Monday, October 14, 2019

Brain Blox Fun Family Chess Review



If you know my family, then you know that C is obsessed with chess.  I love how easy Brain Blox makes it for everyone (even younger children) to learn how to play chess with their Fun Family Chess.


First, I want to say that this set is absolutely beautiful.  The board and pieces are so well made.  This set comes with a wooden chess board, 32 solid wood chess pieces (16 dark brown and 16 white), 2 velvet bags to sort and protect your pieces, a wooden chess cube, 2 reference cards, and a full color instructions booklet.  You can play Fun Family Chess as well as regular chess.

Our Fun Family Chess set.  You can see that the board folds in half for easy storage and the inside has a soft velvet lining.

Here you can see the pieces set up on the board.  There is a picture grid on the board to help kids learn the correct placing of the pieces.

Fun Family Chess

So, what exactly is Fun Family Chess?  It was created to make chess more fun and easy to learn for both kids and adults.  Think of it as a more kid-friendly version of the game of chess.  Fun Family Chess is a 2 player game but you can also have 2 teams (so multiple people can partner together against others).  One thing that makes this game fairly different from regular chess is the chess cube.  It is a 6-sided dice with colored pictures of a rook, bishop, queen, knight, pawn and star on each side.  There are 2 game reference cards for each player or team.  The cards show you the six different chess pieces and how they can move along the chess board.

 You can see the chess cube above.

A color coded reference card makes it even easier for younger players to match up their roll with the piece they need to move.

The rules are fairly simple.  The white or light team rolls first.  You roll the cube and move the piece that you roll.  If you can move you must.  If you cannot move the piece that you roll or you no longer have that piece, you roll again until you get a piece you can move.  If you roll a star, you choose which piece you want to move.  There is no picture of a king on the chess cube so the only way to move it is to roll a star.  As you play this game you capture your opponent's pieces by landing on the square of the piece, like in normal chess.  The goal of this game is to capture your opponent's king, that's it!  Once you do that, you win or vice versa.

 C and F playing

 F moving one of his pawns.

F thinking about his next move.

The Family Fun Chess method of learning chess allows you to learn the complexities of chess in stages and have fun as you learn.  Now C already knows way more about regular chess than I do but I appreciate this gradual approach to the game for my younger crew.  I think it really helps them learn about the pieces and how they move around the board so they have a better framework for how to view regular chess.  This is a super fun addition to have for game nights, parties and would make a great gift as well!  You can purchase Fun Family Chess here.

C playing a game with E.

 B playing with E.

 B won this round.

After you master Fun Family Chess for awhile, you can learn the few extra rules that are used in regular chess.  Here they are - First, there is no chess cube used.  Second, winning is a bit different.  Instead of capturing your opponent's king, you essentially trap it so that they cannot move by putting it into checkmate.   Third is pawn promotion.  In regular chess, if you can get one of your pawns safely across the board to the other side it is instantly promoted to any piece you choose (except a king).  Fourth, there is also the rule of en passant.  If your opponent moves one of their pawn two spaces on their first move which lands side-by-side to one of your pawns, you can capture your opponents pawn by moving diagonally behind it.  And the fifth and final rule is castling, which lets you move your rook and king in the same turn.  You can only castle when both the king and the rook haven't moved yet during the game, the spaces between the king and the rook are empty, the king is not currently in check, and the king would not pass through any squares that would place it in check while castling.  It might sound complicated but I'm certain that if you start with the basics and begin with Fun Family Chess, it won't be long until your are mastering all the rules of the game.

Below is a little video that shows you a bit about Fun Family Chess.



And this next video shows you how to play Fun Family Chess and walks you through some sample plays as well.



As always, be sure to click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Fun Family Chess by Brain Blox.

Fun Family Chess {Brain Blox Reviews}

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Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Kids Behind Our Blog


I'm so excited about the latest Timberdoodle blog hop, The Kids Behind the Blog!  It's a great opportunity for me to take a few minutes and introduce you to my kiddos.

