Sunday, September 25, 2011

Eco-Friendly Portable Tri-Cross, by Games for Competitors

There is a new game on the market that is a cross between Checkers, Chess, and Stratego.

I started my adventure with the Tri-Cross Eco-Friendly board game when our family was away in the mountains for a church retreat. It was the first time I had even looked at the directions, and my noble college-aged daughter agreed to try to play it with me.

We opened it up, set it up, and tried to figure out what we were supposed to do from the printed instructions.

We failed. We put it away to try again later.

I was remembering, in the back of my brain, that I had received a CD/DVD in the package with the game. I decided I needed to find that, when I got home, and see what new insight I could glean from it.

It was a DVD, and it was very helpful. [Turns out, the same videos are also available on the Games for Competitors website. After watching it, I still had some questions in my head, but I understood the game a bit more and wanted to try it with someone.

Basically there are three different ways you can play the game:
- Start with all the pieces face-up, showing each piece's value and strength. (See picture above.)
- start with all the pieces face-down, and remember where you put your pieces, but your opponent doesn't know which piece is which until two opponents' pieces get positioned where they must each be revealed, and the stronger piece then jumps. (To play this way you draw a color out of the bag to determine who goes first, then you take turns placing your six pieces on any available space in any starting zone.)
- start the game where the opponent puts your pieces on the board face down and you put your opponent's pieces on the board face down, and again pieces have to be revealed when they are positioned a certain way. (To play this way, after you determine who goes first, each person takes turns placing the other player's pieces face-down on available spaces in any of the four start-zones.)

So, I sought out my son to play the first version (above) of game with me (also known as the easy, face-up version). This time we played the boxed version.

He won the first game, and when we were setting up for the next game he already had the required positions for set-up memorized. (Amazing, these young minds. I still don't have the set-up positions memorized.)

Second game, I won. And by the third game, my son was saying he doesn't like the game. Frankly I don't think he has given the game an adequate chance, and I hope I can get him interested in it again sometime in the future.

My daughter was too busy with her new college semester to play again, so I was looking for another opportunity. Then my really smart brother came over to dinner. I knew this could be good! So I told him about the game, and he was willing to give it a try.

My brother has an amazing brain! It's one of those steel trap minds. He read through the instructions, and we began playing using the face-up method. I won a few, he won a few, and then he was willing to try the face-down version.

At this point I was at a total disadvantage. You need to understand my mind to get this completely: for me, once my pieces were upside-down, almost immediately their face-value would disappear from my brain. At best, I could remember that, like "one of these two is the six, and of these is the tri-cross", but I couldn't remember which was which, so I lost games to him because of this. He'd challenge what I thought was my six with his six, but it would actually be my tri-cross, and I'd lose it because a six jumps a tri-cross.

Anyway, this game has a lot of depth to it, and I think it is an excellent addition to any home's selection of strategy games. Tri-cross is different from checkers because: 1) when you "can" jump, you "must" jump; 2) jumps are horizontal or vertical, not diagonal; and, 3) when you jump it does not count as your turn. Because of that second rule, my brother and I were hard pressed in our efforts to remember whose turn it was. I'd move a piece, and then he would have to jump me, and then I'd have to jump him, and then he'd have to jump me, and then it was his "turn" to move a piece. It would get very confusing, but that's mostly because it's so different than chess and checkers.

Tri-Cross is not like chess because all pieces move in the same way: horizontally or vertically, one space at a time, and again, jumping does not count as a move.

Tri-Cross is won in one of two ways: either you jump all of your opponent's pieces and remove them from the board, or you occupy the Tri-Cross square in the center of the board for four consecutive turns.

Tri-Cross can be played by 2-4 players, and can be enjoyed by players aged 8 through adult. I have only played with two players so far. The eco-friendly version comes in a little canvas bag, and has a heavy-duty canvas board that folds up to fit in the bag.

Tri-cross received the Mom's Choice Award in 2010

as well as the Dr. Toy Best Green Product award for 2010.

