Friday, December 1, 2017

Wildcraft Game Review - A So-So Cooperative Family Game For Learning Strategy

Our oldest, KJ, loves to study the medicinal uses of plants.  It's not my thing, but it is hers.  Maybe someday she will become some sort of pharmacologist spelunking the wilds of the Amazon to find rare and unique plants that could cure cancer.  Who knows!?

So, anyway, while reading posts on a homeschool forum, I saw a number of posts about a game wherein you collect plants to solve various maladies!  HOW DAMN COOL!!! I couldn't wait to order the game, it is called Wildcraft.  (Wildcrafting happens to be the name of foraging wild plants to help with various physical issues or for food).

As is our approach to all new games, each of us read the instructions on our own.  We got together to have a discussion of the rules and make any aggreements or clairifications before we start.  We found the rules to be VERY simple and we were able to get into game play very fast.  As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the family friendly tone and nature of the instructions, along with how the was created.... which was by a family!  It make it feel more genuine to us all, knowing that another family made the game and is seeing success selling it.
The layout of the game is simple, with near zero set up time.  All you have to do is create a pile of tokens, segment the cards, unfold the board, and viola, you're into game play mode.

The game is listed as a cooperative board game.  As a family that plays a lot of games, we love these kinds of games as the mission is all about all of us succeeding together.  It becomes a nice joint mission.

At a macro level, the goal of the game is to get up the mountain, collect some berries, and return to grandma before it's dark.  Alas, you do get some bumps and bruises (and other ailments) along the way that require your skill as a Wildcrafter to handle.  For a basic ailment, like being tired, you (or another member of the party) need to have collected a plant to resolve that issue. The plant is represented by a card, so either you have the card of the planted needed or you don't.  The pictures of the plants on the ailment cards are very helpful.

It doesn't take long, however, to realize that the game is tremendously chance driven.  There really isn't a whole lot of "strategy" thinking.  That is, choices really don't have a huge impact either way and smart choices actually have negligible impact in the game. The creators of the game made it clear in the instructions that really the rules are guidelines and that they expect people to morph and modify as they go.  We've begun experimenting with rule tweaking to help make the game involve more decision making versus blind luck.

As game playing adults, the game is neat the first go around, but after that it is kind of lame.  Our daughters, however, enjoy playing the game and pull it out on their own to play. (the pictures in this post were taken on a Sunday afternoon when they did just this).

As far as ages go, a 7 year old could do this.  I suspect that many boys would find the game too girly to keep their interest.

If you want to teach strategy, I would not recommend this game.  If you want to learn about the basic uses of some plants, then maybe (the biggest common online criticism of the game is that while the game tells you which plant(s) solve an ailment, it does not say what part of the plant to use nor how it should be prepared).  If you have some daughters that like plants and flowers and picking berries and the notion of hiking up a mountain to pick berries for Grandma, then this game is a winner!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

What time should Homeschoolers Wake Up?

The wifie and I have been married to one another for over 26 years ..... and for the vast majority of things, we see eye to eye.  When we don't, usually one or the other easily slides to the other persons point of view with very little resistance.  However, one area that neither of us has budged on is around what time the girls should wake up in the morning.  Val believes that the girls should wake up at the same time each morning, say 7am, get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and then start their day.  I'm of the opinion that the girls should sleep until they naturally wake up, then start their day even if that means 9:27 am or 10:11 am, and that if they feel like doing the first half of their school activities in their sleepy clothes then they can.  Brushing is important for hygiene purposes so that should be done too of course, but pajama clothes are fine.    

As I searched out the homeschool social media sphere to gather more opinions (hoping to find more of mine of course), I've found plenty of arguments and "scientific" reasons for both points of view.  They run from the "get them ready for the real world" perspective to "children need more sleep as they go into their teenage years."  It seems there is no "best" approach, just as there isn't a best approach for any one way of home schooling. 

So, here we are ... Val and I on opposite sides of the matter, with equal say into the approach.  Where did we end up?  Well, the girls made this a non issue by simply getting up and handling everything themselves by 8:30 am!  They make their own breakfast, eat, brush teeth, get dressed for the day, and we are into our martial arts training.  Now, there have been some mornings where one of the daughters is slow to get up, and on those rare mornings (about once every three weeks or so), I don't go pushing them out of bed.  I let them rest, trusting that their body must need it.  There are also some mornings where the youngest likes to stay in her PJs until after Karate training, and that's find too.  They are self driven young ladies, so when they slow down .... there is a reason.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Our Homeschool Students Will Start and Run Thier Own Business

As our homeschool charter makes clear, Self-Reliance and Self-Sufficiency are key competencies for our daughters (II. Mission Statement).  Self-Reliance and Self-Sufficiency span every area of life, and one area in particular is woefully underrepresented in school environments (be it public, private, hybrid, or home): how to make money.  Maybe this is by design, maybe this is from ignorance, maybe this is simply an oversight, maybe this is a byproduct of the school's operating constraints ..... I'm not sure, but we will not miss this important societal requirement.

Our Homeschool model requires each of our daughters to have their own business.  This is explicitly listed in the Operations portion of our school charter (VIII.2).  This is to be a multi-year activity and will carom through law, scams, deceptive business practices, planning, public presentations, liability, risk, and so much more.  By having their own companies, in areas of interest to them, they get an excellent crucible to learn both sides of the business game, and in a consumer driven society like ours, this brings forth many powerful lessons that can materially impact their lives as adults.

We are now a few months out from our 11 year old becoming a full time homeschooler, so the discussions of business ideas will gain some weight and dimension as one of the first deliveries in homeschool will be a formalized business plan. This will require her to spend a few months, for example, doing market survey work, analysis, choosing a model, sourcing goods (if needed) and the like to see if her business could be viable. She will present the plan to a few business owners we know to collect their feedback.  Once a solid plan has been created, she will enact the plan, measuring and monitoring its growth and adjusting the business as needed.

We've been speaking with them about business models, marketing, selling, end-goals, operating costs, capital expenses, customers, durability, competitive advantage, pricing, scale-ablity and more ever since they were old enough to talk. Having owned three companies ourselves, we have plenty of personal experiences to share with them making the car ride discussions far more rich and valuable. Now they will get a chance to try it out, and do one their way.  Proving to themselves that they can make money on their own is one of the most powerful gifts we can give them.  Self-Reliance and Self-Sufficiency.  Amen!