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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Loki–The Crazy Dog


   About 4 years ago we adopted a dog named Loki. Loki is a Golden Retriever/Husky mix who is now 51/2 years old. He is a wonderful dog, loves all people, great with kids, always ready to play. But he has one flaw, he jumps (climbs)  fences and then runs. 

     I was not worried when we moved to this house, it has a cinder block fence. In the four months we have lived in this house, we had no problems. Loki loves the backyard. Because of a doggy door he can come in and go out as he pleases. He will spend hours outside laying in the sun, running around and just doing doggy things.

     Then came the day after Thanksgiving. Matthew and Sarah were walking home and the dog apparently was in the backyard and heard them walking up. Yep, it happened. He climbed the wooden gate and up and over he went.  Now that he knows he can do it, he has climbed it every time he is alone in the backyard.

     I am very sad by this. We have had to shut the dog door. We have been making sure that somebody is outside with him every time he goes out.  The next time Matt has some time off work, we are going to see what we can do to raise the gate to see if we can stop him.   Crazy dog! Why can’t you just stay in the yard?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time Timer


About the Product

     The Time Timer is a timer designed to show the passage of time in a visual, concrete manner. As time counts down, the red goes away. A quick glance shows how long is left, even for kids who can’t tell time yet.

     The Time Timer was developed by Jan Rogers as she searched for a way for her inquisitive four year old to understand the concept of time. Since its conception the Time Timer has found many different applications beyond just teaching young children. 

     Educators have used the Time Timer in the classroom with great effect. Teachers can teach the concept of time or train their students to use their time wisely using the Time Timer. Tracking the duration of activities is simple, just a quick glance can show how much longer before time is up.   Special Education teachers have also used the Time Timer to give guidance for individuals with ADD, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome and Dyslexia.  

     Business’s have used the Time Timer to help keep meetings running smoothly and on time. It can help a presenter keep their presentations on target as they can see at a glance how much time they have left. Adults with time management issues can keep one at their desks to help keep them on track.

    In normal everyday life the Time Timer can help parents keep track of things like TV watching time. Setting this on the top of the piano can keep practice time on track. It can be set to show how much longer till dinner, or till dad comes home from work. Then kids can look at the timer and know the answer without having to ask “is it time yet?” again and again.

Product Specifications


Sizes:  The Time Timer is available in 3 different sizes. 3”, 8” and 12”.  The 3” inch size is portable and has an attached cover that doubles as a stand.  The 8” and 12” models are free standing or can be wall mounted. All three models have an optional audible signal.

Other products: Using the same concept as the original timers, Time Timer offers other products as well. Watches offer all the benefits of the Time Timer on your wrist. iPhone and iPod Touch Apps are available. Time Timer software lets you install a Time Timer on your computer which can “float” above other applications to help you manage your computer time.


  • 3” – $30.00
  • 8” – $35.00
  • 12” – $40.00
  • Watches – $40.00
  • iPhone and iPod Touch App – $1.99
  • Time Timer Software – $24.00

All products are available from

ClarkClan Experience



     The Time Timer has been a wonderful asset to our school day. We have been a timer using family for quite a few years now. I discovered years ago that Rebekah, who is  8, responds very well to the use of a timer instead of mom telling her when time is up. It just seems to be a concrete way for her random thoughts mind to know when time is up. 

     We use the Time Timer for many, many different activities. We use it to count down how much time is left until school work will start. I require 30 minutes of silent reading daily. The Time Timer has been wonderful for this time. I can set Rebekah up in her reading spot with the timer right beside her. No more getting up to see “how much time is left”. She can just glance over to check.

     I also use it as a motivator to finish her task. I will set the timer for 30 minutes, then tell her to start her math worksheet. She will then work to “beat the clock”. When she is finished, she is allowed the time that is left on the timer for free time. We have had great success in helping Rebekah focus on a task when it becomes a challenge. A worksheet that can take her up to 45 minutes, when no motivation is given, becomes a 10 –15 minutes process when she is being timed. 