Tri-cross is a game that was originally invented in the 1980's by a dad, Glenn Burns, who wanted to invent a game to challenge and engage his three sons. This would be a game that would force them to make connections in deep parts of their brains, create strategies, look ahead and see in their minds what outcomes would result from different moves. The game was a success with the Burns' boys, so Dad made 100 more copies of the game and made an effort to develop market interest in the game; but he was not successful, so he let it drop. The game then sat collecting dust for decades. The sons went on to college, grew into adults. And one day they were reminiscing about the game and got the idea to work together with dad to make another effort to market the game. And they have done a great job of creating a very professional-looking game that stands to be a big hit. I wish them all the best with the fabulous product.

The name of the company that makes Tri-Cross is Games for Competitors (GFP). The Standard version of the game (cardboard board and in a box) sells for $24.95. The Eco-Friendly Portable Tri-Cross sells for $19.95. They also sell a Tri-Cross Wood Edition for $34.95. In addition, they sell Tri-Cross T-Shirts for kids and adults for $12. To purchase, go to their website and click on "Buy Now" (to purchase over the internet), or go to Games for Competitors and click on "Store Locations" to find a location in your state.

To contact GFP, write to GFC Georgia LLC (Games For Competitors)

3069 McCall Drive, Suite 1
Atlanta, GA 30340

or reach them by telephone:
Phone: 770-452-7987
Fax: 770-452-8138

or reach them by email:

I received a free set of the Tri-Cross Eco-Friendly Portable game, as well as a standard version boxed set of Tri-Cross, in exchange for my review of the product. I think this is a great game for developing logical thinking in kids, and it is so versatile that it would be a hit with home school families, co-ops, school classrooms, youth groups, name it. The biggest obstacle is that it takes a bit to learn the game (it's not as easy to learn as Checkers), but the website tutorial really does a great job to help people learn the game. I did find that I tired of the game after a bit, but that may have been because I was at such a disadvantage playing against my brother. I felt like he fried my brain. He played several games, trying to figure out my strategy before he realized I didn't have a strategy.... :P I had much more fun today when, in order to take photographs, I played against myself! :D

I think I like this game, but I think I want to pick my opponents carefully, because playing against my brother made me feel stupid... ;-)

Any questions? You can ask me, but you might understand the game better by watching the tutorials on the company website!

To read more reviews about the Eco-Friendly Version of Tri-Cross, go to the TOS Crew Blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

TOS Magazine's 10th Anniversary FB Birthday Bash!

Have you figured out by now that I have a favorite homeschooling magazine?

Okay, I'll just "out with it"! I really like The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine began publishing just ten years ago. They publish a beautiful, sleek magazine for us homeschooling parents, which is also available in digital format. They also run a store for homeschool curricula and supplies, as well as making available virtual classes (even free ones).

Tonight, from 6:00-9:00 EST, there will be a TOS Facebook Birthday Bash.

I'm not eligible to win anything because I have... an "affiliation" with the magazine (as a product reviewer), but to eligible people they are giving away lots of freebies tonight! So get hubby to help with the kids, or sit them down to a nice old Disney flick like "Old Yeller" or something, and join the party at 6:00 Eastern Standard Time!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Big IQ Kids

Today I get to tell you about an online resource called Big IQ Kids.

First thing you'll want to know is that Big IQ Kids has a FREE spelling game that you can access that can really improve your kids' spelling! There are also a free programs for math, vocabulary, and state studies (United States Geography). There is even a free SAT Vocabulary Prep program! To access these, you must first create a free account with Big IQ Kids. Then each time you go to their website, you log in with the user name and password that you created, and then you can go to the pages. I would link them above, but then you wouldn't be able to go there without being logged in, so it doesn't make sense for me to link them.

The free spelling program can be used in one of two ways. First, you can create the word list for your student using the word list that you want to use, be it words your student frequently misspells, or words in a purchased curriculum for Spelling that you are using for the year.

The second way you can approach the spelling program is to ask Big IQ Kids to just use a grade-appropriate spelling list for your student.

Once the spelling list for the week is set up, each day have your student spend ten minutes on Big IQ Kids. By the end of the week your student will be ready for Friday's spelling test, and his/her scores will be improving over the scores that were recorded last year.

I spent hours working through this spelling list and found my own spelling accuracy increasing! In addition, the student earns coins (game credits) by doing these lessons. When the student is done with the lesson(s), he/she can go to the game area and play some amusing games. I was enjoying a game where a spider was trying to trap flies in his web. It was slightly mind-numbing, but nevertheless addicting, and when my coins were gone I found myself going back to do more lesson time to earn more coins!

