Paper Mario Teaches your Kid to Read
Video Games have made my kid a better reader. Ever since my boy got hooked on Super Paper Mario (Wii) and Paper Mario (GameCube) he’s been reading more fluidly and confidently. How can this be? Well, I never really noticed before, but Paper Mario and Super Paper Mario are heavily dialog centered games that rely on characters telling stories to guide Mario to his next clue. The great part though is that Nintendo didn’t design them as teaching games; they’re just excellent fun. And both of them got high ratings from the critics. (IGN Scores: Paper Mario, 9.1; Super Paper Mario, 8.9 out of 10). Neil doesn’t even realize that he’s been reading several hours every day. It’s a high quality story too, with paragraphs, good sentence structure and a cohesive and interesting plot. I swear, it’s really captivating to watch a kid learning who doesn’t even know he’s learning.
I’ve talked about some of the advantages of home schooling in the past. One big advantage is the flexibility it gives me to tailor my teaching method to the kids’ learning styles. And, something I’ve been learning as my home schooling goes on is that there are a million ways to get information into their heads without directly giving them a lesson. We’re a big video game family so that’s one obvious tool at my disposal – even if I didn’t really plan it that way or do anything actively to encourage it. I’ve also seen that video games have made doing math word problems easier for the kids. Games like World of Goo (Wii) for instance require serious problem solving abilities in order to progress. I’ve seen the boys solve problems on that game that I get stumped on. Some other ways to teach without actually teaching.
1. Plop them in front of the Science Chanel for a while: Have you ever seen some of the shows on the Science Channel? They have a show hosted by Michio Kaku called Sci Fi Science. He takes fun science fiction concepts and tries to make them a reality using real science. Anyway, the boys love that show and they’ve learned, in the process of watching it, all about lasers and nano technology, the big bang, inflation theory and parallel universes. It’s the sort of science they won’t be exposed to until high school or college if I didn’t let them watch TV.
2. Time Management: If I tell them they have to do all their lessons correctly, before they get to go out and play, that creates another dimension of learning that doesn’t usually happen at school. It’s not my intention to teach a lesson when I say that. But the result is that they figure out ways to complete their work with quality so that they have more time to do what they really want to do – play. If they’re told to be in a classroom for 45 minutes to learn then they’ll just use that 45 minutes for whatever until it’s time to go play. I’d rather they give me good work, then go play, even it only takes them 5 minutes to do it.
3. Cooking: I’m not much of a cook, but I like to make new creations anyway. My boys have been asking me if they can make something in the Vita-Mix machine since they see me do it all the time. For laughs I decided to let them. Their concoction was terrible (bananas, milk, hot sauce, oregano and maple syrup) but I realized after the fact that they learned something valuable, that certain flavors don’t mix.
Well, as incomplete as that list is it demonstrates one thing. Learning doesn’t have to be work; it’s just as valuable and relevant when it’s fun learning. It’s not like our house is one big hippie social experiment though. We do have real lessons with desks and paper and kids crying that I’m a terrible teacher. Yeah, that happens. It isn’t all rainbows and unicorn farts. I’m simply marveling at the capacity of kids to learn when they aren’t being forced to do it. In a lot of ways it’s faster and more efficient than my traditional lessons. It won’t replace them, but it’s nevertheless comforting to know that I’m not the main engine to their success; they are.