Sunday, September 22, 2013

REVIEW: The Presidential Game by The Presidential Game

My 14-year old son and I had an opportunity to play The Presidential Game by The Presidential Game.



In this exciting strategy game, two teams, playing as opposing political parties, try to make the right campaigning decisions in each state so they can gain enough electoral votes to win the Presidency!

This entertaining and educational family game is great for kids ages 11+ and adults alike.

Once you’ve purchased the game for $35 plus shipping and handling, you can enter the code from your box online to gain access to an interactive electoral webmap to be used on your computer, tablet, or smartphone to help you track your election returns just like they do on the news!

In your game box, you’ll receive: 

  • 1 20" x 30" GAME Board
  • 1 Score Pad
  • 3 Blue Dice
  • 3 Red Dice
  • 80 Politics Cards
  • 40 "Write-Your-Own" Politics Cards
  • 150 Republican Votes (red chips)
  • 150 Democrat Votes (blue chips)
  • 1 Electoral WebMap™ Calculator Access Code



Let me start by saying that when you play this game for the very first time, take advantage of its flexibility in deciding how many rounds you want to play by making the first game fairly short.  I say this because if you are anything like us, you won’t entirely understand what you’re doing that first time around!  I anticipated this, so we decided to only take 15 turns each, which according to the directions equates to about a 30-minute game.  This turned out to be just right for us and gave us a chance to get our feet wet before really diving into this game. 

So in this first game, we set out a bit tentatively, consulting the directions when we weren’t clear on what to do in any given situation.  We realized about halfway through that we were already doing some things wrong, but by then, we were having so much fun and laughing at our competitive natures that it didn’t even matter at that point!  Smile  I didn’t entirely understand the advantages of fundraising vs. campaigning until afterwards, and then it became much more clear to me.  We had failed to declare which states we were campaigning in after we’d rolled our dice, and that was the major flaw in our gameplay.  We realized how much more strategic that would have made things, and I’m sure our game would have turned out much differently if we had done it that way, but we still had loads of fun the way we played it.  In fact, we were neck and neck until the very last state, with everything was riding on which one of us rolled the dice to decisively take Hawaii.  Talk about suspense!  My 14-year old son, Hayden (playing as a Democrat), unfortunately took the Presidency from my Republican self.  Sad smile  But there’s always the next campaign (AKA, the next round of The Presidential Game)!

The cool accompaDSCF0854niment, which we used from the very first game, was the free Electoral WebMap Calculator that you could access from your computer or tablet.  That was super cool!  By entering our state status into that WebMap (available on the Presidential Game website once you enter the code from inside your game box), we were able to skip keeping track of our votes on the paper score pad, not to mention that it had a real coolness factor that made you feel like you were watching the results come in from the polls on the news reports.  It was super easy to use…just tap a state once for red, twice for blue, and three times to return it to neutral.  So as we parley back and forth swiping states from one another, it’s a piece of cake to update the WebMap, and it tallies our total votes for us.

Subsequent rounds of this game proved to be just as much fun.  I think the one thing we took away from this experience was how easily a state can slip away from you in the campaigning process.  I can only imagine what it must be like for actual political candidates as they make their moves on the campaign trail and wait for the votes to fall into place.  It’s not always what you’d expect, and you never know what your opponent has in mind!

I would definitely recommend this game for parents of tweens and teens.  If you have any competitive nature in you at all, you’ll love the suspense this game brings to the table.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about The Presidential Game by clicking the banner below.



