Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Chess Made Easy - Chess House Review


I have always wanted to learn how to play chess, but for some reason have been a little intimidated.  I have always thought of chess as being too hard to learn to play.

Several weeks back we were sent a Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House. Our kit included:

Elliot's Chess School Level 1 DVD "Pawn School"
1 Vinyl Chess Board
Full 32 Piece Chess Set (plastic)
Travel Bag to hold the board, pieces and DVD (several color choices are available)

Two of my children have had a real interest in learning to play chess.  Once our package arrived Computer Girl and Alpha Boy wasted no time and dug right in.  The package was open and the DVD was playing with in minutes of the UPS man leaving our house.  

Chess School is taught by National Master Elliot Neff, who has been coaching students in chess for the last 18 years.  The Chess House teacher, shows beginners the in's and out's of chess in this 49 minute video.  The DVD is broken into 10 different topics, which explain the value and best strategy for each chess piece. 
  • Intro to Chess (board, names of pieces, values)
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops
  • The Queen
  • The King
  • Knight
  • Castling
  • Pawn shields and when to break it
  • Development
The Chess School Level 1 video simplified learning the game of chess for us.  The video gave us enough knowledge, strategy, and confidence to now be able to play chess with ease. 

We felt that the DVD was very easy to understand, as well as easy to rewind if we missed something {wink, wink}.  I liked how this DVD takes you step by step with each piece, so that you really have good foundation for understanding the game of chess.

The chess set that we received has a vinyl board that rolls up easily for storage and travel.  The board is 20"x20" and features a built in grid.  I love that it comes in such a portable bag!

My children that used the chess set and DVD are 10 and 7, but this starter kit is really for all ages. 

This Starter Chess Learning Kit was a blessing to us!  We have unsuccessfully tried to learn to play before from a book, but the DVD was much easier to understand.  The kids are happy to pull out the chess set and play, now that they know how!

We would like to continue learning with Chess School, they actually offer four levels in this series.  They are available as a set, or individually.  

Be sure to checkout what other TOS Crew members are saying about Chess House!

  • A chess board that is odor free and made in the US
  • A full plastic chess set that is durable and has easy to replace pieces
  • A handy carrying case that holds all 32 chess pieces, the roll-up game board, and the DVD all in one handy place.
  • - See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/chess-house-review/#sthash.rBuvrTo3.dpuf
    • Elliot’s Chess School DVD one ‘Pawn level
    • A chess board that is odor free and made in the US
    • A full plastic chess set that is durable and has easy to replace pieces
    • A handy carrying case that holds all 32 chess pieces, the roll-up game board, and the DVD all in one handy place.
    - See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/chess-house-review/#sthash.rBuvrTo3.dpuf
    • Elliot’s Chess School DVD one ‘Pawn level
    • A chess board that is odor free and made in the US
    • A full plastic chess set that is durable and has easy to replace pieces
    • A handy carrying case that holds all 32 chess pieces, the roll-up game board, and the DVD all in one handy place.
    - See more at: http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/chess-house-review/#sthash.rBuvrTo3.dpuf
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    Tuesday, September 24, 2013

    Running for President in The Presidential Game

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    We love games!  They are a wonderful way to get in some family time.  If you were to come to our house, you might possibly notice that we have a whole 3 tiered shelving unit solely dedicated to games.  We like action games, card games, board games and last but certainly not least, educational games!
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    Recently we were given the opportunity to review a game called The Presidential Game.  The Presidential Game

    I thought it would fit in nicely with our study of the states and presidents this year.

    The Presidential Game is really neat, it is fun and it gives the kids a really good understanding of how the election process works.  It is a strategy type of game that teaches kids (and lets face it, adults too!), exactly how those electoral votes work.  The object of the game is to get to 270 electoral votes to take the win, well the Presidency.

    All of the kids, ages 5-12, have played this with me, but it is suggested for ages 11 and up. 
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    At the start of the game you decide how many weeks until the election, the amount of weeks you choose are actually the amount of rounds you play the game.  You split into two teams, Republicans and Democrats - this actually opened up a great discussion of what each party stands for.

    There is also an optional WebMap Calculator that is available online to use during the game.  This calculator is a map that calculates the electoral votes each party has, as well as who is leading in the state or if it is still neutral.  The WebMap was a great visual for the kids, and it really added to the fun factor.  I thought that the WebMap was also a great way to help with keeping score.

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    This is the WebMap Calculator that can be used online.

    To get started you pick teams, ,roll and the high rolling team goes first.  During each turn, the playing team can choose to campaign or fund-raise for their party.  Both of these choices include rolling the dice and placing votes, well chips, on various states.  For each turn your team rolls three dice, when you are campaigning the each one of the dice rolled end up being the amount of votes that you can place on three states of your choice. 

