Chess House ~ A Review

There is no secret about my family’s love of games. We are not picky; we love them all.  Board games, card games, serious games and hilarious games are stacked on the shelf and we are always looking for more. While some of my children are familiar with the game of chess, we all have room to better our understanding and skill.  I was excited to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit from Chess House.

What is the Starter Chess Learning Kit?

The Starter Chess Learning Kit is suitable for all ages and comes with the following items:

  • A sturdy canvas bag that holds the complete kit.
  • Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1 – Pawn Level introduces the basics of chess
  • Game Pieces – Plastic pieces measuring regulation size.
  • Vinyl Game Board – 20″ x 20″ board that easily rolls out and lays flat. Backing is non-slip.

How Does it Work?

As soon as your Starter Chess Learning Kit arrives, your family can immediately begin enjoying chess. You want to begin by watching the Elliot’s Chess School DVD. The DVD covers ten topics that walk you through the basics of chess. The ten topics are:

  • Intro to Chess
  • Pawns
  • Rooks
  • Bishops –
  • Queen
  • King
  • Knights
  • Castling
  • Pawn Shields
  • Development

Elliot does an excellent job of engaging his audience and instructing you on each topic. Using a physical game board in front of him, as well as a computer animated screen, Elliot walks you step by step with each piece of the chess board. Not only will you learn what each piece can do but also what makes that piece special. Those little pawns? They are so very important. Don’t underestimate those little guys!

Each video segment is concise and lasting about 10 minutes each. Varying age levels can all benefit from watching the video segments. In our home children from age seven to thirteen watched the Elliot DVD. All of those children were able to understand and implement what they learned. The DVD is really well done- simple but effective.

Learning doesn’t end with just watching one of the video topics. A booklet is included with the DVD that gives exercises to put into practice what you learned. This is a fun way to immediately allow your children (or you) to get some hands on reinforcement. There are two or three exercises given for each level.

For example, after watching the first topic, Intro to Chess, there are two exercises to show what you know. The first exercise is a race to set up the board. Each player tries to be the first to set up all their pieces correctly. The second exercise is a bit more challenging. Each piece is given a point value. A number is called out and the players combine pieces to create that number. Not only do they have to know their pieces but quick thinking and math is involved as well!

In Topic Seven, Knights come into play.  After watching the purpose and use of knights, it is time to put the Knight against the pawns. One player has one Knight against the other players eight Pawns. Or you can play Knights and Pawns. Each player has two Knights and eight Pawns. Who can capture the opponent’s Pawns? Who can get the most points? The third option at this point is to play the first full game – all pieces are now in play!

What Did We Think?

We had two different levels of chess players in our home. Older children knew the pieces and how they could move on the board. Playing a bit on the computer or with a friend occasionally was all the experience they had. Understanding the nuances of each piece and how to use them strategically was their weakness. Then we have my younger children; mainly the seven and ten year old. They only knew a few pieces and had little to no playing experience.

All of the children benefited from watching Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1. They all learned different things and chess is now constantly in play around the house. Everyone was eager to watch the DVD and “play” the exercises. There have been a few tense moments when game play gets close toward the end but much is being learned. Slowly but surely the younger children are becoming more of a challenge to beat.

I know this has happened at your house. Children are in the middle of a game and someone accidentally hits the table and the game pieces go flying. With the vinyl game board with no-slip backing there is no worry over the pieces being shifted. The canvas bag for game storage is great. It makes it very easy to take the chess board with you wherever you go. Lose a piece? Toddler decides to play with the pieces and one disappears into the Land of the Unknown? No worries! Replacement pieces can be purchased easily at Chess

The Starter Chess Learning Kit definitely gets a Tribal Thumbs Up. Easy to use, effective and fun – what more could you ask for? It provides everything you need to give your child a solid foundation in the game of chess. We are looking forward to many years of enjoying and sharpening our chess playing skills.

Pricing and Purchasing Information

Starter Chess Learning Kit is available from Chess for only $39.95. This is a reasonable price for a complete learning kit.

Once you have completed Elliot’s Chess School DVD 1, there are other levels available to continue building your game skills. Chess House also has a wide selection of chess related products from game clocks to books.

Other Crew members were able to review the Starter Chess Learning Kit. Stop by and see what other are saying!


Circle Time ~ Bringing You Together

Just yesterday (or really many years ago) I sat on the floor with three adorable children: Bekah, Mary and Caleb. Caleb was still a little one who sat cuddled in my lap. We gathered together and discussed the days of the week, sang cute little songs and read books. Precious memories….or not?

I have been enjoying and reviewing a book, Circle Time: Plan the BEST Part of Your Homeschool Day,  by Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace. Kendra is a homeschool mom of 8 children who has shared her journey and knowledge through her blog for several years. With her Circle Time being a highly discussed topic, Kendra compiled her experience into an e-book. Don’t be fooled by the title! Circle Time isn’t about preschoolers…it’s about bringing you together.

