Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dice, Decks, and Boards: Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game

Text: Dice, Decks, and Boards: Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game; cover of board game; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated in any other way.

We love playing games in our house, and those games that also help our children with their homeschooling and education have a special place on our shelves. If you are looking for a fun and educational way for your children to review their math skills, then you should definitely check out the latest game from Byron's Games. Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game has been a welcome addition to our gameschooling time as everyone in our family joins in to answer questions on one of the over 250 cards. 

Reviewing Math Sprint from Byron's Games has been so much fun with our children. Several nights, after dinner, we brought out the game to test our addition and subtraction skills. There are multiplication and division questions and word problems, but we used only those cards with addition and subtraction as we have a kindergartner, second-grader, and senior. If our children were older, we would have used all the cards provided. 

Recommend for ages 7+ --- 2 to 8 players --- 30 minutes of gameplay 

cover of Math Sprint game box

And Just What Do You Get in Your Bright Blue Box? 

  • Instructions 
  • One running track board (for gameplay) 
  • 258 Cards: These are divided into the following categories  
    • 92 addition and subtraction cards 
    • 106 multiplication and division cards 
    • 30 wild cards 
    • 30 challenge cards 
  • 10 dry erase cards (so you can make up your own questions) 
  • One dry erase marker 
  • 8 Runner playing pieces in 8 different colors (there are character names and pictures on the instruction sheet) 

Text: Dice, Decks, and Boards: Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game; Practice your mental math skills as you race around the board; image of cards & board game

How Do You Play Math Sprint? 

Math Spring allows you to be very flexible in game play based upon the ages and levels of the children playing the game. The objective of the game is to get to the finish line by answering the mental math questions correctly. You can include both the addition/subtraction cards and the multiplication/division cards or just one stack. (We only included the addition/subtraction cards. We did not use all of the wild cards and used none of the challenge cards when we played.) 

After you pick your playing piece – do you want to be Crystal Reaction, Bootstrap Byron, or one of the other characters – you put your runner in one of the lanes on the track labeled 1 to 8. There are three different lengths of gameplay available to you and your homeschooled children. You can run a 100m, 200m, or 400m game. The longer distances are better for advanced players or for after you have played Math Sprint several times. 

board game of Math Sprint

The first time we played, I misread the rules, and we only moved the runner forward one space after answering a question correctly. We fixed that error the next time we played, which made the game faster and more enjoyable for our five-year-old daughter. We liked the wild cards that allowed our runners to move forward additional spaces without having to answer mathematics questions.  

Each time we have played the game, we only raced the 100m dash, but both our younger children enjoy doing the ten jumping jacks as they get to the half-way point on the track. If we were playing the 200m dash, they would have five hops and ten arm circles to incorporate into the game. And if we were to play the 400m dash, the game incorporates balancing on one leg for five seconds, jogging in place for fifteen seconds, and ten torso twists. So even though children are not really running around a track, they are still getting their exercise!

examining the cards of Math Sprint and the board game


How Did We Use Math Sprint in Our Homeschool? 

We played the game after dinner time so that everyone – my husband, our homeschooled high school senior, our seven-year-old son, our five-year-old daughter, and myself – could play. Our family enjoyed that the "Coach" got to choose who would answer the question – everyone or just two runners. We quickly learned that our youngest son liked to try to have everyone even in the race. 

As our younger children get older, I can easily see us allowing them to play Math Sprint during our homeschool day to refresh their addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. I think being able to answer these simple math questions quickly is important to their success in more difficult levels of mathematics.

Runners on Math Sprint board game

What Do We Think? 

I really like the quality of the game board and the cards. I can foresee them lasting through lots of gameplay with our homeschooling family. Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game is the perfect addition to our collection of educational and fun games for family game night. I also appreciate the fact that while there is a competition aspect to the game, it also allows children to work on individual skills to improve their mental math skills. 

