Tag Archives: TOS Homeschool Crew

TOS Crew: Excellence in Literature

I was so excited to hear the Crew would have the opportunity to review Excellence in Literature from Everyday Education!
You see, we’re already familiar with excellence in writing, specifically, the Institute for Excellence in Writing. IEW’s Andrew Pudewa co-published the American and British Literature levels, and his involvement was enough of a recommendation for us to want to jump into this program.

There are five levels in this college-preparatory course:

– English I: Introduction to Literature
– English II: Literature and Composition
– English III: American Literature
– English IV: British Literature
– English V: World Literature

Each level follows the same format, and levels do not have to be completed in order, but can be matched, for example, to your history studies. The author chose the literature covered in the curriculum  “because they reveal truth through the power of story.” The material is directed at students in Grades 8-12.

Our family received English I: Introduction to Literature.

What I like:

The book is written directly to the student, not talking down, but as the meeting of two minds, in a workmanlike yet conversational tone, with the occasional flash of humor. (Yes, the author is a human being, and not a textbook committee!)

Literature studied in context, not in isolated snippets or excerpts.

Emphasis on discerning worldview in literature. That fits right in with the moral philosphy we’re learning through our King’s Meadow studies (formerly Gileskirk).

Lots of links to Internet resources. These make the studies more interesting, for one thing, with material that relates to the literary works (“virtual field trips”!) in particular and literature, analysis, and writing in more general terms.

“Something to think about” and “Be sure to notice” notes to the student, setting the stage for deeper study, not just surface reading.

Suggested schedule to follow; well-organized lessons that follow a standardized format for each of the nine units

Built-in writing projects (more about that in a bit), and included rubrics to help the parent/teacher evaluate student writing

Reading list for English I (from the website)  

(plus a few comments from our perspective):

Unit 1: Short Stories by-
• Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
• Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you’re concerned about that.) (a classic that I’ve seen mentioned in a lot of literature, but I’d never read it before now)
• Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
• O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief (hilarious! I remember reading this in my grandfather’s library and laughing out loud)
• Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
• James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (I’ve often quoted from this story to the girls, and now they know why.)

Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne (As a teen, I enjoyed Jules Verne, and am glad to introduce the girls to his writing)
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain (fun, but wry and thought-provoking, too)
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell (I hated both of these in high school. We might read Animal Farm, which I hated just a little bit less than 1984, or we might skip this unit until Youngest is a bit older.)
Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (I already know we’re going to have to go with Pilgrim’s Progress when we get to Unit 9. The girls detest Gulliver’s Travels from a previous exposure, and it’s not worth the battle to try to get them to read it again so soon. Maybe they’ll enjoy analyzing it at a later date.)
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

An introductory section tells you (or more specifically, the student; though it’s all stuff the parent should know, too) how the course is set up, what materials you need, and some basic underpinnings, like how to read a book in an analytical way. Each unit is divided into four weeks of work, and includes reading the main text and additional reading for context, as well as writing assignments. Background information might include websites, biographies, videos, and encyclopedia articles. Extensive resource lists are provided, with suggestions for finding more material.

And now, the “more in a bit” about the writing portion of the course you were waiting for…

While a “Formats and Models” chapter explains the basic format for writing assignments, the material assumes your student is already familiar with writing basics: how to construct a paragraph, how to write a five-paragraph essay. The author recommends writing lessons and handbooks to be used in conjunction wtih Excellence in Literature.  Samples of student work are included to give you an idea of how your writing assignments should look.

I have to admit that this course is a bit of a stretch for our eighth-grader. I really appreciate the multitude of resources, including videos and Internet audio links, and the author’s suggestion to use audio books for a student who struggles with reading. It makes a real difference! Writing is still a struggle, but with techniques and resources from the Institute for Excellence in Writing we’re keeping our heads above water. Mostly.

Excellence in Literature promotes just that: thoughtful reading and interacting with classic texts, on a high school level. It’s been a bit of a stretch for me, not just Youngest (high school was such a long time ago, and I’m not sure how much I actually learned, much less retained…), but it’s been a good stretch. I’m learning right along with my students.

Purchase information

See a free sample unit here.

English I: Introduction to Literature is available both in print form for $29 plus shipping, or as an e-book for $27. Click here for the order page. You can order any of the five levels individually, or a set of all five together, either printed and bound, or in downloadable e-book format.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of Excellence in Literature at this link.

Disclaimer: Our family received a free PDF copy of English I: Introduction to Literature for review purposes. No other compensation was involved.


