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The Importance of Play in the Homeschool Curriculum

The following guest post is by Angie Knutson, whose My Four Monkeys blog reviews products through her unique lens as both mom and homeschool educator.  Angie believes in the power of learning through play and has integrated games into her teaching!  Check out her post on using What’s GNU to build language skills!  Here she shares her thoughts on the importance of incorporating free play into her kids’ lives.

If you’re a fan of ThinkFun, you know that they create their fantastic games with the belief that children learn best while at play.  As a mom and a homeschooler, I completely agree, and I have seen the proof with my own eyes. I’m a mom of four children, ranging in age from 2 to 9 years of age. We just started our sixth year of homeschooling, and like every other year, unstructured playtime plays an important role in our weekly school schedule.

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One of Angie's "4 Monkeys" playing What's Gnu?

So many moms and dads try to have every minute scheduled, especially homeschooling parents. Many times even their free time is scheduled with what activity they are going to do and how long they’re going to do it. I think many parents suffer from the same fears that I have from time to time – the fear that if we don’t do things perfectly, our children will end up ignorant and uneducated. While there definitely needs to be a core curriculum, we often forget the values of recess or free time. Parents sometimes go overboard with scheduled activities, leaving very little free time for their children.

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The Knutson kids enjoy a game of Zingo! to Go!

We take a full hour, sometimes more, every school day at lunch time for free time. We also only do school four days a week, and we spend our extra day playing games, jumping on the trampoline, or creating with arts and crafts supplies. Free time really means free time at our house! I don’t usually plan an activity or decide how long we will spend doing it, and I often let the kids figure this out on their own without any help from me. This is an important part of the learning!

Our kids learn by using their creativity to come up with their own activities, and we have plenty of games, arts and crafts supplies, books, etc. all very easily accessible to them. They don’t always enjoy cleaning up the mess after they’ve decided to spend an hour creating a construction paper jungle in their bedroom, but they had fun doing it and it was their creation. We have even been known to have a movie marathon complete with soda and popcorn on a rainy day! {gasp}.

Over time, I have realized that the more stressed I am about making sure we fit everything into the schedule, the more stressed the kids are. I try to stay calm and laid-back, while still doing my job as their teacher and mom. Plus, when they’re elementary aged and younger, they always learn best when playing. Whether its educational games like the ones created by ThinkFun, coloring, or just listening to music and dancing, they retain the information much longer when they learn it while they’re having fun.

It’s not all about education, though. Games are a great way of spending time together as a family, a perfect way to unwind and create memories. Family Game Night isn’t just a good idea – it’s a must for families. For us, it’s our way of reconnecting and bonding, an opportunity to teach or just plain laugh!

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