Friday, October 28, 2011

Say Anything – Family Edition (TOS Review)


Last year we were given the chance to review Wits & Wagers Family from NorthStar Games (and loved it) – you can see that review HERE.

This year we were chosen to review another fun game from NorthStar Games - Say Anything Family Edition.

Product Details

According to the instructions in the game, “Say Anything Family Edition is a light-hearted game about what you and your loved ones think.”  We found that to be completely accurate!   The game is targeted for 3-6 players ages 8+. 

Say Anything Family Edition retails for $19.99.  Click here to buy, or visit your local Target or specialty toy/game store.  The "Buy" section of the website features a "Find a Store Near You" option.

Say Anything Family Edition comes with: a scorecard (with circles to color in as you score points); 6 color-coded dry erase boards; six dry erase pens; twelve color-coded player tokens (each player gets two to match the color of their dry erase board); a deck of question cards, each card containing six questions (three questions on front, three on the back); and a “select-o-matic 6000” which the judge for each question uses to mark his favorite answer.  You’ll also need something (napkin, paper towel, eraser) to clear your dry erase board.


To play, one person is chosen to be the judge.  (The rules say the youngest goes first – I don’t  know about your house, but that always causes problems in mine so we change that rule and honestly do something different every time regarding who goes first and direction of play.)  The judge chooses a card and a question to read.  Everyone else writes down their answer and places their card in the middle with the answer showing.  The judge chooses his/her favorite answer, then indicates his choice by moving the arrow on the “state-of-the-art Select-O-Matic 6000” (see, even the rules are fun!).  Once the judge makes his/her choice, the players try to guess which answer the judge chose, and uses their tokens. They don’t have to put both tokens on the same answer (another reason that playing with more than 3 players is better).  Scores are determined by placement of the tokens, and marked on the scoreboard.  The judge also gets points based on how the players place their tokens.  Max score per question is 3 points each.  The game is over when all players have asked 2 questions.

Homeschooling moms can turn anything into an educational moment.  When we played this card…

photo-6…we had a great conversation about various historical events – and why we might have liked to have been there, and why it would have been horrible to be there. 

Some questions are just pure fun, like the third one on this card:


What I like

What’s not to like?  It’s an extremely fun board game that the girls frequently ask to play!

Anything goes – there aren’t any wrong answers.

Quick and easy instructions.

Some of the time I like that it’s so quick to play, but most of the time we end up playing multiple times just because we’re having so much fun.

I wish…

Sure hope they eventually make an expansion pack of questions!

Watch out for

Don’t try to make the Select-O-Matic 6000 spin.   It doesn’t.

While the game can be played with only three players, we found it better to play with four (or more).  Since out of the three players one is designated the judge for each question, that only left two players to write down answers.  That meant, at least in our family, that when I was the judge the girls felt as if they were being “compared” to each other.  That didn’t seem to happen when all four of us played.

It’s a quick game to play.  Normally that might be a good thing, but this is so fun that we were always surprised and disappointed when the game ended.  There were frequent refrains of “let’s play again!”, so expect that to also happen in your home!

Since the question cards are two-sided, be sure to finish one side of all the cards first, before moving to the other side (one side is blue, the other is yellow, so it’s fairly easy to keep up with).

Be sure to follow the rule that the judge chooses his/her choice first, then the players choose.  Otherwise, it can turn into an argument that the judge chose an answer because “she saw where I put my tokens and didn’t want me to win.”  Trust me on this.

The game is over when all players have asked two questions, but often it ends before that if a player is getting the max points per question.

Be sure to

Find out current news about the games at the Insider's Corner.

Check out their other fun products here

Be sure to visit the "Meet the Designers" section of the website for some cool info on who invested these games!

Like them on FACEBOOK for great info and contests!

Company contact info:

   Customer service -
   Retail Sales:
   Media Inquiries:

   Office: 301.493.4331
   Fax: 866.433.8069

Get contact info for the company employees HERE.

Final thoughts

We love this game.  It would  make a great birthday gift or Christmas gift for a family!

