My favorite curriculum…
Why play games in your homeschool? Of course there are the obvious benefits of educational games: they're fun, a break from routine, "outside of school" learning, and family time - but that's not all!
If you have read my "Right Brain vs Left Brain" article, you may have an idea of why we should play games. You know that we need to use both sides of our brain to learn and retain information. You know that "right brain learners" tend to prefer tasks that are creative and emotional. Come to find out, everyone can benefit from exercising the right sides of their brains. Here's why:
It seems that strong emotions are usually paired with a pretty decent memory. For example, I remember where I was, who I was with and what I was doing when I heard about the Challenger accident. Likewise with 9/11. On a happier note, I can remember what I was wearing, where I was, and what I said the day my husband proposed marriage. I also remember word for word our conversation about my first positive pregnancy test. My 70 year old mother remembers what she was doing when she heard that JFK was shot. You probably have had a similar experience.
Stress isn't an emotion, but it has an effect on learning and memory. Usually, it is a negative effect. You know about people who have gone through unimaginably challenging and stressful situations (war, terror attacks, kidnapping, torture) only to forget it all when they return to a normal existence. Those are extreme circumstances but transfer to less extreme cases. For example, think about that exam you crammed all night for in high school, you knew it that night, then you got to the test the next morning and your mind went blank. I'm not saying that you can't learn or remember things when you are stressed, it's just harder.
Here is some very simplified information about brain waves that explains why this happens.
There are 4 types of brain waves. Beta, Alpha, Theta and Delta.
1. Beta waves are present when you are really alert and focused. You looked up the auto shop phone number in the directory, remember it long enough to dial, then poof!, it's gone.
2. Alpha waves show you are alert but relaxed. Much of our "mental processing" goes on during this time. This is when information is most easily transferred to our long term memory. Here's an example: If you grew up in the 80's, you may remember a song about "Jenny" whose phone number was 867 - ______ . Can you fill in the blank? (If you aren't of that era, it's 5309.) If you were like me, you probably only had to hear that song one or two times before you knew the number. Sure you probably heard it 1000 times since then, but the initial memorization took place after only a few repetitions. Why is it you can't remember the auto shop's number from 5 minutes ago, but you can remember Jenny's from 30+ years ago?
3. Theta waves are the brain waves you have early in your sleep cycle when you are dreaming. A lot of processing goes on during this time as well.
4. Delta waves happen when you are in deep sleep.
The lesson here is that when you are relaxed, there is an increased potential for learning.
So in a nutshell, that answers the question "Why play games?" Your mind relaxes just enough to allow the alpha waves to get to work. If the games you choose are educational, there is a very good chance your student will learn a thing or two without even trying, and it's more fun than a worksheet!