(Published May 24, 2022)
Watch Kenneth H. in either his tae kwon do class or swim lessons, and you’ll be impressed by the way he moves his legs. In warm-up stretches, he’s flexible enough to bring his foot higher than his face. Then once he starts kicking with purpose, his movements are graceful yet powerful and his aim is straight and true. If you know Kenneth, this comes as no surprise: Though he’s only 12, his quiet strength is apparent in both his words and deeds.
Kenneth’s personality is generally pretty calm – he loves nothing more than a chill day watching Pokemon Journeys, playing Brawl Stars or fishing at Eagle Creek with his dad, and his favorite thing about the J is floating down the Eskenazi Water Park’s lazy river. But when he wants something, he goes for it.
Exhibit A: Homeschooling
“We started in 2019, but he’d been begging me to homeschool for two years before that,” Kenneth’s mom Jessica said. “My husband was not on board, but Kenneth wore him down from ‘No’ to ‘I’ll think about it’ to ‘We’ll see,'” (“I managed to convince Dad by using the secret strategy known as asking him over and over again until he tells me not to,” Kenneth said). Then, when a teacher started a parent-teacher conference with “Kenneth wants to be homeschooled, and if you can, you should,” that sealed the deal.
Exhibit B: (Not) Swimming in the deep end of the JCC pool
Kenneth started at Level 1 in the JCC’s Starfish Swim School about a year ago and has since progressed to Level 4, but in order to move up from Level 3 to Level 4, he had to go straight from the Backer Therapy Pool (which has an adjustable depth) to the Regenstrief Natatorium, which goes down to 11 feet deep. In Kenneth’s mind, that was a non-option, so he attempted his go-to tactic: “He was trying to negotiate with the instructor!” Jessica laughed. Kenneth pleaded, “What if something goes wrong? Technically, if I don’t go in, I wouldn’t be missing much!” But Assistant Director of Aquatics Renae wasn’t swayed, and eventually Kenneth became comfortable enough in the deep water to swim down to the bottom of the pool. And now, whenever his family goes to the beach, it’s hard to get him out of the water.
“This is a really nice place”
While the family originally joined the JCC for the water park, the skill-building and socializing Kenneth is able to do in tae kwon do classes and swim lessons at the J take on a new meaning when put into a homeschool context. The activities actually count as part of Kenneth’s schooling, akin to a physical education class. Just like he would at traditional school, he’s gotten to know his instructors and enjoys learning from them each week, and it helps that he can grow and develop in a place where he’s already comfortable. “If you come [to the J] once, you’ll probably get attached to it,” Kenneth said. “There’s a whole bunch of good stuff about the JCC!”
It’s not just Kenneth who benefits from the J, either. While Kenneth is busy in his classes, Jessica joins a TotalBody BoxJump or HIIT workout session. “It’s been really nice to have some place to come work out and have something to do while he’s doing something instead of just sitting on the sidelines,” she said. “It gives us all an opportunity to be engaged and create more relationships and get to know more people.” Take it from Kenneth and Jessica: The JCC is a community worth belonging to.