HP Deskjet 3052A Printer Review and Give Away! Birthday Give Away #1!

On October 6, 2012, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

With our homeschool back in full swing, it was the perfect time to have an opportunity to test the HP Deskjet 3052A All-in-One Printer. I’ve kept it humming, printing Algebra exams and multiplication tests, as well as making posters and worksheets.  Whatever your printing needs, it will be hard to find a simpler to use, [...]

With our homeschool back in full swing, it was the perfect time to have an opportunity to test the HP Deskjet 3052A All-in-One Printer. I’ve kept it humming, printing Algebra exams and multiplication tests, as well as making posters and worksheets.  Whatever your printing needs, it will be hard to find a simpler to use, more affordable printer that does EVERYTHING!  I own two other HP printers, a laser jet that is nearly 15 years old and still going strong, and a PhotoJet for printing extraordinary snapshots and portraits.  The Deskjet 3052A is the perfect addition to the family for everyday color printing needs and I have enjoyed putting it to the test.

HP printer

The HP 3052A All-In-One printer, we reviewed, and what was included in the box.

Everything I have printed, with the exception of one photo of our granddaughter, so far, has been printed just using everyday, normal settings and produced excellent quality with vivid and “true” colors.  The speed has also been about average — no lagging or slow down that I have noted.  Normal everyday settings, meaning I am getting about 5.5 pages per minute (ppm) with black ink and 4 ppm with color, have been perfect.  I am very pleased with print quality.  On the best quality settings, which I tested for that photo of our granddaughter, you can achieve near-laser quality prints with the 3052A and still hit speeds comparable to other printers on the market — hanging in there at the same as for normal printing — 5.5 ppm with black ink and 4 ppm with color.  Printing in draft mode is another money-saving option and, not only conserves ink, but speeds up your print output to 20 ppm with black and 16 ppm with color.  The printer can print in a quality up to 4800 x 1200 optimized dpi from 1200 dpi input data.  That’s extraordinary from an inexpensive deskjet!  (It’s only $69 at walmart.com, right now!)  Plus, it has a monthly duty cycle that can handle about 1,000 pages per month.  While it’s not the workhorse that my laser is (with a 20,000 pages per month duty cycle), it’s more than adequate for school, family or home office use.

hooking up printer

The 3052A is simple to set up and I had it running just minutes after taking it out of the box. Just plug in the power cable and then...

 

turn on power

Press the power button on the simple, digital display panel.

 

open paper catch

Open the paper catch tray, laying it flat so you can reach in and access the...

 

opening ink cover

door that covers the ink cartridge holder. The printer will automatically advance the cartridge holder into position, so you can easily install the ink.

Besides school printing, I am loving the HP Deskjet 3052A for my home office needs and for some specialty printing that saves our family money.  I have printed a custom-designed Christmas card using the Greeting Card Factory software included with my printer, as well as schedules, shopping lists, Bible study notes, letterhead for the blog and more.  I have used the 3052A to make copies and I even sent a photo, snapped with my phone, straight to the printer for printing — mm..hmm, straight from the phone.  No computer “middle-man”.  Sweet!  The other cool feature is the e-Print mobile printing option.  Print from anywhere.  If you can email it, you can print from this printer, no matter where you are.

ink for HP 3052A

The printer uses a black cartridge and a tri-color cartridge.

 

install ink

Remove the tape from the new cartridge and insert into the printer.

 

ink in the printer

Install both cartridges and close the ink cartridge door. Then you're ready to calibrate everything and start printing.

It doesn’t matter where in the house I have it set up, because it runs wirelessly on our home network. (It can also be attached to the computer with an included USB cable, if you don’t have wireless compatibility at home.)  It’s light weight and effortless to move from spot to spot, if I need to change things up.  It is Energy Star Certified and made from 25% post-consumer recycled products.  HP also has a fantastic ink cartridge recycling program, so they really have made an excellent effort to not only keep this printer affordable, but environmentally friendly.

card software

My printer came with a CD for Greeting Card Factory.

 

card

I used the software to customize and print a Christmas card. Think of all the fantastic greeting card options you'd have. Never have to drop what you're doing and run to the store for that card you forgot or spend the outrageous prices they charge for greeting cards, now. This is a great frugal option!

 

math book

I was able to make copies of exams for our homeschool Math lessons.

 

exam

The math exam copy, ready to hand to my student. I can't tell you how many times I have needed a copy machine and had to stop and run to the store, to make a quick copy. This is such a time saver and an equal quality print!

The only thing I am somewhat concerned about, over the long term, is how durable the printer will be.  It is all plastic and very lightweight, which makes it easy to move around, but I’m concerned that the extender for the paper tray would be fairly simple to snap off if someone was careless about bumping into it or too rough when they were moving it in and out.  Only time will tell how the tray holds up.  Otherwise, I have absolutely no reservations about this printer.  It and it’s ink cartridges and accessories are easy to find at Walmart, so I never even have to leave town to get supplies.

printer options

I also selected a photo of my granddaughter saved on my computer and chose the options for printing it on plain old printer paper.

 

printing lydia's photo

The photo printed on high quality printing options, but plain paper. It was pretty speedy for a color print!

 

photo

The final photo, even though it was on regular printer paper, was very clear and had great color! I was definitely pleased!

The last feature I have pictures of, and was excited to share with you, is the option to print straight from my mobile phone or tablet.  To do this I downloaded the HP ePrint app for my phone (android) and selected a photo from the album on the phone and printed it.  1-2-3!  Simple and perfect!  I love this option!

ePrint

Downloading the ePrint app for my phone.

 

phone picture

I grabbed a picture I had snapped on my recent Avengers shop and sent it to the printer to be printed.

 

phone pic printing

Voila! If I were better at taking pictures with my regular camera, you would see that the photo from my phone printed crisp, clear and full of beautifully brilliant color.

 

I’m excited about the potential the printer offers with the holidays fast approaching.  It will be perfect for everything from gift tags, jar labels for homemade canned goods, recipe cards, custom printed calendars or memory books, cards and so much more.  I’m sure I’ll have opportunities to use it for decorating, as well as gift making and YOU could use it to make an affordable DIY holiday season for your family, too!  Check it out on walmart.com.

When I first accepted this post and review opportunity, it was to host a party for a few friends and let them see all the great features of this printer and pass out the favors that HP and Walmart supplied for each of them.  Since my husband’s recent hospitalization and health problems have made it difficult to throw a party, here, I opted to share my party with all of you friends and spread the word even further!  And to top it off, since it’s Busy-at-Home’s third birthday, we’re going to kick off the celebration by giving away one of these HP 3052A printers!  Be sure to enter, below!  You might be the drawing winner and have one of these awesome all-in-one printers to get creative with for the holidays!

GIVEAWAY RULES:

Winner must reside in the US and be 18 or older.  The mandatory entry must be completed, before any optional entries will be counted.

Mandatory Entry:  Leave a comment on this post telling me the first project you would use your new All-in-One printer for, if you are the winner.  Then use the Rafflecopter  form to register your entry!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I received an HP 3052A printer and promotional items in order to to test the printer in my own home office and collect data for this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.  The guest favor items furnished by Walmart and HP are making the printer giveaway possible.

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Back-to-School with my Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator

On August 21, 2012, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

The timing couldn’t be better for my review of the Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator.  We kicked off the new homeschool year, this week, and I’ve already put the easy-to-use laminator to good use.  Previously, laminating a sheet for lessons meant that I had to wrestle long, unwieldy sheets of clear contact paper, hope to apply it without [...]

