So you know about homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling. Maybe you've heard of hackschooling or gamification... So what on earth is gameschooling? Cat Timms has the ultimate (and we mean MEGA!) guide for you AND a bonus download!
Words and images by Cat Timms | LightHeart Photography
Gameschooling is a term whose origin cannot be traced, but it has been around for a while. It has been more recently popularised into homeschool culture by absolute legend and lovely lady, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, educational psychologist and homeschooling mama of gifted kiddos, of My Little Poppies fame, who also created the international Facebook group Gameschool Community. Her blog is a literal treasure trove and is referred to several times.
In the homeschool community, gameschooling means to use tabletop gaming (board games and card games) in an intentional way, as part of your personal homeschool culture and educational philosophy. Rather than playing games occasionally just for fun, gameschooling families see them as essential to their homeschool daily or weekly for a variety of reasons (including fun!).
Let’s talk about the why, how, what and troubleshoot some issues.
Further reading on the why of gameschooling:
This is asked ALL THE TIME in the gameschool groups and there isn’t a simple answer to that question, because everyone homeschools differently. If you believe in teaching and curriculums, then games will supplement that and add some fun. If you unschool, then you might research games you think your kids might like, then show them the ones that fit your budget etc and see if they’re interested, and games would be the most formal thing you do, probably.
We personally are secular and eclectic here. We do very little formal work, only in English and Maths, and we do a lot of excursions (field trips), workshops, classes and play dates. I encourage my kids to be open and interested in everything. We try a lot, and what doesn’t work for us we leave but we try not to say no to things for no reason, particularly if they’re new.
This adventurous spirit carries into gaming. We’ll try any game! We play 2-4 games a day. I usually choose one for an educational purpose and the rest are child-led. They often suggest we play a game, then choose one themselves. They’re at very different gaming levels currently which is challenging, and I have a whole section for you toddler mamas coming up, don’t worry!
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Choose the time you play games carefully, particularly when learning new games.
While “Family Game Night” is great in theory, maybe it needs to be at breakfast because tired children do not the best gamers make. We do play games after dinner, but only ones the kids know really well, plus they’re experienced gamers now. We often play games around mealtimes.
Because we don’t have a schedule, I’m not super helpful here. I know that homeschool mamas who do have a school schedule do things like:
In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.
Oh, brother. The dreaded question. This gets posted multiple times a day in the gameschool group. The answer is “infinity times infinity, pass the coffee/wine/chocolate.” Seriously. It’s not a bad question; it’s a great question! It’s just that there are a million answers. We could be here all day. Let’s start the beginning:
I suggest joining the groups and following pages on Facebook to learn and get ideas. I’ll also link to the blogs for those not on Facebook (Don't have Facebook? HOW DO YOU LIVE?! Kidding, it is useful for groups though!).
In addition to those homeschool blogs and pages, US families are going to find Amazon VERY useful! For the rest of us, it can be expensive and they don’t always ship to us. I do buy from there occasionally though. Board Game Geek is a great website for researching on, and serious gamers keep lists there. I’m yet to venture into it but I often check there for reviews and information.
There are so many games to choose from. I know, it’s overwhelming. I would probably just head to Target or a good games shop and pick one. I haven’t yet mentioned the dreaded M word because that is what people think of when we talk about games. We do have a copy of *whispers* Monopoly somewhere I think, but we don’t play it. Because it’s not well designed and very boring; there are no interesting choices or strategies, and its very luck based. Outraged? Sorry. Check out this YouTube to understand more.
If you love Monopoly then your mind will be blown when you play a well-designed tabletop game! Gamers often talk about “gateway games”. These are the simpler but still well-designed tabletop that use game mechanisms that the bigger games do, have a high replayability factor, and are a great way to start games culture in your family if you are looking beyond the purely educational.
Here are some of my favourite gateway games:
All of those games are ones that the adults here really enjoy, so won’t bore you quickly. I could list 10 more, but I’m going to leave that list there. There are a million games lists you can Google. If you’re only looking for educational games that you can slot into subject areas for your kids then check out this ultimate games list. It’s comprehensive and well laid out, and we own many of the games on it.
Phew, that’ll do?! That’s not an exhaustive list, either. This article explains the different types of games in a succinct way and might be useful too.
