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    Default Puzzles in Homeschool: What Has Your Kid Solved Today?

    In 2007, my book The Puzzling World of Winston Breen came out, and I became a peripheral member of the online kidlit community: Authors, librarians, teachers, all of them fabulously committed to getting children to read. The teachers advise each other on which titles make the best classroom read-alouds, the librarians form book clubs, the authors make appearances via Skype. Every new book is celebrated: Another chance to read! Another chance to connect a reluctant reader to the book they’ve been waiting for!

    I am 100% in favor of this. Reading is clearly an important part of every child’s development. But as much as I admire and agree with the cheerleaders of reading, sometimes I wish there was a group just as large and just as passionate about solving puzzles.

    Join the school puzzle club! Ooh, there’s a new puzzly video game out this week, who’s going to play it? Hey, try this neat word puzzle I found!

    We started homeschooling my daughter when she was in the third grade, and puzzles have been a part of our average day from the very beginning. It helps that we live in a golden age of puzzles. My daughter and I will never run out of video games or iPad apps to co-solve -- new ones come out all the time, from the merely entertaining to masterpieces like Portal, Monument Valley, and Braid. Go to the toy store and what’s on the shelf? Magnificent puzzles: Rush Hour, Laser Maze, Chocolate Fix. (All of these from one company, Thinkfun.) I can still hardly believe the extent to which puzzles have leapt off the page, or off the computer screen, and into the physical world: Escape rooms are popping up in cities large and small. The interactive puzzle experience 5 Wits just opened a third location, in West Nyack, NY. The Swedish “questing” company Boda Borg has found a home in America, with its first outlet in Boston -- if you live anywhere near there, stop what you're doing and buy a full-day pass. You and your kids will have a blast.

    It’s true that traditional word puzzles are lagging behind these sexier and more sparkly options. In general, word puzzles for kids rely too much on the simplistic -- word seeks, simple little word scrambles, criss-cross grids that are more vocabulary test than puzzle. I’m trying to fill this gap with my own venture, Puzzle Your Kids.

    However your kids solve puzzles, solve them they should. Puzzles strengthen the brain, just as physical exercise strengthens the body. Puzzles imbue confidence: Hey, that was pretty tricky! If I solved it, I must be pretty smart! And, finally for now, there is little in life more satisfying than being stuck on a puzzle for a while… and then feeling the thunderous force of the great AHA! I still smile when I think about my daughter and I collaborating on a tricky level of Portal 2. We had reached a point where it seemed we could go no further. We had to be missing something, but what? I honestly had no idea. We wandered around in confusion for a while, and then an all-caps message from my daughter appeared on my screen: I KNOW WHAT TO DO!!! And she was right. We were sitting at two different computers in two separate rooms, but I could feel her glow from all the way across the house. And I knew she was well on her way to being a lifelong puzzle solver, and developing an agile mind that would take her far.

    I look forward to talking about puzzles with you this week.

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  3. #2
    Senior Member Arrived TFZ's Avatar
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    I love puzzles and games! My son is 4 and currently obsessed with geography. He loves doing map puzzles - the wooden and cardboard kinds. He's finally up to 65 pieces! We actually had a soup to nuts a while back all about teaching through games, and I'd love to ask some of the same questions about puzzles.

    Do you (or anyone) have recommendations about how to get my son into other types of puzzles? What are some entry level type puzzles for younger kids? He doesn't write yet.

    Any suggestions about teaching through puzzles? Probably many of us have used word puzzles for spelling/vocabulary practice, but a lot of members here also teach logic as a subject and math through games.

    A girl I just met was telling me about going to an Escape Room game. It seemed pretty cool. Six people locked in a 80s style child's bedroom had to solve puzzles to find the hidden box of candy in under an hour. Sounds like a fun time, but hella expensive at $30/per person for the hour. Anyway, it made me think of scavenger hunts for the kids. I know some members have mentioned putting those together, too.

    Fun topic!
    I'm a work-at-home mom to three, homeschool enthusiast, and avid planner fueled by lattes and Florida sunshine. My oldest is 6 and is a fircond grader (that's somewhere between first and second, naturally), my preschooler just told me she wants to learn how to read, and my toddler is a force of nature.

    I gather all kinds of secular homeschool resources and share them at TheHomeschoolResourceRoom.com.

  4. #3

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    My son loves video games. When he was young, we played the Nancy Drew games by Her, Interactive. He now plays all the Lego video games, including the new Dimensions game. He is starting to branch out to other games, like Epic Mickey. His favorite books are the Nate the Great books. And I have just ordered 3 of Mr. Berlin's books. I actually enjoy watching my child play video games because I do think it teaches problem solving. We also play together a little but I get motion sick very easy. Oh well. Scavenger Hunts!! It just goes to show how much fun the world can be when you don't spend all day in a classroom!! I am so excited about homeschooling I may not be able to wait until the start of the school year!