The timing couldn’t be better for my review of the Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator.  We kicked off the new homeschool year, this week, and I’ve already put the easy-to-use laminator to good use.  Previously, laminating a sheet for lessons meant that I had to wrestle long, unwieldy sheets of clear contact paper, hope to apply it without bubbles or wrinkles and then flip the project, hoping to do the same thing to the back side.  Needless to say, the results were often less than professional and sometimes required starting the project over.

Fellowes laminator

My new Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator - Absolutely LOVE how it's speeding up my back-to-school tasks!

Numerous times throughout our school year, I will print sheets or cards that will be used multiple times in the course of a project or unit. Rather than having to reprint them each time I need one or because they were damaged in some way, I prefer to increase their durability and usefulness by laminating them.  This is great for things like maps, preposition lists, spelling rules, flash cards, times table sheets, paragraph writing examples, schedules, etc. Another cool thing about laminated sheets is that you can use dry erase markers on them. This is the perfect solution for handwriting practice!  The same sheets can be used over and over, again, to master letter formations.

peeling laminating sheet

It's easy to use the laminating sheets. They are sealed at one end and open on the other three sides.

 

laminating sheet sealed end

Peel it back and arrange your product, smoothing it back into place over your project by starting from the sealed end. You will load the project into your laminator, sealed end first.

 

select

By selecting the correct laminating sheet thickness, and depressing that button, the laminator will begin heating up. The LED light blinks until the heat-up is complete. Then the machine beeps and the light stops blinking. It's ready to load.

It was no surprise as we got busy with our first day of work, that I already had a sheet that needed some reinforcement.  The program I use for grammar starts the year by having the kids memorize a list of  prepositions.  Once they’ve mastered the list, it’s easy to break down the structure of a sentence, eliminating the prepositions and their phrases to find the core grammatical elements of that sentence. The trick, though, is mastering that list of prepositions.  Rather than putting up a wall chart or having them flip back to the front of their book, each time they want to check and be sure, I simply print out the list, one time, and laminate it.  They keep the list with their school books and we get a full year of use from that one sheet.

loading laminating sheet

I inserted the laminating sheet into the appliance, sealed-side first, and it began to auto-feed through.

 

It was the perfect test for the Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator.  The unit required no special setup.  It was as simple as removing it from the box and plugging it in.  I can heat laminate using either a 3 mil thickness or 5 mil thickness laminating sheet, meaning I have choices about how stiff I want the finished project to be.  Also, the laminator can take projects up to 9 1/2″ wide and has Heat Guard Technology, which allows all the heat to be contained inside the walls of the well-insulated laminator.  I love that it is safe to use and have around even with the grandkids in the house.  I don’t have to worry about curious fingers being burned.

eject

In only a matter of seconds, the sheet was ejected from the back of the laminator, perfectly sealed much more sturdy than when I had fed it through. Perfect!

Another great feature is the Release Lever, that allows me to make last-minute adjustments or to straighten a project that wasn’t loaded properly and so caused a jam.  The controls are simple.  Use the power button to turn the machine on.  Wait for it to heat, which is indicated by a blinking green LED light and then, and when the light stops blinking, the unit beeps, and you are ready to laminate. Simply select the thickness of the laminating sheets you will be using and then load the sealed side of the project into the appliance. Your laminated item will eject from the back of the unit, fully sealed and protected.

list

Beautifully laminated, protected and ready for a year of use in our homeschool grammar class.

Laminating using the Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator was so fast and easy, I NEVER want to go back to messing with contact paper!  I’m hooked and I can think of dozens of new ways to use it.  Crafts, dry-erase calendar sheets, flash cards, dry-erase grocery lists, chore charts, preserving artwork, report covers and so much more.  I’m on a laminating “roll” and thanks to Fellowes, Busy-at-Home readers can be, too!  You’ll SAVE $30 when you start preserving and protecting your own projects with the Fellowes Saturn2 95 Laminator. From now through August 25th, use the PROMO CODE: 87298, at staples.comto receive $30 off your online purchase!

cleaning page

A cleaning sheet was included in the package of laminating pockets. After a heated lamination, the sheet is run through to make sure no glue residue or other debris is left on the rollers.

I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of Fellowes and received a product sample to facilitate my review.  No monetary compensation was received.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.

Creating a History Timeline Notebook

On April 21, 2012, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

One of the challenges, with teaching children, is to find a way to help them digest, organize and retain information.  Over our two decades of homeschooling, I’ve learned that one way to be successful at that is to be sure your students experience the information in several different ways.  Allow them not just to read [...]

timeline

Our US History Timeline Notebook

One of the challenges, with teaching children, is to find a way to help them digest, organize and retain information.  Over our two decades of homeschooling, I’ve learned that one way to be successful at that is to be sure your students experience the information in several different ways.  Allow them not just to read it, but provide opportunities to also hear it and to “put their hands in it”, too.  History, in particular, lends itself well to these methods of learning.  Besides reading the textbook, be sure your students have a chance to meet great men and women of history and to be introduced to pivotal events in biographies, autobiographies and historical fiction.  There are fabulous audio recordings that narrate archeological digs, bring historical stories to life or present music from a particular culture, era or genre.  Children can recite poetry and famous speeches or addresses.  “Putting their hands in it” relates more to hands-on projects that help to solidify a student’s understanding of the material.  It can be anything from preparing a recipe, writing a report, drawing an illustration, sculpting a replica of a famous statue, acting out a historical event or building a model of an important piece of architecture.  The possibilities are as limitless as your imagination.  And their is scientific evidence to show that when a student kinesthetically (touches, feels, put’s their hands in it) experiences information at the same time that they are hearing or seeing it, new synapses (connectors) are formed in the brain, expanding thinking and retention power, as information can move even more quickly from one neuron to the next, with the new connections that are made.  One of the most common examples I can think of is teaching a child to write letters by speaking the letter names out loud, while tracing them in sand.  They experience the letter by seeing it’s form being shaped, hearing it’s name pronounced and feeling it drawn in the sand.  This multi-sensory approach is a great brain-builder.  It also makes learning, so much more fun!

marker display

I picked up some Elmer's Painters markers at Walmart, to help out with this project.

I have always enjoyed helping our kids create history timelines for this same reason.  They remember the important people and dates so much easier when they experience them in so many different ways.  When our older girls were young, our history timelines were art masterpieces that ended up circling the entire perimeter of our dining room.  Each new picture moved forward in history, highlighting a significant event or person and allowing them to engage their creative, artistic sides.  I wanted to give our youngest a similar experience, but have the timeline confined to a space smaller than an entire dining room.  :)   I decided to help her create a Timeline Notebook and I’m excited about the potential.  She will literally be able to continue adding pages, all the way through high school, as her studies expand and go more indepth.

grocery cart

Our ten-year-old couldn't wait to get checked out and head home to test these markers.

Of course the most exciting thing, for her, is the artistic and creative aspect of it.  I’m excited because she can’t help but learn, as she enjoys the projects that she will work on.  As she gets older, she will appreciate history, its significance and her place in it, a little more than she does now, at age 10.  Then this book will be a treasure of memories and information.

A few of the items you will need to make your own History Timeline Notebook

To create your own History Timeline Notebook, you’ll only need a few simple supplies and you’ll probably have most of them on hand, at home.

