Love Letter

Love Letter was voted the game of the year in 2012.

Last week I wrote about how games can help develop critical thinking skills. Over the next few weeks I plan to introduce some games you have probably never heard of.

In the game Love Letter, the players are competing to have their letter read by the princess. The player with the highest ranking official card in their hand at the end of the play is the lucky letter writer. During the game players must choose cards to play which can cause other players to be removed from the round. For example, if they are able to name the official held in another player's hand that player is finished for the round. Other cards enable them to peak at another player's hand or trade hands with another player.

My daughter and I actually discovered this game back in 2012 after attending a game night at our local library. The librarian running the session was a hobby gamer who had just attended a gaming convention. He eagerly taught us Love Letter as well as a few other games he purchased at the convention.

Like all games, winning this game involves discovering a strategy that will enable the player to hold the highest ranking card at the end of play. At a cost of around $10 it makes a fun stocking stuffer and addition to your home game library.

For more great educational activities check out these blog hops

Gaming and Critical Thinking

Playing games is one of the best ways to develop critical thinking skills.

Last week I wrote about attending our first gaming convention. If you've never heard of or been to a gaming convention, I highly recommend it.

At the convention, I was busy playing my skip-counting card game Speed! in the vendor room while my husband and son tried out a variety of new games. Because a gaming convention is filled with people who like to play games, through demonstrating my game, I had the opportunity to see how playing games has enhanced the logic and critical thinking skills of the participants.

Most people have a hobby. For some, their hobby is a musical instrument, for others it's sewing, woodworking, politics, reading, running or camping. There are an unlimited number of hobbies, but I had never thought of playing games as a hobby until I attended a gaming convention.

Hobbies are interesting, because they are a pleasurable pastime for the participant. People tend to fill their free time exploring their hobby as much as possible, and over time become unofficial experts in their field as they continue to increase their knowledge.

Speed! is a relatively easy game to learn, but I was stunned by how much quicker veteran gamers learned to play. Most picked up on all the rules after only about 2 minutes of instruction and were onto strategizing how to win. At one time during the convention a five year old boy and his seven year old sister walked up to my table. They only played one round of Speed!, but before the round was done they were racing at top speed while predicting two to three moves ahead. I could see the five year old boy thinking 'if I play my 9, then my sister will play her 12, but if I play my 3 instead, then she won't have a card to play. Picking up on strategy during the first round of play was unbelievable, but it happened over and over throughout the weekend.

The question was why did the gamers pick it up so fast? Well the obvious answer was that they play games often. By continuously strategizing in different circumstances they have learned to recognize patterns at a rapid rate. In addition, they don't just follow the rules, but predict possible outcomes of various acceptable moves and select their best option. Based on the information available, they try to think several moves ahead when planning their moves.

My husband and son witnessed this same skill while playing games with other gamers. At the conference many game tables were set-up with a person available to teach others the game. Attendees could show up at scheduled times to try out new games. My husband and son tried games with others three times at the convention and lost every time. They said that the other gamers were strategizing at the very beginning of the game while it took them half way through the game to understand the rules. The game hobbiests were just that much quicker.

The skills being developed by playing games; critical thinking, logic, and decision making not to mention math, are applicable in many aspects of life from most careers, jobs and daily routines. There are many games on the market, so start thinking about games like books. Try one and see how it goes. If you like it teach friends and play again. Then try a new game. There are so many to choose from. Have fun!

Please visit Highhill Education again next week as I will begin writing about some of the games my husband and son played.

For more great educational activities check out these blog hops

Revolutionary War Books for Kids

The Revolutionary period of American history is filled with stories of heroes who fought in vastly different ways for the freedom of the coming nation. Reading children's picture books made up a significant portion of our lesson plan for learning about this period. In addition to picture books we incorporated longer chapter books. Our favorites were the type that taught through story. LIVING BOOKS! Here's a list of books and videos we used to study American Revolutionary War History.

