by Zack Edwards from Historical Conquest

 

Kids these days are bombarded with flashy pictures, jaw-dropping special effects, and other influences that help excite their minds and keep their attention; then, they are asked to sit in a boring classroom or look at a book and read something that they are not that interested in. It is truly a struggle to keep youths interested in doing schoolwork, with so many other opportunities around them. Why not help them with the best of both worlds?!

 

Hello, my name is Zack Edwards, and when I left high school, I hated many of my classes because of how they were taught. Educational materials could not hold my interest, this was besides my internal struggles. When I went to college, my professor asked me to write a one-page essay on a product that would change my world. Well, I loved to play games, and I didn’t like school, at least back in K-12. I thought, why not put the two together, to create educational games that excite the mind and eyes. That one assignment has become a successful business. Assisting students around the world in learning history, one of the hardest subjects to keep kids interested in, and we do it through games. 

 

A History Lessons in Educational Gaming

In the past the problem with games, in some people’s minds, was that they were just for recreation. However, if you talk to students 95% of them love playing games.  If they had a choice between games or school, the K-9th grade students would most likely choose playing games. Some would say school is “boring”, some would say, “it’s not relevant”, and others would say they are just “not interested in it.” How can we make education more enjoyable? By adding a little more gaming into their education. 

Now there are many different ideas when it comes to educational gaming. You have the Game Schoolers, who promote that most or all of their education comes from playing games. On the other side you have parents that keep their kids away from games, because they are unproductive. I’d like to share with you the great middle ground where everyone wins, and I will also show you how to pick the best games for your children.

In a study back in the 1960s, the National Training Laboratory tested retention rates when it comes to activities in the classroom, and in daily lives. They found that, for the average learner, if the student reads information from a book they will retain 10-20% of what is read. If they watch videos, they will retain 30%. If they do activities or play games using the learning outcomes of Analyze, Define, Create, and Evaluate, they will keep up to 90% of the information they are learning. Those are astonishing numbers. Let’s investigate these four outcomes.

 

Analyze is the method of examining or learning about the topic, in detail. So, besides games, you need time to learn what you will do in the game; this is an effective precursor to trying to learn from any game.

Define is the method in which you use what you have learned in a way that allows you to show you actually understood the information. This allows us, as the teachers, to learn if the student has retained the information given to them. If they don’t understand it correctly, it will do no good to allow them to move forward.

Create is a state of using what you have learned in a relevant manner, to use motor skills to produce a type of motor memory in what you are learning. So, they need to use that information right away, in a topic such as history. How can they use this information? By teaching it to others, writing a story about it, or even playing a game that uses that information to build that type of motor memory. 

 

Benefits of Educational Gaming

The greatest benefit of Educational Gaming is that the more times they play the game, the higher the likelihood is that they will remember the lessons learned. In learning history, we believe in the Law of Witnesses, meaning the more time you hear someone’s name, the more likely you are to remember it. Take history, for instance. If the player hears a name once, the information will go in one ear and out the other. There is very little retention created. However, if you play a game once, and then read about the person later, they will remember that person. The information learned about them becomes easier to retain after the second, third, or fourth time they hear it. They are creating a motor memory within their mind. Play a game 100 times, and hear that information in small bites and your brain is more willing to see the importance of that information, and will then store it where it is easily accessible. In addition, when a student can attach emotion to the information, they are more likely to retain it. Whether it’s the frustration or enjoyment of playing a game, that emotion will allow the student to retain that information easier, especially the enjoyment of playing a game they like.

Evaluation and reflecting on what you learned and or created is also essential. You must help the student reflect on what they learned or could accomplish. In traditional education, they can fill out a survey or journal entry on what they learned, while in games, you can talk about how they liked it and what they learned afterwards. In video games, they can reflect on what is called “leaderboards,” in the gaming industry. These are boards showing how you rank among others, but can also reflect some of the things they could have learned while playing the game. These are highly effective in evaluating what you learned and enticing you to try again, which continues building more motor memory.

 

How to Find Games that are Right for Your Student

Educational Gaming needs to be based on relevance, your child’s interests, and abilities. Try looking at games that meet these criteria, based on your experience with your student.

  1. Interests – Are your students interested in games? Would they be in the 95% of students that like games, any type of game? If they are, what games would they like? Are they more likely to play a physical game, or a video game? Do they like more physical challenges, 3rd person interaction with the program, or more strategic interactions, using boards or cards?

