Tag Archives: TOS

LitWits Literature Kits ~ a Crew review

LitWits

With some books there are just tons of fun, interesting activities that can be done to engage more with the story. LitWits developed just this kind of thing – creating immersive activities to go with classical or interesting stories. These are in person classes they hold. These in-person classes have been so popular that the creators decided to go digital with their events and create a whole new product – LitWits Kits.

These LitWits Kits take a treasured story and allow you to engage with it in fun, hands-on, and interesting ways. Whether it be through activities of doing what the characters do or cooking/baking and eating something the characters do, the types of activities help the students really learn more about what life might have been like for the people at that time and in that place. We received four LitWits Kits:

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All Creatures Great And Small

We have been working with the kit for All Creatures Great And Small. This is a long book – over 400 pages. It is honestly a book I didn’t read until I was an adult but I really enjoyed it. It was easy to encourage Miss J to try this one out. She is 10 and we have been reading the book out loud together. She has seemed to really enjoy it. I would note that I have been skipping some of the words and phrases used as common, every-day language in this story, editing as I go.

All Creatures Great And Small is about the life of James Herriot, a veterinarian in the Yorkshire Dales of England starting in the late 1930s. As a new vet, he kept a diary of different calls he was sent to and the people he kept company with. We get the benefit of this record as Mr. Herriot learned that taking care of animals in real life was quite different than the schooling he received. Called out often in the middle of the night or sent to a call that was relayed to him as something completely different than it was, he learned to cope, manage the people and the animals, and to enjoy thoroughly the life of a country vet.

LitWits worksheets

The LitWits Kit for this included activities that helped the student experience what a call could have been like when received in the night and Herriot had to get ready in the dark. It included a suggestion to try Yorkshire pudding, which we made and ate. We listened to people speak with a Yorkshire accent, which is really hard to read out loud in the book. We looked up pictures of the Yorkshire Dales to see what the countryside looked like. We pulled out some music to listen to that was reminiscent of the time and place. We also looked at some bits about the anatomy of animals that are mentioned in the story – cows, horses, sheep, and more.

Yorkshire pudding

There were a few activities that we chose not to do, such as a collage of images. We also chose not to set up an area of props related to the story. We did, however, choose to print out the learning pages and complete most of those. These included using an anatomy chart for a horse and noting different part of the animal and their names. We marked a map and a timeline related to the story. We have a page about work ethic and the themes of the story. We have not completed that one yet since we are not yet finished with the story. These five pages were simple yet brought out different ideas to consider.

Screenshot 2019-11-19 at 8.50.07 PMThe Secret Garden

This kit will be the next one we do, as we just read through this story a few months ago. When Miss J saw it on the list, she wanted to see the activities related to it. She remembers much of the story so we will probably do a review of it or watch a movie. We have printed out the learning pages and she will enjoy having tea with toast and marmalade. She will skip rope and do things related to gardening, direct connections to the story.

 

Screenshot 2019-11-19 at 8.49.51 PMThe Hobbit

This kit was chosen because the girls’ dad was reading this story to them. Miss J has been enjoying it so she thought it would be fun to see what was included in this kit. Food plays a prominent part so we will experience some of that. An engraved sword will be created and runes made. These are just a couple of the fun activities in this kit.

 

 

Screenshot 2019-11-19 at 8.48.56 PMA Wrinkle In Time

This kit was chosen because it is a story she has seen the movie for but not yet read. The takeaway section for this kit has some neat looking links and the activity for the solar system looks interesting. There is a fun dress up activity.

LitWits Kit Navigation

The kits are located online. Once purchased, visit the LitWits site and login. You will then have access to your purchased kits on your account.

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Once you click on Access My Kit, it opens up to the kit.

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The kit is navigable by scrolling, clicking on one of the numbered sections at the top (as seen above), or by clicking on the numbered sections on the side (as seen below).

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You can also choose to print the entire kit with a simple click of the button, which produces a printable PDF file. The sections are the same in all the kits, differing only by the information included to reflect each book. The 10 sections are:

  1. Welcome
  2. Overview
  3. Prop Ideas
  4. Hands-on Fun
  5. Bookbites
  6. Takeaways
  7. Hand-outs
  8. Learning Links
  9. Great Quotes
  10. Copyright

Overall Thoughts

I do like these. They are simple and fully prepared with minimal prep time for the teacher. They do dig a bit into the book and provide a slightly different look at the story. There is much here to do.