BigIQKids Premium Spelling program is: $7.99/month; $39.99/year; or $99.99/year for an entire classroom. Oh, and as a homeschooling parent, you can also create a "classroom". The classroom feature is available for the premium program, but also for the free program!

The Math Program gives the student a variety of tasks in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. (I imagine this varies depending on what grade level you sign your child up as. My son is a 6th grader.) When you sign up for the Premium Math Program, the program keeps track of your child's progress, and sends you an email each time the student demonstrates a level of proficiency and is moved up to the next level. I really liked that aspect. It also means that your student is able to sign in each day, and the program knows where to start him (rather than starting him each day with super easy addition. The "Free" program does not track your child, so it starts at the same place each day.

The price for the Premium Math program is $9.99/mo. or $49.99/12 mo., or $149.99/year for a whole class.

The Geography ("States") section gives the student the opportunity to memorize where in the country each state is located. There is also a section to teach the student each state's capital, the spelling of each state, and the two-letter abbreviation for each state. There is also a section to teach the student more in depth information about each state.

In all areas, when the student has spent time on their lessons they earn coins to use in the "Games" area. In addition to a large variety of games in the Premium program (three packed pages compared to one scant page for the "Free" area), the earned coins can be used to change the student's "Big IQ Buddy". There are a variety of things offered to personalize the buddy: shirt, hat, pants, shoes... kind of like playing "Mr. Potato Head", in my opinion, but it can be fun.

The more time I spent investigating Big IQ Kids, the more I found available for the student and the parent. I began to find more information available as I looked at the tabs across the top of the log-in page: "How to Use"; "Training Videos"; "Products"; "Teachers"; "Pricing"; "Free vs. Premium"; and frequently asked questions ("FAQs"). There's a "BigIQKids Blog" for parents.

Now we come to the part where you are asking me, "So, it sounds like you love it, right? Are there any negatives?"

I'm so glad you asked. Well, I don't know any other way of saying this: my son hates it. Why? Well, he cannot get past the computer-generated voices that the program uses. So, I guess this program will not be for everyone. I, personally, when I am using this program, put ear buds on so that I am the only one hearing it. When I use ear buds, the volume is just blasting, so I have to turn the volume control way down to preserve my hearing. I think that volume is probably a good volume when someone is trying to use the program just listening to the computer's built in speakers, but the parent should be aware and try to adjust the volume in advance before blasting the student's ears (like I have done my own ears several times).

Big IQ Kids is appropriate for all age/grade levels, and the spelling/vocabulary component goes all the way to the SAT Prep for college-bound students.

Big IQ Kids' free program has advertisements along the sides, but to the best that I can tell these are not affiliated with Big IQ Kids and Big IQ Kids does not appear to have any other products that they offer (it's all here, folks!).

To learn more about BigIQKids, you can read their FAQ Page, or you can email them at: kids Their hours are 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. EDT, or you can write to the at:
Synergy1 Group, Inc.
PO Box 192
Glenwood, MD 21738

I received three months of Big IQ Kids Premium Program for free in exchange for writing this review, and was not paid to endorse their product. You can read more TOS Crew reviews of this product by clicking HERE.

What more can I tell you? This has the free program that you can look at and try out to see if your student can benefit from it (and to see if your student can tolerate the computer-generated voices). If he/she/they can, then consider trying out one of the premium programs to see how quickly your student's math, spelling and geography scores improve. I was amazed that this Free Spelling program was free, because it looks terrific. I can understand, though, why you would want premium, because you can build your child's spelling lists, and the computer progresses your child through the lists and sends you progress reports. (I wonder if they would consider changing the voices...)

Take a look and let me know what you think. Big IQ Kids

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Today I get to tell you about an online resource called Time4Learning. I first learned about Time4Learning four years ago, when I was on the Maiden Voyage of TOS Crew.

I looked for my previous review, but I'm not able to find it. The synopsis is that in a very short period of time, I lost so many family members that it was unbelievable. And at a time when I was not functioning well, Time4Learning was a gift from God!


