Not all screen time is a waste! You can use video games to your advantage to reinforce learning or offer a reward at the end of your family's learning goals. While it may be that video games have got a bad rap for being a waste of time, addictive, and not the best moral influence on kids, there are games out there with educational value you can feel confident about allowing your children to play. Here is a quick list of ten of the best educational computer games for homeschoolers k-8 (Ages 4-12).
1. Dino Fossil Hunter
Dinosaur Fossil Hunter is a story telling simulator where you play as a paleontologist, exploring different lands and searching for dinosaur fossils. The prologue tells a story about a young Paleontology enthusiast and his passionate pursuit of success and self-determination. It is an easy game for even the youngest computer ready players to enjoy (Younger children will enjoy driving and digging, but young readers will be able to better handle the actual gameplay).
Trucks to drive, obstacles to overcome, digging, and dinosaurs will ensure hours of enthusiastic gameplay from almost any child. What better way to reward a dinosaur lover than a riveting paleontology simulation! Recommended for 1st grade and up!
2. Math Blaster
An old school classic math game remembered fondly by 90s kids that can still be found on Ebay and online if you know where to look. Math Blaster will have your children excited to learn math when their proficiency helps them defeat aliens! From basic arithmetic, to geometry, and algebra there is a Math Blaster game for any grade and your student will have a "blast" while learning math at any level! Recommended for 1st grade and up!
3. Reading Blaster
Counterpart to Math Blaster, Reading Blaster is another fun educational classic that will have early readers solving mysterious disappearances in a mad scientist's mansion, or defeating aliens as a dynamic duo using their reading skills. Recommended for 1st grade and up!
4. Jump Start
The Jump Start Series of games is an amazing group of thrilling and interesting storylines that teach a variety of subjects. Each game caters to a different grade level from K - 6th Grade, with a few games outside this series in the genera that teach other subjects like music, art, and geography.
I highly recommend this highly interactive and clever set of games for beginner computer users. A family favorite! Many CDs can still be bought on Ebay and some can even be found for free! Recommended for grades K - 6th!
5. Roller Coaster Tycoon Deluxe
An exciting game where the player can be a business manger and create and maintain their own theme park! Managing money, keeping up with guests needs, ensuring the safety of rides, management of staff, and engineering the design of their very own rides and roller coasters! Each different park has its own challenges and goals to unlock the next level.
I recommend the oldest version of Roller Coaster Tycoon, Roller Coaster Tycoon 1 the Deluxe Version because it has simpler mechanics and gameplay that are more successful than their predecessors. Recommended for 3rd grade and up!
6. Sim Park
Be a park ranger in this cute and creative ecology simulator! Manage both plants, wildlife, and people as you populate your own park! Park rangers must balance their ecosystem while creating an ever expanding web of animals, reptiles, birds, trees, bushes, and flowers. Of course a great path system and amenities for park goers are important too. Young learners will also benefit from plant and animal ID quizzes that will have players observe the qualities/traits of plants and animals to guess the correct name or variety. Recommended for 2nd grade and up!
7. Duo Lingo
Not quite a game, but an app that can be accessed on the phone, tablet, or computer, Duo Lingo is a fun competitive way to learn languages in a dynamic way! Duo lingo is absolutely free to play, but also offers an ad free paid upgrade called Super Duo Lingo. A huge variety of languages are offered! Young learners will enjoy not only a fun, rewarding language learning experience, but will be able to explore different cultures through their linguistics.
The lessons themselves are intuitive enough for early learners to understand, and offer an effective set of exercises, especially crafted for successful memorization. Competition with a leaderboard point system does encourage participation in lessons through competition to enter the next league, but does have one drawback. Students may need to spend upwards of 30 minutes a day in some cases in order to make it to the top. This may be troublesome if your family's allotment of screen time doesn't allow the student to succeed in the leaderboard. However, Duo Lingo's quality as a language learning tool is worth it. I highly recommend Duo Lingo as a supplement to any homeschool foreign language learning for early readers in 2nd grade and up!
8. Age of Empires
Interested in Medieval battles, historic politics, and global conquest? Students of history and strategists will enjoy the the Age of Empires Series for its thrilling reenactment of historical cultures and battles worldwide. Highly fun and challenging in both storyline mode and single player scrimmage, where you can play any civilization and map you desire.
You will be responsible for keeping up on resources while enhancing your country through ages that grant bonuses and unlock upgrades. Because of the challenge of this game, reading level and the violence of battle /war I recommend this game for grade 5 and up.
9. Oregon Trail & Amazon Trail
The Oregon Trail is an educational strategy video game. Designed to teach 8th grade schoolchildren about the realities of 19th-century pioneer life on the Oregon Trail. The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding a party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon's Willamette Valley via a covered wagon in 1848. Players will have to balance resources, make tough decisions on how to travel and handle all sorts of challenges along the trek. The original can be played for free here, but there are several upgraded versions around for you to try. Recommended for 4th grade and up.
Inspired by the popularity of The Oregon Trail, featuring the areas surrounding the Amazon River and some of its tributaries. In the Amazon Trail adventure strategy game the player is asked to set out on a journey up the Amazon, hoping to make it to the lost Inca village of Vilcabamba. Along the way, the player learns about the people who live on and use the river for their survival. The Amazon Trail is known for being significantly more difficult than its predecessors in the franchise, such as The Oregon Trail. Recommended for 4th grade and up.
10. Incredible Machine
A fascinating and challenging game that any aspiring builder and engineer will love! The Incredible Machine is a classic pc game with a series of rube Goldberg puzzle challenges that will have the player analyzing the physics of movement and gravity. The sound effects and variety of objects and tools to interact with will have your child enthralled and inspired to try some physics experiments of their own at home. Recommended for grade 1 with a parents help, or independently after grade 3.
Honorable Mentions of Other Educational Video Games for Homeschoolers
Where in the World is Carmen San Diego
The Thinking Things Series
How We Use Screen Time as a Reward for Homeschooling
Each family will have its own rules regarding video games and screen time, but here is what we do for our kids. It's really quite simple. At the end of the day, if chores are done, learning assignments are completed, dinner is eaten, and baths taken then 30 minutes of educational video game time or a tv show is earned. Additionally, I like to trade educational video game time for Halloween or Parade candy so my boys still feel like they are getting something. In the summer, the amount of work to earn video game time increases, because we believe going outside and playing is the most important thing to be doing on a beautiful day. In the winter, where the weather is much more ucky, is when most of are educational video game rewards are given out.
One last way we use this reward system is to break out the big console games that aren't educational as a reward when a whole workbook is completed as part of their homeschooling. This big achievement that only occurs once a year for each of our boys, allows them to enjoy each others successes with a whole weekend where "Non-educational" video games are allowed, in more lenient moderation of course.
Other Resourses for Homeschool Video Gamers
Some games are true classics that run best on older operating systems. No worries though, many can still be played on newer computers in compatibility mode. Here is a handy article you can use to help you get older pc games up and running.
Many older games mentioned are so old that you can find them for free! The Internet Archive is one such place you can discover outdated games, software, and more. Many you can download and others can even be played directly from the site!
This is by no means a comprehensive list of educational video games for homeschoolers. Do have any you can add? We would love to hear your suggestions! Comment Below!
Did you find this article helpful? Want to support more content like this & the Kitchen Witch Café? Buy a handcrafted herbal remedies for beauty, health, or happiness from Wildcrafts, my small business I run all by myself here!