Friday, September 13, 2013

FREE Math for Grades K-6

I found a way to get awesome FREE math programs for grades K-6 from Houghton Mifflin Math 2007.  You won’t need any books!  Follow these easy steps:

  1. Go here and click on the grade level you need. 
  2. Click on Leveled Practice.
  3. Then click on the Unit Number.
  4. Then select the Lesson Number at the top.
  5. At the bottom, select Reteach and click on the green GO button. 
    • This document will be used as the student textbook lesson. 
    • This will take you to a printable worksheet that includes lesson instruction for your student and some practice problems like you would find in the student textbook.
    • After printing this page, close that window and go back to the one where you selected the lesson number and document.
  6. Now on that same lesson number, change it from Reteach to Homework and click on the green GO button.
    • Print this document for the student to complete as their homework.
    • After printing this page, close that window and go back to the one where you selected the lesson number and document.
  7. If your student needs additional practice, use the same lesson number and change it from Homework to Practice and click on the green GO button.
    • Print this document for additional practice.
  8. Repeat this process for each lesson within each unit number, and then you’ll have a complete math program without spending a penny other than your paper and ink.  Yay!
  9. On the main menu where you selected Leveled Practice, you can also Vocabulary Cards and print out all of the math vocabulary cards with definitions for each unit.  There are also Teaching Tools and practice with Problem Solving found on that main menu.

This is quite a valuable resource!  You could easily use this as your main math program, but it’s also a great resource for looking up specific topics with which your student needs extra help and practice. 

In addition, there are printable games kids can play to reinforce concepts here.  Just select your grade level.  Even better, you can go here and select your grade level, then select Math Demonstrations for video math lessons or eGames for online math games your students can play.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Family Time Fitness FREEBIE!!!

You might remember when I reviewed Family Time Fitness’ Fitness 4 Home School Core 1 Physical Education Curriculum last year.  My kids really enjoyed that.  There’s another cool component to it, and that is the printable workbooks by grade level that correspond to the program and teach fitness and nutrition information. 

Right now, subscribers of Homeschool Giveaways can download ALL of the K-5 workbooks for FREE, AND get a $15 gift certificate to Family Time Fitness!  This is a great offer.

If you don’t currently subscribe, you’ll have the chance to do so when you enter your email address for the freebie.  Get it while you can, as this is only available for a limited time!



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

First Day of Charter School

First Day of School

Well, the time has come.  I finally sent my firstborn so, Hayden (age 14) off to public school…charter school, that is.  It also happened to be his first day of high school, so lots of milestones involved in this one. 

Truth be told, I was actually in Arkansas visiting my mom for the week prior, and I was traveling home that day.  I arrived back at home late that night, but I was still able to ask him about his day before he went to bed.  I was thankful for that.  After all, you can’t ever get back that first day of school.  I was sad to have missed sending him off that morning, but his dad got to experience that in my stead.  I begged my husband to take photos of those first moments for me, and here’s what I got.

Isn’t Hayden a handsome young man?  Gosh, he looks so grown up here (sniff, sniff).


Sleepy Kids


In addition to this lovely photo of Hayden, my husband also snapped a picture of my other two kids (Haylee, age 9, and Holden, age 5) looking extremely sleepy while eating their breakfast that morning.  That 6 AM wakeup time was a tough trial-by-fire transition for them, for sure.


I will be writing more about Hayden’s charter school experiences in the weeks to come.  The first thing he told me was that a kid in the general population of the regular high school (his charter school is located in a separate section inside of the regular high school) came to school on the first day with his face all beat up!  He said the boy had a red nose, black eye, and purple cheek.  Uh-oh! 

And then today, just the 6th school day, he said a food fight broke out in the shared cafeteria amongst the general population.  He and his classmates ran for the hallway to avoid being involved.  The school shut down the lunch period early and put the instigators in detention, but they permitted the charter school students to finish their lunch in the hallway.  Wow…this whole public school experience is definitely an “experience!” 

Oh!  And I almost forgot to mention that Hayden even made it to the front page of the local paper this weekend (blue shirt sitting down) in an article about his charter school.  You can click the story read more about his school.  The second photo here was featured in the online article and just happens to be entirely of Hayden.  Awesome! 


They do a lot of publicity for the charter school here locally because it is the first of its kind in this city and only the 5th public charter school in the state of Virginia. Stay tuned!

REVIEW: Time4Learning Subscription by Time4Learning

My 4th grader and I had a chance to try out a Time4Learning Subscription from Time4Learning.



