Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dear Sugar: Staying Sane During Summer With One Simple Game

Dear Sugar:

I'm not brand-new to homeschooling, but I am new to homeschooling multiple children at once.  And since it's summer (and our public school is out for three months), I decided to get back to homeschooling with my oldest three kids.  One of my kids is struggling in math, and I wanted to make practicing fun and rewarding.  However with four kids, a writing career, and a house to keep semi-clean and organized, I HAD to streamline.  

That's when it dawned on me:  take our well-loved Candy Land board game (with its wrinkly playing cards and rough edges) and turn it into summer homeschooling glory.  (Mommy win!)  Here's how I did it, and how you can do it too:

Summer Candy-Land Homeschooling Board Game

1:  Find or buy Candy Land.  I've seen Target carry it for under $10 on sale, and my sister found hers at a dollar store for $5.

2:  Get knock-off Velcro at your local dollar store.   Cut one side into pieces small enough to fit over every square of the game, except the special "candy" squares), but not covering the entire space.  You want to be able to see the color of the square (the border) around the Velcro).   Using a hot glue gun, affix the pieces to the game squares. 

3:  On the Candy Land player pieces, affix the other tape onto the bottom so the player will be able to stand on the squares on the board.   Then assign each child a player color.    (Assigning is easier than letting bickering siblings choose).

4:  Put your playing cards in a stack (after shuffling) and secure with a rubber band.

5:  Store your board on a flat surface (where you don't have to fold the board--which will only mess up the Velcro) that is reachable for you, but not always accessible to kids who might be temped to play with the board.   For us, we use the top of the fridge.

6:  With your kids input, generate a list of tasks which will earn them the right to draw a card.  Each task list should be different depending on your child's age, interests, and needs.   

A sampling for us is this:  

  • My oldest must read three book chapters OR read books aloud to her siblings (usually five board books to the baby or two picture books to the middle two children).  The younger siblings also earn a card by listening to their big sister read.    
  • My second child must read two "easy reader" books aloud to her little brother or her big sister. Again, the other sibling also earns a card for respectfully listening.  
  • My son (who is four) can earn a card by doing two puzzles (like putting together a letter puzzle and number puzzle with me, during which we review sounds, colors, shapes, etc.).  
  • Listening to an audio book, doing three pages (I choose) from a workbook, watching an educational film, play a learning game (math, reading, etc.), etc.  

7:  Card drawing.  They must take the card on the top of the deck. If they earn a "candy card," they can only move forward.  I did this because I didn't want them drawing a candy card that sent them backward, which I felt wasn't fair given their hard work.   If they earn a candy card that would send them backward, we put that card back into the bottom of the deck and the child selects a new card.

8:  Prizes:  the best part!  We also generated a list of prizes.  I kept in mind that my kids are motivated by different things (which can also vary day-to-day).   We typed up our prize list and hung it on the pantry door to keep us all motivated.   Once a child reaches the end of the candy road, he or she picks a prize, and then starts over. 

Our prize list is:

  • stay up 20 minutes late
  • use mom's old ipod for 20 minutes
  • one soda (we buy a "healthy" kind)
  • one small gourmet popcorn from our local kitchen store
  • $3
Why does this work so well?
  • It's simple.
  • The kids have say-so.
  • The prizes are very motivating.
  • There's a healthy sense of competition.  
  • We keep up on math and reading skills.  
  • It's inexpensive.   
  • Motivates the kids to pick out gobs of library books. 
A note about discipline:  Prizes, card-drawing, and homeschooling aren't options for us to take away as punishment.  We felt it was unfair and unnecessary.   

Easy?  YES!  Fun?  Absolutely!  

How do you keep your kids learning over the summer?  Do you offer incentives?  Join me on Facebook to discuss!  

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