     I like that the timer makes no ticking noises during operation. It is silent while it is counting down. This is a huge plus for us, because Rebekah is easily distracted by noises, especially repetitive sounds like a normal timer makes. She can become almost frantic with a regular tic,tic, tic of a dial timer, so to have this battery operated quiet timer was wonderful.

    I also liked the portability of the timer. We reviewed the 3” timer and I liked that it  could move around wherever it was needed.  Because of the cover on the 3” model it is also easy to put in my purse and take when we are at piano lessons and finishing school work while waiting. 

    I am also very interested in the Time Timer software. I am thinking about ordering this for our computers. Not only will it help Rebekah, but every member of the family will benefit.


     I only had one small complaint with the Time Timer. The audible alarm is very quiet. While I appreciate not having a loud, jarring ring, the two beeps were very soft and we occasionally missed them.  Rebekah would at times not hear the beep, and then be a little upset that she worked past the time needed.


     I was not the only one to review Time Timer products. Read what other members thought of the physical timer as well as the iPad app on the Crew Blog.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 3” Time Timer for free  from Timer Timer, in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Just Like Dad

     Since Matt retired from the military he has been enjoying his new found facial hair freedom. He has grown various beard and mustache types. The type he is sporting now is shaped like a U. I keep telling him it makes him look like he has a permanent frown. HIs employees at work told him one better than what I said. They told him he looked like Hulk Hogan.

    So for fun, Ben and I came up with this idea to add a mustache to Ben’s face. We put it on and then he walked out to his Dad, who saw it and laughed and smiled and posed for a picture.  A little tape and a sharpie can make a really cool mustache, if you can’t grow one of your own.

2011-11-16 18.33.01

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Blogger

     I have a special privilege today. I am the guest blogger on the Molly Green, Econobusters blog. This was very exciting for me as I have never had this experience before. The topic was Frugal Breakfasts and you can find the post here Frugal Breakfast Food.  Thank you to Molly Green and Econobusters for allowing me to have this experience.

     If you have never checked out the Econobusters blog, make sure to poke around when you visit. There are many, many frugal ideas that you can implement in your own home to help you save money.  I also enjoy subscribing to Molly’s Money Saving Digest. This online digest focuses on a different area each month in which to save money. This month the Digest is called Molly Saves in the Laundry Room. Laundry can quickly become overwhelming, and I enjoyed reading this months digest with all the tips.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Photobucket Photobucket 

    VocabCafe from College Prep Genius has come up with a way to make learning SAT level vocabulary painless and entertaining.  Learning your vocabulary can be as simple as reading a book. Each full length chapter books features 300 vocabulary words chosen to encourage the development of language skills.

     Vocabulary words are sprinkled throughout the book. Each word is printed in bold type to alert you to the fact it is a vocabulary word. Then on the bottom of the page, that word is printed just like a dictionary entry. The vocabulary word, a pronunciation key, part of speech, and definition. No stopping the flow of reading to look up an unfamiliar word in the dictionary. For review, at the end of each chapter is a word review and a complete index of words is included in the back.

     There are four titles in the VocabCafe series. I.M. for MurderPlanet Exile, and  The $ummer of $aint Nick are written by Josh Burk. Operation High School is written by Judah Burk.  The books are aimed for a high school age range, although some middle schoolers may enjoy them.   The author states that although the books have no occult, sexual themes, violence etc. parents may want to read the books first to determine appropriateness for their families.

     The books are available from College Prep Genius. Each book is available for $12.95 or the entire four book set is $38.85.

ClarkClan Thoughts

     I had Sarah, who is 14, read these for the review. I read one of the books completely and skimmed the others to see how they worked.  Sarah enjoyed learning vocabulary in this manner. She said she really liked having the definitions on the same page as the word. She says she hates to stop reading to look up a word, so having them defined immediately was a plus.  She also said learning vocabulary through a story instead of just a list of words made more sense to her.