Benjamin Franklin

Grade 1st - 4th
Benjamin Franklin by D'Aulaire
What's the Big Idea Ben Franklin by Jean Fritz

Grade 5th - 8th
Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos
Poor Richard by James Daughterty

High School
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

George Washington

Grade 1st - 4th
George Washington by D'Aulaire 
George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz
George Washington's Mother by Jean Fritz

American Revolution

Grade 1st - 4th
Liberty's Kids Video Series Episodes 1-40
USKids History: Book of the American Revolution
The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities
Sam the Minuteman (I Can Read Book 3)
18 Penny Goose
And Then What Happened Paul Revere? by Jean Fritz
Why Don't You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? by Jean Fritz

Grade 5th - 8th
Sarah Bishop


Grade 1st - 4th
Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? by Jean Fritz
The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz
Will You Sign Here John Hancock? by Jean Fritz
Grade 5th - 8th
A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution

High School
The Freedom Answer Book: How the Government Is Taking Away Your Constitutional Freedoms
The Five Thousand Year Leap: 28 Great Ideas That Changed the World (Revised 30 Year Anniversary Edition)

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Home Game Library

Do you collect and play games?

Many homeschoolers naturally collect books. They visit the library, thrift stores, book stores and somehow end up with an endless supply of books. Well now is a great time to start a new collection. Games!

The paradigm for how I view games has just gone through a transformation. In the 80's, when I grew up we all had the same games. Many of us have memories of playing Monopoly, Clue, Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, Sorry and Life. Today, there are as many games to choose from as books. Ok, well maybe not quite as many, but the number is rapidly increasing.

Have you recently visited a unique Toy and Game store and wondered why you have only heard of a few of the games? I have, and have felt very overwhelmed by the variety of choices. Fortunately, many stores now offer the opportunity to try out the games during their game days, but an even better way to try out a variety of new games is to attend a gaming conference.

Over the weekend, we (my husband, son and I) attended our first gaming conference to promote my skip-counting card game Speed! While there I was stunned to find there are gaming conferences all over the state giving gamers the opportunity to participate in conferences many weekends of the year.

It turns out there are five primary interests of gamers; board and card games, role playing games, minitures, collectables, and comics. Many of the gamers have interests in more than one area, but others stick to a focus. Because my game and interests fall into the board and card game category, that is the area we explored.

At gaming conferences, attendees have the chance to try out a variety of games. Very reasonably priced tickets can be purchased for one day or the entire weekend. The tickets grant access to the convention's library of games as well as game tables set up with a "game master" that instructs first-time players in the rules of a game. In addition, game designers attend the conventions with their prototype games seeking advice for tweaks before production.

It didn't take long for my husband and son to decide I would be taking care of our "Speed!" table, while they would roam the conference exploring as many new games as possible. Since this was our first experience at a gaming convention, they decided that their favorite table was actually a promotion table. There were over 30 unopened games on the table. Anyone attending the convention could play those games. If they played an entire game from start to finish, they could put their name into a raffle for that game. Well the boys ended up playing five games from the table and winning two of the games they played. The $70 win value, more than covered the $30/person ticket price for the entire weekend. They were all smiles.

Before attending the conference I knew there was a bigger variety of games available than when I was a child, but had no idea of the extent. I was blown away by the choices and a little overwhelmed at first. But approaching a new game like a new book was key. You will not read everything in the library in one day and you won't play all the games either. That's the fun of it. Playing or reading something new and then sharing your experience with friends discussing a book at a book club, or playing a game during game night.

If you have an opportunity to attend a gaming convention, I highly recommend the experience.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Revolutionary War Video Series

Last week I wrote about Liberty's Kids; an animated Revolutionary War series for Kids. This week I'm recommending the History Channel Series The Revolution.

With a 9 year old and a 15 year old both studying American History, it's interesting to compare resources. The main difference between the series for children and the series for adults is the specific battle strategies and the violence. Being that my older daughter watched Liberty's Kids several years ago, the adult series was a good review.

