Category Archives: Women’s Leisure

Considering Leisure Education Opportunities for Homeschooled Students

The start of the new school year is only a week away. While many children will be going back to a public school in their community, there are about 5% of children who will be learning at home. My nieces are two children who form the homeschool population in Canada. As my sister has shared thoughts as she prepares for the year ahead (one niece in Junior Kindergarten; one in Senior Kindergarten), I’ve become curious about the interaction between homeschooling and leisure. I have very little knowledge about homeschooling – I wasn’t homeschooled; to my knowledge I have only taught one student who was homeschooled in my 12 year career; and I only met two people who were homeschooled. Despite my lack of knowledge, I wanted to take some time to begin a discussion on some of the potential challenges and opportunities for leisure education within a homeschooling environment. I say “potential” challenges and opportunities because there is a lack of academic research on homeschooling and leisure. Therefore, I’m applying my understanding of leisure and how children experience leisure through their traditional pathway of public school in this discussion.

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Photo credits to Wel@Home

To begin, leisure education is a process of developing the attitudes, knowledge, and skills

needed to make positive leisure choices (Robertson, 2007). Leisure education is a lifelong process but it is quite critical for young people because childhood leisure influences leisure well into adulthood (Shannon & Shaw, 2008). There are a few key aspects of leisure that homeschooling parents might want to think about and explore.

Opportunities for Socialization. Developing social skills through socializing with others is an important leisure skill and one that is argued to be the a key influence on the quality of our lives and leisure (Mundy, 1998) . Children who lack social skills sometimes struggle to make friends because of challenges in starting and engaging in conversations, listening and understanding, and/or initiating invitations. They may also be challenged to expand and deepen relationships. Ensuring children have opportunities to socialize and develop these skills is important.

I suspect that most homeschooling parents give the socialization of their children significant consideration and look to provide opportunities through various activities for their children to engage with others their age. In some communities, recreation departments create opportunities for children who are homeschooled to come together with others to participate in activities. For example, last year, when my oldest niece with in junior kindergarten, she participated in swim lessons on Friday afternoons. They were offered for children who were homeschooled. What a great opportunity to not only develop her swimming skills, but to also socialize with other kids who were homeschooled. My sister needed to participate in the class with my niece, but for parents of older children, this was also an opportunity for homeschooling parents to socialize with each other during the instruction time.

Obviously, this type of opportunity costs money. However, youth free swims or free skates, library programs, or youth drop-in centres within communities offer other, less-expensive opportunities for children who are homeschooled to meet and interact with others their age. Church communities and neighbourhood playgrounds are also chances for interaction and friendship development. And, some cities and towns have their own homeschool networks or support groups where events are planned to bring homeschoolers together and provide opportunities to connect (my sister and her childhood friend have created WEL@home – a group for homeschoolers in the west end of Ottawa).

Exposure to Diverse Leisure Activities and Interests. In a classroom of 20 or more students in a school of 100 or more students, children have the chance to observe, listen to, and interact with a large number of children. This creates opportunities to become aware of and learn about different leisure activities in which children participate. For example, I did not figure skate, take piano lessons, play baseball, draw or paint, or grow my own vegetable garden at home, but I had classmates who did. I learned a lot about these activities because of the regular interaction with kids who had interests I did not. Since these classmates were not necessarily the friends I spent non-school time with, I likely would not have developed an awareness and understanding of these activities if it were not for our school interactions. I also learned how to play hopscotch, skip rope, play four square, and play marbles because this is what others in my age group were doing at recess and lunch time play periods of the playground. This group of kids exposed me to and taught me different activities that I would not have explored on my own. Exposure is a key first step in developing a large and diverse leisure repertoire. Research suggests that the leisure interests and skills children develop by the age of 10 tend to be the ones they carry throughout their lifetime. Meaning… if you don’t know how to skate by age 10, you’re unlike to do this activity as a teenager, young adult, or parent.

For homeschooling parents, awareness of the importance of this exposure may help them consider ways to ensure their children are exposed to a wide range of leisure activities and not just those activities in which their children express interest. Homeschooling networks are excellent ways to increase the opportunities for homeschooled children to meet and interact with others who may have interests that are different from their own. Facilitating opportunities for children to share what they like to do for fun or to talk about their favorite activity is one way to get the ball rolling with discovering diverse interests. For those involved in such groups, here’s one exercise you might want to do to begin discussions about leisure activities and interests (Find Someone Who…).

Another way of increase children’s exposure is to take them to spectate a variety of activities. Attend high school football, basketball, or volleyball games. Go to a rowing regatta. Keep your eye out for martial arts demonstrations (they seem to occur often at the mall in my city). Get tickets to the community dance studio’s year-end production. Watch sports on TV (I’m a big fan of using the Olympics as a way to increase children’s exposure to various activities). Attend concerts in the park; go to art demonstrations (e.g., pottery; basket weaving). All of these experience create an opportunity to discuss the activity or hobby, explain rules of sports or how activities are done, and gauge the interest/curiosity of your child as it relates to that activity.