Time4Learning offers a unique subscription service that allows your children to play fun, interactive games while learning core subjects.  It can be used as a diverse supplement to your homeschool curriculum, or you can use it to cover all of your core subjects as your primary curriculum. 

Lessons are taught in small chunks, so your student doesn’t need a lot of time set aside to complete an assignment.  All of the instruction in online, so there’s no need to download any software to your computer.  Your subscription includes:

  • For students:
    • interactive lessons
    • multimedia reinforcement activities
    • printable worksheets
    • learning games
  • For Parents
    • assessments with reports
    • printable lesson plans
    • homeschool teaching tools
    • detailed reporting for use in a portfolio
    • parental support through the online Parent Forum

Parents and their students have a number of key features available to them:

  • students get individual logins
  • parents can set each student’s grade level for EACH subject
  • students can access one grade level above and below their assigned level for review and further study
  • detailed lesson plans
  • online playground that rewards and motivates
  • a time-stamping feature on activities for attendance purposes
  • the automated system grades lessons and keeps reports
  • sign up and get started on the same day

The subscription comes with a 14-day money-back guarantee.  Take a look at the lesson plans, try out the interactive lesson demos, and look through the curriculum overview.  You can subscribe for $19.95/month for the first PK-8th grade student and $14.95/month for each additional PK-8th grade student.  If you have high school students, it’s just $30/month per student and offers 4 courses. 

There are no contracts, and you can start, pause, or cancel at any time.



When I received my subscription access for my 9 year old daughter who is in 4th grade, it only took a few minutes to set up my account and schedule her activities.  I loved that it gave me an option to just select a beginning and ending date for when I wanted her to complete the curriculum, and then it created lesson plans that fit the material into my specified time period.  I was able to easily change it to give her the number of activities per week that I was aiming to have her complete.  Then all she had to do was log in and start learning!

When Haylee got started, she found that her choices of activities were in Language Arts, LA Extensions, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  I placed her into 4th grade for every subject except math, which I set at 5th grade to reflect her current grade levels for those subjects.

You can see in the chart below just how many activities are available in each subject for a given grade level…it’s a lot of material!

Haylee selected a Science activity first regarding principles of sound.  It took her into a lesson about stringed instruments.  She got to click on little audio clips for each instrument after reading DSCF0843about them, and it let her hear what each instrument sounded like.  She really enjoyed that!  There was a fair amount of reading involved, but I was surprised and impressed to see that it kept her engaged and moving on to the end of the lesson.  Typically, I would have expected her to lose interest and try to click out of it, but that was not the case here, so I was interested in seeing her reaction to some of the other subjects and lessons in the weeks to come.  In the end, she spent more time on science than on any other subject, so I think that was probably the most interesting category for her.  That intrigued me, because we don’t spend a lot of time studying science in her regular homeschooling curriculum.  She tried out a variety of activities involving changes in matter and energy, scientific investigation, and sound.

Next, she worked on some math.  My husband helped her with those lessons because she felt it was sometimes a bit hard for her.  One of those lessons involved Roman and Greek Numerals, DSCF0841which were totally new to her.  She did say that the lesson introduced the material to her first, so she did have an opportunity to learn it before practicing it or taking the little quiz at the end, but let’s just say that math has never been her strongest subject!  Smile  She had to spend more time on each of the math lessons she tried than on any of the other subjects, but that was pretty typical for her since she struggles with math.  She spent as much as 23 minutes of some of those activities.  Here, she tried out activities in whole numbers and place value.  For one of the games, she got to pretend she was a cashier in a store, and she said it was fun and was something she’d play again.  In another game, she said she was in a clothing store and had to figure out how many combinations she could make with pants and shirts.  She said she liked that one, too.  I was happy to hear that, because she generally avoids math-related activities like the plague!   Now my husband said that the math section seemed very dry to him, and he couldn’t imagine setting her down to work on it by herself.  But he’s not accustomed to teaching the kids in general, so you’ll have to take that into consideration.DSCF0842

Then she worked on some Language Arts activities.  Here, she worked on things like vocabulary skills, synonyms, and antonyms.  She got to watch some videos and take quizzes.  She liked this, but she said that she and her dad thought one of the characters had an annoying voice.  I had to laugh at that.  Those two are hard to please!  My husband said that he caught her laughing a number of times while watching the videos and that she seemed to really enjoy them.

