Friday, September 27, 2013

The Presidential Game (A review)

It's not every day that one runs into a game that can "make sense" of the electoral college (in as much as any sense can be made of that system ;) ). We had fun with this latest review item,  The Presidential Game. This is a board game for 2 or more players (you could have a "Campaign Team"), Republican and Democrat, and definitely for at least 11 years old, or older.

The Play

Each team has 150 "votes" (chips) to be placed on the states where they have the majority. Play is governed by chance (The roll of the dice, and draw of "politics cards"), and strategy (Whether to "campaign" or "fundraise," and which states to focus on in each activity).

Getting ready for the game...
The players decide how many turns or "weeks" the campaign will last, and the player with the highest roll goes first.
The first strategy decision, as I mentioned is whether to campaign or fundraise.

Fundraising can only happen in one of the big 4, California, Texas, Florida, and New York. If your players have the habit of forgetting, those 4 states have a "Currency" background as a reminder (nice touch!).

Now chance comes in to play, as the number of votes "won" during fundraising (or campaigning) all rest on the roll of the dice. Fundraisers must put 1/2 of the votes earned (from all three dice totaled) on the state where they did the fundraising, and the other votes can be placed on any other state, in any combination. After fundraising, another element of chance AND strategy enters, as the player draws a "politics card."

These cards have things on them like
"Your campaign plane gets grounded during a snowstorm in Montana. The local news interviews you live at the Billings Holiday Inn. Add 2 votes to Montana." or
"Your opponent's spouse is overheard telling a campaign worker that he/she can't stand seafood. Add 2 votes to Maine and 2 votes to Rhode Island"
These cards can be used at the end of your turn, or saved to be used later, after a "Campaign" turn, when politics cards are NOT drawn (part of the "strategy" involved).

Game board after a few "weeks" of play
There are a few cards that say things like "Wisconsin Teachers Union lays off 30% of its employees. Your opponent adds 2 votes to Wisconsin. Play immediately." The cards that are "play immediately" give votes to your opponent.

Campaigning can happen in any state. When campaigning the player chooses 3 states to campaign in on that turn. The dice are rolled. The player then chooses which die to allocate to which state, and places the corresponding number of chips on the state. There are other specifics to play, which are more easily explained in the directions, which can be downloaded from the FAQ page.

The game comes with scoresheets, which we found to be a little confusing. Another option is to simply add and subtract EC votes as states are won and lost, using a blank piece of paper... :)
There is also an online option, the webmap calculator (Which certainly makes "keeping score" simpler, and I highly recommend it!). The screenshot to the left is from the webmap calculator at the end of the below photographed game~ interestingly enough it was just about the exact opposite of what the states would show in real life!

The instructions suggest that a "30 week" game should take about an hour, but we found that to be rather optimistic. We found that we could only get through 13-16 weeks in an hour. Thus it has been decided that we would play for a set period of time, regardless of the number of weeks.

When you do reach the end of your agreed upon weeks (or time in our case), the states that are still neutral are decided by the roll of one die per team/state, with the highest roll winning the state.

Eldest said "I understand the Electoral College better now, but I think it is utterly ridiculous! It makes sense to me now how the states can go back and forth during a campaign, and why the big states like California are such a major focus, but in the long run, it isn't necessary to win all the big states in order to win the election (however, it does make it easier). Playing this game was stressful for me, and I don't want to ever even contemplate going into politics."

Middlest thought that the game was interesting. He learned that each state has a certain number of votes, and whichever party has the most votes in the state gets all of the EC votes, even if it is really close, with just a little over 1/2 the popular vote. He decided that "the majority rules" per state is not the fairest system, and that he would prefer to see the election run by popular vote. Unlike his sister, he didn't find the game stressful at all, and thought it was fun to play.

I found it interesting that my eldest was "Stressed" by the game, but it made sense~ while competitive by nature, she doesn't like to play a game that doesn't seem to be entirely ruled by common sense. I tend to agree with both of my children, in that this game definitely reinforced my opinion that the Electoral College is a somewhat flawed system.