Our seven-year-old son said that, while you are playing the game, if you don't know the answer to a question, you can learn it when one of your fellow gamers answers it correctly. So, you are learning even if you don't get to move your runner forward in the game. His favorite cards are the wild cards such as "you got distracted thinking about a new video game. Go back 1 space."

My husband said that he enjoyed having another reason for the family to gather and have fun at the table, all the while helping the littler ones learn. While parents can easily beat children in the game, it was fun to "lay off" and let the children "steal" answers and gain confidence in mathematics.

As I really like the concept of answering questions as your player moves around the racetrack, I would love to see Byron's Games introduce add-ons to Math Sprint. They could develop card packs with questions about language arts, social studies, history, science, and more. I think our family would definitely purchase additional card decks if it meant we could gameschool on more evenings together!

I think Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game would make a wonderful addition to your gaming shelves. It is both fun and educational. The gameplay is very easy to adapt to the level of your children as you can play a longer game as well as add in additional questions. 

Do You Want to Learn More? 

Bryon's Games logo

We had the privilege of reviewing another game from Byron's Games earlier in the year (March 2020) - Continent Race. We had so much fun with this game, too! 

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Don't forget to read how other members of the Homeschool Review Crew played Math Sprint – The Mental Math Game in their homeschool! 

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Monday, October 26, 2020

Book Club: Children's Autumn-Themed Books

Text: Book Club: Children's Autumn-Themed Books; background of leaves; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

A short while ago, I shared some of our favorite Halloween-themed books. What if you don't celebrate Halloween? There are still plenty of great books that you can read during the months of Autumn with your children. I did a quick search of our library's collection and discovered more than we would be able to check out at one time! How exciting to have new books to read in our homeschool. 

What New Autumn-Themed Books Did We Pick Up At the Library? 

Text: Book Club: Children's Autumn-Themed Books; A Mom's Quest to Teach; background of leaves clip art; 5 book cover photos

Counting on Fall by Lizann Flatt and illustrated by Ashley Barron 

This is one book in the Math in Nature series (we will need to check out the other three) where children work on their understanding of basic math concepts (like counting) while reading about different things that take place during the Fall. There are twelve different scenes that depict the following: deciduous trees, eastern gray squirrels, milkweed pods, humpback whales, Canada geese, pronghorn antelopes, raccoons, monarch butterflies, little brown bats, pikas, black bears, and grackles. In addition to the text about the images, there are questions that ask your children to interpret the images by counting and doing simple addition and subtraction. At the end of the story, you can read more about the animals and plants shared in the book. 

Personally, I really liked reading this book with our two children. I loved the 'what if' questions (that they both could take turns answering) as well as the beautiful cut-paper collage illustrations provided to accompany the easy-to-read text.  I can easily see this being a wonderful addition to your homeschooling bookshelves.

Canada Geese page in fall counting book

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares: A Fall Harvest of Shapes by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky and illustrated by Susan Swan 

When I picked out this book from the list of autumn-themed books our library had listed, I was not sure what to expect. I thought it might be a little too young for our kindergartner and second-grader to enjoy but I was wrong. Our second-grader and I sat together while I read it aloud and he went through and picked out all the shapes in the illustrations. 

For your preschooler, you can easily incorporate Pick a Circle, Gather Squares into your homeschool day. It would a perfect starting point for a day of searching for shapes either at a pumpkin patch or around the house. If we had a lot of pumpkins to carve, I could see us using the book as inspiration for choosing out different jack-o-lantern shapes

Pick a Circle, Gather Squares book cover

Footballs and Falling Leaves: A Fall Counting Book by Rebecca Fjelland Davis 

Like many counting books, this Autumn-themed one focuses upon the numbers one through ten for your preschooler or kindergartner. The bright colorful pictures open up discussions of bears hibernating for the winter, farming equipment like combines, how corn is used to feed farm animals, and more. At the end of the book, there is reinforcement for your child to practice counting again. There are also two pages of facts about fall, which are a nice addition to help you and your child explore more together. 

