Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

The best advice I've had regarding extracurricular activities is limit them to one activity per child. It's good advice, but difficult to follow and I'm guilty of signing up for too many. Although activities can quickly eat up time, I believe they are good for children.

Benefits of Extracurricular Activities

Developing Life Long Skills
Mastering the piano and learning to dance are skills that improve with practice. Committing to weekly lessons ensures the time spent doing the desired activity will not be missed. Continued dedication to the activity develops lasting skills.

Additional Life Skills
Many extra curricular activities build life skills. Stage presence, confidence, and time organization are three skills I became more proficient at through my involvement with gymnastics as a child.

Developing Team Skills
Some activities are impossible to do alone. Being part of an orchestra, or soccer team work much better with others. My daughter has been playing the violin for three years and recently joined an orchestra. I'm hoping that she will learn to hear others play, gain confidence by helping less proficient players and strive to play as well as the more advanced, make a few friends and gain an appreciation for sounds which can be produced by a group. These same skills can be developed through a variety of extra curricular activities.

Physical Activity
Sporting extracurricular activities are physical in nature and physical activity is great for kids and adults. Whether it's tennis, soccer, swimming or dance, regular attendance at a sports lesson is good for the heart.

Learning from other Adults
Being a homeschool mom, I spend many hours instructing my own kids. Exposing them to other adults with different teaching styles makes them feel more independent. In addition, other adults recognizing their talents and telling them so means a lot.

Learning to Listen
With regular participation in a group activity, children learn respectful group behavior. One behavioral characteristic I have noticed in many homeschooled children is their desire to do things their own way. This a a desired trait which serves children well now and in adulthood. Group settings tend to lessen this trait and sometimes it's to such a level which can create a dependent child not willing to step outside the box. Finding a balance between independence and being slightly reserved can be learned through group activities. In addition, by being patient and listening the child may be surprised with new interesting information when they least expected it.

Making New Friends with Common Interests
Although most time spent in a class or activity is structured, there is usually some time to make friends. People participating in the same extra-curricular activities already have a common bond. So activities are great places to meet people....... and most of us could use a few more friends:)

I almost forgot to mention that extra curricular activities are fun! That's why I did them growing up, and that's definitely the reason my kids love them. After all, if they're not fun, they're dropped.

For the most part I think extra curricular activities are good. They can become a problem if there are too many and they begin to interfere with nightly meals, family and free time. When kept to a minimum there are many benefits to participation.

This post is part of the Homeschool Help Series and this week there is a new blogger joining us. Lucinda at Navigating by Joy lives in England. She teaches her 7 and 9 year old through living books, experiences and activities. I have personally enjoyed many of the activities she has posted on her blog and plan to use a few during the next school year. 

Homeschool Help Series - Thoughts on Extracurricular Activities

Lucinda at Navigating by Joy - How Much is Too Much?
Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle - Any Room for Extras?
Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl - Just a Homebody
Savannah at Hammock Tracks - Extracurricular Activities and Family Goals

The previous posts from the Homeschool Help Series are available on my Resources Page.

This post is linked to: 
Creative Homeacre
TGIF Linky

Human Body - Week 4 - Blood Type Activity

Week 4: We did an activity to learn about the four different blood types.

People have four main blood types; A, B, AB and O.

People with Type A blood can receive Type A and Type O blood.
People with Type B blood can receive Type B and Type O blood.
People with Type AB blood can receive Type A, Type B, Type AB and Type O blood.
People with Type O blood can receive Type O blood.

Eight Stuffed Animals

First the stuffed animals were each given a blood type. Each child was responsible for two stuffed animals.

 Next we held a blood drive and asked which animals would like to donate. The ones that chose to donate were stuck with a pin.

This was our blood bank. Some of the animals chose to give blood and some did not.

Then the animals were given time to play. The children immediately started playing catch with the animals. As soon as one fell on the ground it was greatly injured and needed blood. The children chose what type of blood to give the injured animals. If they chose the wrong type the animal would die or have severe complications.

It didn't take long for the supply to run out, so we held another blood drive. A few of the animals didn't make it to the next round because there was no blood available to make them better. This cycle was repeated several times. It didn't take long for all of the animals to want to give blood.

