Between 1999 and 2012, the number of children being homeschooled in the U.S. doubled. While the reasons for this increase vary, one significant advantage to homeschooling today is our access to technology. Information can be accessed anywhere, anytime on the internet. All you need is a smartphone, tablet, or computer, and you have a wealth of resources at your fingertips.Video games have become an important teaching tool for homeschooling parents. For many, the goal of homeschooling is to create a nontraditional learning environment, where lessons are given in a way that is less like assigning workbooks and more like finding teachable moments in real-life situations. Video games fit spectacularly into that lesson plan.
Below is a list of some of the best apps and games for homeschooling families. These games focus on learning as fun, while also challenging children and teens to think creatively and solve problems.
Named by Parents.com as one of the “Best Apps for Families,” Starfall was originally created as a program to teach phonics through play. Now the site has expanded to include programs for preschool, kindergarten, first grade, second grade, special education, homeschool, and English language development (ELD, ELL, ESL). Aligned with Common Core Standards, Starfall offers free and paid programming to parents and educators.
Monkey Math School Sunshine
This app, created by THUP Games, is designed to teach children fundamental math skills while simultaneously entertaining them with a few silly characters. The games are created for kids between 3 and 6 years old, and they focus on counting, adding, and sorting.
The Raz Kids website, created in 2004, provides games, quizzes, interactive books, and more. The site focuses on literacy, with an emphasis on games and fun. Kids have their own login (which is attached to a parent or teacher) and can earn stars for reading. Kids can use their stars within the website and corresponding Apple and Android apps to purchase new games.
A site devoted to teaching reading in an interactive way, Reading Eggs caters to children from 3 to 13 years old. Developed by teachers, writers and developers, this site has games, interactive animations, songs, and rewards to keep kids engaged. Along with the website, Reading Eggs is also available as an app on Apple or Android devices.
Spelling City is full of interactive experiences for students. Games and practice quizzes, personalized by a teacher or parent, give kids the opportunity to learn new words through repetition without becoming bored. The site offers free gaming, but also provides more activities and options through a paid premium membership.
This graphic-adventure puzzle game was recommended to me by a teacher who uses it to teach creative thinking to his junior high and high school students. While not a traditional teaching tool, Myst encourages imagination, investigation, puzzle-solving, and discovery. Myst, originally released for Macintosh in 1993, was a surprise hit among gamers. It has been continuously updated and now is available on several platforms, including the iPad and PlayStation 3.
While some games were created with learning and teaching goals in mind, others create teachable moments by accident, by mimicking real life choices and decision-making. This is why gaming is such a popular tool among homeschooling parents and kids. Gaming provides the opportunity to make learning a fun activity for everyone!