Games have always been a large part of our homeschooling life.
In fact, games have been present in my own life since I was very young. So, it has always seemed natural to incorporate them into our learning environment and lifestyle.
From I Spy in the car with toddlers to our current ever-growing, more grown-up collection, games have been both a way to enhance our educational journey and a way of connecting with my kids. Gamifying pretty much all aspects of our lives has worked wonderfully throughout our educational journey.
They have allowed me to take away the stress and put the connection first. Which makes the return to the harder tasks easier…….not seamless, or without work, but easier.
Bad days or rough times with an education task? It is always games that come to the rescue!
Gaming with Teens Changes Things
Gaming with my kids has always been a wonderful way to connect, but, as my older kids get older, our gaming has changed. The ease in just folding in a game is just a wee bit harder. Personal interests, outside classes, increases in social activities, and the shift in personal sleep habits have all impacted our game timing. And, I am finding that I need to be more intentional about creating and maintaining that space.
Sometimes, when the kids were younger I had a tendency to focus on games that could bolster our educational goals. Not because I felt that the importance of games landed there, but because it was easier to justify all the gaming time as a learning experience.
And, learning through games is just more fun!
However, as my kids have gotten older the gaming purpose has changed. And, we are not gaming with a focus on educational value any longer. Sure, there is still educational value to be found in every game you can play, at least I truly believe so. But, my goal in playing with my older two has shifted to placing the importance solely on the connection.
The reality here is that finding those times for quality connection is getting harder. Our individual schedules, personal needs, and social commitments have caused me to be more intentional, and reflective, of where I can find those times. Because I think the connection AND the games are so important!
3 Ways to Find Those Game Connections With Teens
So, how do I find those times in our new season?
Here are three ways that I have continued to create connections with my teens through games.
Create a Scheduled Game Time
One of the first things we did was to look at our schedules and find a regular time that we could allocate to game time with my teens.
In our current season, my husband puts my younger two to bed a couple of nights a week. So, we took one of those nights, one where my older two had not made a social commitment with friends and turned it into our weekly game night.
This has been wonderful because it allows us to play the more complex games with just my older kids. No altering of the rules to include younger siblings. Everyone can read their own cards. We don’t have to necessarily create house rules unless we feel that it creates a better game. Attention spans are longer, so we don’t lose players in the midst of the game.
All great things that my older boys are ready for and should experience.
It has been good for my older boys to have this dedicated time to meet them where they are. And, I can see the dividend payment in how they approach games with their younger siblings. It has greatly reduced the push for games at their level when playing all together and increased their ability to allow for games their younger siblings can successfully play with them.
Continue to Make Time for Games in their Education
Just because they have gotten older does not mean that I don’t take every opportunity to include games to meet education needs!
In fact, the opposite is true in our homeschool. I am always looking for games that will enhance the educational goal, and ways to include them to make this happen.
Whenever I can I will opt to ensure that the Language Arts plan includes a game of Quiddler or CeaserPleaser, count playing GeoGuessr as geography, or pull out the GameGenius games for science terminology.
Now, sometimes this needs a little bit of planning because of the time commitment, but you get my meaning!
Above all else, even if I am not choosing games to meet all the daily educational goals I still want learning to be fun, incorporated into their everyday activities, and something that doesn’t always feel hard.
If anything, keeping the games in education allows us to keep the fun in learning, and still give them a sense of being younger – even as they are desperately striving to be older!
The comfort in the predictable norm is like a warm cuddly blanket and feeds their emotional needs so very effectively!
Meet Them Halfway (even if it means video games!)
For me, this meant embracing and learning about video games.
I know, I know, it’s hard to learn new things – particularly when your own interest isn’t there!
I’ll be the first to admit that video games are not what I gravitate to. Perhaps it is because of the kinds of video games there were when I was young……can we hear it for the Atari game system, anyone? But, I personally just love anything in its physical quality, give me the paper books, give me the paper planner, give me the physical board game to touch, feel, manipulate, and smell. I will still choose them every time!
However, I am surrounded by kids (and a husband) that love video games.
So, curating time with my teens has been an evolution for me in learning new games, and new terminology, and taking time to include, and value, video game play into our world.
Sometimes this is talking about the game ad nauseam. Sometimes this is helping them to find the tools needed to create their own coding, downloading the correct mods (and installing them), or actually playing the games alongside them, even if badly.
Sometimes it is finding a digital version of a tabletop board game, like Small World, Ticket to Ride, or Wingspan, which we have found available through the gaming platform Steam or the Nintendo Switch.
And, sometimes it is sitting alongside them, watching them show me the massive battle between Link and Waterblight Gannon in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
The importance for me is to honor their game interests and invite them to explore mine.
Connection Really is the Key
The common thread in all of these situations is that I am alongside them as they fill their cup. Showing interest, and giving it a try. Which is creating connection and conversation, and instilling self-confidence in who they are as an individual.
Because ultimately this is my goal and I am just using games as a vehicle to help me get there. And, navigating teens is a shift from full-time parent to supportive cheerleader and friend, one teeny tiny step at a time.
And, I’m glad that games can help take me along the path because we all need the fun and connection they can bring, no matter how old we get!
Jena Kocsis is a second-generation homeschooling mom of four and a dance educator. As a military family, she has traveled the globe and is currently exploring life in Central Virginia. As relaxed, eclectic homeschoolers, gameschooling has always been a large part of daily life. When not playing games, Jena usually has a mug of coffee, a stack of books, and a knitting project nearby. You can find Jena sharing their homeschooling journey on Instagram @learningbeyondthebarre.