TOS Crew: e-Mealz

Back in January, I confessed my meal-planning woes. You see, we went partially gluten-free (GF) about a year ago — this meant I was cooking regular meals for the family and modifying things to make Eldest’s meals completely GF. We had a menu-planning and cooking system in place that had been working pretty well. At the end of each month, we “girls” would plan the next month’s meals. We cooked on a rotation basis, meaning each of us (mom and daughters, that is) ended up responsible for cooking, washing dishes, and kitchen clean-up about twice a week.

With Eldest’s gluten sensitivity, I sort of took over all the cooking once again. Oh, if a meal was naturally gluten-free, one of the girls could manage. But I was paranoid about cross-contamination, and so if a meal contained gluten ingredients, I took it upon myself to do the cooking.

Two months later, DH was diagnosed with a severe gluten sensitivity, and I made the decision to go completely GF, at least at home. (The younger girls and I still get glutenous food on occasion, when we’re out and about.) Now, GF cooking is not as difficult as I thought it would be, but it was different enough that I — still learning — took on all the cooking. (I know. I should have included the girls in the learning and exploring. My only explanation is that I felt like I was in over my head.) I had kind of a mental block against menu planning. It all seemed overwhelming. We got into a rut of rotating the same few meals, and I was doing all the cooking once more.

I made a couple of feeble stabs at GF menu planning, but it was pitiful. Just pitiful.

Enter The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew, and the opportunity to review an online menu-planning service. When I heard they had a gluten-free option, I jumped up and down (virtually, anyhow) with my hand up in the air, yelling, “Pick me! Pick me!” Anything had to be better than what I was doing.

Choosing a plan

When I found out our family was on the e-Mealz list, I went to the e-Mealz website and read everything I could find about their menu plans. They have so many plans to choose from, including store-specific and special diets (low-carb, low-fat, low-cal, vegetarian, and yes, gluten-free). There are even small-family plans if you’re cooking for just one or two people. The store-specific plans take into account the stores’ weekly sales. We’re talking Wal-Mart, Aldi’s, Kroger, and Publix for specific stores. We don’t have Aldi’s and Publix for sure, so it was easy to eliminate those choices. But for the rest… it was tough! I went through all of their sample menus.

I finally settled on the Wal-Mart gluten-free plan. It appears to be identical to the “any store” GF plan, except that it includes prices on the shopping list. Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

How it works

You select a meal plan from the options available and sign up. A three-month subscription is $15 (which works out to $5 a month, as you probably already noticed), billed to your credit card or debit card. Your subscription is automatically renewed, or you may cancel at any time.

By the way, I’ve found from personal experience that when I plan my meals and stick to my plan, I save money on groceries (for one thing, it cuts way down on impulse buying, and since what I buy is on the plan, it gets used and doesn’t end up forgotten, in the fridge), as well as time. No more last minute trips to the store for forgotten ingredients! No more last minute trips to the store, period, just because the fridge and cabinets are reasonably full of ingredients but “there’s nothing to eat.”

Every week a new menu is available for download. (You can actually download two weeks’ worth of menus, “this week” and “last week,” so our first week, I got two weeks’ menus to work from.)

My gluten-free e-Mealz menus have each been three pages: two pages of menus spanning seven days, plus a shopping list which includes what I need to buy in a weekly shopping trip, prices, space to write additional items, and a list of pantry staples that I need to have on hand (or buy, if they’re not in my pantry) to fix all the meals for the week.

Our meal plans usually included at least one of each of the following:
– fish
– Mexican
– chicken
– pork
– beef
– meatless

For each day, there’s an entree and a side in the menu plan, with a list of ingredients and preparation instructions. We’ve made some substitutions; for example, when a recipe calls for quick-cooking brown rice, I substitute regular; we don’t do fish on a weekly basis as one of the girls won’t eat any fish except canned tuna, and we only eat pork about once a month, not once a week.

The recipes are pretty easy to make, and the results have been, for the most part, delicious. (Remember, I haven’t made all the recipes because of food preferences.) The GF menus average on paper about $90 a week. Some weeks we spend less because we have a supply of meat already in our freezer. Some weeks we spend more because when we do buy meat, it’s the hormone- and antibiotic-free kind, which costs more.

But what about other allergies?

Because gluten is our main concern, these menus have worked fairly well for us. (I say “fairly” because of our fussy eater, who prefers her food pretty plain.) If your family has other food allergies (for example, corn or dairy) you might not fare as well (pun not intended but it certainly works well, doesn’t it).

