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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

    Swedish Drill: Principles and Positions

    May 30, 2016 by Dawn Duran

    In my last post I provided a brief history of Swedish Drill. In this post I will elaborate on the principles and positions, as well as how to interpret The Swedish Drill Teacher, which is our best resource for implementing this form of physical education in our home schools. At first glance this manual might seem overwhelming but I hope to help you see the big picture rather than getting caught up in the wordy details. While there are wonderful benefits to be gained from doing more complicated Drill routines, families can benefit greatly from regularly implementing simple routines in an effort to develop the habits of attention and perfect execution while obtaining postural (i.e., whole body alignment) and other physical benefits as well.

    Overwhelmed by the idea of Swedish Drill? Here are the basics you need to know to get through the book and get started with your children.

    The premise of The Swedish Drill Teacher is that exercise promotes not only physical but also optimal mental development. Swedish drill is “a methodical adaptation of all the natural movements of the body.” (page 1) Unfortunately, life conditions don’t always allow for such movements to occur spontaneously, as when students are seated at a table or desk doing school work, and the exercises that comprise Swedish Drill aim to counteract the negative effects of these conditions that generally result in poor posture and prolonged physical inactivity. Swedish Drill aims to promote general health rather than specific muscular development.

    In the preface of The Swedish Drill Teacher we read that

    …there is grave risk of the teaching becoming mechanical when ready-made tables are used, and in this way much of the value of the work is lost.

    However, we don’t all have a background in physical education, nor do we all have access to face-to- face instruction. I believe there is still value in performing pre-set routines aimed at preventing common postural faults so long as the exercises are performed properly. I have culled the manual to narrow it down to those straightforward exercises that would be valuable to implement without necessarily having a solid background in physical education. While the manual itself is comprehensive, my aim is to direct you to the simple yet effective moves that are safest to incorporate into your home schools.

    As with all things this system is built from the foundation of principles that must be understood in order to properly apply Swedish drill and obtain the benefits that it espouses. The principles of Swedish Drill “are directed towards the co-education of the mind and the body with a view to the improvement of the health and the cultivation of control.” (page 2) The 6 Principles of Swedish Drill, according to the manual itself, are as follows:

    • Principle #1: The exercises have been selected with regard to their effects on the body as a whole.
    • Principle #2: The exercises have been classified according to their effects on the body.
    • Principle #3:The exercises are strictly progressive. — Each lesson begins with easy movements, and there are also definite ways in which the exercises can be made harder from lesson to lesson.
    • Principle #4: The exercises are done to command. The pupils learn the power of quick and correct response to the command, and this involves concentration and quickness of thought, alertness of action, and effort of will.
    • Principle #5: A special point is made of the use of breathing exercises.
    • Principle #6: The exercises can be adapted to the special requirements of the pupils.

    The system is divided into different classes of movements that each have a specific purpose. These classes are briefly described on page 3 of the book. They include:

    1. Introductory Movements (i.e., a warm-up)
    2. Arch Flexions and Extensions (i.e., movements in which the trunk/spine is bending forwards or backwards)
    3. Heave Movements (i.e., movements in which the arms bend and stretch)
    4. Balance Movements
    5. Dorsal Movements (i.e., movements that involve the shoulder blades, which serve as the foundation upon which our arm musculature works)
    6. Abdominal Movements (i.e., core strengthening exercises)
    7. Lateral Trunk Movements (i.e., movements that involve side bending and twisting of the spine)
    8. Jumping (however, I will not be reviewing any of the jumping exercises presented in the manual, as jumping involves significantly greater forces upon the body and have greater potential for injury.)
    9. Breathing (i.e., cool down)

    There are fundamental positions that must be mastered prior to putting everything together into a drill format. These are covered in Chapter 3 of The Swedish Drill Teacher. These basic positions include (we are linking images because we don’t have the right to post them within this article):

    I will conclude with how the exercises are named. Chapter 4 goes into detail about this as well as what specific exercises are included. The exercises are named according to the starting position (i.e., Standing, Sitting, Kneeling or Lying) and the exercise or movement itself.

