I have taken all of Cait from My Little Poppies courses. I’m hoping at some point to go back and review her Lazy Unit Studies and Read Aloud courses as well, but as I just finished Gameschooling 101 (affiliate link), I thought I should write this one while it is still fresh in my mind. If you know somewhere deep in your soul that you would like there to be more tabletop game play in your family, but it is just not happening at the level you would like, this is a fantastic course to help you get over any hurdles that might be in the way.
Now I know what you are probably thinking. “My biggest hurdle is TIME. If I had time to take a course, I would have time to play a game with my kids! And if I did somehow make time to take a course, wouldn’t it be better to just use that time to play some games instead?”
What this makes me think of is how some of most productive people in the world take time each day to meditate. Sometimes by surrendering some time up front to get your mind in order, the pieces of the goals you are trying to achieve fall into place. (Full disclosure, even though it sounds like a lovely idea, I personally don’t meditate. I haven’t found the time, LOL.)
Also, a lot of what Cait teaches in this course is how to find the time by helping you reframe your outlook on homeschooling in a way that relieves pressure. She uses scientific studies and expert advice to help you justify making gameplay a priority so you can let go of some of the guilt. Lastly, the course makes it so easy to listen to these lessons while you are doing the dishes or folding laundry. As an added bonus, listening to Cait explain why playing games with your kids is such a valuable use of time makes those tasks more enjoyable too.
Before I get into what I learned from having taken this course, first, some background. I am a big fan of the podcast Cait and Kara put together, The Homeschool Sisters. I started homeschooling in 2015 and stumbling across their podcast about a year in was a breath of fresh air for this tired homeschool sister. At the time, I didn’t know many other homeschooling families and cherished their support. I am a huge proponent of their hygge-filled, low stress outlook on homeschooling and life in general.
In particular, I identified with Cait as I am a nature and book loving mama who grew up enjoying tabletop games. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make these values cornerstones of our family life, but sometimes reality does not always live up to the vision.
Listening along with The Homeschool Sisters podcast and taking Cait’s courses have helped me to be more intentional about making our homeschool and family life match my vision. In a world filled with hustle and bustle, it is so refreshing to find a community, even if it is a virtual one, of like-minded people who prioritize relationships and developing kind, well-rounded individuals over academics.
Before I begin describing the course, I should state that while I am an affiliate of My Little Poppies and will make a commission if you decide to purchase this course using my link, I paid for this course with my own money and do not know the course creator personally. These opinions are unbiased and entirely my own.
This course is overflowing with valuable information. It took my several hours (divided up over about a week) to go through all the information in this course. Cait kindly provides the material in video format (which is how I consumed it) along with a written transcript and audio files. All of these versions are downloadable allowing you to access them even when you are away from an internet connection.
Additionally, each module contains helpful downloads, including printables for taking notes, resource guides including game lists, summaries of information covered, bingo and other games for playing with your kids, and more. I particularly appreciated the game suggestions based on the 8 play personalities and the questions to ask and decision tree for helping to decide which games to purge.
Many of the sections also include links to outside resources such as Ted talks, book recommendations, and online articles. As a lifelong learner, I happily followed these rabbit trails and learned a lot of bonus information in the process.
What Do You Learn?
If you have a question about gameschooling with children, I can pretty much guarantee Cait covers it. She answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Here are some of the main points and topics that she covers
- What is Play – First, she answers all of your questions about play. How do you identify an activity as play? What are the different types of play? And most importantly, why is play good for children? She backs up the answers to these questions with quotes from experts and scientific studies. If you were feeling unsure about whether or not it was even worth making time to gameschool, this section leaves no doubt.
- How to Prioritize Play – After convincing you why you should prioritize play, she offers some helpful advice on how to make space in your day for play to occur.
- Understanding Gameschooling – What is it? Why should you gameschool? What do you need to start gameschooling? All of your questions are answered. My big takeaway from this section is that gameschooling gives your kids the chance to practice new skills without the fear of failure. Also, all you really need to gameschool is a deck of cards and an internet connection.
- How to Work with What you Got – Some families, mine included, have a lot of games already. How do you figure out what you have, purge what you don’t need to reduce overwhelm, and store your games in a way that makes them more likely to be played. I found her list of questions to consider when deciding whether or not to keep a game particularly helpful.
- How to Gameschool on a Budget – I can attest to the fact that acquiring a large collection of games can be expensive. This section makes it clear that even if you only used a deck of cards or a set of dice, your kids can get all the benefits of gameschooling. Also, if you do decide to purchase games, Cait helps you to choose wisely.
- Gameschool Recommendations – The section in which Cait makes recommendations for games based on the child’s interests, age, type of game, and subject is one of the most valuable parts of this course. Many of these same recommendations could also be found on her blog or through the My Little Poppies Amazon store, but she narrows down her favorites in these lists.
- How to Personalize Gameschooling for Your Unique Situation – Cait helps you choose games based on your family situation and offers suggestions for modifying rules to make them work for your unique kids. She also offers tips to make the experience more enjoyable.
- How to Document Gameschooling – Ours does not, but if your charter homeschool requires documentation, she has several tips to keep track of which skills kids are learning and turn a game play experience into an educational sample. She also recommends apps for logging your playtime.
- FAQs – Cait has a section that covers common stumbling blocks, such as how to gameschool with a baby or toddler or how to choose games for kids that have a wide age range. She also offers tips for kids with learning challenges, parents who don’t enjoy playing games, or what to do when you can’t figure out the instructions.
- Bonuses – Cait has also included a number of bonuses such as bingo games that will encourage your family to play more games.
What Could Be Improved?
Just to be clear, I do not know the author of this course personally. Therefore, I have no qualms about laying out my unbiased opinion on what could be improved.
- One of my biggest complaints is that Cait provides SO MUCH information that it is kind of a pain to download it all. She has a page that links to all the lesson handouts, but even on that page alone there are over 25 individual files to download. I realized later that this page does NOT include all the bonus material in each lesson like resource guides, check lists, and bingo board games. It would be great if there was a way to download all the material at once.
- Many of the files are not ideal for printing. Given that there are so many files and many of them include a cover page, if you were to print these files, you would want to specify which pages to print to avoid printing duplicate pages and an excess of color, which might get annoying. Also, the same helpful resources are listed in many of these files, which would be redundant if you were to print it all. Maybe it is just because I am an eco-friendly minimalist, but especially with the lesson handouts, it would be great if there was a way to print all the note-taking material at once without all the repetition and color images.
- Speaking of the lesson handouts, there are a lot of blank spaces for people to fill in their answers as they listen. This is a great option for people to write their own personal takeaways, but as I did most of the course while folding laundry or washing dishes, I opted not to take notes. It sounds like cheating, but I would have loved if there was an “answer key” so that when I look back through my material in a year, I can quickly remember what I learned without having to re-watch the videos.
- Maybe she is already planning on creating this, but I think ultimately what needs to happen is Cait needs to write a book to accompany this course. I’m not sure if it should be included with the course or available to purchase separately, but there is SO MUCH information included in this course that it deserves to be presented in a coherent, unified piece of writing.
If you keep meaning to incorporate more games into your homeschool, but it isn’t happening to the degree you would like, then this course is worth the price of admission. It is an investment, but it will give you the knowledge and confidence to make playing games a priority while teaching you how to do it inexpensively. This empowerment will help you achieve your vision of kids playing and learning together in a fun, relaxed environment. Not only will kids benefit academically, but they will grow socially and emotionally as well, all while fostering strong family bonds.
If you decide that you would like to invest in Gameschool 101, note that there is a special discount price through Dec. 31, 2020. This is my affiliate link.