Center organizes gym program for homeschoolers

Stephanie Louise Lu

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After talking with mothers of homeschooled children, Michelle Tompkins realized that these children in Evanston needed more opportunities for physical exercise.

So Tompkins, a manager of youth programs at the Chandler-Newberger Community Center, organized a gym program for them.

Tompkins was approached by a homeschooling mom who was interested in starting a gym program, and so she responded to the request.

“Speaking with some of the (homeschooling) moms, they really wanted something like this for their children,” she said. “There’s the aspect of socialization, and now that the weather is getting colder, it’s an opportunity to get some exercise.”

The program is being offered Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m. at the center, 1028 Central St.

There are a variety of options for exercise, including climbing blocks and play equipment for young children, as well as basketball, floor hockey and dodgeball facilities for older children. However, parents are responsible for supervising their own children.

Tompkins said the program is aimed at serving local interests, and there are no plans for expansion.

Ray Doerner, the manager of another program at the Chandler-Newberger Center, said the gym program may help some homeschoolers to complete part of their work toward a high school diploma.

“This is a safe and organized environment for homeschoolers to fulfill their physical education requirement,” he said. “We have the space and equipment. There are not many other programs as cost-effective as this.”

According to a 2000 study by Dr. Patricia Lines at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, homeschooled students have, on average, the same social skills as children who go to formal school.

Erin Gallagher, a Music and Weinberg freshman, was homeschooled as a child. She said that she did not have this kind of community resource available.

“We didn’t have an actual gym because we lived in a small town, but we did stuff as a family,” Gallagher said.

These activities were as much for herself as for the completion of her homeschool program.

Although there hasn’t been an official evaluation of the program, Tompkins thinks it has been successful so far.

“More and more people are coming in every week, so it seems like they are enjoying it,” Tompkins said.

The fee for a one-time visit is $6 for an Evanston family and $8 for a non-resident family. A reduced fee card is also available.