Holding a Board Game Class for Your Homeschool Co-OpLeah Courtney
When my homeschool co-op group decided to have a board games class for the seventh through tenth grade students, I was excited to have the opportunity to lead the group. We love board games in our family, and I thought that the idea of using them in our small co-op class was brilliant. Over the semester we had fun trying out all kinds of games in groups or pairs or even as a whole class. As the semester progressed, I learned about choosing the right kinds of games for a group and I saw the huge value of playing board games for homeschoolers.
Choosing the Right Games for a Homeschool Co-Op
As I went home and began to raid our large set of board game shelves, I was a little overwhelmed with how many games I had to choose from. Deciding which ones would be good for a group of homeschool tweens and teens was a challenge! We experimented a little, and I began to see what kinds of games worked and what didn’t.
Games that let kids answer questions—whether about pop culture or geography or history or sports— were a big hit. Because we had a fairly large age range from seventh graders to tenth graders, we sometimes adapted a game by giving the younger students easier questions, by giving them more time, or by letting them pass on especially tough questions.
Great States is a US geography based trivia game that we enjoyed. Another one the kids like is the game Camp which asks questions about camping and the outdoors, using different levels for the questions to accommodate multiple ages and abilities.
Games that involve strategy and planning were a winner. These were best played in smaller groups. We tried playing them with teams, but that was more difficult because the whole team had to agree on a strategy. With small groups, these games turned out to be very popular, and I had some games that were new to the group that became quick favorites. Ticket to Ride is a family favorite that the class really enjoyed.
Games that are designed to play at parties in large groups were also very popular. Most of these involve thinking up humorous answers to questions or choosing one funny answer out of several choices. We played Apples to Apples (the junior version) and Snake Oil, a game that has players making up funny items to sell to various customers. With the classic Pictionary, the whole group could play at one time, divided into teams, guessing the picture being drawn.
The Value of Board Games for a Homeschool Co-Op
Although I knew that our board game class would be fun, and I’ve seen in our own family how games can teach kids academic information and other skills, I wondered if a board game group in co-op would actually have any educational value. But as we went along, I realized the many benefits of board games for a homeschool co-op.
There is nothing like a rousing trivia game with friends to make you want to learn new information. when you play the trivia-based games, you will certainly learn new facts. Of course some of these facts are random and not very meaningful, but every once in a while an interesting fact will stick. We found this especially with the Great States game, and I learned a few things about US geography that I hadn’t known.
Sometimes a game leads to a quick research session when one team wants to defend an answer! And other times kids will read more after the board game co-op meeting when their interest has been piqued.
Strategy games are ones that obviously sharpen critical thinking skills. It takes critical thinking to be able to plan out a strategy and make your moves. But even fun party games require some thinking skills, such as making up a funny and unique item for sale in Snake Oil or convincing the player who is it to choose your card in Apples to Apples.
There is no way to get around it. In order to play a game, you have to read the instructions and follow the directions. If you don’t, everyone is trying to do things their own way, chaos reigns, and the game ends in frustration. As we read and learned games that were new to the kids, we learned the value of following directions in order to have the most fun with the game.
There are so many great lessons about getting along and working well together that can be realized when kids play board games. There is the obvious skill of taking turns. There’s also the ability to learn to be a good loser or a good winner. Sometimes kids need to learn patience with other members on their game team. And sometimes kids need practice in learning to act reasonably and not choose to hurt a friend with unkind words over a mere board game.
In our game sessions for homeschool co-op, we had myriad opportunities to practice relational skills as we played board games. Here is my favorite story. In our group is a child who is on the autism spectrum. She’s a teen, and she functions quite well in many situations, but socially she doesn’t do what the other kids do. Sometimes she didn’t choose to sit at a table and play with any group. But every time she sat and chose to play with the other kids, there was always someone who quickly stepped up to partner with her so that she could understand what was going on and have fun with us. It’s great that simply playing board games could encourage such kindness in our group.
Playing board games is a fun and beneficial class to offer in a co-op setting. There are many games that can be a good fit for large or small groups. And you’ll find kids learning so much more than just how to play a game.