Monday, February 19, 2007


Say the words "computer/console game" in a group of parents and you'll get a very mixed reaction, and possibly a heated discussion, from it. Most parents feel the need to limit their kids time on these types of games. I understand why schooled kids are limited - they have chores and homework to get done before bath and bed. Frankly I'm surprised there's time for dinner in these homes! LOL And the same goes for the school-at-homers. These are the families who homeschool but it looks just like a school room with one room dedicated to "school" and curricula and schedules, etc.

I personally see a great value in games, whether they be board games, RPGs or console games, though I'm well aware that I'm probably more in the minority on this issue. The unschoolers I've come across typically think well of games but most other homeschoolers see them as 'twaddle' (I just love that term from Charlotte Mason!).

It's funny that I can tell what kind of message board or group of homeschoolers I'm with just by their questions/complaints to each other. If I hear, "How much time do you allow for games?", I know that I'm in a group more geared towards school-at-home.

Now I know some of you non-homeschoolers are thinking I'm off my rocker. But step outside the box for a minute...

1. What do my kids learn from console games? Well, at this point in their lives, we're still making most all the major purchases so we do utilize discretion and look for things that are appropriate for each child. Matthew is in love with his Star Wars Lego II game he got for Cmas. Have you ever sat down and really watched the games your child is into? Don't look from an "educational value" perspective - just watch and see what he/she is learning.
In this particular game, Matthew has goal setting. He wants those big ticket items that you have to collect so many of these smaller items to get. His particular goal right now is to get enough studs to 'purchase' a new special character.
He also develops eye-hand coordination. This is probably a given but don't knock it. Eye-hand coordination will help with his writing skills and small motor skills and it's not one to overlook easily.
He does learn teamwork in this game. Each character does a special thing. He can change characters at any time during the game so if he has to use the Force on one object here, he switches to Luke or Darth...and then, 2 minutes later when he needs to crawl through a small shaft, he switches to a Jawa or Yoda. He learns which characters are most effective on each level, depending on their skills, and how to work them together to reach the goal.
He does a HEAPING TON of problem solving. Which character does he need to switch to in order to get to that high ledge? Does he need to Force someone up there with Darth or use someone who jumps really well or use Boba Fett with his jet pack? Each level in this game is one problem to solve after the next. I admit that Hubby has been stuck many times himself (so it's a great game for kids and adults I love looking at the Lego creations!).
He develops concentration. While that can be said for any child engrossed in a game, it's true. Kids today are so scheduled (and mostly in 1/2 hour and 1 hour spans) that it's probably difficult to ask them to concentrate for much longer than that. True, he's not concentrating on the years Taft was in office but when have I ever used that in my adult life? Hmm...can't say (not that I remember anyway).
He also gets a good dose of creativity. He will often pause his game and run upstairs to build one of the ships or people out of his own Legos. This is a form of artwork...and building...and creativity...and has spurred a huge collection of his own creations of Star Wars characters and ships. I should take a pic of some of them and post them.
Probably my favorite thing he learns from this game (or any game) is that sense of accomplishment. When he completes a level, I can just see his self-esteem jump a notch higher. And to me, that's one of the most important things he can learn. HE did it. HE figured it out. HE is proud of HIMSELF.

2. What do kids learn from RPGs (role playing games)? Matthew played another Star Wars game on our console, "Knights of the Old Republic" for a while. This game is fairly linear (meaning there's not too much room to move from the main storyline) but you do get to make a lot of your own choices. This one is neat because you can play it on the good side of the Force and do 'good' things to raise your 'good' rating or you can play the dark side and do 'dark' things to raise your rating. He didn't play this one all the way through though. I think Star Wars Lego I came out around then and that was the end of the RPG. He also enjoyed Morrowind, which is very non-linear and you can greatly stray from the main storyline. It requires a LOT of reading (which is another added bonus of RPGs) and really gives kids the option to make lots of choices. In todays world, they don't get to make many choices (sometimes even as an adult, I don't feel I have many choices either) and I would assume that's part of the draw of RPGs. The skills they learn listed in #1 also apply here as well.

And if they're doing the real RPGs like D&D, Traveler, etc., they get the benefits of #3 in there as well as a HUGE dose of creativity. Let's not forget to add the benefit of just plain fantasy and 'what ifs' - these are also important for kids to have time to expand their minds and think about other possibilities.

3. What do kids learn from board games? Well, this is a no-brainer. Playing with another person develops intra personal skills, the sense of winning/losing and how to handle those both well, many are heavily math based and require lots of reading - the list goes on and on. Most homeschoolers agree that board games are highly 'educational' but fail to see the good in other games. I wonder why that is?