Time4Learning has a program for children from K through 8th grade. They have lesson plans for students in Language Arts (primarily Grammar), Spelling, Math (PreAlgebra & Algebra Online), Social Studies, Science, and Art (for an extra fee). And the parent has their own log in, so they can get reports and know what their students have completed and how well they are doing.

For the littlest ones,Time4Learning
starts out with an eye-catching phonics program:
This program walks them through, step by step, to early reading, and then strengthens their reading and gives them confidence. Each year their reading is
challenged and strengthened with presentation of words at gradually increasing levels of difficulty. As they are presented with reading tasks, if they need help they can click on an icon and the program will read the section for them. As they read with their eyes and hear with their ears, they learn words they were unable to figure out on their own.

Math is also presented each year according to age appropriateness. Kindergarten begins with number recognition and beginning addition. First grade presents addition and subtraction of single digit numbers, with beginning concepts of many facets of mathematics, including units of measure and telling time. Second grade incorporates yet more concepts, such as graphing, in addition to addition and subtraction of two and three digit numbers, information about fractions, reinforcement of telling time, etc.

Each year continues to build on the last, and units within each area offer the option of tests and quizzes. Parents can check not only the scores of tests and quizzes, but also can check to see level of mastery at each level that the student has completed.

The Language Arts sections of the program start by introducing the basics: parts of speech, capitalization, and punctuation. (There are eight parts of speech, which I probably can't remember off the top of my head, but they include nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, prepositions, articles, etc.) The learning doesn't stop there. I was delighted when I realized the program was filling in holes I had left in my son's education in additional areas: synonyms, antonyms, homonyms, etc.
We got into a lot of interesting conversations over pronunciation as a result of the sections on homonyms. "Our" and "hour" are, but they sound like "Ow-r", whereas "are" sounds like "ar". "Aunt" does not sound like "ant", and "where" does not sound like "wear" and "ware". So, those were fun conversations. (With my English father and grandparents, "aunt" sounds like "ah-nt", and with my phonogram awareness, "where" starts with an airy "wh" sound that a plain "w" does not make.)

The Language Arts section also includes Literature pieces. I really enjoyed overhearing as my son was listening to stories from American Tall Tales, such as stories about Pecos Bill.

We also have had fun with our son entering into our adult conversations with bits of information he had learned that I, his homeschooling mother, had not taught him. I can't remember the most recent example, but it seems like it was something about space that he had learned. I was caught off guard by what he said and asked him, "How did you know that?" He promptly replied, "I learned it on Time4Learning!"

The Time4Learning program also contains a Social Studies section, presented in a lively, captivating way. There is also a new section for Art and Art Appreciation, but this section costs an addition $10/year fee, and this was not included in what was made available for me to review. I will say, though, that we have used it before, and it is my son's favorite part of Time4Learning. I would catch his watching the same section from Art again and again -- it was not just the Art section he liked, but the content itself was so interesting that he would return to the same sections again and again.

Most of my contacts with Time4Learning have been through their website. However, in the event that you wish to contact them directly they are available by "snail mail" (USPS) and by "Land line" (telephone):
Address : 6300 NE 1 Ave, Suite 203 Ft Lauderdale, FL 33334
Hours: Weekdays - 8:30am to 7:00pm (6pm on Fridays) EST
Phone: (954) 771-0914 Fax: (954) 827-7600
The company's site map contains a plethora of information. Not only does it contain links to help beginning homeschoolers, but I also saw that anyone, even YOU, my dear reader, can get a free month of Time4Learning in exchange for a review that you would give on your blog. Sweet!

Time4Learning has been an amazingly kind company, coming to my aid at a time when I was grieving, wanting one more month of their service but unable to pay for it. At that time they were so kind to me, giving me one extra month at no charge. I will always be thankful to them for that.

Time4Learning is available for one low price. From their website:
The primary curriculum consists of language arts and math.

The language arts curriculum is presented in a suggested sequence designed to create a strong literacy foundation. It includes phonics, grammar, reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, writing skills and more. The language arts curriculum correlates to state standards.
The math curriculum combines multimedia lessons, interactive activities and reinforcing worksheets to teach basic arithmetic, number sense & operations, measurement, geometry, pre-algebra and more. The math curriculum correlates to state standards.

