Sunday, September 25, 2011

Review: Games for Competitors Tri-Cross Games

We were recently given the opportunity to review a wonderful game called Tri-Cross from Games for Competitors.  Tri-cross is an award winning strategy board game that is a cross between checkers and chess.

About Tri-Cross

From the creators:

 Helps develop skills in the following areas:       

  • Logical Thinking
  • Cause and Effect
  • Predicting
  • Interpreting Outcomes
  • Abstract Thinking
  • Memory (In Variations of Play)
  • Visualization              

Our Experience

When we first opened the game we were very impressed with the quality of the game itself.  The board was sturdy with clean graphics and the pieces were stored in a lovely velvet pouch.   The eco-version was equally as well made, with more eco-friendly packaging and pieces and game board that were made out of environmentally friendly materials.  And the eco-version is meant for travel.  Awesome to take on trips.

I was a little daunted by the written instructions, as I ALWAYS am, but I just popped in the handy dvd instructions and we were off.  You can also watch these videos on their website.  

The game was pretty easy to catch on to and it never got boring.  Each move had us rethinking our strategy and kept us on our toes.  And there are several different variations of game play.  It definitely gave our brains a work out while we had fun.  My daughter gave it two thumbs up.

This is definitely a game that we will be using on our family game nights.


Ages: 10 and up
Number of Players: 2-4
Cost: $24.95 for the standard version, $19.95 for eco-Version, $35.95 for the wood version.

I was given a copy of this game for review purposes, as part of The Old School House Crew.  All opinions are mine.  

Click the Crew banner to read more reviews of this great product.  

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: The One where I Have a Chat with Don from WP

We had an interesting late night phone call earlier this week.  From Don at Winter Promise.  The owner.  This isn't the first conversation I've had with him but it's definitely the most illuminating.  We talked for quite a while so I'm only going to give you the highlights.

I started with the Draw Your World maps.  It actually stunned him that there were errors with the maps.
"I don't believe we've had anyone ever complain about that."  Really, Don, really?  Do you want to bet the farm on that statement?

From the Winter Promise message boards...

That is just one of many complaints I've found on the WP boards.  That one was from 2007.  Nice!

I actually got out our Draw Your World Book and went down each and every error that I found during the five weeks that I'd been using WP.  To say that he was stunned  was an understatement.  And I'd only been using the Europe map.  Who knows what's going on with the rest of the book?

He also said it could be a file glitch and that's why they're printing out poorly.  Maybe a file error caused the seas to look like lakes and 1/4 Europe was cut off the map.   Uh no!!  Because your giant "Travel With Me" map looks exactly the same only it's bigger and in color.  It was drawn that way buddy.

He did say that he is going to have his people look into that because he wouldn't want to keep sending out an incorrect product.  I promise you that I DID NOT laugh out loud.  I held it in.  Because now we all know that they've been getting complaints about the maps since 2007.

I decided to move on to the $30 Children of Many Lands book written and published by WP.  I told him that I couldn't believe the amount of grammatical errors that I find on every, single page.

Don's response..."Oh yeah, we know about that.  We hired an editor and they didn't do the job properly and we totally got burned on that one."  That was it.  They knew there was a problem with it and sold it to people anyway.  At a ridiculous price.  Thanks for passing along the "burn" to your customers.

Now I get that they're a small company and they probably couldn't afford to reprint it until they sold what they had.  But a heads-up and a price decrease were in order.  My daughter is currently using it for editing practice.

I also commented on the lack of cohesiveness to the reading and how I wasn't exactly sure what she was supposed to be learning.  We study Switzerland and instead of reading Heidi then, it's scheduled for our Africa study.  I'm unhappy that the notebooking pages ask for information and mention things that we haven't studied.

Apparently we spent hundreds of dollars on books that weren't going to to hit the main points and we're supposed to spend hours researching other resources that will tell us the complete story.   They don't really offer suggestions for other books or movie ideas.  And I am not the only person who is unhappy about all the extra work.  Just check the forums.

 And apparently I just don't understand scheduling books.  (Please note my eye roll now.)
I do understand, Don, that things can't always line up.  But when they can, they should.  I could list about 10 changes to your schedule to fix that issue but I already paid you to handle that.  BTW, people complained about that on their forums too.