    In my next post I will present my recommendations for you to incorporate into your own home routines based on my time immersed in The Swedish Drill Teacher. Stay tuned! Or if you would prefer the Swedish Drill information found in past and future posts in one easy to read place my eBook Swedish Drill Revisited is 50+ pages of Swedish Drill information, a complete open-and-go curriculum that will assist you in instructing your children two complete Swedish Drill routines. It’s entirely self-contained and has everything you need to make Swedish Drill happen consistently in your homeschool or co-op. Click here to read more or click here to purchase.

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  • Reply Maria August 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    Thank you Dawn! Your posts are helpful and much appreciated. We are looking forward to beginning Swedish Drill this year.

    • Reply Dawn Duran August 10, 2016 at 1:47 pm

      Thank you for letting me know, Maria. It’s encouraging to hear – and inspires me to write more:).

  • Reply A Charlotte Mason Education in High School: How We Do It | Letters from Nebby July 9, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    […] of exercise. Charlotte Mason used Swedish Drill. You can read about that at the Afterthoughts Blog here. The best I can say is that to include some sort of exercise routine seems quite CM. She believed […]

  • Reply Amber Vanderpol June 8, 2016 at 11:35 am

    This is really helpful, Dawn! I’ve tried to incorporate Swedish Drill in our homeschool before using the SCM book, but just couldn’t figure out how it was supposed to work. We did a few basic things, but then I petered out because I just couldn’t figure out where to go with it. Your podcast with Cindy was also extremely helpful. Thank you for all you are doing with this!

    • Reply Dawn June 8, 2016 at 11:52 am

      It’s wonderful to hear that this is useful for families, Amber. Thanks for the kudos. I’m having fun preparing my next post to provide more guidance – complete with video helps.

  • Reply Tania June 3, 2016 at 10:57 am

    Dawn, I’m really loving this series! I heard you on the Mason Jar and have been really inspired to help my kids become more active. I was allergic to sport as a girl and I see my three girls becoming like me and choosing to do more sedantry activities in their spare time. You have convinced me that I need to add in structured P.E. into our day. We are definitely not getting enough. I look forward to learning more about Swedish drill routines. Thank you so much for taking the time to research and share what you’ve learned with the rest of us.

    • Reply Dawn June 3, 2016 at 11:42 am

      Tania? THE Tania? 🙂

      I’m so glad you have found this series helpful. I hope you’ll continue to be inspired to incorporate PE into your homeschool days and instill a lifelong love of activity in your girls.

  • Reply Jennifer June 2, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I just finished listening to your podcast with Cindy Rawlins on The Mason Jar and have been looking at Swedish drill resources all morning. I downloaded the eBook from Simply Charlotte Mason years ago, but never did anything with it. I find that I do better when a routine is given to me that I can modify as needed rather than creating my own from scratch, so I look forward to your next post! Another thing that would be helpful for us visual and kinesthetic learners is a video series on YouTube with basic routines to follow along with (four per term). Thanks for researching this topic and sharing with the CM community!

    • Reply Dawn June 2, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      I’ve been enjoying this project, Jennifer. Thanks for your interest. Stay tuned!

  • Reply Teru May 30, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    Looking forward to seeing the routines!

    • Reply Dawn May 31, 2016 at 2:37 am

      Thanks for your interest, Teru:).

  • Reply Dawn May 30, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    I’m glad they’re helpful, Jen. There’s more to come in the form of a review – and know that I am always available for clarification should you need it. Thanks for your encouragement, friend!

  • Reply Jen Snow May 30, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    I am so enjoying these posts, friend. Having seen your presentation now (and tried it out myself!), combined with this in written form – very much helping me wrap my mind around this. Thank you for taking the time to write them. <3

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