Game Night – SimplyFun Style

I’m reviewing Climbing Knights, one of four of SimplyFun new releases. As a game-loving family, we awaited the arrival of Climbing Knights with eager anticipation. We appreciate the way that games provide us with an opportunity come together, laugh, challenge each other, make memories and even learn and when there is a new game to add to our memory-making closet, we all get giddy!

SimplyFun believes in building smarter kids and stronger families through the amazing power of play!

After weathering through the snow storm that caused UPS to refuse driving up our road and delaying our delivery by three additional days, that moment finally arrived when Bookworm Beauty noticed the package at our gate. She maneuvered her way through the remaining snow drifts to retrieve the package and when she returned she declared that it must be something else as this package was far too heavy to be a board game. Picking it up, I too was surprised at the weight, and began to question if we were going to have to continue our wait.

Opening the box was almost ceremonial! The kiddos gathered around the table and took turns taking the next step… Sweetness breaks free the first bit of tape…. The Boy annihilates the next bit of tape… Bookworm Beauty opens the cardboard flaps… it was like Christmas all over again! Once opened, I was able to understand why it was so heavy! SimplyFun has raised the bar for game board quality… literally everything from the box itself, to the individual pieces has each been constructed with a quality that you most likely have not experience nor would expect to find in a board game. The quality of the product alone left me feeling that this game was teetering on well-worth it’s $40 price tag, and the real test was about to 2-20-16 216

Being that it was lunchtime when we first began assembling the game, I decided it would be a good test to see if it was a game that could be played without adult supervision or guidance from the get go. I left Bookworm Beauty in charge as I prepared our lunch within earshot. She found the setup instructions to be easy to follow and told me that the written instructions coupled with the photos made it easy for her.

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It seemed only moments had passed before she began to read the game directions to Sweetness and The Boy, both of which are younger than the suggested age of 8+ years old. There seemed to be some confusion, initially upon starting the game, but play continued. However, when I reviewed the game rules and played with the kids, I found that I had to make quite a few corrections to their play. The rules seemed clear and concise to me yet had been misinterpreted by Bookworm Beauty. Once the rules were clarified, the games commenced once again!

phone 2-20-16 248The kids find the game engaging and fun. It is absolutely appropriate for our younger kids that are outside of the suggested age range. However, I would encourage anyone looking at this for younger kids to be mindful of the child’s ability o to develop any sort of strategy awareness as that will determine their ability to be a viable opponent. The best part of the game for me is watching the kids think through their moves strategically. The website lists the educational component of Climbing Knights to be spatial reasoning, strategy and fine motor skills, which all seemed to be evident in our play.

If you are a game-loving family and enjoy engaging, entertaining, and educational play, then I encourage you to consider Climbing Knights for your next game night. Visit SimplyFun to check out this and more than 100 award-winning products.

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Celebrating Accomplishments

Kids love to celebrate. In our home, it would seem that we do not have to look far to find a reason of any kind to celebrate. Sometimes it is a big high-five. Sometimes it is a movie night. Sometimes it is just a sticker. We know that not everything warrants a big celebration, but there are times that nothing short of a hoo-rah will suffice.

We had one of these events last week.

celebration timeTo give a little background… The Boy has had a difficult time persevering through any sort of writing exercises. He loves math and has no problem writing answers in his workbook, but it’s a whole different story when it comes to letters. He is fully capable and knows how to write each letter. He just has no desire to do so.

I had finally decided that I was not going to push writing with him. For the time being, I was perfectly fine waiting until he showed a bit more interest. It just was not worth the fight for me. He has been excelling in math and reading so I decided that I would allow a little bit more time.

The time had finally arrived!

We have been given a wonderful opportunity to review Here to Help Learning with our homeschoolers (keep an eye out for my review coming soon). It had already proven to be a superb writing program and then the unthinkable happened! The program is designed to accommodate all levels of elementary age students from the non-writers to the more advanced writers. Those that are not yet writing can still complete the projects through dictation – which we did. The Boy has always been a wild story teller and he dictated a ten-sentence paragraph for his first project! When our revision was completed and we were ready to do the final copy, he dropped a bomb on me with his declaration that he was going to write it himself!

