Cait’s Gameschool Day ~
Written by Caitlin Curley of My Little Poppies
This is my sixth year participating in Simple Homeschool’s Day in the Life series. Every year, I try my best to keep it real and that’s easier said than done! It’s challenging to share a ‘typical’ day.
Our family doesn’t really have ‘typical’ days in a typical-kind-of-year.
This year? What even is school? What is time? What day is it?
(Can you relate??)
I procrastinated on writing this post. I kept waiting for a normal-ish day to appear. I might as well wait for a unicorn to appear in my family room! And so I present to you our gameschool day in the life for Monday, February 8th, 2021… the day before this article is due.
Before I share our day in the life for February 8th, I need to rewind a little.
Do people still say rewind? Is there a 2021 term I should use instead of rewind? What was I just talking about?
This is how my brain works now, in 2021 times. I walk into a room and forget why I’m there. I lose my coffee, only to find it lukewarm on some random shelf in my pantry hours later. I can’t think of simple words and terms, like ‘lampshade,’ and instead, need to talk in circles. “You know! The thing! That thing! On the light! The lightbulb cover thingy!”
The past year-plus has been hard, you guys. It’s been hard for every one of us in a myriad of different ways. Words are hard. Complete thoughts are hard. Homeschooling is hard. Laundry is [still] hard.
I need to rewind a few days. I had planned to document our day in the life last Friday. I was excited to share some of the resources we’ve been using for our latest Lazy Unit Study. We are head over heels for all things bird-related right now and having a blast.
Best laid plans, am I right?
On Friday morning my daughter woke up with an excruciating headache and a super high fever. This is the kid who never gets sick; she’s my best patient. This is maybe her third fever ever.
In normal times, we’d hunker down and have a lazy day. But in 2021 times, and because we have been really careful with social distancing and mask use, and because my husband works directly with COVID positive patients in the ICU, I left the boys at home and took her to our pediatrician for testing.
And then we had our lazy day. It was a total snooze-fest and not worth writing about. And then it was the weekend and we weren’t homeschooling. And then yesterday into this morning we had a snowstorm.
Fast forward to today. It’s Monday, February 8th. We are post-sick. It’s kind of a snow day. And we are in quarantine awaiting test results.
How’s that for typical?!
And without further ado, I present to you our non-typical day in an anything but typical year.
This has been- by far- our most challenging homeschool year. And our most challenging year as a family. It’s all just total and complete bananas.
In October, I wrote an article for this site in which I shared how we were muddling through the worst year ever. I confessed that we hadn’t had an official first day of school. I shared how we had yet to find a routine.
Honestly? Not much has changed since then. Read-alouds, hours spent in nature, and play are the things that are giving us life in this season.
Hearts over heads, always but especially right now.
We’ve been able to add to our homeschool routine since last October. We have fallen into a bit of a rhythm. Things feel a bit easier than they did in the fall and we tend to accomplish a bit more. I’ve also given myself lots of grace. I’m not sure anyone is having their best year ever. If I don’t get to math or writing one day, we’ll survive.
One helpful thing is to do some low-key, lazy prepping the night before. I’ll select some books I’d like to read. Collect notebooks and sharpened pencils. Strew some creative resources related to a current area of interest. This has made the mornings infinitely easier. I come downstairs, pour my coffee, and the materials are ready to go.
Last night, as I prepped for a day of post-sick, semi-snow-day quarantining, I decided it should be a gameschool day.
Why? Because re-entry is hard when you aren’t feeling 100%. And energy is high following a hefty helping of snow. And games are a wonderful way to connect and sneak in stealth learning.
I grabbed some of our favorite card games and placed them beside my coffee maker. I call this a “game menu” and it works like a charm for my family. It’s merely a suggestion and often my children will play many of the games I suggest.
Once I’d selected the games, I went upstairs to read until I fall asleep in my book, as I do most evenings.
Play and gameschooling is an important part of our homeschool routine.
We all know play is essential for child development. Play benefits the whole child. It has a positive impact on a child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development.
It can be challenging to make space for play in our current go-go-go, do all the things, ace all the tests society. Leaving space for play can feel like we’re wasting time. It can feel like it shouldn’t “count” as learning and that we’re somehow cheating the system.