Most games include age recommendations which is a rough guide. Game makers need to be careful; if they put the starting age too young, then they won’t be bought for older children, and if the age is too high, people will think it’s too hard. Most gameschoolers take age recommendations with A CUP of salt. My 7-year-old can play games that say 13-years-old + but he is a weak reader. If there was a big reading component he wouldn’t be able to play. He also enjoys plenty of games that I’d put in the “Early Childhood” category.
If your 8-year-old child is new to games then they will find Dragonwood challenging at first, as it’s not a luck game; it’s a strategy game with interesting choices. But my 4-year-old can play with assistance because she’s been playing games since she was a toddler.
A little section just for us Aussies. G’day, mates! (sorry, that’s for the rest of the world who think we talk like that, lol).
1. I have yet to find an Australian gameschooler who blogs about gameschooling so that’s why there isn’t one listed here. If you are one, then yay! Let us know. People keep saying I should start one but I have two part time jobs already so I just can’t. You can always find me on IG at @ahumanattempt and in Gameschooling Australia.
2. It’s really difficult to find games about Australia that aren’t caricatures of Australia, and sometimes a bit racist in my opinion. They seem designed for the tourist rather than Australians. If you know of one, PLEASE let us know! There are a few printables floating about, none of which are great, so making my own game about the Australian states is on my to do list. It’s listed right after “Learn about the Australian states.”
3. There are some great Aussie sites to know about, and support if you can! If you have more to add to this list, let us know!
This one's for the nerds like me! Well, in a nutshell, gamification means applying game principles to something (for example, turning a maths sheet into a game) and game-based learning, means using a game that already exists to learn something (like the game Sushi Go to practice addition). Both ideas are useful in homeschooling, but that’s an article on its own! For further reading I suggest:
Many of these articles refer to online or digital gaming which has evolved from tabletop gaming. All of these, and the ‘why’ list, should be great fodder for anyone who wants to argue against game playing, or allocating funds to buy games
“I’ve checked out the lists and blogs and now there are 3 games that I want. How do you narrow it down?”
Particularly when you’re on a budget, this can be important. What I do is search the game title and read what I find in the following places:
After all that, I will have an idea whether I think we’ll like it or not. Yeah, it takes some time, but all research does! I’m looking for interesting choices and replayability here, but if you’re looking for something purely educational then it should be simpler to figure out whether it will help with the thing you need. I only buy those types of games if I really need them, and think I can resell them; I am far more likely to find a free printable or make up my own.
“My partner doesn’t want me to spend money on games.”
Send them this article; there is a TONNE of good info linked here. This is a commonly asked problem by mamas in homeschool groups. In my house, if one partner doesn’t want to do the reading and learn about the issue to then have an informed discussion, then the other gets to go ahead using their best judgement. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that means trusting each other too. I am not going to learn about looking after the cars, so hubs just does what he thinks is best there. He is not going to get highly educated about homeschooling, so I’m boss of that. I make a lot of games, and only buy ones I think we’ll really love. I also sell games as I need too, to fund new ones.
“Seriously though, we are on a tight budget.”
Honestly, most homeschoolers are. Everyone’s version of tight is different, and everyone’s priorities are different. We too are on a tight-ish budget. We don’t spend any money at all on curriculums (ever) so I spend on books, games, workshops, classes instead. Tabletop games are not just a homeschool thing; they contribute to family culture too. So if you occasionally have a family day or meal out or trip to the movies, you can consider a good tabletop game in the same category but it’s reusable, and you should be able to sell it for around half what you paid when the time comes. Here are some other ideas:
“I want to make my own games. Help.”
You can make your own games very cheaply, and indeed I make TONNES of them. You can buy books that have things to photocopy and make, or get free printables from all over the internet. You can attempt to replicate popular games, particularly using game pieces and boards from games you’ve bought cheaply secondhand (this is where op shops/goodwill are handy). Remember that challenging your kids to make their own game is a great activity too.
There are links all over the place here – this is an ULTIMATE guide after all – so read back but here is yet another collection of links to get you started:
“My kid doesn’t find games fun. We have meltdowns over rules/winning/losing. It just won’t work for us.”
Ah, yes. I understand. I know a few kids including my nephew and son who have worked through game rage. I’d argue that these children may need to play games more than anyone else! Games are a great way to learn to handle and reframe ‘failure’, practice gracious winning and losing, handling disappointment, trying again etc. Not all things will work for all families, and you may want to use a few of these ideas in concert, but here are some things to consider:
“My kids fight. We can’t play games together.”