Acquiring Leisure Skills. Within a school context, children do experience instruction in a number of activities – art, music, and sports (although the quality of this instruction likely various depending on the school district and the certifications that teachers are required to have to offer instruction).

In the absence of physical education classes, parents of home schooled children need to consider how to develop their children’s physical literacy. While homeschoolers estimated spending an average of 4 hours per week in physical education (i.e., being active), they indicated they spend little time in instruction of fundamental motor skills, team sport skills, or individual/dual sport skills (Gregory, 2005).  A few studies have found that homeschooling parents rely on youth sport program and homeschool support group sponsored physical education for instruction (Baker, 1999; Gregory, 2005; Waters, 1998), however, the quality of that instruction can vary depending on the qualifications of the leaders and may not . Gregory (2005) found that few parents in her study were aware that fundamental motor skills needed to be taught at an early age (they do not develop naturally) and expressed concern that homeschooled children may not be developing the necessary skill for mature, proficient movement. One advantage for homeschooled children is the opportunity to have personalize instruction of fundamental motor skills based on the child’s characteristics whether this is by a knowledgeable parent or by an instructor. Parents can read more in the report – Developing Physical Literacy: A Guide for Parents of Children Ages 0-12.

I see tremendous opportunity for parents to develop art and music skills through homeschooling. My own experience with art in public schools was… well… lackluster to say the least. I really did not develop much of an appreciation for art nor did I develop any real, specific skills. In music, I learned the recorder in Grade 4. I took part in choir. But, I did not learn to read music or play an instrument or anything that created lifelong enjoyment. I participated in dance, but that was outside of school and that’s where my real love of music (listening mainly) came from. I do believe that parents who homeschool have the opportunity to do a much better job fostering leisure skills in the areas of art and music. The flexibility of a homeschooling schedule and the opportunity for one-on-one attention could allow for skills to be explored and talents to be nurtured. If parents can afford to designate money for art and music skills, there may be opportunities to learn to paint or draw; scrapbook; quilt; do pottery; play the piano, violin, or the guitar. These skills may be developed through private instruction (either by a parent with expertise or other instructor), but time to practice and further hone skills can be included within the homeschooling schedule which sends a very positive message to children and youth that developing these leisure skills – that could turn into life long interests – is as important as typical school subjects. I’m all for this type of messaging!

Incorporating Leisure Learning into Traditional Subjects. Homeschooling parents have the advantage of being able to educate their children about and for leisure through their teaching of subjects like math, social studies, and language arts. Math learning can involve examples that relate to travel or sports. Rather than using grocery store prices when teaching about money and addition, costs of various leisure activities could be used (generating awareness). Children can write stories that relate to their leisure – their favorite activity, what they liked about attending a festival, or their best memory on vacation. Social studies offers opportunities to discuss leisure in different places, how leisure has changed over time (e.g., invention of the television), and could even foster leisure planning skills (e.g., what would you need to take on a vacation to Iceland in February; what could you want to do there; how much money would you need to take to do all the activities you might like to do). These are chances to draw attention to leisure and for discussion about what children value in terms of their free time, can generate leisure awareness/knowledge, and develop various leisure skills.

Summary. Homeschooling presents parents with both some challenges regarding leisure (e.g., social leisure; exposure to diverse leisure; skill instruction). However, with an understanding of what might not be accessed through a homeschool experience, parents also have the opportunity to take charge in fostering the development of leisure awareness, the acquisition of leisure knowledge and skill, and an appreciation of leisure’s role and importance in one’s life. I also think it is important to acknowledge that not all leisure-related experiences within school are positive and therefore, for some children, homeschooling means that leisure learning could be designed and delivered in a more meaningful way and in an environment that may not produce some of the negative experiences that are reported in traditional school environments.

References:

Baker, R. K. (1999). Physical education in the home school. Uppublished doctoral disseration, University of Georgia.

Gregory, E. R. (2005). Curriculum and the status of physical education in homeschooling. Unpublished doctoral disseration, Texas A & M University.

Mundy, J. (1998). Leisure education: Theory and practice. Champaign, IL: Sagamore.

Robertson, B. J. (2007). The leisure education manual. Wolfville, NS: Leisure Experience Associates.

Shannon, C. S., & Shaw, S. M. (2008). Mothers and daughters: Teaching and learning about leisure. Leisure Sciences, 30, 1-16.

Waters, G. J. (1998). Homeschool physical education instruction: An initial study. Unpublished doctoral disseration, Florida State University, Tallahassee.

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Rape Culture: Fear as a Barrier to Leisure Participation

fear

For the last 24 hours, I’ve been bothered by a story I saw on the news last night. At Saint Mary’s University this week (in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada), Frosh Leaders led students in a chant that glorified rape (read more here). A video was released of students reciting the chant. It was shocking to watch. Apparently, similar chants have been created in the past and there is some discussion in the news that similar messages are communicated on other campuses. Disturbing.

