What is gameschooling and How do you do it?
At its most basic, gameschooling is simply learning through games. However, that can look very different for different families.
Card, board, and dice games are all common in gameschooling. Many gameschoolers also use video games and role-playing games. My family uses all of them.
Games can be more obviously educational, like Sums in Space or Math Explosion, or they can be more for fun, but with the educational aspects more subtle, like Catan Junior. When we first started out, I got a lot of the more obviously educational games, and luckily, my kids had had so little exposure to formal education that they were happy to play those games. Other kids are not nearly so forgiving and will prefer the games that are more fun. Today, after seeing how much my kids have learned, I’m more relaxed, and we focus more on the fun games.
Games are more than just educational
Don’t get me wrong – those fun games have TONS to teach our kids! Many have quite a bit of math, at least in scorekeeping. Several also have other subjects incorporated. And then the soft skills games teach us are, to many people, even more valuable than the academic subjects. Things like how to win and lose gracefully, strategy, critical thinking (I actually put both those in with Math), fine motor control, empathy, and so much more! I know many adults that could do with more gameplay to learn these essential skills.
Families also use games to different extents. Some gameschooling families send their kids to public or private school and use games to connect after school, reinforce subjects learned in school, and just have fun together. Lots of gameschoolers homeschool with a curriculum, and just use games for supplementation. Some dedicate a day to playing games, some play lots of games, and some are lucky to play a game a week. Still others piece together their own curricula, and heavily incorporate games. For that matter, some curricula, like Right Start Math, have games built-in! Then there are those who unschool and games are just a fun part of their lives, and they may play more or fewer games. My family falls somewhere between unschooling and eclectic (piece together our own resources) homeschooling, heavily using games.
But you need a lot of games to gameschool, right?
Nope! Grab a regular deck of cards and start playing some card games. You can use just a handful of dice to play Yahtzee, Math Dice, Qwixx, and Dungeons and Dragons. If you have access to a printer (most public libraries allow their patrons to print so many pages a week), there are tons of free print-and-play games available online; if you pair printer access with a laminator you can make a lot of games for very little.
We have expanded our collection through really great sales – like $1 games, and lots of thrift store trips. In the beginning, I bought new games off Amazon, but now that I’ve seen all the great games periodically available at our thrift stores, I seldom buy new. Some games are tough to find used, but others are easier to find. I even wrote a book on Gameschooling on a Budget!
So, grab a game, a handful of dice, a deck of cards, or even a piece of paper and a pencil, and start playing some games!