186 – Education in Quarantine – The Family Gamers Podcast

Episode 186 - Education in Quarantine
Episode 186 - Education in Quarantine

Like many families around the world, we’ve been suddenly pushed into some kind of homeschooling with our kids.

It’s a scary time, and it’s not made any easier by trying to juggle kids’ needs with working from home. But there is hope! We’re going to talk this week about things we can do to support our kids learning at home (mostly through games, of course!)

But first, let us take a moment and thank First Move Financial for sponsoring The Family Gamers podcast. If you’re in an industry that may be hit by the current downturn, you may want to beef up your emergency fund. Specific investment advice is more case by case, but generally, try not to panic. If you need to have a quick chat to assuage your fears of the market reach out to First Move through the meeting link: firstmovefinancial.com/familygamers

What We’ve Been Playing

Animal Kingdoms from Galactic Raptor Games – an area control game with gorgeous art and randomized requirements. We’re really pleased that the dynamics feel the same at 2 players and at 3 players. We’ll see how it goes with more people.

Kingdomino Duel – reviewed above.

My First Stone Age – a really enjoyable game at any age. Memory plus set collection works very nicely. We discuss how much overlap there is between “real” Stone Age and My First Stone Age (not much).

5 Minute Marvel – a cooperative game based on 5 Minute Dungeon – but with Marvel heroes and villians! It’s timed but cooperative, and you’re not always dependent on the other players to keep moving forward. The flavor text and the details in the artwork are both fantastic.

Everyone Loves a Parade – best at 3-4 players to balance out the uncertainty with the strategy.

Catacombs of Karak (or just Karak) from Outset Media. “My first dungeon crawl”. Explore and create the map from tiles. Room tiles get a randomly-drawn “encounter” which could be treasure, but is usually an enemy. Roll dice to fight the enemy and if you beat them, you get a reward. We love that there’s very little reading required! (And we discuss our newfound love of two-layer player boards that hold tokens in place.)

Keys to the Castle – also by Outset Media

LOTS – a competitive game to cooperatively (?) build a tower. Sounds weird but it’s great.

Kids of Carcassonne – feels like Carcassonne while being very simple.

HEIST – so gimmicky, but fun.

Suspend Jr. from Melissa & Doug – in the interest of getting the kids to stop arguing

Sushi Roll from Gamewright – review coming soon.

Mountains from HABA – competitive but not bloodthirsty. You have to cooperate to get ahead.

kingdomino duel

SNAP Review: Kingdomino Duel

Kingdomino Duel is a two-player dice drafting game that leans heavily on the scoring and drafting mechanics from Kingdomino. Read the transcript and see the pictures at the full SNAP review.

Homeschooling, Supported by Boardgames

We’ve talked about using board games in an educational context before, but there’s a big difference between playing games when you have time to have fun versus using board games deliberately as part of your daily life – both for “schooling” and for a coping mechanism. We don’t want board games to become a burden even if they’re being used in an educational context.

First: Don’t freak out! Your kids are not going to fall behind. Every kid is in the same situation right now. As long as they’re occupied and learning something, they’ll be fine.

Second: Most elementary-aged kids only need about 1 hour of academic instruction a day. On the younger end of that (K, 1st grade), they need even less. Middle school and high school students do need more, but it’s still not anything close to the 6+ hours they normally spend in class. (Think about college classes – around 2 hrs A WEEK is considered enough instruction in a subject, and students are expected to complete the rest of the work on their own.)

Third: “education” is not all about textbooks, worksheets, flashcards, and instructional videos. It’s fine to use those if they work for you and for your kids. But let’s talk about alternatives!


Read with them, read to them, have them read to you. Find whatever interests them and let them read it. A homeschooling context is actually much better for this than traditional school because you can give your kids individual attention. Kids learn to read at different rates and with different aptitudes. And it doesn’t matter WHAT they’re reading as long as they ARE reading. Picture books, comic books, back of the cereal box, anything. Don’t tell them that a book is too hard, let them try!

Anitra relates an anecdote from John Holt’s book Learning All the Time, although she gets it wrong (it’s on page 27). The young man (who was considered “almost illiterate”) was reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s book Why We Can’t Wait.

There are also several games that have a strong reading component – things like Above and Below or Near and Far – pass the book and have your child read it!


Math comes up in every board game in some form. Look for it!
We rolled two dice 100 times and graphed the results. Then our kids could notice that 8,7,6 came up much more frequently!

You could also try this with an actual game, like Zombie Dice, Yahtzee, or Roll for It. If you have an older kid (highschool), work out probabilities of certain dice rolls, and then pivot to a game like Sushi Go! – how do probabilities change as cards are taken?


Use boardgames as a jumping off point for more “educational” activities. Have PARKS? Play it and then map out where all the national parks are located.

Play a game with a world map (Pandemic, SpyMaster) and use that to talk about continents, or even use it to talk about how different countries have been affected by COVID-19 with an older kid. (Thread on BoardGameGeek: Anyone else’s kids suddenly interested in Educational Board Games?)

We often turn to 10 Days in the USA for a reminder on where all the different US states are.


Try The Champion of the Wild to point out similarities and differences between animals. “Like the wackiest episode ever of Wild Kratts“.

We’d also recommend What in the Wild? and anything from Genius Games.


We’ve talked about games with a history angle before. We’d use Order of Invention to spark an interest in history. But there are so many other options, like Discoveries (about Lewis & Clark), World’s Fair 1893, even Ticket to Ride, Colt Express, or Tesla vs. Edison.


Poetry Slam is a great game to practice some writing skills. Come up with a word that fits the restrictions, then you must write a rhyming couplet that gives a clue to your word. Definitely best for older kids and less-threatening than a more “academic” type of creative writing.

You could also add on to a role-playing game! Have your kids write a summary of what you played, or write a backstory for their character. (No Thank You Evil and Hero Kids are great, but any RPG would work, including D&D or Untold). – check DriveThruRPG.com for resources. All sorts of print-your-own campaigns are on sale.

All Games are Educational!

Don’t forget: ALL games are educational. Every single game teaches kids to take turns and deal with the emotions they experience while winning or losing. Kids practice motor skills and learn math. If you’ve got kids that are 1st grade and under, all you really need to be doing is read with them, do some very basic math, and practice motor skills. And games are great for that.

more tips here: https://homeschoolsuperfreak.com/emergency-school-closing/


We are working with HABA and First Move Financial to give away some of the games that we’re talking about in our HABA / learning series. We are giving away a copy of Animal upon Animal: Crest Climbers.

(Are you playing games with your kids in a way that helps them educationally? Let us know!)

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