Yeah this is a hard one! Caitlin has written a brilliant article at My Little Poppies that I cannot improve upon. She has a list of great ideas, and one I will emphasize is snacks. Lol! Seriously though. Eating a clean food (like plain popcorn, because you don’t want to get your game pieces super dirty) while playing is a great way to keep a game moving along and everyone calm. Read her entire article here. I’ll also add that we regularly play games 1:1 here. Like at least once a week with each child.
“I have a toddler who can’t play but wants to, and ends up wrecking the game in their earnest efforts.”
Mmm, also tricky! I have a few suggestions for this one that have worked here. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to play at nap time, but that isn’t always possible, particularly if mama is pinned under said toddler!
Honestly, game playing with small kids around, particularly if you have a couple of them is not going to be easy, so only attempt when you have some patience available. You may decide to wait until everyone is older, and that’s ok, too. Chloe used to grab and throw all the pieces and think she was hilarious, *all the eyerolls*. We just waited her out and now it’s great. It’s a short season, mama, hang in there.
I trust you’re thoroughly overwhelmed and now have hours of reading ahead to check out all those links. If there is something I haven’t covered here, then please let us know. Have any other suggestion, comment, game recommendation, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.
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When teaching math to kids, we often over-simplify and use baby language. But should we be introducing technical mathematical concepts earlier?
By Becky McIntosh | homemademath.net
Today on Instagram I mentioned that I was gently introducing the language of ”survey” to my (not yet) 5-year-old daughter. I felt hesitant about including it in my comment, which got me thinking, why?
Why am I nervous about saying I’m teaching mathematical vocabulary to a young child?
It’s totally the people pleaser in me coming out. Would someone think I was pushing her too hard? Or my math agenda too much? Would people think I’m just all about academics? Or would they roll their eyes and say, “As if a 4 year old will get that!”
So why is it that we confine math vocabulary to the realm of “later” education?
I mean, I’m always teaching my kids new words. Some they pick up understand and use now, other words drift in and out of their consciousness until they are ready to grab it, understand it and use it (my 2-year-old told his sister today “let’s not argue about it, k?” lol where did that come from?).
Mathematics has a beautiful precise language (aside from being a language of its own, but more on that another time). It has a language of strength and clarity.
For example, if I’m describing an event and say:
“There were heaps of people there!” or “It was packed, there were at least 100 people there, maybe 150.” Which gives you a clearer picture?
Or “The house was so close to the beach!” compared to “The house was only 100 metres from the beach!”
These examples are really just using numbers to clarify size and distance, and already we can see math as a useful descriptive tool.
My daughter could say:
“Today I asked people their favourite colour.” Or “Today I took a survey of people’s favourite colours”. The second gives you a much clearer understanding of what actually took place.
Compare “We are on the next road along”, to “Our road is parallel and one to the north” and tell me who is going to get lost sooner?
(My family will all laugh, because I have a notoriously poor sense of direction! Maybe we should have used more math vocab at home).
Why do we wait to learn the words “parallel” and “perpendicular” when they become curriculum requirements? They are so useful to accurately describe our environment.
Plus (no pun intended), if we introduce these words to our vocabulary we make the world of math less intimidating. It becomes a part of our normal understanding of how the world works.
So if a mathematical term will perfectly describe the equilateral sail; if there are enough Easter eggs for 5 per child; if you are going to space your cookies as an array to bake; or if Johnny eating half his sandwich is the equivalent of Suzy eating her two quarters: don’t be shy.
Use them yourself and clarify if they ask. Let’s normalise the language of math, and empower our children to accurately describe the world around them.
Note: If you are wondering what I mean by “introducing” the word to her, we simply spoke about what we were going to do: E.g. ask each person which of these is their favourite colour and draw a line to show each person.
Then when we were at playgroup I said “Would you like to ask people your survey now?” as I handed her her recording sheet. She didn’t stop and ask, “What’s a survey?” she knew what she was going to do and I was simply naming it for her. Will she hence forth refer to it as a survey? Probably not, but over time she will. Just like she learnt the word “apple” through repetition and association as a baby.
This post originally appeared on homemademath.net and has been republished here with permission.
How do you teach mathematical concepts to your kids? Do you use technical language? Comment below.
Becky is a middle-school mathematics teacher turned homeschool mum on a mission to convert 'mathophobes' and show parents and children just how beautiful maths can be. She runs homemademath.net, a blog and online store where she sells immersive maths units for homeschoolers and schools. Becky is on Instagram at @homemademath