Using Gaming as a Homeschool Elective

Using Gaming as a Homeschool Elective

Using Gaming as a Homeschool Elective

Using Gaming as a Homeschool Elective; even though homeschool high school requires a certain amount of core subjects to graduate. Of course, as homeschooling parents, we know this.

But here is something you probably DON’T know, or have never considered:

While many families use traditional methods of teaching such as textbooks and workbooks, there is a system that is vastly superior and far more engaging, especially for struggling learners and those on the Spectrum.

And while homeschool electives these days seem to be unending as far as choices, gaming as a homeschool elective can function as several electives in one.

It truly combines many subjects of homeschool high school into one, making life far more enjoyable for your students, less stressful, more engaging, and thus increasing, in the long run, their academic proficiency which will better prepare them for their futures.

What is this system? It’s adding gaming as a homeschool elective.

Do you use gaming as a homeschool elective? It's a great way to cover multiple subjects while also tailoring learning to our child's interest. Check out these tips and ideas for using gaming as a homeschool elective. #homeschooling #electives #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #GamingRPGs to Homeschool High School

Role Playing Games (RPGs) incorporated into learning and exercise.

Now chances are your child is already well-versed in RPGs. After all, it’s how most video games these days are played. My son, now 17, likes to Play Skyrum and Mountblade. He also loves Lord of the Rings and Narnia, just like I do.

The most well known and controversial RPG game is Dungeons & Dragons.

Dungeons and Dragons, despite the normal bad rep, is neither good nor evil; but is defined by the actions and the heart of the DM (Dungeon Master) who oversees the running of the story world. When in a D&D session, with a good morale DM you are likely to have a clean and fun game. If the DM is chaotic and ungrounded in their morals, the game will be dark and fall into inappropriate content.

My RPG Experience

Years ago as a teen, I was a Dungeon Master (DM) myself and spent countless hours writing fantasy novels, creating worlds, making timelines, and making up my own languages.

I also spent my childhood “playing Narnia” in the Mesa behind my backyard. These were idyllic hours of pretend play as we would battle foes as Narnians. You could not get me in before 9 o’clock on a summer evening!

An Intriguing Idea

So when my nephew, Nate, came to visit several years ago and suggested we use RPG for homeschooling I was intrigued. A DM himself and a participant in several RPG live action groups, he recognized the potential this had for learning.

I saw what it could do for my son and other kids like him who are on the Autism Spectrum. Kids who hid themselves in front of a computer and had very little motivation to do anything else.

Our Epic Quest

So began our epic quest in starting a LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) Club and Camp. We far exceeded expectations in enrollment and what’s even more important, we made an incredible impact.

We also incorporated a collaborative group storytelling hour that Nate calls “Advanced Narrative Roleplay (ANR). Many parents see D&D as problematic so we took that element out and through creating our own world with Christ-centered emphasis, we made the theme of our play defeating evil by a group of heroes. The ANR is by far the most favorite part of our club and camp!

Through our programs we saw:

  • Children and parents making friends, in many cases for the first time ever
  • The kids had freedom of creative expression, which helped their confidence
  • Some of them came hating to write and left having a passion for it. One is even writing a novel!
  • Children’s aggressive behavior was mitigated and those who were bullied learned to appropriately stand up for themselves
  • Children learned how to collaborate in teams
  • Students who felt helpless, near suicidal, depressed, hopeless, and far from God began seeking, asking for help, and committing their lives to Him!

As one of our students told me, our group was a lifeline to him!

So as the new school year approaches, we are adding another layer: ancient history. Each year we will add another historical time period.

The Possibilities are Endless!

But the possibility for using RPG in homeschool high school and in any grade level is limitless. Math, literature, writing, science…

And of course, with the LARPing, we had a PE component to it. The children make boffer swords and then duke it out in ditch battling sessions and play games like King of the Hill, Zombie Apocalypse, Capture the Flag. They run around OUTSIDE and interact with each other. It helps build teamwork, muscle coordination, eye-hand coordination…

But most of all, THEY LOVE IT!

