The crazy life of the ClarkClan. Living a life of grace through Jesus Christ.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


I began this blog during my homeschooling journey so I could begin reviewing homeschool products.  I stopped blogging when I got a job teaching pre-school and 3 of my children began a private school. Here it is, 2 years later, and I will be homeschooling again. Our school adventure started out great, stayed good until this last semester. Our school board has taken the school in a direction I do not want it to go, and so I have decided to homeschool my last 2 children of school age.

I am excited. I loved homeschooling. I loved teaching pre-school. Now I am excited to be homeschooling again.  I go through periods of anxious thoughts about beginning again, but mainly those thoughts come from dealing with anxiety over troubles with the school that my children and I loved and now is so different.

So we are taking the summer to relax, regroup and pull together a school plan for my 10th and 8th grader.  Life is an adventure!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A Long Break

I have taken a very long break from blogging. About four months. Life from Thanksgiving onward has been absolutely crazy. It has not really slowed down, but I thought I would like to continue on adding to the blog.  My focus might change a bit. I have stopped reviewing homeschool materials. I have not stopped homeschooling, though. I just needed a break from the reviewing.

A very good reason for not reviewing is I decided to take a college class. This class is a very intense EMT – Basic class. I have class two nights a week for five hours each night. Then one night a week is extra skills practice. Throughout the semester I will have two clinicals with the ambulance company and two clinicals with the emergency department at the hospital. Each of these clinicals are 12 hour shifts. This is the most intense class I have ever taken, but I am really enjoying it. One thing I will not do is become a fire fighter. I have no desire to climb into bunker gear, strap an air tank on my back and go into a burning building. But taking care of people and helping out, that is what I love.

I have also started working part time at our church. I am the youth director. This is a fun, job where I get to work with the youth of the congregation. I plan activities, execute bible studies, games, fundraisers, and more.

So life is about as interesting as it can get. My goal is to try and get a few of my thoughts out on my blog at least once, if not twice, a week. We will see how well that goes!

Talk to you later!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Review—Apologia—Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics

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About the Product

Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is an amazingly in-depth elementary science curriculum. This course is written from a creationist world-view. God is glorified again and again as the Master Designer of the world and how it works. 

The main focus of the course is the textbook. This is a hard backed, full color textbook of approximately 280 pages. It contains 14 lessons as well as supply lists, an answer key and index.

Each lesson is designed to take approximately 2 weeks. A schedule is available in the notebooking journal, or each family can decide on natural stopping points depending on the level and interest of their kids.

There are multiple experiments for each lesson. “Try This!” activities throughout the lesson reinforce the concept being studied. Then each lesson ends with a larger project or experiment.  Even more reinforcement can be found by visiting the book extras on the Apologia website and entering the password provided in the textbook. This provides multiple websites general and specific for each lesson.

A notebooking journal is available in two formats, a junior version and a upper elementary version. While not strictly necessary to the success of the course, it is a very in-depth and easy way to record the learning that is occurring. These notebooking journals provide a place to complete assignments from the textbook as well as puzzles, copywork, booklets to make and even extra experiments. By the end of the book it becomes a unique record or learning.

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I used the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics course with Ben (12), Rebekah (10), and Miriam (8). Ben and Rebekah used the Notebooking Journal and Miriam used the Junior Notebooking Journal. We would all work together on this science course, with mom reading the book and kids doing the notebooking journals and experiments (under supervision).

This is a very “hands on” curriculum. There are many experiments to try throughout the chapter. Some are very simple, while others are a little more complex. All the experiments take common materials. While I did not always have everything on hand, things were easy to obtain as needed (like a soda bottle).

I started out using the schedule that was in the front of the notebooking journal. This is a weekly schedule, having lessons two days a week. What we quickly found out was that this pace was a little bit fast for us. Between the reading, the notebooking journal and the experiments, science was taking us up to two hours. So we began to spread the lessons out a little bit every day.

The kids all really enjoyed this science curriculum. The experiments were a big hit. They loved that there were so many of them. Ben, Rebekah, and Miriam were not used to notebooking, and they all began by being very brief. As the lessons progressed they began to write longer and longer entries. They also liked the other types of activities, crossword puzzles, copywork and little books to make.