In summary

Click on any of the meal plans at the e-Mealz website to see a summary of that plan, and to find a link to a sample menu/shopping list for that plan. Check out a variety of plans — you’ll get an idea of how it works. You can sign up and choose a plan, and if it doesn’t work you can switch plans once every three months.

I think I’ll stick with the Wal-Mart gluten-free meal plan. I don’t always get to Wal-Mart, as sometimes I have to consider the cost in gas compared to the grocery savings, but I like having the prices and the option. I like having menus planned out for me, and with the easy-to-follow recipes, the girls are finally able to learn to cook gluten-free. This one’s a winner for our family.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of e-Mealz here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free 3-month subscription to e-Mealz for review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

TOS Crew: Principles of Marketing (Professor in a Box)

Principles of Marketing  is the second product from Professor in a Box that we’ve had the privilege of reviewing with the TOS Crew. The first was Financial Accounting (click link to read that review).

This college-level introductory course is different from many in that there’s no textbook. All the material is presented through a series of lectures with Flash slides, supplemented with real-life examples provided through Internet links, and rounded out with quizzes and tests.

Course objectives

Principles of Marketing is a college-level introductory course in marketing. High school students preparing for the CLEP test in marketing and entrepreneurs starting their own businesses (whether young or old, parents or students, homeschoolers with a family business) will likely find this course helpful.

Here’s an explanation of the course objectives from the course itself:

I like that emphasis on relevant, real-world examples, don’t you?

Well organized

The lectures are organized in a functional manner. The speaker starts by stating course objectives, then presents the material in the lesson, and finally offers a summary or wrap-up.

You can watch the lecture slides as they unfold. One thing I appreciate about this kind of format is that if I miss something, it’s easy to scroll back and repeat something. Lecture slides are also available in PDF format, so you can print out the slides and take notes on the printout.

For each lesson, there’s a one- or two-page PDF of key concepts, very helpful in reviewing for the quiz or making sure you haven’t missed something.

The lessons are all set up along the same lines: You watch the video lecture, study the key concepts PDF, investigate the Internet links related to the lesson, and take the chapter quiz.


Three more comprehensive exams are included, spaced at intervals something like two mid-terms and a final exam. The quizzes and exams are set up to give you instant feedback; after answering a question, you submit the answer and see whether it’s correct. At the end of the test you receive your score. (Sure beats waiting for a TA (teaching assistant) to grade your test and post the results on a bulletin board a week later! You can tell it’s been awhile since I went to college — I’m sure there are more efficient ways of learning your grade these days. Principles of Marketing is one of the most efficient, though, with its instant turnaround.)

You can take a quiz or exam multiple times. If you’re interrupted in your test taking, or you want to take the test more than once, the program is sophisticated enough to resume in the middle of the test, or start a new session at your prompt.

I liked the feel of the course from the very first lesson. The lecturer is personable, easy to listen to, and she stops the lecture in the first moments to have you respond to a question, writing down your answer, and referring to it at the end of the lecture. Even though this is a “canned” slide-show, it has the flavor of  a “live” course.

Julie Pfirsch, Ph.D. is the course instructor. She does a good job of explaining the material, making it relevant to the listener. She doesn’t merely read the slides; she explains them.

Flexible scheduling

The course includes three suggested schedule options:

– Academic year: one lesson per week, taking an entire academic year (28 weeks).

– Traditional college semester format: two lessons per week for 14 weeks

Summer school format: three lessons per week for 9 weeks

Principles of Marketing  is available from Professor in a Box for $119. At this link you can also view a sample chapter and see the list of online resources.

To read more TOS Crew opinions of Principles of Marketing, click here.

Disclaimer: TOS Crew members were provided a free copy of Principles of Marketing for our family’s personal use and review purposes. We receive no monetary compensation for offering our opinion. Opinions offered here are our own.

TOS Crew: Scruble Cube

The Scruble Cube is simply amazing. Think Rubik’s Cube crossed with Scrabble or Boggle and you have an inkling of this toy/game.

What is it? Well, it’s a word game, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s a word game for active learners, for one thing. It’s a word game that can as easily work as a game of solitaire as with a number of players. You can use the included rules, download educational activities to use with the Scruble Cube,  or make up rules of your own (which we often find ourselves doing).

The cube has six faces (as cubes do), with sixteen letters per face. You can rotate the letters the same way you’d manipulate a Rubik’s Cube to come up with a seemingly infinite combination of letters.

