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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Beloved Books–Sugar Creek Gang


Beloved Books is a company dedicated to bringing wholesome stories and books to life on audio CD’s. They carry a wide variety of audio CD’s from Scripture Songs to Historical Fiction to Missionary Stories and Life. Their main ministry is to share the Sugar Creek Gang stories.

The Sugar Creek Gang  stories are a series of Christian adventure stories originally written by Paul Hutchens in 1939. A few years ago a man named Paul Ramseyer began to dramatize the books for radio. Now they are available as audio CD’s. There are over 100 hours of audio on 72 CD’s. These stories are loved by families because they present the gospel in an easy-to-understand way. The whole series becomes a discipleship journey.  Nature study, poetry, hymns and science lessons all find their way into these delightful stories.

The author, Paul Hutchens, began his career as an evangelist. He became a Baptist minister and traveled around the U.S. When he developed tuberculosis he began writing. The first Sugar Creek Gang book was published in 1939. Each story takes you back in time to one room schoolhouses, hot summer days and barefoot boys. Christian principles and the courage and confidence to share the gospel are woven into each adventure story.

ClarkClan Experience

We were graciously sent the first volume of the Sugar Creek Gang audio CD’s.  This includes six different stories: The Swamp Robber, The Killer Bear, The Winter Rescue, The Lost Campers, Chicago Adventure, and The Secret Hideout, presented on 12 CD’s.

Ben (11) and Rebekah (9) as well as mom were the testers for this product in our family. Ben and Rebekah have a long history of loving books and stories on CD. The Sugar Creek Gang was no exception. We received the CD’s one day as were were getting in the car. I popped one into the car’s CD player and when we arrived at our destination, the Ben and Rebekah were not ready to get out because the story was not finished.

This enthusiasm remained high throughout the review period and they continued to listen to find out what was going to happen next to the Sugar Creek Gang.  I knew these CD’s were a hit when Ben did not want to stop them when it was time for dinner. These stories really captivated Ben. They are full of adventure and suspense.The stories follow a continuing story line, although each one can stand alone. We listened to them in the order they are on the CD, as recommended.

The stories present real life, with its real problems and emotions. One story I remember has a father who is a drunk. This is handled tastefully, giving enough information to know the seriousness of the situation without being judgmental. Another time, the main character has a new sister and is having trouble with his emotions over it. Once again, this situation is handled gracefully and works out nicely. There is quite a bit of suspense and even some danger within these stories. You can tell they were written in the late 30’s and early 40’s. The kids are allowed to play by themselves in the outdoors and also work out their own problems. While this is different than our day and age, it nevertheless makes for exciting adventures. Ben often talked how he wished he lived where he could just play outside in woods and near ponds.


I would recommend these audio CD’s to other families. We have truly enjoyed them. They are fun, exciting and most important teach a good lessons about God. The only caveat I would have is that they come from a Baptist perspective.This shows up in the story lines as someone needing to be “saved”. This is not exactly the language we, as Lutherans, use, but it gives us an opportunity to talk about other denominations and how they differ and are the same as ours.


Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew mates also were able to review The Sugar Creek CD’s.  Visit the Crew Blog to read what their thoughts and opinions on the product are.

Disclaimer: As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received volume one of The Sugar Creek Gang, for free from Beloved Books in exchange for my honest review of their product. All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Breakfast Favorite

Today I thought I would share one of the ClarkClan’s favorite breakfasts. Baked Oatmeal, Yum! We just love this breakfast. Easy to prepare, filling and most importantly: very tasty.

I have been making this basic Baked Oatmeal recipe for years.

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups rolled oats (I use old-fashioned)

3/4 cup brown sugar (originally was using 1 cup, but found I could cut that amount with no problems.)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoons salt

1 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup melted butter (1/4 cup works well, too)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Beat in milk, eggs, melted butter and vanilla. Stir in cranberries. Spread into a greased 9x13” baking pan.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes ( my oven never takes that long, about 30 is right for us.)