Then we ran into another problem. Most of the needles were destroyed and only three were available for the blood drive. The children had to select the three animals to donate blood. Guess what? They selected all the animals with type O blood first!

We ended the activity with all the animals going for a car ride. The car crashed and they all needed blood. I'm happy to say that they all survived the crash.

The kids LOVED this activity. It was so cool to hear them discussing what type of blood they thought was best to have - AB was their conclusion - because they could receive any type of blood.... but they also remarked that if someone were to donate blood it was best to have O.

So simple--- and they learned so much!

To see our other science activities please visit our science page.

This post is linked to:
We Made That
Capri +3
Works for Me Wednesday
Sun Scholars
Teaching Blog Addicts
Family Fun Friday
Look What We Did
It's Playtime
Hip Homeschool Hop
Tuesday Tots
Clever Chicks
Montessori Monday

Sugar Cube Ziggurats

Week 5: We made a ziggurat, mud brick house and the Ishtar Gate.

Babylon was an ancient Mesopotamian city and also an Empire. Actually it was an empire twice. We began our history lesson talking about Hammurabi. He was a Babylonian King and the first person in history who wrote down the laws of his land. We watched this 3 minute video about the Law Code Stele of Hammurabi.

Nebuchadnezzar was the name given to two Kings of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar II ruled the second Babylonian empire. He exiled the Jews because they wouldn't worship him and built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He called himself a favorite of the Gods.

The Babylon Mystery tells the story of Babylon. Here is the first part of a five part video. The entire movie lasts around 50 minutes.

In many European cities churches mark the center of town. Temples and amphitheaters marked the center of Roman towns and ziggurats marked the center of cities in Mesopotamia. A ziggurat is a stepped pyramid containing between two and seven layers built to honor the god of the city, and as an astronomical lookout. They were found all over the Mesopotamian region in what is today known as Iran and Iraq. Priests were the only members of society permitted in the ziggurats.

All of our structures were built using sugar cubes, cardboard and icing glue.

Icing Glue Recipe
6 egg whites
2 lb powdered sugar
1 tsp cream of tarter


Zoning of land in many American locations is a common practice. In Mesopotamia, the wealthiest citizens had houses closest to the ziggurats and the servants lived in smaller homes farther away. 

 The homes had flat roofs and were constructed of mud bricks.

Here is a home of a middle income family.

Each city in Mesopotamia had it's own God or Goddess. The Goddess of Babylon was Ishtar. Hence the Ishtar gate. The Ishtar gate existed during the second Babylonian Empire.

It was one of the many gated entrances to the city and bright blue in color.  The entrance was lined with pictures of lions, and other animals.

This 7 minute video - Ishtar Gate and Processional Way explains the gate much better.

It has been relocated to a museum in Berlin, Germany and we hope to visit it one day as it's only about ten hours away from where we live.

To see our other history activities please visit our history page.

How often should kids write?

I admire the unschooling approach to homeschooling. Each time I take a step back the kids engage in quality activities such making paper, knitting hats and growing their own fruit trees. Every time I see this I want them to have more control over their education.

On the other hand, although I admire this approach, I think reading, writing and math are subjects too important to be controlled entirely by children. Our current curriculum incorporates reading, writing, math, science, history, music and language.

I struggle with how much work to require from the kids on a daily basis. Where should the line be drawn between required work and allowing free time activities? The older two kids both have a list of things to do that is far too long. Rather than require them to spend all their time on school work, we end the day at lunch time. In the afternoon we go on walks, do projects, visit friends, attend sports classes and have free time.

As far as the list goes, it is slowly getting completed. I'm leaving blank days so they can catch up. To me it would be better if the work load assigned could be completed by lunch time, but I wonder in what proportions to assign the subjects.

How much time per day do your kids spend on school work? How often do they read, write and do math lessons? How often do they do history, science, language and music lessons? I know there is no right or wrong way to educate children. I'm just interested in ideas and ways to alter our requirements and approach to maximize the free time the kids have to pursue their own interests while ensuring they are competent in reading, writing and math.

