How to add more play to your homeschool (and not feel guilty)

Written by Caitlin Curley of My Little Poppies

From history to language arts, math to music, and everything in between, don’t miss Cait’s full list of games for every subject!

week before Christmas, my husband turned to me and asked, “So… have they been doing any math?”*

I felt myself bristle at his words. I sat up straighter, jaw set, defensive. “Of course we’ve done math!” I sputtered.

We had done math, just not much traditional math because it was the holidays.

My mind raced:

  • We had read piles of math storybooks
  • The kids had followed a recipe for bird cookies independently, tripling the recipe so they would each have plenty
  • There had been lots of baking
  • The children had done some holiday shopping
  • We had watched a favorite DVD
  • And, of course, we had played countless board games

How to Play More in Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty) How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

But there was nothing tangible, no proof.

And that happens a lot with homeschooling.

Despite the intangible nature of our pre-Christmas mathematics, I was prepared to defend my case. After all, I know how well my children learn when I combine fantastic read alouds, experiential learning, and educational games.

I need not have worried; he believed me. There were no further questions. The doubt had passed.

* Now this is where I need to pause and tell you that my husband is my biggest homeschool supporter and cheerleader, but even the most amazing homeschool dads fall victim to occasional doubt and second-guessing… especially during holiday chaos!

The truth is, I used to doubt this approach to learning. 

  • Is it okay to set curriculum aside and pick up a book?
  • Can games be considered curriculum?
  • Does this really count as homeschooling?

Thankfully, this doubt has passed, too. I’ve been homeschooling long enough to know when we are doing something well.

I even have a name for it: gameschooling.

How to Play More in Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty) How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

How to add more play to your homeschool (and not feel guilty)

Our homeschool is not perfect, not even close. We have hard days and crabby days and sick days and full-of-doubt days, just like everyone else.

We have hard seasons when motivation plummets and you just feel stuck.

But, right now, we are in a good season and I’d like to share it with you, just in case you are feeling stuck.

I hope it will help.

Yes, homeschooling can be [almost] all fun and games. I’d like to show you how.

Put simply: play matters.

How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

In our homeschool, we play board games every single day. They are part of our homeschool curriculum. Time and time again, I have witnessed amazing learning and growth happen with this approach to learning.

I am convinced that, with a little planning, you could create an entire curriculum using educational board games and high-quality read alouds.

How to Play More in Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty) How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

Games are fantastic learning tools because they allow children to practice skills is a safe, supportive way… without red marks and criticism. Games encourage conversation, build connection, and make memories.

Still unsure? Let me give you some examples, broken down by subject.


Everyone is always worried about math and I’m here to tell you that games have not only improved my children’s mathematical skills, but they have also boosted their confidence!

Here are just a few of our family’s favorite math games:

  • Countdown! – This game is so versatile. It can be played solo or with up to four players and it is a great way to work on addition, subtraction, multiplication, and/or division- whatever you need to practice!
  • Sumoku – I always describe this game as a mathematical Bananagrams. Best of all? It fits in your purse!
  • Prime Climb – This is a visual masterpiece and our family’s favorite math game.

And while we’re on the subject of math, let’s not forget logic. There are many fantastic logic games on the market today including:

  • Rush Hour – If pressed to choose, this would be our family’s favorite one-player game. Kids love it!
  • Blokus – This is one of those games that can be explained in two minutes and enjoyed for years.

How to Play More in Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty) How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

Language Arts

There are countless games to choose from in this category. Our favorite games for pre-readers (and beyond) include:

For early readers, we love Sight Word Zingo… and kids do, too! I credit this game for helping all three of my children learn to read.

Older children will enjoy the following:

  • Bananagrams – This crossword-style game is easy to learn and always a hit, plus it travels well.
  • Boggle – Kids love this word search game, and it helps them learn spelling rules.

Science and Nature

If I ever feel like we’ve been slacking on science, I pull out one of our favorite games. Examples include:

  • Gravity Maze – In this one-player logic game, children learn the concept of gravity and cause-and-effect using a marble run.
  • Valence – The only requirement to play this card game is that children be able to add to zero. Kids will love the stunning graphics and they will learn advanced chemistry concepts.
  • Hit the Habitat Trail – In this game, kids learn all about animals, habitats, and environmental concerns.
  • Cardline Animals – This card game teaches children about various animals and sequencing as they race to put cards in order according to one of three categories: lifespan, size, or weight.

History and Geography

  • Timeline – I am thankful that my homeschool sister, Kara, introduced our family to this game, which is available in several versions and is such a fun way to learn history.
  • GeoBingo – Available in both USA and World editions, this game will teach your children geography in no time!
  • Flag Frenzy – If your children love Spot It, they will adore Flag Frenzy… and they will learn flags from around the globe!

What about all those other subjects?

I promise you, there is a game for every subject.

With a little planning, you can cover coding/technology, art, music, and even gym class. There are even games that help children learn to work together and improve social and communication skills.

Amazing learning happens when a family plays together. Trust me.

How to Add More Play to Your Homeschool (And Not Feel Guilty)

Give yourself permission to have more fun in the new year

So much learning happens when you relax and let it.