I would like to see the activities really ramped up to a level that appeals to the students that should be reading the book. Much of what we skipped, we skipped because it wasn’t appealing and we didn’t really see that it added to the understanding of the book. Putting on Wellington boots and running just doesn’t seem in line with a 400 page book of challenging vocabulary and themes.

checking out carbolic soapThe challenging vocabulary not being addressed was a miss, in my book. There was so much that could have been done, especially in All Creatures Great And Small. For instance, there are multiple mentions of carbolic. We talked about it, looked it up, and used some to wash up with, smelling that smell that is talked about in the story.

Another point I would like to see addressed is the broken links. In All Creatures Great And Small, I found several links that were broken. Also, being directed to a generic Pinterest board or outside site for links was disappointing. I often could not find what I was sent to the Pinterest board for and many of the pins for All Creatures Great And Small were duplicates, making what I was looking for even harder to find. Having to do my own search on Goodreads was disappointing and we did not find strong quotes.

A Good ResourceLitWits Kits

Overall, this is a good resource, especially for someone looking for interactive book units. Perhaps they are a better fit for younger students than older ones but there is still plenty to be gained from each of the kits. If you are looking for a book study that has hands-on activities and ideas, LitWits may be just what you are looking for so please take the time to check them out.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read additional reviews from other families who used LitWits Kits, many of whom will have chosen different books to explore. Just click on the image below.

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Mattie Richardson, Author, and Her Horses of History Series ~ a Crew review

Horses In History Series from author Mattie Richardson

Books that dive into history in a unique way are highly appreciated by this mom, who is constantly looking for new ways to interest my sweet girls in different things. When the Mattie Richardson’s Horses in History Series of books from young author Mattie Richardson came up for review, I jumped at the chance to read them. I had seen them previously but had not been able to get them at the time. Wow, have we been missing out!

Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books started writing these books when she was about 13. She has picked up a very interesting and unique way to look at different events in history with this series of books – from the perspective of the horses. What a fabulous outlook to take, especially when you consider her age as she started writing them. Well, since the first one, she hasn’t really stopped writing. Taking on the idea of how the horses might have seen different historical events was a stroke of genius.

Mattie Richardson books

There are 4 books in this series and we received each of them to read and review:

  • Appaloosy,
  • Dusty’s Trail,
  • Golden Sunrise, and
  • Day and Night.

We also received the new ebook enrichment guide to go along with Day and Night.

Appaloosy by Mattie RichardsonAppaloosy – This book takes a look at the final freedom of the Nez Perce tribe. Storm is a beautiful Appaloosa with unique markings who belongs to the tribe. The story follows the attempt by the tribe to maintain their freedom from the desires of the white man. War breaks out in Idaho, disrupting the life of the stunning young stallion. We follow Storm through many different owners, including both horse thieves/rustlers and kind owners. As the story continues, we follow Storm’s struggle for freedom, both against owners and his own heart.

Miss J and I read this book out loud during the review period, reading a chapter a night together. It was an interesting story about a time that she did not know anything about. The history of the struggles of the Nez Perce tribe as seen through the eyes of the horse made it an event that wasn’t too hard to read. There are some situations that sensitive children might have a harder time with but they are very important to the history of the events. They are handled carefully and are well done, emphasizing just the right amount of the scare or concern or fright while allowing the proper influence on the story because horse thieving, fights, battles, hunger, and more are all a part of it. We enjoyed reading the story together and seeing it all play out from a bit safer of a view point – the horse.

Dusty's Trail by Mattie Richardson

Dusty’s Trail – The call of the newspaper ad is just too strong for the young boy and his horse. The Pony Express! What an adventure it would be. Against his mother’s wishes, young Levi takes off on his horse Dusty. Dusty tries to let Levi know that this isn’t the best plan but Levi wins out and they become part of The Pony Express. Amid attacks, heat, cold, missing relays, and more, the story of how The Pony Express worked through the eyes of Dusty is a joy.