    When you fund-raise, you can pick either Texas, California, New York or Florida.  You roll the dice and then you can use all or at least half of your total roll for votes in that state.  We seemed to be in constant battle of the state of California, because they have the most electoral votes.  One of the added benefits of fundraising is that you get to draw Politics Cards, depending on the card these can help or hurt you.  Here are two examples:

    Wisconsin Teachers Union lays off 30% of it's employees. Your opponent adds 2 votes to Wisconsin.

    Your opponent appears as a guest host on a popular late night comedy show and is very stiff and not very funny at all.  Pick up 5 votes to be used any way to like.

    During each turn you have the opportunity to win the vote of different states, even those that are controlled by the opposing team.  We really enjoyed this part of the game, and we all became quite competitive too! The team controlling the state is the team that has the most votes, or coins on that state.  If you add votes to a state that an opponent "controls," each chip you place on that state knocks out one of their votes or chip.  So, if you have enough chips you can take the lead and control the state. 

    After the allotted weeks, or turns are up, then all the teams each roll the dice to decide who wins the neutral states.  The team with the highest number of electoral votes wins the game, and takes the presidency.

    Once you understand the game, and play a few rounds it is a lot of fun!  The kids and I all really enjoyed this, but they did mention that they preferred to play with about 15 weeks verses 30. 

    You can purchase The Presidential Game online for $35.00.  It makes a great addition to any study on U.S. History, presidents, states or elections.  This game would also be an excellent choice for family game night.  My favorite games are the kind that are fun and have educational value, this game has both! 

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    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    Seed Sowers, Gospel Planting Adventures

    I love reading about missionaries and how the Lord uses them for His work.  To read accounts of their trials and triumphs in spreading the gospel has been a huge blessing to me over the years.

    Several weeks back, we were blessed with the book Seed Sowers by Gwen Toliver.  Gwen is a state based missionary at the Wycliffe Linguistics Center in Dallas, Texas along with her husband.  She is also a homeschool mom to eight children and a fellow TOS Review Crew member.

    A few years ago Gwen started a two year project of collecting information from various retired missionaries and Bible translators of their gospel planting adventures to share with others.  This collection became known as Seed Sowers, Gospel-Planting Adventures.

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    This book has 165 pages and contains a collection of 21 stories that move and touch the heart.  These stories remind us of God's mighty hand in the mission fields.  It has been amazing to read of these men and women that, with the Lord's leading, up and move to a completely foreign country, sometimes not even knowing how to speak the language. AMAZING!

    One of the stories in the book that really captured my heart was about Bob and Jo Ann Conrad, called Never Give Up!  This couple's story was pretty fascinating to me.  The Conrad's gospel planting adventure took them to Papua New Guinea.  They went to live with and learn from a tribe, the Iwans, that just seven years prior befriended and then massacred many people simply because they were not part of their tribe.  Oh, and by the way the Iwans were cannibals!!  What courage the Lord must have given this couple!

    Reading these stories about missionaries that leave every thing they know and dive head first into the unknown for the sake of the gospel just does something to me.  These stories really help me to put my life's little problems into perspective.  They also help me to evaluate what I am doing and NOT doing in sharing the gospel. 

    Back to Bob and Jo Ann, as they lived among the Iwan people they we able to learn their language and culture.  While in Papua New Guinea, the Conrad's developed a written alphabet for the Iwan language, taught them to read it and and translated the gospel of Mark for them.

    Eventually, Bob and Jo Ann had to leave Papua New Guinea, but God continued to use them to spread the gospel!  You can read about the rest of their story, along with many others, in Seed Sowers, which is available for $12.50 through Grace and Truth Books.

    Seed Sowers is written to about a sixth grade level.  It makes a great afternoon read for an independent reader or as a family read aloud.  Either way, it is a great addition to the family library.  

    Gwen has even offered a sample chapter for you to check out called The Whistling Man.

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    Friday, September 13, 2013

    Logic of English


    Logic of English is a fun, multi-sensory program that takes a systematic approach to teaching reading, writing, spelling and grammar.  Logic of English was created by home school mom and ESL teacher, Denise Eide, as she searched for a program to help her own struggling readers and spellers.