If you are looking to add more play to your homeschool day in the new year, I invite you to join our family in our 31-day Gameschool Challenge. I promise to share my best tips, tricks, and strategies for making games an integral part of your homeschool (and I have a few giveaways planned, too).

Tell us: Are you a gameschooling family? What is your favorite game right now? Share here.

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

About Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley

Cait is a school psychologist, mom to three amazing children, and an unexpected homeschooler. She loves nature, good books, board games, strong coffee, and dancing in her kitchen. You can read about all of these things and more at My Little Poppies. You can also find her hanging out with Kara at The Homeschool Sisters Podcast.


  1. We love board games and I was just counting some of the games we played last night in our lesson recorder.
    Blessings, dawn
    Dawn’s latest post: Christmas Break ~ The Learning Creeps In

  2. This is a great article. I shared it with my homeschool group. How do you document Game Schooling? I know my Right-Braining learner will thrive with games.

  3. We are in the early days of this! We just upped our game stash over Christmas with Rush Hour Jr and Zoologic! So fun! Plus we use Right Start Math as our math curriculum which uses lots of card games to practice. I have lots to learn but I like the idea!

  4. We got Superfight, Would You Rather?, Sushi Go, and Batman Story Cubes for Christmas and they are all hits. Also got Prime Climb, but have not played it yet. Wildcraft is a favorite around here also. 🙂

  5. We often neglect our game stack so I’ll pull out a bunch and we’ll have a random game day; putting our books away for a day.
    Joanne Rawson’s latest post: 52 Lists week 52; Goals for 2017

  6. Our 3 year old LOVES candyland ! Learning colors, counting, how to take turns, keeping track of your own guy, and fun!

    We also recently got “Go Oink” – Go Fish only with animals and you make the sound of the animal you want to ask for. Beginner logic (“which animal should I ask for?”) and fun animal sounds? Yes!

  7. We love games! I just added more bookcases to our home library area. Now we have better room to display all of our games and all of our books. Games are a huge part of our homeschool. My girls (5 and 7) really enjoy the independent logic games like Logic Street, Three Little Pigs, Penguins Pool Party, and more. Our current favorite board games are Monopoly Jr and the Trolls version of Trouble. We play regular card games like War and Go Fish. A new favorite is the dice game Tenzi. Just so many good games out there!

  8. We own and love Sum Swamp, Spot it, Sleeping queens and rat a tat cat 🙂
    Sarah B R’s latest post: The gifts that came before Christmas

  9. I just love the embrace of games over the past year in homeschooling circles. I used so many when I taught in a gifted middle school classroom–especially loved SET. Now (happily) at home we love both the “real” version as well as the Jr. one. Solid suggestions for lots of fun days of play!
    Heather @wellermommablog’s latest post: 10 Ways to Be A Happy {more} Relaxed Mom this Year

  10. We have been enjoying sushi go. The kids add up their scores. Secret learning!

  11. Loved this article so much that I shared it on The Contemporary Homeschooler Facebook page! Thanks!

  12. Our favorite game right now is one my kids made up with Dad. It’s called POUND…the game pieces are little kitties. It’s there special thing with Dad, so I’m not exactly sure of all the rules. If I’m playing we are enjoying the Great States game or another choice.

  13. I’m a huge believer in adding games to homeschool and education in general. I’m thrilled to see that you have showcased games I don’t have (and we have a lot of games!!). We use them extensively and all the way through high school as well. I can’t emphasize enough the value of games (board and card games, not computer 😉 in helping introduce, reinforce or learn a concept or skill. Well done!

  14. I love this idea of incorporating more games into our homeschooling. We have the Tell Me a Story cards with the woodland critters in it, and I’ve had my eye on Timeline. Some of the educational games I’ve bought in the past include: Earth, Ocean, and Space (trivia cards about each subject), which I picked up at the Olympic National Forest, and Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game for teaching herbalism:

    Thank you for the excellent resources. Though my teen already has a lot of games she enjoys, my son is still in preschool and has years of exploration to go in our homeschool.

  15. Knockout/Muggins is a great math game, too. The board is wood and lasts forever. We love Dominion and Carcassonne for strategy and fun, too.

  16. We are loving the new Bananagrams with word families. We also love Wildcraft, Camp, Harry Potter Clue, and good ole Battleship. I agree. Board games are one of the best ways to learn and build community. Thanks for the great suggestions!
    Kelly Sage’s latest post: Seven!

  17. Thanks so much for this, I have my 16,8 and 4 enrolled in an amazing online curriculum that lets them work at their pace, even if there is something from lets say 4th grade u forgot, you’ll have to learn it. But I find myself struggling now with “is this enough syndrome, lol” .my first year I looked at the standards and created everything on my own, we loved it, really! But it’s a lot, plus clean, cook,dogs,bills….I’m falling behind. So I’m grateful for the school but miss the fun, so much. I feel it’s more a rat race. Did I teach them every historical person I should have for 3rd grade? Did my son, learn all he could have? Am I meet iing the bar for my 16 yr old that still struggles in 8th grade math? Ughhh scary! And just reading you blog, I’m buying some games this weekend! I think I need to chill😂xoxox

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