     I enjoyed the book I read, but at times it felt a little “clunky”. Sometimes, trying to fit that many upper level vocabulary words in  made the story line slightly cumbersome. Also, in the Planet Exile book, I was a bit taken aback when the same word was used twice in the same paragraph. This was done to show the two meanings of the word, but it was awkward for me.

    My father and brother-in-law looked at these books with me as well. My dad was a teacher for 20 years and my brother-in-law is attending college in his “spare” time. They were both impressed by the idea of learning vocabulary though a story instead of just memorizing word lists and definitions.


     I was not the only one of my Crew Mates to review VocabCafe books. Other Crew Mates reviewed a SAT Prep Course also available from College Prep Genius.  Visit the Crew blog to read the reviews for both these products.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received four VocabCafe books  for free  from College Prep Genius, in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Keyboard Town Pals



          Teach your child to type in an hour! Sounds too good to be true, but Keyboard Town Pals can accomplish this goal. Keyboard Town Pals uses the “PALS” system to teach typing. PALS is an acronym for Purposeful, Associative, Learning, System. The PALS system works on the principle that two objects seen or heard together will link together in our minds.

     Keyboard Town Pals combines a puppet with a specific letter on the keyboard. Memory techniques improve retention and cues stimulate all ways of learning, visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Puppets, music and humor, combine to achieve the Keyboard Town Pals goal of teaching typing in an hour.

     One of the keys to the Keyboard Town Pals system is the de-activation of the backspace and delete keys. Their philosophy is that the backspace and delete keys cause kids to stop the flow of typing and then have to re-orient their fingers on the keyboard. Mistakes are a part of learning, so no correcting is how kids learn.

     Other features are: No surveillance, No competition, No pressure, No timed tests.  Keyboard Town Pals is suitable for all learning types, including kids with learning difficulties.  Learning moves along at the child’s pace. It is designed to be taught in two 30 minutes sessions. If desired all 8 lessons are also available as stand alone lessons  6-7 minutes long. 

ClarkClan Thoughts

     Rebekah (8) is the one who primarily tried out this program. She loved it. Rebekah likes puppets, so this program intrigued her from the start.  I sat her at the table with a set of headphones to minimize distractions. The program recommends two 30 minute sessions, but Rebekah enjoyed the first 30 minutes so much, she immediately went on to the next 30 minutes.

     Rebekah has had previous typing experience, so I cannot say if this program taught her how to type in an hour. But I can say that  this program captured her attention enough to reinforce her typing skills. I was not sure how the no back space or delete would work, but after watching Rebekah, I decided it was a good aspect of the program.  Because she knew she couldn’t correct her mistakes, she was free to type without ever lifting her fingers off and away from the correct hand position. 

  I have a 10 year old son, Ben, who watched Rebekah  and wanted to try the program himself. Ben did not enjoy it near as much. He was not as enamored with the puppets and songs as Rebekah. It was just not the right program for him, but he is at the upper end of the age range. I think, the puppets and songs appeal to younger ages.


     Want to read what others thought of Keyboard Town Pals? Visit the TOS Crew Blog to read what my Crew Mates thought about the program.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a web based trial of Keyboard Town Pals for free  from Keyboard Town Pals, in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Bower Books–The Person I Marry

  • The Person I Marry, Things I’ll Think About Before (and After) Saying “I Do”
  • written by Gary Bower
  • Illustrated by Jan Bower
  • Hardcover, 32 pages
  • $11.99
  • Available from Bower Family Books

     “It’s the ‘Who’ not ‘What’  that makes a great wedding”. This is a quote from the first page of a book written and illustrated to teach children what to look for in a lifelong marriage partner. Written in verse, The Person I Marry explores the qualities that make for an enduring marriage.

    Qualities such as kindness, hardworking, trustworthy, and patience are explored in depth. Beautiful illustrations capture the quality being described wonderfully. Each illustration features a young boy and young girl. I like how no two children look the same. To me, these children fulfill the beginning of the book that talk about how externals do not make a great marriage, but inward characteristics are the most important.