(The thing is just about impossible to leave alone. Just now, in the middle of the previous paragraph, I couldn’t resist picking up the cube. My eyes caught A-L-G in a row, and my brain said, “Hey! Why don’t we try to make the word algae?” Since the Cube was sitting right there in front of me, it was awfully hard to say No to my brain… I’m not quite sure how it happened, but a few twists later I had A-L-G-A-E on two faces, for a point score total of 10 points. Wait a minute! I just looked at the space before the “A” and I have a 2x word score, which makes the word worth 20 points, plus a three-face bonus of 10 points, for a grand total of 30!!! Woohoo, I’m on my way! Anybody want to join in and play?

Fun, educational, easy to pick up

So you see, this game is hard to resist. Even Youngest, who struggles with spelling and usually avoids word games, goes for this one, with its built-in manipulative feel. The Scruble Cube fits nicely between your two hands, easy to rotate this way or that. New words form at a twist of the wrist, and if you can spell any three-letter word, you can play.

The game comes with a scorepad and sand timer. The point is to come up with the biggest word you can, or biggest number of points (since you might be able to make more than one word crossword-style), in your turn.

Our girls immediately took it out of the box the day it arrived, and I don’t think it’s had an idle day since. The Cube has gone everywhere with us; to church, to lessons, to waiting rooms, even been played in the car, and the only reason it’s on the desk in front of me right now is because I kidnapped it from a previous possessor.

How to get one of your own

The Scruble Cube is available here for $24.95. You can also get a set of replacement labels for $4.95.

Award winning fun!

Not surprisingly, this toy has won awards for its creativity, ease of use, and just plain fun!


Christmas is coming up. (Not to mention birthdays, other holidays. Mother’s Day? Father’s Day? The Scruble Cube really is the kind of gift you could give to an adult or a child. It can sit on the desk as a paperweight, on call at any time to relieve stress or provide a mental break from concentrated work. Or just let it sit in out in the open, on a table or shelf.

I don’t think you’ll ever have to dust it at all.

Read more TOS Crew reviews of this product here.

Disclaimer: Our family was given a free Scruble Cube for review purposes.  No other compensation was involved.



TOS Crew: AIMS Educational Foundation

I was sad and happy at the same time when our homeschool science teacher retired at the end of last year. We’d been in her class for nine years! As a homeschool mom herself (her children had all graduated by the time we joined her class), she put together a series of multi-level unit studies, designed for whole families, complete with labs, field trips, homework, accountability, Bible and character studies, and a wealth of information about God’s marvelous Creation.

While I was glad for Mrs. S., I wasn’t happy for us! It meant that after having science planned out for me (basically, my job was to be there at class, to go through the assigned work at home with the girls, attend the field trips), now I had to go through the choices available and find another science class, or curriculum we could do at home.

Timing is everything! When the TOS Crew was offered the opportunity to choose among AIMS Educational Foundation materials, I checked out the website. There’s a wealth of resources here for both math and science, and not just books, but materials, manipulatives, and equipment.

Our family reviewed the Earth Book, which suited our needs with its multi-level, hands-on approach. This 446-page book is aimed at students in grades 6-9 and covers topics in earth science in a systematic way, dealing with the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere. With 48 activities, this book could provide enough science lessons for an entire year of learning, or (with 2 activities a week) you could turn it into a semester course.

As a matter of fact, we’d covered the topics in this book in earlier science units, so much of the material was review for us. Still, the presentation was interesting, and the hands-on projects are doable without a lot of extra equipment.

Earth Science is written from a secular standpoint, with an emphasis on processes that reflect an evolutionary approach. (Reminds me of a line from the Creationist song, “The Answer’s in Genesis” — “a little bit of water and a long, long time…”) We’re not afraid to explore evolutionary theory, though of course the girls know it’s only a theory. They encounter it out in the world all the time, and familiarity with the theory helps them to discuss their studies with intelligence.

When you read the teacher’s instructions, you’ll note this is obviously a book intended for a classroom. (This makes it a great resource for a co-op class, by the way.) It’s not too hard to adapt the activities for individual family use.

There are discussion questions, research prompts, little books for each student to put together (“rubber band books”), graphic organizers, and experiments. Each lesson is well-organized for the teacher’s convenience. For each lesson, there’s a “teacher’s help page” with a stated topic, key question answered in the unit, materials list, learning processes and national standards addressed, and background information. Lessons are laid out step-by-step, with reproducible pages for students to record their findings. Discussion questions are designed to help the students process their observations and draw conclusions based on the evidence resulting from their experiments.