  1. a three ring binder (I would recommend a 1 ½” or 2″, if you plan to continue adding pages over several years.  If you grab one that has the plastic sleeve on the front, it’s so much easier to add a nice cover.)
  2. 8½ x 11 cardstock (something you can run through your printer.  I prefer the heavier weight, so we can cover both sides without any bleed-through.)
  3. markers (I like Elmer’s Painters Markersfor this kind of project.  They are so much easier to control than paint and a brush; and the vibrant colors are fade resistant and permanent.)

    Elmers markers

    This is our collection. They're great for outlining and filling in all kinds of projects.

  4. scissors
  5. a ruler
  6. pencils, pens and colored pencils
  7. glue and/or tape or even some Elmer’s Glue Spots
  8. a three-hole punch
  9. your computer printer

To really boost enthusiasm, it’s always fun to allow students to begin by creating a cover for their notebook.  Our first notebook will be for United States History, so we thought an American flag would be a colorful and symbolic cover.

Sketch out your design, lightly on a piece of cardstock, making sure you have all your outlines where you want them.  We made the 13 stripes of our American flag 1/2″ thick, so we carefully plotted marks to create those lines, first.

dotted lines

Dots, evenly spaced, to help create the lines for the stripes on the flag.

Knowing that the field of blue was the height of the first seven stripes, we drew the six bottom stripes across the entire sheet.

bottom

Six bottom stripes for our flag notebook cover.

Then we drew a vertical line from the top of the page to the top of that sixth stripe from the bottom, which created the border for the field of blue.

border

The vertical line creates a boundary for the field of blue in the flag.

After that we could sketch in the remaining seven stripes and are ready to add some color.

sketch complete

Completed rough sketch for flag.

Outlining the individual color shapes before filling them in with Elmer’s Painters Markers, made it easier to keep the color where we wanted it.   (Elmer’s Paint Markersare acrylic paint.  They can also be used on wood, plastic, clay, glass, metal, foam board, fabric, and terra cotta. They are permanent, streak free, non-toxic and acid free, plus they’re available in fine and medium point, as well as with a calligraphy tip.)

blue fill

The field of blue, completely painted in and ready dry.

We filled in the field of blue and left it to dry while we moved to another area of the flag.  Another reason I love Elmer’s Painters Markers is that once the paint is dry, another color can be laid in over the top of the last, without the colors mixing or bleeding into one another.  That will make adding stars over the blue, super simple, later.

Next, we outlined and filled in the seven red stripes, starting with the top stripe and ending with the very bottom.

outline

Red stripe outlined.

After the stripes were filled, we were ready to add stars over our field of blue.  It wasn’t easy drawing tiny white stars with a medium point marker, but we managed by making small dots and then dragging tiny bits of paint from the center of the dot out in five different directions.  Though we didn’t space them very well (Epic mom fail!) and weren’t able to get all 50 stars on our flag, she’ll never forget that there are 50 or why, since that was a prominent point of our discussion as we created them.  We left our white stars to dry and started on the first page of our timeline.

stripes done

Making progress. All stripes are filled in and we've started adding white stars over the blue paint. Once the white stars are dry, we use the silver metallic calligraphy marker to outline them.

I created a timeline page template to use and converted it to a pdf file for you, so you can download it and print your own, if you like.  I like that we will be able to print additional pages, as we go, and add new ones each year.

pages

The timeline page template I created. Feel free to download it for your own use.

While we waited for the stars to dry, we got started on some timeline pages.  First, I three-hole punched all the template pages we printed.  Then I used the Elmer’s Calligraphy Painters Markers to start adding dates to the hash lines.

dated
On the first two pages I used a 50 year span on the dates, since there were fewer items to include. As we moved into the next pages, the span between dates is only 20 years, which created more room to fit everything into it’s proper time span.

We added some illustrations to the timeline, using the Elmer’s Painters markers.  The first illustration was of Columbus’ sea voyage.  While we waited for his sails to dry, we had the bright idea to make a sphere of green and blue dots, swirl them and create an “Earth”.  We would use that to depict Magellan’s trip around the world.

circumvent
Our illustrations in progress.

With the addition of a couple of mini-reports we typed up from information in our textbook, we completed the first page of our timeline.  We know two important dates and several things about two important men in history, as well as their sea voyages.

finished

Our first finished timeline page.

The cover is completely dry now and ready to be slipped into the plastic sleeve on the front of the notebook.

book front
Sliding the cover into the plastic pocket on the front of the notebook.

I want to give you one more idea for a timeline page, so you don’t think there’s only one way to make them.  I hope you will get creative and add all kinds of interesting things to your timeline.  I know we will add report pages and recipes with pictures of our student baking them.  We’ll also include pictures of any other projects she does and slip them in next to the appropriate dates.  In the meantime, here’s what we did with the second page.

page 2

With more items to include, we wrote the event on the hashtags of the timeline across the top of the page and then added illustrations and reports to help remember them. This page illustrates the colonization of Jamestown, the landing of the Pilgrims in America and the formation of the Massachusetts Bay Company and a map of the area it controlled.

This is going to be a fun, ongoing project that I can work on with our daughter.  It’s a great way to compile a lot of information in a compact amount of space.  Years from now, I think she’ll enjoy looking back through it and remembering the times we worked on it together; and I know it will help her to retain the important facts from history that we are teaching her.

What creative ideas do you use to encourage your students to learn and remember what they’ve been taught?  Do they like hands-on projects to solidify the concepts and information in their mind?  Leave a comment and share your ideas, so we can all benefit from your thoughts.

 I am a member of the Collective Bias™ Social Fabric® Community.  This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias™. #CBias #SocialFabric” @GlueNGlitter  I purchased Elmer’s Painters Markers in order to test them on this project.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own and based on my personal experience with the product.

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Scrabble Turbo Slam Review & Giveaway : a Mom Favorite, for Fun & for School! @familygamenight

On September 22, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

This is not your grandma’s Scrabble.  It’s fast-paced fun and an excellent tool for helping kids to understand phonics and spelling.   Whether we are using it as a board game, just for fun, or as a tool during a homeschool Language Arts lesson, this excellent game from Hasbro is a Top Ten pick for this [...]

This is not your grandma’s Scrabble.  It’s fast-paced fun and an excellent tool for helping kids to understand phonics and spelling.   Whether we are using it as a board game, just for fun, or as a tool during a homeschool Language Arts lesson, this excellent game from Hasbro is a Top Ten pick for this mama!  I love, love, love everything about it.  How do I love it?  Let me count the ways :) :

game

Scrabble Turbo Slam from Hasbro.

  1. It is compact and self-contained.  This little powerhouse of learning fun is only 7 ½” x 3 ¼” and it’s less than 2″ high.  It will fit in the glove compartment, your purse, the drawer of your side table or any other small out of the way space you can imagine.  It has a built-in drawer that holds everything you need to play the game — the cards.  No big, awkward cardboard boxes to fall apart–no ten thousand tiny pieces to keep track of and suck up in the vacuum after the box has fallen apart. Scrabble Turbo Slam has a durable, hard plastic case that IS the game and CONTAINS the game.  Perfection!

    game drawer

    The handy pull out drawer latches tight enough to not just fall open as the game is being carried, but is still easy to open and remove the cards. A game that has built-in storage is top-notch in my book.

