I can already see you rolling your eyes at me. How can I suggest video games as a learning tool, or even as part of our homeschool curriculum? Well, maybe part of the curriculum is a bit too much of a stretch, but … we have definitely found some advantages to video games, and have gained from letting the kids play them. In one of my past blogs about reading, I told how my son’s reading skills were advanced simply by his desire to play a game. In this blog I’d like to expand on that, and show how many different games can be used as an aid.
When my son was in first grade his favorite game was The Legend of Zelda. Actually, that’s still his favorite game, but I digress. The Zelda series has, by its design, quite a bit of reading as part of the game. It’s a game of both skill and thinking, and reading is a necessity to play. When he first started playing, either I or his older sister would read him the dialogue, and help him to think it through. I reasoned, at the time, that he was only 6 years old and a beginning reader, so it was only reasonable to help him along in this way.
Then we hit a snag in his schooling. His reading skills stalled at beginner; he couldn’t seem to move past slowly sounding words out, and I was at a loss as to what to do. Then one afternoon, when he asked me to again read the words from Zelda to him, I came to a realization. I told him no. I explained to him that he was now learning to read, and if he wanted to continue playing his favorite game, he would have to read the words himself.
And so, for the next few weeks, pushed by his desire to play and love of that game, he started reading all those words. And an amazing thing happened: his reading improved. And then it improved more. And by the time a few months had gone by, he had gone from barely reading to reading quite well, and all through The Legend of Zelda.
My 5th grade daughter found another game called World of Goo. This game is an interesting one, and at first I was skeptical when I heard other homeschoolers talk about how great it was for learning. The object is to get all these little balls of goo basically from one side of the screen to the other, but to do so you have to build connecting lines and towers. But that’s where the learning comes in. These towers of goo respond correctly to physics and weight, so my daughter, while having fun, was learning spatial relationships, physics, and gravity in a setting I could never duplicate. The younger ones enjoy watching for the fun aspect, but she has learned so much through just this game.
All in all, I’d say some video games have useful things to teach our kids, if we let them.