Golden Sunrise by Mattie Richardson

Golden Sunrise – The palomino pony, Cheyenne, is at home on the ranch when Jared decides he just has to be a part of the changes occuring in Texas in the 1830s and 1840s. The Texas fight for independence was just too appealing to the young lad and so with his horse, they join up. Being a part of the war may just be more than Cheyenne bargained for, though as she learns about the war she knows it is a just cause. Right in the midst of it all, Cheyenne and Jared are part of the big battles and meet many of the people who came to be important in the history of it all.

Day and Night by Mattie Richardson

Day and Night – The American Civil War was anything but civil, even for the horses. Two horse brothers, Tucker and Shiloh, are separated from each other as their lives diverge. One ends up on the side of the North and the other ends up on the side of the South. One ends up carrying a high ranking official. The other ends up carrying a boy, um – girl dressed like a boy who lied to be able to fight. From the border wars and the fights on the western front of the war, to the bloodiest battles fought, to protecting the lines and taking care of their riders, these horses saw it all and learned so much about the war that maybe we should learn from them.

Each of these stories is told from the horses’ point of view. Each is well told and highlights issues surrounding the events that might not be immediately obvious or the part that we have learned about in past history studies. These unique looks at the events of the stories will broaden the reader’s idea of what it is like to fight in a battle, seek freedom, work hard on a horse, ride for hours on end, or be a part of something bigger than themselves.

enrichment_guide

The Day and Night Enrichment Guide is a full-on unit study designed to help the reader get more out of the book. There are 8 parts to the guide, with all of the first seven following the same format. Each part contains

  • reading comprehension – questions to help guide the reader’s understanding of the story
  • vocabulary – words used within the story that might be new or unfamiliar to the reader; most are fill-in-the-blank activities with one matching activity
  • a soldier’s life – designed to help the reader understand more about the different aspects of a soldier’s life, there is information on food, bugle calls, medicine, camp life, and more
  • living history activity – these activities help bring to life the things that a soldier would have experienced, such as making butter, eating hardtack, or having johnnycakes; some of these include making a diorama or studying a reenactment
  • geography – because geography was important to war, there is a study of the states involved in the story, landmarks of the battles, rivers, and other big picture ideas of the civil war
  • horses and history – a look at the role of the horse in the civil war, including tack and equipment, purpose of the cavalry, breeds of horses, and more
  • creating your own stories – working one element at a time, the reader begins to create their own stories
  • biography – a look at an important person from the story
  • further reading/advanced track – additional books to read to further develop understanding of the Civil War

Part 8 is the completion of the story the reader was writing and suggestions for field trips.

The enrichment guide can be used as is but it would be very easy to pick the pieces of it that fit your need or your family and use just those. In whole, it is a solid literature, history, and geography study, with writing included. In pieces, it will be a good supplement to the story. Either way, it is a recommended addition to the book.

Horses In History Series from author Mattie Richardson

While we have not yet used the enrichment guide, I am getting it printed out and into a binder so that we can use it in the spring for our history with Miss J, age 10. We will not

use the further reading section, but all the others will be interesting and really create a solid study of these battles in the Civil War.

I am excited about using these four books from Author Mattie Richardson/Appaloosy Books as the base for a history unit. These books are easy to read and chock full of the details of history that truly bring it to life.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew to read what other families thought about the Mattie Richardson’s Horses in History Series. Please click on the banner below to visit the Crew blog and read more reviews.

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Math from Channie’s ~ a Crew review

Channies workbooks titling

Workbooks often have a bad reputation but we have had great success with some of them. This review was somewhat of a surprise for us in this regards and what a good surprise it has been. Having not heard of Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks before, giving their math workbooks a chance seemed like a good thing to do, though we were having a good run with our current math program. After all, practice time is always good with multiplication. So, we requested One Page A Day 2 Digit Multiplication Practice . We were pleasantly surprised to open the package and find One Page A Day Level 1 Fractions, also. Both of these products have a suggested grade range of 3rd-5th.

Channies_multiplication

We chose the multiplication workbook because Miss J, age 10, just doesn’t have the multiplication tables memorized yet. The One Page A Day format of this workbook works in conjunction with any other program you are working with for math because it is a short practice page each day. One page. That’s it. It starts off gently, working through simple 2 digit times 1 digit examples. Each problem is set up within a grid, helping the student keep the steps of the equation lined up. Perfect for that gently reminder.

