Lessons Learned Through Family Gaming: A Year-end Report

Lessons Learned Through Family Gaming: A Year-end Report

Posted on

At the end of each school year, we ask the families to send us a summary of how their natural learning journey went. Families can summarize their year however they choose; some send it in the form of a letter/report, or spreadsheet-style with course names and grades, or a slideshow presentation with pictures. One of the greatest benefits of learning at home with family is the bond that comes with being a part of every step of the journey.

In this year-end report, Erika shared the details of how her children are engaged in every aspect of their learning. We love reading the parents’ perspective because it is such a gift for them to be able to witness their children blossom!

Greetings, we want to share with you our past year.  If this year had a theme, it would most likely be gaming in all forms. 

In any given week in 2019 Dean could have up to four opportunities to play Dungeons & Dragons:  the “Adventure League” at the local gaming store, the online program “Outschool”, an after-school-teen group, or running his own games in our dining room.  He studies each “Game Master” (GM) he plays with to learn their methods and style of storytelling and tests them out on his friends during his dining room sessions.  He definitely prefers playing in-person games over virtual games with a regular group of people.  The most sustained group is with the after-school-teen group that met at the local rec center, run by Roll Play Lead (RPL).  Jamie, the founder of RPL, sees the value in what role-play games like D&D can offer beyond just gaming for fun.  Understanding that more kids and teens these days live with anxiety or other forms of mental illness, she sees how well-suited role-play games can be used to help kids learn social skills, and the games can cater the story to meet the individual’s needs or challenges. 

Dean and Vivienne both enjoy playing video games and both have their motives for getting what they want out of the games.  Dean is very interested in the gameplay and strategy where Vivienne gets swept up in the story and creatures she is working with or battling against.  Vivienne has become a rolodex of information on Pokemon and can’t seem to get enough of the unusual creatures and abilities.  The stories presented during the gameplay offer a uniquely catered story for Vivienne which provides the desire and drive to improve her reading skills in order to follow along.  Vivienne is gaining a good sense of pre-planning and problem-solving skills in order to move forward in the story.  Whether she needs to have the correct Pokemon cued up ready to battle, or understand when it’s time to run from a fight, she is exercising her thinking ahead and planning for the future skills that are so important for daily life.  

Dean on the other hand is more interested in strategy, cause and effect, and manipulating situations to meet his needs.  Dean doesn’t have a favorite game, rather he relishes finding a new game, observing others playstyle to help create his own.  Dean also enjoys seeing new artistic styles each game developer puts into their content and has grown fond of the music each game or level in the game presents.  Online games offer many good things, such as strengthening your ability to work together and improve communication skills, but there are also some darker aspects that we find ourselves discussing with Dean.  Not all gamers are playing the game for the same reasons, and Dean finds himself interacting with some not so nice teammates that are more interested in trying to get under other player’s skin or are just downright rude.  Maturity also plays a big part in how Dean deals with these types of people.  Rather than going on the defensive or offensive, Dean uses the situation as a sort of social experiment and either attempts to “change” their outlook.  Despite other players’ mean or aggressive attitudes and playstyles, his findings have shown that when only responding to them positively, the rude player either leaves the game or ends up changing their tune.  

Since Dean was seven-years-old, we’ve gone through waves between obsession and dis-interest when it comes to Minecraft. Each Minecraft resurgence we try to find ways to play with friends without having to go through the trouble of starting our own server.  When COVID-19 struck, the kids missed their friends so we knew it was the right time to figure out how to host our own server.  We dove into the daunting process of getting a server up and running and named it CoronaCraft.  We learned there is a lot we don’t know but we got far enough to get a working server to host all the kid’s friends.  Besides giving the kids a virtual playground for the kids to stay connected, it has been an invaluable learning process for everyone in the family.  We play on the server along with the kids, Minecraft is one of the few video games that has captured our sustained interest; it’s great having a hobby the entire family participates in, especially during a lockdown! It proved to be a great distraction and escape from all the bad news outside the house. It took a while to master basic server hosting and we made mistakes along the way. The worst was a server crash or two, losing weeks of work, but we re-built and made it better the second time around, as well as how not to let it happen again.  We helped the kids navigate setting boundaries with friends and have witnessed the amazing teamwork and building skills of all the kids on the server.   