Well, I’m here to tell you that gameschooling works. As a school psychologist, lifelong gamer, and homeschool mom, I believe homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be perfect, but I do believe we could all be having a lot more fun.
Gameschooling is the intersection of play and homeschooling. With gameschooling, you can allow space for play and make it count for those year-end homeschool assessments.
Our family considers play to be a part of our homeschool routine. It is just as important as math and science and writing and reading. We play at least one game per day and often, on strange days like today, we play even more.
(If you’re curious about gameschooling, I’m hosting a free 7-Day Gameschool Kickstart challenge. It’s oodles of fun and the only thing you need is a deck of cards!)
Cait’s Gameschool Day in the Life
This morning, I woke up at 5:55. I grabbed my slippers, threw on a hoodie, and poured myself a cup of coffee. I love when I wake up before my early-risin’ kiddos. I’m currently reading The Snow Child (afflinks) and it’s fantastic. It’s the perfect snow day book!
Before I sit down to read, I toss some cinnamon buns in the oven. They aren’t homemade, but my kids don’t mind. I find cinnamon buns to be an excellent re-entry strategy.
I read until my three children trickle down the stairs. We meet at the kitchen island for breakfast. This is the start of our homeschool morning routine.
Our current morning routine includes:
- Kid Nuz podcast – A bite-sized current events podcast that isn’t too heavy for my sensitive kiddos.
- The Daily Poem Podcast – This podcast has been on a long break and we’ve been listening to re-runs. We were delighted to see it was back this morning.
- SQUILT – Every morning we listen to the piece listed on the SQUILT daily listening calendar. This morning, we enjoyed John Coltrane’s My Favorite Things.
- Copywork- I usually select a thought-provoking quote, poetry stanza, or famous line from a novel.
And then it is time for our most treasured homeschool routine. It is called “Coffee and Books” and it is as simple as it sounds. I drink coffee and read books to my kids as they eat.
Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. Reading aloud is the most important part of the entire homeschool day and our Coffee and Books routine allows me to tackle the most important thing first thing in the morning.
This morning we read the following:
- Several poems from Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds (We are knee-deep in a Lazy Unit Study on birds and have been loving this collection.)
- Two stories from Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents.
- Two chapters from our current read-aloud obsession, Astrid the Unstoppable.
When our read-aloud is finished, it’s time for the kids to brush their teeth and do their morning chores. This provides a movement break for everyone. Then it’s time to regroup in front of the woodstove for our day of gameschooling.
This morning, everyone agreed to play Skyjo first. This is unusual. We typically have some sibling negotiation, but everyone is on a Skyjo kick lately.
This is a big win for me because Skyjo is a fantastic card game that has a ton of math. When you play, you’re practicing addition and subtraction, the use of negative numbers, and probability.
Of course, I don’t tell the kids all of that. When it comes to gameschooling, it’s about the connection. That’s where the magic happens. Connect first and just watch the learning unfold.
As a lifelong gamer, I have a large game collection but this collection has grown slowly and intentionally over several decades. I truly believe that you can gameschool well with a deck of cards. So if you don’t have Skyjo at home, fear not.
There are so many fantastic math games that you can play with that deck of cards sitting in your junk drawer!
After Skyjo, we decided to play Last Letter. This is a fast-paced seek-and-find-meets-language-arts game. Each player is dealt a hand of cards. There are interesting scenes on each card. Then, you turn over a card from the deck. Players race to “match” a card in their hand with the card on the table (or in this case carpet) using a word.
For example, the face-up card might have a circus on it and I might have a card in my hand that has a tiger. I would put my card on top of the circus card and say, “Tiger!” Then, it’s time to use the last letter. The card I placed face-up would now be the card everyone wants to match, but they’d have to find something on the card in their hand that begins with the letter R.
Again, you don’t have to have the game Last Letter to enjoy some stealthy language arts fun. You could play I Spy with your children using the same last letter rule. If you spy a table, your child will have to find something that starts with an E next and so on. There are also tons of free and super affordable print and play language arts games on websites like Teachers Pay Teachers.
After a couple of rounds of Last Letter, my oldest asked to play Maestro Mastery. This is a new-to-us game that I’ve been playing with my younger two.
For whatever reason, my oldest hasn’t had a chance to play yet and he was excited to try it out.