Channies_multiplication_sample1

This first page was multiplying 2 digits by 1 digits. These single digits are 1s and 0s. Really easy but a great way to build confidence. Next comes a page of 2s, then 3s, then on up through 9s. One page each. There are a few pages of mixed single digits to multiply by and then they move on to the next difficulty level – 2 digit by 2 digit.

Again, though, it starts them out easily and gently with this new step. 2 digits multiplied by 10, with the grid system with color coding to help them keep their numbers lined up correctly. A great teaching system.  Then green is for when you are multiplying by the ones place and the grey is for when you are multiplying by the tens place. As the book continues to progress, these colors are eventually done away with, keeping the grids in place. This gently removing of the aids allows the student to continue to feel strong and confident as they work through the multiplication page-a-day program.

Channies_fractions

As I mentioned, we were pleasantly surprised when we opened the package and saw that Channie’s had also sent us Level 1 Fractions. It follows well with the multiplication and again is a very gently system for walking the student step-by-step in learning to work with fractions.

starting_fractions

The program begins with what fractions are, coloring in a shape with the fractional amount. After just a couple of pages, the student is moved into addition of fractions with like denominators. The student is also introduced to the idea of a fractional amount of 1, such as 5/5 = 1. So the student adds the fractions and then determines that the amount is actually equivalent to 1. Subtractions of fractions comes next and quickly is followed by the concept that fractions are just a form of division. Several pages are spent on this concepts, since it is one that often trips students up.

Equivalent fractions are where we are at now and the workbook will spend a number of pages on it. We had to introduce multiplying fractions, using the concept of 5/5=1. By the time we finish this book, Miss J will have dealt with equivalent fractions in many ways, reducing fractions, and working with fractions through different operations. Because she has not dealt with fractions nearly as much, I am actually teaching her a good portion of the time on the new concepts instead of this being a practice. But it works this way, also. I just sit beside her while she begins each page, seeing if she understands it.

Each of the workbooks has an answer key at the back.

Since these are only one page a day programs and we are doing two of the simultaneously, we are spending between 20 and 30 minutes on math. This is a solid amount for Miss J, as so much of that is intensive thought for her. These two combined have been just wonderful.

Channies_workbooks

Channie’s is a company that has a large selection of products to try. Each of their products is designed to have a unique practice approach to an area that children often struggle with, whether it be letters, numbers, handwriting, or math concepts. When you look at their shop, there are over 70 items! These include the items I have shared with you here, as well as the items that the Homeschool Review Crew are sharing in other reviews:

Channie’s Dry Erase Flashcard For Alphabet & Number  (Better for ages 4-6)

Channie’s Dry Erase Flashcard for Sight Words (Ages 5-6)

Neat Numbers (Ages 3-5)

And who knows? There could have been others like our family who were blessed with something not on this list! And I may just order their One Page A Day Beginning Division workbook for some more practice in that area. Channies workbooks for math

I want to point out that there are some practice pads and dry erase boards for some of the items in the shop. What a wonderful tool these would be for early writers and learners. I know when my girls were young, they really enjoyed using dry erase boards so these are wonderful products.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to click on the image below to see what other families from the Homeschool Review Crew thought about the products they used from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks.

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Drawing Lessons from Creating a Masterpiece ~ a Crew review

Learn to draw with the Drawing Program from Creating a Masterpiece

Never have I felt like an artist yet a niggling thought has stuck in my head for several years – maybe I just need the right kind of guidance. Enter Creating a Masterpiece and the series of instructional pieces in their newly released Drawing Program, with lessons from Beginning Drawing to Level 3.

CAM-Logo-Final

Creating a Masterpiece has been around for a while and has had video instruction for several levels of various media, including watercolor, inks, acrylics, and more. Recently, the company has expanded their offerings to include drawing lessons. This is what I have been using for the past few weeks and have come to enjoy a lot.