He kept mentioning how he could see CAW wasn't meshing with my family.  No, Don, it's not.  We like a point to the study, decent grammar for the most part, and proper maps at the very least.  He kept saying how CAW is "unique" and that I'd probably have enjoyed one of their other programs much better.

No I wouldn't.  I've bought some of your activity packs/notebooking pages in the past and wasn't exactly pleased.  The quality was poor and there were even a few "facts" that were totally incorrect.  I even emailed the company about the errors and never got a response.  That should've been my clue.  My bad.

I really thought these forum posts summed up the problem nicely.

My husband tackled the issue of a refund with him but I don't think that will happen.  Oh well, I wanted to keep the Christmas books anyhow.  Lesson learned.

On a positive note, our Sonlight box arrived Thursday but I'll save that for another post.

Check out other wrap-ups over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Reviews: Wonder Maps

I was recently given the opportunity to review a totally awesome map program called WonderMaps by Bright Ideas Press.   I just LOVE it!!! It's going to be hard for me not to gush about these maps.  =o)

About WonderMaps

WonderMaps is a fabulous program that gives you access to hundreds of historical and modern-day maps, right from your computer.  There are four categories of maps to choose from: World maps, US maps, historical maps, and thematic maps.  You name it, it's there.

What makes this program soooooo wonderful is the fact that the maps are totally customizable.  There are literally scores of different ways to customize these maps to your needs.

Color or outline, with or without rivers, boundries or no boundries.  The possibilities are limitless.   Just click the items that you want to include on your map and you are set.  It's that easy!

The program is also totally easy to navigate.  I could explain the navigation system to you but I think I'll let the pictures do the talking.

It really doesn't get much simpler than point and click does it?

And the maps are beautiful and easy to read.  I haven't once heard my daughter cry that she couldn't read a map since we started using them, and we have been using them non-stop.  They've helped us with history, Bible, and geography.

Pros and Cons


    *Easy to navigate
    *Totally customizable
    *Hundreds of maps to choose from
    *Clear and easy to read maps
    *Works on PCs and Macs
    * Includes maps sets that go along with Mystery of History and All American History


    *There aren't enough hours in the day to play with this program.
    *I'd love to see a set of maps to go along with Sonlight Cores.  Hint, hint.   ;)

My Final Thoughts

I love this program and I would recommend it to anyone.  We have had our fair share of map woes this year and this program as turned our frowns upside down.  They have truly been a blessing to our homeschool.


Available at Timberdoodle:
Price:  $44.95
Ages: all

I was given this product to review as part of the "Because Mom Said" review program by Timberdoodle.  All opinions are my own.

Check out more great opportunities at Timberdoodle:

    Visit their FB page
    Requesting a catalog

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Review: Before Five in a Row

We recently had the opportunity to review Before Five in a Row and boy was I excited.  I've admired Five in a Row and I was very interested to see what they had for the younger set.

About Before Five in a Row

From the Authors:

This important product includes 23 Five in a Row-style mini-units (plus an extra mini-unit) based on outstanding children’s books for ages 2-4 as well as a large section of learning readiness activities for your every day life: things to do in the kitchen, at the store, at bedtime,bath time, etc.

You’ll find an entire treasury of ideas to prepare children
for pre-learning necessary for their educational foundation. These ideas are wonderfully effective without robbing
your little ones of those special golden years of childhood. Those few brief years of early childhood can never be reclaimed later and many parents discover too late
that they pushed too hard and too early for advanced academic achievement.

You can’t go back and swing at the park, float paper
boats in the rain and do the myriad of play activities with your young children that help build the foundation for learning in a way that also encourages a flood of warm, young-childhood memories.

Before Five in a Row is passionate about teaching, but the teaching comes through the subtle forms of play that are intrinsic to early childhood. These lessons are the important pre-education lessons that will both build your child’s mind and fill your child’s heart while truly readying them for the deeper academic experience to come.

Before Five in a Row is the perfect introduction to the joys
of parent-directed learning in just a very few minutes each day— whenever the opportunity arises!

This is a book that inspires you to take a few minutes to enjoy your little ones early years, without any stress or expectations, rather than a curriculum.

The book is divided into two parts.  The first part is a collections of great stories and activities to go along with the stories.  The activities very rarely require more than the book of your choice, a comfy lap, and a nice conversation with your little one.

The activities in this section cover a variety of topics including Bible, language arts, math concepts, science, games, art, and other early learning skills.   