My son? He is becoming a leader through all this. He spends less time playing video games and more time thinking about costumes or what different weapon he can make or shield he can construct. At this time, he’s attempting to make wooden swords and then sell them for a business.

What can LARPing and RPG learning do for your child? All this and more!

If you’re ready for an out of the box experience and an immersive learning tool, consider this creative approach to teaching homeschool high school today.

(Want more ideas on how to add gaming as a homeschool elective?  Check out our game design course!)


7 Habits of Highly Effective Homeschoolers

7 Habits of Highly Effective Homeschoolers

Effective homeschooling is an art form, buy If I’m going to pour my time and effort into something, I want it to work, don’t you? Here’s my short list of how to be a highly effective homeshooler: 
1. Have a vision. Why do you do what you do? Proactive visions are easier to stick by than reactionary visions. Start with the end in mind. What kind of person socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually do you want to be interacting with at the end of your homeschooling endeavor?
2. Gather your stuff. Educational supplies like blackboards and whiteboards, pencils, paper, books, CD’s, scissors and curriculum. It can be complicated and expensive or simple and free. Be intentional. Serve up feast instead of famine food.
3. Use your stuff. If you don’t use the stuff you’ve gathered it goes from being educational supplies to junk. Plan your work and work your plan.  Having self discipline is essential.  Having a yearly, weekly, daily, seasonal schedule is helpful. Get rid of what you don’t use. Clutter is stressful.
4. Laugh out Loud. Don’t take everything so seriously. Work your plan and then give it time to take hold.  Life is serious stuff, keep laughing at the little things, with each other, at yourself.
5. Read voraciously. I mean you, as the teacher. Keep learning and growing. Read to your kids, outloud and for hours.  Require them to read, every day. Have them read words that stir their soul.

6. Converse about everything. Your vision, hopes, dreams, what you are reading, your faith, sex, politics, money, the state of the union, your loe story, God’s love story.

7. Share your faith.   How does your faith affect you, change you, grow you, challenge you, comfort you, invigorate you.  How do you live it? Live it. Include your kids.

You might also be interested in our Course Catalog and Clubs.

Lisa Nehring is a 7 Habits junkie, but also love Getting Things Done. She brings her vision and passion to homeschooling and True North Homeschool Academy, where she teaches Literature and Composition and facilitates the Writing Club.

How to Create a Unit Study

How to Create a Unit Study

Unit Study

A unit study is a theme or topic that you approach from various angles and resources. Content areas such as History, Math, Science, Bible, and the Arts are better suited for unit studies than skill areas like math and English because these areas must be taught precept upon precept. Of course, there are many fine companies that provide pre-made unit studies, such as Amanda Bennett, Hands of a Child and Beautiful Feet, but, perhaps you’d like to create your own.

Here’s how to Create a Unit Study

  1. Brainstorm your initial topic and get it defined to the point that you can create a course description with objectives and goals. (i.e. my 8 year old wants to learn more about horses, my 11 year old wants to learn more about the 1800’s, my 16 needs a great study on the 20th century for a high school lit/history unit.
  2. Do an internet search/ initial research on your topic and refine as needed, (i.e. define it clearly enough so that it is not so broad that it consumes the entirety of your elementary life, or so narrow that there is not information about it).
  3. Create a reading, movie, T.V. list based on your course description and research
  4. Brainstorm activities and projects, for instance:
  1. dioramas
  2. presentations/short skits
  3. field trips
  4. community experts
  5. cooking/foods
  6. games
  7. posters
  8. oral and written reports
  9. maps/geography
  10. memory work
  11. scrapbook
  12. video/ stop action animation
  13. Blog article (or a blog created to showcase the unit/YouTube
  14. Play mobile / Lego re-enactments,
  15. lap books
  1. Fit the activities and projects that you’ve chosen into various curriculum areas:
  2. literature
  3. history
  4. science
  5. math
  6. the Arts (music, fine arts, drama)
  7. phys.ed.