6 acorns in fall counting book

Hooray for Fall! by Kazuo Iwamura 

In Hooray for Fall!, we meet Mick, Mack, and Molly as their squirrel parents prepare for the Fall. Mama squirrel knitted her children three matching red sweaters as they explore outside, Mick, Mack, and Molly discover so many things are red like their sweaters. There are red mushrooms, red berries, red leaves, and even a red sky. 

To accompany the reading of Hooray for Fall!, you could spend some time reading about bears and create a bear craft or make a nature-themed work of art (N is for Nature). Or perhaps a walk at sunset would be a nice way to end your homeschool day? 

Fall Seasons children's book

Fall by Moira Butterfield 

Finally, I want to share an Autumn-themed book that will explain the season of Fall to your kindergartner or first-grader. In Fall, you and your children will read about how the sun's journey helps impact the seasons on Earth. There are also great discussions about Fall weather, farm life during Autumn, how animals adapt and migrate during the Fall, and some of the stories associated with Fall. 

And if you are in search of some Autumn-themed learning ideas, this book has some ideas for you! There are painting suggestions, nature-themed puppets, and some simple science experiments. Your child can also find definitions of such important words as chlorophyll, migration, and thermometer in the Words to Remember section. 

Does your family have any favorite Autumn-themed children's books? Perhaps there are a few board books that always seem to find their way into your Fall Morning Basket? 

Looking for more children's books? If you are in search of Halloween-themed children's books, check out my Book Club post. Or perhaps you are studying the early presidents of the United States? Why not learn more about George Washington

Friday, October 23, 2020

Crafts: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Look Like?

text: Crafts: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You Look Like? clip art of bear foot prints; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Our children love creating crafts – especially if they are centered around animals! So this month, I decided we should make a brown bear craft inspired by Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Our youngest son was gifted a copy of the book when he was quite little, and we have been enjoying this classic story ever since.

While I designed the craft, I did a little bit of research so I could share some Brown Bear facts with our children. What do they look like? Where do they live? What types of food do they enjoy eating? 

Brown Bear Facts 

  • They are omnivorous mammals living in forest habitats and mountains 
  • Brown Bears can weigh up to 1,500 pounds 
  • They are often solitary except for gathering along salmon-spawning streams and other areas where they go for food 
  • They often give birth to twins, but litters can have 1 to 4 cubs 
  • There are many subspecies of Brown Bears, including ones known as Kodiak and Grizzly 
  • They have short, thick legs 
  • Brown Bears can hibernate for four to six months in their den during the winter months 
  • They live up to 25 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity 

Text: Crafts: Brown Bear; A Mom's Quest to Teach; photo of brown construction paper bear on black construction paper



1. Gather your materials. I sketched the shapes needed for the Brown Bear before we made the craft. 

2. Lay all the pieces onto the construction paper chosen for the background. Glue them on the construction paper one by one. 

3. Glue on the legs for the bear. The bear is in profile. 

gluing the four legs of the brown construction paper bear onto the black construction paper

4. Glue on the body, head, and ear of the bear. 

gluing ear onto brown construction paper bear

5. Glue on the snout of the bear and then a googly eye for your bear. 

brown construction paper bear craft completed

6. Design the background. Draw a cave, a stream, or the night sky. 

completed brown bear construction paper craft

brown bear craft; drawing grass onto construction paper

Do Your Children Want to Learn More about Animals? 

SchoolhouseTeachers.com offers many interesting and educational opportunities to learn about animals. One such course is God's Beautiful Creatures, which will introduce your young homeschooling child to 120 different animals using eBooks and activities to help them learn about backyard animals, colorful animals, desert animals, furry animals, and more! 