Thoughts of my crew mates

To see other reviews of this product, click HERE. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Educating the WholeHearted Child (TOS Review)


The decision to homeschool is often (usually?) a daunting and scary one.  We all have thoughts like this:

Is this really what God wants me to do?  What if I mess up?  What if I don’t cover enough?  What if I focus on the unimportant things more than the important ones?  Related to that, what are the things that are important to me?  Is there a checklist somewhere?  How in the world am I going to teach high school chemistry? Where oh where is the FAQ on all-things-homeschooling?

Even veteran homeschoolers have these thoughts and wonder if they’re doing it “right”  or “good enough”.  We all have the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” worries. 

Help can be found in a book by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson) entitled Educating the Wholehearted Child.  While this is not an exhaustive “FAQ” on homeschooling, it’s pretty close.

Product details

Published by Apologia/WholeHeart, a division of the incredible Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. that offers homeschoolers so many phenomenal products, this book (a revised/expanded third edition) consists of 376 pages bursting with information, tips, advice, suggestions, etc.  Written by Clay and Sally Clarkson, who homeschooled each of their four children, each page overflows with wisdom and information. 

The book is divided into four main sections:  Home, Learning, Methods and Living.  Each section is further divided into 4-5 chapters (see the Table of Contents HERE).  Within these chapters you’ll find a huge variety of information – determining learning styles, what kinds of books to avoid (no titles, just generic types of books), a sampling of whole books providers, choosing a Bible translation, narration, study groups, role of the homeschooling father, keeping order in the home (love the “Laws of Home Thermodynamics,” i.e. “all things tend to disorder and disarray”), testing and grades, the 5 D’s (discipleship studies, disciplined studies, discussion studies, discovery studies and discretionary studies), and a multitude (and I do mean multitude) of other topics.

You can purchase the book from Apologia Educational Ministries for $22 HERE.

Disclaimer:  I have not yet even come close to reading this entire book.  At over 300 pages of “instruction,” plus another 35 pages of resources, this is not a book that can be read cover-to-cover without a significant expenditure of time (we are given an ample length of time for normal product reviews, but this book is extraordinary in its scope breadth of information).  I did the “pick and choose” method, seeking out the sections I was particularly interested in and quickly skimming through the rest.

What I like

The book is a one-stop-shop for homeschooling suggestions/ideas for nurturing the hearts, minds and souls of your children.   However, don’t peg this book as simply a “homeschooling” book – the principles in this book apply to all Christian families.  Even if you’re not a homeschooling family, this book will help you raise your children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and your whole family will be better for it.

Love the resources in the back of the book:

Books for the Wholehearted Family, broken down into categories (children’s literature, poetry and art, history and biography, etc.).

Books for Wholehearted Learning, broken down into categories (home and parenting, young men and women, thinking and speaking, devotions and discipleship, etc.).

Forms for Wholehearted Learning – learning agenda, planner, task lists, reading records, etc.  I’m waiting (not-so-patiently) for versions of these forms to be loaded on the authors’ website.

God’s Word.  It is found abundantly throughout this book.  Love the scripture references found on most pages, along with quotes addressing the topic on those particular pages.

Love the “In Our Home” passages included on many pages – I enjoy seeing suggestions/ideas put into practice.

God used the book to remind me that my focus should be on raising disciples for Him and not so much the academic aspect.  One of the reasons we started homeschooling was so that we could instill our values and beliefs into our children, and not have their values/beliefs formed by the public school administration or their peers.  Often I worry about the girls getting “behind” in certain areas.  This book helped me get my primary focus back – they might be a tad behind in math, but they have a strong faith in Jesus Christ and have good character (at least most of the time!), which is evidence that we made the right choice for our family in choosing to homeschool.

I wish…

I longed for an index to look up particular topics.  The Table of Contents is bare-bones, simply listing the chapter names.

I wish I had read this book before I started homeschooling.  With so many homeschooling “how to” books out there, this book should be on the must read list for all homeschooling parents. 