Look for games that appeal to them on a personal level. Using a game they aren’t interested in would only backfire, because they could feel resentment to use a program they have no interest in.

  1. Relevance–Just picking up any game and using it is not an effective way to succeed in education. There are games for recreation and there are those that are made for learning, and you can use both. One shouldn’t expect all games to fill in educational gaps, or help with creating motor memory in a specific topic. When evaluating a game, investigate how they will learn from the information they are gleaning from the game. Some are more effective than others.Look for games that are educational, but not too educational. Remember that when youth play games, they normally play for entertainment. Use games that give them small bites, especially for those in SPED. Learning in small chunks, through gaming, will make a world of difference for your student.
  2. Eye Catching–While your student may like games, there are those that are not the best when catching their interest and attention. Do your students like the flashy or the simple? Don’t buy a 6th grader a game that looks like it’s perfect for a kindergartener. The best way to find something they would like is to search out games that catch your eyes, as their parents or teacher. Remember that special effects these days are not very different for adults or kids. The things that catch your eye will also catch their eye. They may even need a little more – if you don’t like how a game looks, they will probably not as well. 
  3. Needs–Especially in SPED, this is sometimes the most important factor. What do your students need for learning? For example, those that are dyslexic have a hard time reading, so giving them a rules manual or a book is not a good way to keep their attention, and doesn’t give them the tools to succeed. The best way to promote learning for someone with dyslexia, and other special needs, is to focus on small amounts of information and catching their interest. When someone with dyslexia is truly interested, that is when they will act on their own, and begin doing the work on their own. Addressing the needs of your students’ is the most important, especially with Educational Gaming. There are games out there that would be harder for some students, and there are games designed to appeal to everyone.

 

In closing, using games in learning, in this day and age, is a very effective way to grab your students’ interest, help them grow their excitement for learning, and increase their retention in what they are learning. While some games look like they are educational, there are other games that disguise education in the gameplay, allowing the student to be excited about what they are doing, while actually learning the entire time.

 

What to Look forward to in the Future 

Historical Conquest is teaming up with other curriculum developers and game designers to create a video game system that will help students have a large range of games that are relevant to specific subjects,  teach students different subjects without being too educational, and allow students to enjoy what they are learning. To begin this system, we are performing our analysis using the subject of history, (our strength), to test its effectiveness. This first portion of our system can be found at www.HuntThePast.com, which allows students to learn using a plethora of methodologies that they enjoy, including reading, videos, activities, audio, and now video games. While these games are currently digital, and some parents want their kids to get off their screens, all these games will be made available in physical form, as well. So stay tuned, keep watching, and please sign up to support this effort, by using the systems that we have so far, as we create a structure that will help students with all needs and interests on their learning adventure.

 

 

 


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Guest Blogger – Neches Phelps

 

What was supposed to be a mid-semester break from our year-round charter school turned into a homeschool trial.  We were faced with a choice: file a Level 1 complaint and fight for accommodations that my child wouldn’t see for 6 months to a year, or homeschool.  I don’t remember much from those first three weeks. My husband and I did some google searches, downloaded some curricula samples that we thought might be a good fit, and then I started working with what we had and accumulating what we didn’t.  

 

I’d really like to say that as a former educator and administrator that everything went according to the schedule that I had planned, but that simply wasn’t the case. Some things seemed way too easy; others way too hard. And sometimes it was both within the same curriculum!  When I asked an experienced SPED homeschooling mom for advice, she simply responded by telling me to follow my child’s lead. I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

While jumping on the couch one evening, he said, “Mom, what’s your favorite Queen song?”

“I don’t know.  ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’?” I shrugged. 

He said, “’Bohemian Rhapsody’ is from the album A Night at the Opera and was released in 1975.”

 

I wasn’t quite sure what “following my child’s lead” would mean. Where would his love for numbers and rock music take me? I didn’t have to wait long.

 

I realized that he had been studying the Greatest Hits Queen CD sleeve while we had been listening to it in the car.  Sure enough, he knew them all! On Thanksgiving day, he told us that this was the exact date that Freddy Mercury died.  His love for rock music had met his obsession with numbers. This was too easy, I remember thinking to myself. “When is Freddy Mercury’s birthday?” I asked. He had to find out. 

 

Conversational skills were born when he started to ask people when their birthdays were, how old they were when Freddy Mercury died, etc. He must have seen a picture of Freddy Mercury driving a car because he started to ask people how old they were when they first drove a car. That led to some very interesting conversations as he discovered that some people started driving a tractor first or that they were quite young when they first got behind the wheel.

