I am thrilled to have Christy Gould back with us today as a Guest Blogger. Christy has five boys under eight years old. She is a wonderful innovative home educator.
I consider myself rather fortunate that my children play independently (without an adult, I mean) quite well. It probably helps that they never lack for playmates; with five kids under eight years old, it’s pretty easy to say, “hey, you two, go play in the basement,” and off they go. That leaves me free to do school with the oldest, or nurse the youngest, or make dinner/wipe down a toilet/switch the laundry/what-have-you. They are well-loved, but I don’t think it’s my job to be always entertaining them.
Even still, as we moved through our homeschooling days in the fall and winter, I started to feel that I could be enjoying our days together more. After all, as all the mommy blogs out there repeatedly remind me, they’re only young for a few years, and I don’t want to miss it! I don’t want them to grow up feeling ignored. I don’t want school to be all work and no fun. I don’t want life to be all work and no fun.
So when another blogger I follow posted some things about “gameschooling,” I was intrigued. For one thing, my four-year-old wants to do math like his big brothers, and I’m not ready to jump into a formal curriculum with another kid. Gameschooling. My oldest two love to play games, but the younger kids can’t often join in. Gameschooling. I want to have fun with my children without being bored to tears by building another train track or Duplo creation (just keepin’ it real, folks). Gameschooling.
I beefed up my Amazon wish list, sent it to the grandparents, set my New Year’s resolution (have more fun with the kids!), and waited for the Christmas presents to roll in. (Yes, I hijacked my kids’ Christmas gifts for educational gaming purposes. They’re all happy with what they received, so no worries.)
Here’s what we got:
Sums in Space. Great for K or first grade addition and subtraction practice. It’s one that my older two can help the younger with, if I need to be attending to something else. The outer-space graphics are cute. Also, it can be played competitively OR cooperatively, so we have the option of avoiding sore losers!
Rat-a-Tat Cat. This was a little harder than I expected, but there are accommodations to make it easier for younger kids. I enjoy this one myself, as an adult! Good for comparing numbers; the object is to have the lowest score at the end.
Candy Land. I’m sure you all know this one already, but somehow we managed to get through three toddlers without owning it! My older two have been especially good about playing nicely with the three-year-old.
Four-Way Countdown. I have not played this one myself, but it seems to use a variety of mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division). It’s a popular one among the elementary school kids at our church.
Balance Beans. This is a one-player game that involves using cute little beans to balance a see-saw according to challenge cards, which come in four levels. My visual-spatial kid is especially good at it.
Scrambled States of America. This game goes along with this fun book. My second-grader says it’s “a little hard” for him, but he says that about a lot of things.
Flag Frenzy. This is the one game we got that we haven’t opened yet. I fondly remember combing the almanac to identify flags when playing Carmen Sandiego back in the 90s, so I’m hoping this has the same country-recognition factor to it.
No-Stress Chess. My oldest has been asking to learn how to play, and this was a great introduction (especially since I’m no good at it myself). It has several levels to ease you into playing “real” chess. He can beat me pretty easily already. J
Kingdom Builder. This was my husband’s pick for the family. It’s sort of a cross between Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and Carcassone. He and my oldest love it. I could take it or leave it.
Robot Turtles. This is hands-down the winner of everything we got. The instructions strongly recommend an adult’s involvement; it’s not actually necessary, but it does make for a fun afternoon: the kids get to boss me around! The game is designed to teach computer programming through a board game. I committed to playing with them one afternoon a week, and we’ve worked up to the second level. They use cards to tell their turtle where to move, and then I move the turtle according to their cards.
I’m way too Type A to chuck curriculum in favor of games, and they will always be supplemental in our house. Even still, I’m happy to be fostering a love of games early on, practicing skills “in secret” 9or not-so-secret, as in Sums in Space), and encouraging my boys to play together. Someday, when I’m (reluctantly) willing to let them stay up later than 7:30pm, it’ll be fun to play together as a family, doing something we’ve all learned to love!