Keep in mind, this was a ten-sentence paragraph… some of those sentences were approaching run-on status. Up to this point, The Boy would hardly write more than a few letters in any one sitting. I helped him get set up and instead of having him copy directly from the second rough draft, I wrote one sentence at a time on a small white board that we kept at the table. This minimized distractions and kept him from losing his place. He erased each word as he went along (immediate reward). I stayed beside him through the whole process reminding him of the starting position for particular letters, or to remember the spacing between words. I also told him when his writing was getting sloppy and he needed a break. The whole process took nearly three hours over two days. I asked him if he wanted me to casa bonitafinish it up for him and he was adamant that he wanted to do his own final copy!

His work turned out simply beautiful (I may be biased). I felt that the completion of the project was a moment that deserved some celebration! We took The Boy, Bookworm Beauty and Sweetness to a surprise dinner and evening at Casa Bonita in Denver. Handsome was sure to take some time to acknowledge the accomplishments of all of the kids over the last several months including their hard work and dedication to their assignments. He finished by giving special attention to The Boy for his writing project.

Not everything needs to be rewarded. Not every reward needs to be a big ordeal. Some things, however, are simply worth celebrating! We enjoy taking the kids to a special evening on occasion and highlighting their recent accomplishments. They always enjoy their celebratory time and I always enjoy seeing the extra hop in their step in the days that follow. That “hop” was definitely evident these last few days as I noticed The Boy doing a lot more writing, by himself.

How is it in your homeschool… do you have a system or something special for celebrating school accomplishments?

History Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections – Review

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Elections_Lap-Pak-CD pictureBeing an election year, the timing could not have been any better for my 5th grader and me to have an opportunity to utilize and review Home School in the WoodsHistory Through the Ages Hands-On History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections.

I do not remember much about learning the details on the election process in my school years. Consequently, as an adult, I have found myself confused by various terms such as the caucuses and the electoral college. Bookworm Beauty had recently asked me some questions about the election process and although I was able to answer the questions, I was left wishing I knew more.

The Product



ElectionsLapBook-grouped picThe download option is $18.95, offering immediate access. It is also available on DVD for $19.95. Both products include the following printable files:

  • 13-page Text Booklet
  • 62 Lap Book Project Master Files in PDF format
  • 3-page Lap-Book Assembling Guide (providing a visual step-by-step layout of the project)
  • 11-page document providing a thorough outline of the text assignments and project directions
  • 2 MP3 files of the text book in audio format
  • Lesson plan outline
  • A list of additional resources to enhance the learning experience.

There were a few things not included, but necessary to complete the project as specified. These included things like tape, glue, paper fasteners, envelope, folders, etc.


Bookworm Beauty has successfully worked independently on this study over the last five weeks, typically completing one to two assignments per week. It takes her, on average, an hour to go through a lesson and complete the lap booking activity associated with it. Although we were unable to complete the entire project before the the review period ended, we have full intentions of seeing it through its completion.

A 5th Graders Perspective

20160218_071404During this study, Bookworm Beauty has stated firmly that she does not enjoy Lap Booking. It was a surprising confession because she is highly creative and enjoys every opportunity she is given to use her artistic talents. Maybe it’s the cookie-cutter templates, stifling her creativity, that she lacks appreciation for. I do not know. She has admitted, in all fairness, that she has not ever taken the time to peruse an older lap book to review the material in it. I wonder if she would feel differently if she had an opportunity to use a lap book as a review and study guide for a quiz of some sort…?

Despite her distaste for lap booking, she had positive things to say about this particular study. First and foremost, she felt comfortable working independently. This is a big deal in our home as she usually appreciates a lot of initial support and guidance when working with something new. She said that she felt comfortable from the beginning because it was laid out in a simple fashion, much like one of her craft books.

She also stated that she feels, without a doubt, that she has a good understanding of the basic process of the U.S. elections. I have to say that I have noticed that she seems to feel confident enough in her knowledge to willingly offer a statement or opinion regarding the 2016 Presidential Race. I’ve also noticed that when I’ve asked her random questions about the process, she has been able to offer a correct answer.

Her only recommendation for this program is that it provided a workbook option for those that do not enjoy lap booking.

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An Adult’s Perspective

My first impression of the U.S. Elections Lap-Pak was positive. I visited the website and left feeling excited at the prospect of working through the subject matter with Bookworm Beauty.

The download went flawlessly. A link was immediately emailed and led right to the zipfile. I have downloaded other lap book kits and was really impressed with the thorough nature of this pack. I was not left worrying about how to assemble the project or layout the lessons.