 

We did what I call “Freddy Mercury Math,” read Queen lyrics, and studied our family trees. Did you know that Roger Taylor (Queen’s drummer) has a son named Tiger Taylor who plays drums in The Darkness? (Neither did I.) And we talked about death.

 

The traditional educator in me still isn’t entirely convinced by the idea of unschooling.  But the mom in me says that we are going to be celebrating the Queen band members birthdays and writing their biographies this next school year.  I have a calendar filled with important dates that I don’t want to miss, and I’ve researched some reading and math curricula to help fill in some gaps.  It turns out that following my child’s lead isn’t going to be so difficult after all!

 

 


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SPED Homeschool Team

 

There is no one right way to keep your children learning during the summer. For this reason, we thought we would give you a glimpse into what the summer looks like in each of our homeschools and how we each uniquely continue homeschool learning in the summer.  Hopefully our examples will help you embrace the specific needs of your family as you develop the best way to keep your children learning and growing.

 

 

Our Unique Homeschool Summer Learning Paths

 

Amy Vickrey

For the summer, we continue on in our schooling.  We take some days and weeks off as we have family events and need some time off.  However, my son does better with some structure and routine, so keeping up our academics helps.  This also keeps him from having any lost skills over long breaks. We tend to focus on the basics—math, reading, and such.  We also enjoy time outdoors and going swimming!

This summer will be a little different as I will also be working.  It will be interesting to see how everything lines up and if our plans change some.  However, I love the idea of continuing year round so that I don’t have to worry about needing to take time off during the school year for any reason.  If that happens, we won’t be behind because we have spent time together learning as a family throughout the year!

 

Peggy Ployhar

Summer learning for our family has always been more of an unschooling approach between lots of planned activities at camps, church, and classes offered locally in our community.  I guess you could say we spent a lot of that time working on social skills as my children dove into delight-directed learning which made them push through the social barriers they often found inhibiting. Additionally, our family is also big into camping so sometimes over half of our summers were spent at one or more campgrounds living in our RV while exploring God’s great creation and the lessons that awaited us outside our door each morning.

For me I needed a large chunk of down-time from teaching just to make it through the rest of the year, so this yearly break was not only good for my children but also for my mental well-being after been closed up in a house in Minnesota most of the 9 months we were homeschooling. Yes, we did end up having to do some catch-up on forgotten skills over those summer months, but on the flip side my children expanded their learning in many areas that they would not have been expanded if we had not made time for them to participate in very different learning environments during the summer.

My children have so many fond memories of our homeschooling summers. As we finish up our homeschooling years with our youngest in high school, we have plans to keep this tradition going.  Our youngest is already signed up for 2 teen art camps, a week long camp with our church, and a week at iGoven run by Generation Joshua this summer. It will be busy, but as always we are all looking forward to the change of scenery and pace in our homeschool learning.

 

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year.

 

Cammie Arn

We school year round but our activities change. For example during the typical school year we are involved in a homeschool co-op, a Speech and Debate club and homeschool handbell and vocal choir. We utilize our co-op for history, science and various electives. At home we add in math, Bible and lots of life learning. All in all 4-5 hours per day

We do school in the summer by continuing math, reading, art and a mini-course. Since our co-op ends at the end of April. I do a mini-course for the month of May and 2 weeks into June. This year we are knocking out Government and Personal Finances. This lightens up the pressure of finishing everything during the school year and gives us something to do on the scorching hot Texas summer days.

 

Tracy Glockle

It seems that each year our summers have looked a lit bit different, depending on what we’ve needed at the end of that school year. For many years, we tackled hands-on science, art, music and some of the subjects that didn’t get as much attention during the school year. Other years, we’ve focused on motor skills with lots of physical activity.

One thing I do every time we have an extended break (Christmas or summer) is to have my kids fill out a “bucket list.” These lists include any projects they want to tackle, skills they want to learn (painting, computer coding, bike riding, scooter tricks, etc.), crafts they want to make, and places they want to visit. I limit how many of the activities they can write down that depend on me, and the rest of the ideas are things they can initiate on their own. Our “bucket lists” serve several purposes. First, it’s my reference point for the “I’m bored” complaint. Anytime my kids come to me looking for something to do, I send them back to their bucket list. Also, it gives my kids a chance to work on some executive function skills of self-managing their time and tasks. These bucket lists also give us an idea of our priorities for our break to be a satisfying one: if we can’t get to everything on the list, the kids decide which activities are most important.