This post is linked to:
True Aim Education
Hip Homeschool Hop
Living and Learning at Home
Hammock Tracks

Why Do We Study Math?

The amount of medicine my daughter receives for her Leukemia treatment is based on her body surface area which is estimated based on her height and weight. Her surface area is used to calculate the quantity in milligrams of medication she requires. Imagine how this would be done without mathematics.

Many children ask "Why do I have to learn this?" especially in regards to mathematics. Math without purpose is like learning the alphabet, but not knowing how to speak. 나를 in Korean sounds something like "nadi". Well that's great! We learned a Korean word, but what does it mean? It means me. Math without purpose is something like Korean words, without understanding the meaning.

Math is extremely important. Here are some examples of how math is required for different professions.

Civil Engineers use math to determine how much weight a bridge can support.

Aeronautic Engineers use math to calculate the required thickness of aircraft wing metal to ensure the wings withstand the air pressure while still being light enough to take off from the ground.

Construction Engineers use math to order the appropriate amount of concrete to pour the foundations for buildings.

Farmers use math when estimating the amount of seed to purchase to plant a field.

Seamstresses estimate the amount of fabric to purchase to produce costumes for the actors in plays.

Chemists measure proper volumes of raw materials to match chemical formulas.

Bankers count change, estimate future value of retirement accounts, and calculate loan interest.

Accountants keep track of sales and expenses.

Pharmacists ensure correct weight and volume of medication is given to customers.

Ultra Sound Technicians measure sizes of organs.

Geologists use density to determine mineral composition of earth layers.

Restaurant Owners calculate how much to pay employees, charge for food and still make a profit.

Mechanics estimate the time and materials in terms of a dollar amount to complete a job.

Construction Workers estimate the appropriate quantity of roof shingles needed to complete the job.

Understanding math also helps us through life. I remember traveling through Mexico with my family while I was in high school. When my father purchased gasoline he did a lot of mathematics quickly in his head. The price was in Pesos and sold by the liter, but the pump registered gallons. He estimated approximately how much he should be charged and argued with the sales clerk who tried to double the price. He won the argument and was charged the proper amount. The other friends we traveled with just overpaid.

Another math memory I have from growing up has to do with swimming. The pool at my brother's swim meet was 100 meters long. Typically the pools were 100 yards. The parents were thrilled when my grandfather converted the kids times to equivalent yard times so they knew if their children swam faster or slower than normal.

Living in Germany the temperature is typically given in degrees Celsius, but my brain works better in Fahrenheit. Knowing how to estimate between the two helps me to prepare for tomorrow's weather.

So, understanding basic calculations can help us save money, keeps us from getting ripped off and can help us live with a better understanding of what's happening around us. Here are some more ways many adults use math in their lives.

  • Balancing a Checkbook
  • Living within a Budget
  • Ensuring correct change is received when purchasing items at a store
  • Saving for Retirement
  • Calculating loan interest given a particular interest rate and number of years
  • Estimating the amount of time it will take to arrive at the beach vacation destination

Seeing the application of mathematics is crucial to developing an appreciation for math. Math plays a role in laundry, US Presidential Elections, making English Christmas Pudding, and quilting as well as many other aspects of our daily lives. Providing children with real-life math is motivating and gives math purpose. To see the ways we have explored math with our children please visit our Math Page. Living Math Forum is a free yahoo group where members discuss the creative ways they explore math. I highly recommend it to find more ways to make math meaningful to children.

Now let's see what the other four bloggers participating in the Homeschool Help Series have to say about math.

When Mommy Learned a Lesson - Savannah at Hammock Tracks
Maths in Our Home - Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle
Doing 'Rithmetic - Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl
Should We Teach Math to Young Students? - Chareen at Every Bed of Roses

If you haven't seen the other entries from the Homeschool Help Series be sure to check them out on our Resources Page.

This post is linked to: 
Love 2 Learn 2 Day

Human Body - Week 3 - Blood Activity

Week 3: We made our version of human blood.

At first glance it probably looks like we made a delicious fruit salad. Well we did, but it was also a science project. We referenced the book The Way We Work by David Macaulay to learn about what's in our blood. From there we used food to represent the various components. Then we ate our blood.

