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When I was active in Boy Scouting, we had a saying we went by when planning activities for our young men that went activities should be fun, but fun with a purpose. The latest product review kept reminding me of that little mantra. I was sent Tri-cross from Games for Competitors which is actually a USA company based out of my home state not far from where I live. In fact, as I read the developers history on their web site, it became obvious that my husband and I may very well know them from days gone by, since our favorite hang-out as older teens and young adults was the very same Sword of the Phoenix game store they had been a part of in Atlanta, Ga. Ah, the memories played. I knew these were like-minded people. Games are a very important part of our home culture. My husband and I have been avid game players most of our lives and have played almost everything out there at least once. We didn’t stay long as children on the usual children’s games of simple play. We quickly graduated to what was called book shelf games. The games came in cases that were more suited to sitting on a book shelf like a book. The games were always very involved and needed lots of imagination from active minds and challenged those minds.

Tri-cross fits that bill easily, but also in a way that will entice even younger players in the family as it helps to teach them fair game play, social skills, and important game skills like strategy. The game is a cross between checkers, chess, and even Stratego in its varying game versions. As a certified teacher and curriculum developer, the game jumped out at me with its usefulness in any educational setting as well as home setting to further reinforce skills. A few of the skills besides social skills that can be taught with this game are logical thinking, cause and effect, predicting, outcome interpreting, abstract thinking, memory, and visualization (I will add that this can even help the blind visualize in various ways, too.) Despite my love of games, I am not very good with strategy due to learning disabilities that I have. I avoid games like chess and only play checkers with non-challenging players to avoid frustration. Tri-cross, though, didn’t intimidate me. I actually won the first game against my husband who loves and excels at chess. No, he didn’t let me win. He would forget while planning his strategies about the additional rules that certain pieces couldn’t jump certain other pieces. I seemed to be good at remembering that (even though I can’t remember any of the moves for chess pieces) and would catch him. That made me a fan of Tri-cross right away, of course. My husband loved the game, too, because it gave him new ways to think about game play. There are five ways you can play this game which will keep the fun going and be helpful in teaching skills, too. You can play the game with pieces face-up, so that you always see where the pieces that can jump other pieces are and develop strategy skills, or you can play the game with all the pieces face down until opponents meet in a possible jump situation. Players then turn the pieces over to see if a jump can be made. After play, the pieces are then turned back over. You would then do well to try and improve your memory skills to know where those pieces are and move them in useful ways. Other versions add excitement and challenge to the game to keep Tri-cross exciting for years to come.

Tri-cross is very durable and well-made in any of the formats from eco-friendly travel game to the more decorative wooden table-top format. This is extremely pleasing to our family as we have seen the American game industry drop its standards for game quality over the last few decades. One would be proud to own any of the formats and be assured that it will last to pass down over the years.

Of course, my readers know that I have other needs that make gaming more difficult now than when I was younger. Being totally deaf and blind, I can’t play games the way I used to play. Of course, you can’t stop an avid game player from seeking and playing however possible. Tri-cross, I am glad to say, was easy to make accessible to me. I would imagine that certain formats would be easier to make tactile, but I was able to make the two formats I was given tactile for my needs without any real difficulty. I received the travel version and the boxed, hard tag board game format. The wooden table-top would probably be the easiest to work with, but certainly not necessary. I made clear, adhesive braille labels for the game pieces and the board itself. I brailled the dots (I didn’t bother with the number sign, since there is no need for letters in the game. The Tri-cross piece can be labeled with a “T” cell which isn’t used for numbers in braille or left plain because the six intersecting lines are quite tactilely distinct from the other pieces. I can remember the dots are for numbers and save space) for the numbers of each piece and for placement of beginning pieces for one of the game play versions off to the side of the starting positions. The grid of the board which is designed like a large, thick cross or plus sign might seem a difficulty, but I placed thin, low-profile textured markers used by the blind and DeafBlind on each of the squares used for game play. I used a different texture marker for the center’s Tri-cross square which is the objective for one of the winning options. This way I knew exactly when I had my piece moved appropriately into each square, but the marker didn’t affect the movement of pieces on the board at all. I can’t say from pictures if the wooden version provides a tactile grid or not, but that would make it much more accessible if it did. Regardless, the game formats are very durable and easy to make accessible which is a big plus for me and my readers which is why this review will be found on both my homeschool/educational blog and my DeafBlind Hope blog.