That is the basic recipe. Now for the fun parts. I end up adding other ingredients for the fun of it. This week I have been adding a cup of cooked, butternut squash. I mix it in with the liquid ingredient, without changing any proportions. The Baked Oatmeal comes out, moist and delicious. I think pumpkin would work equally as well.

This recipe also works very well made up ahead of time. I have made the entire recipe, exactly as written, but instead of putting it in the pan to bake now, I put the mix in a zipper bag, label and freeze. Then all that is needed is to pull a bag out the night before, put it in the refrigerator to thaw, dump it in the pan and bake. This recipe can also be easily doubled. Double all ingredients and put in either two 9x13” pans or one large double cake pan (bake the double cake pan just a bit longer)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Crossbow Education–Duo Window Reading Rulers



Crossbow Education is a company originally based out of the U.K. Bob Hext was a teacher who devised games to teach his dyslexic students. From a small beginning, they now have their products in over 60% of schools and colleges in the UK. They also have  a US branch which concentrates mainly on resources for Visual Stress and Junior Learning.

Their Crossbow name and logo refer to their beliefs as Christians. They believe the symbols of the Cross and Rainbow stand for the powerful life-changing truths of Christ dying in our place and the rainbow that symbolizes God keeping His promises.


We reviewed the Duo Window eye level Reading Rulers ten pack. This pack includes all ten colors of the reading ruler. The colors include: yellow, sky, celery, purple, grass, magenta, jade, pink, aqua, and orange. Each ruler is approximately 8 “ wide by 3” tall. They are made of lightweight, yet sturdy, plastic. They have a 1/2” window at the top, an opaque 1”section, then a 1 1/4” wide window at the bottom.


The duo window helps in two different ways. With the smaller window at the top, the focus is confined to approximately one maybe two lines of text, depending on text size. This is useful for early readers and readers who have trouble in with skipping lines in chapter books. The bottom window shows  a chunk of text at a time.

The colors help to cut the glare from a white page with black printing. The preference for one color over another is entirely personal. Crossbow recommends that you test each color, choosing the one you feel works best for you. They also state that you may like one color one day and a different color the next. Lighting conditions can also make a difference in which color works best for you.

ClarkClan Experience

Rebekah(9) was our tester for this product. I showed her the product, how it worked and then let her pick the color she wanted to try first. She choose the purple first and picked up a book.

She found that it was hard to use this product while lying on her back to read. On her stomach was better, but the best way to use this was sitting in a chair with her book on the table.  She had no trouble figuring out how to use this. She would put the reading ruler on the page, then move it down as she read. She told me she uses the large window near the bottom more often that the single line at the top. She never settled on a favorite color, she would use whichever color struck her fancy that day.


I did notice that while she never complained when I asked her to use this for her schoolwork, she did not pick one up while reading on her own after “official” schoolwork was done for the day. When asked what she thought about the product, Rebekah replied, “They were ok. I just liked them for the color, because I don’t have trouble with skipping lines anymore.”

One thing I noticed was that the size could sometimes be a bit cumbersome for smaller books. But the paper work included with the product states that you can easily trim the reading ruler to fit your needs.


I think that this is a very well made product. The plastic was sturdy, yet lightweight. The reading windows were a good size. I found that at times I liked using one to read in bright light on a white page. It just seemed to tone down the glare.

I would recommend this product to parents of beginning readers, as well as, parents of kids who may be having trouble reading. The Duo Window reading rulers can really be good for kids who have trouble skipping lines while reading. I would also recommend trying it for kids who complain reading make them tired to see if the colors help reduce fatigue while reading.


Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew members also tried out the Crossbow Education Reading Rulers. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they thought about the product and how it worked in their family.

Disclaimer: As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a ten pack of the Duo Window eye level Reading Rulers, for free from Crossbow Education in exchange for my honest review of their product. All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Me First

Sometimes I wonder if I give too much advice. I never want to seem like a “know it all”. But there are times I see parents having a problem with something I have gone through with my kids. If I can, I try to offer a solution that has worked for us. The other day, I was able to share my solution for the “me first” attitude kids can get.

