Category Archives: Reviews

WordUp! – Fulfilling My Vocabulary Desires

An approach to teaching vocabulary, without the dull textbooks and pointless worksheets – that’s what my daydreams contained.

A product that centred on Latin and Greek roots but increased our English vocabulary at the same time.

Preferably something the kids didn’t groan about and something that could be achieved quickly but powerfully.

If it wasn’t too much to ask, could it be something affordable and easy to use.

I know, I had high hopes, but it’s important to dream…

because sometimes your fairy godmother (or as in this case, Compass Classroom) hears you

and your dream come true!

I don’t know how they got into my head to make my vocabulary desires materialise so perfectly in one product.

But the newly released “WordUp!” is the evidence that they did.

These Compass Classroom people are good!

Dwayne Thomas, from Visual Latin, is once again the star. His dry, quirky sense of humour draws kids in like flies to molasses.

In each level of WordUp!, there are 10 lessons, each introducing a Latin and Greek root, followed by around 20 English words that are derived from these roots.

The lessons are presented as a fun and informative tv show, hosted by a “Well-educated Host” and featuring a “Latin and Greek Expert”, all looking remarkably like Dwayne Thomas.

Each episode is brief, making it super easy to add to our week.  I love that!

In addition to the video lessons, Compass Classroom has provided review activities that utilise Quizlet, an online study website. The kids can review the vocabulary they’ve learned with online flashcards, quizzes and tests, or turn their study into a bit of fun and play ‘Scatter’ or ‘Space Race’. Regular review, of course, is vital to long term learning, much better than working on a worksheet, which is hear today and gone tomorrow.

The way we intend on using WordUp! is to watch the lesson on Monday and then use the Quizlet review, for that lesson, each day, for the remainder of the week. Each week, as we complete a lesson, we’ll add in review of previous lessons in a kind of looping fashion. For example, on Monday of the third week, we’ll watch lesson 3 and then complete its Quizlet review, probably setting a time frame or number of activities to complete. Then on Tuesday we’ll again review lesson 3 on Quizlet and then lesson 1 as well. On Wednesday, we’ll review lesson 3 again, but this time review lesson 2. On Thursday, after our lesson 3 review, we’ll cycle back to review lesson 1, with review for lesson 2 happening again on Friday.  So that’s the plan at present.

If you are interested in checking out Compass Classroom‘s new product, you can download two episodes of WordUp! for free.  When you think about it, that’s 1/5 of the level…for free!  Even if you weren’t interested in WordUp!, I’d download the freebies and enjoy them.

And for those who are keen to jump in and get started, for a short while only, you can purchase the first level of WordUp!, as either a downloadable product or DVD set, for only $9.99US. (They’ll normally be priced at $15.00US, which is very reasonable for a term full of video lessons.)

Well, I better get back to my daydreaming. Hmmm…What can I wish for next?


(I was given this product free of charge in exchange for my honest review of this company’s product. My review is my own opinion, based on my experience. I’m sharing this review with my readers in case there is someone who could benefit from knowing about this product. I choose to review only those products I really do love and would, or do, use.)

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 1, 2014 in Language, Reviews


What is a Boogie Board?

For Ethan’s 13th birthday (yes, 13!) we bought him a Boogie Board.

IMG_8377 (Small)

To Aussies, a boogie board is a board that you take into the surf with you at the beach.

But not this Boogie Board.

IMG_8362 (Small)

This Boogie Board is an LCD writing tablet.

IMG_8363 (Small)

It’s like a high tech version of the old Fisher Price “Magnadoodles”, which my children loved as kids.

Do they still make those?  They should!  They’re great.

IMG_8364 (Small)

But for 13 year olds

(and 40 year olds…just saying Hubby dearest),

a Boogie Board is like the grown up version of a Magnadoodle

….only cooler.

After you’ve written your little message, or doodled your doodled,

IMG_8365 (Small)

you just press the erase button


IMG_8372 (Small)


You are ready to write again!

IMG_8366 (Small)

Scared of the “Poof It’s Gone” element?

Then just switch the erase button to lock, so no one can erase your masterpiece.