  2. The game is simple to play and involves just enough “technology” and action to keep students interested.  Plus, games don’t last longer than the attention-span of the players.  You can start and finish a game in one sitting and do it comfortably.
  3. I can use it as a teaching tool in our school lessons, following the game rules, or just using the cards to reinforce reading, phonics and spelling concepts.
  4. The game is inexpensive.  It comes in at only $14.95 on Amazon and my guess is you will see great bargains on it, as the holidays approach.
  5. Visit the Family Game Night page to print coupons worth $80 off various Hasbro games.  You can save $5 off Scrabble Turbo Slam.  That’s a fabulous, frugal deal for hours of family fun and learning!
  6. Family members of all ages can play together.
  7. It is totally portable.  This will be a great way to pass the time and keep up on a little schoolwork as we make a long roadtrip in October.

 

To play the game, four cards are laid on the table, spelling out any random word desired.  The rest of the cards are dealt out evenly amongst the players.  Press the button on the game console and raucous game play begins!  Playing only one card at a time, each player changes a letter to make a new word, calling out the word as they do.  There is no waiting for turns.  Players play their cards as quickly as possible, making new words and emptying their hands.  The player to use all their cards, first, is the winner.

The electronic console allows for a few game twists along the way.  A loud signal buzzes at random intervals and the first player to hit the Turbo Slam button, draws an action card that can have them getting rid of cards or gaining cards.  There is background music available, as well, which can be completely shut off. Players can challenge a word, just like in regular Scrabble and even consult a dictionary if they aren’t sure.

With or without the console, these double-sided playing cards (They have a different letter on each side.) are a phenomenal tool for teaching!  They can be used to teach phonics blends and short words to beginning readers, even in short three-letter words.

spell cat

Practice rhyming words, phonics blends and three-letter words for reading and spelling with beginning readers.

four letters

Four-letter words are recommended for game play with the electronic console.

 

We easily use the game cards for spelling and vocabulary practice with five or more cards.  Watch how easily changing one letter makes a new word.  Suddenly, spelling doesn’t seem as complicated and new vocabulary will be more readily recognized in reading, when students have spelled it out and manipulated it in this game.  They see the cards (visual learning), they hear the word spoken (auditory learning), they change the cards (kinesthetic learning).  Each of these actions helps to “cement” what is being learned into memory.  Perfect!

first word

Start with any word or even a specific word from your spelling list.

second word

Scare becomes SHARE, which is easily changed to...

third word

SHIRE, which becomes...

fourth word

SHIRT. Now change one letter and you've gone from SCARE to...

fifth word

SHORT in just five individual letter changes.

One of you awesome readers is going to win a Scrabble Turbo Slam for your own family.  Just enter the giveaway, below, for your chance to win.

Giveaway Rules:

You must be 18 or older and a resident of the U.S. to enter.   Mandatory Entry must be completed before any optional entries will count.   Winner will be selected in a random drawing using random.org.  Deadline to enter is midnight, (CST), Sunday, October 9, 2011.

Mandatory Entry:

In a comment below, tell me your very favorite Hasbro Game.  (You can use the link to get a list to choose from.)

Optional Additional Entries:

  1. Like Hasbro Games (Family Game Night) on Facebook.  Leave a comment below with your Facebook name to let me know you’ve done it.
  2. Follow Hasbro Games (Family Game Night) on Twitter.  Leave a comment below with your Twitter handle to let me know you’ve done it.
  3. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  4. Like Busy-at-Home on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  5. Follow Busy-at-Home on Google Friends Connect.  (click the JOIN button in the right-hand sidebar.) Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  6. Subscribe to the Busy-at-Home Newsletter with this link or in the right-hand sidebar.  You will receive an email confirmation with a link that must be clicked to confirm your subscription.  Once you click the email link to confirm your subscription, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve done it.
  7. Tweet this giveaway (maximum of 1x per day, please).  Win Scrabble Turbo Slam! Technology meets board game = family fun & education with a twist! @busyathome @familygamenight  http://ow.ly/6z6fL Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.
  8. Post this giveaway on your Facebook pageWin Scrabble Turbo Slam! Technology meets board game = family fun & education with a twist! @busyathome @familygamenight  http://ow.ly/6z6fL  Leave a comment below with a link to your post.

I received Scrabble Turbo Slam, in order to test it and complete this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.

Complete Idiot’s Guide to U.S. History vs US History for Dummies: A U.S. History Resource Challenge PLUS a 50% Discount for Busy-at-Home Readers!

On September 21, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

As a history buff and homeschool mom, this challenge was definitely perfect for me!  I got to review two different U.S. History resources, compare and contrast them and decide which one I liked best.  Interestingly enough, I had never used either the Dummies Guides or the Complete Idiot’s Guides for any topic, prior to this [...]

As a history buff and homeschool mom, this challenge was definitely perfect for me!  I got to review two different U.S. History resources, compare and contrast them and decide which one I liked best.  Interestingly enough, I had never used either the Dummies Guides or the Complete Idiot’s Guides for any topic, prior to this comparison, so it truly was a “blind” test.

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I have taught my kids to be “aware” when they read or research any subject, but especially history, of the author’s worldview and the source documents from which they obtained the information they are writing about.  The further an author gets from the original source documents, the greater the chance for error; and even if the author has all the correct information, their personal worldview can have an impact on the way they interpret it.  It will come as no surprise, then, that the first thing I looked for in each book was a bibliography.  I was curious to know from where each of the authors had sourced their information.  I was more than just a little surprised that neither book contained one and so my expectation was that sources would be footnoted throughout the texts.  Again, I was disappointed by both books.  Further investigation provided “disclaimers”, at the front of both titles, declaring that the books were the opinions and ideas of the author and that no liability could be assumed for the accuracy or use of the information they contained.  To say that understanding this disturbing information,  set the tone for my review, would be a wholly accurate statement.

Since I was no longer evaluating the books from the perspective of documented, verifiable faithfulness to historical accuracy, I compared them on these basic criteria:

  1. Commonly accepted historical fact
  2. Organizational style/ layout of text
  3. Ease of finding desired information
  4. Quantity of details and information included

 U.S. History for Dummies is written chronologically and divided into time period sections, as you would expect.  However, the writing style and details draw the reader in, much like a novel.  It lays out many more descriptive details and, in modern parlance, engages the reader in a “story”.  This text also includes many vignettes, in gray boxes scattered across pages, introducing characters, quotes and little known facts or events that are often overlooked in other studies of history.  With the understanding mentioned previously about lack of documentation, U.S. History for Dummies, trends along the commonly accepted views on American history.  It has both a detailed Table of Contents and Index, making it easy to quickly find specific topics of interest, and though it has done a good job of weaving events into a readable “story”, each independent section easily stands on its own when you want to focus on an individual subject.  An average middle-school student should have no difficulty with the reading level.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History is more reminiscent of a History textbook in it’s layout, and again, I found that the reading level should pose no problems for the average middle school student.  Like U.S. History for Dummies, the author is descriptive in his details, hinting at his own personal opinions and worldview in the light in which he presents the facts.  Given the disclaimers at the beginning of each book, this came as no surprise.  The content is comparable to the Dummie’s Guide, highlighting commonly accepted historical data in chronological fashion.  The Complete Idiots’s Guide to American History also contains boxed vignettes, sprinkled throughout the text, highlighting lesser known figures and events and lending interest to the story.  There were two features distinctive only to the Idiot’s Guide, however, that I liked.

