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?

Using Konos as a supplement

konos curriculum review

Konos is a wonderful unit study based curriculum. It comes is 3 HUGE volumes that are organized by character trait instead of traditional topics. For example, the lesson on human growth and development is under the Patience character section. These 3 volumes can be used as a total curriculum for history, science, writing, and geography, and are meant to be used across several grade levels. Each lesson comes complete with a suggested lesson plan, co-op ideas, book lists for reading and for research, and tons of activities to choose from.

I purchased the full 3 volume Konos set several years ago, and every activity we have done out of it the kids have loved. I am a firm believer in creating a ‘3D’ learning experience – where music, crafts, food, and participating in an activity combine to make the lesson come alive. The Konos activities are designed to do just that. When we studied genetics in science, one of the activities we chose was making a chart of all of our family member’s eye and hair color. Then we studied the results to identify the recessive and dominant genes that each person must have. It really helped the kids to understand them better, and they still will bring up dominant and recessive genes a year later.

I do not use Konos as prescribed, however, going through a character trait at a time and using it as our core curriculum. Instead, I like to use it as a supplement to our regularly scheduled learning. One thing I have found with Konos (any way you use it) is that it takes a bit of planning on my part in order for it to be successful. There are no texts, just activities, so I have to make a trip to the library in advance to make sure we have books that discuss the topic. I also have to narrow down the myriad of activities to the ones I want them to do, and then make sure I have any supplies needed on hand. This isn’t particularly time consuming, but it definitely requires forethought. Very rarely have I been able to just open up the binder and work on an activity.

We used their election book during the last presidential election, and it was one of my favorite things we have ever done. I highly recommend it for really helping kids understand our election process at all levels.  It’s especially great to do anytime a current election is going on so that you can visit the candidate headquarters and get the full experience.

They sell an index that lists the major topics and people covered in the three volumes and tells you where to find them. After I finish the lesson plans on my planning worksheet, I take the topics section and look for any that are listed in the Konos index. I have another sheet where I am listing these topics and where they are in the volumes. Once I have this list from the index I look at the individual lessons and decide which activities I want to do. I will then go back to my lesson plan worksheet and and the Konos activity to it. I am also making a separate log of any specific books and supplies I will need so that I can get them ahead of time.

These types of lessons get to the heart of how I want to educate my kids, and I love how engaged they are with each one. Even though I am not using it as our core, we have found great benefit using it as a supplement!