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    Senior Member Arrived skrink's Avatar
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    BIG puzzle nuts here. I love word games/puzzles, and all kinds of logic puzzles. My 14 yo dd has taken up the reins, I'm happy to say. She churns through crosswords. I've seen her obsession with patterns and logic morph into her current love of algebra. Thanks, Eric, for the many suggestions - I have lots of exploring to do!
    Skrink - mama to my 14 yo wild woman

  6. #5

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    I really enjoy the paper n pen (or pencil, if youre sensible) Dell puzzle magazines. Back in 2009 I realized I could order a huge box of back issues for the same price as one or two current issues, and Im still making my way through it.

    My oldest boy is 19 now, but he never seems interested. (He also isnt a fan of jigsaw puzzles.)

    Do you have suggestions on how to get a kid interested and addicted?
    (Leading by example doesnt seem to work.)
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

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    Senior Member Arrived skrink's Avatar
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    Remember Games magazine? Oh, I used to love that one! I don't know if it's still around.

    As much as I love my pen and paper puzzles, I have been using the screens more lately. Dd started up with Flip Pix and now I'm addicted. I showed her Monument Valley and she plowed through all of them in short order. Hard to keep up with her.

    I've been wondering if games/puzzles exist to help with executive functioning issues? Planning/organization, that type of thing. Thoughts?
    Skrink - mama to my 14 yo wild woman

  8. #7

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    Oooh Everett Kaser has computer / now tablet/phone logic puzzles. Honeycomb Hotel is one of my favorites, but I used to play a half dozen of them, and I bet they would be good for kids, too.
    Home - Everett Kaser Software

    I think his puzzles have free levels you can try out the game with, before you commit to buying.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.

    Atheist.

    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by skrink View Post
    Remember Games magazine? Oh, I used to love that one! I don't know if it's still around.
    Oh, I loved Games magazine. I miss it.
    A mama who teaches college writing, as well as help her 11-year-old in
    choosing his own life adventure. Using Global Village School to support our desire to develop a sense of social justice and global awareness.

  10. #9

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    I miss Games magazine more than I can tell you, though I'll certainly try. I started reading Games when I was 11. Ten years later, I called them and asked it I could write for them. Their senior editor, Burt Hochberg, invited me to a Tuesday-night session where they tested board games, and that started my decade-long working relationship with the magazine -- I reviewed games, I wrote feature articles (this one, a hoax in the April Fools issue, fooled so many people it got me in the New York Times and on the CBS News), I test-solved puzzles, I generally hung out when I had no place else to go. And my time at Games led directly to my joining the National Puzzlers' League, and from there you can draw a straight line to my Winston Breen books, and Puzzle Your Kids, and my presence on the site this week.

    Games IS still around, after a fashion, but the puzzles these days are mostly reprints. It's a zombie magazine.

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    TFZ: For a four-year-old, I'd recommend two things. First, you can make up your own very simple word puzzles using the sight words he probably already knows. A couple of examples:

    SHORE. The letters of this word can be scrambled to make what animal?
    _ONKEY. What two different letters can go in the blank to make two different animals?
    FOOD / LAD. You can change the first letters of these words to make two new words that are opposites.

    I've done puzzles like these with five-year-olds and six-years-old -- I sense some four-year-olds might be able to do it, but it's not a big deal if a particular kid can't yet. If the above puzzles are too tough, try to come up with some easier ones. The trick is to get him to experience a nice aha moment. That's what gets 'em hooked on puzzles, I think.

    You might also look into those Thinkfun games I noted earlier. They all get pretty complicated, but they start off with some fairly simple levels. If you do them with your son, taking them to the halfway point, or even the 80% mark, and then letting him finish, that too might be a good way to open the door to puzzles.

    Robot Turtles is something else you might want to look at. I haven't played it myself, but I hear good things.

    ------------------

    I'll reply to more posts in the morning! I actually need to finish constructing a puzzle before I go to bed this evening.
    Last edited by EricBerlin; 03-15-2016 at 01:21 PM.

  11. #10

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    My sis in law and her wife are BIG puzzle nuts. Tech loves to visit them as they have legos, puzzles, and 4 dogs. And no kids of their own. Anyway, last time he was there, the wife was doing a 3D puzzle of R2D2. Tech's head nearly exploded I swear. We do MUCH simpler puzzles here. I LOVE word puzzles, but Tech, not so much. He likes Tetris. That counts as a puzzle doesn't it?

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Puzzles in Homeschool: What Has Your Kid Solved Today?