The second part of the book is a treasury of ideas to help develop your child's learning readiness.  There are activities for reading readiness, motor skills, the arts, and life skills.  These activities are not specific to any book but are meant for anytime.

Our Experience

Kayleigh and I had a great time "rowing" through several books.  Reading the stories five days in a row wasn't an issue because who doesn't like to read a great story again and again?

The BFIAR guide had us snuggling on the couch, talking about the characters, noticing the art work more in depth, acting out scenes, playing fun games.  

Kayleigh had a blast acting out the stories.  Here she is playing peek-a-boo with a favorite blanket, just like Jesse Bear.

If you have a child who is interested in doing "school work" like older siblings there are a variety of ways to add it in.  A really easy way is to check out FIAR's Fold & Learn Pockets.

Fold & Learn Pockets are digital downloads that you can purchase from FIAR.  These pockets include additional activities that you can use for your child.  They include songs, printable games, cooking ideas,  crafts, and other activities for your child to explore.

We decided to try one out and Kayleigh had a wonderful time dressing "Jesse Bear" for the weather.  The unit also included fun songs, games and a lot of interesting facts about bears.   Having little activities like this made Kayleigh feel like just like her big sister.

One of my favorite activities suggested in the manual was the use of animal classification cards.   Basically these are little cards featuring the many animals featured in the stories.  You could make them yourself using clip art or magazine pictures or, like I did, search the web because you know that there's already a wonderful, homeschooling mommy out there who already made them and is sharing them on their blog.  (How's that for a run-on sentence?)

The cards can be used for a variety of sorting activities: fur/no fur, fly/walk/swim, the sky is the limit.  We used our classification cards for We're Going on a Bear Hunt kind of like a scavenger hunt.  We looked through the book to locate the animal on each card.

The Pros & Cons


    * The book selections are timeless classics.  Totally wonderful.
    * Little to no prep work involved
    * Encourages little kids to be little kids without the pressure of academics at an early age
    * Very easy to expand on if that is what your child wishes


    *Only available from one source and it is sold at a higher rate than what is marked on the book.

Final Thoughts

We have been having a wonderful time with this book.  So much so that we have incorporated Before Five in a Row into our permanent "tot school" activities.  We were totally blessed to be able to review this wonderful product.  Academics are great but this book reminds you to enjoy these precious "baby" years without the pressure of academics.


Pricing: $35 available only at Rainbow Resource
Ages: 2-4

Click the Crew banner to read more reviews of Before Five in a Row.

I received a copy of this book for review as a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew.  All opinions are my own.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tot School: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt

Kayleigh is 43 months old


After a couple of weeks off because of our recent trip to Michigan, we are back to Tot School.  This week our tot school deviated from our normal routine.  I decided that this week we were going to spend the week only doing Before Five in a Row.

I decided that we would “row” We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  It was one that we already owned and it’s a family favorite. 

I’m not going to get into the particulars of the program, as my review will be going up really soon, but I will share some of our little add-ins.

We had a bear hunt themed sensory bin.  I saw it on Delightful Learning.  I made few substitutions so I could work with what I had.


*Swishy swashy grass made from foam.

*Deep, cold river:  snack sized ziplock bag with blue paint

*Thick, oozy mud: snack sized ziplock bag with brown paint

*Forest: Trees Toob

*Snow Storm: white pom poms

Cave: craft foam

Bear: from Wild Animals Toob

Family: Fisher Price Little People

Forest Floor: beans


We did some sequencing using these cards from sparkle box.  And we acted out the story with the author while watching this you tube video. 


These activities came from Homeschool Creations ( HC) awesome BFIAR packs.

Pre-writing and a little board game.  We used our Education Cubes with the number inserts as dice.


We used the animal classification cards and searched for the animals in the book.  I have to say that these classification cards, from HC,  are the best that I’ve seen.  If you’re using BFIAR it’s definitely worth the cardstock and ink to print these all out.  I punched holes in the corner and put them on a binder ring.  Kayleigh loves to carry them around.


HC also had a cute prepositional words activity.


We did some more sequencing, from memory, with the nomenclature cards from HC.  Then we used the extra set to do some matching.  She loves any activity that involves the pocket chart.


Since the book is about a family outing, she drew her family. The picture frame sheet came from Homeschool Share.