This series is available at our local library. It was highly beneficial, but other American Revolution series could be substituted. The Revolution series contains thirteen 45 minute videos telling the complete story of the American Revolution. The last two videos in the series were a summary of the entire revolution.

Over the years, my 15 year old has read many historical fiction novels and the book This Country of Ours and has gained a very good understanding of American History. Now that she's in 10th grade, she has been documenting her knowledge in preparation for college by taking CLEP exams. American History is next on her list.

Over the next 6-8 weeks she plans to review American History and videos are one source of information. In addition to Revolutionary War History, she is watching a video PBS Documentary about Andrew Jackson, has been researching treaties and events and will continue to read.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Liberty's Kids - American History Videos for Kids

Liberty's Kids is an animated series for kids which covers the American Revolution.

It begins with the Boston Tea Party and ends with We the People. Each episode in the 40 episode series covers a major event of the Revolutionary time period such as The Battle of Bunker Hill, Paul Revere's Ride and The Intolerable Acts. The 20 minute long episodes are perfect for short attention spans and an easy introduction to American History.

William J. Bennett's Children's Book of America and Jean Fritz's American History Short Narrative Stories are nice companions for the videos.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Fiber Field Trip

My daughter and I went to Fiber Festival.

Each year at the end of August, the Michigan Fiber Festival is held at the Allegan County Fair Grounds. Fiber comes from furry animals and is used in a variety of crafts. Sheep by far are the stars of the show, but rabbits, alpacas and other animals are also included. The festival lasts for five days with full day, half day and mini workshops offered on four of the days and vendors from around the world on three days.

Workshops in knitting, crocheting, weaving, felting, dying, basket making and soap making were offered. My daughter and I each signed up for two different full-day workshops.

1. Wet Felting

My favorite workshop was using wet-felting techniques to create a wall hanging. Beginning with a pre-shrunk length of fabric, we added bobbles, yarn, ridges, and voids to our sheet before soaking it with soapy water and agitating it to make it stick together and shrink.

In this class each student started with a blank canvas and created unique designs. Everyone's wall hanging turned out vastly different. The commonality was the various techniques used to create the designs. Because of the free flow and creativity offered by this class I was immediately hooked with the craft. (It was the first time I ever wet felted.)

2. Braided Rug

By braiding together lengths of clean fiber, felting them in a washing machine cycle with hot water and cold rinse and then sewing them into a circle we created rugs. This technique results in beautiful rugs that will last a lifetime. The complete technique is explained in the teachers book The Shephard's Rug.

3. Dying the Shibori Way
Dying the Shibori way is like advanced tie dye. Instead of just using rubber bands to create designs in fabric dipped into different dye baths, the Shibori method uses stitches. To create her chicken my daughter sketched her design and then used various stitches which included sewing lentils and beans into the fabric before dying. After dying all the stitching was removed.

4. Rug Hooking

This sheep was created from a kit supplied by the teacher. While my daughter enjoyed the class, she said the technique could have been easily learned with a book. There are many on Amazon.

Fiber festival is not a typical school field trip, but when you encourage your children's interests nothing really is typical. We can't wait to return next year and my 9 year old daughter is looking forward to her first class at fiber festival as well.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

American Revolution for Kids: Soldiers

We read a few books about soldiers and made a tri-cornered hat.

The British soldiers wore red because it disguised the color of blood. To Americans they were known as Lobsterbacks or Red Coats. As professional soldiers, they were sent to America to keep law and order and enforce British rules. On top of being soldiers, they often accepted work in America to supplement their income. Therefore, they were liked by some and loathed by others. After all the country was at war and Americans were not all on the same side.

As tensions rose, they were sometimes taunted and teased in public. These incidents led to some of the most well known scuffles of the war including the Boston Massacre. As the war continued, more and more soldiers were sent to America. There were too many to house in British facilities, therefore many were boarded with families in private homes. To Americans rebelling against British rule, this was a gross injustice.