 

The freedom that homeschooling offers, allows each of our families the ability to make accommodations which can also be extended into our summer months for what works best for each of our children as well as our families as a whole.  Whatever that looks like, embrace that path and all that awaits you as you take on homeschool learning in the summer with your children.

 

 


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By Amy Vickrey, MSE

There are days my son just needs time to play. As a homeschool mom, I feel accountable for his time during the day and ensuring that he is spending the time he should on “school.” So on the days when my son expresses a deep need to spend time engaged in play, I have to remind myself that play is learning too. Whether by himself or engaged with other children, my son is learning from his interaction with toys, his brother, cousins and friends.

Specific Skills Learned Through Play
There are many skills that are learned through play. From playing with blocks to pretending and playing with friends, the skills learned while engaged in play are beneficial to any child. Our special children need to be engaged in play even more! For a child like mine, who develops social and other skills at a slower rate, play is so important to reinforce his skills and teach him new ones as he is ready to learn them. Take a look at the kinds of things our kids are learning through play.

Social Skills: Sharing, turn taking, negotiating, compromising, and leading or following

Physical Skills: Fine motor (in preparation for or to reinforce writing skills), large muscle, spatial awareness

Language and Literacy Skills: Phonological awareness (how sounds make up words and are used in words), conversation skills (taking turns, responding appropriately, discussion between character toys), communication skills (expressing desires and needs), new vocabulary they need for play with a certain toy

Cognitive Skills: Math, problem solving skills, science skills (physics), trial and error, learning how to make it better the next time

Self-Esteem: Show accomplishments and abilities, trying out new things without feeling pressured, relating accomplishments to peers or adults nearby (“See,” or “Look at me”)

Preparing for Life Ahead: Learning independence, thinking, making decisions, cooperating/collaborating with others, problem solving, goal setting and accomplishment

Social Developmental Stages of Play
As children grow and develop, the way they play changes. Each of these stages are important and children must grow through these stages at their own pace. There are ways to help them grow into the next stage if a child has difficulties.

Unoccupied Play: When a child is busy playing but they are not engaged with any people or toys, and the play appears random.

Solitary Play: Playing with a toy by themselves and not being interested in the toys or activities of others.

Onlooker Play: The child watches others play but does not join in the play.

Parallel Play: The child plays side-by-side with other children, with the same toys, but does not interact with the other children.

Associative Play: The child plays with other children, but they do not share a common goal.

Cooperative Play: Play becomes organized into groups and teamwork, children learn to share the goal of the group and play by the group “rules,” willing to both contribute and accept others’ opinions.

It is fascinating to watch children grow and learn through these different stages, and the stages are important to learning how to work with others later in life. Even time spent in solitary play can help a child gain skills as they have their toys interact with one another, and they interact with their toys.


Supporting Your Child in Play

Learning how to play with your child takes time and practice, but it is fun and worth your while! Here are some suggestions for playing with your child:

Observe: Watch what your child is doing. What he doing well? What might he need help with? What are his favorite activities?

Follow: When you join in, follow along with what your child is doing, try not to “take over,” but to follow the rules and guidelines they set up

Be Creative: Don’t worry about looking “silly,” enjoy playing with your child! I have worn many things on my head or “drank and ate” many made up meals. Also, use toys in different ways to show new and unique ways to do something your child might not have thought of yet.

Ask Questions: Talk with your child about their play and make conversation. Just enjoy being in the world of your child for however long you have, even if it is just 5 minutes! A little time can make a big difference!

Make a Plan: When you transition to or play, have your child make a plan of what they are going to go play and how they are going to do it (“I’m going to build a house with blocks”), then help them get started on their plan. This teaches how to set a goal and accomplish it! Then, they can go on and play other things.

If your life is like mine, the time my children are engaged in play is about the only time I have for myself to catch my breath, wash dishes or prepare for the next subject in school. That time is important, but I also try to make time everyday to play! Have Fun!

Learn More About Play
Information from some of these sites were used in writing this article. If you would like to learn more about learning through play, we encourage you to check them out.

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play
3 Benefits of Learning Through Play
What Children Learn Through Play
Children Learn Through Play
Supporting Play Activities
Six Stages of Play: How Children Develop Social Skills
How Kids Learn to Play: 6 Stages of Development
Tools of the Mind

Also, make sure to check out all the great resources from SPED Homeschool on our YouTube Channel, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Podcasts (on Podomatic/iTunes/GooglePlay), and Twitter.

 

 

 


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