6.      Plan your Study (Create a notebook for your study- you might want to do it again!)

  1. Determine the time for the study- how long will it be, how often will you work on it.
  2. Schedule the resources you have readily available- books, DVD’s, people, etc.
  3. Schedule the projects for the unit –allow enough time for them!
  4. Schedule the reading for the unit
  5. Schedule the memory work for the unit
  6. Schedule field trips
  7. Create a fitting close to your successfully completed unit study like a grand finale field trip or a presentation/reenactment for Dad and Grandparents!

Unit studies are fun for young and old alike and can be either simple (the zoo) or complex (the 20thCentury). They are only limited by your imagination!

I’d love to hear about the unit studies that you are creating!

You might also be interested in Clubs and our Course Catalog

Lisa Nehring has been involved in both highly planned and detailed as well as fly by the seat of your pants unit studies for years, some of which have turned into professional and ministry pursuits.

Toys, Games & Puzzles

Toys, Games & Puzzles

Toys, Games & Puzzles

Toys, Games & Puzzles are perfect tie ins if you believe, like John Holt and I do, that play is a child’s work.  I love toys. And I totally believe that they contribute to learning. Holt and Montessori shared the belief that play was a child’s work. They both addressed this differently; while Marie created child-sized tools, John made space, room, and resources available to the child so that they could “work” (which is to say, “play”).

We’ve had toys in our home for over 2 decades, including obscene amounts of Barbies, Bionicles, and other consumer-oriented icons of middle-class America. And while I don’t often personally purchase the aforementioned plastic purveyors of a consumer-oriented culture, I don’t obviously throw them away either. But when I’m choosing the playthings, I am all about open-ended, creative play.
When we lived in sunny southern California, with a pool next door and a huge sandbox out front, toys equaled lots of buckets, shovels, and pool toys. Some of our kids got older and we moved again and my Mom bought the kids an X-box. We traded it in for a huge trampoline. One of the BEST. TOYS. EVAH. We’ve had one for about 15 years and have had no broken bones or serious accidents. As a former lifeguard I set the rules and have zero tolerance for those who don’t follow them. You break the rules, you’re off the tramp.

The trampoline has it’s own culture and games: crack the egg, blind man’s bluff, etc. It is also the best place for kids’ summer birthday party picnics, family stargazing late at night (BYOB- bring your own blanket), and summer reading.

In addition to the trampoline, our family has loved and invested in:

  • BRIO TRAIN -ages pre-school through elementary. When Feeche was younger he would take over the entire living room creating Train Town.
  • PLAYMOBILE – preschool through late elementary or beyond. Ds 13 likes to use Playmobile to create stop-action scenes.
  • LEGOS– as soon as the kid won’t put stuff in their mouths until late adulthood/death. I know this for a fact. My brother-in-law, broker that he is, has been seen, on the floor, playing with Lego’s, well into his 40’s; which we love and appreciate!
  • And, of course, the proverbial box.Woman In Grey Shirt Holding Brown Cardboard Box


None of these are cheap, except the proverbial box, and we haven’t been rich (not even close) but we’ve amassed great amounts of each. How? Often 2nd hand (including online; throw out a “WTB” on a well-trafficked home school forum and see what happens), occasionally gifts, toy store closings (I amassed a HUGE box of specialty Lego parts for $15 in a shrewd negotiation during a toy store closing several years ago) and the extraordinary uber sale (I found the Pyramid Play mobile set for 70% off last summer – hello Christmas!).

As for the boxes, we buy in bulk, so we have a steady supply, but if you are looking for super duper large boxes, contact your local appliance store. We collected about 20 one year and Dr. Dh built a 2 story, castle-shaped fort in the backyard for Feeche’s birthday party. It was still standing 10 days later for KB’s and the kids – about 20 of them, had the time of their lives in that thing! Our kids regularly decorate, paint, and cut up boxes to create who-knows-what. But seriously, don’t underestimate the potential of this humble, time-tested toy.


