Gameschooling is such a great way to make connections while learning at the same time. And it’s a method of learning that we embrace in our homeschool. But what does that look like when you have a larger family of multiple ages?
I have one of those families! Four kids ranging in age from 14 down to 5. Throw in some asynchrony, hormones from us all, the occasional addition of grandparents and you guessed it – some extra challenges to gameschooling as a family.
I grew up gameschooling with my siblings and have introduced games to all my kids at a young age. Over the years – and with a lot of trial and error – I have come up with a few ways to make the process of gaming with my kids a little bit smoother.
So, here are a few things we do to gameschool as a family to make the play fun and include everyone!
How To Gameschool With Children Of Multiple Ages: 7 Tips For Success
1. Know Who Is Playing
In our home, we go into every game with a clear understanding of who is playing.
Games with just my older kiddos look very different than those with just my younger two, or if we are all playing together.
We talk a lot about what gaming with each other looks like and how we want that experience to feel for everyone. And it’s a great natural way to weave in talks about empathy, social awareness, and patience.
However, don’t be fooled, patience is a work in progress over here!
2. Cooperative Games Are Great For Homeschooling Multiple Ages
One of the easiest ways to gameschool with multiple ages is to seek out cooperative games.
These games organically create the environment needed to work together toward the common goal. This can feed into the need of younger siblings to feel included and a valued participant in the game.
Games like Forbidden Island, Quirky Circuits, or Castle Panic are great for allowing the group to work toward the goal together with everyone playing a part, even if the strategy skills are not yet there in the younger kids.
Because you are working together you can share that load, and everyone feels like they played a part.
3. Allow each player to feel they are an equal part of the group.
Younger family members WANT to be considered part of the group. They are very aware if they are losing out on something other players are doing. So, you will want to make sure you are giving the younger players all the opportunities that they can complete successfully.
For us, this means allowing a little extra time in games like The Game of Life or The Inventors, for our younger players to add up or count out their money. Or, if we are playing a dice game, like Quixx or Yahtzee!, they get to add their dice totals – even if the older kiddos can do it quicker or perhaps more accurately.
And, if you practice this along with talking through each player’s movement options you are practicing critical thought – for every member at the table.
We do this with every player around the table……. even my parents when they come to play!
This way we are always looking, analyzing, and coming to our conclusions about with might be a good move, and keeping everyone engaged – even when the gameplay is a bit slower!
4. Make clear expectations on who has ownership of the decisions.
Playing with younger players, there are often times where movement options or strategy is just not going to be there yet.
This is often when my older children will jump in and begin to tell my younger children what the best move or decision would be in an attempt to steer them in that direction. Typical older siblings!
And I am sure you can imagine exactly where that will go!
In our family, we have encouraged and fostered an understanding that each player will ultimately have ownership over their turn. However, what we do first, is to talk through various options that the player could take. And to be consistent, we do this for all players around the table.
This is a huge learning moment for everyone. It allows all players to consider and see various scenarios that could be taken. It encourages all players to slow down and weigh the value of their move before choosing the one they feel is best. And there are times when the younger player sees something others have missed, further including them into the playing circle.
Talking through each player’s options is also a helpful tool for sportsmanship. Because we are looking for the movement that will best suit the other player’s best interest. This has caused some great moments where my kids will point out an option that isn’t in their own favor at all!
But, to keep the ownership with the player, after all these scenarios are talked about each player ultimately has ownership over their turn and is free to make the final choice, the one they feel is best, no matter who thinks it is the right choice.
5. Be open to changing the rules of the game to fit the group that is playing.
Or as we say in our house – establish the House Rules!
We often have looked at a game and realized that it just wouldn’t work with everyone if we strictly adhere to the rules as written. And since one of my goals is to feel connected as a family we often change or bend the rules to fit our needs as a group.
These are always discussed and agreed upon before we start the game, that way everyone joins in the fun with a full understanding of how we will be working together. Or, if it is something that comes up during gameplay we discuss and agree before moving on.
Now………. this doesn’t ensure that we will have smooth sailing and never have any squabbles, but it sure does help!
Changing the rules has looked like this:
Allowing forgiveness to take moves back. “A card laid is a card played” is not a saying we incorporate often here – particularly when playing with all the kids.
Playing the game “open-handed” – laying all our cards on the table or all our Quirkle tiles down and discussing options as a group.
Taking out particularly competitive rules so that those hard feelings of complete loss or setback are eliminated.
And often, we will change the game from a single-winner, competitive game into a cooperative goal, where we are attempting to get everyone to the end or to play for as long as possible.
6. Allow for helpers!
If we want to play a game that is a little more difficult, we have often partnered up with a stronger player.
This could be because we have a game that required more reading – Or it could be because the strategy is a little too hard and explaining everything would take a tremendous amount of time.
We have found that the strategy games have been particularly successful when playing with grandparents as the help is received a bit better from them at times! But, if you don’t have extra adults, partner up your kids with each other or take turns partnering each child with you. Another thing my kids love – partnering together against me!
7. A Word Of Caution When Gameschooling Children Of Multiple Ages
It sounds like we have it all worked out and gaming is always rosy, don’t fall into the trap of believing that! These have been wonderful ways for us to work with all our ages together and have some wonderful family moments.
However, it can be really hard with tween and teen players……and the non-reading players…….and the overtired players….and…. you get the picture!
There have been many times that someone has huffed away from the table in frustration because the patience needed to play games with a younger sibling was just too much for the day.
And this is totally normal!
When this happens, it is either a moment where after a cool-down phase has happened, we move on with the game,
OR it is our signal that we need to wait for another day to continue playing.
The Value Of Using Games In Our Homeschool
Gameschooling, like everything else with a family of diverse ages, interests, and personalities can be an amazing experience. If you go into it knowing that all your players will have different goals and outcomes with each game you are going to be successful, even on those trickier days.
By including all your kids in these experiences with you, I guarantee you will see them all grow. In more ways than you expect on the surface!
A Note From Cait:
I am so grateful for this post from my friend, Jena. I have gotten to know her, and her approach to homeschooling through the Never Board Learning community. I have found her to be a wonderful source for creative ideas and am inspired by her innovative approach to homeschooling.
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.