In some form or fashion, we have had “circle time” in our family for years. I often refer to it as “gather at the table”. Not exactly a catchy title but all the children know what I mean. After morning routines are completed and breakfast is consumed and cleared, we all meet up at the table. From the 19 month old to the 14 year old.

If I have been doing circle time for all these year, why did I need to read Circle Time: Plan the BEST Part of Your Homeschool Day by Kendra Fletcher? Simple. There are always ideas that can inspire us, suggestions we have never thought of and encouragement for when we get weary.

What exactly is this Circle Time book about?

Kendra walks you step by step through planning your circle time; a time to come together to share, to read, to learn.  The key is planning a circle time that works for you and your family.  When will you have it? How long will it last? What will we learn together? She shares how they work through Bible, vocabulary, geography and more.

“Choose one thing. One thing you love doing and let your Circle time grow from there.”

Having a peaceful time and adjusting for various ages is discussed as well.  Other moms share their circle time experiences to show how different it can look. To help even more, Kendra shares resources and links to help you brainstorm what will work for your family.  A few printables are included to help with planning.

As I read through Circle Time, I found common threads and discovered a few things that I wanted to add to our “gather at the table” time. Here is what our Circle Time looks like:

*We begin with Bible reading and prayer.  We read a Proverb every day. We rotate between readers. If you can read, you are in the Proverb rotation. This is my seven year old’s favorite part; she loves when it is her day. We also read a chapter from whichever book of the Bible we are going through. Right now it is 2 Samuel. Everyone from the 3 year old and up take turns reading a verse. (The 3 and 5 year old repeat after me. They love to participate.)

*Memory Work –  We have a set of memory verses that we are working on. We also work on memorizing things such as: prepositions, bodies of waters and the presidents.

*Missionary Biographies are read

*Monday Art

*Poetry reading

*Map drills

Thanks to Circle Time for getting my mind thinking, we are going to be adding in our art study, music task cards and a new geography book during this time.


Are the little ones bouncing off the walls? Some days, I must admit, it can get a bit crazy at the table. Kendra shares how they move little ones around and use it as a training opportunity as well.  We do some of the same. I also allow the little ones to have a few small, quiet toys at the table once Bible is over, I keep coloring pencils and coloring sheets on hand and animal crackers often join us.

I asked my older children if they enjoyed our “circle time” and without hesitation they all said, “Yes”.  It never fails that we have many moments of laughter at the table and our competitive spirits always make memory time exciting. Even when they groan over map drills, it is worth it; it is the best part of our homeschool day.

Interested in starting a “circle time”? Need some fresh thoughts? Circle Time: Plan the BEST Part of Your Homeschool Day by Kendra Fletcher just might be the encouragement you need! It is available in PDF format (immediate download) for $4.99 at Preschoolers and Peace.



Secret Mission ~ Ice Cream Edition

Eddie and I have been married for 17 years. In all those years, the man has never turned down ice cream. If the ice cream is homemade, well, just hand the man a spoon and get out of his way! Almost every year he has mentioned wanting to get an ice cream maker. For various reasons, we have never purchased one. Crazy, right?

Well, Eddie’s birthday falls at the perfect time of year for buying an ice cream maker: summertime! It just so happens that we are blessed with some wonderful children. Bekah remembered days before his birthday that Eddie would love an ice cream maker. She called a tribal meeting with her siblings and they all pooled their resources to purchase one. There was just one small glitch….

The two closest Walmart stores did not have the one they wanted in stock. They had researched and read reviews and did not want to settle for anything other than the Rival Wooden Ice Cream Maker. With just a few days to go, there was no time to order online. What to do!?!??!?!

*insert proper secret mission music*

I called another Walmart, that while not nearby, was not unreasonable far away. They had ONE in stock. One, people! The day before his birthday was our only chance due to his work schedule. Mary and I woke early and headed out while Eddie was still asleep. We drove a good bit and arrived bright and early at Walmart. It was quite impressive to see the parking lot empty. We went directly to the ice cream makers and grabbed it.

We arrived back home and Eddie was still snoozing away and Bekah had the others busy and quiet. Hee hee, mission accomplished.

Eddie’s birthday arrived and he had a busy day of work ahead. The kiddos begged him to open his gift before he left. We had several close calls with a little one spilling the beans! He was thrilled, excited and thoroughly surprised!! He is very hard to surprise. I loved it! And amazingly, he did not work late. Giggle.

That evening we made two batches of ice cream: mint chocolate chip and vanilla. Yum, yum. Served alongside Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake. Mmmhmmmm.

I think we all benefited from this birthday gift!