The intrepid adventurers scurried through dank corridors, snatching up artifacts and pocketing treasure. They stumbled into a pit, navigated a runaway mine cart, and swung over stagnant water on decaying ropes. At long last, they possessed not only the Diamond of Ancients, but both of them scored 91% on their three-page history test.
Two days before this breathless adventure began, Darren left a history assignment for Bookgirl and Gamerboy: “Study chapter 17 and take the test.” He’d spent the last two weeks assigning them readings and going over it in the evenings, and was eager to finish it up.
But forget miry pits and rickety mine tracks—this turned out to be an impossible quest. It covered American history from the Pilgrims to the 18th-century missionary movement. Both kids looked at what they were supposed to know and panicked. I sat down to review it with them, but slogging through that huge chunk of information was both boring and ineffective.
I talked with Darren, and we agreed that we could put off the test for two more days while I designed a study sheet.
Or, you know—an epic Indiana Jones-ish adventure game!
(Well, as epic as something can be when it’s drawn on the inside of a manila folder by someone who can’t actually draw.)
As the adventurers, Bookgirl and Gamerboy, barreled through (virtual) locked doors, climbed up crumbling (imaginary) stone steps, and pulled themselves up via a (fictional) pulley system, all by answering questions correctly. Along the way, they collected cards to help them remember significant people in history, such as:
- Adoniram blame my mom for my name Judson
- George Washington, who invented the quarter, the dollar bill, the Capital, and an entire state!
- Robert Walpole, first prime minister of England, not to be confused with his cousin Bob Tadpole, first prime minister of The Swamp.
- John Carver—“Carving out a place for himself in government since 1620!”
- D.L. Moody, whose brother, U R Moody, was a much less popular preacher.
They also collected treasure cards. At the end of the game, they could cash in their treasure for rewards such as a music download, a shorter math lesson, or exemption from a chore for one day. It wasn’t the most rollicking game they’d ever played, but in terms of making an enormous portion of information easier to process—it was a smashing success.
My point here isn’t the fact that I created a game to review their history facts. The point is we can tell when our children are struggling—and we can do something about it. If you’re like me, you chose homeschooling partly because of its flexibility. When a child can’t quite grasp a concept, we’re able to stop and approach the situation from a new angle.
So you might not sketch out a map filled with perils and treasure. You might be able to write a comprehensive, streamlined study sheet. Or you’re good at creating unit studies to help your children engage with the information. Possibly you’ve got a knack for finding relevant novels and biographies, then reading aloud at the supper table. I can’t do any of these things with much success.
That’s the beauty of homeschooling. We all have different gifts and strengths, and our children all learn in their own ways. It’s not easy, and it takes a lot of time and energy, but it’s worth all the effort we put in. Afterward, Bookgirl and Gamerboy each thanked me. Not for making a game, but for helping them get ready for their test.
In years to come—or maybe just at the end of the day—our children will be grateful that we took the time to tailor their education to their needs. That’s one of the greatest treasures we can “cash in” on our homeschooling adventures.
Photo Credit: second, third, and fourth photos by Sara Jones.