4. What about twaddle games that are pretty much the shoot-the-bad-guys? Matthew has a few of these. We started out with a console copy of the old arcade games that Hubby and I grew up with. Matthew quickly decided that Gauntlet was a great game (along with Joust and PacMan and Pole Position) and this was probably the first game he really got interested in on our Xbox. The Christmas he turned 5, we got the upgrade...Gauntlet: Dark Legacy. It has the same characters and 'rules' but the graphics and characters have a more modern look to them. So a typical parent walking by would see that he's an archer, shooting bad guys and avoiding 'death'. But if you sit and watch more closely, you see that he's learning all the things stated in #1 as well.

5. How much time DO you allow your kids to play games? I allow them however much time they want. Oh sure, when we got the new SWLegoII game for Cmas, it seemed that was all Matthew did for two weeks. But then it died down to maybe 30 minutes a day, on his own. I can't say I blame him. When I get a new toy, I probably spend a lot more time with it the first week or two than I ever will again. I know the week I got my bread machine, we had fresh bread every day. Now I use it maybe once a week or once a month. It was a novelty and even though I hadn't tried out every recipe by the end of that week, I knew the gist of it and was willing to move more slowly through them. On the rare occasion that I feel he's spent too much time or someone else wants use of the TV and I ask him to put it up when he's done with that level, there are no arguments. There is no huge scene that I've witnessed in other families. "Ok Mom." Is that his personality? Big fat NO there to those who are thinking that one. lol But because he has unlimited access to it, there's no rush and drive to spend ALL his 'free time' doing only that. There are just as many days when I find him curled up on his bed reading a book or building a new something out of Legos or helping his sister scrapbook or chasing the baby around the house. In the grand scheme of things, it's not excessive. It looked excessive in those first two weeks after Cmas but again, I can't fault him for that. I looked like a crazed bread maker at some point and probably played with the notion of becoming a professional baker that week too. ;)

It seems, at least in my family, game systems are typically more for the boys than girls. Though Rose does like to play the games, she prefers to watch Matthew play rather than get in there and do it herself. But perhaps that's just her personality. She seems to like to create with her hands - she loves to scrapbook and do almost any craft you suggest. My brothers kids LOVED the Putt-putt games. We purchased a stand-alone Princess game (mostly to use on road trips but you can plug it into your VCR at home too) for Rose and she rarely, if ever, plays it. It's almost beneath her - matching and memory games, etc. Got it at Wally world for $10-20 and it's a plug-n-play. They have others too - Matthew loves the Star Wars and Batman ones.

From a Mom standpoint, the other good thing about gaming systems that my friend brought up is that it's a lot less mess than Polly Pockets or Legos. ONE cartridge or DVD - not zillions of small pieces for the baby or dog to choke on. ;)

In closing, I find that all games (console or board types) are very 'educational'. I really hate to use that word at all anymore - how can we really separate educational stuff from non-educational stuff? We're all still LEARNING from those things that teach 'bad' things. We are being educated every second of every day. How can you possibly categorize things that way? My kids have educational cereal - they compare and contrast the shapes, colors, textures, tastes and read the back of the box and we look up the links that are listed. Their shoes are educational..."Wow Mom - how does it light up?" But that's another entry for another day. ;)

If this is a new concept to you, I encourage you to sit and watch your son/daughter the next time they play a game you don't think is worthwhile. Ask them about it - see what the goal of the game is, what their current goals are, what they're learning about it (and let me know what *you* learn). You just might be surprised.


Mrs. Pivec said...

Very interesting and thought provoking on games. I have been incorporating them more and more in our schooling. While I don't unschool, there are many ideas I have found in the last few weeks that have given me pause in a positive direction. I am thinking about all of it.
I found your site (at least I think this is you!! LOL!) through the CMP Flickr pool.

Just thought I'd drop in and say hello. :)

Mrs. Pivec said...

Ohhhh. Well, I'm very sorry to have confused you at my site, but happy you stopped by anyway! :)

Re: "The Missing Post" - I deleted it. I had a number of people answer that I just needed to visit and comment on more blogs. Good advice - to a degree. I do comment on blogs quite frequently, but I hadn't visited a lot of new ones, so I was doing that last night. I had visited your site a couple of times while just sort of stirring the unschooling idea pot again (I have it bookmarked) and I decided I really should not just lurk, but leave a comment (which is exactly what I like and was asking others to do!).

I deleted my post, though, because I guess I don't want to sound "whiny." I didn't want to put people off and have them feel like I EXPECTED them to.

So, I am just going to try to be more proactive in my own commenting and then if the big "goose egg" keeps showing up in the comments area, I just may need to throw in the blogger towel. BUT for now, I'm sticking with it.

Well, thanks for listening. And thanks for your kind comments! I'm glad you enjoyed my collage. I sure had fun making it!

I'll be sure to stop by again!

Stacey said...

I'm on board with you on this one! You make some great points!