I have wondered if I should sell a curriculum completely based on games. I think I have the experience to come up with a pretty decent list - at least for elementary school.
The kids have learned everything from math to history to how to get along from games. Not intentionally. Since games are, to us, some serious fun. On hindsight, however, it's hard to miss just how much they've learned.
My 9 year old son, Cameron, has always loved games. It was a natural thing for his life-learning to be based on games. I didn't have to make it a point to play games with him. Just having them around was enough of an invitation. And when what we had available wasn't what he wanted to do, he'd make up his own games. And now that he has two enthusiastic siblings to play with, he makes even more variations.
My middle child, Allison, who is now 6 and a half, was slow to warm up to games. She is slow to warm up to most things, actually. But when she finally warms up to something - WATCH OUT! Now that she's got the game bug, she's just as enthusiastic as Cameron. She's the one asking HIM to play. She's the one who says, "One more?" When nobody wants to play with her at the moment, she plays by herself until we've regenerated our energy stores. Her game energy never seems to be depleted these days.
You know what set off this whole game thing off for Allison? Pokemon. The card game, to be precise.
My husband and I, who have always loved card games, decided to start playing Pokemon, with the intention of getting Cameron involved with us. Something we could all do together. Plus, it would satisfy my husband's love for collecting things. (You should see his comic book collection that started when he was 10.) It's a straightforward, enjoyable game to play. And it's cute.
Apparently, this is the perfect combination for Allison. She felt at home. She "got" it right away. Pouring over the cards day and night. Intensely curious every time we opened a new booster pack with new cards in it.
Now, a few months later, now that she has memorized the entire Pokédex (I will never worry about this child not memorizing her multiplication tables), she has blossomed into a "any game" gamer. While she used to sit back and watch when we brought out a new game or new activity, she now jumps in with both feet. She's figured out "games", and anything that remotely falls in that category is safe to her now.
My daughter, if you haven't guessed by now, is a self-imposed perfectionist. This means, that even when there is a clear indication that it's perfectly OK to do something poorly, she still won't try it. She prefers to watch, figure out how things work, and create a strategy before stepping up and giving it a go. Her approach to new things in life is only a problem when I'm in a hurry, and feel the need to rush her into participation. Usually caused by parent peer pressure, feeling like a failure that my child won't say "how high" when a teacher says "jump." Otherwise, her cautious approach to life is just who she is. She is the last one to jump off the cliff. And then sometimes decides not to jump off the cliff at all.
But games, this has turned into a whole new avenue for Allison - the avenue where she isn't cautious. In fact, she can barely stand it when we bring a new game out of the closet. "How do you play this one?" she asks, flailing her arms around and jumping up and down.
The little one, who is almost four, she's involved in all of this too. She doesn't understand what's going on, exactly. But she can tell it's fun. And she's not able to take part in it directly. So she sits in our lap, plays with the extra pieces, and stays engaged in her own way. She may not be able to play the 'big kid' games yet, but she's not going to miss out on all this social time!
(Sometimes, when I'm playing a big kid game, I'll pull out The Little Pet Shop game or PB&J to play with her when it's not my turn. Or we read books.)
The kids are so enthralled with games right now, it's the first thing they do when they wake up, and the last thing they do before going to bed. It's not unusual to have a half-done game sitting on the floor over night, that receives an enthusiastic "good morning" the next day.
This is a unit study we did not plan. And in a way, it's not really a unit study. It's more of an intense upswing on something we do all the time anyway.
Playing games is part of our life. And right now, playing games pretty much IS our life. We're enjoying every minute of it.
Oh, I better finish this blog post. The kids are asking me to play Monopoly Jr. with them.
Tammy Takahashi lives and learns with her three children (10, 7 and 4) and supportive husband in California. She is the author of Deschooling Gently: A Step by Step Guide to Fearless Homeschooling. She also serves as the editor of the California HomeSchooler magazine, a bi-monthly publication for the Homeschool Association of California. You can read more from her about education and homeschooling on her website. And you can email her at tammy.takahashi @ gmail(dot)com.