She practiced cutting using these cutting strips that I made.  I was out of paint samples for her to cut and I saw this idea over at the Adventures of Bear.   She LOVED these.


I also got brave and let her use liquid glue.  I got some tacky glue, because it’s thicker, and gave her this bear sheet that I made.  She put a dab of glue on each dot and then crumbled a tissue square and stick it on the glue.  That was the fur.  She loved this even more than the cutting strips. 



Feel free to download either for your child by clicking on either photo.

Glue_Dot_Bear.pdf                        bearcuttingstrips.pdf

We looked at the different illustrations, b&w vs. color, and colored a picture of the cover.  I think I found that at the Scholastic website but I really can’t remember.


We also ate bears and mud for snack on the last day.  That was chocolate pudding and teddy grahams.  We were originally supposed to paint with the mud but we ran out of time because we decided to go on a bear hunt.


We found the bear.


Click the tot school button at the top of the page to see other fun tot activities.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up: For the Love of a Decent Map

Well another week down.  I think it was week five but it feels like 30 so who knows? LOL

Language Arts

We’re still waiting for our LA spine, Advance Language Lessons & Writing With Skill, to be released.  Soon I think.  Woot!!

But we’re still working through Wordsmith Apprentice and Word Root beginnings.  She considers WA to be “for fun” so that is always a breeze.  She loves that she is “learning the ropes at a newspaper.” 

We kind of spaced out on spelling this week.  She always gets 100% on the tests so I’m not terribly concerned.  Although she doesn’t always get 100% in real life spelling situations.  Hmm…


Fractions, fractions, and this week, equivalent fractions.  Those fraction overlays that Math-u-See uses for fractions really earned their keep this week.  I’d like to explain to you how they work, but I can’t.  LOL 


We’re finishing up the lesson on the skeletal system that we started before our vacation.  And as of this post, we’re still not finished with it.  We still have an experiment to complete.  But we have a chicken wing now so we’ll get on it.  That’s right, I said chicken wing.

But we added the skeletal layer to her “personal person” and made the skeleton mini-book for the notebook.


The mini-book kind of creeps Kayleigh out. LOL  So now she doesn’t really mess with the science notebook.  What a nice bonus! 

Social Studies

Okay, here’s the good stuff…Winter Promise.  (Please visualize my HUGE eye roll now.  Thank you!)

We had a couple of pages in the geography portion that were included the word “review” in the title.

Let me first define review according to the Webster Dictionary: to examine or study AGAIN (emphasis mine)

Naturally, more than half of the material on the worksheet had never been covered.  Naturally, the maps in the atlas provided by WP did not cover the information either.


Please note that the only city labeled in the Republic of Ireland is Dublin.  Of course…


So whatever, I have other maps and a computer connected to the internet so what’s the big deal?  Other than I paid a lot of money for this junk and thought it came with everything I need. 

Plus, at this point my eye started twitching.  That’s right, twitching.  I think it’s stress related because when we moved on to science it stopped.  It started again the next day when we moved on to WP.   My daughter thinks it’s hilarious.  You can stop laughing now.

We were studying Switzerland, Netherlands, and, GET THIS, Iceland this week.  (Oh the irony!)  So I while we were reading our the WP thriller Children of Many Lands ( I circle all the errors as I read because that gem is getting mailed back too) I mentioned that the story of Heidi takes place in Switzerland.  I told Kenzie what a great book it is and suggested that she read it.  “Oh I will mom, it’s one of my read alouds.”  So I look on the shelf and there it is.  Then I grab the read aloud schedule to see when it’s meant to be read. 

It’s scheduled in week 26 when we’ll be knee-deep in Africa.  No kidding!!  Really??????  I kid you not.  Why, why, why?????

And while we’re studying Switzerland et. all, they’ve also scheduled this incredibly boring book about…

Spain.   Yes, you read that right.  And most of what we’re reading is common phrases that one might use if they’re traveling to Spain.  So basically it’s me butchering 6 pages of useless Spanish.  (And btw WP, its not spelled SpaInish, it’s Spanish.  For realz.  Don’t worry, I mentioned it in my IG notes for you.  You are welcome.)  Can you imagine how fast my eye was twitching?  I could probably win a contest for us.


This gem wasn’t even included in the main package.  I paid extra for the Culture study.   There’s one for France and China too.  woo hoo.   I can’t wait to butcher the Mandarin.