IMG_8370 (Small)

Scared of loosing the stylus (fancy word for a pen that is based on pressure and not ink)?

No need to worry about that either!

With the latest version of the Boogie Board, they have added a holder to store your stylus.

(The early versions didn’t have a holder.)

IMG_8371 (Small)

This version ALSO has replaceable batteries!

The older version had a lifespan of 50 000 erases and then you had to throw it out and buy a new one,

which is the number one reason I paid the little extra for this newer version.

Now we can doodle away for a lifetime.

IMG_8375 (Small)

And no, this version doesn’t upload your drawings to the computer or bring you your drinks on a silver platter.  It is exactly what it says it is, a writing tablet, and we love that.

We don’t need yet another device to lure us back to the computer and apps and all that.

IMG_8367 (Small)

We just want to draw and write silly messages to each other.

We might even use it to write school checklists, or words the kids want to spell, or working out for Math.

Who knows.

The options are vast and many.

IMG_8369 (Small)

And Hubby dearest,

the options would be even vaster if Wifey dearest had one too.

Just saying.


(Nope, this Boogie Board wasn’t sent to me to review.  We just bought one and had to share.)

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Resources and Organising, Reviews


Sand in Motion

This month Brayden got a box of “Sand in Motion” for his birthday. This stuff is amazing!  First let me start by telling you that I hate sand.  I hate the feel of it on my skin and most of all I hate it on my floors.  Sand (and glitter) are banned substances in my house.  But “Sand in Motion”, I would allow by the tubs full!

IMG_7612 (Small)

I’ll admit that I was very dubious at first.  I’d seen videos about the stuff and knew that my texture-loving Brayden would love the stuff.  I’d bookmarked a link to buy it online and then deleted it, more than once.  Then we saw it at the Australian Geographic store.  My mum wanted to buy it for Brayden’s birthday but I was incredibly hesitant….until the store attendant led us over to a demonstration tub of “Sand in Motion”.  With only one touch (but it was hard to drag ourselves away) we were hooked on the stuff.  So much so that we bought two boxes!!  They should fill sandpits with this stuff!!  Hmmm…I wonder how much we’d need for our beaches???

IMG_7605 (Small)

“Sand in Motion” looks like sand, in fact it is sand (well 98% sand), and you can use it just like sand.  It both runs through your fingers (not as finely as real sand, but close enough), and molds into sculptures just like wet sand (only it’s not wet or sticky).

IMG_7626 (Small)

The texture reminds me of cookie dough, only it’s not oily or sticky.  When you remove your hands from the sand, there is absolutely no residual feeling on your hands at all!  I love that!

IMG_7568 (Small)

Each time the boys asks to use it, a little voice says, “Sand!  Absolutely not!” but then I have to remind myself that “Sand in Motion” isn’t the nightmare that real sand is.  In fact, it’s better than all the molding substances I can think of!

IMG_7623 (Small)

“Sand in Motion” kind of sticks to itself so it doesn’t tend to fly around the table or floor as much as playdough.  And if pieces do go astray, you can easily pinch them in your fingers to pick them up or use a wad of compressed sand to capture them.

IMG_7613 (Small)

When you purchase “Sand in Motion” you get enough sand for one child to comfortably play with.  You can see below how much sand came from one box.  On the packet it says – one kilogram.  So I’d suggest purchasing one box per child of use.

IMG_7573 (Small)

Since it doesn’t dry out (ever, apparently), we’ve been leaving our sand on its tray so the boys can come and use the sand whenever they feel like it.  Mostly, they enjoy playing with it while I read aloud.  To be honest, everyone has a play who walks past it.  It’s the kind of texture that you just can’t stop touching.

IMG_7617 (Small)

We’re completely in love with our “Sand in Motion”.  My boys are playing with it right now!

IMG_7565 (Small)

And no, no one asked me for this review.  We just love the product and wanted to share it. 