Watch out for

Keep in mind that we’re only human.  While this book is a treasure trove of wonderful ideas and suggestions, I became a bit overwhelmed and started feeling like I was only doing about 10% of the things I should be doing (woulda, coulda, shoulda?).  Remember that we have to prayerfully seek what is right for our own homes, and even though someone else’s advice may seem smart and appropriate, it doesn’t always mean it’s right for our homes.  Read this book not as a “you should do this” list, but as a “consider and pray about doing this” list.  As you’re reading, dog-ear or tab the pages with suggestions/ideas that interest you or touch your heart.  If you have too many (I did), prioritize them into what you think is most important for this stage of your homeschooling life.  Make a “wish list” for the years to come.  Choose 2-3 to try to implement this year, and save the rest for later.

Make sure you’re not eating/drinking anything when you read the “Whole Book Fever” blurb on page 107.  I laughed out loud about the description of this “affliction” – evidently I’m infected with it, because I suffer from many of the symptoms.

Be sure to

View the Table of Contents HERE.

Check out a sample chapter (Chapter 1) HERE.   

Request a catalog HERE to see the other wonderful products that Apologia Educational Ministries offers.

Company contact info:

Apologia Educational Ministries
1106 Meridian Plaza Suite 220
Anderson, IN 46016 
Phone: (888)524-4724
Fax: (765)608-3290

Final thoughts

I think I avoided the prior printings of this book due to its sheer size and due to the fear of it making me feel inadequate.  While reading it I, at times, did feel like I haven’t done enough in our homeschooling environment, what I didn’t expect was the huge blessing that I received from reading it, nor did I expect to regain the feeling of God’s blessing over our homeschool.

Love, love, love this book.  I foresee it becoming even more dog-eared and flagged the more I read.  I suspect it will be on my beside table for months to come and, after that, it will likely become a beloved reference book.  Now that this review is done, I’m planning to pore over Chapter 3 (Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God) and Chapter 4 (Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Live for God).  Then I’ll pray and see what section God wants me to read next.

Thoughts of my crew mates

To see other reviews of this product, click HERE. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Always Icecream (TOS Review)


I have Facebook, my 11-yo has Always Icecream.


Product Details

What’s Always Icecream?  It’s a girls-only website, created for ages 7-12, that combines fun and education (and lots of pink!) 

It not only allows girls to play educational (and other) games to win $coops, but also to interact with online friends in a monitored environment.  You control the settings via a parent account linked to your daughter’s account. 

There are several subscription levels:

Monthly - $4.99, with the first month being $0.99- Paypal account required.

Two months’ membership - $9.98 – no subscription required, pay with credit/debit card or Paypal.

Annual membership - $29.99 – pay with credit/debit card or Paypal.

Lifetime membership - $99.99 – best deal if your daugther is 10 or younger - pay with credit/debit card or Paypal.

Always Icecream also accepts gift codes – suggest a membership as a gift for your daughter!

Girls create a “mini-me” – what they look like in the world of Always Icecream.  They earn “virtual ice cream” ($coops) to use to play fun games, decorate their “MiniWorld” and feed and care for their pets in Pet World.  In MiniWorld, girls can design furniture, art work, rooms, add rooms, buy bigger houses,m visit their neighborhoods and see friends’ houses, and much more.  Girls can sell their work in the store so others can buy it and earn $coops.  Their pets from PetWorld can visit their MiniWorld.

There are games available for:

Language Arts
Math Quizzes
Advanced Math
Math Drills
Geography & History
Music & Arts
Computer Skills
Foreign Languages
Religious Education (Christian)
Life Skills

You can choose which games your daughter will have access to, and those settings can be changed at any time.

We’re studying U.S. Geography in our co-op, so she loved this game.

A typing game.  I thought she’d like this game, but she really wasn’t very interested. 

Pet world – another of my daughter’s favorites.

Remember my Facebook comment?  Girls on Always Icecream are allowed to interact with friends on two levels – friends and real world friends (RWF) – but parents are always in control of the level of interaction they can have with their friends.  Girls are given a special code to use with RWF – to become RWF, both girls have to enter the other’s code. 