One of the best features of the notebooking journal is that all the papers needed are in the book. When there is a little pop-up or miniature book to be made, it is in the back of the journal ready to be cut out and made. Basic materials are needed for this journal, pencils or pens, crayons or colored pencils, glue and brads.

To make this science curriculum the most effective, gathering supplies for the experiments is essential. I quickly found out that a lesson can be abruptly stopped when I did not look at what was coming up next or what was needed. Checking the supply list included in the back of the textbook, makes it easy to gather what is needed.


I have been very impressed with this curriculum. It is in-depth, yet easy enough to understand at any level. If you are looking for a thorough, hands on science curriculum then Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is an excellent choice. I think my kids are learning a lot by using this curriculum.


Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about the program.

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Review—Carole P. Roman with Away We Go Media --

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I”f you were me and Lived in. . . Mexico, South Korea, France, or Norway”. These are cute picture story books designed to introduce children to cultures around the world. The “If you were Me and Lived In . .. “ series highlights what is special and unique about each culture with the underlying theme that as different as all cultures are, all people are basically the same.

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Each book follows a similar pattern. There are two characters, male and female. The book shows where in the world the country is and what city you might live in. It gives a sample of what name you might have or what you would call your mom and dad. Money, food, toys, school, holidays and more are covered within the pages of the book. A pronunciation guide is included in the back of the book to help in pronouncing the foreign words.

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Rebekah (10) and Miriam (8) were the ones who reviewed this book set. I gave Rebekah two of the books and Miriam two of the books. I then had them read the books silently.Then they read the books out loud. To make it more fun, I set up a stool which they sat on while reading to an audience of Mom, Aunt, and Grandma. We started off with a globe and had each girl show what country they were going to read about.

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After the reading, we took large pads of paper and I had them use the book to answer a series of facts that I had written on the paper.  They had great fun with this assignment.  The books sparked discussions about how people live in other countries. A favorite thing to learn about was food. The girls had a good time talking about what foods from other countries they would like to try and which ones they would not.  Money was also a good topic for discussion. Each of the girls have seen and had money from other countries that we could discuss the differences.

The author, Carole P. Roman, began her writing career with a book series about Captain No Beard. The “If You Were Me and Lived in . . .” series combines her teaching past with the world around us. There are four books written in a series of six about other countries.


We enjoyed these books. Rebekah and Miriam are at the older end of the age scale but both of them liked the challenge of reading the books out loud and trying to pronounce the foreign words correctly using the pronunciation guide. I added the writing activity to help cement the information that they were reading about.


Many of my Crew mates also reviewed this book series Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about the books and how their children liked them.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Review—Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns

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  • Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns
  • Designed for ages 8 to adult
  • Learn to make doll clothes-Video Course
  • Over 130 step by step instructional videos
  • includes 8 free doll clothes patterns
  • $47.23  (Australian prices, exchange rate may vary)

Doll clothes. Fun to make? Or too tough with too many fiddly little bits to deal with?  Most of the time, doll clothes are not the easiest thing to sew. The seams are tiny and hard to maneuver through the machine. Doll clothes can make even experienced sewers cringe.

Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns work hard to change the idea that doll clothes are hard to sew. Roseanne, called Rosie by her friends, has been sewing since she was 8 or 9 years old. She began by sewing doll clothes for her own dolls, now she sews doll clothes for her own daughter. After lots of frustration and trial and error, Rosie discovered many secrets to sewing doll clothes. She threw out what she knew about sewing clothes for adults and figured out many different tips, tricks, and shortcuts for sewing clothes for dolls.


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About the Course

Rosie has created a course filled with over 130 helpful videos to teach others how to create simple, yet beautiful clothes for dolls.  This course teaches sewing from the very beginning.

The main course is six weeks long. This is much more than just sewing doll clothes, but is also a great learn to sew course. Videos detail different ways to set up your sewing room, introductions to how different sewing tools work, fabrics, notions and much more.  “Cool Tips” videos are tips and tricks for making sewing a lot easier and more enjoyable. Trouble shooting videos help by describing trouble spots and how to fix them. At the end of the six weeks, you will have learned much more than just sewing doll clothes, but will have an arsenal of great sewing advice.

