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May 2007 | Vol. VI - No. 5
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Homeschoolers: Sentenced to Play

Gamers Judge Others and Have Fun, Too


This month, TDmonthly’s Homeschool Roundtable raved about four games that were four kinds of fun: Out of the Box Publishing’s super-fun, super-silly Apples to Apples Junior! and Junior 9+ editions; the race-to-spell game My Word; the race-around-the-country board game 10 Days in the USA; and You’ve Been Sentenced! from McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds, which players gave a thumbs-up verdict.

Roundtable participants were art teacher Lynn Costine, B.A., MAT, with Sarah (13 years), Anna (11), Emily (9) and Will (8); Susan Ledford, editor of the "Homeschool Resources Directory for SC,” with Victoria (11), Joe (7) and Griffin (1); Julie Petoia, RN, with Cabot Lee (12), Talia (10), Malynne (9) and Jeremiah, Jacob and Gabriel (5); Alison Shanahan with Elizabeth (14), Emily (12) and Katie (6); and Teresa Wilson, editor of HOMES Newsletter, with Timothy (14), Andrew (11), Elise (8) and Steven (6).

You’ve Been Sentenced from McNEILL DESIGNS FOR BRIGHTER MINDS LLC
For 3 to 10 players
Age: 8 and Up
MSRP: $24.95

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TDmonthly rating:



What It Is:
A word game that challenges players to form grammatical sentences that pass the judge’s scrutiny.

How It’s Played
From a “deck” of 540 cards, each listing five forms of funny words, famous names and recognizable places interspersed with wild cards, each player uses a 10-card hand to string together the longest justifiably grammatical sentence. Usage difficulty increases a word’s potential score, but the other players constitute the jury, who collectively judge the sentence to be acceptable … or not!

What the Moms Thought
Wilson raved, “The children were learning verb conjugation without even realizing it!” Shanahan agreed, saying, “They are forced to think about sentence structure and grammar. It encourages creative thoughts and connections.” Ledford said, “I like the variety of words (for example, “hip” and “toy”) on the cards, and the fact that each card featured the same word in a variety of grammatical forms (hip/hips/hipper/hippy/hippest and toy/toys/toyed/the toy store/toying).”

What the Kids Thought
Timothy (14) and Andrew (11) competed to see who could make the most bizarre sentences, and Joe (7) tried repeatedly to use the word form with the most points. “That added to the challenge, as the word form with the most point value is the most difficult,” said Ledford. The Petoia children liked having a judge, while Joe liked judging other players’ sentences.

How to Improve It
Shanahan pointed out that since 200 points is quickly reached, players may want to continue beyond that number. Wilson suggested reusable wipe-off scorecards. Ledford suggested labeling each word’s grammatical use (e.g., noun, verb, adjective, adverb) to facilitate more independent play by younger players who are just learning basic grammar.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This?
Definitely was the consensus of the roundtable moms. “People were very silly and giggly,” said Shanahan. “This game brings out your creative muse.” Ledford added, “You never know what sentences players will create.”

My Word from OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING
For 2 to 6 players
Age: 7 and Up
MSRP: $5.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is:
A speed-spelling card game.

How It’s Played
Speed spelling at its best, My Word consists of a deck of cards (54 single-letter and 15 double-letter). As cards are flipped up one by one, players race to be the first to form words with at least three letters.

What the Moms Thought
Several moms appreciated the variety of ways to play, as well as options for younger players. “[My Word] is a useful learning tool for getting Kate (6) to think about spelling in a new way,” said Shanahan. “Because the deck includes a Spanish ñ, students can practice Spanish vocabulary, and this also makes the game accessible to those whose native language is Spanish,” said Ledford. Wilson liked the game’s portability and sturdy tin container.

What the Kids Thought
The Petoia children liked the quick play, and Katie (6) “enjoyed the break from traditional paper and pencil work,” said her mom. Wilson noted that her children liked the simplicity of the instructions, and the Ledford children appreciated having several ways to play (including the Spanish version) so that the level of difficulty/challenge could be adjusted for the players’ ages and abilities.

How to Improve It
Roundtable families liked the game as is.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This?
“This game is awesome; it makes spelling fun,” said Victoria (11).

10 Days in the USA from OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING
For 2 to 4 players
Age: 10 and Up
MSRP: $24.99

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is:
A board game in which players race to complete a 10-day journey of the United States by visiting adjacent states or using a transportation tile (an airplane or automobile).

How It’s Played
Included is a sturdy game board map of the United States and four sets of wooden tile holders. The first player to completely chart a 10-day course around the country wins.

What the Moms Thought
“This is a fun, quick way to practice your knowledge of American geography,” said Ledford. Shanahan said, “We love the educational aspects of this toy, teaching geography in a fun way. Also, even a younger child can win this game against an adult, which makes it more rewarding. Unlike a quiz game, you do not need to know geography to play and enjoy.”

What the Kids Thought
The competition and fun were the best features of this game for the Petoia children. Playing the game spurred discussions of possible real-life trips and routes across the country at the Wilson household. Joe (7) agreed, “It helps you plan trips.”

How to Improve It
Shanahan remarked, “The game is a bit short and could be lengthened.”

Would You Want Another Toy Like This?
Shanahan said, “My children were quite pleased to see this toy. We have 10 Days in Africa and like that, too.” (Also available is 10 Days in Europe; coming soon is 10 Days in Asia).

Apples to Apples Kids and Apples to Apples Junior from OUT OF THE BOX PUBLISHING
For 4 to 10 players
Age: 7 and Up (Apples to Apples Kids)
Age: 9 and Up (Apples to Apples Junior)
MSRP: $16.99 and $24.99, respectively

TDmonthly rating:



What It Is:
A game based on comparing “apples to apples.”

How It’s Played
Players select a card from their hand that best matches, or relates to, the card played by the judge. The player whose card is chosen by the judge (based on any criteria the judge decides) wins that round. With two decks of hundreds of cards and several play options, Apples to Apples provides instant family fun. Out of the Box Publishing offers several other versions: German, Yiddish, British Isles and Bible, as well as party box sets, expansion packs and a customizable version.

What the Moms Thought
“[Apples to Apples] is funny,” said Petoia. Ledford noted that learning to play is simple and quick. “It’s very open-ended — you can’t predict the outcome, since the judge changes with each round,” said Ledford. “It’s hard to find a game that people of all ages truly enjoy. The more players you have, the more fun you have.”

What the Kids Thought
What the Wilson children liked about Apples to Apples: “Everything!” said Wilson. “The older boys liked being the judge and picking the silliest response.” Joe (7) and Victoria (11) said that since the game is fun for all ages, it will be much more likely to be played than other games. Shanahan added, “This game also brought out the silly side of people as they tried to defend ridiculous comparisons.”

How to Improve It
The only suggestion offered for improvement came from Shanahan, who wanted longer playing time.

Would You Want Another Toy Like This?
Wilson said, “This game will be played again and again!”

Photos of children by Susan Ledford



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Susan LedfordWriter's Bio: Susan Ledford is the writer, editor and publisher of the "Homeschool Resources Directory for S.C."  She has been evaluating toys and games for TDmonthly's Roundtable reviews since 2005. She also is a homeschool veteran of seven years. Read more articles by this author

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