Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things
I was on the phone with another homeschooling mom last week.
She was trying to work through how to best teach her twelve-year-old son without the resistance that was a daily struggle last year. “Have you tried an interest-led approach to learning?” I gently asked.
Frustrated and discouraged, she replied, “How can I take an interest-led approach when his only interest is video games?”
I understand her concern.
We tend to view video games as a sort of enemy of education and learning, especially in the homeschool community.
I used to feel the same way. But over the course of the past few years, as my boys have matured into teens and I have had to find new ways to connect with them, I have come to see video games not as a threat, but a tool that we can use to help our kids learn.
Interest-Led Learning When Your Child Only Likes Video Games
The more I have learned about my sons’ interest in gaming, the more convinced I have become that we are missing real edcuational opportunities with our kids. Here’s why –
Not All Video Games Are Created Equal
I think the fear is that our children will be locked up inside a dark room all day playing violent, degrading games. While some of those types of games exist, there are many more that actually provide very real educational learning opportunities for our children.
For example, Minecraft has been a mainstay in our homeschool since I learned that signs can be created throughout the game. We use these signs to practice sight words with my struggling reader.
Another example in our home is Battlefield One. In this war game, my son has learned more about WWI than any textbook was ever able to teach him.
Video Games Provide Opportunities To connect With Our Children On Their Level
Just as our kids love to show us their latest art project or trick on the skateboard, they also enjoy showing us their skills in a virtual world. Knowing what they are playing, asking why they enjoy it, and providing positive reinforcement creates an environment of mutual respect. This respect is the foundation of interest-led learning.
We respect our kids’ interests and allow them to drive our approach to their education. Video games can absolutely be as valuable in interest-led learning as my youngest son’s interest in animals. We just have to take the time to learn about them, with our child as the guide.
Video Games Can Help Lead To Strength Based Learning
I have shared before how passionate I am about using our children’s strengths to drive their learning. What has surprised me is how video games have actually revealed some of my boys’ natural gifts and strengths. For example, my youngest is a wizard at three dimensional thinking and building. It serves him well in video games, but I am also learning ways to incorporate this strength into our learning away from the screen.
The relationship between interests and strengths is quite significant. In fact, the combination of the two is what allows me to create strength based learning plans for my sons and for other families.
I have created a worksheet to help parents get started with this type of approach. It is available for free to Simple Homeschool readers HERE.
How To Use Video Games In Interest Led Learning
I want to leave you with some practical examples of how to incorporate video games into your homeschool.
My first recommendation is to participate in as much conversation and game play as possible. I don’t ever actually play games, but I do sit with my boys while they play. I ask them why they enjoy it and have them show me all their skills.
Use Video Games As A Starting point For Lessons
Last week, my son mentioned Russia was a location in the game he was playing. We got the map out and found it. We did a google search together to learn more about it. And then, we went back to the game and compared what we learned to what we saw on the screen. Was it an accurate depiction? Why not?
Another example in our homeschool is how we use mobile games. There is a new Harry Potter mobile game that my son loves to play. He wanders the neighborhood, looking for magical creatures in the game. He gets a little exercise and fresh air and then we come home and practice reading aloud using the Harry Potter book series.
Video Games As A Check For Understanding
Some of the more creative video games, like Minecraft, easily serve as a kind of quiz to see how your child is retaining the information he’s learning. For example, my son created a Medieval Village in Minecraft to reflect what he had learned as part of our Medieval History unit study. It worked beautifully, almost like an online version of our old shoe box dioramas.
Overall, I have found video games to be a very useful part of our learning. The more I learn about the games my children play, the easier it is to find ways to incorporate this interest into our homeschool.
Do your kids play video games? Have you used them as part of your homeschool?