What is Gameschooling?
Put simply, gameschooling refers to the use of games in order to learn educational skills. Some families stick with tabletop games (board games and card games) and others include video games.
Gameschooling is intentional and specific games are used to teach specific skills, rather than just playing games haphazardly for entertainment. The philosophy behind gameschooling is that kids remember best what they choose to learn.
I can hear you asking, “You mean a child can learn everything he needs to know from playing games?”
That was my first thought, too, when I encountered this revolutionary concept.
How can that possibly work?
It sounds like way too much fun to actually be educational.
And then I laughed at myself, because after 17 years of homeschooling, I should know better that to think education has to look like sitting in a chair in a classroom. School and education are not synonymous.
Why not games?
The History of Gameschooling
There isn’t so much a history of gameschooling as there is a future.
A couple of weeks ago I took my kids on a field trip to WallFX. They create visual effects for movies and games. It was fun to see how they create the visual effects, and we loved watching them model imaginary creatures. They took 3D renderings of all the kids in our group to use in future games.
But the part that struck me the most was when we tried out a virtual reality game they were working on to teach kids history. My kids had a blast being shepherds, learning to use the slingshot and fighting off wolves while trying to keep their flock of sheep safe.
One of the game creators told us the rest of the story of this game: this shepherd was young David who fought Goliath and ended up becoming the king of Israel. He told us the exciting adventures they had planned for David. I’m betting the kids who play that game will know the story of David and Goliath forward and backward, upside-down and inside-out.
He then told us about the other historical, virtual reality games they had planned: the French & Indian War from the perspective of George Washington, different aspects of the Revolutionary War, the invention of airplanes from the perspective of the Wright brothers, the discovery of the Americas.
What they could do with this technology is endless, and the educational aspects of it are tremendous, but there could also be negative aspects, like gaming addictions. I can imagine that type of learning would be incredibly addictive.
What does Gameschooling look like?
I don’t personally know anyone who abandons curriculum entirely and uses games exclusively. Rather, most gameschoolers use games in addition to their homeschool curriculum or exclusively in certain subjects, but not every subject.
But a gameschooler could use games exclusively. Like with all homeschooling methods, gameschooling will look different in every single family you encounter.
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick from My Little Poppies describes gameschooling in her home as the strategic use of games to learn new skills without judgement, correction, red marks, or homework. She talks about why games are a safe space to learn, fail and try again.
I’ve had the same experience in my own homeschool. Just recently, my daughter was upset that multiplying fractions gave us a smaller number with a larger denominator, while dividing fractions gave us pretty much the opposite. She just couldn’t make sense of it in her mind, and we were fast approaching the loud wailing stage.
Who wouldn’t choose the Buy it Right Shopping Game over a worksheet for practicing money skills?
What child would say no to learning science playing Totally Gross: The Game of Science (which my kids love, by the way)?
I don’t even love games (well, at least not board games — I do enjoy soccer and basketball) and I’d rather play games than read textbooks. Who wouldn’t? I’ve seen game-based learning work miracles on my kiddos attitudes toward learning over and over and over.
The Benefits of Gameschooling
Board games can help children develop communication skills, self-regulation, creativity, critical thinking skills and the ability to listen and follow directions. They can improve engagement and retention. All of these skills are critical to academic success.
Children are born playful. Play is how they learn to navigate their worlds. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that natural playfulness and use it to stealthily instill educational skills?
My Experience With Gameschooling
I don’t call myself a gameschooler, but I do call myself an eclectic homeschooler, which allows me to incorporate my favorite parts of every method into my own homeschool, and that includes gameschooling. I tend to gamify (apply elements of game playing in order to encourage engagement) math and other subjects as much as possible.
>>>Check out my math games! <<<
I already told you about my daughter’s experience with our pizza fractions game. Let me give you a few more examples.
I wanted my children to learn all 50 states, their locations and their capitals. I remembered learning them to a song as a kid, so I tried to teach them the song one night while we were cleaning up the kitchen after dinner. Groans ensued.
I tried again later, because I’m not a quitter. They wanted nothing to do with my song. So I pulled out our US GeoPuzzle. It was met with a small amount of resistance, but less than my song. They put it together a few times and got more familiar with the states and their locations, but that was it.
So I bought the Scrambled States of America game, and that made all the difference. We used it in conjunction with the ‘Stack the States’ app, and my kids had the states, their locations and capitals down pat.
Another subject that is the total doldrums for my kids is language arts. Grammar is like pulling teeth. So we don’t study it often, but every once in awhile I’ll make a concerted effort and we learn several years worth of grammar in a couple of weeks.
The only way to get my kids to participate, though, is through a game. I have a couple of them up my sleeve: mad libs (great for learning parts of speech), Fab Vocab (Greek and Latin roots), Breaking News (editing headlines for grammar, spelling, etc…), and Super Sentence.
If your kids are struggling with a particular subject, put away the textbooks and worksheets and try a game. Search for that subject + game online, and read the reviews to find one that you think might solve the problem. Sometimes you don’t even need a board game, you can just gamify the subject itself.
Instead of giving a history test, play Jeopardy with the history questions. Instead of copywork, practicing upper and lowercase letters, turn it into a memory game.
I couldn’t find any books or blogs entirely about gameschooling, but several homeschoolers blog about which games they use to teach different subjects (including My Little Poppies, linked above) so that’s a good way to find suggestions. Charlene from Hess Un-Academy has a comprehensive list of her families favorite educational games, and here’s an excellent list of history games from Bethany Ishee.
Would you like to know more about the other homeschooling methods?
Click the links to learn more about each of the following Homeschool Methods:
Reggio Emilia Approach(also known as project-based homeschooling)
Unit Studies Approach
Are you a gameschooler? We’d love to hear about your experiences and resources in the comments below!