Home education can be revolutionised by the most surprising things. Our way of doing things has been changed and improved by, of all things, a task gamification website.
(What the? I hear you say. Stick with me, it will make sense soon.)
I read somewhere about the app/webpage Habitica and thought I might try it out for Willem. The spiel on the front page says
Habitica is a free habit building and productivity app that treats your real life like a game. With in-game rewards and punishments to motivate you and a strong social network to inspire you, Habitica can help you achieve your goals to become healthy, hard-working, and happy.
So I set up an account for Willem and started adding things in like chores and tasks to see how it went. But soon I realised that I had stumbled upon something super-useful: a tool for not only motivating Wim to get things done, but also a way to schedule them and for him to start controlling how and when he did stuff. Including homeschool.
So here’s what we did.
Here is a screen shot of the front page of Willem’s Habitica account. As you can see there are three categories: Habits, Dailies and To-Dos (these are pre-sets). Habits have, well, habits to cultivate. Some of them you can add positives or negatives depending on how you act. Some are just negatives (you do them, you lose health) or just positives (you do them, you gain coins, experience and stuff for quests). These are on-going, they don’t go away unless you delete them.
Dailies are things you are meant to do daily. If you don’t do them each day you lose health. If you do do them you gain stuff. You can put them on hold (for example if you are going on holiday). They are simple check boxes, but they can be broken down in to check-lists (more on that below). For Wim there is a mix of chores and homeschool stuff to be done every day – for example he has to load the dishwasher, and he has to do his Memrise activities every day.
The main section we use for homeschooling is the To-Dos. Each Sunday I add in what Willem is meant to achieve that week. I list things by subject, then break it down in to the activities he has to achieve for each subject. For example, Geometry:
This is what Willem has to do for Geometry this week. We usually try to do four days of schooling per week, so it is up to Wim to decide how much he is going to do per day, and on what day. Once each activity is completed he clicks the check-box, and when they are all done he checks off the whole ‘subject’. You get coins/experience/’stuff’ when you check-off the overall check box (in this case Geometry) BUT if it is connected to a checklist, you get more per item. Got it?
This is how I set-up each subject. First I set up a ‘to-do’ (Geometry). Then I click the pencil icon which brings up this box. I add the individual tasks/lessons in the checklist, tag it as school (not really using this for anything, but why not), add a due date and set a difficulty level. Higher difficulty levels mean more ‘stuff’.
There are two advantages to this whole system. Firstly, it is a great visual organiser for seeing what has to be done and what you have achieved. The second is the motivation to gain health, experience, mana and coins (or ‘stuff’ as I keep calling it).
I will be honest – I thought the motivation would be when I told Wim that he could choose to use his coins to buy copies of One Piece (his current manga of choice). Turns out I don’t understand the gaming mentality at all. See, gamers want to use coins and such to get cool in-game things.
In Habitica you have an avatar. And to look cool, you can buy or earn things such as mounts, equipment, armour and weapons. Obviously the cooler the stuff, the more you have to pay for it.
There are also quests. A quest is where you can go on a mission to get equipment, eggs (which hatch in to pets, which you can feed to get mounts … with me so far?), experience and gold. You can choose to join other Habitica members on these quests (form a party). This is a big motivation for Wim.
I will admit that I too am using Habitica to try and get some daily habits going. I have not been quite as motivated but then again I am not a gamer so perhaps I don’t have the right mindset, but it is fun to have an avatar and pets as cool as this as a result of what I have done so far.
So whether you kid is in to gaming, or you just need some kind of system to organise your homeschool schedule, I suggest checking out Habitica. Who knows what kind of revolution it will lead to in your home (pink pandas or not). And now I get to check-off ‘write a blog post’ on my Habitica account and earn some gold to buy a golden lion. Or something.