I do want to make sure that it is understood that the GAME is not flawed, and is in fact a GREAT strategy game for those who enjoy that sort of political play (like myself, and apparently my middlest!). Keeping score was definitely a little confusing to start out with.

I just had a brainstorm while writing this review, so haven't had the opportunity to try it out, but think it might work well for someone with younger players~ removing one element of strategy. One could skip "keeping score" and just use the chips to keep track of the moving of votes. At the end of the game you could count the scores to see who really won. I think the kids would be surprised, based on how much color they see on the board... :)

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
A fun way to teach kids the power as well as the puzzling nature of the Electoral College.
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Homeschool Mom ~ Needs a Break?

Have you ever felt like if you didn't get a break you might expire?
photo courtesy of MG
How about getting a break, and coming home with.......this? ^

Back in March 2013 an email showed up in my inbox with a deal that sounded too good to be true. "The Landry Academy's amazing Homeschool Moms' Retreats are for the incredible all-inclusive price of only $25 - which includes 2 nights, all meals, and all sorts of science and fellowship to the glory of God!  I know... it seems to good to be true!  BUT IT IS TRUE!!  Only $25!!" 

I was certain there had to be a catch. I googled the retreats, and ended up at a post from a blogger who had attended a retreat in March. I posted on her blog, asked a few questions, and once I was convinced that this was a real deal, I signed up.... the same day, before I even spoke to my husband about it! ;) 

Fast forward to September~ I received an email, confirming my attendance, with more details~ My friend MG decided to go with me at the last minute when some spots opened up, and off we went! 

Doesn't it look delightful here? Our "Bunking Cabin" at the retreat center (Berea, in Hebron, NH) overlooked Newfound Lake. Simply lovely!  We shared our "Room" with a couple of ladies, and the room next door was populated with a friend of mine from years past with ladies from her support group/co-op. Not "luxury" accommodations, but certainly reasonable! (I understand that the newer cabins across the way didn't have the lakeview, but they DID have double sinks and radiant heat in the floors). 

 It turned out that we were sharing the retreat grounds with a group of teens from RI, but other than some rambunctiousness between 12am and 1am, and some rather loud team shouting outside our lecture space (in the chapel), we didn't really notice them that much.  
The dining hall fed us decent "Camp" food (Yummy fajitas the first night, and salad as an option for every lunch and dinner), and lit a fire at night in the Lodge for the moms to enjoy (In addition to the ping pong, pool, foosball and carpet ball tables that were there for our use). 
Now that I've talked about the "Relaxing/Retreat" aspect of the weekend, let me tell you about the Landry/Science aspect of the weekend. This is one side of the "Chapel" where we met for each session. Loads and loads of lovely ladies!
Greg Landry, of Landry Academy understands homeschooling, and homeschool moms (Since he and his wife homeschooled their two daughters) and he believes in giving back to the homeschool community. See that roasting tray? It is filled with Lindt, Ghiradelli, and Hershey Chocolates.... and there were TWO of them filled to the brim. 

But chocolate wasn't the only thing that Greg was supplying. He spent Friday, and most of Saturday giving us tips on teaching science, applying for college, and doing a variety of experiments with us~ we found out if we were "tasters" or not, did DNA extractions (using cells from our cheeks) ...
Mad Scientist look? (My DNA was NOT so towering)
Towering DNA!

We did Blood Typing

Can you figure out which card is RH-??? (hint... if you have the antibody, your blood clots, if you don't and are "negative" the blood doesn't clot) Note~ that spiral bound notebook you see is filled with pages from a variety of the Landry Science Intensive notebooks, and we didn't get to all of them, but made it through a fair number~ but when you have chatty homeschool moms in a "classroom" sometimes it's hard to reign them in from Q&A, so we weren't *quite* as productive as we might have been~ certainly not for lack of preparation by Mr. Landry! We were also provided with a pack of colored pencils for each person, because COLOR is important! :)

We even did a sheep uterus dissection (Not my favorite part, but a highlight for many~ I am refraining from posting any dissecting pictures because I don't like to look at them myself... not my forte' ... give me botany dissections any day!) 

