A Guide to Swedish Drill

What is Swedish Drill?

Spend any amount of time scouring over Charlotte Mason literature, and you will find a unique term that most are unfamiliar with, Swedish Drill. The historical literature on Swedish Drill, often referred to as Swedish Gymnastics, is guaranteed to give you a good laugh. However, Charlotte Mason believed Swedish Drill was one of the best forms of physical exercise. A form of exercise that aims to work the brain as much as it works the body, while simultaneously building incredible listening skills! It educates the whole child by building self-control, visualization, and attentiveness. An ingenious combination of callisthenic drill combined with the grace of ballet. Think of it as a giant game of Simon Says!

What is Drill?

Drill is a form of physical education commonly referred to in Charlotte Mason’s Volumes, the PNEU or the Parent’s National Education Union and The Parent’s Review articles. The term drill used in these resources encompassed a wide array of exercises, including but not limited to; Swedish Drill, desk drill, sash drill, swimming drill, dumbbell drill, musical drill, marching drill, calisthenics, and more. We chose to focus on Swedish Drill first because Charlotte Mason mentions it by name and its importance. “For physical training nothing is so good as Ling’s Swedish Drill…” Charlotte Mason (Volume 1, pg. 315). 

Heidi Buschbach has a wonderful blog post that goes into great detail about all things Drill. We would highly recommend reading it. 

Who Created Swedish Drill?

Pehr Henrik Ling whom was referred to specifically by Charlotte Mason was the creator and inventor of Swedish Drill. Ling created Swedish Drill in the early 1800’s and it was originally known as the Swedish Movement Cure. The movements he created sought to heal the body of ailments and were prescribed as treatments. In 1813 Ling founded the Royal Central Gymnastics Institute in Stockholm, here he was able to train other teachers in his methods. After this it became so popular that many countries adopted it as training for their military, including the Swedish Army and Navy. Eventually, it made its way to Britain and became the most widely used form of physical education in their school systems.

From there, a multitude of books and syllabi have been written about Swedish Drill.  Each book having slight variations on how it is performed.

How is Swedish Drill Performed?

In the simplest way of explaining, Swedish Drill is performed by students following commands from their instructor. Each command has 2 parts: the Explanatory and the Executive. The Explanatory Command should paint a picture in their mind of what skill is to be performed. The Executive Command is the word that indicates the movement should begin. There is a pause between the two types of commands to let the student visualize the skill to be performed. The moves are to be done with elegant posture while keeping the body balanced and in control. For example:


Arms Raising Upward Demonstration

The pause between the Explanatory Command and the Executive Command is very important. The student hears the Explanatory Command, they mentally visualize the skill, and when they hear the Executive Command, they perform the skill.

After the skill is performed, there is a Return Command given, that is the opposite of the Explanatory Command, and it returns the student back to their starting position of "Attention." If there is not a Return Command for a specific exercise, use the Command "Attention" to get back to the starting point. For Example:

There are hundreds of positions that work the entire body from head to toe, each with their own unique commands. When you start combining positions, such as a foot position with an arm position, there are thousands of command options. Do not let this overwhelm you! In our curriculum we include a Master Command list with all the fundamental moves. Then you can combine these moves to form endless exercises.  

Is Swedish Drill Outdated?

The way Swedish Drill combined concentration, memorization and movement was way ahead of its time. Now we know how beneficial movements are that cross the midline and provoke serious concentration. Think of Swedish Drill as the original Brain Gym and you will quickly understand how useful it is. Swedish Drill also works the entire body. The exercises are categorized as follows: 

1. Introductory, head movements and breathing exercises.

2. Arch Flexions (Trunk bending backward and forward.)

3. Heave Movements (Arm bending and stretching.)

4. Balance exercises (Leg exercises)

5. Dorsal Movements (Shoulder-blade exercises; Arm Parting,

Arm Swinging and Arm Flinging.)

6. Abdominal Movements

7. Lateral Trunk Movements (trunk turning and bending sideways.)

8. Jumping

9. Breathing exercise.

*Marching and Running can be used in multiple parts of the lesson. 

*We will explore Swedish Drill marching movements in a future blog post. 

The case for Swedish Drill is one of importance and we want to bring it back from the 1800’s to the forefront of Charlotte Mason Education. Mason’s focus on educating the whole child and soundness of body paired well with Ling’s passion to restore public health through movement. Through their efforts, Swedish Drill lives on and is given new life in homeschool homes around the world!

Swedish Drill 1 for Beginners

In our Swedish Drill curriculum we have preserved the historical integrity of the 1909 Syllabus while creating an easy system that allows you to understand and perform Swedish Drill today! Swedish Drill does not have to be overwhelming! We have broken down the basic moves that, once mastered, can be combined to make thousands of combinations. This curriculum focuses on the mastery of beginner Swedish Drill skills. 

Our 136 page guide to Swedish Drill includes:

-A Master Command List

-QR Codes linked to videos for demonstration of every basic skill

-73 Skill Cards of every basic position with their commands and explanation of how to execute the skill

-Swedish Game Boards to flip cards onto

-3 Examples of Simple and Compound Drills

-6 Full Drills for a complete 2 weeks of Swedish Drill

-Create Your Own Drill Templates

-Menu Inserts depicting all the basic positions

-Swedish Brad Doll for an interactive handicraft

-Mastered Skills coloring pages 

-Swedish Drill Art Study

It includes everything you need to fully understand beginner Swedish Drill!

We provide step by step instructions for everything you need to be successful in Swedish Drill.  The curriculum walks you through each command, skill and even how to build your own Drill. We have QR Codes linked to videos for explanations on how to best use each part of the curriculum. 

You can purchase our Swedish Drill 1 for beginners by clicking here.

You can also follow along on Instagram @the.schoolyard