I have been working on at least one drawing a week, hoping to improve my abilities and enjoyment of the process of creating through drawing and sketching. Well, so far so good. I look forward to finding time to work through another of the drawing lessons. I have progressed from the beginning level through most of level 1. That is a total of 15 drawings, from a giraffe to a fish to an egg, each one stretches my abilities and learning.

The drawing lessons use various media for drawing. These include pencil, charcoal, colored pencil, and eraser (yes, you read that right!). Papers used have included regular sketching paper, vellum, black paper, and charcoal paper. Additionally, I have learned about using a kneading eraser, a pencil eraser, vellum paper, a tortillon, and techniques for using the pencils.

The lessons are simple enough to get into and get started on. Log into the Creating a Masterpiece site and then click on projects, at the top.

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From there, you scroll down to the Drawing Lessons. You then select the lesson you want. You will be taken to a page where you can look at the materials needed. This page also has a link to a site where you can order the materials if you do not have a local art or hobby store to visit. One the page that has the materials link, there is also a sample of the completed project and the link needed to enter the video portions of the lesson. Click on that and head into the instruction.

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Each project is broken down into several short video sections. This allows the instruction to be given in small, manageable segments. They have ranged from 2 video sections to 6 sections, I believe. Each video segment ranges from about 2 minutes to almost 10. The segments show Sharon walking the student through each step of creating the artwork, explaining the process and choices made.

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While she is demonstrating each step, we are able to view her hands working from above. This makes is really easy to feel confident in the way to proceed with each step.

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penguin drawing in progress

The language of drawing is explained along the way with different projects touching on different art vocabulary. In the lake drawing, Sharon talked about words like gradient, contrast and values. With the owl, she discussed the basic shapes and the value of light and dark, particularly how different colors have those different values. While working on the turtle drawing, the instruction included gradation, repetition, and variation within the context of drawing. I liked how that instruction was woven seamlessly into the demonstration of each drawing.

Confidence is built along the way by the small steps that Sharon asks the student to make in each drawing. There is seldom a large section that is covered or a jump in instruction made. The step-by-step examples and instruction allow every student to have success with every drawing. While every drawing may not be the student’s favorite, it is still a masterpiece of creation and growth demonstrated. What a wonderful thing!

I am still hoping the girls will find interest in the program and join me some. While they have not yet, I have absolutely adored having access to this program and plan to continue using it. I have finished about half of the drawings and feel much more confident in my drawing abilities through the process. I have learned much about the different types of materials that are available and how to use them.

harvest_drawing

My favorite project? Well, it depends on the day. I really enjoyed doing the colored pencil harvest drawing on vellum paper. I also have really enjoyed the while on black drawings where you work with negative values to create the images. But then again, I have had fun creating the various animals – penguins, turtles, and giraffe.

In case you can’t tell, I do recommend this program. I do think it would work well for older elementary students on up. I believe there could be a quick frustration level for lower elementary. I don’t think I would plan on my 10 year old attempting these unless she wanted to on her own. But I can easily see high school students getting a solid drawing education from these lessons.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Drawing Program from Creating a Masterpiece)

Many other families have been using Creating a Masterpiece, most with their students. Visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read other reviews. You can get there by clicking the image below.

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Artchitectural Feats with Building Planks from Brain Blox ~ a Crew review

Build something spectacular

Brain Blox has created yet another exciting, challenging product that allows children to tackle architectural feats. Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks have been a joy for our youngest giggly girl. Miss J has tackled all sorts of fun and interesting builds with these lightweight wooden planks. The whole family has enjoyed using these, building together and separately, but Miss J has certainly used them most often.

planks-with-bag-and-box.jpg

We received the kit of 200 planks. Each plank is the same size and thickness. The solid wood, lightweight planks are made of 100% pine from New Zealand. Each piece of wood is chemical-free and safe for children. Since these non-toxic Building Planks are nothing more than wood that is a few inches long, they are safe for children of all ages, from 4 to 104.

planks pile

Needing nothing more than stacking and gravity, these Building Planks allow for hours of imaginative building and creativity. The kit contained the planks, a canvas drawstring bag for storing the blocks, and a booklet of ideas and inspirations. There are many free resources and ideas on the Brain Blox website. The Brain Blox YouTube channel also has some fabulous resources with their building videos and challenges.