Time4Learning also offers science and social studies as an added bonus. The science lessons are available from 1st through 6th grade, and the social studies lessons are available from 2nd - 7th grade levels. Because state by state standards differ, science and social studies may need to be supplemented to satisfy your local requirements.

Please note that it is possible to use Time4Learning for just one subject, however, pricing will not change.

That last section, that you can use for just one subject -- the way they have the membership set up, you the parent can decide, for instance, not to use the science because you do not wish to expose your child to an evolution point of view. I, for my part, chose to permit my son full access. I chose to stay close at hand, where I could overhear the content he covered, so we could later discuss anything I had heard that was different from what we believe. There was one example, for instance, where a literature example of hyperbole said something like that dinosaurs died out millions (maybe it said billions) of years before man was on earth. (I believe Genesis suggests that dinosaurs were created on the 6th day, as were man and woman.)

Also, from there website:
Time4Learning includes the following:

Online curriculum for grades Pre-K through 8th
More than 1,000 interactive animated lessons
Self paced lessons that kids will enjoy working on
Math & algebra tutorials & printable worksheets
Language arts, phonics & grammar lessons
Interactive, project-based reading activities
Science (grades 1st - 6th) & social studies (grades 2nd - 7th)
Detailed reporting for easy record keeping
Extensive lesson plans & teaching tools for parents
and much more...

Time4Learning is web based, so there is no software to download, no CDs and nothing additional to purchase. Members can access the program 24/7 from anywhere with a computer and an internet connection.

So, I hope you have gotten the impression that I like this program. How can you not like a program where your child who hates school wakes up asking, "Can I just do Time4Learning today?"

That being said, there were some areas that I considered weaknesses or areas that I didn't like:
--As I mentioned above, the program has a decidedly evolutionist slant, which shows in some of their science, and which also occasionally slips into other subject areas.
--There is an "Assignment" area where teachers can set up student assignments, so the student knows what the teacher wants done when they fire up the program, but this section is available for "school" teachers, and has not been made available for homeschool teachers.
--When child is in "Playground" area, the links made available seem to actually go off of the "Time4Learning" pages and go to other websites. (I found myself on when I clicked on several links from the "Playground".)

So that's the good and the bad of it. While my son learned a lot using Time4Learning, I was not good at planning, nor at implementing a plan, so my son used the program as a fun supplement to what we were already doing. With careful planning and implementation it can, possibly, be used as a full curriculum for Language Arts and Math, and maybe even other subjects depending on the laws in your specific state. It is also useful for students in conventional schools as an after school program.

I received one month of access to Time4Learning in exchange for this review. I was not paid for my review in any other way than the free use of the program. I hope you enjoyed my review. You can read this and other TOS Crew Reviews of this product at the TOS Crew Reviews Page.
Please leave me a comment -- I like comments!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Monday Menu Plan

I've been chatting with some of my TOS sisters about weight loss. I am on a weight loss journey, but a slow one. In the past year I have lost ten pounds. The way I see it, that is ten pounds I want permanently gone, and I am able to believe that will be permanent because I have made lifestyle changes, so that even when I haven't been keeping track of what I eat, I have not gained that ten pounds back. (There was another five pounds lost and regained, so I know I need to get back to work.)

In my life, part of successful weight loss is planning, so I am going to here post my eating plan for this week. I am following Weight Watchers, and I am measuring my foods, but I am not including those measurements here, nor the food point values. I am just eating healthy quantities.

Here's the plan:

Sunday (yesterday):

Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

hamburger patty (lean) on a sandwich flat
fresh veggies

snack (weekly icecream Sunday):
1/2 pint Ben & Jerry's vanilla heath bar ice cream.


Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. ham, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

unknown (at a church function where they are serving dinner)

frozen red grapes


Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. ham, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free no sugar added hot chocolate

meatloaf, not sure what else (at a function where our church provides a meal at a local ...I think it would be called a half-way house, where people get integrated back into society...)