Then there was another review page on Switzerland.  If you call new information review, that is.    I decided to flip through all the geography pages and found this shoved in the back.


Now that might have been useful information to have IN THE FRONT.  Although the fact that they expect me to spend more money on paper and ink to print more stuff for this ridiculousness ticked me off. 

So I went to the suggested site and, mistakenly, thought that this new and improved map of Switzerland would make the assignment a breeze.  Of course not.

Screen shot 2011-09-15 at 2.36.52 PM

Maybe it would’ve been more helpful had there been any mountains or things of that nature on the map.  You know, since the majority of the questions were about mountains and such.  Sigh…

Twitch, twitch, twitch…

New Stuff

We started studying Latin this week, with Visual Latin, and that has been awesome.  I would love to tell you more about it but it will have to wait as it’s a TOS review item.  But I will say that I bought the next set so I guess you could say we like it. 

We also started back into our composer studies using another review resource, The Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers.  Love, love, love it!!!  More about it later.

We also got this request chit from Mackenzie the other night.


Bwaaa haaa haaa!!!  That is totally going into my Project Life book.

Now my husband has been real tired of all of our WP misadventures so he wanted to see the return policy.  He was over their substandard product.

Oh my are you going to LOVE this.  Please click on the picture and read the policy, noting the part I highlighted.  Double bwaaa haaa haaa!!

Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 6.37.05 PM

You have 4 weeks from the date of shipment to return the material.  “The ‘four weeks’ begins when we ship, so most families have an actual three-week trial time.”

Who are they kidding?  I’m willing to bet the farm that nobody has ever gotten their complete order in a weeks time.  I know it took 5 months to get mine. 

So basically there is no return policy.  You can’t start a curriculum if you don’t have all the parts.  I believe the error-ridden IG was one of the last things that I received.  Plus most people buy well in advance of needing it so wouldn’t even have a chance to try it out before knowing it sucks and needs to be returned and by then your “four weeks” would have been expired.

My hubby was less than pleased and called them last week, to lay into them, but they didn’t answer the phone.  (It was during their posted hours of operation.)  He left a message but has not heard back from them.  Probably they got smart and decided to get nervous because it wasn’t a happy message. lol

At any rate, here’s how Mackenzie’s request worked out…


So we ordered Sonlight. 

Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 6.30.58 PM

And they promptly sent an email confirming our order, including a list of what we ordered. And they notified of any back ordered items and included expected arrival dates.  What a novel concept! 

Screen shot 2011-09-14 at 6.31.34 PM

We sure didn’t get that kind of service from WP.  I’d have killed for a packing list or some sort of shipment update.  You’re flying blind with them.

And just for kicks, read this post from another dissatisfied customer using the same program.  Please note that it was written in 2007.

She had many of the same complaints that I mentioned plus more that she didn’t even bother to go into.   The only thing that has been changed since this was written was the book she mentioned.  It was replaced with an incredibly boring book published by WP.  As you can imagine, it’s not well written.  But it’s been interesting to watch Mackenzie edit the errors. LOL

The really sad thing is that I found her blog when I was scouring the WP forums wondering whether I was the only person who was having a problem with all the errors.  I’m not, there were many people pointing them out.   It makes me sick to my stomach to think that they have known about the issues for years and haven’t fixed them.

I myself have emailed them many times, not only regarding this program, but when I was supplementing Sonlight with some of their U.S. history notebooking pages.  Error, after error, after error I pointed out and never got a response. 

I should’ve known better.  My bad.

It was her post that ultimately made me decide to kick WP to the curb.  She said that she had to spend hours to radically redo the program to make it a success for her family. 

I’ve been checking out their recommended links and such but they’re not adding anything useful to the study, when they actually work.  I have added in a few things like proper maps and Expedition Earth…

But in order to really make this work I need to spend a lot of time researching more useful books and rearranging the whole thing.  I think my head would explode.  I do not have the time or the energy to alter it any more than I’ve been doing.  The eye twitching was more than enough thank you.

So see ya Winter Promise.  You have officially been kicked out of our house.  Our daughter’s education is not something we’re willing to short change and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing while using your products.  Short-changing our gift from God.

Watch for my letter.  It’s coming.  I don’t think you’ll like it but I hope you’ll read and take it to heart.  My children aren’t the only ones who deserve a top notch education.


Check out more wrap-ups over at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.


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