally at least 120 hours of instruction (which really just means that much time in a class, not that instruction must actually be taking place) and was later amended by some to include 150 hours in lab courses. Last I heard, P.E. isn’t considered a lab course, so no official should be demanding 150 hours to count as a year of credit. But more than that, in any high school, the time logged actually doing P.E. is much less than 120 hours since they have to include time to change into P.E. clothes, then wait for instructions, and later to shower and change out of the P.E. uniform. So technically, I could give the kids some credit for P.E. hours when they shower and change clothes, too, if I really wanted to push it.

Mostly, though, the realistic attitude should be to think of the true purpose of Physical Education. Aren’t we supposed to be teaching the kids to be healthy and have them learn a variety of ways to stay active? Honestly, things like bowling and Zumba classes are more likely to be ways that they can stay active later as adults. So, of course they should count. And since I’m the homeschool parent, I get to make those decisions for my child.



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