  1. Vocabulary – Throughout the book, small boxes titled, “What’s the Word”, pop up with definitions and explanations of terms that are used in the text and may otherwise be unfamiliar to younger readers.
  2. Each chapter concludes with a section called, “The Least You Should Know”, highlighting the main points, events, people and dates from that chapter.  This brief summary is a good refresher for what came before and solidifies the highlights in a reader’s mind.

Given that the two books were, for the most part, equal in content and easy to navigate, those two extra points would probably cause me to select The Complete Idiot’s Guide to American History, were I to make a purchase.

I really enjoyed the opportunity to compare these two books and the best part is I get to pass along some savings if you would like to do the same.  You will be able to save 50% off one order of regularly priced books by using Coupon Code CIGBlog11, at Idiot’s Guides.com.  The discount code is good through October 31, so pull out that Christmas list and order all the titles you will need at one time, to maximize your savings.  They have a selection that covers a myriad of different interests and learning needs.  That’s a fantastic savings and perfect timing if there are titles that would fit someone on your Christmas list.  Enjoy!

I received copies of both books, named above, in order to compare them and write this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.

Steps 4 Kids to Multiply: Review and Giveaway for Back-to-School Roundup

On August 10, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

In October, last year, I shared our introduction to the Steps 4 Kid’s company and their excellent Handwriting DVD’s.  We have had such a positive experience with the handwriting DVD’s and will continue to use them for practice sessions, this school year.  So, you can imagine that I was thrilled with the opportunity to work [...]

In October, last year, I shared our introduction to the Steps 4 Kid’s company and their excellent Handwriting DVD’s.  We have had such a positive experience with the handwriting DVD’s and will continue to use them for practice sessions, this school year.  So, you can imagine that I was thrilled with the opportunity to work with the company, again, reviewing their Multiplication DVD.

multiplication DVD

Steps 4 Kids to Multiply doesn’t bog down the teacher or the student with the need for lots of gizmos and gadgets.  It teaches multiplication facts and rules the way they were taught when our educational system was strong in the U.S.  I love that they understand children learn best when we give them the respect not to dumb things down or convolute the process with new “methods” or expensive and unnecessary extras.  The Step 4 Kids to Mulitply DVD program does exactly what you would expect.  It teaches the multiplication facts, from zero through twelve, and the mathematical rules for the zero property, the identity property, the commutative property, and the associative property.  Students learn to use a times table to check the accuracy of their work.  They also practice the facts in both horizontal and vertical styles, to become familiar with both.

The DVD also provides teacher helps and ideas for helping your math students succeed, plus an entire section on special math shortcuts and tricks.  Some of the shortcuts were familiar, but some were new and even I learned some exciting new ways to speed through certain multi-digit multiplication problems. Throughout the DVD, special clues and tips to help students multiply are incorporated.  Some are as simple as looking at the times table and recognizing that all the multiples of 6 are even numbers, while others provide an actual shortcut method to the answer, for instance being able to multiply any number (even multiple digit numbers) by eleven with an excellent shortcut!

The audio on the DVD is great; and the visuals are engaging enough to hold a student’s attention without distracting them from the task at hand.  Set up to be done as individual lessons, the DVD is not meant to be watched in a single sitting.  It is recommended that students proceed through one multiple at a time until they have mastered it and then move on to the next.  The recommended order for teaching the multiplications facts is: 0′s, 1′s, 10′s, 11′s, 2′s, 5′s, 9′s, 3′s, 4′s, 6′s, 7′s, 8′s and then 12′s.

Steps 4 Kids to Multiply is going to be an invaluable tool in our homeschool, this fall, and I’m guessing it would be a great asset for your own family, too!  We’re big fans of the Steps 4 Kids company; and we can’t wait to see what may be coming next in their excellent educational products line-up!

Giveaway Rules:

You must be 18 or older and a US resident to enter.  Mandatory entry must be completed before any optional entries will be counted.  Winner will be selected in a random drawing using random.org.  Deadline for entry is midnight (CST), Sunday, August 28, 2011.

Mandatory Entry:

Leave a comment below telling me how you would use Steps 4 Kids to Multiply, in your own family.  Do you homeschool or would you use it as homework reinforcer?

Optional Additional Entries:

  1. Like Steps4Kids on Facebook. Leave a comment below to let me know you’ve done it.
  2. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  3. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  4. Like Busy-at-Home on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  5. Follow Busy-at-Home on Google Friends Connect by clicking  the Join Button in the right-hand side bar.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  6. Subscribe to the Busy-at-Home Newsletter with this link or in the right-hand sidebar.  You will receive an email confirmation with a link that must be clicked to confirm your subscription.  Once you click the email link to confirm your subscription, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve done it.
  7. Tweet this giveaway (maximum of 1x per day, please).  Win a Steps 4 Kids to Multiply DVD for your family! @busyathome http://busy-at-home.com/blog/steps-4-kids-to-multiply-review-and-giveaway-for-back-to-school-roundup/   Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.
  8. Post this giveaway on your Facebook page.  Win a Steps 4 Kids to Multiply DVD for your family! @busyathome http://busy-at-home.com/blog/steps-4-kids-to-multiply-review-and-giveaway-for-back-to-school-roundup/   Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.I received a Steps 4 Kids to Multiply DVD, in order to test it and conduct this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As always, at Busy-at-Home, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.

Win a Linksys E4200 Max Performance Dual-Band N Router in our Back-to-School Roundup (msrp $179.99!) @officiallinksys

On August 3, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

When it comes to school supplies, in 2011, Back-to-School means a lot more than just paper, crayons and pencils.    Technology is a HUGE part of our childrens’ lives AND educations.  Whether they attend public or private school or are homeschooled, our kids work with computers, the Internet and related technology on a daily basis.  [...]

back-to-schoolWhen it comes to school supplies, in 2011, Back-to-School means a lot more than just paper, crayons and pencils.    Technology is a HUGE part of our childrens’ lives AND educations.  Whether they attend public or private school or are homeschooled, our kids work with computers, the Internet and related technology on a daily basis.  As parents, knowing which equipment they need, has value and is reliable, can sometimes be a challenge.

I wouldn’t call myself a techie, by any stretch of the imagination, but let’s just say our family has been using home computers since before there was a Windows.  :)   Our two oldest daughters did elementary school on a green screen monitor and in MS-DOS.  In first grade our second daughter was typing game codes out in BASIC, to install them, before she could play.  She even wrote a few programs in that ancient language.

linksys router

Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router - Be sure to enter to win one in the giveaway at the end of this post!

I upload, download, install software and troubleshoot basic computer problems (and for tough ones I have built-in personal tech support from two learned brothers-in-law!).  I have no problems opening up and upgrading computers, installing memory, new CD drives or hard drives and I can install most peripherals without much difficulty.  I have a rough idea of what internal components I want when I’m looking for a new computer and I taught myself HTML back in 1997, so I could build a curriculum business website.   I can FTP files where I want them to go and after some training from my kids, I Facebook and Twitter with the best of them.  I connected and secured our home network for our PC, 4 laptops, 2 game systems and wireless printer.  I don’t tell you all these things to boast, but to establish a modicum of credibility when it comes to discussing a topic that we haven’t covered in much depth, here at Busy-at-Home, home computing.  Now, that I have established, that, I want you to understand that I know very little about the technical side of making an internet connection faster.  I just know that I expect it.  :)

What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that when it comes to Internet speed and reliability, I’m sort of a snob.  I don’t know how to make it happen, but I certainly expect my ISP and equipment to deliver it.  lol  With all the jobs I do in our home, plus homeschooling and blogging, plus the activities I and our kids are involved in outside of home, I have no patience with slow or unreliable Internet connections.  Whether I am uploading pictures to edit for the blog or the kids are doing research for  a school project or even just streaming some video, I need it to work and I need it quick.  We could never go back, now that we have had cable internet for so many years.  There is simply no comparison in the speeds between it and even the best dial-ups.  However, no matter how fast your cable ISP can feed the connection TO your equipment,  the equipment you run it through can definitely make a huge difference in the speed you actually experience as you are computing.  So, one, you need a quality, high-speed modem and two, if you are like our family, running a huge network of computers, peripherals, game systems, iPads and fancy phones, you need a fabulous router.  You need a router that disseminates that signal to each and every device with speed and reliability.