I sat with her while she completed some of the LA Extensions activities.  The choices of categories in this DSCF0844section included Comprehend & Respond, Grammar, Literature, Written Communication, and Convention of Language.  In the grammar activities she learned about sentences and fragments, sentence parts, and types of sentences.  It gave her a thorough description, plenty of examples, and then gave her some samples to try on her own.  I liked that she could check each answer instantly as she went along.  She enjoyed the choice of photos they included along the way (dogs, cats, etc.).  Towards the end of the review section, it gave her a little joke to click on, and it was so funny (Why does a seagull live by the sea?  Because if it lived by the bay, it would be a bagel!)  LOL.  She got a real kick out of that.  It was like a reward for doing the review work.  I liked that.  She took the quiz and scored 100%.  Now that’s progress! 

In the Social Studies section, the categories included Ancient Civilization, Aztecs/Incas/Mayas, U.S. Revolutionary Period, Geography, United States Civics, Economics, Current Events, andDSCF0840 Prehistoric Art.  We selected Geography and were taken to a list of subcategories that included Tools, Skills, Maps, Longitude & Latitude, Delta/Strait/Channel, Plateau/Prairie/Mesa, Isthmus/Peninsula/Fjord, Mountain Ranges, and Rivers.  We chose Latitude & Longitude to work on first.  Here she worked on reading a grid map (which was very colorful), learning about the prime meridian, and finding cities on a map using the lines of latitude and longitude.  She didn’t think she could do that, but once she tried it, she got the hang of it pretty quickly!

Overall, we liked Time4Learning.  Like my husband, I’m not sure it’s something I’d turn my daughter loose with unsupervised, just because she can click out of activities without completing them and things of that nature.  If I wanted her to do the activities alone, I think I’d only use it as a supplement for that reason, and then she could pick and choose what she liked and wanted to learn more about.  But if it were my core curriculum, which is clearly an option given the amount of material covered, I would want to observe her using it effectively.  I like how the sections are broken out into subsections so that you could easily target specific skills for additional practice or instruction.  I think this site could be a really useful tool alongside a traditional curriculum to enhance and reinforce learning.  I really liked the variety of presentations provided for various topics so the lessons are not predictable and boring for the student.  They never know if they’re going to get a video, an interactive illustration, or photos that enhance the text.  I’m likely to recommend this product to fellow homeschoolers looking to add some variety and extra practice their repertoire of activities.

See what other Crew members had to say about this subscription by clicking the banner below.



Monday, September 9, 2013

REVIEW: DISC Profile: Career-Style Report by PeopleKeys

My new high schooler and I had a chance to review the DISC Profile: Career-Style Report by PeopleKeys.



The DISC Profile: Career-Style Report is an online survey that helps users narrow down potential career choices that match their behavioral style.  The resulting report focuses largely on:

  • workplace style
  • communication with others
  • strengths
  • potential limitations
  • contributions to a team.

At the time of purchase, you will receive an email with downloadable instructions and key codes to access your report. 

Once you’ve completed the online survey, you can download the results.  You also have the option to have your results be available to someone other than yourself by calling to request that in advance.  Regardless of how many key codes you purchase, the reports and accounts you set up will not be linked together in any way unless you purchase one of their packages or call in advance.

You can purchase the Career Style Report for $32.00.



When I received the email with our access code for this survey, I simply forwarded the email to my 14 year old son, Hayden, who was able to go online and begin taking the survey himself.  He said it asked him a lot of situational types of questions about what he would do in different scenarios.  He said he was able to complete the survey in about 10-15 minutes, so it was easily done in one sitting.  However, the instructions did state that if you needed to exit and save your progress in the middle of the survey, you could do that and resume completion of the survey at another time.

