Gameschooling – or how to include games in your education

Gameschooling – or how to include games in your education

Faye C

When I was a shiny new home educator, I read an article by a teacher who had home educated her children and devised programs for others. She said that with a carefully curated collection of board, table and card games, you can pretty much take care of a child’s primary school curriculum. Even as someone who enjoys games, I thought this was a little, well, strange. 

Now years down the track, I can certainly see the truth in what she said! Regardless of the home ed style you use, games are a great element to include. I do now believe you can ‘gameschool’ and easily cover all the educational-y stuff without having to buy workbooks or other school-like materials to learn the same content. I’ve seen it with my own children and others. Of course we tend to learn and retain information more when we’re having fun. A game of Parliament covers so much of a school Civics curriculum: you can learn the same content through playing this game as you would when using a high school textbook or studying material aimed at schools. 

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on your game collection. A lot of my games come from op shops, second hand stores and eBay. If you’re buying from an op shop, be sure to ask if you can check for all the pieces before purchasing. There are also dedicated buy-sell- swap groups for games and ‘gameschooling’ communities within the home education world. For learning how to play, I tend to favour watching YouTube videos before sitting down with the family and, depending on the game, I like the family to watch the videos too. Websites such as BoardGameGeek are very handy for learning about a game before you purchase. 

Games can also be a springboard into further learning. Using some of my family’s games as an example, here are some ideas on where a favourite game can take you. 

Carcassonne: look up the town of Carcassone in southern France and learn about the medieval history. Plan your holiday: how would you get from Paris to Carcassonne? 

Squatter: how would extreme weather conditions affect your station? What’s involved with keeping your sheep healthy? What problems do you have to guard against? 

Scotland Yard: compare the board locations to a map of London. What landmarks can you find? How do the locations of the landmarks in the game differ from the map? 

Our HEN community was asked to share some of their favourite games and here are the responses. 

Iota is good for logic, pattern matching, sequential planning etc. Recommended for 8+ but would suit some younger children. Also love Bananagrams for all ages. Great for spelling and language, but also good for developing flexibility and quick thinking, as it’s not tied into word placement like you are in Scrabble -Nicci 

I use a maths curriculum that regularly uses card games to reinforce learning -Nancy 

We love board games! We love Uno of course. Phase 10 is a good one, RummyO from Kmart and the boys like Exploding Kittens and Sequence -Kobe Jane 

I’ve just canvassed the room and we have two votes for Catan (a resources and settlement game), a vote for 5 Second Rule (good for quick thinking Skills) and one vote for Guess Who (great for younger kids) –Emma 

Zeus on the Loose (Greek Mythology & arithmetic), Rush Hour (perceptual reasoning, logic), Chess (working memory and strategic thinking), playing cards (specific exercises to help processing speed), Exploding Kittens (because it’s so much fun!), Purrlock Holmes (deductive reasoning), Forbidden Island/Desert (co- operative strategising), Mahjong (visual processing and strategies). These are just some of the games we’ve used over the years, there are so many others! -Jem 

We still love Wildcraft! Health/biology/medicine, nature/environment/science etc. It’s a cooperative game, so everyone gets to help each other through the game rather than try to “win” on their own. Chess. Card games – we make them up as well as play known games. It works the brain to follow the “new” rules/games! Uno is still loved after all these years -Sam 

The whole family LOVES Carcassonne; easy to pick up, not hard to learn but with so many different angles to play each turn; we’re always working on our strategies. I’d recommend getting the add ons
in one go – pricey but works out cheaper in the end and has opened the game up to be played with much more. We found that the scoring board set up and the system for scoring this game has been great for the kids to count by 2s, 5,s etc. Others we like: 

  • Ticket to Ride – Great strategy, planning, thinking ahead, having to be adaptive, connecting. 
  • UNO
  • Spot it-great for visual perception, speed and reflexes, the need to pay attention and keep the concentration going 
  • Pentago and Quoridor get used a fair bit. Need to think and plan ahead with these and be adaptive. Very easy to learn and pick up 
  • IQ Fit and IQ Puzzler 
  • Rabbit Rally is simple and well liked. It’s great for math, measuring distance, estimating

We like our co-operative games and current favourites include Pandemic and Codenames Duet. We have a just obtained Forbidden Island (Gamewright version) we will try soon too. Plus we like roleplaying too – Joanne 

We have discovered a few new games recently (my kids are 11,14,18). Jaipur (Indian trading game for two players), Carcassonne (tile game claiming castles and land), Code Names (must give one word clues about a word/picture, bonus for a word which covers many pictures), Werewolf (party style game with lying and deduction involved). Old favourites like Mastermind, Rummikub, Scrabble (twist), cards, Game of Life! So much maths, negotiation, planning, and good old social skills being practiced -Heidi 

We love Menagerie which is available from Healesville Zoo. It has numerous add-on habitats but I’m afraid to say I got the last copies of two of them available in Australia after the publisher informed me it was out of print and gave me the contact details of the creator who gave me his last demonstration (slightly used) packet. My son was given PayDay as a birthday gift, that’s also great for some money related budgeting kind of awareness -Sarah 

PayDay is our go to at the moment and a childhood fave of mine! Lots of opportunities for discussions about budgeting, value, markups and the risks of gambling! –Kamya

We just got a new board game called Where To? from Little Passports. It says ages 7+ on the box but my 5 year old has been joining in with some help. It has a map of the world on the board and the cards give you activities to go to different places around the world all whilst making decisions along the way, learning where different places are and what you might see or do there. Even my 13-year-old has been enjoying playing it. We also all love PayDay and Rush Hour for individual problem-solving skills building – Donna 

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