What I like

I like the controls the parent account offers, including “rewarding” my daughter for doing chores (I could choose from a short list of suggestions or customize my own).  I receive a weekly e-mail setting forth what my daughter has done, and any ribbons/awards she’s earned.

As a creationist, I like that the site excludes evolution.

No advertising on the site!

I love the safety precautions the website has in place – see for yourself here.

I love that the site offers educational activities, offers interaction with friends in a safe atmosphere, and allows for a creative outlet (designing furniture, art, etc.).

I like the variety of videos offered – from cute (sneezing panda), to cooking lessons (making stuffed-crust pizza), sing-alongs (The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers – one of my favorites!), arts/crafts (how to make a friendship bracelet), science experiments (how strong is a strand of hair?), and many others.  They even have a way for the girls to submit their favorite video from YouTube – the security folks at the website will screen and approve them, and then link them up for all to see!

I wish…

While I like the system provided to reward for chores, one of the items on the list is “being a great daughter.”  I wholeheartedly think that should be removed.  Would you want your daughter to think she’s not a great daughter when she doesn’t get that reward?  I wish they’d replace that with something else – maybe “be nice  to your sister.”

Watch out for

Girls should not share accounts, since many things are individualized and created by the girls (artwork, furniture, etc.).  Also, can you imagine the reaction if one daughter spends another daughter’s hard-earned $coops? 

My daughter loved many of the games, but disliked some that I felt for sure she’d love (the typing game, for example).   I can’t help but wonder if that might have been because of frustration over her computer’s slow response time.  Some of the videos were also slow to load.  If you have an older/slow computer, you might encounter the same issues (although that’s true for all websites, not just Always Icecream).  We’re upgrading the girls’ computer soon, so hopefully she’ll be able to enjoy all the things Always Icecream has to offer.

Although I’ve become accustomed to it now, at first the update on friends’ status in the weekly e-mail kind of creeped me out – almost like “big brother is watching.”  Later I realized that it’s a good way for me to see what kinds of things the people she’s interacting with like to do.  Be aware that in the weekly e-mail, your daughter’s friends will get a report of what she’s done that week.

If you want to create accounts for more than one daughter, contact the site at  Sibling discounts are offered (the website says “if you want to create accounts for more than two daughters).

Watch a video showing MiniWorld here.

The site is open to all girls, not just homeschoolers.  That’s a plus for us.

When you sign up your daughter, it asks for her first name and last initial.  Be aware that that will be her login info, so if you want to use an alias, do so at the time you sign her up.

Be sure to

Read a little bit about the website’s history and designers here.

Company contact info

You can contact the company (or send feedback) to, or by friending them on Facebook and using FB contact methods.

Final thoughts

My 11-yo has enjoyed this so much that I’m considering purchasing a membership for my 9-yo, since not a day goes by without her asking “when can I play?”

Thoughts of my crew mates

To see other reviews of this product, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received one lifetime membership to the Always Icecream website at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Visual Latin (TOS Review)


Our co-op is studying more Latin this year, including the Latin translation of John 1:1 (In principio erat verbum ….).  Honestly, with the increased Latin content together with everything else we’re studying, the girls are getting a bit Latin-weary – so initially when I received Visual Latin to review for the TOS homeschool crew, I was slightly worried about how they would feel about using/reviewing another Latin product.  I worried needlessly, as they loved the video lessons.

Product Details

Visual Latin was created by two homeschooling dads – one, a Latin teacher (Dwane Thomas), the other, a producer (Thomas Purifoy, Jr.).

From the website:

Visual Latin is a rather unusual Latin curriculum. For instance, we think:

  • It’s better to make students laugh than yawn.
  • Shorter videos teach more effectively than longer ones.
  • Small successes lead to big successes.
  • Children like reading Latin more than memorizing it.

