Home-Schoolers Play, Learn in Gym Class; COACH Program Challenges Children Physically, Offers Chance to Develop Social Skills

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK, The Times-Union

Rio Robinson never runs out of high-fives.

After kids in "Coach Rio's" gym class finish a sprint across the gymnasium, successfully swivel a Hula Hoop or just share something interesting about their weekend, they share a celebratory high-five with Robinson, director of a physical education program for home-schooled children at the Jewish Community Alliance in Jacksonville.

The COACH program, which stands for Coached Organized Activities for Children Homeschooled, is offered twice a week for children 5 to 11 years old, although younger brothers and sisters are welcome in the class. About 10 students regularly attend the class, which is open to kids regardless of religion.

Robinson starts each session with a discussion of what's going on in the children's lives -- who just got a new American Girl book or how many brothers and sisters a new classmate has. They do some stretching and running before moving into the main activity -- team sports such as basketball, soccer or kickball or individual efforts such as swimming, yoga or kickboxing.

Earlier this week, the kids tackled an obstacle course.

"You ready, little dude?" Robinson asked Andrew Presser, 3.

First they hopped in a burlap sack until they reached a miniature trampoline. After five jumps, they stepped off and kicked a soccer ball into a goal. After scaling a ramp, they jumped off and crawled through a tunnel.

Next, they sat on a scooter and used their legs to push about 15 feet to the other end of the gym. Then they tossed a volleyball into a bucket and raced to the other end of the gym. After five rotations of a Hula Hoop, they returned to the starting line and yelled "hoorah!"

The hardest part for most kids?

"Remembering the order," Robinson said while some children scaled the wrong end of the ramp or bypassed the Hula Hoop. …