We have used a Cisco Linksys router for years, to network our equipment.  We’ve always been pleased with it’s speed and reliability –  until Monday.  That was the day I hooked up our router’s super-buff big brother; and I believe I have achieved a whole new level of Internet speed expectations.  :)   The Linksys E4200 Router from Cisco already had me impressed, right out of the box.  It’s sleek and modern and super lightweight.  It looked great, but we all know that looks are only skin deep.  It’s what’s inside that counts!  I resolved to get it connected and set up.  This “laborious” process took me close to … 10 minutes!  And, that’s only because I was stopping to take blurry less than optimally focused pictures of every single step!  My only issue, in the process, was getting my camera to take a sharp image of the computer monitor.  The router setup was a cinch!  Cisco nailed the simplicity factor on this one!  My ThisMoment slideshow will walk you through the process, step-by-step, with pictures.  Click here to view the full-screen slideshow tutorial.

 

For those hard core, true techies out there, here are the specs on the Linksys E4200 wireless router.

Model: Linksys E4200
Technology: Wireless-N
Bands: Simultaneous 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz
Transmit / receive: 3 x 3
Antennas: 6 Internal
Ethernet ports x speed: 4 x Gigabit
USB storage port: Yes, Shared Storage, Virtual USB and Media Server
Software setup: CD Install
Cisco Connect software: Yes
Support: 24/7 Award-winning Online Support Resources
90 days Complimentary Assisted Support
Warranty: 1 year hardware limited warranty
OS Compatibility: Windows, Mac
Minimum System Requirements: Internet Browser: Internet Explorer 7, Safari 4 or Firefox 3 or higher for optional browser-based configuration
PC: Wi-Fi enabled PC with CD or DVD drive, running Windows XP SP3, Windows Vista SP1 or later, or Windows 7
Mac: Wi-Fi enabled Mac with CD or DVD drive, running OS X Leopard 10.5 or Snow Leopard 10.6
Package Contents: Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Wireless-N Router
CD-ROM with setup software and resources
Ethernet network cable
Power adapter

And this is just a teaser of the many features:

  • Simultaneous Dual-Band N (2.4 & 5 GHz)
  • Gigabit Ethernet 4-port switch
  • Maximum speed up to 300 + 450 Mbps
  • USB port for shared storage
  • Built-In UPnP AV media server

According to Cisco, “The Linksys E4200 wireless router is perfect for anyone interested in building the ultimate connected home. The E4200 is the first building block that can handle gaming consoles, HDTV streaming video, Roku boxes, eReaders, smartphones, and any other wireless device that needs screaming connectivity. Also, with back to school fast approaching, now is a great time for parents to make sure their homes are well-equipped for their kids to succeed academically and maximize learning from home to school.  A simple and cost-effective way to make the home an ideal learning environment is to transform the home into a learning hotspot with home wireless.

Today’s middle and high school students have grown up with mobile technology and feel most comfortable in a wireless environment for anytime/anywhere studying, interactive web research, easy collaboration and communication and parent accessibility.  The wireless home learning environment also more closely aligns with how they use technology at school. The Linksys E4200 Router from Cisco lets parents easily set, use and manage their own home wireless. The E4200 is also perfect for college students setting up wireless in their first home away from home.”

For our family, homeschooling, blogging or just surfing the web, the Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router improves our efficiency, because it has improved our network speed.  I still don’t understand all the technical jargon on Internet speed.  I just know mine is much faster.  I truly did consider that maybe I was just so excited, I was seeing an increase that I wanted to see; but I was completely convinced of the truth of it, when our 15-year-old son wanted to know if I had “tweeked” his computer while he was at work.  According to him, “Everything is running better and faster.”  My husband echoed the same conclusion, when he got home from work.  This is one piece of technology I can endorse with confidence.  Our family loves it!

The Giveaway:  Cisco has generously sponsored a giveaway of the Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router for  our Busy-at-Home Back-to-School Roundup!

GIVEAWAY RULES: 

You must be 18 or older and a US resident to enter.  Mandatory entry must be completed before any optional entries will be counted.  Winner will be selected in a random drawing using random.org.  Deadline for entry is midnight (CST), Sunday, August 21, 2011.

MANDATORY ENTRY:

How many computers and devices are there in your home network?  Do you use it for school?  work?  blogging?  games?  How would a faster network connection help you?  Leave a comment below with your answers.

OPTIONAL ADDITIONAL ENTRIES:

  1. Like Cisco on Facebook.   Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  2. Follow Cisco on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  3. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  4. Like Busy-at-Home on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  5. Follow Busy-at-Home on Google Friends Connect by clicking  the Join Button in the right-hand side bar.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  6. Subscribe to the Busy-at-Home Newsletter with this link or in the right-hand sidebar.  You will receive an email confirmation with a link that must be clicked to confirm your subscription.  Once you click the email link to confirm your subscription, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve done it.
  7. Tweet this giveaway (maximum of 1x per day, please).  Win a Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router for Back-to-School (msrp $179.99) @busyathome @officiallinksys http://t.co/h4zyYaZ   Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.
  8. Post this giveaway on your Facebook page.  Win a Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router for Back-to-School @busyathome @officiallinksys http://t.co/h4zyYaZ    Leave a comment below with a link to your post.

I received a Linksys E4200 Maximum Performance Dual-Band N Router, in order to test it and conduct this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As always, at Busy-at-Home, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.

Around the Corner at Busy-at-Home

On July 26, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

Well, it’s hard to believe that this crazy, hectic summer is on the downhill side.  Didn’t we just get started with summer?  Oh, well.  Time marches on and so do we.  There are some great things coming up at Busy-at-Home.  Keep your eyes open and your ears listening for : Back-to-School Round Up – We [...]

Well, it’s hard to believe that this crazy, hectic summer is on the downhill side.  Didn’t we just get started with summer?  Oh, well.  Time marches on and so do we.  There are some great things coming up at Busy-at-Home.  Keep your eyes open and your ears listening for :

  1. back to schoolBack-to-School Round Up – We have some great products and sponsors to share with you, for Back-to-School, and the giveaway prizes are awesome!
  2. balloonsMy 50th Birthday Bash! – I know, I know, I’ve been telling everyone for years that I am ten years older than I really am, so they will think I look AMAZING for my age.  My mom and sisters think that reflects poorly on THEIR ages, however, so I’m coming clean, just in time to celebrate a half century of the Lord blessing me on this earth.  My birthday is August 28, so we’ll be celebrating all month long with some great giveaways!
  3. DIY Front Room Makeover Series – We will continue our backyard makeover, as long as the weather holds and we have updates to make, but beginning in September, I’ll be tackling that DIY front room makeover, we talked about before.  Remember, the third living area in our new house, with absolutely NO furniture, except a bookcase?  lol  I guess it’s not really a makeOVER, it’s just a plain old MAKE.  :)   I need lots of ideas and inspiration.  I was thinking of finding a gorgeous area rug and using the colors from that as the color palette for the room.  I’m just not sure, yet.  Be sure to chime in with your own ideas or pictures of your dream “inspiration” rooms.  I’m working hard to find some exceptional sponsors for that event, too, so stay tuned!
  4. Homemade Breakfasts — Fast, Simple and Delish! – Especially with school starting, having a warm, healthy breakfast ready in the morning can be tough, unless we’ve planned ahead.  We’re going to go through tips and tricks for making it fast, simple and delicious.  No one in your house will skip breakfast, again, because “they don’t have time”.  You’ll love these recipes!

