I’ve been homeschooling my daughter for the past two years now, and it’s definitely been an adventure and a learning experience…for both of us. She’s now eight years old, and she’s got a strong sense of self. A stubborn streak that’s pretty awesome. So you may imagine that it’s pretty difficult to “teach” her things unless she’s self-motivated. Lucky for her, I appreciate and accept her personality and learning style, so “unschooling” is the method we use.
Minecraft is a game that my daughter has taken a huge liking to. And I was quite surprised to find out that it became a bridge for learning. In case you don’t know much about the game, I’ll give a brief overview. In Minecraft you can do what you want. There aren’t goals you have to meet, no “bosses” you have to beat, etc. It’s open ended.
The main things you can do in Minecraft are mine ores (coal, iron, gold, diamonds, etc.) and craft items and buildings. You can play alone or on a server with others. We are part of a homeschool server where parents monitor their children’s behavior. You can set it so there are monsters (zombies, spiders, skeletons) to fight, or not. You explore the game’s “world,” with various biomes (jungles, oceans, mountains, deserts), you find resources (wood, stone), food (cows, pigs, mushrooms), and you “live” or build or dig. It’s up to you.
So what’s this got to do with homeschooling? My daughter got really interested in iron and the things it makes in real life. She wants to know about diamonds, rubies, and other items from inside the Earth. She’s building things in the game and thinking about how to build them in real life. She’s reading the words on the screen and chats with friends on the server. And there’s math involved, resource management, electricity, and more!
She also watches YouTube videos (that I approve) where others are playing the game, so she learns how to do other cool things in the game and is privy to their knowledge base as well. For Christmas I bought her some papercraft Minecraft thingees, where she is building items from the game and working on dexterity, puzzling, putting things together, and creative play. The learning possibilities are endless. At some point she’ll realize she can buy things from other players on the server, so even money will be involved, as well as cooperation.
Before you get too concerned about this virtual reality and her socialization, rest assured that in real life she plays with other kids and talks to many adults. Sometimes she teaches them about Minecraft, other times she finds other Minecraft players just because she walks up to people and talks to them about her interest in the game. Like me, my daughter’s an extrovert, so I find that I have to reign her in more so than try to make her be social. When we get some time, there’s also a weekly group that meets at a local library where the kids bring their laptops and play, either alone or on a server. There are lots of ways to include real life socializing.
Minecraft has been a welcome addition to our homeschooling lives, and I’m excited to see her interested in science, architecture, and computers in general.
Have you played Minecraft? What about your kids? Have you noticed their learning from the gameplay?