My paternal grandmother, Audrey ruled the game table, though never at cards; she was Plimoth Brethren after all. Besides that, we spent many, many happy hours at my grandparents lakeside cottage playing croquet during languid summer afternoons and then in the evening at card-tables playing Rook and Aggravation and a host of other games I can’t remember the names of with my great aunts and uncles (whose names and love I do remember)  and eating homemade apple pie and candy out of dishes. Sweet, sweet memories of my Tribe. Besides the love and the pie, which were de rigeur, one always knew that Grandma ruled and if you were at her table you were just a warm body to justify her winning. Chinese Checkers was her specialty.
So what do games have to do with education?
Well, plenty; like how to be a gracious winner and an affable loser. How to negotiate alliances, cut your losses, take risks, be judicious, and put in time with people when you’d much rather be surfing or doing laundry. You know, sometimes you just need to show up and play games, even when you don’t want to, or it’s difficult.
As for our family, we don’t play a lot of games but we like to win when we do.

Our Favorites:

  • Mancala– easy to learn and play, doesn’t take a lot of brainpower and fun. Introduced to us by our dear friends, The Pontons, 14 years ago when we were just moving into a house, the furniture hadn’t been delivered yet, and their kids were spending the night. How could we not love the game after that?
  • Chinese Checkers – The Rummel family contains a long line of world-class players and sadly I relinquished to the title to Feeche last Thanksgiving.
  • Risk – world domination, baby. Bring it on.
  • Monopoly– yes, it’s obvious, and there comes a tipping point. Flower still digs it, though- it’s what we do for love.
  • Blokus– KB and Feeche AND Flower developed a strategy to freeze me out last fall and I honestly swear they have ruined this game for me. It’s a cruel and highly effective strategy that leaves one’s opponents in tears (that would be me).
  • Phase 10- when everyone is at drool stage but it’s too early to go to bed.
  • We’re adding Scrabble to the retinue to try to ramp up the weak spelling gene (which appears to go hand in hand with the world-class Chinese Checker playing gene- brought to you by my side).
  • And our new personal favorites! Risk Legacy and Eclipse!
  • Quarter Mile Math– beat the car or the horses and learn your math facts. Good stuff on CD.
  • And of course, Ages of Empires. I know, I know. I’m constantly preaching go light on the electronics. But we do have an x-box (which I avoid mentioning because it’s so obvious. We still shut it down every Easter and it’s in the closet till Thanksgiving or the first snow- whichever comes last)



I have some puzzlers in my midst but apparently Flower and I are the only ones who really like to work puzzles. We do once about every decade and a half. Flower still loves the Geography Puzzles. A rocking way to learn the world.
And all of the kids have gone through a serious Usborne Puzzle book addiction- from my years as a UBAH consultant- we own all of them and they’ve gone through 5 kids, several cross country moves, and a house fire and are still being puzzled through. We also loved their dot-to-dot and maze books. Every one, terrific!
Perplexors – deductive reasoning for the stalwart souls. We love perplexors!
For those who love logic games- or if you are trying to convince your kids they are worthy pursuits, check out our Informal and Formal Logic classes! Perfect to develop your kiddos game playing acumen!
What are your favorite Toys, Games, and Puzzles? Do tell, ’cause I’m always on the look-out for more!
Seeking Beauty

Seeking Beauty

Seeking Beauty
Seeking beauty is something that most of us, as children of a creative God, do naturally. The Master of the Universe, God- the ultimate Artist, has instilled in us a deep desire to create and respond to beauty; we have built in beauty seeking detectors. Art is integral to our sense of well being, and ultimately, to the health and well being of our souls. As homeschoolers, we take seriously the pursuit of beauty and take seriously the ability to create beauty around us; for our selves and others.
The Basics of Seeking Beauty
Nature studies Sketchbooks and colored pencils, pens, erasure, paints, markers Time to think, reflect, ponder, mull Drawing instruction. We love Bruce McIntyres’ Drawing Sketchbook, Mark Kistler and Lee Ames How to Draw series Vocabulary and word study. Lately we’ve done this through Latin studies. Excellent writing instruction Humor -how to create and tell a good joke Story telling Scientific inquiry Logic and recognition of fallacies A good story Books, movies, magazines, live events Challenging activities History Theological studies Theater and Public performance Crafts Event Planning and creating programs