     This book was a challenge to me as I read it. I originally thought, “this is too perfect,” that we were teaching our children to look for a fairy tale prince or princess. One who was “too good to be true”. But then I found myself thinking about the qualities talked about  and wondering if I was living up to them. Do I not complain when the rain comes? Do I fully lend support to my husband to share his burdens? 

     My attitude changed  the third time I read this book to my 8 and 10 year old, with the 14 year old listening. By reading about the excellent qualities to look for in a future spouse, my children can work now on being the type of person they would like to marry.  Learning to be hardworking, trustworthy, or kind themselves ,will help them learn to recognize those high qualities in the one to whom they will  give their heart.  This book gives them a starting point to think about what makes a good mate.

     The video below gives a preview of the book, The Person I Marry.

The Person I Marry from Bower Books on Vimeo.

     The Person I Marry is part of the Bright Futures Books collection from Bower Family Books.  It was awarded the 2010 Book of the Year by the Christian Small Publisher Association.  Bower Family Books also publishes a variety of other book including a Thinking of Others series, and Little Lovable Board Books.


     I was not the only Crew Member to review The Person I Marry. Visit the Crew Blog to read what my Crew Mates had to say about the book as well.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received a download copy of The Person I Marry for free from Bower Family Books, in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Memoria Press–First Form Latin



  • First Form Latin
  • by Cheryl Lowe
  • Published by Memoria Press
  • 5th grade through High School
  • First Form Latin plus DVD’s and flashcards – $115

     First Form Latin is a beginning Latin program suitable for 5th grade through High School. It is equivalent to a full year of High School foreign language.  It is a “grammar first” series focused on the trivium model of teaching grammar. The program goal is to teach grammar systematically which helps with retention and understanding of the language.

     First Form Latin is designed for the student and teacher who has no previous Latin experience. It features a student text with 34 two-page lessons as well as a workbook with 4-6 pages of exercises per lesson.  The teacher manual is a gem with the student text inset and answers in color. The teacher manual also has scripted oral recitations and grammar chalk talks. Pronunciation helps and vocabulary are also included.

     This course has a wide age range. It is written for students from about 5th grade that have had previous Latin experience as well as older students with no Latin experience.

     The First Form Latin set that we received for review included many items to make the program successful. In our package we had  a 1.) Student Text 2.) Workbook 3.) Teacher Manual 4.) Teacher Manual Workbook and Test Key 5.)  Quizzes and tests book 6.) DVD’s of all lessons 7.) Pronunciation CD 7.) flashcards.  The program is also available without the DVD’s and flashcards for a cost of $55.00.

ClarkClan Thoughts

          First Form Latin has been a hit with Sarah .  One of Sarah’s favorite parts of the program is the Latin Workbook. She has said multiple times to me how much she enjoys the workbook. I can see evidence of that since she is only missing 1 maybe two items when I check her workbook pages. She says she also enjoys the DVD’s. She says the person doing the teaching on the DVD is funny and makes the DVD interesting to watch.  Sarah is the kind of student that prefers to work on her own. First Form Latin is perfect for her. It needs minimal involvement from mom. I check her workbook pages, I will watch the DVD with her and then  let her run with the lesson.  Each day she brings me the workbook to correct.  I also administer the tests and help if she has questions. The teacher books are very thorough, so if she needs help I can easily find the answer.

     I think that if you have had previous Latin experience you could teach very well with the teacher’s manuals without the DVD’s. In my case, I loved having the DVD’s to teach the subject. I do not speak Latin, nor have I ever studied it. Having the DVD’s to hear how the language is supposed to sound was an excellent help. 

    After having finished the first few lessons, we are impressed with this Latin program. Sarah is really enjoying it and learning the vocabulary included in each lesson. I think she likes it because the text is not overwhelming and the workbook covers many different aspects without being too repetitive.