This is what went in.

Red blood cells give our blood the red color and make up ninety-nine percent of cells in the blood. Strawberries were our red blood cells.

Platelets are very tiny. Their purpose is to help blood clot and heal wounds. Plates are born from bone marrow cells called megakaryocyte. The banana was our megakarycyte and the platelets were the tiny banana pieces.

The white blood cells were the apples and the grapes. Apples were the lymphocytes and grapes were the neutraphils. Since my daughter Jemma is currently receiving chemotherapy as part of her Leukemia treatment she has very few neutraphils. Neutraphils kill germs. Her blood is checked about twice each week and we watch her neutraphil count very closely. Since she had zero neutraphils four days before we did this project and was hospitalized for a fever we had her take care of the grapes. That we she could have a few neutraphils.

Bacteria and viruses were kept far away from Jemma. I took care of these.

Most of our blood is made up of a watery liquid called plasma. Our plasma was yogurt.

We added the red blood cells (strawberries), platelets (bananas), white blood cells (apples and grapes), bacteria (celery), and viruses (broccoli) to our plasma (yogurt) and mixed to create blood.
Then we enjoyed our blood.

This is only Week 3 in a Human Body Unit Study packed full of hands-on projects. Please visit again to see future projects. The links are posted on our Science Page.

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* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Marsh Arabs - Reed House Models

Week 4: We built reed houses.

Natural World Special Miracle in the Marshes of Iraq is a must see for anyone studying Mesopotamia. This one hour video broken into four parts connects what is happening in modern day Iraq to the Marsh Arabs of the past and present.

The Marsh Arabs rebelled against Saddam Hussein. In retaliation he drained their land. Consequently, many of them died as did the plants and animals. The land became dessert. Today efforts are being made to re-flood the marshes. As the environment is rebuilt plants, animals and people are slowly returning.

Marsh Arabs in southern Iraq have lived in much the same way for thousands of years. Their houses and boats were built from reeds. This short video clip provides insight to building a Mudhif - Reed house.

We built our reed houses with licorice. I love engineering projects because three different kids given the same knowledge, materials and instructions come up with very different results.

One useful trick we learned was to punch holes in the cardboard base and tie the main licorice supports to the base. This helped to hold them in place.

After the houses were complete and left to sit they began to collapse. We found it was necessary to prop them up with craft sticks until the licorice hardened a bit.

To read more about our history activities please visit our history page. There are still several more projects coming soon. To receive emails of new posts you can sign-up to follow by email on the right-hand side of the blog.

This post is linked to 
Flashback Friday
True Aim Education
Weekly Kid Co-op

Teaching Kids to Write - Sentence Order

In my head there is an ideal writing philosophy. Creating an enjoyment of writing is number one. Communicating thoughts and ideas should be the purpose. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are important, but focus on these writing topics discourages kids from writing. Last year I found The Writer's Jungle which validated my thoughts.

In the past I have had my kids write daily. I have given them many varied assignments such as:

Write about what it would be like to be a fish.
Write a letter to a friend or family member.
Create a nursery rhyme starting with the words "Cock-a-Doodle-Doo."
Write a story entitled "Alone on Blue Island."
Write instructions for baking a cake.

After reading and implementing The Writer's Jungle actually not too much changed. The Writer's Jungle is a writing philosophy. It teaches teachers how to create good writers. The philosophy was exactly what I was looking for. It validated my thoughts and gave me the rest of the steps of the process.

It teaches how to get kids to write and then how to help them improve their writing. Sentences such as, The party was fun, become, The clown's rubber chicken turned three flips and then a sparkling big-toothed rabbit appeared.

When my son writes his thoughts seem to rush in like a waterfall. He has so many good ideas, but they are often mixed up. One tip I learned from The Writer's Jungle was to print out the work and cut out each of the sentences. Then let the child put them in the best order. I thought this was unnecessary because it could easily be done on the computer.

On the computer his sentences still seemed disorganized, so we tried the physical cut and paste technique. I couldn't believe how well it worked. Not only did he pick a fantastic order, but he decided to remove three unnecessary sentences. 