When the founders wrote the Declaration of Independence they wrote up a list of complaints against the British Government. One complaint on the list was the required quartering of British Soldiers at the expense of the Colonists. The book, The 18 Penny Goose, illustrates this complaint through the eyes of a child. When British soldiers came through Letty's village, she was worried about her ducks and wrote the soldiers a note. This easy reader is perfect for kids ages 5-11.

Contrary to the British, the American soldiers were not professional fighters. Instead, they were farmers, merchants and craftsmen. They worked their day jobs and then grabbed their muskets, scythes or other weapons and went off to defend themselves against tyranny. Since they could be ready to fight at a moments notice they were known as minutemen.

The book Sam the Minuteman tells the story of how one minuteman and his son were involved in the first battle of the Revolutionary War.

After reading a little about American and British soldiers my daughter made a tri-corner hat. The basic idea was to cover a piece of cardboard in the shape of a triangle with a circle in the middle for the head with fabric.

 First she made a band of white fabric to fit her head. Next she cut out a piece of cardboard with a circle hole in the center for her head.

 Then she cut a large circle of fabric. She draped the fabric over her head and then placed the cardboard overtop.

 The loose fabric was brought over the cardboard and stitched into place. Then she added a few feathers.

For more American History book/project ideas, please see our History Page.
Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

George Washington and John Hancock

We read about John Hancock, George Washington and made Liberty Punch.

John Hancock

Everyone knows who George Washington was, but what do you know about John Hancock? He was the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence, but what was his role in the American Revolution?

John Hancock inherited a shipping company and was therefore one of the wealthiest residents of Massachusetts. He used much of his personal wealth in the fight for American independence. Because the British were placing taxes on imports to America, he became a smuggler during the days of the American Revolution.

Reading the book Will You Sign Here John Hancock? by Jean Fritz we learned that John Hancock wanted everyone to like him. He was a great host to both influential Americans and foreign dignitaries. He served as a member of the Continental Congress and was governor of Massachusetts.

George Washington

There are many biographies about George Washington, but sifting through them all we were able to narrow them down to three picture book biographies perfect for elementary age children.

We especially enjoyed the two Jean Fritz biographies. In George Washington's Breakfast, a young boy goes on a search to determine what George Washington may have eaten. After searching libraries, museums and his own attic he does arrive at an answer. Then he begins to wonder about lunch. George Washington's Mother was equally entertaining. How would you feel if your son wanted to join the Navy or the Army? What would you do if he decided to run off to fight a war? This book makes George Washington's Mother into a human we can relate to while enabling children to learn about several other reasons George Washington is a hero of America's past.

Liberty Punch

Along with reading biographies of famous Americans, we referenced some of the activities from The American Revolution for Kids. My daughter made Liberty Punch to celebrate American freedom.

The simple recipe mixed raspberry tea, ginger ale and mint leaves. She liked it so much she made it twice.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Writing an Oxymoron - Honest Politician

My daughter wrote a sentence with an oxymoron - honest politician.

Since art is a favorite subject for my 9 year old, I have been working to deeply incorporate it into her curriculum. This year she is using the book Teaching English Through Art for writing two days per week. The other days we work together to write and edit stories, descriptive works and other forms of writing. The book has been a big hit!

This week her assignment was to write a sentence containing an oxymoron. (An oxymoron is two words put together that don't normally go together.) The book gave several examples to choose from. With the presidential election only days away honest politician seemed like a natural choice for her.

Her sentence reads "Honest politicians are very rare. Hillary Clinton is not honest."

The other night at dinner, she added, "I hope Hillary doesn't win because I think I want to be the first female president. Or maybe I want to be a clothes designer."

Whoever wins, I hope will preserve Constitutional Freedoms.

Happy Election Day!

James Madison and Patrick Henry - Kids Rights

James Madison and Patrick Henry were two great Americans who stood up for American rights, but they were extreme opposites. We read about these two leaders then my daughter made a t-shirt to help fight for a kid right.

