Today, I’d like to talk about the incredible power of homeschooling with games and play-based learning. If you’re looking to add more fun to your homeschool routine by incorporating educational games and interest-based learning into your daily routine, or if you’re a homeschooler looking for more support and connection in these post-2020 times, you’re going to want to keep reading!
The Incredible Power of Homeschooling with Games
Why Games Make Such a Difference in Learning…
There’s a quote that I absolutely adore and I think of it all the time when I think about homeschooling with educational games and play-based learning.
It goes like this:
I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside.
“How shall I teach this child?” I cried.
Into my hand, he put the key
“Come,” he said, “play with me.”
As a school psychologist, lifelong gamer, and unexpected homeschool mom to three children, I have witnessed the power of play-based learning and gameschooling countless times over the years, across age ranges, and in various settings. I have used play and games as tools for connection and learning when I worked as a nanny, tutor, assistant teacher, school psychologist, and homeschool mom.
There is power in play-based learning and homeschooling with games!
You don’t need to have an education background to understand the value of play and interest-led learning.
Play-based learning is interest-based learning. When a child or teen is interested in a certain topic, they naturally retain more information about the subject. It just makes sense!
Here’s an example for you…
In the fall of 2019, my boys became interested in WWII. I love to use my children’s interests as a springboard for “Lazy” Unit Studies and rabbit holes. This WWII interest was no different!
When we visited the library, I borrowed books about WWII and read them aloud during the week. We watched documentaries related to WWII. I pulled out the game Memoir ’44 and left it on our coffee table.
Looking back, Memoir ’44 was perhaps the game that my boys played the most in 2020.
Nowadays, my boys are more interested in Dungeons and Dragons, but if WWII comes up in conversation, they have oodles to contribute! At 13- and 9-years-old, they know far more about World War II than I did at their age.
They probably know more about World War II than I did when I was studying it in high school.
Because they were interested in WWII! They were attentive and engaged. Learning about WWII was pure joy for them. At 16, I was an excellent student but WWII wasn’t my interest at the time. I read about WWII in school, watched some documentaries, wrote papers, and aced my exams, but my long-term retention was not on par with my boys’ because I lacked interest.
One of the best things about interest-led learning is that it can catchy!
When my boys first dove down the WWII rabbit hole, they did it together. But all of that WWII talk and excitement was contagious. Suddenly, I found myself reading WWII historical fiction and my daughter followed suit.
Our dinner table conversations often included WWII facts and stories. I learned much more about WWII than I did when I was in high school! Why? Because my interest was piqued.
Gameschooling (homeschooling with games) is the intersection of play-based learning and homeschooling. It is interest-led learning at its best!
Our WWII rabbit hole is just one of many stories!
I could tell you many more including, but not limited to, the following:
- A game helped my little two learn to tell time
- When my daughter struggled with coin identification, a game helped immensely and she learned to make change!
- Games helped my kids learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and understand probability, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
My favorite homeschooling-with-games story is the one in which my youngest learned to read by playing the card game Gubs.
And before you Google, it, let me just say that Gubs has absolutely nothing to do with reading. It is not an Educational-with-a-capital-E game, nor does it explicitly teach reading.
So, how did Gubs teach my youngest how to read? The answer is simple: He was interested in the game, the cards have words on them, and we played often.
Play research indicates that play is an innate biological drive and that play benefits the whole child.
Children were born to play! Play has been shown to have a positive impact on a child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
But the benefits of adding play-based learning and gameschooling to your homeschool routine go far beyond academic skills…
Do you know how, when you’re at the grocery store in the middle of the day and someone in line asks, “No school today?”
Your kids reply that they are homeschooled and then the adult usually says something along the lines of how wonderful/challenging that must be and then what often comes next is something like, “Do you ever worry about socialization?”
Yes, the dreaded s-word. Guess what? When that guy in the checkout line asks about socialization, he’s referring to the interpersonal skills we need to interact well with others in both personal and professional scenarios.
These skills include conversational skills, appropriate eye contact, reading body language, being polite, being empathetic, waiting for one’s turn, following instructions, collaborating, negotiating, etcetera, etcetera.
As homeschoolers, we often cringe and scoff at that s-word but the truth is, social skills are life skills.
Well, guess what? Every single game you play with your children and teens offers real-time social skills practice and coaching. Every. Single. One.
Adding play-based learning and game schooling to your homeschool routine can fuel learning and that learning is both academic and non-academic in nature!
Here’s another reason to add more play and educational games to your homeschool routine: Homeschooling with games can boost connection.
Yes, gameschooling can fuel learning and improve academic and non-academic skills, but there are other, arguably more important, benefits.
Research has demonstrated that play is not essential for child development, but it is important for all of us. Play helps us to connect, to feel good, and to make memories.