Overall, the content seemed simple, almost too simple. It is listed for grades 3-8 and I felt it was a perfect fit for my 5th grader, as it gave basic bare-bones knowledge of which she can build upon in later years. It would probably be suitable for most children in the 3-8 grade range, with some adjustments. For example, a 3rd grader may find the text a little too advanced and may require some additional support. At the same time, I would imagine that there would need to be an expectation for a 7-8th grader to utilize the additional resources for further study.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, I would say that I am please with this study. It is definitely worth more than the $18.95 price tag. In the end, the student has not only gained knowledge on the U.S. Elections process, but has also created a unique and artistic study guide to refer to and even expand upon in their future studies. For me, the greatest result of this study is that it has sparked some wonderful conversation about the current election process.


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Shopping or Hunting?

I am not a shopper, not in the typical sense of the word. I do not enjoy meandering around and tossing dollars aimlessly around. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having something nice and new once in a while, I just don’t like to spend a whole lot for it. Even when I have some extra money that I can do whatever I want with, I am typically one to squeeze every dollar out of it to get the maximum results.

I know many coupon clipping queens that can get a cart full of groceries and spend single-digit dollars. Not me. I just can’t seem to figure that one out… but give me a list of other things you want or need and I will find a deal somewhere.

For Christmas, I was given a $100 gift card to a very high-end department store. It’s one of those stores that I rarely even bother to enter into. I had to give a slight chuckle to myself when I got the card because although a $100 gift card is a very nice gift (and I was grateful)… at this particular store it isn’t going to go very far! However, I waited until mid-January before I broke that gift card in and I ended up buying 2 pairs of uber cute jeans with awesome blouses, one outfit for Bookworm Beauty and the other for Sweetness… and I had only just begun… I ended up getting Handsome a really nice pair of navy dress pants as well as a pair of black cords. I also got him a pair of leather gloves – it gets cold here in Colorado! Oh… AND I GOT ME A PAIR OF SUNGLASSES!!! The entire lot was retailed at over $400!

I was sharing this with someone recently who mentioned that there were shoe needs in the home and she never finds those deals (she’s one of those that can get a cart full of stuff for under $10). So… I was on the hunt… I dropped the kids off at co-op and went to work. What a blast! I don’t like shopping, remember? But I love to hunt! I ended up buying 5 pairs of tennis shoes, a pair of khaki casual dress pants, a pack of socks, and two nice shirts… for $23! I even found myself a pair of $3 tennis shoes!

My $3 SCORE!
                                       My $3 SCORE!

I am thankful that I have the skills to be resourceful. I think Handsome is thankful that I always find a way to satisfy my champagne taste with a beer budget. I feel that I am being honorable with my money… but if I’m honest, it really is like hunting and I have a tremendous level of satisfaction when I find something needed for so little. It is always a challenge to see how much I can actually get.

Ok… now I know that there are many others out there that find fantastic ways to stretch a dollar. Share them…


Spring Seems to be Arriving Early Around Here

We are counting down the days till spring arrives. There is only 46 days left of winter. Technically, that means that winter is not quite half way over. Yet, in our house, despite the two feet of snow outside, it seems that spring has arrived early.

I began feeling like spring was on its way over the last few weeks when we had incredibly warm weather. While the media covered other parts of the country that were experiencing horrendous winter storms, we on the Colorado plains enjoyed weather nearing 60! The sun was shining, giving us the joy of spending our afternoons outside.

If anyone knows Colorado, they know that warm January days are false advertisement of an early spring as we often get our greatest winter storms in March. Sometimes they come in April or even May.

For me, the sure sign of spring is the beautiful daffodils that begin popping up. 20160129_194335It is my favorite reminder of hope… that spring has arrived and summer is coming. I would love to report the arrival of daffodils around here but I imagine I am just going to have to be patient and await their arrival in due time.

So what is it that screams spring so early around here…? It’s the arrival of our first batch of chicks! It is always so much fun to watch these cute little 3 day old chicks, huddled together under their heat lamp. Yes, we are guilty of obsessively enjoying the little ladies! Soon enough, they will be outside strutting alongside the other ladies and by summer’s arrival, they will be blessing us with eggs.

What is your favorite season? What are the first signs that make you feel like the season is arriving?