Miss J used these Brain Blox often while listening to the read aloud she is working through with her dad. She can listen to the story and build parts of it, such as the train the characters rode on or the chair one of the characters sat in to study.

 

The logic challenges from the YouTube website were lots of fun and really challenged Miss J to think outside of the box. Each one set up a shape and then challenged the student to change just a couple of pieces to for a new shape.

 

Some of the free resources that are available for use have been mentioned already. These include the booklet with image challenges for building. Also included are the logic challenges from the YouTube channel. There is also the Brain Blox University, downloadable curriculum resources for levels 1 through 6.

Here is a slideshow of some of the many different builds that Miss J had tackled.

 

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Many of these builds she has tackled often. She built some of these multiple times. Some she tried to build with more space in between each block or more blocks or closed in some of the spaces to try to make them smaller. This play with spatial thinking is one of the many benefits of an innovative yet simple toy like these Brain Blox Building Planks.

planks-box.jpg

It is so simple to consider that these are a toy for youngsters. But they aren’t. These Building Planks have longevity. They are fun for everyone in the family to use and can be used to illustrate many concepts in education. Whether providing a hands-on activity or being used in math lessons, there are many ways that these will be used.

plank tower

I am going to leave you with one of the videos that Miss J made after she knocked down her tower that was much taller than she was. It was a time of joy for her and she build and pulled down her tower many times. What a fun thing to encourage and see her attempt many times over.

We highly recommend these Wooden Building Planks from Brain Blox. Hours and hours of enjoyment, stretching the mind and creativity. If you are looking for more fabulous products from Brain Blox, check out our review of Fun Family Chess, a way to learn chess that can be used by young and old alike.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Building Planks review

Please visit the Homeschool Review Crew to see what other families thought of the Brain Blox Wooden Building Blocks by clicking on the image below.

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Learn to Play Chess With Fun Family Chess ~ a Crew review

Fun Family Chess review

Chess is THE game of choice with the youngest giggly girl. She has played for years and loves it. She was excited to participate in the review of Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox. The game of chess is exciting and strategic and challenging. All of this is still found in Fun Family Chess, even though they make it simple to learn.

chess

Fun Family Chess is the brain child of the family owned company Brain Blox. They are a small company that creates and sells ingenious educational toys for families. With the mission of helping families become more intentional and more conscientious, their product bring families together. Meaningful play strengthens family bonds and strengthens children’s brains and thinking processes. A Win-Win mission.

Fun Family Chess is a beautiful chess set for students. It is designed to be played in two different ways. You can use this set to play traditional chess but you can also use it with the Fun Family rules which help teach even very young children how to play chess.

The set includes a beautiful black and white board that folds in half and has claps on the outside to lock it closed for safe and easy storage.

board

When it is opened, the undersides are lined with black velvety cloth and have cavities for storing the other pieces of the game. There are some cards, instructions, a die, and two black, drawstring bags for storing the pieces. The black and white pieces, each in their own bag, are made of painted wood and the bottoms are covered with cloth to keep them from scratching the playing board.

board and pieces

chess card

Fun Family Chess begins with setting up the board. The instruction booklet gets you set up and started. There are two cards printed on thick cardstock that have examples of how each piece can move. There is also a die with shapes on it to indicate each of the pieces. To play Fun Family Chess, you roll the die. You then move whatever chess piece is indicated by the roll, referencing the card as needed. Take a look at this video by Brain Blox to learn more.

This simplified version of chess really helps novice players learn the moves for each of the different chess pieces. As the player learns, they also pick up on strategies for how to move those pieces to their best advantage. Move by move and piece by piece, the game of chess is learned without the stress of having to know it all right now, right away. That is brilliant!

Chess can be very intimidating because the smartest people play the game, right? Fun Family Chess has definitely taken away that intimidation factor and proven that anyone can learn the game.

Chess game

Once a player feels pretty comfortable with playing the game using the die, that can just be set aside and the traditional style of chess playing can commence. There is little difference in the actual use of the pieces for moving from the Fun Family Chess to traditional chess. The main difference is that the players have to now decide which piece to move each time. However, moving into traditional chess means that check and check-mate are now in play for the game. This is where students get excited. After all, they have now learned how to play the game of chess, the game so many people are intimidated by. But the students know how. They are no longer intimidated.