Since hearing the story, I have been thinking about the norms, values, and attitudes that were being communicated to new students and reinforced for returning students with that chant. I’ve been thinking about female students on that campus who may have been sexually assaulted at some point in their life or who already had anxiety or fear about being assaulted prior to arriving on campus (women are constantly warned about behaviors they should not do in order to stay safe or precautions they should take to stay safe). I wonder what it feels like for them to walk the campus and be among their peers.

Those who advocate for the prevention of sexual assault and violence against women have indicated that this chant reinforces the rape culture in our society. The “rape culture” has been defined as a culture that normalizes sexual assault and desensitizes both men and women to the issue of sexualized violence. It is a culture wherein the dominant attitudes are ones that tolerate or excuse rapists and puts the onus on victims (or potential victims) to prevent rape from occurring to them.

For years now, in my Gender, Leisure, and Sport course, I have had class discussions about fear for personal safety as a barrier to women’s participation in recreation and leisure pursuits. Some academic research within the leisure studies field exists on the topic (Coble, Selin, & Erickson, 2003; Wesely & Gaarder, 2004; Whyte & Shaw, 1994) . We discuss the research. Then, many women in my class offer their experiences with fear. They share how their fear for personal safety, mainly the fear of sexual assault, influences where they participate in activities they want to do or enjoy and when they participate. They go for runs before dark. They avoid certain trails in the city or paths on campus – “fear zones” as they have been referred to. They plan to go places in pairs or as a group. If they are out alone at night, they talk on the phone so that if something happens to them, someone will know. Before they leave, they inform people where they are going and when they will be back. Some have taken self-defense classes. They avoid listening to their iPod when walking in specific places or at night so they can “stay alert” to any noises that may indicate danger. Fear has appeared to affect many women’s ability to move around campus and town freely – as freely as they would like. It has influenced the enjoyment of activities they do. For example, rather than enjoying a nice solo hike in the woods – taking in the smells and sounds – one student explained how she was hyper-aware of other hikers and was paying more attention to other hikers she met and whether they seemed threatening than she did to her natural environment. Running without their iPod (to “stay alert”) is not as enjoyable as running with music. Some students wonder if their fear or paranoia is over the top and yet, they explain, they have been constantly warned about the importance of protecting themselves and “being smart”. And so, at some level and by some women, there is an acceptance of the culture as “the way it is” and they make an effort to negotiate it so they can still experience leisure they enjoy. I’m always struck by how much planning goes into some women’s leisure activities in order to reduce their sense of fear and/or increase their sense of safety. And sometimes, some women find it’s just too much effort. Their roommate doesn’t want to go to they gym with them or their partner doesn’t want to go for the hike in the woods. Finding someone else to go with can be too much work. So, they don’t participate.

Their stories prompt me to think of the regular reminders I received when I lived on campus during my first four years of university – “don’t walk home from the library alone at night,” “if you’ve had too much to drink, don’t get separated from your girlfriends,” “don’t leave your drink unattended at the bar,” “call the walk-home service if you don’t have someone you know to walk you home”. Then, when something did happen on campus, there were alerts posted everywhere (doors to academic buildings, the dining hall, residences) reminding us of the precautions we should take. At times, it felt exhausting.

Men in my class have also talked about how they have sensed women’s fear of them. For example, many men have watched women they were walking toward cross the street to avoid meeting them on the sidewalk and having to pass by in close proximity. Despite not having any intent to harm the women on the street, or any women ever for that matter, these men have expressed that they feel guilty… for being male and instilling fear in women simply by being a male figure in the dark. Many men are aware of the fear women have – the fear their sisters, girlfriends, residence mates, or classmates live with. A number of them have described roles they have played in facilitating women’s “safe” arrival to or from leisure activities. They go to the gym with their girlfriends or female friends – not necessarily at the time they would prefer to go, but they go as the “buddy” to travel to and from with. They walk women home after events – concerts, plays, evenings at the bar. One male biked on trails with his sister one summer after someone was sexually assaulted. He was worried about her and since she was an avid cyclist, he ended up become quite an avid cyclist as well. Some men have expressed that this is one of the roles they feel that they are expected to play – to protect women. For these reasons, I can’t ignore the impact that the rape culture has on men as well.

As a woman, there is much that disturbs me about this story. As a leisure scientist, the impact of the rape culture on women’s leisure is something I can’t avoid thinking about. Since freedom is a key aspect of satisfying leisure experiences, the fear of sexual assault surely affects the level of satisfaction that women experience in certain circumstances – regardless of whether a woman has ever experience sexual assault or not.

References/Further Reading:

Coble, T. G., Selin, S. W., & Erickson, B. B. (2003). Hiking alone: Understanding fear, negotiation strategies, and leisure experience. Journal of Leisure Research, 35(1), 1-22.

Wesely, J. K., & Gaarder, E. (2004). The gendered “nature” of the urban outdoors: Women negotiating fear of violence. Gender & Society, 18(5), 645-663.

Whyte, L. B., & Shaw, S. M. (1994). Women’s leisure: An exploratory study of fear of violence as a leisure constraint. Journal of Applied Recreation Research, 19(1), 5-21.

 

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