Charlotte Mason is known mostly for her concept of using living books for learning. And if you know anything about her method, you are aware that it involves a lot of reading. I mean a lot. But what does she say about using games? Is it possible to use games in a Charlotte Mason homeschool?
Yes. And No.
Kids hate school. Chances are when you mention something like the Battle of Hasting you’ll get crying, complaining, protests, or the blank look. You know the one. Their eyes roll back in their heads. Where you know they are going to their happy place until the torture is over.
So we have to get creative. We have to find ways to make the subjects come alive. Charlotte Mason chose to read living books for this very reason.
But we can also interest them with games. Board games, card games. Sometimes even computer games.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we play games in place of our regular school work. And I think Charlotte Mason would agree. However, this does not mean that we can’t use games at other times of the day to keep our kids using learned skills in a fun way.
So here are five of my family’s favorite games to stimulate learning.
If you haven’t heard of Uno, what rock have you been hiding under? Just kidding.
This is one of my favorite games for math support. Not only does it help with number recognition but it also helps reinforce color recognition and matching skills.
And because it uses only basic numbers and colors, even the youngest member of the family can join in the fun. Especially if you have older kids who can help with the trickier cards like Skip, Draw 2, or the ever-popular Wild Card.
While I am not generally a fan of super competitive games for the young, this game has its advantages. Which actually includes the competitive nature.
Not only do kids learn how to strategize but it can also be a great character training tool. Teaching kids to accept defeat gracefully. Or win with equal grace.
I’ve also enjoyed watching my children’s personalities as they play. The more cautious child tends to play defensively, getting rid of the higher cards as quickly as possible. While the more adventurous one likes to go for the bam! She loves using her Draw 4 Wild Cards as soon as she gets them. Even if she doesn’t need to.
The more we play, the more they learn as well. Patience. Not giving up a good card that may be better used later. Kindness. Helping out the younger sibling figure out which card to play to win. And then letting him. Self-control. Keeping that anger in check when someone forces you to Draw 2. Three times in a row.
This game is along the same lines as Uno. It helps support the learning of math skills. And can be used in habit training.
The cards are number cards counting from 1-12. There are also a few wild cards as well. Because of this, younger children are able to join in. As long as they are able to recognize numbers.
Now, this game is intended to be played as a competition. The first one to use up all their cards wins.
However, I prefer to play the game with the spirit of cooperation. Especially when younger children are involved. Everyone works together to finish all the cards.
If the kids do want to play competitively, once again, it can be a great trainer of character. Teaching those same virtues as above. Patience, kindness, and self-control. Among others.
These games are not meant to replace our regular math classes. Instead, they help reinforce their skills outside of the regular school day. One of the best places we like to play is at the conservatory.
Often when I am taking one child to their music lesson, I have to bring the others. And waiting for an hour or more can be difficult. However, this portable game (which is easy to transport and clean up) helps them pass the time with minimum fuss.
A win-win in my opinion.
I personally LOVE this game. In fact, this was the first game I bought for myself as an adult. And the first game I bought in France (when I found it).
There is something about being able to choose different careers each time, reliving the chance of having no children. Or ten. The little stories like getting 100,000 because you wrote a book. Or losing 50,000 because of a skydiving accident.
And I’ve passed this love on to the kids.
This is a game that I like to play to teach the kids how to manage money. But it is also great for social studies. Learning the dynamic of large or small families. And the differences in city or jungle living.
Though it is not entirely realistic (how many people will become rocket scientists that live in treehouses?) it does allow the imagination to flourish. It can be so fun to see all the ways that life CAN go. Allowing your inner child to take those risks in a game that you can’t necessarily in real life.
And it is FUN! This is a great family game. When the kids can’t seem to focus or get along, I like to break out The Game of Life. We always end with giggles. And we have created some wonderful inside jokes that still get the kids laughing. Even when we aren’t playing.
Like the fact that my son won the game from the money he earned writing a book called “Saucisses et sensibilités” (Sausages & Sensibilities). We still tease him about his literary masterpiece. Or when my second daughter managed to fill an entire car with exotic animals. And had no kids.
This is truly a wonderful game for nature learning. Created to help children learn about different plants that can be used to promote healing or supplement health, this board game also promotes cooperation. And I even think that this fun game would be acceptable IN the Charlotte Mason homeschool BY Charlotte Mason herself.
The cards of each plant are beautifully illustrated. They give the name of each plant. And how they can be used. It’s so beautiful that I was willing to pay extra to have it shipped to France from the US. And as some of you may know, that is often not very cheap. In fact, I think the shipping cost more than the price of the game itself. But it was totally worth it.
My children LOVE Wildcraft. It teaches them the names of different plants and their uses. All while leading them on a journey to grandma’s house to search for elderberries.
But what I love the most is that it is not competitive. There is no ONE winner. The goal is for everybody to get to grandma’s together, gather their buckets, and get back home together. Before sundown.
And if someone sprains an ankle or gets a bee sting along the way, the other players can “heal” their ailment. If they have managed to gather the correct plant along the way. And if they have gotten the helping card.
Let me tell you. As a very competitive person who has unfortunately passed on the same competitive gene to all my kids, regular games can end in brawls.
Now, we are working on this particular behavior. But it is nice to have an option that ends with hugs and not screams. And they are learning as well.
Also, because everything is illustrated, even my youngest can play. There is no need to know how to read to enjoy and learn (though, of course, it does help).
There are so many different Bingo games out there. And you can find both free and products for purchase.
What is great about this game is its versatility. It can be used to help kids recognize things in nature like in this free Bingo scavenger hunt.
But what I like to use it for the most is to help my kids with their language learning.
As a bilingual family, we are surrounded by two languages nearly all the time. And for littles, this can get confusing. All of them went through a period where they were combining both French and English in sentences. Or would use a French word one time and English the next.
This is not a problem in and of itself. And they do all grow out of it eventually. (Except on those days when we are all a little tired. Then we all resort to Franglais.)
And often, when they are young, they choose one language over the other. Then they have a difficult time remembering the word for avocado or pineapple. So I like to play Bingo with them.
They will each receive a card with the words in French or English. The kids who do not read yet will have cards with pictures.
And then I will choose words from the basket. There are so many ways that I can help them learning vocabulary in this fashion.
I give the word in French; they find it in French or English. Or I can give the word in English and they’ll find it in French or English. I may even just show them the picture and ask them to find the word for it in French or English. It all depends on where they are struggling the most.
So when I say une pomme, my oldest will be looking for the space with the word apple. My second will be looking to match une pomme. And my two youngest will be looking for the picture of the apple. And they can all enjoy playing Bingo while reinforcing their own vocabulary in two languages.
Games can be used in so many ways. Most families like to have a game night. And it’s a great tool for bonding.
But the homeschool can use these same games to reinforce different subjects or skills. And can break up the monotony of just about any day.
What are your favorite games to use in the classroom? What skills are you reinforcing by them? Let me know in the comments below.