So, are you excited, yet?!!!?!  lol  Me, too.  So glad I get to share it with all of you.  You guys rock!

 

(I’m still accepting sponsors, for each of these events, so if you would like to be included, contact me at glenda@busy-at-home.com, and let me know what products you would like me to consider.  Thanks!)

Mastermind and Mastermind Towers: Review and Giveaway

On May 10, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

How do you teach your kids to think critically and analyze available information to solve a puzzle or problem?  There are several logic and/or critical thinking curricula available in workbook format, though most are written for upper elementary and older students.  To include younger children and your hands-on learners in mastering these critical thinking skills, [...]

How do you teach your kids to think critically and analyze available information to solve a puzzle or problem?  There are several logic and/or critical thinking curricula available in workbook format, though most are written for upper elementary and older students.  To include younger children and your hands-on learners in mastering these critical thinking skills, there is another option–Mastermind.  As a homeschool mom, I’m always on the lookout for products and activities that can reinforce, or better teach, concepts that our kids need to master.  Critical thinking and analysis are learned over time, with experience and practice.   A way to gain that experience and practice without doing the same old thing or another workbook page always enhances learning.  I love the idea of a challenging game that encourages my kids to THINK while they are having fun.  My family found that both Mastermind and Mastermind Towers did exactly that.  I could almost see the new synapses forming as our children tried to break the code created by a sibling.  :)   It required memory, analysis of the data and creation of a new hypothesis based upon that data, until they finally arrived at the correct sequence to crack the code.

 

A game in progress. She got turned around and played the same sequence twice. :) She won on the next turn by switching the pink and purple pegs and leaving the green and orange in place.

Mastermind Classic gives players ten turns to “break the code” created by their opponent.  Breaking the code consists of determining the colors of the 4 pegs selected by the Codemaker, and their sequence.  With each guess the Codemaker lets the Codebreaker know how many pegs are the correct color and how many are in the correct order.  This is done by placing red and white pegs at the top of the corresponding row.  Using that information, the codebreaker completes the next row, using clues from previous guesses.  Each player gets ten chances to decipher the puzzle and the one who can break the other’s code, in the fewest turns, is the winner.

There is no flimsy, cardboard game board to take care of.  The heavy plastic game tray actually has a built-in compartment to contain all the game pegs.  As a mom, I know what you’re thinking — all those tiny pieces!  This game is definitely created for slightly older children and adults.  For kids in the lower elementary grades or preschool, Mastermind Towers would be a more appropriate choice.  The concept is the same as the original game, but with fewer and much larger game pieces.  Each child builds a sequence of pictures into their tower and the other must try to “break the code” (determine the sequence of the pictures).  As they ask questions and receive the answers, they must exercise their critical thinking muscles and memory to remember the location of pieces they have already guessed correctly and “rearrange” the others to complete the sequence.  Another nice thing about Mastermind Towers, is that you could work with as few as three tiles for younger children, to help the game play go more quickly, as well as to build their thinking skill and confidence.  As they become more adept at deciphering the code, you can increase the number of tiles used.

 

Mastermind Towers is a fun, brain-stretching game for the younger members of your family.

If you think Mastermind looks somewhat familiar, you’re right.  This is a remake of a classic game from a time when conversation and face-to-face activity around the family dining table were commonplace.  If you’re looking for a frugal way to boost your family’s thinking power and reconnect over some fun and challenging activity, Mastermind games will be sure to be a hit in your home, as they were in ours.  These games have won several awards and Mastermind Towers was featured on ABC’s Hottest Toys for Fall in October of 2010.  At only $15 for the Mastermind Classic Edition and $12 for Mastermind Towers Animal Edition these are great values for a frugal family entertainment budget.  There are other editions available, as well, including Ultimate Mastermind for you hardcore brain-builders.  :)

Pressman Toys has been incredibly generous and is sponsoring two giveaways, one for the classic Mastermind Game and one for a Mastermind Towers Animal edition.  Entry is easy, so be sure you register for a chance to share these fun educational games with your own family!

Giveaway Rules:

You must be 18 or older and a resident of the U.S. to enter.  Mandatory Entry must be completed before Optional entries will be counted.  Two winners, one for each game, will be selected by random drawing, using random.org.  Deadline to enter is midnight (CST), Sunday May 29, 2011.

 

Mandatory Entry:

In a comment below, tell me which Mastermind game edition would be a good fit for your family.

 

Additional Optional Entries:

  1. Like Mastermind Board Game on Facebook and leave a comment below with your Facebook name, letting me know you did.
  2. Follow Mastermind on Twitter and leave a comment below with your Twitter handle, letting me know you did.
  3. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  4. Like Busy-at-Home on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  5. Follow Busy-at-Home on Google Friends Connect. Use the “Join” button in the right-hand sidebar. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  6. Subscribe to the Busy-at-Home Newsletter with this link (or in the right-hand sidebar). You will receive an email confirmation with a link that must be clicked to confirm your subscription. Once you click the email link to confirm your subscription, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve done it.
  7. Post this giveaway on your Facebook page. Enter to win one of two Mastermind boardgames at Busy-at-Home. Test your powers of reasoning, critical thinking and logic! http://ow.ly/4RJzx Leave a comment below with a link to your post.
  8. Tweet this giveaway (1x daily) : Win 1 of 2 Mastermind boardgames. Test your powers of reasoning, critical thinking and logic! @mastermindgame @busyathome http://ow.ly/4RJzx Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.

 

I received Mastermind and Mastermind Towers from Pressman Toys, in order to test them and conduct this review.  No monetary compensation was received and a positive review was not required.  As with all Busy-at-Home reviews, the views and opinions expressed are wholly my own.  The winner will receive their prize directly from Pressman Toys at the conclusion of the giveaway.


 

 

 

Jump Start Virtual World: A Review & Giveaway

On February 9, 2011, by Glenda Embree- BusyAtHome

I’m a pretty tech savvy person and I enjoy learning opportunities that can incorporate computer use into our homeschool activities.  I also like when the time spent at the computer, can have some educational value.  The past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to explore and use Jump Start’s new online Virtual World with [...]

I’m a pretty tech savvy person and I enjoy learning opportunities that can incorporate computer use into our homeschool activities.  I also like when the time spent at the computer, can have some educational value.  The past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to explore and use Jump Start’s new online Virtual World with my nine-year-old and two granddaughters, ages 3 & 4.