I don’t remember Matthew or Sarah having this problem. But I remember realizing one day that Ben and especially Rebekah were getting really bad about wanting to be “me first”. They would fight each other to be the first at just about anything, snacks, getting in the car, toys, you name it there was a fight over who was going to be first.

So I came up with a solution that worked like magic in our family. It was not instant but was easy to implement and practical. It works not just at home, but also while we are out in public. I have also taken this idea and used it while teaching younger kids in Sunday School and it works just as well out.

My solution is based on Matthew 20:16 says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

And that became my go to phrase. When Rebekah would push Ben out of the way so she could be first, I would simply state, “The last will be first, and the first will be last.” Then she would have to wait until everybody went ahead of her.

A practical application goes something like this. I am fixing a snack of apples and peanut butter dip. Ben and Rebekah are fussing over who will get the first apple. So who does mom give the first apple to? Well Matthew or Sarah, who have been sitting quietly and patiently. Who will be the last to get their snack? Ben and Rebekah.

Because I tried hard to consistently use this technique, the behavior eventually extinguished itself. But I have found it is a great technique to use in a classroom setting as well. One Sunday this summer, I brought in a snack of pretzels. One little boy yelled “pretzels!” and before I knew what was happening had his hand inside the bag. I quickly extracted his hand and told the kids the rules in our family. I explained how in our family if you try to be first, you will be last. Then I made him sit and wait until everyone else had been served. Only one other time over the summer did I have to remind them of this rule. The kids, of all ages,  learned Miss Jill would make you last if you tried to be first.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Dayspring Christian Academy


Dayspring Christian Academy Online School Presents


About the Course

The Pilgrim Story is a self-paced online course designed for grades 3-6. The course is taught using The Principle Approach method of education. The Principle Approach is a method of education that holds a providential view of history. Christian character and Biblical principles form the core of The Principle Approach. Students using The Pilgrim Story are taught the providence of God in the Pilgrim’s lives and subsequently the founding of America.

The Pilgrim Story is a full course consisting of 17 lessons with assessments and ideas for continued study. This is a self-paced course allowing you to access the course whenever it is convenient. Access to the course is available for six months from the date of registration.  Each lesson is designed to take 30-45 minutes to complete. All pages needed to complete the course are included as PDF downloads within each lesson.

The PDF resources include, note sheets, quotes, vocabulary sheets,and extra activities. The course instructions are to make a notebook, divided into sections to keep all course materials in one place for later reference.

The lessons are in a slide show format. All slides are read aloud and your child clicks the “next” button when they are ready to move on to the next slide. The voice is the same for each lesson, a pleasant sounding male voice.

Each lesson begins with a review of the last lesson. The questions are read, choices given and the answers are entered into the computer. The quizzes are graded immediately and the correct answers can be seen. At the end of a unit, a unit test is given. There are two test options to choose form. An essay test can be downloaded  to do on your own paper, or a multiple choice test can be taken online.

ClarkClan Experiences

I used this online course with Ben (5th) and Rebekah (4th). We started this course with high expectations and excitement. I began by printing off two copies of all the PDF files for Unit 1. We set my laptop computer on the kitchen table, attached external speakers and began the study. We have been able to work through Unit one, consisting of 4 lessons and a unit test, and have completed 3 lessons in Unit 2.

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What we discovered was that The Pilgrim Story gave us quite a challenge.


We liked (most) of the information that was studied. The Pilgrim Story gives true, factual information about the pilgrims. It begins with a study of King George as well as the Geneva Bible. This background information helped to ”set the stage” for why the Pilgrims felt the need to leave England. I really liked that this study focused on the real story, using information from primary sources. This is definitely not a fluffy,” we all sat around and ate turkey” study, but showed the hardships and perseverance of the Pilgrims. It focuses on the providence of God in the lives of the Pilgrims.