Now for writing the kids still write daily, but sometimes we take a break and try some writing exercises. The other big change is that about one week per month is spent improving a paper of the child's choice. In the past we have worked to improve writing, but now I can provide much better feedback. Thank you - The Writer's Jungle.

To see our other Writing Activities please visit our Language Arts Page.

This post is linked to:
For the Kids Friday
Hammock Tracks
True Aim Education

* I did not receive any compensation for this recommendation. I'm just a homeschooling mom who has found many products that I like. If you're interested in the products I recommend on this blog I want to make it easy for you to find them. 
** I am an Amazon associate and receive a small portion of the sales on orders made after clicking in from this site, which I promptly spend on homeschooling books and supplies for my children.

Best Free Educational Resources

The internet is loaded with free resources to support education. Here are nine awesome resources we use almost every week.

For budding engineers Google Sketch-Up is a must. It is a free tool for creating 3D models and there are video tutorials available too. Being an ex-mechanical engineer I have a background in 3D modeling. Although this tool isn't as sophisticated as the professional software found in engineering companies it is an excellent starting point. Kids can create houses, globes, chairs, cabinets, and anything they can imagine.

Scratch is another tool for young engineers. It is a program for teaching children how to write computer programs. We used this program to do a computer programming unit this year. I asked the kids to watch a tutorial and then use what they learned to create a program. Each time they created a new program their skills improved.

Here is the latest video game created by the kids.

Two players compete against each other; pink and purple. Balls fall from the top of the screen and points are earned when a key is pressed as the falling ball reaches the corresponding ball at the bottom of the screen. Points are subtracted when keys are pushed before or after the balls touch. Pink balls are controlled with the keys a,s,d,f. Purple balls are controlled with the keys h,j,k,l.

This animation called Dancing Babies shows the babies moving about the screen to create several different geometrical designs. It's another recent creation by the kids.

Salsa Spanish is a website with many videos designed to teach Spanish to children in a fun way. The videos are completely in Spanish and are entertaining. One episode is a play on Red Riding Hood. They are excellent for elementary aged children.

Duolingo is free language learning software available on the internet. Sophisticated as Rosetta Stone, it's unbelievable that this tool is free. The creators intend to use data collected for language learners to make a better language translation tool.

Librivox and The Baldwin Project are two websites which contain books who's copyright has run out. Librivox contains audio files which can be downloaded to an iPod and The Baldwin Project contains written files. My children are currently listening to the Wizard of Oz series. Did you know there were over 15 Oz books?

Starfall is a website for children learning to read. It uses a combination of phonics and fun games to motivate children.

Seterra is a free geography quiz tool. After downloading the game kids (and adults) can practice worldwide geography including, rivers, countries and capital cities.

Of course everybody has heard of Youtube. There are tons of historical and scientific documentaries on Youtube. Plus, it can be used to look up information on musicians, artists and how-to crafting instructions.

Now let's see the free resources the other four bloggers participating in the Help Series have found.

Free Curricula Websites - Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle
Homeschool For Free - Chareen at Every Bed of Roses
10 Free Websites to Help Homeschoolers - Savannah at Hammock Tracks
Homeschoolers Get it Free - Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl

Growing Fruit Trees

My son is growing fruit trees. I like to plant a garden every summer to teach the kids where food comes from, see what we can get to grow, and encourage the kids. Now my son is taking the lead in the gardening activities. He loves to eat and enjoys science so it's only natural that he would want to grow an orchard.

Since I can't answer his numerous questions about fruit trees he has turned to youtube and the internet.

Mitchell Boyle has a series of videos on planting and growing various fruit trees. He is not an expert, but more of an experimenter himself. Watching him try various methods of getting different fruits to grow encourages my son to experiment. His enthusiasm is contagious and his commentary is comical. I can see why my son is one of his biggest fans. - Please preview this without children. He does use adult language.

He started by collecting seeds from apples, plums, peaches, and everything else we brought home from the grocery store. The seeds were wrapped in wet paper towels and sprouted in a container in the kitchen.

Once they sprouted he transplanted them into soil and labeled each one.

 Now he cares for them by watering them every day.

This post is linked to: 
True Aim Education
Organic Aspirations

This post was featured on:
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