Greg gave away at least 100 books/science supplies/kits (MG and I came home with blood typing kits so that we can type our daughters, since the doctor's offices don't do that any more...). I saw Owl Pellet dissection kits, scientific thermometers, a chocolate making kit, Keva Planks, Mento geyser kits, and books like these: 

We also were given a Landry Academy Homeschool Mom's Retreat T-shirt in a selection of colors! How fun! (And I can't believe that I didn't get any pictures of them!)

What might seem like a funny item to some ended up being one of the fondest memories~ we were all given plastic "Frog Anatomy" dissection aprons, which we were instructed to decorate with the sharpies at our tables... Sunday morning, after the presentations by Debbie Stokes (who might stoke your interest in biology and chemistry), and Julie Rapleje, who good-naturedly put up with the "gross anatomy" discussions before sharing her "Science of Color" talk (and hey! we got to use nail polish, too!), we had an "Apron Contest"

The prize for the best "apron" was the lovely Sally~ full-sized biology skeleton! Wow! And what an adventure!

Sally and her "Roomates" 
Julie Rapleje and Sally
Getting Sally to the car (She is HEAVY!)
Sally's ride home~ she even had a pillow for her head! 
On the way home we stopped at a neat little country store, and had some yummy ice cream at this stand that a few other moms had snuck out to Saturday night~

Check out the flavors! Oh MY! We tried Mixed Berry Rhubarb Sorbet (Which was really yummy!) but I ended up with Coffee and Cinnamon, and my friend MG had Ginger and Cinnamon.  Oh My! They were all scrumptious, but the Cinnamon was my favorite this day!

I hope you see how much FUN this was, AND how great the resources were, and WHAT a generous gentleman Greg Landry is. If you have the opportunity to sign up for one of these, you can right here... Landry Academy Mom's Science Retreats (Scroll way down the page to find the open locations). I'm here to tell you that this is for REAL ($25 covers a full weekend away, meals included, giveaways for everyone, great science tips, fun and fellowship with other homeschool moms... AMAZING!)! No "Selling" of anything, but the offer to sign up for lessons at a greatly reduced rate for retreat attendees.


Disclaimer~ this was a totally unsolicited review of my weekend at a Landry Academy Homeschool Mom's Science Retreat. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rich Autumn Chili (Recipe)

Impromptu posting of a "Throw-it-together" meal I made tonight~ since my husband declared it "Quite possibly the best chili you've ever made" and every single person in the house enjoyed eating it, I decided to put the ingredients down in a post. When I make it again, I will try to remember to take pictures during the process to add in.

In the meantime, here is the finished product:


  • 2 Tbs olive oil
Add and saute' on low heat

  • 1 onion (chopped~ small dice) (for 10-15 minutes~ till very soft)

Add and continue to saute' (For another 10 minutes or so)

  • 2 stalks celery (chopped)
  • 4 carrots (very small dice)

Make a large well in the veggies and drop in

  • 1 box of frozen chopped spinach (Sneaky nutrition!) 
Cover for 9-12 minutes (Flipping the frozen block over every 3 minutes)

Mix the defrosted spinach into the rest of the veggies
Make another large well in the middle of the vegetables and plop in

  • 1 container of ground turkey (1.25 lb) 
  • 1 Tbs Worcester sauce
  • 1 tsp cumin (optional)
  • 1-2 Tbs chili powder (to taste)
  • 2-3 "shakes" of Mrs. Dach Southwest Chipotle seasoning
  • 2 shakes of Lowry's seasoned salt
Stir the seasonings into the meat in the middle of the pot (Keeping the veggies mostly to the sides of the pan), and brown the turkey. Then pour into the center of the turkey
  • 1 cup of red wine
When the meat is somewhat "soupy" go ahead and mix the veggies from the sides into the meat mixture. Add
  • 1 jar of tomato sauce (we used Newman's Own "natural" Tomato and Basil)
  • 1 can of hominy
  • 1 can of black olives (chopped)
Bring all of the above to boil, and then let simmer for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors meld. 