James Madison was a quiet, small man with a history of illness. Reading and learning were great passions of his. He was extremely intelligent and a great thinker. Perhaps a little shy, he did not enjoy speaking to a audience, but did so when he felt it was absolutely necessary. He was a framer of the Constitution and became president of the United States.

Patrick Henry, on the other hand, was a tall, out-spoken man who liked being the center of attention. He began his oratory career arguing in a courthouse and continued making long speeches as a member of the Virginia House of Burgess. By some peers he was seen as a great speaker who sometimes lacked the intelligence or thought behind his words.

Both Patrick and James were opposed to taxes levied on the colonies by the British, but that is the major extent of their agreement. James Madison believed in the Constitution and worked to convince other colonial leaders of its necessity. Conversely, Patrick Henry thought each state should be independent and any document linking the colonies needed, at minimum, a bill of rights.

As it turned out, Madison and those in favor of a constitution won out. After many long months of discussion, the Constitution was ratified without a bill of rights.

Kids Rights

Propaganda, protests and public demonstrations are major ways people fight for change. I asked my daughter to think about the rights she felt she deserved. When discussing rights it is important to note that a "right" should not indirectly enslave another person. Therefore, if my daughter said it was her right to be served dinner every night I would have argued with her because being served would have required me or another individual to do the serving. In contrast, it would have been alright if she declared it her right to choose whether or not she ate dinner each night. Granted, this example could lead to discussions of charity, mother's duty, and people facing starvation, but the point was to discuss the difference between a right and a desire. 

Rights are tricky to understand and this is one area in which we as a nation have currently lost our way. Studying American history gives us a great opportunity to discuss the difference between a right and a privilege.

Therefore, after reading about how these early American patriots fought for rights they felt they deserved, my daughter made a t-shirt to help her fight for a right she felt she deserved.

She used fabric markers to write "Don't go to bed. Stay up instead!" - I guess she feels she is old enough to determine her own bedtime.......... another topic for discussion.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Benjamin Franklin - American History for Kids

My daughter read and wrote about Benjamin Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin was the Leonardo Da Vinci of America. He was an inventor and great thinker. His ideas not only defined our country, but helped it to gain independence. He was the Father of America and the first American Ambassador to both England and France.

As a citizen he worked to start a fire department, improved the post office, began a hospital and a library. He was the inventor of the lightning rod and conducted many scientific experiments involving electricity. He was a writer and printer and an involved member of society. He was loved by all and a great example to us even today.

Because he was so great a man there are numerous biographies written for children telling the story of his life. Some are excellent, and others mediocre. Here are three wonderful books that engage children while introducing them to Benjamin Franklin. Any one of the three is a great place to start and they all give very similar information. The book Ben and Me is a bit different than the other two because it is longer and the story is told by a mouse named Amos living with Benjamin Franklin.

Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

 Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire

After reading about Ben Franklin, my daughter wrote a paper on Ben Franklin. First she made a list of interesting things she learned about Benjamin Franklin. Next she grouped the interesting facts into related groups. Then she chose three groups to make into paragraphs. After she had completed three paragraphs she wrote an introduction making sure to begin with a sentence which got the attention of the reader. She finished her paper with a conclusion paragraph. After the rough draft was complete, we spent a day crossing out irrelevant sentences and expanding on sentences which used vague descriptive words such as good and neat. Finally, everything was recopied to a clean sheet of paper. The entire process lasted about two weeks and ended with a product she was proud to have completed and happy to be done with.

For more American History lessons for kids please visit Highhill Education again next week or visit our archives on our History Page.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

American Rebels - Sam Adams and Paul Revere

My daughter brewed a batch of root beer in honor of Samuel Adams. Although he was trained as a brewer of beer, he was more interested in politics.

