As some of you are aware, our oldest 2 children have special needs, and due to some unfortunate cracks in the education system Mr Light and I homeschool Simon, Alvin, and Theodore . Okay, so homeschooling Theodore is more like letting him playing with alphabet blocks, but the concept is there. The reasons behind this decision were convoluted and various, but to say that we never thought we'd find ourselves in this position is an understatement. That I'm a homeschooling Mom right now is as much of a shock to me as to anyone. If you have any questions about why we homeschool, how we homeschool, and what on earth we could be possibly be thinking, feel free to fire away in the comments. But this post is about the role that Wizard101 has played in our homeschooling life.
And yes, it has played a role. A very helpful one at that. Who knew?
One of the unexpected benefits of homeschooling is that, while I certainly use a traditional elementary-style curriculum for all subjects, I can pull almost anything from my kid's lives into their school day and work it into their education. And at this age, anything that can grab a kid's attention and get them actually CARING about their education is a good thing. In our case, we started homeschooling at about the same time our family was introduced to Wizard101, and the result is that we frequently use concepts from Wizard101 to make lessons more interesting. Here's an worksheet we used for math recently.
(Age at the time of the child completing this worksheet : 5)
The main purpose of this worksheet was address an issue with word problems - these questions are intentionally verbose. Genereally speaking, word problems were a struggle for Alvin because he simply didn't care enough to read them thoroughly. But throw a little Wizard101 into the equation and suddenly his mind was able to focus and pay attention, because for once he actually wanted to. Aside from that - look at the concepts this game employs even at it's most basic levels. Percentages, ratios, subtraction, and all in such simplicity that even a five year old can understand them. More importantly, a 5 year old WANTS to understand them and is actually willing to work to do so.
Math concepts aside, by nature of their autism, Simon and Alvin struggle with social situations. They don't always know what's appropriate, what's polite, and what's expected. The game, especially within the confines of menu chat, has given them concrete social rules to play by. If you want something, you need to say please. If someone does something nice for you, you say thank you. Don't jump right into a conversation without even saying hi. You don't jump into someone else's space without asking first. (Note to KingsIsle - you added a 'Please may I join?' chat option, but not 'Please may I teleport?' option. That would be fantastic.) There are millions of little social rules that most people pick up on automatically, but that Simon and Alvin have struggled with. Now, though... well, check out this screenshot I took of a conversation Simon had with me on his wizard the other day (you may need to click to enlarge).
We've tried to teach these rules in the real world, but the boys didn't get the necessity of them until they tried to conquer life in the spiral. By practicing them in game and seeing first hand the benefit of being kind and polite, they've actually transferred those manners to real life. It's second nature for them now to follow up a please with a thank you, and to say you're welcome. They don't interrupt a conversation with their own random comments and requests... as much. Life in the spiral has impressed on them the lessons that were difficult to grasp in real life.
And then there's history. I can't tell you how the boy's eyes lit up when we read about Theseus and the minotaur in the labyrinth, or Odysseus and the Cyclops in the cave. Mythology in particular has come to life for them. It's given their imaginations a springboard to work from and they've been diving into the classics with a fervour I could NOT have imagined. They've even on occasion taking to acting out their favorites, just for fun.
Children with autism, playing pretend? For fun? This is HUGE. So huge, in fact, that their therapists had to see it for themselves before they would believe me.
In short, this game in moderation it's been an incredibly valuable tool in an educational aresenal. It's helped my kids ENJOY school, and drawn them into the learning experience that much more.
Next up - fractions! Oy.
And, because I couldn't let this post go by without mentioning it - Ravenwood Ball, tomorrow night at 6pm CST, in Ravenwood on Vampire Realm! WOOT! Bring on the par-tay!