Ben and Rebekah had a couple stand out enrichment exercises within the lessons they completed. They both thought the Greek Translation project and mapping activities were the most fun.


While we liked many parts of this study, we found that it did not really work well for our family. My kids are not used to sitting and watching a computer screen for long periods of time. As well, we do not generally take notes, so the note sheets became a dreaded task for both of them. Each lesson said it should take 30-45 minutes to complete, but we found it took us longer. A lot longer. It generally took an hour or more to complete the lesson. To help stave off complaining, I would set the timer for 30 minutes and have Ben and Rebekah sit and work till the timer rang. I discovered that they generally finished about half of the slides in that 30 minutes. We would then finish the rest of the slides and notes the next day.

Another item to note is that there are a lot of pages to print, and each page is in full color.While this makes for a beautiful finished product, those on a tight ink budget may find this prohibitive.

My biggest problems,though was with information found in Unit 1 lesson 4.  The lesson was on Liberty of Conscience and gave principles that went against Lutheran doctrine. The study stated that “Liberty of conscience occurs when your conscience is free from the guilt of sin. You have a clear conscience because you made right choices.” This statement does not follow confessional Lutheran doctrine. We believe that we are free from the guilt of sin, not by anything we ourselves have done, but by what Christ has done for us.  We can stand before God with a clear conscience, not because of any merit of our own, but because God, in His mercy, sent Christ to die in our place and declare us free from sin, death and the power of the devil. I ended up stopping this lesson, and discussing with my children why we believe what we believe.


This study has challenged our family. It has not been the best fit for our family and learning style. I would not recommend it for kids who need parental interaction to stay on task or who have trouble with writing. It is an intense course. I will also have to caution other Lutheran parents that some of the doctrine within the lessons will need to be monitored.

I would recommend this course for students who like computer based lessons. The lessons are thorough and complete. I would recommend this study for families who are interested in The Principle Approach to learning. This would be a good introduction to that style.


Many of the Schoolhouse Review Crew members also reviewed The Pilgrim Story. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about the program.

Disclaimer: As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received The Pilgrim Story, a full online course from Dayspring Christian Academy. in exchange for my honest review of their product. All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Easy, Quick Salsa

Sarah and I love a fresh pico de gallo. Pico de gallo is fresh tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic, green chili, cilantro, a little salt. We love to make this and eat it with tortilla chips. But in our part of the country, fresh, ripe tomatoes are hard to come by,so we have found the next best solution.

We make a quick salsa using canned Rotel tomatoes. (Rotel tomatoes are canned tomatoes with green chili.)  We have found that we like to open a can of Rotel tomatoes, drain them well, add 1/4 of a finely chopped onion, chopped fresh cilantro, a little garlic salt and a pinch of sugar. This is quick, easy and very tasty.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Busy Day

Today was one of the  busiest days I have had in a long time. To begin with, I got up at 6:00am and walked my three miles. I walk three miles on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays as well as 2 1/2 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so this was a normal activity for me.

Then, I came home and cooked soft boiled eggs and toast for my kids for breakfast. I wanted them to have a good breakfast because two of them, Sarah and Ben, were going to go work a window washing fundraiser for the church youth group.

I received a telephone call asking if I would go and help supervise the youth so I ended up going with them on their window washing fundraiser. We spent 2 1/2 hours washing windows at congregation members houses. (This has been a very popular fundraiser, we raise a lot of money with this one.)

Sarah’s Venturing Crew was scheduled to have their highway clean up today. They usually need help, so I went out and walked the mile up the highway and back down the other side picking up trash. I will say that it was a beautiful Fall day here in the desert, 85 degrees, slight breeze, full sun. While I was picking up trash, I saw lizards scurrying about, bees buzzing around bushes that are in bloom, and the mountains that I love so much. I love living where I can look around and see for 70+ miles. So I pulled out my phone and took a picture of the beauty that God has given.

