"Mommy, when you were a kid, did people have iPods and iPads or just e-mail?" This is a typical question my children will ask. When I explain that we just had the telephone, the response is "Oh, you mean, like your old Blackberry?" No, no, I explain, the old Alexander Graham Bell invention, and I talk about how it was fun to speak with my friends, arrange to meet and then go play outside, like they should be doing now, instead of staring at screens.
The Wii, the iPod, the iPad, the laptop, Cartoon Network... I couldn't be happier that school finally started and their school stresses a curriculum of physical education three times per week. Though I am thrilled with technology that enables a six-year-old to practice spelling and a nine-year-old to hone his multiplication skills, we definitely did not spend enough time outside this summer during the period between when camp ended and school began.
Numerous studies conducted in the last decade indicate that physical activity enhances class performance, sharpens focus and attention. Whenever I ask my kids what the best part of school is, they say "recess" and it doesn't take an expert to inform you of the importance of taking breaks and also getting some vitamin D between classes.
While I hear parents raving about how computers will help their children learn, and even discussing how software (i.e. Dreambox for math) reduces costs in private school by aiding administration so additional administration need not be hired, I am more excited about physical education.
Exercise is an important part of my own daily routine, the endorphin rush inspiring me to carry on amidst stressful tasks and sharpening my own focus and determination to do a job well. My profession requires me to be in front of a computer a lot, but the sunshine beckons. It naturally relaxes me and helps me recharge. And when I grant my children that half hour before homework to go out, enjoy the weather and play on the swings, they are... well, if not eager to start working, definitely a lot less inclined to protest.