The Earth Book is available from the publisher’s website as a downloadable e-book, or a physical softcover book with CD for $49.95. You can see a PDF preview of the book here, including the Table of Contents, lists of national educational standards in science and math, an explanation of the AIMS teaching methodology, a page on how to put the included “rubber band books” together, and a couple of sample units.

To read more TOS Crew reviews of AIMS products, click here.

Disclaimer: Our family received a free physical copy of Earth Science for review purposes. No other compensation was involved.


TOS Crew: Big IQ Kids

Educational websites can be a fun break from workbook exercises. You can use them to supplement your learning, either to learn new material, apply learning, or drill facts being learned. I prefer to use such sites for computer “play” time, a reward for getting work done, rather than an integral part of our day.

Members of the TOS Crew were given two premium subscriptions to Big IQ Kids, a website with award-winning programs for students in grades K-12 (though the premium math and geography programs are aimed more at K-8) in spelling and vocabulary, math facts mastery, and U.S. geography.

Designed for daily drill

The idea is that your student works 10-15 minutes daily on the site, practicing facts.  The math portion drills math facts already learned, while the geography portion of the site actually teaches the state locations, capitals, state name spelling and abbreviations through interactive exercises.

The spelling and vocabulary programs allow you to add your own word lists, or to use pre-loaded word lists.

Once you’ve finished a lesson, you are given access to a reward: games. I haven’t seen all the games on the site, as we tend to play our favorites, but some are definitely challenging and exercise logic and critical thinking skills.

Before we got our subscriptions, I checked out the website and found quite a bit of free material, including SAT vocabulary preparation.

With a premium subscription, parents get regular progress reports whenever a student completes a level. You can tailor their math lessons, selecting how many and what kind of problems to include each day. Problems can go from very simple (one-digit addition) to fairly challenging (triple-digit addition and subtraction, double-digit multiplication, and division with remainders).


The website is big, bright, and colorful. There’s a lot to explore. For example, just today, after a month of using the site, we discovered a spelling contest, a sort of virtual spelling bee.

Your child gets to create a customized Big IQ Buddy. This buddy appears on the screen during exercises and games to cheer your student on. The girls really don’t pay much attention at all to this feature, but for the cost of a coin (you earn coins by doing lessons) you can re-design your buddy (hair, face, clothes, accessories) to your heart’s content.

Computerized male and female voices provide much of the direction on the site. These took a little getting used to on our family’s part. The voices are flat, lacking emotion, seemingly without enthusiasm. The girls tend to turn off the sound when they don’t need it (obviously when someone’s telling you which word to spell, you need sound).

Input can be done using the keyboard or the mouse (point and click). We found keyboard input to be faster and often more responsive. When entering letters to spell a word, the on-screen keyboard is in alphabet order, not like a QWERTY keyboard.

In the math program, there’s a scratch pad (a little awkward to use), where you can use the mouse to jot down problems if you need to. In truth, we hardly used this feature at all. I think we’d be more likely to use pencil and paper than to draw with the mouse, but it’s kind of a neat feature, with its different colored inks and quick erase.

Here’s a screenshot of the math drill portion of the program:

In the math portion, I like the way the problems are presented, complete with boxes where you can enter “carries” and “borrows” and the intermediate steps in long division. On the other hand, the program does not require you to put in the carries and borrows if you can do the math in your head; you can just put in the answer if you want to, and it will give you immediate feedback whether the answer is correct or not.

Here’s a screenshot of the geography program menu:

We haven’t used the spelling and vocabulary portion of the program as much as I’d like. I need to type in some customized lists so that the girls can practice on vocabulary from their academic studies. Here’s a look at the menu spelling portion of the program:

Our impressions

Eldest found the site “pretty interesting” but wishes the math were a little more challenging. (That’s my fault — I could have set her up with more difficult problems.) She likes the games that you get to play after completing a lesson.

Youngest took a long time to warm up to the site. I think the monotone computerized voices and oversized “feel” of the website was off-putting at first. Getting her to use the site was difficult, and she sat down under protest, though once she won through to the reward games she started doing lesson after lesson, just to earn more coins for games.

Since she already knew a fair amount of geography, she found the states drill a bit dull. (However, she still learned things she didn’t know about each state as the program presented state facts as a part of the lesson.)