Exercise: lawn mowing 1.25 hours
Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. ham, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

Dinner: Crustless quiche Lorraine, spinach salad


Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

Dinner: Raspberry turkey salad, whole grain loaf, fresh cucumbers

snack: banana
Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

chicken stir fry on cabbage; brown rice

snack: grapes

Instant (plain) oatmeal with 1/2 cup frozen blueberries;
coffee w/fat free half & half

sandwich of 2 slices wheat bread, 2 oz. turkey, lettuce, tomato
baby carrots

fat free venti mocha from Starbuck's

Salmon, noodles, Brussel sprouts

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11/2001: The Little Chapel That Stood

This book is now available being read by the author on

The Little Chapel that Stood:

Watch the video. It is very moving.

Nature Study

Well, two weeks into our school year, and so far nature study has been done from the window. Let's see, what have we done so far...

We were in week 14 of Year 4 this past week. So far we...

read about earthquakes in Madam How and Lady Why...
.....and lived through our first earthquake!

(Actually, poor dear son was down at the creek with his friend, and being outside, he didn't notice a thing. I, on the other hand, first thought the dog was scatching himself behind my chair, but he wasn't there, so I thought the washer was out of balance, ...but that wouldn't shake the whole upstairs... So I wondered if a helicopter was landing on my house, but I opened the window, and it was perfectly quiet outside. So I finally understood it was an earthquake... and it kept rumbling and rumbling... The bathroom mirrors rattling against each other... but no damage.)

We read about volcanoes, that near volcanoes earthquakes occur, but they can also occur where there are no volcanoes. And then, fortunately, we did not experience any volcanoes...

We had a hurricane come through (really, it was Tropical Storm Irene by the time we got it). We lost our electricity, and one of our maple trees shed a huge, huge bough, which by God's mercy caused no harm. So we cleaned it up (five trash cans full of tree debris with plenty more, but no more cans), and after recycling emptied the cans we cleaned up from the yards.

We took a fast trip to NC to visit Nana and Pop Pop for Nana's 80th birthday dinner! (We didn't tell her we were coming; it was a great surprise for her!)

We got home to tropical storm Lee, and four or five solid days of torrential rain! Worse rain than Irene, but without the wind.

Last day of the storm we drove to a little local communnity fair to enter our items into competition! What a wet, muddy, messy trip that one was! But worth it, as my son and I got nice ribbons on almost every item we entered. (I suspect there may have been less people entering because of the weather... I mean, it was hugely pouring, and there was thunder and lightening, roads flooding... awful weather, during the hours when you were allowed to enter your items...

So, our weather has finally cleared, for now. We have a really cool field trip planned for Wednesday where we will go out on a pontoon boat on a lake -- I think the boat has a glass bottom or something... and we'll take binoculars... I'll try to take photos.

So, sorry no photos of the earth quake or the two tropical storms, nor of the road trip, nor of the fair... I guess this might seem like a boring blog entry to some, but we have felt the past three weeks to be a fairly wild ride for our normal start of school...

Note to self: remember to use camera for future blog entries...

Til next time!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Nature Nuts

We are in Week 2 of our school year, and we are slowly ramping up to speed.

One of my goals this year has been to make school more fun. My son has/had developed a mindset of hating school, and I don't want it to be that way. I had been thinking about how I could change what I was doing to help my son enjoy the process. And then I was given the opportunity to try out an educational game called Nature Nuts. Initially I had some doubts about if the game would be "too young" for us, since it was marked for ages 8+, but I now know it is probably way over my head. Read on to learn more.

Let's just say my son is wise to my scheme, and he greeted the new game with less than enthusiasm, but grudgingly played a game with me once I informed him that I required it of him. The game started off a bit rocky, with each of us missing the answer to question after question, but by the end of the game my son was enjoying the fact that he was getting a significant number of answers correct, and I was not. He won the game.

I won't whine long about how the game conspired against me. Some questions wording threw me: "Since snakes have no teeth, how do they eat?" I answered, "They unhinge their jaws." My son snickered and read, "They swallow their prey whole." Then there was the question that came up that I got wrong, that two turns later repeated itself in the deck for my son, who now knew the answer and joyfully added points to his score.

Anyway, I am really enjoying supplementing our science course by playing this game throughout the week. And my so is, too, although he might not admit it if you ask him.

Nature Nuts was created by a company called Griddley Games, and is part of a series of games called Wise Alec Family Trivia Game. Nature Nuts can be used as an expansion to the Wise Alec game, or it can be used alone as a trivia game.