My first confession has to be that as tech savvy as I may be, virtual world video games are usually not my cup of tea.  Before sharing this fun site with my favorite small people, I logged on and browsed around by myself.  I quickly learned that I needed a guide. – lol – After a cursory circle of the game map, I honestly had convinced myself that maybe this wasn’t going to be as great as I had first anticipated.   For me personally, there was so much going on that I was overwhelmed.  Having already created characters for each of the girls, I decided to go ahead and call my nine-year-old to see what she thought.  She slid into the chair beside me and within minutes, had taken over my laptop.  She was screaming through the virtual world, visiting ant farms and answering science trivia questions.

The hatchery where kids can care for their dragon egg until it hatches.

She adopted an “egg”,  which she promptly painted pink and purple and later hatched into a dragon (I think), in a place called “The Enchanted Sanctuary”.  :)   She absolutely adores JumpStart.com and finds something new to do each time she visits.

Once hatched, the dragon provides children with several interactive play opportunities.

Main Street is the starting point for all the adventures.  Exploring there will take you to gateways and doors leading to a variety of fun and educational experiences.

An overhead view of Main Street. Each building is a new place/game adventure to explore.

At first glance, I was afraid this was just another video game, but as I spent time watching our daughter roam through the various points of interest in the game, I realized there is a great deal of educational value packed into all the fun.  JumpStart.com definitely helps to fine tune small motor skills, as well as eye-hand coordination.  Every activity requires patience, strategy and even some analytical thinking to complete the puzzles or quests.  I was simply amazed at the speed with which the girls’ minds adapted to each new challenge and they began whirring through the game.  It was impressive because I know with great certainty, that this middle-aged brain, in concert with my less than nimble fingers, could never wrap around some of the motor skills they handled with ease.

A view of the Ancient World in Future Land. Students can also visit Industrial Land for other challenges in Future Land.

I say “they” because I also turned my four-year-old granddaughter loose in “Storyland”.  She has had the opportunity to “visit” there several times, now and becomes so engrossed in the activities that even after an hour or more of play, cries when it is time to log off.  She has the opportunity to practice letter and number recognition and practice other educational skills, all while playing her way through the fun virtual world.  As with my daughter, she finds something new to do with each visit and can’t wait until the next time she can play.

This is the Pet Playground in Storyland.

The Paint Program in Story Land.

Identifying the pictures that match the number 9 in Story Land.

JumpStart.com continues to grow and add new areas, too.  Currently, there are tons of Valentine themed options: rides like a heart-themed skateboard, hippity hop bounce ball or a magic carpet or the new swan ride in the Love-ly Swan Ride Fun Zone.  Your puzzle lovers will like the challenge of the new Box of Chocolates Maze.  There is no doubt in my mind that the site will continue to grow and add even more challenges, over time.  Seasonal options continue to pop up and as one is about to “close”, so the new one  can open, the Jump Start blog makes the announcement, as well as there being notices posted in the game world.  (The blog is a great place for parents to learn more about JumpStart.com and get any updates about new activities, plus tips on learning and using technology to support education.)

Valentine themed magic carpet ride.

Kids can take a swan ride in the new Love-ly Swan Ride Fun Zone.

As with any online, virtual world, parents will want to participate and know how their children are interacting with the game.  Get involved and watch your child learn in exciting new ways.  It’s an amazing and wonderful thing, but they still need you to be a part of it.  They have the opportunity to interact with other kids in this game.  That option has to be set up, in order to use it, and of course, you will want to know who they are learning with.  Kids collect coins and stars as rewards for completing challenges and puzzle levels.    We haven’t personally done too much with them, yet, but I understand they can be “spent” in the various shops scattered throughout Jump Start’s virtual world.  Your students can also win ribbons and trophies for their achievements in the game.  You can also connect JumpStart.com with your Facebook account to be automatically updated about what your kids are doing and achieving in their virtual world fun.

Screen shot of part of the Achievements section of a child's profile.

Two players racing in Ship Wreck Lagoon.

I have watched both girls learn various skills and information in the subjects of math, reading, language arts and grammar skills, science and history while being so engrossed in a game that they hardly realized they were learning.  They learn computer skills, art and critical thinking.  I witnessed the use of fine motor skills and strengthening of eye-hand coordination.  I also got to watch them have tremendous fun while doing it.  As with the Jump Start software and programs that our family has been pleased to use, previously, Jump Start’s new virtual world has educational AND entertainment value.  For kids who are so in tune with the technological advances of our modern day, it’s a most logical way to learn.  JumpStart.com will definitely be put to regular use in our household.

Screen shot of the Quizinator. This one is for science and students can select the "level" that is age-appropriate for the difficulty of questions they will receive. Younger children can answer things as simple as matching games, while older children are challenged with harder questions.

You can go, right now, and join JumpStart.com, so your family can start enjoying the great learning fun.  When you do, you will set things up in the Parent’s Area.  You have your own password to enter there.  It’s where you will add kids to your account and create individual passwords for them.  It’s also where you will decide whether or not to allow them to interact with other kids in the virtual world and if so, to create their “buddy list”, the only people they will be able to interact with.  When you sign up for a membership, it includes access to JumpStart.com, Learning Adventure’s other virtual world, MathBlaster.com AND four downloadable games to play right on your own computer.  You can try it out and explore JumpStart.com for free, but to use all the areas, levels and other worlds, you’ll need a membership.  The membership is good for up to six kids and you can decide if you want to take part month-to-month (only $7.99/mo), annually ($74.99/yr) or the best value, a lifetime membership ($149.99).

One Busy-at-Home reader is going to receive THREE FREE MONTHS for their own family, due to the generosity of the great folks at Knowledge Adventure!

Giveaway Rules:

You must be 18 or older and a resident of the U.S. to win.  Mandatory Entry must be completed for any other entries to count.  Winner will be selected at random from all verified entries, using random.org.  Deadline to enter is midnight (CST), Sunday, February 27, 2011.

Mandatory Entry:

Visit JumpStart.com and then leave me a comment  telling me something you really liked or something new that you learned about the site.


Additional Optional Entries:

  1. Follow JumpStart.com on Twitter and leave a comment, below, letting me know you did, as well as your Twitter handle.
  2. Like JumpStart.com on Facebook and leave a comment, below, letting me know you did, as well as your Facebook Name.
  3. Follow Busy-at-Home on Twitter.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  4. Like Busy-at-Home on Facebook. Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  5. Follow Busy-at-Home on Google Friends Connect.  Use the “Join” button in the right-hand sidebar.  Leave a comment letting me know you’ve done it.
  6. Subscribe to the Busy-at-Home Newsletter with this link (or in the right-hand sidebar).  You will receive an email confirmation with a link that must be clicked to confirm your subscription.  Once you click the email link to confirm your subscription, leave me a comment to let me know you’ve done it.
  7. Post this giveaway on your Facebook pageEnter to win THREE FREE MONTHS for your kids at JumpStart.com!  Learning is extraordinary fun there!  Enter the giveaway at Busy-at-Home. http://busy-at-home.com/blog/jump-start-virtual-world-a-review-giveaway/ Leave a comment below with a link to your post.
  8. Tweet this giveaway (1x daily) : Enter to win 3 FREE MONTHS at JumpStart.com! Learning is extraordinary fun there! @busyathome @JumpStart_Erin #giveaway http://ow.ly/3UmyP Leave a comment below with a link to your tweet.


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Disclosure: I was provided with a JumpStart membership at no cost by Knowledge Adventure in order to test the products’ abilities and give my own personal opinions on it. The opinions I have given are mine and may differ from others but were not influenced by the company or the free product provided.

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