Chess for Everyone review

The YouTube channel for Brain Blox includes several other videos to help you play Fun Family Chess and advance on to standard chess play.

While Miss J knew how to play chess before receiving this game, her skills have greatly increased in the weeks we have used this. She insisted on learning to play using the die and played with it that way quite a bit. She even was able to play herself using the die since she didn’t have to make nearly the number of strategic decisions. It really strengthened her knowledge of each of the pieces and gave her confidence in her move choices. So while she did not need the Fun Family Chess version to start learning with, it has been a great advantage for her to learn and strengthen her knowledge. A definite recommend!

And check out our review of another of this company’s great products – the Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read about the experiences of other families who have used Fun Family Chess from Brain Blox. Just click on the banner below to read their reviews.

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Online Times Alive ~ a Crew review

a multimedia way to learn the multiplication facts

Most parents will agree that the stronger a student’s recall is of basic multiplication facts, the better the student will do as they advance into higher and higher math areas.
City Creek Press, Inc. is one company that feels this way and they have created Online Times Alive to helps students memorize these multiplication facts.

City Creek Press desires to help students enjoy the learning process and to create products that helps students feel capable and smart as they learn. Judy Liautaud is the owner and operator of City Creek Press and is the bright mind behind the process of Online Times Alive. She was looking for a unique way for her students to learn the math tables in a meaningful way. By connecting visually appealing, interesting, and fun images, Times Alive is something that many students connect to and remember well.

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Online Times Alive is an online subscription program to an animated program that will help students connect their multiplication tables and facts to images and sounds. These types of memory devices seem to be very helpful for many students. Using a short story or rhyme, a song, and keywords, each of the multiplication facts is connected with visually bright and colorful images. Using these various styles reaches different learning styles, also, making this appeal to an even wider range of students.

To use this program, the student logs into their account using the chosen name. It is important for the student to capitalize and punctuate the name exactly the same each time. If once I log in as Mom and the next as mom, it will create two different accounts and all progress from the previous login will not be visible on the new account. Please also note that you must log in on the same device or computer each time. The account is only accessible from the same device; it does not store on the cloud.

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The login is simple and the student can just move through each of the activities, one at a time.  Just click on the next activity in the lesson list that has not been completed and off the student goes. The list is easy to see what has been done and what hasn’t as there is an open circle for not completed, a half colored circle for started but not finished, and a colored in circle for completed. Once an activity is completed, the student can just click the next arrow at the bottom right of the page to move to the next activity.

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This is a screenshot of the story for 8 x 8.

The activities include:

  • the story that helps created the relationship between the multiplication facts and the answers
  • a song to go with the characters and the facts
  • an activity such as coloring (just a click to color in large areas)
  • tests and quizzes that appear in different ways; sometimes the student will choose the picture to show the story for a particular fact while other times the student will solve number problems and type in the correct answer
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This is a screenshot of the song for the fact 8 x 8. You can see the two eights and then the 6 and the 4, for 64, on the sign.

There is a printable student report that is easy to access if you need a printed record. It includes the date the activities are each completed and the scoring on it, where appropriate. You can see in the image above that the student progress report is found right in the middle of the box in the bright orange space. Just click it to get the report.

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Our experience was not ideal. I was truly hoping my 10 year old would enjoy the musical stories and that it would help her. She knows how to get the answers for multiplication facts but she does not have them memorized. Since she seems to be able to remember anything set to music, I really thought she would adore this. She did not. It definitely felt “baby-ish” to her and the way it addressed things was for a student much younger than her. It is a great program but was just to young in content and tone of voice for her.

This is a good program. I think, for students up to about 3rd grade, it would be a fine fit. While students above that level could certainly need the help a program like this could afford, it could possible result in the same “talking down to” feeling as my daughter experienced. The idea is a wonderful one and many students can benefit from this program.

SPECIAL OFFER: When you sign up for Times Alive, the company is offering to waive your set-up fee, a $6.95 value, when you use the code lovetolearn.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Times Alive

Please click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read about the experiences that other families had with Online Times Alive and the  Times Alive App, both from City Creek Press, Inc.

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