Unschooling with Video Games


Nookie is a gamer. She loves video games passionately. And lately she is all about YouTube and the games that YouTubers play. She watches hours of her favourite YouTuber videos: iHasCupquake, Jacksepticeye, Markiplier, Pewdiepie and others… and then I have to download the games for her to play. At the minute she’s very into Yandere Simulator, Who’s Your Daddy, Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare, CHKN, and Scribblenauts. She plays them for hours most days. She was previously very into Jazzpunk and Octodad, but having played them through so many times she could do the whole of the games within a couple of hours I think she’s tired of them now. She has also started dipping her toe into The Sims and Age of Empires, though she needs a lot of help from an adult with these as they involve reading. Minecraft is always a firm favourite, but she plays it less these days than she used to.

There is so much learning value in these games (they’re costing us a fortune though! lol). She gets to learn about strategy for example. Who’s Your Daddy is a two player game where you play as either a daddy or baby: the baby has to try to kill himself, via a number of methods, and the daddy has to try to stop him. When she plays as the daddy she has to anticipate what the other player will do and plan the order she will baby-proof the house in to try to stop the baby.

Scribblenauts is excellent. If you have a child and haven’t downloaded it, do it! For anyone who doesn’t know, in Scribblenauts you play as a boy called Maxwell who has to help people with their problems by spawning items/creature, etc, or adding adjectives, through his notepad. So, on one occasion you come across a boy who can’t get past a bully. You select the notepad and can write the word “sword” to give the boy a sword to kill the bully. Or you could select the bully and give him the adjective “tiny” or “dead”. There are usually dozens of ways to solve the problem, often with funny results, and you get bonus points for using a different word every time. It’s really helping Nookie with her reading.

I won’t bother talking about how good Minecraft is. There are literally dozens of articles online about the benefits of Minecraft. I could go on about it all day. It really is fantastic.

Through her love of video games Nookie is learning to read and write. She is learning strategy, planning, problem-solving, patience. She is learning maths. She gets to practice design and creativity. The Sims 3 is really good for playing with design and expression. The ways you can dress your sims and make them look are virtually endless, as are the decorations for your homes. Nookie enjoys trying to make sims of her favourite cartoon characters. She has a My Little Pony family, for example, where each of the sims looks as close to a character as she can make them, and she has carefully thought about what each pony’s personality is like so she can choose those traits for her sims’ personalities.

Age of Empires is really good (if slightly advanced). In this game you play as a historic civilisation. You start off with a few villagers and a town centre, have to gather resources and quickly expand before you are defeated by your enemy’s civilisation. It’s a game that requires planning and forethought about how to efficiently use resources. Through it Nookie is not only learning strategy, she is also learning history. We’ve spoken about ancient civilisations and the way people used to live. It’s led to some very interesting discussions.

Video games are fun. I love them… always have. I was a big gamer growing up too. I was a child when the first Sony Playstation was released and my uncle, who used to babysit for us, would bring his around and let us stay up late watching him play Tomb Raider and Resident Evil. I spent hours on my Sega Master System growing up, playing Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex the Kid. As a teen I loved Rollercoaster Tycoon, The Sims, Age of Empires, Silent Hill and dozens of other games. They were a huge part of my childhood.

Nookie obviously loves games too. You’ll never see her more animated than when she is telling someone about her new favourite video game. Today her Nannie came over and she spent ten minutes talking non-stop about Yandere Simulator (my mum had no idea what she was talking about!). It’s her passion and she is VERY good at them! She’s five years old and she can beat me at some of them. It took me three days to play Octodad through when we first downloaded it. Nookie can play through the entire game now in a couple of hours (if you’ve never played Octodad you won’t know why it’s so difficult… download it and see for yourself).

So yeh, I’ll never understand why computer games are vilified like they are. There is so much substance to them… so much of value. Yes there is value in playing outside, or building Lego or painting a picture too, but show me an unschooled child who doesn’t do those things too. But denying children video games closes a whole rich avenue for them to learn from, and that’s a shame. I’m glad Nookie has found something that ignites her passion like it obviously does. Joy is something you can never have too much of!

The Best Bits of Home-education


It’s the little conversations. That’s where the real learning happens. Yes we do learning activities. We cook and do experiments and paint pictures and have trips out to museums. These things all have their value. But the chats in the car or whilst on the train; the running commentary about life discussed as we walk to the shop to buy sweets… this is where the questions arise and the explanations are given. Informal, relaxed, about things that matter there and then.

Why do those plants look spiky?

Why do people drop litter?

Why do workmen dig up the road?

Learning. Happening. Constantly. Language developed. Curiosity fed. The web of knowledge expanded and connections made in unknown ways. Known only to her. Meaningful only to her. Some things will be forgotten. Many things will be remembered. But it’ll be what’s relevant to her, not what can be assessed by another.

This is learning.