    There are several components of the Logic of English curriculum, that accomidate varying ages and skill levels.  We were given Foundations Level A, which teaches students letters A-Z and consonant blends, for review.
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    Foundations is geared for students ages 4-7.  This curriculum has four levels, A, B, C and D.  Level A, the one are reviewing, is for beginning readers. The following products were sent to us for our review:


    The Foundations Level A Teacher's Manual and Manuscript Workbook contain 40 lessons that offer a various learning games and activities.  The teacher manual is very user friendly, I think it is laid out nicely and easy to understand.  The student workbook is a colorful, attractive and fun to use book.  It includes phonics activity pages, handwriting pages, pull out reader books and games.   Some of the games include blending games, phonogram bingo, phonogram tic-tac-toe, and charades. 

    Let me walk you through one of the lessons to give you a feel for how they are laid out.  At the top of each lesson you can read the lesson objectives for handwriting, phonemic awareness and what Common Core Standards they are meeting, along with the matierals needed.

    Lesson 9 focuses on the phonogram C, listening to the beginning sounds of words and practicing blending sounds into words. 

    First you would start with phonometic awareness and work on beginning sounds.  The student would open their workbook to lesson 9.  As you read beginning sounds like ch in chair and d in desk they would find the picture that begins with that sound.  There is also a fun challenge to do.  You would say a sound like d, and have students find an item in the room that start with that sound like a desk or a door. 

    Next, you and your child would move onto a blending treasure hunt.  As a word is sounded out, your child would run and find that object.  Like if I sounded out p-e-n-s-i-l, they would go and grab a pencil. 

    You would then spend some time on phonograms.  You would practice all prior phonograms learned up until this point, and learn the phonogram c.  I love that each time you learn a new letter sound she gives you fun ideas to go along with that letter.  For c she suggests eating cake, carrots, ice cream cones, cabbage or corn.  Kids could play cars, pretend they are camping, practice counting or cut out circles.

    After learning the sound of the letter c, now your child will learn how to write it.  The Foundations currciulum encourages starting with cursive handwriting, but also offers manuscript workbooks.  The teacher manual gives instructions for both cursive and manuscript.  The teacher manual gives step by step instructions for forming each letter.  The tactile cards are also helpful at this point, students can practice tracing the letter c with their finger.

    Last, but certainly not least is the phonogram practice section.  This section is kinda like the cherry on top of a sundae!  In other words, for the kids it's the best part.  This part of the lesson includes games like phonogram aerobics, where kids practice writing their letters as big as they can in the air.  Phonogram hopscotch (both indoor and outdoor versions included) and a phonogram relay race.  My kids love these active games and I am a firm believer that kids learn best when they are actively doing something. I really appreciate that she has included these games to help reinforce what the children are learning!

    I hope that gives you a general idea as to how Foundations is laid out.  Not everyday is the same, some days include reading and spelling practice, and there are many different games and multi-sensory activites sprinkled through out the curriculum.

    You can view a few sample lessons (samples are on the right side column), as well as the scope and sequence here

    I like Foundations.  It does require a fair amount of one on one teaching time, as do most reading programs.  I feel that it is a solid, well rounded program that include lots of interactive, hand-ons activities that are wonderful for active children.  This is one of those programs that children look forward to doing.  Mrs. Eide has done a great job in combining phonic skills with fun activities.


    We have also enjoyed using the Logic of English App called Phonics with Phonograms.  This App has a pretty simple format, it kind of reminds be of electronic flash cards.  It is an interactive way to practice phonograms, but I think my son would have liked it better if it were a game.  He didn't dislike it, it just didn't seem to be something to hold his interest for very long.  It does however get the job done. 

    I would recommend Foundations.  As I said, it is a solid program with lots of fun hands on activities for phonetic practice.  My only hesitation is the price.  I felt it was a little on the high side.  But in saying that, she has eliminated a lot of work for mom.  I am always looking for fun things to add to our phonics program, but with Foundations the work is already done that for me. 

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    Wednesday, September 4, 2013

    Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again

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    We live on a pretty busy street, so I am always concerned about my little guys when they play out front.  Many, many times have I told them about the dangers of our busy street.  I do not believe that anything I have said to them has come close to grabbing their attention like the book Look Left, Look Right and Look Left Again by Ginger Pate.

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    Look Left, Look Right and Look Left Again, published by Greene Bark Press, is a cute, informative board books that teaches street safety.  Wally Waddlewater, an adorable little duck, learns about street safety around cars, stop lights, emergency vehicles and balls in the street.  He learns to look left, look right and to look right again, when crossing the street.

    This simple story has stuck with my little guys, my youngest now recites part of the book whenever we go to cross the road. 

    This book is for children ages 3-8, both my 5 and 7 years old boys both enjoyed it.

    I recommend this book, it is a great way to teach street safety habits.  It is available though Greene Bark Press for $8.50.

    Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew.



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