Coach Manny DAlmeida conducting a soccer practice last Wednesday for local home-schooled children.
By Jill Stern
About four years ago, when my oldest child was about to go into kindergarten, I toyed with the idea of home-schooling. I always admired and glorified the brave families who bucked the system. I came up with a zillion reasons why I shouldnt and/or couldnt go that route. One of those reasons was the lack of sports education. Ultimately, I registered my kids in public school. I have always fantasized about an alternative lifestyle, but I havent quite gotten there.
Recently, my soccer coach, Manny DAlmeida, mentioned in passing that he coaches for a home-schooling group on Wednesday afternoons. He didnt know that I have always been intrigued with the concept of home-schooling. I never followed through with home-schooling my own children, but my intrigue has stayed with me. So it was which much excitement that I went to one of Mannys Wednesday soccer classes. I wanted to find out about how these parents arrange sports activities for their kids.
I learned that if you home-school your kids and want them to get a lot of physical activity, you can. Being that we live in this wonderful metropolis called New York City, it is not surprising that as with everything else here, the options are many and varied. If you go to www.nychea.org, which is the Web site for New York City Home Educators Alliance, you can find out about many classes being offered during the day specifically for home-schoolers. Your kids can rock climb and tumble at Chelsea Piers on Tuesdays and Fridays, play a variety of team sports there on Thursdays, attend soccer on Wednesdays with Manny or join the groups track coach, Dave Keating, also on Wednesdays to practice jogging and/or train for a race. There are also dance classes taught by Elizabeth Streb in Brooklyn. All of these activities are offered thru NYCHEA. Membership is required, for which there is a nominal fee.
Lori Johnson is a mother of two home-schoolers. Johnsons story of how she came to home-schooling is quite interesting. She grew up in Detroit, Mich., (similar to my background) and always felt that her public school education was poor. When she moved to New York she became a kindergarten teacher at Friends Seminary, one of the premier Downtown private schools. While there, she had to teach some children who were just not ready to learn. Something didnt feel right to her. Looking back, she refers to one very smart little boy in particular who ended up being labeled a troublemaker just because he wasnt ready to sit down and learn what the school needed to teach him. He was off absorbing something else at his own pace. Johnson ended up conferring that the system, even at the highest level (progressive private school) wasnt right for her children. Besides, she does live an alternative lifestyle: she lives in a homestead when a group of people have taken over an abandoned building and fix it up, which the city in turns gives to them and she had two homebirths. Home-schooling was a natural next step for her and her husband.
Johnson takes her son, Cullen Golden, age 14, to classes in the sports he is interested in. Cullen is on the track and field team thru NYCHEA, he practices in the Wednesday soccer classes, takes swimming lessons on Friday afternoons with three of his friends at the McBurney Y, and also participates in a teen yoga class. His physical education is whole and varied. His sports and recreation program is not at a loss for his not attending traditional school.
The soccer classes at an indoor field in Manhattan take place on Wednesday afternoons from 12 noon-3 p.m. The cost is nominal but the coaching is first rate. DAlmeida, a full time soccer coach, teaches all levels. He is with both the mens and womens soccer teams at Borough of Manhattan Community College and he teaches after school at a couple of public schools,. as well as my moms group and the home-schoolers. On the Wednesday I visited the home-schoolers, approximately 30 kids attended. Two-thirds of the group were boys, the other third girls. DAlmeida breaks the children into three age groups and gives them each one hour. The hour starts off with drills and warm-ups, then they practice dribbling skills, and finally ends with a scrimmage.
All of the kids involved seemed well behaved and attentive. They got along nicely and were social with each other. The parents, as well, were happy to be together and were very friendly with each other, as well as with newcomers. Pizza was ordered and as the kids waited for their turn on the field, they ate together, all ages engaging with one another.
One mother, Sono Kuwayama, a veteran of home-schooling, told me that the home-schooling group has grown from 80 families when she joined with her 14-year-old to 250 families now. What can I say, I am still intrigued!