Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick


So it’s back to school time. I have mixed feelings about “back to school” time. Whenever I think about the fall, that Soul II Soul song pops into my head – “back to life, back to reality” I may have just dated myself, but whatever. I will now date myself even further… I have a highschooler who catches the bus at the ungodly hour of 6:40, so I’m never thrilled about that particular reality. Back to school also means back-to-routine time, and of course, decisions about after school activities.

For my homeschoolers, what to do after school hours is an important question. This is their chance to socialize, to work with other kids and to be a (hopefully) cooperative part of a larger group.  In the hopes that it might spark your curiosity just enough to try a class, I’m going to talk a little bit about my favorite after school activity: tae kwon do.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.
Seven out of eight Grahams do Tae kwon do. I’m not sure why we haven’t gotten my husband into it yet – I think he just has to be different. If we all stopped, maybe he would start. Or maybe he’d just be happy that we weren’t kicking each other (ehem, playfully kicking) in the kitchen every morning.

It was about this time of year four years ago, during the desperate search for the perfect after school activity, when we enrolled three of our sons at Missoula Taekwondo Center.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.

There were so many things that seemed right about it – discipline, respect for others, constant activity, and an avenue for competition if they wanted it.  Other activities may have one of these qualities, but only martial arts seemed to have it all. And, Missoula Taekwondo Center was such a loving and kind environment, we just felt like a part of the family from the moment we walked through the door.

I rode the bench for the next two years. I beamed as my children braved their first belt promotion test and I held my breath as my youngest ran crying from the ring in his first tournament. I smiled a secret smile every time they accidentally called me ma’am. Tae kwon do helped my children grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.

After two years, one of my sons took the opportunity to train for the USA Taekwondo National Tournament. The experience was amazing for him. At eight years old, he had the chance to work towards a tangible goal of a national medal, one that was just out of his reach, but a possibility if he just put enough effort in. He did not come home from that tournament with a medal, but we all came home with something better. We had fire and we had a new love for this sport.

We had just witnessed something that is so rare in this world – a competition where people also had common courtesy – where our team felt like a family, in a sport where so many of the teams seemed like large families. This is a sport where opponents often hug as they leave the ring, congratulating each other for a match well fought and respecting their opponent, no matter what the score. Amazing.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.

This summer, I competed in my second USA Taekwondo Nationals. Yes, MY second Nationals. After watching my son that first year, I couldn’t resist. And it has changed my life. I have always been overweight, unhealthy, and mildly depressed, at least since high school. At some point in my life, I stopped competing in sports and started sitting in front of the tv.

At the age of 35 I took the most important step that I have ever taken in my adult life when I bowed in to my first class at Missoula Taekwondo Center. From that point on, everything changed. My self confidence, my drive, my desire to live every moment of my life was reborn and revitalized during each class. I am not a Tae kwon do rock star – but I am in an environment where I know that my best effort is good enough and no one is ever passing judgment.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.

On top of weekly classes, my family has benefitted so much from the thrill, stress, and heartbreak of competition. We have won, we have lost, and we have come out stronger for it every time. We have trained hard and seen the results of our hard work. And best of all, we have grown together as a family.

I know just how tough it is for my children to face someone who is bigger and stronger than they are, because I’ve done it. I have so much respect for them because they have faced those fears and I think they will be stronger people for it.

Missoula Tae Kwan Do. Starting the School Year with a Roundhouse Kick.

So, here’s your chance. It may seem crazy, but I just can’t think of any other after school activity where you can participate WITH your children, and you can all grow together in a loving, yet challenging environment. Stop riding the bench and start getting into shape with your kids. Check out a class at Missoula Taekwondo Center or any of our other local tae kwon do schools.

And, if you (like me) can’t resist competition, the Montana Open on October 12th looks to be an amazing, national quality tournament. It will be held at the Adams Center in Missoula, so if you can’t compete, you should come and watch. I will definitely be there and I’d be happy to kick you around the ring, or be kicked by you around the ring. I promise that no matter what the score, we will laugh and be friends when it is over.


Learn it BioAnnie Graham and Brandon Kendall are convinced that education can be fun, exciting, and meaningful. Brandon has been a teacher in Missoula for the better part of a decade. Annie is a proud parent of six children and a home school teacher. Check out their blog for fun (and educational) adventures around Missoula. Visit their Learning With Meaning website for ideas on dynamic and project based learning at home and in the classroom.