We found a few typos here and there, though none of them seemed critical to using the program. (“Your ready to move to the next level” is one that I recall.) Sometimes the site was hard to navigate. I remember one screen where an arrow was pointing to a button that would take you back to the main menu. The only problem was, the button was off the screen, and there didn’t seem any way to scroll to it in the pop-up window. The site wasn’t always intuitive. The girls had to prompt me a few times to scroll down in order to find information or functions.


The site features a lot of free material, as I’ve mentioned. Click here to start exploring.

You can find out more about the premium math program, see a comparison of the free and premium math features, and sign up here. The premium math is $9.99 a month or $49.99 for a year (which works out to $4.17 a month). A seven-day free trial is available so you can try before you buy.

The interactive U.S. geography program is $39.99 per year, which works out to $3.33 a month. Click here to see a comparison of free and premium programs, to sign up, or to get a 7-day free trial.

To read more TOS Crew opinions of this product, please click here.

Disclaimer: Big IQ Kids provided our family with two free one-year premium accounts to the website. No additional monetary compensation was involved.

TOS Crew: Griddly Games (Civilize This!)

One of the great things about being on the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew is that we get introduced to new games. I especially like it when we learn something from a game, though it’s also good just to have fun together as a family.

Thus, I was glad to be among those who received Civilize This! from Griddly Games, a history trivia game that’s challenging enough to keep adults on their toes, while offering accommodations to make the game playable by a range of ages. (We added a few accommodations of our own. More about that, later.)

First impressions

Civlize This!The game comes in a sturdy storage box. It consists of four decks of cards and a colorful die. You roll the die, and, according to the color, you might answer a history trivia question set in ancient times, the medieval era, or modern times, or if you get the “purple option” you pick up a Wise Alec card. The purple option quickly became the most popular choice among our younger players: Even though they didn’t know a whole lot about ancient China or the Mayans or the Maori or modern-day Germany (some of the topics we encountered), they could do their best to hum a mariachi tune, or make up their own rain dances, or just pick up points (or lose them!) by reading the card aloud.

The cards themselves are fairly sturdy, though one card didn’t stand up well to nervous bending on the part of an eager player. The questions range from commonly known trivia to guessable answers to things that we didn’t know at all and thus learned by playing the game. Each card has two questions, one worth three points and the other worth seven, and you get to choose which one you want to try for. We assumed the seven point questions would be harder, but they weren’t always.

Sitting down to play

Game set-up is easy — just open the box! (The first time you play, you have to take the cards out of their plastic wrapping, of course.) The rules are right there on the box, a nice feature, as I can’t tell you the number of games we’ve had over the years where we’ve lost a separate rule sheet. The rules are not complicated, quick to read through, and we were quickly immersed.

Technically speaking, Civilize This! is a travel set. The box is compact, and the materials pack away securely. The game is easy to play whether riding in the car (though you have to be a little careful, rolling the die) or sitting around on the floor of the family room, or around the kitchen table, or even on a picnic blanket in the park.

Good for a mix of ages to play together

We immediately adopted one suggestion in the rules list designed to “level the playing field” — assigning different winning point totals based on age and grade level. This worked pretty well — at the end of the game, all the players were within one question of winning, making it an incredibly close game. Of course, that popular purple deck helped a lot, for those who didn’t know a lot about history (yet).

We added a spin of our own, too, allowing our struggling players to attempt the seven point question without penalty, and being allowed to tackle the three point question if they couldn’t answer the seven pointer. (You’re only supposed to get one chance per turn.) We also played a kind of 20-question game if we thought someone could guess their way to the answer, and this helped to even things out and prevent frustration on the younger players’ parts.

Games to get you going

Griddly Games‘ motto is “the games to get you going” and Civilize This! certainly lives up to the promise. We enjoy this historical trivia game, and as a byproduct, every time we play, we learn something about different cultures through the ages. A variety of cultures and their customs is represented in the game, and the information is interesting. (Do you know what color represents happiness in China? What bird is on the flag of Germany? How the Maori cooked special feasts? What connected Mayan cities?)

Other games available from Griddly include Nature Nuts (check out the link at the end of this review to see TOS Crew reviews of this game), a nature trivia game, as well as other trivia, strategy, story-telling, and brain-teaser games.

Civilize This! is designed for 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, and is available where toys and games are sold for $14.99.

To read other TOS Crew opinions of Civilize This! click here.

Disclaimer: Griddly Games provided our family with a free copy of Civilize This! for review purposes. No other compensation was provided.