With the return of school, more and more home-schooled parents are looking for creative ways to raise their children. After eight years of teaching in the homeschool fitness class FIT4LifeKids, Ashley Darkenwald, owner of inFIT, a fitness studio in Albertville, there is a fun way for kids ages four to 14 to get fit and learn about nutrition.
InFIT has served in the Albertville community for over 13 years. Darkenwald didn’t start the home schooling program until she decided almost 10 years ago to start home schooling for her children. A year later she started the fitness program in her gym.
“When I started homeschooling nine years ago, there were simply not many opportunities in the area for children to do a really holistic fitness and wellness program,” says Darkenwald. “Instead of looking further and since we have this amazing facility, we have [decided we would] Integrate that into our fitness program. It was born out of need and need. “
The program started with eight first-year students. In 2020, the program grew to 60 children over the course of the year. The classes are divided into two age groups. Between the ages of 4 and 8 years old, Shannon Immer, who has been with inFIT since 2008, will teach, and between the ages of 9 and 14 years, Darkenwald will teach. Those older than 14 are welcome to take adult classes, but there has been talk of perhaps starting a health class in high school in the future as many of the former students age after nine years.
InFIT teaches homeschoolers every Tuesday from 12:45 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. or from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. The program is divided into three 10-week units and one six-week unit. They used to have annual programs, but due to COVID-19, they found that the shorter programs allowed for more planning options.
“I like the structure,” Darkenwald said of the four-session structure. “It gives parents more flexibility.”
With the pandemic, 2020 had the highest registration the program had ever seen and the trend carried over to the fall 2021 sessions.
“I think it’s because so many parents chose home schooling that we saw a huge surge in enrollments not just for our home schooling program but for our youth fitness programs in general,” she said. “Parents were just looking for something to add to their own homeschooling or distance learning, so our youth program last year was twice as big.”
The curriculum was created by Immer and Darkenwald to take into account both physical fitness and diet.
“We’re trying to think about what some of the basic things about fitness are and what kids are going to be fun,” Darkenwald said. “If they’re not having fun, don’t come back. I want them to learn to love movement. Fitness can be very functional and unconventional. You can make things up yourself and think about what you are doing, why you are doing it and how I can do it on my own. “
In an email interview, Immer addressed some of the things the younger children can get out of their session.
“I hope that the children in our FIT4Life program can learn and experience how fitness can be fun,” said Immer. “We do lots of fun games and activities with the younger children. We play relay races and work our way through obstacle courses. We also incorporate fun music into our activities and play freeze fitness games. The children also learn to listen, to work together, to work in a team and to have a good sportsmanship. “
Safety, respect and fun are core values in the classroom. Darkenwald enables a creative time in which the children can playfully design the exercises that they teach them, such as creating obstacle courses. She set an example of the child’s creativity by demonstrating a three-legged bear walk that one of the children took in class on the floor of the studio lobby. Darkenwald wants children to arouse curiosity and love for fitness and nutrition through the program through learning fun exercises, nutrition lessons such as healthy bones and teeth, and training older children’s fitness equipment such as weights and spinning wheels.
“We’re really trying to teach them why I’m doing this,” she said. “I want to train a whole generation that thinks differently and wants to be healthy and doesn’t have to. I want you to like to feel good and know that it is not a chore, but a gift. “
The program added approaches to dealing with pandemic stress, such as breathing techniques and stretching to help children when they are anxious, to the curriculum. They also do a similar program during the winter holidays, talking about diet, food cravings and relaxation. The program consists of 75% physical education and 25% nutrition classes.
“We want to teach children why to ask questions and have a love and appreciation for the body and look at a really well-rounded curriculum,” Darkenwald said. “I think that’s what sets our program apart from other programs. I remember being told to do sit-ups, do push-ups in the gym, we were told to run, but I never remember being told why this is important or why it is so important . I want the children to think about the why behind it all. “
The time slot at 12:45 p.m. for the fitness program in the home school is fully booked, but there are still some places for the older and younger children at 2 p.m. if students want to participate. The next meeting would begin in the first week of December. Students can join at any time during the year as long as there are vacancies.
“The home school program is one of my favorites,” said Darkenwald. “I really have a heart for it. It’s one of my favorite classes that I teach. The kids are so curious and so happy. You want to be there. And I hope [the program] it keeps growing. I think this generation needs a good fitness and wellness curriculum and every child needs someone to be their cheerleader. “
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