Active kids are smarter kids, found researchers at the University of Illinois.
Nine- and ten-year-olds who got regular exercise not only performed better on memory tests than their less-fit peers, they also had bigger and more developed hippocampuses—on average, about 12 percent bigger. (The hippocampus is the deep-brain structure that plays a significant role in learning and remembering. Other studies have shown that adults who engage in regular exercise can actually experience hippocampus growth over time.) In other words, regular exercise can help your child’s brain work better. And while just playing outside is a perfectly acceptable way to get the recommended daily hour of activity, as your child hits the preteen years, you may want to consider a more structured fitness program. Why now? Research suggests these middle school years are the time when kids develop their life-long attitude toward physical fitness and when serious exercise-associated problems—like diabetes and heart disease—get started. Here are some tips for making everyday fitness part of your homeschool routine.
Explore your local resources
You can find classes and teams through your parks and recreation department, through co-ops and classes, at fitness centers like YMCAs, and at community centers. These lower-cost options can be an affordable way to try different activities.
Go old school
I was surprised that my kids didn’t know how to play classic recess games like Rover, Red Rover, hopscotch, and kickball, but they've never spent time on an elementary school playground. If your homeschool is on the small side, you may have to get a little creative with the rules to make it work, but the games you remember from your own childhood can be a lot of fun to revisit with your kids.
Plan fitness field trips
Rock climbing gyms, ice skating rinks, horseback riding stables, ropes courses, and archery centers make great field trips and give kids a chance to sample different kinds of sports. (Lots of these places also have homeschool days with discounted prices—always a plus.)
Try something different
Traditional schools may emphasize competitive sports like baseball and basketball, but homeschoolers have a lot more freedom to explore the possibilities. There are homeschool track teams, bowling leagues, fencing teams, golf leagues, tennis clubs, yoga classes, archery teams, martial arts programs, and more.
This was originally published in the summer 2014 issue of home | school | life.