Hayden was able to immediately access and print his Career Style Report and pass it on to me for review.  This was a great opportunity for us to sit down together to discuss the results and potential career choices. 

My purpose for having Hayden complete this survey was to help him pinpoint his strengths and weaknesses and then figure out how those might affect and align with various types of careers.  As he entered public charter high school this school year, he did not know what he wanted to do in terms of a career.  He wasn’t even sure what field he might be interested in pursuing.  So my hope was that this report would give him a starting place of what he might consider more closely in the future.  I also hoped that it could perhaps be a useful tool at some point for his school counselor to use in helping to prepare him for college and/or a career.

I was not disappointed!  The report provided us with a lot of insightful information, and I must say that I found most of the assessment to be spot-on in regards to his behavioral tendencies, and the likely career choices were right in line with what I had suggested to him myself already. 

The first section of his report was titled “Description: Understanding Your Style.”  It said Hayden’s style is identified by the keyword “Motivator.”  It went on to explain what that means, the general characteristics, what factors motivate him, and a description of his ideal environment.  It gave a lengthy description of how he would handle various situations and environments and how changes can affect him.  I was really impressed here with how well this matched the Hayden that I know.

The next section was titled “Workplace: Your Professional Style.”  This section went on to describe how his traits might play out in workplace situations.  Some of the information provided here surprised me a bit, and I can imagine more of these habits and styles will play themselves out in the workplace as he matures. 

The third section was titled “Workplace: Tips for Your Professional Style.”  This section gave ideas for how to promote self-growth and enhance communication in the workplace.  It took each of his needs and tendencies in the workplace and countered them with ways he could improve his performance and functionality in the workplace by working with his traits to make sure they don’t work as negatives.

The next section was titled “Career Match: Best Match.”  This gave a listing of careers choices that Hayden is likely to find of significant interest.  These are the types of jobs that he might find fulfilling.  This list of careers really spanned the gambit, so I can’t say it helped narrow the field of possibilities all that much, but it did give us some categories to consider further.  I was not surprised to find that a primary or secondary teacher was on the list, as this is something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while.  But I was surprised and somewhat excited to see that my own former profession was listed…a human resources specialist. 

Another subsection was titled “Career Match: Close Match.”  This was set up in the same way and with the same purpose as the previous section, only this list was based on a personality trait that he scored fairly high on, but it was not his primary trait.  On this list was Preschool Teacher, which is exactly what I’ve suggested many times over the last year that Hayden might consider.  His love for very young children and his special way for guiding them and keeping their interest, as well as his patience and attentiveness, all led me to think he might be well suited as a teacher of preschoolers.  I got a little bit of extra satisfaction in finding this on the list of close matches. Smile  But again, this list was even longer than the “best match” list, and the possibilities really spanned the gambit, so I’m not sure it really helped narrow down the field that much.

The last section was titled “Scoring Data: Graph Page.”  This simply graphed how high he scored in each of the components of the DISC profile.  This gave me some idea of how strong each trait really was, but not much insight beyond that.

Overall, I found this profile pretty helpful.  While the career suggestions weren’t as narrow as I would have liked, the information on his workplace style, personality traits, and how all of that could play out in the workplace was really insightful and useful information.  I think that it could potentially help his guidance counselor to know and understand him better and perhaps guide him more purposefully as he prepares for college and/or the workplace.  I may even suggest that his charter school consider using this assessment with all of the students as they progress on their educational/career tracks.  There was a lot in this report about Hayden’s ability to function well on group projects and in leadership roles, and I’ve already seen a lot of that behavior play out since he started attending at the charter school (he was previously homeschooled for 10 years).  I would definitely recommend this assessment for anyone who is looking to find out more about themselves and how their personality and behavioral tendencies might affect their current or future role in the workplace.

Take a look at what other Crew members had to say about this and other products from PeopleKeys by clicking the banner below.