Along with the learn how to sew videos, Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns include eight free, downloadable patterns for 18 inch dolls. These patterns are great for practicing all the skills learned in the video course. Along with each pattern, a full array of videos detailing each step of sewing is included.

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We had a great time with this review. I watched all the videos, learning many new things along the way. I have been sewing for many years and was surprised to find that I really enjoyed watching Rosie’s videos. Maybe it was the delightful Australian accent, but I found Rosie easy to watch and informative.

I watched Rosie use a few tools that I never thought I needed, but have decided that I really could use them. One of these was a “looper”. This tool looked very handy while Rosie was demonstrating how to use it. I liked the way that Rosie demonstrates how to use each tool.

The videos were very well shot. I liked the steady camera angles. Everything was easy to see and understand. Each video stuck to the point and kept on topic.

When making up the patterns, the instructions were very well written. They were thorough and detailed, great for beginning sewers. Videos that showed each step being performed were also a huge asset. If a step did not make sense or if I wasn’t sure if I was doing it right, I could just click on the video for that step and watch exactly how to complete it. 

My sister and I got together and spent an afternoon sewing up the patterns. What we found was that they were easy to use and super cute. We let the girls pick the fabrics and help with some of the cutting and sewing.  One thing we noticed about the doll clothes we made were the ease of getting them on the dolls. These clothes were cute,. but also easy to put on the doll.

When the patterns are printed off on your home printer, some of them need to be glued together. This is extremely well marked making them easy to put together.  Through watching Rosie using her rotary cutter to cut out the pattern pieces, I decided to try using mine that way. This is new for me, I always use shears when cutting out patterns and a rotary cutter for quilts. I was pleasantly surprised to find that a small rotary cutter works very well when cutting out patterns.

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I would recommend Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns for both learning to sew as well as a more advanced sewer. We have made beautiful, fun doll clothes that the girls are very excited to use. The only thing that may need to be watched is some of the different language between Australia and the United States. For example, in the costume pattern, wadding is called for. Here in the United States, that is called batting. There are not too many of these little idiosyncrasies, but just something to be aware of.


Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about the program.

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


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About the Website

We have used VocabularySpellingCity’s free version for a year or so. It is a great resource to turn to when helping kids with their spelling. You can choose lists or enter your kids words and they can play games or test themselves on it. We had been very happy with the free version.

But when I was given a chance to review the Premium membership, I jumped at the chance. The Premium membership takes all the free features and then expands the scope and breadth of the activities. It is almost overwhelming with all the features included for spelling, vocabulary, language arts, and writing.

I guess starting at the beginning is a very good place to start., with the parent log-in. When a parent logs in,. they are taken to the Premium Parent Toolbox. Here you can edit your profile, manage your lists, make and review assignments, see test results, review writing as well as keep track of all your students. 

One of the neatest features about VocabularySpellingCity is the ability to assign different lists to different students. You can choose from a pre-made list, (there are thousands of ready to use lists) or you can enter your own words.  You can let your students work with the lists on their own, finding games, testing themselves etc., or you can create assignments that your student must follow. Activities are graded and recorded. You can even choose to have the students take their test online so all spelling can be done on the computer.

The Premium membership also includes Teaching Resources. There are four categories in the Teaching Resources: Language Arts Lessons, Useful Word Lists, Articles, Help & Information.  Within these categories are video lessons, classroom ideas, printable worksheets, vocabulary lists, Educational resources and much more. Online instruction can be followed up with a printed worksheet for extra practice.  No time to make a list? Find one to use in the Useful Word lists. There are subject specific lists as well as Dolch-Sight word lists.

We used the spelling/vocabulary portions of VocabularySpellingCity the most. Some weeks I added my own lists, and some I used pre-made lists. Both worked equally well. With three kids at home, it was nice to be able to let them get on the computer for 20 –30 minutes and know their spelling was done for the day, and they were not complaining about having to do it.

