Keep Learning Fun

Keep Learning Fun

Walking that very thin line between teaching your kids what they need to know and keeping it fun so they WANT to know it is never easy. When I first started homeschooling, my four children were very young,  and– thanks to some pretty intensive one-on-one time– we were often done with our school day before noon. At first this seemed great– until I realized that it was still hours away from my evening backup walking in the door.  School may have been done for the day, but my kids’ need for attention and stimulation wasn’t.  I solved the dilemma by instituting “Game Time After Quiet Time.” Board games (Sorry), cards games (War), puzzle games.  You name it.  All games were welcome as long as they provided us with quality learning time together, and let’s face it– minimizing their urges to kill each other and hide the bodies.  Strategy became a big part of game selection.  Older children chose games that increased their chances of winning, while my younger kids usually picked games that “encouraged” (i.e., “forced”) the older ones to learn patience.   We all have fond memories of this game time.

As our kids grow, their curricula obviously grows with them, along with each child’s need for more individualized attention. “No more game time?!?  Are you kidding me?!?”  As much as I missed it, too, we just no longer had the time.  Until Game Fridays were born. Every Friday after lunch each child brought one game to the table and we played each game before wrapping up our school week.  Justifying each game’s educational reach became a bit of an elaborate stretch at times, but they all worked so hard all week long to make sure all of their work was done by lunch on Friday.  Game Fridays became an incentive as well as a learning tool.  The popular games in late elementary school included Monopoly, Risk, Rummy, and any game that improved memory.

My four kids now range in age from kindergarten all the way into high school, and finding games they can agree on– as well as the time to play them– is challenging, to say the least.   With all of their different after-school activities, plus the time I spend grading all of their work, getting dinner ready, and cleaning up dog slobber, time for educational games is a luxury and commodity I thought was gone forever.  After  a particularly busy day recently, the kids were sitting around the dinner table reminiscing about how school used to be more fun.  I explained that time was limited, but that I was open to suggestions.  Game Time After Quiet Time had evolved into Game Fridays, so I guess it’s only natural that I now take advantage of one of the few times of day that I have a captive audience– the dinner table.  I now keep a decorative box in the middle of the table, containing flash cards for each child.  There are SAT vocabulary cards for the oldest, presidents of the United   States for the next, multiplication cards for the 4th grader, and sight words for my kindergarten student.  While I am cooking, someone is “flashing” someone else, and when dinner is served, we play Left-Center-Right or UNO.

Thanks to the curse of the After School Scheduling Demons, dinner game time doesn’t happen every night, so we recently put some of our favorite games into a bucket that stays in the car.  My kids play a lot of sports in a lot of places, which means lots of time in the car or waiting at a field.  We are the goofy family, who pops out the bucket in between games for all the kids to hang out under the tent and enjoy a little down time until the next game starts.  I am incredibly grateful that what began as a desperate attempt to keep my sanity, has evolved into a lasting memory for my family.  I think everyone should have a few standby games nearby to make learning a little more fun.

About Kim Pray

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