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.
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