Dean has shown real maturity during this pandemic.  He has made a real effort to understand all he can regarding the facts about COVID-19 and he has shared that information with his friends as a way to stem fears his friends were sharing with him and he was able to help his friends make sense of the situation as only a pier could.  It was rough for Vivienne to have a birthday during lockdown since we couldn’t throw the usual big party.  So we set up a secret amusement park on the server and asked all the kids to build rides in time for her birthday.  We held a virtual surprise birthday party for her, spending the evening trying out all the rides and eating cake, it was just as fun as a regular birthday.  Since we are not experts in the world of Minecraft we are asking for the kid’s help all the time; they light up with confidence when they are teaching us how to make things work.  Many of our dinnertime discussions covered Minecraft topics and we’ll spend many evenings watching Minecraft YouTubers for inspiration.  Dean has challenged himself with complicated “redstone” creations, he says it’s his “big brain” moment when he’s successfully executed his design.  When Vivienne asks to show us what she built, we are always impressed with how well her plan comes to life.  It’s in the world of Minecraft we have seen both kids at their most self-directed and resourceful, not to mention their most giddy and cheerful while playing online with their friends.

Vivienne is inquisitive and curious, as always.  Her favorite way to explore the world is through interacting with others with her pop quizzes.  She inquires into other’s minds by playing question games, asking top favorites on any variety of things.  Like what is your favorite animal with wings, or favorite animal from Australia? But she can get complex at times, like “pick an animal’s superpower” (like an Axolotl’s limb regeneration), and then the other person is to counter it with the superpower’s weakness (but it grows back too big).

Vivienne continued to attend as many nature classes at our local nature center as she could in 2019 although she is aging out of the classes they offer and they are the same ones she’s been to year after year.  The nature center has a fairy garden for kids to decorate and arrange logs, sticks and rocks for the fairies. We were inspired by this so we created a fairy garden plot in our backyard for all the nature Vivienne brings home from hikes and outings. The garden gives the stones and sticks she collects a place to live and be creative with that isn’t in her bedroom.  In August 2019 the reptile store, where we get feeder insects for our lizard, gave us a complimentary hornworm to feed our pet bearded dragon, Sneezy.  Vivienne was struck by its bright aqua color and was sure Sneezy would choke on its large size.  Not knowing what else to do with this worm we decided to take it in as a temporary pet and named it Bobbert.  We learned how to care for Bobbert so we could watch it grow and transform, which was absolutely fascinating to witness!  We found information on caring for hornworms from Carolina Scientific, a place where teachers can order these worms to bring into their science classrooms; in our case life brought us this science lesson.

Art and creativity are ingrained into Vivienne and she uses her skills to provide art sculptures and costumes for her stuffed animals, or clay sculptures amongst other artistic endeavors.  Waiting around and long car rides are usually filled with drawing in one of her many drawing pads.  There are moments where Vivienne is so lost in her drawing, that she doesn’t hear her name being called.  Getting lost in something so deeply that the rest of the world is “tuned out” demonstrates Vivienne’s passion and concentration for what she is working on.  Vivienne recently received a new computer and also a drawing pad.  The pad is similar to the devices Vivienne’s favorite YouTube personalities use to create the animations she enjoys so much and gets inspiration from.  This provides yet another medium for her to try and gain experience from. 

The change in routine brought about by COVID-19 in some ways limited our opportunities to explore our world, but in other ways, has stilled the waters of our life enough to see the things below the surface that had gone unaddressed since we began our homeschooling journey.  The year ahead is beginning like no other and we are looking forward to where the new twists and turns in our road will take us.