A with a baby chick.

First up is A.  At 15, A really enjoys science (especially Astronomy), arts and crafts, playing the flute and reading.  If you are looking for her, you will most likely find her curled up with a book.  Although she can be a bit shy and more reserved she is really thriving in her speech class this year at CoOp.

B is on Blue Lightning

Next is B.  At 13, she just started her 3rd season of playing volleyball and really enjoys it.  I'm lucky to be her assistant coach this year and I love that she plays hard and is constantly improving as an athlete.  She also plays trumpet in the homeschool band.  She really excels in language arts and writing and is thinking about becoming an author one day.

C with his all-star baseball team last year.

C is 12.  His favorite sport is definitely baseball.  Go Astros!  He is taking a break this fall but he can't wait to start again in the spring.  He plays percussion in the homeschool band.  He loves board games and all things math!  Last year he took a theater class in our homeschool CoOp and did a great job and this year he is participating in a musical theater class.

D about to leave for a gymnastics meet.

D is 9 and still enjoys competitive gymnastics.  She is currently a level 4 and is working on upskills for level 5.  She is still our spunky and fun spirited daughter that brings everyone around her joy.

Miss E at home

E just turned 8!  We are still trying to find a dance studio for her.  It's been a year but she is still interested in dance and misses it.  She loves to create and has a natural curiosity about things.

F and I after a long, hot soccer game.

F is 5 and has just discovered his love of soccer.  It has been a blast to be his soccer coach and watch his love for the game grow.  He enjoys sports in general and can often be found playing with his brothers.

G in the car.

G is 3 and is a ham and constantly saying funny things.  The other day he woke up early and came into my room to see if it was "good morning" yet.  One time he was telling us a story and told us there was a little Grant named Bear (instead of a little Bear named Grant).  G makes us all laugh and also keeps us on our toes.

If you can't tell I couldn't be more proud of my kids.  We all have our differences and our quirks but they help make us who we are.  I enjoy watching my kids learn and grow and I feel blessed that I have the opportunity to homeschool them.  It's not always easy - there are good times and ugly times.  I'm so thankful to call these kids mine.

Check out the links below to read about more kids behind the scenes of the Timberdoodle's current blog team.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Little House on the Prairie Study Guide and The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide from Progeny Press Review



We were given the opportunity to review Little House on the Prairie Study Guide (Grade 4-6) and The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide (Grades K-3) from Progeny Press.  We received digital guides which is great because they are reproducible and can be used with multiple students whether a large family or in a CoOp setting.  You can choose to print the whole guide at once, print single lessons or print pages as your student needs them.

Progeny Press History
Progeny Press is a family-owned and run business since 1992.  Michael and Rebecca Gilleland were looking for literature studies that helped teach classic cultural literature from a Christian perspective when they started homeschooling in 1991.  They ended up creating their own study guides to fill the gap and it was a hit with local Christian schools.  They have grown from 18 study guides available in 1993 to over 110 current study guides covering grades K-12.  I personally love their mission statement - "To teach our children to think clearly, to understand literature, and to rely on the scripture for truth and values, and enjoy themselves while they do it".

Here are the covers of our digital study guides.

These guides teach critical thinking, analysis, literary techniques, and studying the issues and themes in the books from a Biblical perspective.  I like that you can choose to use these as a full literature curriculum or you can use these to supplement other programs.  The Long Way to a New Land was already one of E's reading books this year so it has been great using this study guide with her as she reads through the book.  She actually read through the book very quickly as one of her reading assignments but this guide has helped me have her slow down and really dig into the literature as we press into more than just reading the words.


In the lessons within both of our study guides there is a synopsis of the book, background information, author information, pre-reading activities, analysis for each chapter, post-reading activities as well as additional analysis and resources.  There is vocabulary included along with the discussion question in the chapter analysis sections.  There are also Dig Deeper sections that include Bible verses and help show life application.

