The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

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USA Puzzle Review by Gena Suarez

Hollow Woodworks
805 Ferguson Ave
Ferguson, MO 63135

I feel good when I purchase an item of excellence for my homeschooling family. If it demonstrates an educational value that will be used over and over throughout many years and will last through succeeding generations, I know I have a real treasure! The folks at Hollow Woodworks run a small family owned business that has made heirloom puzzles since 1985, and I'm very impressed with the USA learning puzzle I received from them. At times, learning takes place almost effortlessly. Put an eye-catching puzzle on your table, the kids take notice, and off they go . . . I like that!

FedEx delivered this huge, vibrantly colored USA puzzle (18 X 28 in.), which immediately graced our coffee table, destined to stay. Each state is identified by name on top of the piece, with the name of the state capital underneath (an ideally added feature). Each of the Great Lakes is also labeled.

Our family enjoyed testing our "state smarts," and the large, thick, puzzle pieces were a perfect size for two-year-old Susanna's little hands too. I loved that she was able to memorize Florida, California, Tennessee, and Texas right away with the help of her 19-year-old brother. Undeniably, this puzzle has great game potential. It is also good for dexterity and educational development, even in the very early years. It is easy to use, easy to read, and easy to clean.

The puzzle came with a geography trivia quiz that had questions like: "Name the eight states with capital names that have two words," "Name the four states with their capital named after presidents," and "Name the twelve states that start with a vowel." There are ten questions, all useful for enhancing the homeschool learning experience, with answers available on the website.

We've owned some flimsy puzzles and games in the past--ones that didn't survive continued use or the tough treatment shown them. I appreciate the obvious sturdiness exhibited in this puzzle. The high-quality puzzles and products skillfully designed by Hollow Woodworks feature only the finest woods (furniture-grade maple), safe finishes (children or pets should not be harmed by chewing on the puzzle pieces), and zinc-plated hardware (resists rust). The colorful paints used are Latex (non-toxic), and the puzzles are also moisture resistant. I'm very impressed that the company has a "Home of the Missing Piece Promise." How often have you lost a puzzle piece, rendering the puzzle useless? Not this one. They'll replace any lost pieces for free; you pay only the shipping. And amazingly, they'll repair a damaged item for free as well. Not many companies go over and beyond like that! Needless to say, this family is impressed.

We received a nice color catalog with our puzzle, plus the simple-to-understand website is easy to navigate. Every month the company features a photo of one of their customers with a purchased product. You can view a slideshow of these customers--most are adorable children with their personalized puzzles.

The company's main product appears to be their personalized puzzle stool. They also craft a personalized bookshelf, chalkboard, learning puzzles, rocking chair, name train, name ornament, wall script, and more! All items are finished with a natural color base (white costs more) with added colorful contrasting pieces. Since most items are crafted by special order, you'd need to allow 2-5 weeks for delivery. Since the USA puzzle is not personalized, it may ship faster. Contact the company for details.

Though it would delight homeschooling families, the USA puzzle would make a great gift for any child. It sells for $55 (no additional shipping)--a fair price for a beautiful, oversized product, and from a company I wouldn't hesitate to buy from in the future. What a great way for kids to learn about the USA!

Product review by Gena Suarez, Publisher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December 2009