Growing up, my family was not much of a game playing family. I played a handful of games, many of them at friends’ houses. My husband is a geeky video game player. Fortunately, as a young family, we discovered the fun of tabletop games from some friends when our son was about three.
A few years later, when I heard the term, I wanted to know: What is gameschooling?
What is gameschooling?
In simple terms, gameschooling is the act of incorporating games into a home learning program – the use of games in order to learn educational skills. Some homeschooling families include video games in this definition while others stick to purely tabletop games or some pre-determined combination of the two.
Either way, gameschooling is about intentionally selecting games which match your educational goals, child’s learning needs, and subjects of interest. For some families, games are a very supplemental part of the curriculum while others teach primarily (though I’m not sure I know anyone who teaches solely) through games.
Gameschooling is often paired with other educational models and can be a great way to reinforce concepts being learned in a curriculum or, as often seems to happen in our home, be the fuel or jumping off point for new subject exploration.
As I mentioned above, gameschooling is about intentionally selecting games. It’s not so much sitting around playing whatever random haphazard games your child wants but rather focusing on the desired skills and outcomes you want them to be learning. Just like a Montessori environment, it provides a child “freedom within limits.” Knowing what games are available to select at any given time gives a child a sense of both autonomy and security – having the freedom to choose without feeling overwhelmed or confused by the choices.
I’ve learned that sometimes the best (and only) way to teach a concept is by ditching the text books, the lectures, the “boring repetition” and bust out the FUN! Sitting down with my (ADHD) son and playing a game he ENJOYS goes a long way in our relationship and learning success. Not only does playing games provide an alternative for learning desired concepts, it has a whole host of other benefits.
What are the benefits of Gameschooling?
Board Games encourage Acadmic learning
There are so many academic games on the market today that it’s pretty likely you will be able to find at least one game to go with each subject or interest you want to explore this year. And the reality is, you don’t need an overflowing game shelf to have fun. A few basics (a deck or two of cards, a selection of dice, game pieces) and a bit of creativity can get you started!
Gameschooling can transform your homeschool! It helps you work on academic skills in a new way – bringing excitement to the day and breaking away from traditional educational models. It offers the opportunity to teach and learn new skills, reinforce old ones, to fail, to succeed, and to try again.
Games don’t judge. They aren’t threatening. They don’t assign “work”. In other words: games offer a safe space for learning.
Board games help develop executive functioning skills including…
- paying attention
- organizing, planning, and prioritizing
- starting tasks and staying focused on them to completion
- understanding different points of view
- regulating emotions
- self-monitoring (keeping track of what you’re doing)
- spatial awareness
- working memory
- flexible thinking (cognitive flexibility)
- self control (inhibitory control)
- critical thinking skills
Board Games help grow SOCIAL SKILLS including…
- communication skills
- the ability to listen and follow directions
Board Games boost connection
Nothing says “you matter” and “I’m here for you” quite like playing, laughing, and collaboratively working through challenges with your kids. Connection and relationships, in my books, are some of the most important aspects of homeschooling. Without them, academics become almost a mute point.
One of the biggest benefits of gameschooling of course is happier, more relaxed children. Okay, maybe it’s happier, more relaxed families. But, is time spent playing all fun and games? Of course not! There are going to be tears, frustrations, disappointment, and fidgety bodies. The important thing to remember is, with each of these moments comes a learning opportunity and, for each of these moments there will be an equally (or more) inspirational, happy, fun, rewarding moment filled with laughter and connection.
How we use gameschooling in our homeschool
This year, I’m considering implementing Fun Fridays for a more specific relaxed game day, however, I’m also weighing wither this is worth trying for our family. As a relaxed ADHD family, I’m not sure if the “rigidity” of a scheduled gaming day would benefit my son or simply aggravate him.
If you’re a family with a more structured learning routine, wanting to start gameschooling for the first time (or increase your use of games), I highly suggest starting with Fun Fridays (or whatever day works best for you) and assessing your gameschooling routine from there.
For us, moving to Fun Fridays might be tricky because, as of now, my son is used to having an intentional selection of educational games (these rotate) out and, for the most part, playing when he wants, as long as it doesn’t interfere with another activity and is convenient for someone to play with him.
Sometimes, I come down to breakfast to find him setting up a game in eager hopes that I will play with him right away. Other times, he tentatively suggests a certain game instead of my proposed reading or math activity, hoping I will let the game count as our subject matter learning for the day.
Depending on the day, his energy and current ability to focus, his recent progress in learning, and the game, I will often agree to his request. If I feel he needs a little more practice on something or simply needs to push his own learning a bit, I will suggest a modified version of my activity, with the inclusion of game.
There are days or times when I do have decline game playing as it’s not always convenient. On the other had, sometimes, I am the one to suggest a game! After all, when he’s irritable, seems disconnected,. and resistant to learning, playing a game with him can be a great pick-me up which helps him feel more grounded and connected.
What we’ve learned from gameschooling
Because of gameschooling my son and I have become stronger at addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts, learned/refreshed our understanding of prime numbers, squaring numbers, fractions and other math skills. My son has increased his reading skills, we’ve learned about Greek Gods, become better storytellers, learned about backyard birds and basic period elements, challenged ourselves with strategic and creative thinking, tested our working memories, developed patience, and discovered ways of managing our disappointment.
Most importantly, we’ve learned how to take breaks and have fun! We’ve learned how to switch up our learning making it more interesting, new ways of reinforcing “the basics”, and how to reconnect when our day gets too busy and disconnected.
Are you new to gameschooling? Comment below with your questions! Are you veteran gamechooler? What is your favorite “win” with gamechooling?