Educating with Minecraft #1

Let me introduce myself: I am one of a growing number of people who homeschool their children for ‘secular’ reasons. (In my case, it is because we were so completely horrified at the way our five year old was classified as a ‘potential future troublemaker’ all because he finished his schoolwork before his classmates…) I have friends whose children attend public schools, friends who children attend private schools, and friends who homeschool their children. I think that each of them has made the best possible choice they can for their children and their families.  And their children — all of whom I like and respect — reflect the wisdom of those choices in their happiness and behavior. Schools and children’s experiences in schools differ. In our case, homeschooling was the best choice.

Now you may be asking yourself why I am going to the trouble of explaining all this? Fair enough — I am telling you WHO I am and where I stand on homeschool versus other educational choices so that what follows will be in context.

As a homeschooler, I am ALWAYS thinking about how to incorporate learning into what happens around us. Life is our classroom. It is much, much easier on me (as teacher) to use something that intrigues and fascinates my children/students, something in which they are already engaged to teach lessons than to construct lessons and force the children to fit into that artificial box.

Minecraft — the phenomenally popular computer/ Xbox game — is an example of such an opportunity. Or, perhaps, for this example, I should rephrase that: Minecraft and Youtube. 

Let me explain: One of the signs of Minecraft’s explosive popularity was the rise of song parodies about the game. Songs such as 500 chunks: parody of 500 Miles and Fallen Kingdom: Parody of Viva la Vida began appearing on Youtube in 2011 and there are now hundreds of such parody songs available to be heard and downloaded. My sons, avid crafters that they are, love to listen and debate the merits of the various songs (when they are not deep into crafting!) and that gave me an idea for a school assignment:

Minecraft Music assignment #1:

1) I will select two – four songs/melodies. From these songs, each boy may choose his favorite.

2) The child will listen to the instrumental version of the song several times. My eldest son, who plays piano, will begin learning it on that instrument. My younger, who is learning the recorder, will start trying to learn it on that instrument.

3) While they are working through the melody, they will be simultaneously working on Minecraft Parody song lyrics to fit the melody. They may choose to collaborate. During the process, we will discuss/study the process that poets and various composers/lyricists have used in writing their music. A poem or a lyric?

4) When they have put words to song, they will attempt to play the song/sing the words.

5) Once they have the song beaten into shape, they can begin to storyboard a Youtube video for the Parody. What are storyboards?

6) As their teacher, I will review their work. When it reaches a good level of completion, we will work together to set up a private channel where they can post their work for those they invite to see it.

This particular assignment meets a number of criteria that I have set out for myself:

1) They will be getting in their music practice in a new and challenging way

2) They will be engaging with the English language in a new an challenging manner (Poetry/Language arts)

3) They will be practicing the ever difficult task of collaboration. Five Tips for Building Collaboration

4) They will be rewarded for their hard work by seeing and sharing the product of that work with others.

5) They will learn greater appreciation of the creative process.

6) They will have fun learning.****

This last one is all important to me because, honestly, if learning isn’t fun — then why do it? When we enjoy  what we do, we seek to repeat the experience. Moreover, we REMEMBER the experience and revisit it in our minds. Revisiting it in memory reinforces it… and that is how learning happens. I learn best when I WANT to learn. I want to learn when I have a reason to learn and one of the very best reasons to learn is because doing so makes me happy… and who wouldn’t want a happy childhood?

So… I am looking forward to some laughter, some yelling, a great deal of frustration (my eldest is a perfectionist) when the words don’t come quickly, and in the end, something magical. I have no doubt about the last because I have seen it happen before… in a book my eldest wrote’when he was five called ‘The Adventures of Captain Wavy Cape’.  I can hardly wait for the songs to begin!

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One Comment on “Educating with Minecraft #1”

  1. hjax74 Says:

    WOW!!!! So I am a teacher and I know that people think of Homeschooling as backwoods farming stuff but I agree that with all of the obstacles put into our classrooms if you “get it”, which you obviously do, your “students” will be much more successful. With not only the life lessons you will teach them but that one on one constant interaction which sadly we just cannot get in the school system. Good for you!!! I can’t wait to read about your progress!

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