Games as Homeschool Learning Tools
Homeschooling with Games and Puzzles
Long before I was a homeschooling mom I had a special passion for games and puzzles. I grew up in a family where my earliest memory of Scrabble was that is was my job to bang on the piano to distract my mom when it was her turn (my Dad wasn’t very nice to her but that’s another story). I still love to play word games with my mom (now I only distract her by taking to long to think about my move) and anyone else who will play with me. Not only did I use games and puzzles as a big part of my children’s learning but I later taught several semesters of a class on Learning Games at a homeschool coop in our area and presented the topic at a Homeschool Conference. Some of this post is based on materials I developed for that conference.
Resources for Beggining Gamers
Before Sudoku became a household word I was subscribing to puzzle magazines that had Sudoku and other math and logic puzzles. Highlights publishes a magazine called Puzzlemania which has great puzzles for younger children http://www.book-club-offers.com/puzzle-mania/. Usborne books also has some great puzzle books for young learners, http://www.usbornebooks.com/. I started my kids out once they could read a little doing the easiest logic puzzles in the magazines I already subscribed to and you can either get subscriptions or order back issues in value packs from http://www.pennydellpuzzles.com/default.aspx. I also used to make up some of my own based on things that interested them. My husband showed me how to make up grids like they use in the magazines in Excel and that worked for all kinds of puzzles for my game class.
You Don't Have to Stick to the Rules
Thinking Creatively you can take some traditional games and adapt them to what you are learning. I have taken BOGGLE and actually set up the letters in such a pattern to have some sounds we were working on be included like make sure there are “ch” and “sh” on the tiles and then give your kids extra points for works using those or other select combinations. For my classes I did a challenge also with Boggle. I made up a grid on paper filling in letters from a randomly shook up board. First I had my own kids all list every word they could find and rewarded the one who found the most, then I created a master list of those words and played it with my class. After they were done I compared their lists to mine and paid 5 cents a word for any legal word they had that wasn’t on my master list and then went home and expanded my list for the next time I challenged a group with this. There were always a few more words and it gave some extra incentive to the game.
Favorite Traditional and Not So Traditional Games
As far as more traditional games there are millions of games available (see some of the web sites below). I have picked our family favorites and ones that I find have staying power. A great idea when family members ask what to buy the kids for birthdays, holidays, etc.
S’math – A Scrabble like math game can be used with just addition/subtraction, with division/multiplication added up to algebraic operations.
YAHTZEE - Good for basic math skills, the strategy will keep older learners interested.
24 – There are many variations of this game now sold working on different math skills. The original dealt with multiplication and factors.
Tip: If you are teaching your kids word games, which they can play for life like Scrabble and Upwords buy the official Scrabble Dictonary (it’s inexpensive in paperback). It has strange words but real word game fans know them. If not always agree on the dictionary you will allow words from before you play. If your really serious you can find lists of 2 and 3 letter words on-line that are valuable for the serious Scrabble player.
SCRABBLE – Classic Word Game
UPWORDS - SCRABBLE EDITION – Similar to Scrabble, can change words by building on top of letters, allows more chances for younger players to play equally.
BOGGLE – Players try to make as many words with adjoining letters before the timer. Can also be used by a group or multiple groups rotating among several set games. Can set board to work on certain skills, vocabulary, etc.
Flustered puzzles – a reverse form of boggle (found in Dell & Official Logic) or make up your own.
QUIDDLER - THE SHORT WORD GAME– A card game played in rounds. Cards have letters and values. Bonuses are given for longest and most words per round. Simple and fun.
SCATTERGORIES– Players try to find words starting with the letter rolled to fit a list of categories. This game has a lot of adaptability. For older children you can follow the rules as written. For younger children you can get rid or lengthen time limits, write your own category lists or play as a cooperative game. Great for teaching creativity and thinking outside the box.
TRIBOND– There are travel versions of this game that are inexpensive (and great for travel too). Players are given 3 words or phrases and need to find the common theme.
Where in the World Is Carmon Sandiago. There are board and PC versions of these games based on the PBS series.
SCRAMBLED STATES OF AMERICA GAME - Kind of silly but kids love it. Learn state facts, some chance based on card pictures. Reinforces names of States and Capitals.
RISK – World Game – involves war strategies with dice and cube like armies, there are classic and newer versions of this game.
Pencil & Paper Puzzles
Crytograms and Crytoquizzes
Crossword Puzzles – Do as a contest, each family member working at their own level. See who finishes first or gets the most of their puzzle done, then help each other fill in missing answers.
A site my son recently sent me for a variety of puzzles on-line http://www.conceptispuzzles.com/index.aspx?uri=puzzle
Misc. Games of Strategy and Thinking Skills
Chess, Checkers, Backgammon (THREE-IN-ONE WOODEN GAME COLLECTION)
MANCALA – An African game involving placing small stones in a pattern.
Racko – Number sequencing game, combination of luck and skill in planning.
CRANIUM – a great family game or for a group, some of the items are hard for younger children but teams work very well. Involves word puzzles, charades, drawing, sculpting clay, humming and a lot of other creative activities.
RUMMIKUB ORIGINAL - Similar to 500 Rummy played with tiles.
Fluxx – A unique game where the rules change with the cards you play. Get a few extra, they make great gifts.
MILLE BORNES CARD GAME - A classic French card game involving strategy and luck. Block your opponents progress as you try to finish the race.
APPLES TO APPLES – This is a lot of fun and creative, the larger the group the better. Cards with things/expressions are matched to the dealers card and the dealer judges the best answer in their opinion. The dealer rotates each turn. Great for families or groups of all sizes. APPLES TO APPLES JUNIOR
Rummy, 500 Rummy, Pinochle, Black Jack, Solitaire (get a book of Card Games)
Computer Games and Web Sites
Zoombinis – Series of Logic PC games
Adventure Games (great for family play) – Monkey Island Series, Kings Quest Series (especially the earlier ones), Simon the Sorcerer (1 & 2 are best) http://www.mrbillsadventureland.com/ Game Reviews and great information
Reviews of Educational Software
Ideas for Incorporating Games into Learning:
Places to Learn About New Games and Buy If You Like
There are lots of sites out there that sell games. These are some that offer better prices or good reviews. I try to buy games from Chinaberry Books (http://www.chinaberrybooks.com/) because they are a business I like to support and they only sell games they have tested and reviewed. Fun Books
http://www.educationallearninggames.com Excellent selection and good prices
http://shop.nationalgeographic.com Interesting geography games