Text: God's Beautiful Creatures; SchoolhouseTeachers.com; dog & kitten photograph

You can even incorporate art into your studying of bears with Learning About Art offered by SchoolhouseTeachers.com. In a previous post, I shared our experiences with the course when our children were younger. Over the course of ten lessons your young homeschooling children will be introduced to artists, letters, animals, drawing techniques, and more! 

If you are homeschooling children in third-fourth grades, you might find A World of Animals science course at SchoolhouseTeachers.com to be a useful one. In this text-based course, your children will learn about different species of dogs, owls, hamsters, and grizzlies!

Text: How do you know what he wants to be someday? Let him pick his own classes. Image of boy thinking

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Book Club: Halloween Books

 Text: Book Club: Halloween Books; logo of A Mom's Quest to Teach; background of bat clipart

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

Our family has a tradition of buying books as gifts for the holidays. When I was little, I received many books for various holidays like Easter, Christmas, Halloween, and Valentine's Day. Some of these books were ones that fit the holiday theme, while others were just books that the gift giver thought was cute and wanted to share with me. We have continued this tradition with our own children over the years and have quite a collection of holiday-themed books. 

What are some of our favorite Halloween-themed books? 

EEK! Halloween by Sandra Boynton 

This is an adorable board book perfect for young readers. The chickens are all very nervous as they come across different animals dressed up in costumes. They do not understand what is going on until they find out it is Halloween. 

Text: Book Club: Halloween Books: A Mom's Quest to Teach; book covers of three children's board books; background of pumpkin clipart

It's Pumpkin Day, House! by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond 

We love the little mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and the other books in the series. So, this is a fantastic board book in our house during the month of October. Mouse has seven pumpkins he can decorate for Pumpkin Day and proceeds to paint them with different emotions like happy and sad. 

This board book is the perfect tie-in with a visit to a pumpkin patch. Children can count pumpkins they see in the pumpkin patch and look for ones that are similar in shape and size to those in the book. They can also decide if they want to paint their own pumpkin like the one in the story. 

Dracula - A Counting Primer by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver 

This adorable BabyLit® book is the perfect board book to introduce your little one to numbers and a classic story. The drawings in the book of wolves, tombstones, rats, coffins, and letters are in grays, black, red, and white and help create a Halloween-feel. While reading the book, you can explain as much or as little of the plot as you wish. Dracula does not actually appear in the story except on the cover. 

inside page of Dracula board book; 3 wolves

Happy Halloween, Biscuit! by Alyssa Satin Capucilli with pictures by Pat Schories 

Do your children like the series of books about the cute puppy, Biscuit? This tale might be the perfect one to read this October as Biscuit learns all about events that are taking place prior to Halloween. There is a visit to a pumpkin patch, the creation of a jack-o-lantern, dressing in Halloween costumes, and trick-or-treating. This Biscuit book features flaps to life to find out what happens next in the story. 

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown by Charles M. Schultz 

What Halloween book collection would be complete without the Great Pumpkin? This classic children's story and cartoon are perfect. Through it, we see Linus persevering as he waits for the Great Pumpkin - even if no one but Linus believes that he exists. I also love the fact that with older children, one can also discuss the adventures that Snoopy undergoes fighting the Red Baron. (I love any connection I can make to history!) 

Does your family read holiday-themed books? Do you have any favorite Halloween-themed ones that shine in your collection? 

photos of Children's Halloween-themed books; text: book club: Halloween-themed books

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Teaching History During a School Break

Text: Teaching History During a School Break; background clip art of crowns and hearts; A Mom's Quest to Teach Logo

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, please see my Terms of Use and Disclosure Policy page. Thank you.

No matter how you approach schooling or homeschooling, you might decide that you want to continue studying one or more subject areas during a school break. Perhaps you feel the need to continue with your lessons over a homeschool break because your kids really love learning. Maybe the learning needs to continue to catch up on certain subjects or plans. Whatever your reason, teaching history during a school break can be quite easy and fun. 