 We circled the pre-reading activities we chose to do.

E making some flags from the countries of some of her ancestors.

 Here are a few finished flags.

Here E is showing me the route taken by Carl Erik and his family from Sweden to America.

 Tracing the route on our globe.

 E enjoyed the chapter worksheets.

 Here is an example of how vocabulary is included into the chapter analysis sections.

The Dig Deeper sections are a chance to pull out your Bible and see how scripture can be a part of your daily life.

All the guides have full answer keys which I really appreciate.  There are also Pinterest boards for every guide with hand-on projects ideas for kinesthetic learners and those that want more.

We are about to jump into our next guide on Little House on the Prairie and I'm so excited because I absolutely love this book.  A cool feature for the guides grade 4 and beyond is that the e-book pdf has fillable fields so students can work directly from a computer.  I'm looking forward to D using this feature as she completes this guide.

Above you can see what I'm talking about for fillable fields.  Students just type the answers directly below the questions, love this feature!

I think these guides are a great resource and help provide a rich literature study at an extremely affordable price.  I also really love that they have a Christian perspective.  I highly recommend them.

Be sure to click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew blog to read more reviews of Progeny Press and check out some of their other products including the Shadow Spinner Study Guide (Grades 5-8), The Hound of the Baskervilles Study Guide (Grades 9-12) as well as other reviews of Little House on the Prairie Study Guide (Grade 4-6) and The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide (Grades K-3).

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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Click below to find our more about The Long Way to a New Land Study Guide including the option to buy it now.


You can also find our more about the Little House on the Prairie Study Guide including the option to buy it now.



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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Find It Series Books for Tots Review



Are you familiar with Highlights?  I loved their magazines when I was a kid.  I am so excited to share with you Timberdoodle's Find It Series books by Highlights Press!  This set comes with 4 different board books:  Find It Things That Go, Find It Animals, Find It Farm and Find It Bedtime.  These books are especially great for kids 0-3 and G has been having a blast with them.


G finding the cat in Find It Animals.

G matching the toucans in Find It Animals.

G showing me a spider he found in Find It Farm.

This series helps introduce your young one to math concepts, vocabulary and even pre-reading skills.  G really likes the colors and various pictures throughout this series.  I love that these books encourage interactivity between parents and kids with questions.  They are also sturdy!  G loves to answer my questions and tell me about things he sees and finds as well.  Each book has 14 pages and all the books follow a pattern - 3 isolated items on the left side and the identical items placed in their natural environment on the corresponding right side.

 G checking out the variety of boats in Find It Things That Go.

Closer view...

G telling me the names of the animals and what colors they are.

The final layout in each book gives children an opportunity to learn about colors (Find It Animals), shapes (Find It Bedtime), numbers (Find It Farm), and sounds (Find It Things That Go).

Final Layouts of these books

If you have little ones, they are sure to enjoy this fun, interactive series.  The Find It Series is part of Timberdoodle's Tiny Tots Curriculum Kit.

Disclosure:  Huge shout out to Timberdoodle for selecting me as a Timberdoodle Blogger.  Timberdoodle sent my family the Find It Series books by Highlights Press in exchange for our honest review.  All opinions are my own.

E's 8th Mermaid Birthday Party

E is now 8

We had E's 8th birthday party last weekend, Mermaid theme!  She wanted a cookies and cream ice cream cake so that's what David made her.  We had a great time celebrating with grandma and friends.  Happy Birthday E!  I hope this year is really great.

We had an ocean room.

A, B, C, D, E and F all made an ocean themed poster and we hung them up as decorations.  The posters turned out great!

Singing to E - I love her expression.

 Blowing out her candles...

Let's Shellebrate

Mermaid dolls to play with at the party.

Grandma brought Mermaid cookies!

We used these fun straws with our mermaid punch.

 E with one of her birthday presents, Jixelz.

E with another present, a rainbow mermaid tail!