Playing Games With a Purpose: Gameschooling 101

Playing Games With a Purpose: Gameschooling 101

February 27, 2020 0 By Ryan Sanders

Just what is this thing called ‘”gameschooling”?  We answer that question and more in this article about the basics of game-based learning. 

What is gameschooling?

Just what is this thing called  “gameschooling?’

Gameschooling is using board games in a school setting to teach concepts or life skills. It often refers to games within homeschooling. Gameschooling isn’t limited to just homeschool and is sometimes referred to as “game-based learning” in a traditional school setting, though in that context can include digital games as well. For the purposes of this article, we use both terms interchangeable and are referring specifically to tabletop gaming. 

Board games have gone through numerous changes in the last century.  The classic board games that many grew up playing (Monopoly, Uno, and Sorry) are still around. However, there are new classics like Ticket to Ride, Kingdomino and Sushi Go. New types of games and game mechanics have been introduced. In the last 20 years, there has been a board game renaissance. This once-kept secret was limited to board game stores, comic book shops, and gaming websites. Recently, though these modern board games are starting to show up in big box stores like Target and Walmart. 

Why should I gameschool or add game-based learning to my current curriculum?

Game-based learning allows kids to be kids, to learn naturally through play. It reinforces many of the ideas and concepts you are teaching them and engages the children. Often times children may not even realize that they are learning. It aids in developing skills like critical thinking, problem-solving within a given rule structure, and sportsmanship. Much like reading a book, it can engage your child’s imagination or attention without looking at a screen.

What does gameschooling look like?

Speaking specifically about gameschooling in a homeschool environment, it’s going to work differently for different families. Some will strictly look for games that were made for educational reasons to teach or clearly enforce what the children have been learning in the classroom. Other families will use just about any game, educational or not, for concepts they want their children to learn such as logic, strategy, reading skills through text on cards, and math skills by adding up scores. Gameschooling, to some families, may include more time spent playing games than traditional bookwork in their curriculum. While others want games that supplement bookwork. That’s okay. Game-based learning has a place no matter what your teaching style – from un-schooling to classical learning and everything in between. 

As to how often you should gameschool, for some, that may look like 50 plays (or more) of games in a month. While others may play only once or twice a month. It depends on how you want to use gameschooling – if it is something you want to do daily or something that you occasionally want to pull out if you are doing a themed unit or have a child that needs help reinforcing a certain concept like addition.

While playing board games may be more fun than going over the multiplication table, gameschooling on a daily or weekly basis may not be a good fit for all of your children. For example, if the child doesn’t enjoy playing board games. In our home, we homeschool five children, yet only one of them is actively gameschooled. This is because this child seems to get concepts better and learns more through gameplay and hands-on activities than through traditional sit-down work. It just comes down to the parent knowing their child and understanding their needs.  

How do I start?

Start with what you already have. If it’s Candyland and it’s still age-appropriate for your child, play it with them. Monopoly, a game most families own, take it out and play with them. If they are older you can even discuss things like Capitalism as you play. Didn’t you say there are better games out there? I did and there are. However, before you pour money into something that may not work, try it out with what you have or can borrow from friends or a local gaming library. Then you can move on to finding new games. 

Beyond that, check second-hand stores like Goodwill or consignment stores like Once Upon A Child. Also, many cities have locally owned board game shops or toy stores. Using something like Google search may help you find one. If you do not have a local board game store, you may want to try calling your local comic shop. They sometimes will carry games as well. Of course, there are also stores like Walmart and Target (and certainly Amazon.com) which have a decent selection of games and you can often find some game sales multiple times a year. 

There are some free games that can be printed from your printer at home. These are games that you can build that just need some extra things like dice or things that can be used for tokens (like pennies and dimes). We offer some here at Adventures in Gameschooling

How do I know if the game is good or even to find a game that fits my family? That is an excellent question. There are a lot of resources to help you answer this question. The first is a printout we have here on Adventures in Gameschooling called If You Like This…Check Out This: Board Games Edition. We also suggest joining the Community Group My Little Poppies on Facebook, especially if you homeschool. This is a forum where you can discuss aspects of gameschooling and ask questions about games with many other homeschooling families. 

Local board game stores, coffee shops or libraries may host game nights, which will allow you to try out games for free. Board game cafes are also on the rise in the US, where you can grab a coffee and rent a table for an hour and play their collection of games. If you homeschool, your local homeschool association may host board game events as well. These are possible ways to try some games first without having to buy them. 

Additionally, if you are looking for reviews of games or to find out what a game is all about or how to play it, there are tons of online resources. Some reviewers (besides our site) that review family board games include:

Finally, the world’s biggest repository for both board games and general game resources is BoardGameGeek.com, which is free to join and open to everyone.  Each game has its own webpage where members can review games or ask rule questions. You can even find video reviews, how to play videos, and board game news on the site. 

No matter which option above you choose to use or not use, welcome to game-based learning and the gameschool community. If you need any further help, you can ask us at our Adventures in Gameschooling Facebook page or on Twitter @gameschooling.


Ryan Sanders is the founder, owner, and editor-at-large of Adventures in Gameschooling. He’s also the guy behind its social media accounts. God has blessed Ryan and his wife Mary, with five children, which he homeschools. As a Christian, he believes that he should not only look out for your own interests but other peoples too (Philippians 2:4) and this is one of his guiding principles for Adventures in Gameschooling. Ryan’s expertise is informed by almost two decades of experience as a stay-at-home father and from the running The Inquisitive Meeple where he performed over 300 written and podcast interviews within the board game industry.