Colonial Housing on the Computer

As I mentioned in this post, I am using both Konos and a workbook on Colonial Life for our homeschool American History activities this year. One of the reasons I love Konos so much is that the activities they have fall right in line with one of my top goals for our homeschool – what I call ‘3D’ learning. I try to relate the topic we are learning to the world around us as much as possible – to make it ‘3D’ if you will. When we do real life activities or incorporate all our senses into what we’re doing, I feel like the kids not only have a better understanding of a topic, but also retain the information better.

We have been concentration on colonial life leading up to the revolution this semester, and lately we’ve been looking at the different cultures that came to the Americas to colonize. One of the Konos activities is to write a paper on the differences between Dutch and English colonial architecture. I took this idea and modified it a bit to have the kids learn while doing one of their favorite things – playing on Minecraft.

Rather than write a paper, I had them research pictures of both kinds of colonial homes. We looked at characteristics of each, and then settled on one particular house from each kind that they liked. I then had them ‘construct’ one on Minecraft. Since this is time consuming, I had them split the work and my daughter built the English house while my son built the Dutch one. We have Minecraft on our Xbox, so it allows them to split the TV screen in half and work at the same time, making it easier for them to collaborate.

They also ‘furnished’ the interiors of their homes being careful to be historically accurate. (Well, as accurate as you can be with the blocks available). They used only stone and wood for finishes, all centered around large fireplaces.

There are many ways you can expand this activity to incorporate other subjects. You can assign them to create a home of a certain size, and maybe sneak in some perimeter and/or area work. For science you can have them create a ‘farm’ for the house with crops and animals specific to a certain area. After they create the houses, you could have them write a story about the imaginary colonist family that lives there. You can also use this as an ongoing project and have them add more houses and change the architecture as you learn more about American History and how the cities grew.

Imagination is your only limit, and my kids love to play and learn together. I laugh when their friends come over and they start explaining the features of what they’ve built for school. That’s when I know real learning has taken place. I also find that in order to build these houses on the game, they have to pay close attention to the little details of the real thing. This helps them to notice them easier when we see other pictures from that time or visit places with historic homes. They’re still quick to point out Classical Greek architecture in buildings in our town after building a Greek temple on Minecraft last year.

What are ways you’ve used video games to teach?


  1. When I first started homeschooling (has it really been 18 yrs ago??!!) we were completely sold out on Konos. It has always been my favorite curriculum. We were spoiled when we lived in NC and found plenty of other users and were blessed to be part of some great co-ops. Then we’ve moved around and it’s been much harder without a co-op. I am planning on using it like you this year- grabbing book and activity ideas. I remember my girls used to play zoo tycoon and another game on the computer years ago. Games can teach a lot. All of my kids have played Oregon Trail. My sons now play (my 14 yo is obsessed!) Minecraft. I plan on using it in our homeschool this year. I heard there was a Minecraft group for homeschoolers but I think they only play on computer (we do xbox) and you have to be an unschooler?? Wish there were leagues or something on xbox for homeschoolers so he could find more players.

  2. I’m not sure about the Xbox group, my kids just play with each other or their friends when they come online. I’m sure there’s a group out there though! 🙂