Serve with optional sliced avocado, sour cream, cheese and eat with chips.

For the sake of Menu Monday:
Monday~ Rich Autumn Chili
Tuesday~ BBQ Pizza (Leftovers from Sunday)
Wednesday~ Pasta with Sausage
Thursday~ (TBD~ Birthday boy gets to choose!)
Friday~ might be going out to dinner(!)


Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Story of Ping~ Art ~ Wordless Wednesday

My youngest started his 

very last first time 
rowing a Five In A Row book this week~
"The Story of Ping" by Marjorie Flack, 
illustrated by Kurt Wiese

Here is his artwork, using colored pencils to illustrate reflection and motion on the water:
(Semi-"Wordless" Wednesday~ visit other Wordless Wednesday posts)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

PeopleKeys (Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook)

We were recently given the opportunity to use a resource from PeopleKeys , the Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook. This is a part of the Student Keys Binder package, which includes this workbook, along with 5 others. The purpose of these workbooks is to help students (and adults) identify strengths and weaknesses in their preferences in personality, thinking, learning, and values, and more (You can read more about the complete Binder at the PeopleKeys website, as well as clicking through to the TOS Reviews from the banner at the end of this post).

Because I have two children who fall into the right age range, we decided to go through the workbook together, and just use notebook paper to answer the questions that help to pinpoint their dominant style of thinking (We didn't copy any pages, as they are copyrighted). I decided to answer the questions as well, just out of curiosity.

The booklet starts with a series of descriptions. There are 4 possibilities per line, which must be labeled as "most like" to "least like" your feelings or thinking process. When you have completed assigning the 32 descriptions a number, the columns are added up, and you will be able to discover your dominant thinking style~ whether you are:

  • Literal
  • Intuitive
  • Theoretical
  • Experiential

Once those determinations are made, you can "Chart" your thinking styles, and then read on the next few pages information that will help you to identify and work with your specific strengths and weaknesses.

We charted our family's scores (minus youngest) in different colors. it was very interesting to see where each person fell on the chart.

Eldest had the most definite trait that was least like her (she scored 12 on Experiential), however, this was her brother's dominant trait. She was fairly well pegged as a Literal Theoretical, and I was fairly close to that, as is her father.

As we were reading through some of the descriptions, characteristics, and strengths of the various types, my daughter and I were struck with the thought that we were reading about her BFF's dominant thinking style (Which is the opposite of her own). We decided to ask she and her mom the same set of questions, and sure enough, we had her pegged. It was very interesting however, that I didn't have a definitive feeling about her mom, whose answers ended up putting her even more highly in the same category as her daughter as an intuitive thinker.

This was a "fun" exercise, but the workbook goes further than that. There are lists that identify where your thinking style excels, what you might have difficulties with, and how you work in a group. There are also some learning strategies that may help you to capitalize on your thinking style strengths.

The last two pages are a "Wrap up" filled with questions that might help your student really examine the information received through the workbook, and relate it to his or herself. For instance, one questions asks the student to identify their strengths in a group project as well as noting where their individual thinking might be limited, among others.

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
I think the Cognitive Thinking Style Workbook is an entertaining AND interesting tool to help your student get to know his or herself better. While my eldest really didn't enjoy answering the questions and had a hard time with them(which actually jives with her thinking style, so I wasn't surprised), when she was finished she enjoyed hearing some concrete concepts that helped to explain why she thinks the way she does.

Beyond the educational tips and strategies, I also feel that learning about the other thinking styles can help us to be more considerate and compassionate towards those who don't think the same way. God created each of us with our own unique way of seeing, thinking, and learning, and if we have a better handle on some of the differences, we can focus on each other's strengths, and help to minimize the weaknesses.
Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about this workbook, as well as others, including the complete student keys binder. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.




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