I was very surprised one day when Rebekah chose, on her own, to write a paragraph. She was given a word bank and had to use all the words in the paragraph. It amazed me to see her laughing and typing while working for over an hour (this is a long time for Rebekah to work on one subject). She was so proud to read her story to me after she was finished.

Another feature I utilized with Rebekah and Miriam was the printable handwriting pages. They are both learning cursive and it was nice to be able to combine both spelling and cursive practice.

The assignments feature is really neat as well. I choose what list I want and then choose assignments. I can choose up to ten different activities to work. I can choose to let them pick the activities or choose to have them done in a certain order.  These assignments are automatically graded and I can see the results on my administrator page.

Sarah, who is 16 and attending a private school, was able to use her smartphone and the VocabularySpellingCity app to study for her 11th grade English class. She has a vocabulary list every week in which she has to learn the definitions and how to spell each word. I took her list, entered it for her and she was able to study on her own.


My kids said they highly recommend VocabularySpellingCity. They liked the games, they liked taking the test on the computer, they even liked the printable pages I ran off for them. When I asked them what they thought about the program, Ben, Rebekah, and Miriam all told me the same thing: “We really like it! Can we keep it?”


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed VocabularySpellingCity. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they and their children thought about the program.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review–Barbour Publishing—Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story

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Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story has been one of those books that you pick up and don’t want to put down. From the introduction of EJ (Emma Jean, that is) a friendship develops and draws the reader deeper into the book. Follow along as EJ uses her highly developed imagination that both get her into scrapes, as well as get her out of them.

EJ is a fun, spunky 10 year old girl living in Spooner WI. She describes her town as being the most boring place in the world. But for such a boring town, EJ sure knows how to create adventure. She can use her imagination to take her just about any where in the world, (or out of it) and do any job imaginable.

Even when things don’t go the way EJ would like, she finds out that she can make the best out of any situation. Spelling Bees, camping trips, shoveling show for a grumpy neighbor. and being in the Christmas play show EJ how to be gracious. kind , and compassionate. With parents that love her and a little brother that adores her. EJ realizes Spooner may not be so bad after all.

ClarkClan Experiences

Diary of a Real Payne is written seamlessly between first and third person narrative. The introduction and beginning of each chapter contains a “diary” entry from EJ that introduces the chapter This is written in first person point of view. It is set apart by pictures and a notebook paper look to the entry. The book switches to third person narrative until EJ begins imagining things, then it switches back to first person. It may sound confusing, but the format works really well. Each chapter is introduced by a cute picture as well as a few illustrations in the diary entries.

I began the review of this book by giving it to my 10 year old nephew , Eli, to read. Eli had it finished in two days and gave it back to me saying it was really good. I then gave it to Ben (12) to read.  He read it in about two days and told me that I had to read it because it was so funny. I began reading the book to see if Rebekah (10) and Miriam (8) would be able to read it. After reading the entire book, I made the decision that it was too good a book to read silently. I began reading it out loud to the two girls. Of course, Ben always comes running when I read it so he can hear it again, he liked it so much. The consensus with the kids in my family ages 8-12 is that is is an excellent book. They really like it.

Because I was enjoying reading the book out loud to the girls, I came up with the bright idea that I would like to see what older kids thought of the book. I took it in to Sarah’s (16) small Christian school and asked if I could read it out loud to her 11th grade class during their silent reading half hour. Despite Sarah’s misgivings about her friends thinking her mother was weird, I have found that the kids are greatly enjoying listening to the book. Five chapters into the book with these teens and I am hearing giggling over EJ’s troubles. Even the home room teacher told me that the kids are now talking about the funny book Sarah’s mom is reading to them.

So I guess you could say we recommend this book. Highly recommend. I love how the book features a little girl who is bright, funny, and not perfect. She makes mistakes, she gets annoyed with her little brother, but overall, she finds that her faith keeps her strong.

Another aspect of the book that I truly appreciate is that it is a book written with EJ’s faith being a normal part of her life. This is how my kids are being raised and I like that we can read a book out loud where the dad and mom talk to her about trusting in God for all things. The faith aspect is not contrived or thrown in, but woven seamlessly throughout the entire book.


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they and their children thought of the book.

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