Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Play Games for Some Serious Fun!

I didn't start my career in home education with a vision for using play in learning. I was very serious about teaching and very conventional at first. But my boys loosened me up and showed me that they learned best when our learning was play, and our play was learning.

It all started with Sing, Spell, Read and Write. The first time I saw this phonics program, a neighbor was using it to teach her kids to read. How strange it looked! Here were songs, games, a treasure chest of prizes, and a race track with a toy car. Were they serious?

No. That's why it worked so well. My sons were intrigued, and I couldn't argue with the results my neighbor was getting from this wacky program. So we started using it. In six months, we became SSRW advocates. We sang the silly songs. We played the silly games. We gave out the silly prizes. My boys loved it.

They loved it so much that we started using games whenever we could find them. It took some time and extra effort to discover suitable games for school. But it was worth the trouble. I was astounded by the difference it made in the atmosphere in our school room and in the motivation of my students. By the time our oldest son was in fourth grade, we were using games as often as possible.

We used a card game called Silly Sentences to learn the parts of speech. We switched our math curriculum to Mastering Mathematics, because it had games and other fun suggestions for learning. My sons studied math facts, fractions, percentages, and elementary geometry with games. After we had played Monopoly for hours, my second son, then in the second grade, began doing math operations with five digits in his head. He loved being the "banker. "

We used board games by Aristoplay for history and social studies. My sons studied the Oregon Trail, the Yukon Trail, the California Gold Rush, and the American Frontier with computer games. We used games for science, too. Elemento taught us the periodic table and basic facts about the elements. A computer game instructed us about oceanography and marine life. In high school, we even studied Hamlet with a game, The Play's The Thing.

Occasionally, when we didn't have a game for something, we made our own. We found that almost any set of facts was more fun to memorize with a matching card game or homemade bingo.

Of course, we used prizes. I learned to shop at Dollar stores for collections of things that made fun, silly prizes: stickers, gum, candy, pencils, erasers, clips, army men, stamps, small balloons, and so forth. I even included pennies for piggy banks. It was just the fun of competition and the idea of getting a prize that thrilled. The prizes didn't have to be significant.

Not all of the games we used are still available. You will have to embark on your own search. But if you make this a family treasure hunt, your kids will enjoy helping you discover games for school. You can start your search by checking out this website: Are You Game?

In my experience, hands-on games are generally better than computer games, because of the personal interaction, but if you have a large family, computer games may be a very good choice for meeting the needs of students of various ages.

What are some games your family enjoys?


  1. From Dana Wilson at The Homeschool Lounge:

    I loved your post! I have a senior in high school and he still says his favorite school year was kindergarten because he loved Sing, Spell, Read and Write! He has always been a game player as well, and there are SO MANY ways to incorporate them into elementary school especially. As he has become older it has been more challenging, but we have tried to continue with hands on and project based learning, especially through our history studies.

    Thank you for your post!

  2. Very good post! We use RightStart Math and love it... lots of "games". I continued to hope there were other curriculum out there like that and it sounds like that phonics program might be right up our alley!

    Do you have any Bible curriculum to recommend? What I'm using right now is very thorough, but it's not very "fun". I read the chapter and my son does the worksheet for review. I'm looking for something a little more on character building and Christ-centered living right now. (Not so much just regurgitating bible facts, ya know?)

    ANyway, thanks so much for the link to SSRW, and for any further suggestions.

    PS. I cam by via The Homeschool Lounge. :)


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