Samuel Adams and Paul Revere were two great American heroes that helped to lead the rebellion. The Sons of Liberty was a secret club of businessmen opposed to the King of England. The Mechanics was a secret club of craftsmen opposed to the King of England. Samuel Adams was a leader of the Sons of Liberty and Paul Revere was a leader of the Mechanics. The Boston Tea party was organized by the Sons of Liberty and Paul Revere is famous for his midnight ride to warn the colonists of the coming of the British to Lexington and Concord. Both of these events mark the beginnings of the American Revolution and America's fight for independence.

Living in Boston, Samuel Adams was greatly opposed to taxes imposed on the Americans by the British. He spoke out widely against The Stamp Act and The Townsend Acts which included the tea tax. Public support for independence during the time of the Boston Massacre was created with the help of his mastery of propaganda. Later he attended the continental congress and became a founding father of the new nation.

In Boston, Paul Revere became a silversmith opposed to taxes set forth by the British government. Like Samuel Adams, he was a participant in the Boston Tea Party and a leader of the Sons of Liberty. He was also a leader of the Mechanics; a group of craftsmen opposed to the King.

Jean Fritz has written several books on American History and we have really enjoyed her biographies of American heroes. The Boston Tea Party is another fun book to read with kids to introduce kids to this famous event.

The poem Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow shouldn't be missed when studying the American Revolution. There are lots of illustrated versions of the story.

After reading about Sam Adams and Paul Revere, my daughter brewed a batch of root beer in honor of Samuel Adams since he was trained as a brewer. The activity came from the book The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities of which we referenced several activities.

Please join us again for future posts of American History Lessons for Kids.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas.

Studying for the Western Civilizations CLEP Exam

My 15 year old daughter just took her second CLEP exam - Western Civilizations I: Ancient Near East to 1648.

Returning to the United States in 2015 after living in Germany for six years she took her first CLEP exam German. Although she was homeschooled in Germany she attended dance classes with German kids and spent lots of time immersed in German culture. Therefore, this exam was relatively easy for her. The Western Civilizations exam was very different.

The exam covers western civilization from the Greeks and Persians, through the middle ages and Renaissance. Coincidentally, this lines up very well with the history topics we studied while she was in elementary school.

As part of our homeschool curriculum, we studied one topic in history for between 6-15 weeks with a weekly project. Details of the lessons and projects can be found on our History Page.

Therefore, in studying for the Western Civilization CLEP exam step one was to review the spine books we read in the past.

Mesopotamia Books
Ancient Greece Books
Ancient Rome Books

Viking Books

Middle Ages Books

Renaissance Books

Next, she took a practice exam to find weak areas. Because we felt church history and the Middle Ages were the weakest areas, she spent approximately six weeks studying primarily those topics. We found the following resources helpful.

Ryan Reeves Church History Videos on Youtube
Librivox/Baldwin Project –
Saints and Heroes to the End of the Middle Ages
Saints and Heroes Since the Middle Ages


Now she just needs to decide what to take next.

Check out these great blog hops for more educational activity ideas. 

Early American History Books for Kids

Books, Books, Books...... There are so many books on American History. Our favorites are the type that teach through story. LIVING BOOKS! Here's a list of books and videos we used  to study Early American History.

Native Americans

Native American Books


Grade 1st - 4th
Encounter (Voyager Books)

Grade 5th - 8th


Grade 1st - 4th
Roanoke: The Lost Colony
Who's that Stepping on Plymouth Rock?
USKids American Colonies
Story of William Penn by Aliki 

Grade 5th - 8th
Pocahontas and the Strangers (Scholastic Biography)
Squanto, Friend Of The Pilgrims (Scholastic Biography)
Native America before Colonization (Video)

Early Settlers

Grade 1st - 4th
A Lion to Guard Us
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain

High School
Whatever Happened to Justice? (An Uncle Eric Book)

Salem Witch Trials (1692-3)

Grade 5th - 8th
The Witch of Blackbird Pond

French Indian War (1754-1763)

Grade 1st - 4th
The Matchlock Gun

Grade 5th - 8th
Indian Captive: The Story of Mary Jemison
Calico Captive

High School
French Indian War Documentary Parts 1-3 (Video)

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