I’ve heard from some people the mistaken idea that homeschoolers’ lives weren’t thrown into upheaval by the pandemic shutdowns — but they absolutely were. Our co-ops, play groups, art classes, museums, and even playgrounds were taken away, leaving us with far fewer educational options than we had before.
As the weeks turned into months and we realized that just trying to wait it out wasn’t really an option, my family knew we had to revamp our homeschooling plan to fit the “new normal” — a phrase I’ll be happy to never hear again.
It hasn’t always been easy or fun, but there’s one element of this homeschooling reboot that has been both easy and fun: gameschooling.
Homeschooler Caitlyn Fitzpatrick Curley wrote here on the ThinkFun blog about finding gameschooling as a solution to her own homeschooling woes back in 2017. Curley, a homeschooling mom and founder of the gifted educational resource My Little Poppies, explained that gameschooling allowed her family to meet the needs — academic and otherwise — of her gifted homeschool learners.
Certainly, I’d heard the term before, but it wasn’t until I found myself with the days dragging on and on and on and on without any reprieve in sight that I really found how well it fit into my own homeschooling family.
What is Gameschooling, anyway?
To put it simply, gameschooling is an educational approach where games make up a foundational — and sometimes entire — curricular component.
To put it a little less simply, gameschoolers still do the work of figuring out educational goals and learning outcomes, and then they find (or make!) games to help reach those goals. Some gameschoolers stick strictly to card and tabletop board games, but many also include video games as an option.
Wait…So you just play games all day?
Gameschooling sounds simple, and in many ways, it is! But “simple” doesn’t mean “ineffective” when it comes to learning. In fact, the approach of using games to learn materials may be simple, but the games themselves are often quite complex — way more complex than a worksheet or multiple-choice pop quiz can ever be.
Gamification has already become a popular part of people’s lives in so many ways.
Employers offer gamified health apps to get their employees tracking their steps and water intake. Many of us use gamified devices like the FitBit to compete with our friends in fitness-related challenges. Libraries offer kids the chance to earn badges by completing summer reading challenges.
These approaches tap into humans’ natural desire for rewards, puzzles, and paths to success. We’re inquisitive creatures, and gamifying day-to-day tasks makes them a lot more interesting.
How do I start gameschooling?
Gameschooling is not an all-or-nothing approach. Many people find it is easiest to simply start adding in relevant games to existing educational plans. Are your kids learning about the human body? Then grab some games like Fluxx Anatomy. Learning physics principles? Add in Roller Coaster Challenge™. Studying the plant life cycle? Try Photosynthesis. Learning how to code computers? Check out Hacker and more.
If you’re anything like me and most of the gameschoolers I know, you’ll find the results so promising (and fun!) that soon you’ll be building more intentional gaming into your curriculum.
The good news is that the world of available games is ever-growing, so you’ll never run out of great options. The bad news is you might run out of shelf space!
I received a game in exchange for this blog post. All opinions expressed belong to me.
Michelle Parrinello-Cason, PhD is an educator and homeschooling mom who teaches writing and humanities classes for homeschoolers. As the founder of Dayla Learning and co-founder of SEA Online Classes, she creates curricula and online classes for engaging learners in meaningful and fun ways.
A note from ThinkFun
At ThinkFun, we love it when learning and fun collide. It’s why we do what we do. Every game, puzzle and brainteaser we create is aimed at igniting a spark in a young mind. Still curious? Check us out on the web, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram.
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