Friday, November 11, 2011

How We Learn: Playing Games

Over the time that we've been homeschooling now, I've occasionally deviated from the unschooling method that obviously works so well for us to try out other systems, only to be struck by the also obvious failure of those systems.

Nope, my girls do NOT want to sit down and do formal academic activities every day. Requiring them to do so only resulted in power struggles, them figuring out how to do a half-assed job on an assignment to get it over with, and almost ruining their pleasure in activities like worksheets and the other school-ish projects that they do enjoy when they're presented casually, as one interesting part of an entire interesting day.

These days, I tend to let my little free-range girls run wild, and they tend to spend their days in elaborate pretend games that run from inside to outside and inside again, in listening to audiobooks, in playing the ridiculous number of computer games that we check out from the public library, in hanging out in parks and playgrounds, in solving mazes, in immersing themselves in elaborate and really messy art projects, in reorganizing their toy Egyptian pyramid, in jumping rope, in collecting leaves, in baking cookies, in checking out too many books from the library, in coming with me to puppet shows and museums and children's parties and playgroups, in reading for hours in various little hidey-holes around the house, in pestering the cats, in sewing stuff, in having lots of playdates with their friends, in fooling around with magnets, in playing with their collection of little toy animals that I keep buying them despite the clear indication that they have plenty...

It's actually easy for all of us to get lost in our days these days. The girls can happily spend an entire day, after their chores are done, making their own meals and snacks, getting out and putting away their own activities, moving from quiet, individual time to wild and loud play with each other, running inside and outside, hopping in the shower if they feel like it, turning on the Netflix streaming for their choice of the day and then turning it off when their show is through, all without assistance from me. When the kids are happy and don't need me, I go about my own business--blogging, photographing, making, writing, cooking, cleaning, planning, etc.

For my own benefit--just to spend a little time with my babies, some days!--I ask them, for their "school," to simply spend time each day doing a one-on-one activity with me. With Sydney, I may find myself reading an entire children's chapter book (that's almost a two-hour commitment, by the way, after which I often need to be committed, myself!), or baking something, or doing art, or putting together a puzzle.

With Willow, it's one choice only:


Blokus, Othello, Quirkle, chess, Battleship, Monopoly Junior, Sorry, quiz decks, Chutes and Ladders, cards, checkers, Connect Four, Scrabble--my Willow loves them all.

Shh...don't tell her that these games are also highly educational, and give her killer math skills and hone her logical reasoning, which will help her learn even more. I wouldn't dream of telling her that Blokus increases her intuitive knowledge of geometry, which is going to make future formal study of it easier, or that Quirkle is all about honing her pattern recognition, which is the key to a high IQ, or that Othello and chess are making her a masterful tactician, or that Monopoly Junior is all about computation, or that Scrabble is not just about spelling and vocabulary but also about anagrams, or that if there's ever a math skill that I want her to learn, I just teach her a card game that reinforces it.

Just tell her that our time together every day, just she and I, is special, and that her Momma loves it:

Which I do.


Tina said...

We love Blockus and I need to find othello, it was a favorite when I was a kid. Around here it is Ponyopoly and an old game of Gramma's called shufflers. I blogged about it today.

Learning through playing is do fun! Off to make barbie clothes

Stephanie said...

Hmmm. Pretty familiar territory, this. :)

I almost brought up Qwirkle the other day... it's been a while!

Same here. I don't demand lessons or other particular things, but I do love to play with my babies, and spending time together is a priority. All of us suggest things (and can say "Nay"), and come up with ideas.

I love doing it that way!

Unknown said...

I just read your article in the most recent Home Education Magazine, and I stopped by to say hi! My daughters are voracious readers, so I identified with that from the article.

I really like this post. It sounds very much like the way things have evolved into being at our house. I am unable to make any academic requirements on my girls' time or I meet huge power struggles, too. Things go along much more smoothly when I follow their lead and offer choices (which can be rejected). I like the idea of asking your girls to spend some one-on-one time with you each day...I REALLY like that idea!!

I'm glad to have found you, and I'll be following along.

cake said...

We don't know Othello or Qwirkle. Sounds like we need to. I think these same sorts of things when Cosmo is the banker when we play is current favorite game: monopoly. I scored a nice vintage one a few months ago, and it blows me away how quickly the boy makes change now! He also just plays with money. A lot! sorting, making amounts with different configurations of coins...
He got blockus for his birthday, and we all like it. Rush Hour is another fantastic game.
I want Willow and Cosmo to have a chance to play some games together!

Shel said...

Your days sound pretty much exactly like our days! If it ends up feeling too "schooly" my girls (especially Grace, my oldest) totally shut down. Unschooling is such a beautiful fit for us and I am so grateful to get to live such an incredible life and have my babes experience this too!

We love games and are looking forward to adding more to our cupboard! So many wonderful posts to read and so many wonderful games to discover now!

You can check out my post here:

Have a great weekend!