Best Regards,

Marc & Erika, Colorado USA

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

Top 5 Online Homeschooling Resources

Posted on

We know there are many doors that open once you step into the world of homeschooling and the variety of options can seem overwhelming at first. Now that we are living in a time of “crisis schooling”, families are scrambling to quickly make a plan for the school year and are doing their best to absorb as much information from the internet as possible right now. As advocates for the natural learning approach to homeschooling, the first thing we encourage parents to do is to have an open dialogue with their children to find out how they would enjoy spending their time in a fun and productive way.

 

West River Academy is very unique because we encourage each family to create a routine and learning flow that feels good to them. We ask them, “if you didn’t have to think about standardized testing, what do you think is important for your children to learn? How can you incorporate life lessons into your conversations, and ignite their love for learning again?”.  These questions prompt a new way of thinking and re-introduce the child to a world where learning is fun and exciting again!

 

Once you have figured out where you land on the spectrum of learning styles, it will be easier to narrow down the resources that will fit your family best. We have compiled the top 5 of our most popular online homeschooling resources directly from the recommendations of our families enrolled in West River Academy.

 

Enjoy!

 

Galileo is the new, innovative, self-directed online school for students aged 8-18 who are world schoolers, homeschoolers, and/or unschoolers from all over the world. They provide opportunities to collaborate with other students on projects, with groups that do projects together on STEM subjects and electives like Coding and Robotics, Foreign Languages and International Cultures. Choose your own adventure by mixing and matching a variety of topics!
Cost: $240/month or $2000/year
Age Range: 8-18

 

They offer a huge variety of classes and options. From phonics to AP Physics to Minecraft to Piano. Outschool feeds your kid’s curiosity and elevates their learning with a variety of 50,000+ classes.
Cost: $10-$600/ class
Age Range: 4-18
 
They offer tuition-free online classes with high school and college credit for grades 6-12. Includes Financial Education by Dave Ramsey for teens, and college courses from Grand Canyon University. 300+ Credit-based courses.
Cost: Many classes are tuition-free
Age Range: 10-18
 
The main things homeschoolers want are high-quality resources and flexibility, and they offer both. Lesson plans consist of in-depth powerpoints with images and videos to enhance the material. Plus, they offer a wide range of optional supplemental activities so you can customize your child’s educational experience based on their individual learning style.
Cost: $60-$175/class
Age Range: 10-18
 
They offer personalized learning of all core subjects. There are modules that the student can do at their own pace, they offer scholarship contests and they are popular worldwide.
Cost: Free
Age Range: PreK-12th grade

~

If you would like to talk more about finding a learning style for your family, feel free to schedule a phone consultation with Peggy Webb, the Founder and Director of West River Academy, here.

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

Homeschooling Global Summit 2020

Posted on

An influx of questions has flooded the internet in recent months regarding homeschooling and we are thrilled to address an array of topics in this virtual event called the Homeschooling Global Summit!

There will be ten days of expert interviews, from the likes of Sir Ken Robinson, Pat Farenga, Peggy Webb, Lainie Liberti, Melissa Church and many more! With hundreds of millions of kids around the world learning at home for the first time ever due to Coronavirus, this knowledge is needed by parents more than ever.

We will be interviewing some of our currently enrolled families, as well as West River Academy graduates. Learn how self-directed learning can be an advantage to navigating this rapidly-changing world.

Event Calendar:

Screen Shot 2020 06 09 at 7.37.24 PM

As this is the second annual event, anyone who is interested in watching the 40+ hours of footage from the 2019 Homeschooling Global Summit is now able to do so for free!

Visit https://hgsummit.com/ to get your FREE premium pass.

We are so grateful to all of our families and graduates who are participating in this event with us this year. We hope you register for it and share it with your loved ones!
~ The West River Academy Team