Latin 1 is the first year of Visual Latin and is intended to be taught over one school year (at approximately 1 lesson per week).  Each of the 30 lessons includes three short videos (grammar, sentences, and reading), and according to the website three .pdf worksheets (but as far as I can tell only one of the .pdfs is an actual worksheet for the students – the others are a .pdf of the answers to the student worksheet questions and a .pdf of general instructions, the latter .pdf appearing to be the same throughout all the lessons – at least that’s what we received in our download of the first 10 lessons).  You can view the Scope and Sequence for Latin 1 here.  Latin 1 is targeted for ages 9 and up. 

You can purchase Latin 1 here, either in DVD format or as digital downloads (in iTunes format).  There are many purchase options – from the entire set of 30 lessons on DVD ($80), to a download of ten lessons at a time ($25).  The DVDs can also be purchased for use in a group/class setting.

While I expected my girls to balk at yet more Latin, they actually enjoyed watching the lessons.  Dwane makes the lessons engaging and interesting, and throws in humor here and there.   The “feel” of the lessons, to me, was actual, which helped my girls not be intimidated.

See for yourself by viewing the first regular lesson (plus download the .pdf worksheet and answer key) here.

What I like

I like that Dwane uses humor in the lessons.  I’ve always said homeschooling is fun – why shouldn’t our curriculum also be fun?

Love love love the downloadable lessons.  I can load them on our iPad and we instantly have a portable Latin class!

Love the translation portion of the lessons.

I like that the lessons are “subtitled”:

Love the vocabulary reference sheets provided at no cost.

The lessons are relatively short, which works well for our family.

Dwane makes the videos fun.  And funny.  Dwane’s jokes still get a chuckle the second (or third, or fifth, or…) time around.

Latin-Sarah cropped

I wish…

There were more worksheets.  Many kids don’t like worksheets, but my girls do, and I think more worksheets (or at least a section for review worksheets, if not worksheets provided with each individual lesson) would be helpful.

Watch out for

Latin pronunciations, as there are different versions of Latin (Classical vs. Ecclesiastical).  Dwane was taught the Classical pronunciation, but attempts to use Ecclesiastical.  Be aware of the differences, so you can help your child know the correct pronunciation for the version you are learning.

Dwane doesn’t “edit” out his mistakes on the lessons. I’m torn about that – in a way I think it shows that imperfection is okay, that we’re all in the process of learning.  My only concern would be is if a child heard the error, but didn’t hear the correction.  That’s not really a problem in my house because the girls listen to the lessons repeatedly, and many times they’re parroting back what he says, but just be forewarned.

Be sure to

Check out all the free Latin resources here!

Read the what/how/why of the set-up of Visual Latin here.

Download the four introductory lessons plus two regular lessons here.

Read the company’s recommendations for using their Latin Alive here.

For an “all the specs” FAQ, click here.

If you’re interested in Latin classes with more teacher interaction, Dwane also teaches online Latin classes – for info, click here.

“Like” Visual Latin Facebook – vocabulary, jokes, Latin practice, and all-around-fun. 

Note the first ten lessons of Latin 2 are available (the lessons are numbered consecutively, so lesson one of Latin 2 is actually “lesson 31”); the remaining lessons will be released during this (2011-2012) school year.

Company contact info:

Address:  The Compass Store, 609 West Iris Drive, Nashville, Tennessee  37204


I did not see a phone number on the website.

Final thoughts

The girls and I really enjoyed  these lessons.  I plan to purchase the rest of Latin 1 for the girls to simply watch, and then after the first of the year we’ll go through and do the study sheets and really learn it.  I suspect I’ll be pleasantly surprised that they’ll learn simply by watching the videos.

Thoughts of my crew mates

To see other reviews of this product, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the first ten lessons of the product described in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sunshine and swings…


Sweet sunshine streaming through the window, beckoning us outside. We can’t resist, so we venture to the park. The air, while not yet cool-crisp, offers a pleasant respite from the 100+-degree torture of the summer.

sunshine and swings

I watch as the girls squeal in delight on the swings, an empty swing beside them taunting me. My new resolve after vacation being to “say yes more”, I say “Yes!” to the swing and join my giggling girls in the pure joy of swinging on a sunny afternoon. I am carefree, if only for a moment, relishing the delight of the day.

A beautiful afternoon making simple memories – may there be thousands more like it.