Posted by on July 21, 2014 in Art and Craft, Bits and Pieces, Reviews


Ark! – A Fantastic New Boardgame


You won’t have heard of this new board game but I’m going to change that.

photo 2

A dear friend generously gave us a lovely Christmas gift today –

IMG_4609 (Small)

The boardgame called, “Ark:  The Great Race“.

You can’t buy this game in stores.

(Doesn’t that just make you want it more?!)

IMG_4625 (Small)

People in our friend’s Church created this game and it’s currently only sold through their Church website.

What clever people they have at Generation Church!

IMG_4633 (Small)

I love the thought that has gone into this game.  It’s a rare gem.  I mean, how often does a game creator care if the stickers on your tokens need replacing over time and provide extra stickers for such an occasion.

IMG_4690 (Small)

A little picture book about Noah and the Ark is provided to share God's story

Apparently the creators of the game were very particular about the quality standards they expected from the manufacturers of this game and it truly shows.

IMG_4689 (Small)

Rainbow coloured cards and pieces

Even the packaging demonstrates the care and concern for the product they are sharing with others.

IMG_4688 (Small)

Everything is just gorgeous and their attention to detail shows that this was a product of love.

IMG_4670 (Small)

So how do you play?


Travel around the world

IMG_4677 (Small)

collecting animal pairs, from each continent,

IMG_4686 (Small)

to safely stow in your ark.

IMG_4684 (Small)

Ah, but beware of the termites, icebergs and other disasters that may disrupt the safe voyage of your ark.

IMG_4705 (Small)

That’s the general game play but there are many fabulous elements that add to this game, making it a game that kids will love and parents won’t groan about having to play.

IMG_4663 (Small)


The key skill involved in the game is remembering the animals that each player acquires, in order to request a mate and make a pair.  If you can’t remember, you may ask for an animal fact hint or for the noise the animal makes.  All of this information is contained on each animal card.

IMG_4646 (Small)

On the gameboard there are opportunities to collect new animals from each continent and to acquire animals from other players; and cards that bring misfortune or extra blessings,

IMG_4644 (Small)

…like Ark Insurance, something every Ark owner needs in the perilous world of animal collecting.

IMG_4707 (Small)

Ark” is a game that balances skill and luck so that no one knows who’s going to win until the game is over.   Younger players love this kind of game as it puts them on an even playing field with the adults, as anyone could win.

IMG_4683 (Small)

Lost you with all of the details?  Never fear there’s a Rule Book will all of the nitty gritty details.

IMG_4668 (Small)

Rule books seem daunting??…

Ah, not a problem with the Ark game!

IMG_4634 (Small)

In addition to a fabulous board game, lovingly created, they have made an app (free of course) to enhance your game playing experience!


The app includes a 6 minute video that tells you how to play.  Gotta love that!


There’s also a “Facts” section on the app


where you can explore the continents


and study up on the animals and your animal sound techniques.

Hmmm…I wonder if you can refer to these during the game.  That would give me an edge…until termites eat my ark again!


And something really clever that parents are going to love

…because who hasn’t had to spend torturous hours playing Monopoly for what seemed like an eternity….

a game timer!!


You even get to choose for how long you’d like to play.

It’s so much easier to say yes to a board game if you know it’s got a definite end and you know exactly when that will be.

However I promise you’ll get engrossed in this game and will be just as disappointed when it end as the kids.

photo 1

But wait, there’s still more.  Yes, this game just keeps giving and giving.

In the final moments of the game, the timer adds dramatic sound effects, with thunder and rain, as the clouds close in when the end is nigh.

photo 1

Those final game moments are hectic and thrilling.  You do not want to hit an iceberg at this point!

IMG_4664 (Small)

When the game is over, everyone counts how many continents they have collected pairs of animals from and a winner is announced.  It could be anyone.  And if it wasn’t you, why not play again.  We did!


Ark” was such a lovely gift and possibly one of the best board games we’ve played as a family.

If you are looking for a new board game, something you’ll enjoy as much as the kids, then I’d highly recommend “Ark“.

My family is going to have a lot of fun playing this game over the years and I suspect we’ll still be playing it with the grandchildren.

photo 2






Posted by on December 22, 2012 in Family Life, Reviews