Maestro Mastery is a memory-style card game featuring famous composers. When you make a match, you read aloud to the group from the card. All three of my kiddos take piano lessons and this complements the lessons beautifully. We can’t wait to show the game to our piano teacher once we’re officially out of quarantine!
Again, if you don’t have a music game at home, you can find free and affordable online music study resources. SQUILT has a few games available and you can find others on Teachers Pay Teachers and Etsy.
At this point, everyone is hungry. Often, we’ll listen to a podcast while we eat lunch. Today, the kids elect to listen to The Strange Animals Podcast. Today, we learn all about the Lightbulb Lizard!
After lunch, I clean up while the kids go outside to shovel the front walk. This is something dad asked them to do before he left for work. The snow is fluffy and they end up playing outside for close to two hours.
On a typical Monday afternoon, we meet friends for a socially-distanced hike at our favorite nature center. In fact, we hike most weekday afternoons. That said, today is not a typical day. We are sad to miss the hike but we are still waiting for the test results.
I use this time to tackle laundry, make an orthodontist appointment, and check-in with my 7-Day Gameschool Kickstart participants. Most importantly, I get a call from the pediatrician’s office telling us my daughter is negative for COVID so I do a happy dance in my kitchen!
One of my favorite things in this life is rosy-cheeked kids. After almost two hours of snow play, my three came inside for some tea and games. We start with Organ ATTACK!
Organ ATTACK! is described as “a family-friendly organ harvesting game.” I know that sounds horrible but it is downright hilarious!
And do you know what? Those fact-filled funny cards help human anatomy facts to stick like glue!
If you don’t have a game like Organ ATTACK! at home, you could “play” your way through human anatomy with free online activities. Here are some creative ideas!
Next up, we played a Professor Noggin American History game. This Professor Noggin series is fantastic because the trivia games are affordable and they cover a variety of academic subjects.
When we finished the Professor Noggin game, it was just after five o’clock. We ran out of time to play the art game (Show Me the Monet) and the geography game (The World Game), but that’s okay!
The goal is connection over perfection and completion. What matters is that we were present and playing together. We can play more tomorrow!
We cleaned up our games and I prepped for taco night. Yes, it’s a Monday, but re-entry is hard and I’ve found tacos to be a guaranteed win.
As I work on dinner, my little two engage in free play. I’ve mentioned that we are gameschoolers, but it’s really the play aspect of gameschooling that is important to me, as a mom and educator.
I know that it can be hard to allow space for free play, but I have seen our daily homeschool work its way into my children’s play time and time again. As Mr. Rogers said, “Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” It’s true!
I love to eavesdrop on my children’s play. Tonight, my little two are lost in a storyline about pandemics and quarantine. One character is a doctor who works in the ICU.
This storyline is bittersweet, but I know they are working through important thoughts and feelings, especially as their dad works on the frontlines.
Meanwhile, my oldest is lost in a book. I’m an old-fashioned book nerd and I’ve been resistant to e-readers. I just love the feel of a book in my hands.
That said, 2020 made it extremely difficult to keep my kids in books with the libraries closed and so each kiddo got a Kindle for Christmas. They have absolutely loved having access to many books again.
Tonight, my husband is home in time for dinner and that makes us smile. We chat about our day. Then, we clean up and the kids get ready for bed. Once we’ve said goodnight, my husband finishes up a little work while I read on the couch.
When he’s finished, we watch a show together and then it’s time for bed.
It’s the end of another atypical day in an atypical year! Please know that there is much you didn’t see here. My children fight, our house is super messy right now, we are behind on laundry.
Our homeschool life is fun and exhausting and chaotic and beautiful and ugly and I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Would you like to learn more about gameschooling?
I am over-the-moon excited about our free 7-Day Gameschool Kickstart. I’ll teach you how to add more play and gameschooling to your homeschool day, using just a deck of cards. Join today and have more fun in your homeschool starting tomorrow!
My, how the days have changed:
- 2020: Cait’s gameschool day in the life (with an 8-, 10-, and 11-year-old)
- 2019: Cait’s homeschool day in the life (with a 7-, 9-, and 10-year-old)
- 2018: Cait’s homeschool day in the life (with a 6-, 8-, 9-year-old and puppy)
- 2017: Cait’s homeschool day in the life (with a 5-, 7-, and 8-year-old)
- 2016: Cait’s homeschool day in the life (with a 4-, 6-, and 7-year-old)
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