Find out more about this game at http://www.gamesforcompetitiors.com. Though challenging, don’t let that scare you off. The developers provide great game instructions and play tips in print and on a CD that is provided with each game format. The prices start at $19.99 for the eco-friendly travel version and range upwards to $35.95 for the wooden table-top format which are a really good prices for this well-made game. If you want a game that is fun, but fun with a purpose, Tri-cross is for you.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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As a Principal of a private Christian school, I see test scores for a lot of students whether they are enrolled in my school or not because we provide testing for all kinds of students not just our own. What I see most often is low math scores all the way from Kindergarten through the 12th grade and even on the SAT/ACT college entrance tests. It isn’t saddening to me because math is so important for our children. Why are the scores so low? It isn’t from lack of doing. I know that. Many of these students do lots of math every day. It isn’t lack of ability because many of these students have exceptionally high intelligence. It isn’t because the teacher whether parent or school teacher has difficulty in math themselves. It seems to come down to a lack of problem-solving strategies and true understanding of the processes of math. A little help seems to be on the way from AIMS Education Foundation’s Solve It! Series.

Many curriculums cover the basic facts and concepts in regards to rules and definitions, but the lack in transferring the understanding of why something is done. The “whys” are really more important than the “hows”. If students do not understand why they perform certain operations they can’t learn to think mathematically. If students can’t learn to think mathematically, they won’t be able to apply their skills to more advanced concepts and problems. AIMS (Activities Integrating Math and Science) Education Foundation has created a series called Solve It! That does a really nice job presenting the problem-solving strategies and thinking skills to students. It is a workbook which some think is overdone and certainly can be, but this series will make a good complement to any textbook curriculum to help smooth out the presentation of these skills, give plenty of practice, and let students learn to love math. Learning to think mathematically actually can and does bring an element of fun and discovery to math. The activities are varied and diverse. They are well-designed and use manipulatives, art and craft creativity, charts, etc. All to keep the students actively focused as they explore the concepts and practice the skills. The teacher will find a chart detailing which problem-solving skill each activity develops. I only used the 3rd grade edition, but if the others are as well-done, I think the series deserves a close look.

There are other activity books and products in other subject areas available on the web site, too, including downloadable e-books. The prices range from $9.95 to $24.95 depending on the size of the activity book. To find out more, go to aimsedu.org.

To read other reviews about this product and others from The Old SchoolHouse Crew, go to the TOS Crew blog

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

Do you ever feel like running away? Do you feel like you just aren’t cutting it as your child’s teacher? Do you worry that your best isn’t going to give your children the future they should have? Well, you aren’t alone. Most homeschool teachers feel the same way all too often. It comes from loving our children so much that we want to do what is needed, but stress, lack of knowledge about one subject or another and the responsibilities of other aspects of our life as housewife, mother, maid, church member pressures us to worry. Resources, good curriculums, and teaching tips are great, but what many a homeschool mom needs is encouragement, the encouragement that comes from no other than the Word of God. Trying to find the time to study the Word is difficult, but a certain devotional Bible study might help get you started. Encouragement for Homeschool Moms from Deeper Roots Publications was written just for you by a homeschool mom who understands the daily struggles.

This little booklet is packed with encouraging and inspirational words that will lift your heart each day and help God’s words flow into your heart giving you the strength, courage, and peace that you need. There are thirty-one devotionals that can be used in many ways to refresh your mind and spirit as you carry out your homeschooling duties during the year. Each is centered on a theme with scripture as its foundation. The author, Bonnie Lisech, gives each theme and scripture a new perspective as she applies them to our homeschool duties and struggles. Then asking such thought-provoking questions to help us focus on God’s meaning for our own hearts and lives. There is also plenty of space and encouragement to journal our thoughts and insights.

When the doubts press in, push them away with refreshing time spent with your Father in Heaven each day. As you give so much of yourself to others, don’t forget to allow God to give to you, to refill your spirit with His love, strength, and guidance. With Deeper Roots publication, Encouragement for Home School Moms, that time of renewing can be easy to plug in to your busy schedule.

To find out more about Encouragement for Home School Moms or the many other products from Deeper Roots, go to DeeperRoots.com.

Though I was provided a product to review for this blog, I have not been compensated in any other way, and the opinion expressed here is entirely my own.

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