I’ve done a fair bit of creating myself: photography, stained glass, basket weaving, painting, scrapbooking, journaling, poetry, writing, DIY, house-crafting, and all manner of fiber arts. It’s just something I have to do. My husband is much the same way, though his creativity can often be found in areas like language studies (he’s on his 3rd) and intensive intellectual pursuit. When we share those creative pursuits with our kids they get the added benefit of our years of experience. We get someone to share what we love with. Win-win!
Creativity and Intellectual Pursuit
Which leads me to a point about seeking beauty; true creativity and artistic instruction is an intellectual pursuit. I created and taught a high school level Creative Writing Course a couple of years ago (best class evah- amazingly talented kids who really loved the work!) and they were shocked at the level of discipline the class demanded. We memorized poetry and learned forms, did writing prompts weekly, had a word count to reach every week, books to read and so much more. The kids worked hard in the pursuit of creativity. At the end of the year, they’d all written a novelette and had great tools in their writing tool-box because they were disciplined about their pursuit of creativity.
So often we look at “art” as free-from expression and devoid of plan or purpose. In fact, classic art- that which spans time and culture- is the result of startling discipline.
I propose that true art is mastery of a subject area that allows those participating in or viewing it to reach beyond themselves and hope for better things. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia series is a great example. There are so many deep spiritual truths found in this simple imaginative tale, even the youngest reader can hear and see that God is good and for them.
But does art always demand mastery? Well, no. We can take simple pleasure and enjoyment in a great many things without excelling at them. And along those lines, I don’t buy the adage that practice makes perfect. Good, intentional practice allows us to reach for perfection. Schlock practice re-enforces bad methods and behavior. Seeking, and finding, beauty, requires intentionality.
Art Curriculum There are some brilliant curriculum’s out there- you know the ones. They take a difficult or intimidating subject matter and make it accessible to the point that you ever wondered what was daunting in the first place- IEW, Lost Tools of Writing, Story and History of the World, Old Western Culture, Classical Conversations, Henle Latin, The Grammar of Poetry, etc. It’s not that the student doesn’t have to actually do the work- it’s that the work allows them to excel quickly and well. These curricula are worth every penny. It’s worth doing the research to find it, and sometimes that’s an art form in and of itself! There are sites devoted to curriculum reviews as well as Facebook groups and Pinterest Boards that will aid you as you seek the best curriculum for your family.
Teach What You Know Often what you are good at, your kids will excel at. Imitation and all of that, not to mention that it’s far easier to teach what we know and understand. As a result our kids all know how to draw, cook, garden, write, speak, plan, study and memorize and understand exceedingly well theology, the Bible and scientific inquiry. Things I struggle with, they often do. But, that also allows them the added benefit of them watching me/us struggle through something that might be initially difficult- like dry-walling, upper level Math or learning Latin.This year our creative pursuits have included the study of Latin and integrating the culture and vocabulary in new and interesting ways, sculpture and drawing, ballroom dancing, cartography and nature sketches, along with weekly drawings of body systems, Flourish, debate, Drama, recitation, Shakespeare, the Piano Guys, Studio C, Tim Hawkins, Foyles’s War, Dorothy Sayers mysteries on DVD, violin, music theory, straw bale gardening, DIY projects, an arbor and an amazing display of Christmas lights, along with some great books and CD’s. You gotta have art. It’s as simple as that!
Stop by these bloggers for more inspiration on Art and Homeshooling.
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – Seeking Beauty Through the Arts Yvie @ Gypsy Road – Art Museum Staycation & Elements of Art Unit Sarah@ Delivering Grace – First Things First Laura @ Day by Day in Our World – Add An Element of Beauty with Fine Arts in the Homeschool Lisa@ Golden Grasses – What Are We Fighting For?  Annette @ A Net In Time – Art, art, and more art Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset – The Sounds of Music Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break – Music and Other Beautiful Things
Lisa Nehring is a seeker of Truth, Beauty an Goodness and prayerfully brings her vision and passion to homeschooling and True North Homeschool Academy, where she teaches Literature and Composition, facilitates the Writing Club and provide Academic Advising and Homeschool Coaching.