Toys, Games & Puzzles

Toys, Games & Puzzles

Play is the Work of a Child

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.

 

Games

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)

 

Puzzles

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!
What are your favorite Toys, Games, and Puzzles? Do tell, ’cause I’m always on the look-out for more!
Blended Learning- It just makes Cents!

Blended Learning- It just makes Cents!

Blended Learning is every savvy homeschoolers secret weapon. Blended learning is a homeschool wave of the future, which I hope you are taking advantage of!

What exactly IS blended learning?

  • Digitally delivered course work
  • Experienced in real time
  • On-going interaction between student and instructor

Live on-line classes. Boy- howdy! This means that you can take advantage of someone’s expertise from a different time zone, culture, place and language. The world, is literally, at your fingertips!

We are taking advantage of this amazing opportunity at True North Homeschool Academy. Our Hebrew teacher and Hebrew History, Conversation and Culture teacher is a Rabbi, editor and actor, who lives in Israel with his wife and kids. Our Latin I and Classics teacher is a Classics major, who is also working towards a Master’s degree in the upper Midwest. Our Spanish teacher lives in Tex-Mex country, along with one of our English teachers and our Math teachers reside in two different states, both of them working in the tech industry. I could go on, but you get the idea; these are exciting times!

Homeschooling has always been possible anywhere, anytime, but being able to access quality classes from any subject area at the push of a button hasn’t always been so easy.

Some might say the cost is too high. But don’t think for a moment that sending your kids to public school exempts you from shelling out money, think again.  I’ve heard about crazy fees and supply lists that add up quickly regardless of if your kid attends public or private school; not to mention the plethora of fund raisers kids are expected to participate in. Let’s face it, (and this coming from the never pay full price queen), education costs either time or money and oftentimes both.

But, seriously, let’s break down the cost so that we can be clear about what you are getting. A live on-line class, with an expert and dedicated teacher at True North Homeschool Academy, tests, assessment and final grade costs $330. That’s 32 weeks of Dedication for $10.31 per week.

For the cost of 2 Starbucks a week you can have quality instruction taking place in the privacy of your home, for literally pennies on the private tutoring dollar (believe me, I know of what I speak- a few years ago I was paying $45 per hour for high school level math tutoring and hoping each week that the tutor actually showed up)!

In my economy, a weekly 60 minute class- taught by a teacher that KNOWS their subject matter. The first law of teacher, y’all, is that the teacher knows their material, and while I’m not disparaging local co-ops, we’ve had our fair share of Chemistry classes among other things “taught” by moms, such as myself, that know literally nothing about chemistry.

Furthermore, our classes are small, which means personalized attention. We have, literally, decades of experience in the homeschool world, which means that no matter what circumstance you are coming from, we’ve probably already encountered it.

$10.31 per hour class. That’s not just a good deal. That’s a great deal!