Today’s episode of Cultivating Grace is sponsored by:
Gamification for Homeschool
Hello, my name Meryl van der Merwe. I am now an empty-nester, but for many years after we moved to America from South Africa, I homeschooled our four children. I still teach homeschoolers online at FundaFunda Academy, and you can also find me at my podcast, Homeschooling with Technology.
In the years while I was homeschooling, the thing that I found the hardest was the fact that I was both teacher and mother to my children. Those two roles seemed to overlap and intertwine in often very frustrating ways. I felt that when I was sometimes just wanting to be their mother, I was reminded of the things that they hadn’t done because the teacher in me would remember that they hadn’t submitted a piece of work that they should have or hadn’t done a good job on something. This became more and more frequent as they got older.
It took me until my youngest child was in eighth grade to figure out a solution. Now it wasn’t a perfect solution, but this did make that year vastly better. At that point, she was the only one homeschooling because her older siblings had already graduated. Here is what I came up with. I gamified our homeschool.
Now what do I mean by that? Well, essentially, just as in a game … especially, I’m looking here at an online game where you earn points and then you get rewards … so she earned points and would get rewards. There were three main categories of things that she could earn points for. If you implement this in your homeschool, you could really have it work for anything, any of the things that are pain points in your life.
The first thing was for chores. I was tired of reminding her to keep her room tidy, to fold the laundry, and various other chores that she had. Now at the end of every week, if she had done her chores without complaining and without reminder, she got a number of points.
The second category was her schoolwork. She was very smart and could do a great job when she wanted to, but she would often rush it. Then I’d have to give her work back, and she’d have to redo it, or correct her math errors, and then I’d have to regrade it. It would just be a waste of time and a huge frustration for me. Now, if she submitted all her work for a specific subject during a week and I did not have to return it to her, she got points. She got points if she achieved a good result on a test. She got points if I didn’t make her redo an essay. Any of the different things that frustrated me, I gave points if she did not frustrate me and she did them correctly the first time.
Then I also gave her points for scholastic extracurriculars, things that I wanted her to do, but I knew that she wouldn’t just do of her own accord. She was not a voracious reader. She would read a few books that she wanted to, but I gave her points if she read over and above what I was requiring for her for school. She would get points for a book. Obviously, she would get a lot of points for that, a lot more than just for doing her chores. She also got extra points if she spent time on vocabulary.com improving her vocabulary, and on Khan Academy, and on Duolingo. All of those do have point systems themselves, so I would take that, and I would divide them by a certain amount, and get it come out to be a reasonable amount of points.
The third thing that she got it for was for contests. I enjoy using contests to encourage my children to go above and beyond. If she placed in a contest, she would get extra points.
Those points, what do you do with them? Well, for her, I translated those directly into money. You can decide what you want to do with it. It could be more computer time. It could be a mixture of things. Your children can pick and choose from rewards that have different point values assigned to them. Whatever would work for your budget, for your child. It must be something that they want. Don’t give them money if they are not interested. Don’t give them computer time if that doesn’t help them. It also needs to be something they can get very quickly. Don’t let them wait for six months before they can earn. She could draw her money out for every $10. She could get that at the end of two weeks. You need to kind of tweak it to see what will work.
Another friend of mine actually gave her daughter a Doctor Who t-shirt as her final reward. She did wait, and she had to spend a little bit more time to get it.
I know my children want that immediate result and not have to wait that long. This works really well. You can adapt it to any age child. You can adapt it to your budget, to the interests of your child. You can turn what are many times frustrating situations in your home into times when your child is working to try and do better, to earn a reward. I hope that this will turn things around in your house just as it did in ours!
Meryl van der Merwe homeschooled her 4 children and during that time started teaching at the local homeschool co-op. She still teaches there – as well as online at FundaFunda Academy. Meryl also hosts the Homeschooling with Technology podcast.
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