Stuart Brown is a doctor, psychiatrist, clinical researcher, and founder of the National Institute of Play. In his book, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown writes:
I have gathered and analyzed thousands of case studies that I call play histories. I have found that remembering what play is all about and making it part of our daily lives are probably the most important factors in being a fulfilled human being. The ability to play is critical not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person.
Play is good for all of us, not just our children. Better yet, play has the power to connect us as a family. Connected children and teens are generally more content and cooperative.
Incorporating Games into Our Homeschool: What Gets in the Way?
There are many obstacles to adding more play-based learning and gameschooling to your homeschool routine. If I had to boil it down to two main challenges, they would be:
- The public school mindset
- Lack of support
1. The public school mindset can be a barrier to homeschooling with games.
One of the most challenging parts of homeschooling– at least for me– is remembering to keep school and education separate.
I know this, but I also spent many years in school both as a student and an educator.
It can be tough to shake that public school mindset!
When we first started homeschooling, we attempted to recreate a school at home. That didn’t last long.
When things are going well, when I’m trusting my gut and my children, our homeschooling looks nothing like school.
Peter Gray is a play researcher, professor, and author who studies, among other things, the relationship between learning and play. In his book Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, Gray writes:
We have forgotten that children are designed by nature to learn through self-directed play and exploration, and so, more and more, we deprive them of freedom to learn, subjecting them instead to the tedious and painfully slow learning methods devised by those who run the school.
As a school psychologist, I am an advocate for public education, but public education is not a perfect system. Public education was designed to meet the needs of the masses. If you don’t fit in that tidy grade-level box, public school can be quite a challenge.
As homeschoolers, we make the rules. We have the power to do it differently. We do not have the pressure of educating a group of twenty-five 12-year-olds and having them perform well on a set of criteria at certain times of the year.
2. A lack of support can be a barrier to homeschooling with games.
To establish a gameschooling habit, one must be consistent. One of the easiest ways to be consistent with a new habit is to have community support.
Connecting with like-minded individuals around a common goal is an incredible experience. This support can help you to craft the homeschool that you hold in your heart. When that public school mindset creeps in, you can connect with a friend and talk about it.
Community support is huge. Now, in these post-2020 times, connection is more important than ever. We are all craving it!
The Best Way to Get Started Gameschooling …
I promise you don’t need an overflowing game closet to play more games in your homeschool. You need only a few gameschooling basics and a desire to play with your kiddos. Play and gameschooling can revolutionize your homeschool!
If you are looking for support on your play-based learning and homeschool journey, I have created a very special space. It’s called Never Board Learning.
Gameschooling? Join us at Never Board Learning!
Never Board Learning is an online community for creative parents and educators who embrace play-based learning and gameschooling for ALL ages.
NBL features a private community forum (not FB), guest speakers, Q and As, day-in-the-life family spotlights, and a growing resource library filled with printable activities, documentation resources, and challenges.
Here’s a sneak peek of Never Board Learning:
How the Never Board Learning Membership Dashboard will help you to homeschool with games…
The Never Board Learning Member Dashboard is the hub of NBL. The Dashboard has links to everything- a new member resource guide, upcoming events, and links to the Community Forum, Resource Library, and Private Blog.
Event archives are also located on the Member Dashboard. All incoming members will have access to a growing archive that includes:
- Guest speaker replays
- Day-in-the-Life Family Spotlight features
- Q and A replays
You’ll also find resources on the NBL Member Dashboard including a members-only “Play Matters” audio course…
…and a “What should I play next?” members-only quiz that matches your unique family with games and free play ideas (and you can download a PDF with your results).
Here’s a quick sneak peek of the Never Board Learning Member Dashboard:
Looking for community support? Never Board Learning community members have access to a private online community forum… and it’s not a Facebook group!
The best part of Never Board Learning is the community forum! I love to pour a cup of coffee and read through the community forum every morning. The community is filled with creative parents and educators who embrace play-based learning and gameschooling.
Here’s a sneak peek:
The Never Board Learning Resource Library will help you homeschool with games via actionable, downloadable, printable resources.
The Never Board Learning Resource Library is a growing library filled with printable resources related to:
- print-and-play activities and games
- … and more!
New content is added to the Resource Library every single month. New members have access to all past content.
Here’s a sneak peek of the Never Board Learning Resource Library:
Join Never Board Learning today and have more fun in your homeschool tomorrow!
If you want to add more fun and connection to your homeschool days, I highly recommend joining us at Never Board Learning.
You can learn more here. Founding member pricing is available now through May 2021. Join us today and have more fun tomorrow!
Now, it’s your turn. Tell us: Have you witnessed the incredible power of learning with educational games in your homeschool? Share here!
Self-education through play and exploration requires enormous amounts of unscheduled time— time to do whatever one wants to do, without pressure, judgment, or intrusion from authority figures. That time is needed to make friends, play with ideas and materials, experience and overcome boredom, learn from one’s own mistakes, and develop passions.
– Peter Gray