It contains a die with colored dots on the six faces, and four stacks of trivia cards. The person whose turn it is rolls the die, and is then asked a question from one of three categories. The question category is determined by the color rolled on the die. There are questions for red, green and yellow (animals, plants and earth, respectively). If you roll blue, you can pick which category. If you roll orange, your opponent can pick which category, but your score is double if you answer correctly. If you select purple, you pick a "Wise Alec" card which might ask you to do something totally unique. My son had to stand with his palms together over his head, with one foot resting against his other leg, and balance that way for 30 seconds to get 7 points. He succeeded. Fortunately I wasn't asked to do that! :)

You can choose to play the game to a certain point ceiling (we played til someone had 50 points), or set a timer and play for a certain amount of time, like 30 minutes. If you play as an expansion of the Wise Alec game, you have a game board that you move around with game pieces; otherwise you play just by rolling the die and having questions asked. On each turn you can pick a 3 point question (easier) or a 7 point question (harder). I wasn't very good at either, but I look forward to increasing my knowledge of nature trivia as we continue to play the game.

I am enjoying this game and I highly recommend it as a supplement to your school program. It is highly educational. Or you can use it as a supplement to your game collection, if you prefer to think of it that way. I received my set of cards for free in exchange for an honest review. Please visit the Homeschool Crew Blog to see reviews by other members of the Homeschool Crew.

Griddley Games also makes the basic Wise Alec game, as I mentioned above, as well as Civilize This! and Wise Alec: Sports Buffs. In addition to trivia games, Griddley Games makes sports trivia games (Griddly Headz Strategy Games), Chronicles of the Mind, and Words of the Wise. All of these games look like fun ways to help the entire family learn trivia and vocabulary while having fun. Also, their website is chock-full of videos explaining all the different games, making the rules and the play easy to understand.

I recommend you give this company a good look. They have a lot to offer to supplement your educational program. Nature Nuts is not available locally in all areas (not available in MY area), but is available online, and costs $14.99.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Child


Sometime in June I became aware of this book put out by Apologia: How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Child. I was wanting a new devotional, and this book was pulling me. I found the book had a free sample chapter, so I opened and read the introduction, "The Heart of the Matter".


The writing style of the author pulled me in; it was written in a style that really communicated with me. I wanted the book. It was on the list for TOS Crew "Upcoming Vendors", and I hoped I would be selected to review it... I was!


So now I get to share with you what I think of this book that I was blessed to receive for free in exchange for my mostly unbiased review of its contents.

Rachael Carman's writing is direct, but familiar. When I sit down to read a section of the book, I feel like I'm having a chat with a friend over a cup of coffee at my local coffee shop.

The areas Rachael addresses in her H.E.A.R.T acrostic are provoking, yet gentle. She gentles her message by using real-life personal examples, so that as the reader I know that I am not being preached to by someone who has "arrived", but am being encouraged by someone who shares in the battle.

Each chapter ends with a page of application questions, she calls it a "Heart Check", to help you continue to mull over hwo to apply the contents of the chapter. It is helpful to read each chapter thoughtfully, with a Bible and notebook close at hand, so that you can look up referenced Bible verses, take notes, and write down and answer the application questions.

I enjoyed this book, and I will probably re-read it in the future. I have somewhat rushed through it on my first read, because my review's due date was looming. So, I won't be getting "down deep" here and revealing where this has applied to me personally...

This book is written with Mom in mind. Dad might benefit, but it is clearly written to Mom.

If you are looking for that next resource that you'd like to use as a side dish during your quiet time with God, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Apologia's : How to Have a H.E.A.R.T. for Your Child, available at the Apologia website for $13.00. It can be purchased as a hardback book, or as a download (which will save you the expense of postage). In addition to this resource, Apologia offers a full line of Science materials (Apologia Science, other course products to promote a Biblica worldview in your student (Apologia Press), retreats for mom (Apologia Live), online courses (Apologia Academy), support materials to help moms write transcripts or teach gifted children, as well as additional books for mom, such as Educating the WholeHearted Child and more (Parent Resource Page).

You can see more reviews of this product, you can read them at the Crew Blog.

I received this book for free, in exchange for agreeing to review it. I was not paid for writing this review.