Over the Summer 

The most obvious break in school routine – whether you homeschool or not – is summer break. Many homeschooling families take breaks during the summer so that their children will have a similar time off as their friends who attend public or private schools. For many, they also want to be able to spend the time outdoors – perhaps working on the farm or homestead – or visiting nearby sites and attractions. Of course, some homeschooling families school during the summer and take breaks at other times of the year because the summer is too hot to be outdoors.

Visit Places of Historic Interest

What is the easiest way to continue with your history studies during a summer break? Field trips! When you plan a vacation, see if there is some way to incorporate a visit to a historical site. In some locations, it might be a lot easier to plan these side-trips (if visiting historical sites is not the focus of your vacation). For example, when visiting Charleston, SC, it was very easy for my husband and me to visit numerous historical sites, including Fort Sumter, Boone Hall, etc. The town is rich in history from the pre-Colonial era to modern-day history. But what about if you are visiting a beach town or a resort? Well, maybe the history might not be so obvious, but most towns have historical markers, and some even have historical societies that will open their doors for research. If it is a rainy day, why not see if there are any museums or historical societies you can visit for an afternoon? 

Text: A Mom's Quest to Teach; Teaching History During a School Break; photo of barrels in a museum in Charlestowne Landing

Holiday & Seasonal Celebrations 

One of the ways to easily incorporate history during the various holiday and seasonal celebrations is to study the history behind each holiday. There are many places you can go to for resources, including one of my favorites – SchoolhouseTeachers.com. You can see all of their offerings for Seasonal Resources and find just what you need to plan in advance – or if you are like me – find things for the holiday the day before.

You can find Adventures with Books where the lesson designers have listed books on themes like Pumpkins and provided activities to do in conjunction with the reading of those books, lessons to teach art with a holiday theme, or even Everyday Games with seasonal themes. We downloaded quite a few of the Fall ones to complete with our children. 

worksheets and games from SchoolhouseTeachers.com

Use Resources Available to Teach about the Holidays

Another great part of having a membership to SchoolhouseTeachers.com is their Christmas Corner. I am able to share a great number of Christmas-themed programs with our children. For example, last year we watched The Candy Maker's Christmas, which tells the tale of candy canes. There is a worksheet that accompanies the video we could fill out if wanted to and there are other lessons on SchoolhouseTeachers.com about candy canes, too. We can spend the entire month of December using resources from SchoolhouseTeachers.com that help us study the history of Christmas. 

My Teaching Library also offers great seasonal resources, and while these may not focus upon the history of the seasons or holidays, you can easily find worksheets, lapbooks, and notebooking pages that you can use supplement your homeschool lessons. I like that there are notebooking pages that let the children write down what they are learning and experiencing during the holiday season. 

worksheets; wordsearch from My Teaching Library - skeletons, pumpkin, Halloween-theme
Within these downloadable packets were several pages
that focused upon the holidays during the month of October. 

Halloween-themed writing pages from My Teaching Library

Kindergarten Halloween-themed worksheets from My Teaching Library

Go to the Movies 

Whether you visit a real movie theater or just watch movies at home, you can spend time during your homeschooling break watching documentaries or movies based upon real events. There are so many to choose from that you can probably find a movie for almost every area of history you might be studying in your homeschool. 

One of my favorite things to do with historical movies is to spend time comparing and contrasting the real events with those depicted in the movie. You can very easily watch the movie (or movies) during your break and then incorporate the lessons during your normal homeschooling schedule. For example, watch one or more movies about Queen Elizabeth and then read her speeches, read the works of her contemporaries, and compare them to the events depicted on the silver screen. 

Other Posts You Might Enjoy 

Engaging History: Bringing History to Life Series 

Engaging History: Renaissance 

Engaging History: Middle Ages

Engaging History: Modern America

Engaging History: American Civil War

Text: Engaging History: American Civil War; A Mom's Quest to Teach; photo of canon at Fort Sumter