Your question is wonderful. I particularly enjoyed reading the description of the day's events. I can see it unfolding and it did make me smile. I think that you are a lovely mommy and a devoted parent who has at the heart of your concerns the well fare and well being of your children. Would that all moms felt as passionately as you about their homeschooling and parenting. Let me begin this reply with a little story.
A friend of mine lives on the precipice of a mountain. Literally. When I visited her (when my children were young) I was always so afraid that one of my children would fall off the mountain. However she seemed so calm in letting her own children play near the mountain edge. They would throw rocks off the mountain and giggle to the delight of hearing the stone fall through the trees to the valley below. It was amazing to me her calm demeanor. However when she would visit me she was equally disturbed by the amount of traffic that passed by my house. She could not understand how I was not afraid that one of the cars might jump the curb and end up in my front yard. Now mind you, I do not live on a freeway but a normal suburban neighborhood. I suppose you know the moral of the story. Let us look at your situation with our hearts tuned to the unique differences in mothering styles and parenting concerns.
Our children must learn to obey the rules that we set before them. It is very important that our own children learn to respect our decisions and requests with regard to their behavior. Think for a moment and fast forward to the days that your dear children will be in college for example. It is our hope that through parenting and prayer we have taught them the importance of following our 'house rules'. Each family has unique 'rules' for their family. These rules are not set out to punish but to wisely guard the child from harm. What worries one family may give no concern to another family. It is really about teaching our children that they must think on their own and be responsible for their own behavior. It is about teaching our children through wise guidance and prudence the acceptable behaviors for situations and challenges. However this type of tutorial does not and should not begin when a child reaches the age of 18 and prepares to strike out on their own in the world. This teaching should begin from day one.
In life there are 3 types of situations. Ones that make you comfortable and peaceful, ones that are irritating but not harmful, and ones that should send you running away from the situation. It is important that we teach our children the difference and give them the encouragement and positive reinforcement to act on their good prudence through prayer and wisdom.
You have 'rules' for your children when they attend the gym outing. It is first and foremost your family's responsibility to make certain that your children understand the 'rules' you have set down. Now your dear children must learn to act accordingly. They will be tempted to be sure but this is training ground for days when the temptations present situations where more is at stake. Our calling as parents is to communicate clearly and without confusion the limits that we are enforcing. We are bound to make certain that our limits are holy, healthy and within doing considering the maturity level of the child. When an infraction takes place then we as parents must learn to discipline ourselves and follow through. Suppose you have discussed this with your dear children. You have explained that you do not want them to do certain activities during gym time. When they disobey then cheerfully and immediately scoop them up and take them home. They will soon get the message.
When my children were much younger we used to go to a gym time much like you describe in your letter. My children always wanted to play on the stage in the gym. I did not feel comfortable with this for my own reasons. When other children began playing on the stage, running wild and carrying on I would give my children 'the look'. 'The look' meant 'don't even think about it because we are going home the minute you do.' Hee, hee. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Mothering is like that. The Tempter wants you off the case. He desires that you feel irritated and pushed in your parenting. He wants you to resent giving discipline and instruction. He wants you to feel like a failure. He wants you to give up. Don't you do it!!
I like to tell moms and dads that come to hear me speak this.... God chose you to be this child's parent. He chose you from all others because He knew that He wanted the best for His precious child. The challenges that you face with regard to parenting are designed by the Lord to bring you to your knees and closer to Him so that you have more to give His child.
I will keep you in prayer. Your letter has been a refreshing affirmation of the holiness of parenting and the hope that our parenting gives to our children. Your letter has given me a rest from a busy day's activities with teen-aged girls (hormones and makeup). I enjoyed sitting quietly and thinking about your day with your children. I pictured them running happily in the gym and being lovingly cared for by a mommy that is striving to do her best. Praise God for the gift of children complete with challenges.
Let us pray together a Memorare and offer up our prayers for all those children that are neglected and left wanting for the tender guidance and care of parents who love them dearly.
Sending out a prayer,