    Visit the Memoria Press website to review sample pages of First Form Latin . Memoria Press also offers an Unconditional Guarantee with a full refund for 60 days. 

    Memoria Press has many different products available. They are a family run company that produces classical Christian education materials for homeschools and private schools. They offer classical curriculum for grades K-12.


     We were not the only family to review First Form Latin. There were many other Crew Mates who reviewed the program as well. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they thought about the program.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received First Form Latin for free from Memoria Press , in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Everyday Education–Excellence in Literature

Excellence in Literature

Excellence in Literature

Reading and Writing Through the Classics

Introduction to Literature

by Janice Campbell

Age Range: 8th grade and up

Published by: Everyday Education

Available for $27.00 for e-book or  $29.00 + $4.95 shipping for print book


     Reading and Writing Through the Classics,  Introduction to Literature, is  the first in the series of Excellence in Literature. It is a college preparatory literature and composition course.  Students will practice close literary analysis using various focus works and context readings. They will begin to understand the process of writing and be able to analyze written works. They will  also learn the process of writing an essay.

     There are  9 units contained within Introduction to Literature. Each unit is 4 weeks long, for a total of 36 weeks. It is a year long high school level course. An Honors Track is also included. Each chapter is written directly to the student. A “Formats and Models” chapter is included so the student can see concrete examples of what the assignments should look like. Students are provided a grading rubric so they can self-correct their writing before turning it in to the parent. A parent then uses the grading rubric to consistently and fairly grade their student. MLA format is taught for all papers.

  According to the Everyday Education website, the course covers:

  • Unit 1: Short Stories by-
    • Sarah Orne Jewett: A White Heron
    • Edgar Allen Poe: The Purloined Letter (This one is not scary, if you're concerned about that.)
    • Guy de Maupassant: The Diamond Necklace
    • O. Henry: The Ransom of Red Chief
    • Eudora Welty: A Worn Path
    • James Thurber: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

    Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
    Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne

    Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
    Honors: The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

    Unit 4: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
    Honors: Shirley or Villette by Charlotte Brontë

    Unit 5: Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
    Honors: Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot

    Unit 6: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    Honors: Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson

    Unit 7: Animal Farm by George Orwell
    Honors: 1984 by George Orwell

    Unit 8: The Tempest by William Shakespeare
    Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

    Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
    Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Note: Books listed in the table of contents above are focus texts only. Context readings are assigned within each unit.


ClarkClan Thoughts

     Sarah (14) has been working through this course. I have been very impressed with the caliber of work that she has produced so far. She enjoys the short stories and book she has read in the first two units. I like that the work is tailored to her, I just need to grade it after she is done. The grading rubric for parents is a tremendous help. I can objectively go through her papers, looking for certain elements and structure. This is very helpful, especially in giving her feedback to improve her writing.

     This is a very thorough course that has intrigued me. I love the idea of literary analysis, but had not known how to teach it. This solves that problem. I like the idea of Sarah learning how analyze what she is reading, putting it into the proper context and exploring in depth plot, characterization, setting and all other things that make a piece of literature great.

    Sarah enjoys Introduction to Literature. I think her enjoyment is pivotal to the success of the course. She likes the way the assignments are broken down into different weeks. Most importantly, she is enjoying what she is reading. You can tell by her writing papers that she enjoys what she had read.  The book she is working on now, Around the World in 80 Days, she has read before, but I know she is getting more out of the book because of the analysis she is required to do. When I asked Sarah what her favorite part of the course was she said, “The Formats and Models section is great. I can quickly look up what I am supposed to include  and how I am to style each paper.”

     Reading and Writing Through the Classics,  Introduction to Literature is the first course in the Excellence in Literature series. There are five books available in the series. This will take you from 8th grade through high school. Visit the Everyday Education website to read more about the different products that are offered.


     There were many other TOS Homeschool Crew members who reviewed this product. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they thought of the writing course.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received Excellence in Literature, Introduction to Literature for free from Everyday Education, in exchange for my honest review of their product.