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We have lived in many different places and there is beauty in all of them. Sometimes it can be hard to think of the desert as beautiful, but it is there. I found it today in little purple flowers blooming on the side of the road. Beauty is in the little yellow flowers of the greasewood bush and in the lizards scurrying around when I scare them.

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To finish up my busy day, I came home and made pizza pockets for dinner. I have been trying to perfect this recipe and today it worked out pretty well. Instead of just mozzarella cheese inside, I made up cheese like I would put in lasagna, adding some pepperoni to it. Then I rolled out my pizza crust in small circles, spread some sauce on the circle, put a large spoonful of the cheese and pepperoni mixture and folded the crust over and sealed it. Then I placed them on a pan and baked them. My kids thought they were very tasty and I was able to make enough for dinner and enough to put in the freezer for lunch another day.  

Needless to say, I am very tired tonight. I am planning on going to bed and hopefully will sleep all night waking up at 6:00am tomorrow, ready to walk and begin another busy day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Box of I.D.E.A.S.


Box of I.D.E.As. (Ideally Dynamic Enrichment Activities) is a company dedicated to making learning interactive centering around a specific subject area. Your child will be drawn into critical thinking and knowledge through activities and a variety of fun topics.

Box of I.D.E.As. is packed with 10 or more activities plus additional ideas for going deeper into an area of interest. Each box has been thoroughly researched and includes web links.for further exploration. Box of I.D.E.As. can be used in multiple ways: as a supplement to a normal history program, it can be used for a homeschool group activity. or just a fun break from normal school work.

Box of I.D.E.As. currently has five topics available for study. They have World War II Pearl Harbor, Eleven (featuring eleven different subjects focusing on the number 11), Salt, Quilting and Laundry. They have many more boxes planned and coming soon. Each Box is available in two different formats, a physical box or a PDF download. The physical box  includes everything needed to complete the study printed out and ready for use.The PDF download includes all modules in separate files ready for printing at home. The cost for a physical box is $79.00 and the cost for the PDF download is $49.00.  The boxes are designed for students ages 9-16.

ClarkClan  Thoughts

We were given a PDF download of the World War II Pearl Harbor study. The cost for this specific product is $49.00 and can be ordered from Box of I.D.E.As.  I found this to be easy to download and had no problems opening the files. I liked how the files came in as separate files and were well labeled. This has made it easy to print off each module as I need it without wading through previous modules.

When I open each module on my computer, the first page contains the contents of the module and printing and cutting instructions for that PDF. I found this page to be of great use to me after the first module I opened and printed off without reading anything. I realized later that I had printed things front to back that should not have been, I printed pages I did not need to and it generally was hard to use. Once I went back, read the first page and realized it specifically told me which pages to print, on what kind of paper and if it should be printed on the front only or front and back, things went very smoothly.

Each module contains anywhere from 7 to 14 pages. Not all of these need to be printed out. Following the instructions, some pages can be read straight from the computer. I found this to be helpful, since internet links are provided for further study and we could then easily look up the sites. Other pages are printed for student work and then others are printed on cardstock and cut apart for games.

I used this box mainly with Ben (10) and Rebekah(9). Ben has been very interested in World War II all summer and has been researching on his own through books he picks up at the library. He was very excited to get started. Rebekah is not nearly as big a fan of studying World War II, so she was just along for the ride.

The first module begins with a study of Pearl Harbor before becoming a Base. It talks about the black lipped pearl that grows in the harbor, the natives and then the exploration by Europeans, Americans, and others. After reading the page of information, then researching on the web using the link provided, the activity page was measuring pearls with an included paper ruler. The game was an endangered Animal Match.

Each module runs along the same lines as the first. A page of instructions, a page or two of information to read, extra web links to explore. Then a pencil and paper activity and finally a game of some kind. I found that the activities were more suited to Ben’s 5th/6th grade level than Rebekah’s 4th/5th grade. But that could also be due to the subject matter being extremely interesting to Ben, but just okay for Rebekah. Ben’s favorite game so far has been the Pearl Harbor Timeline game. We have played that multiple times he likes it so much. And the best part is he is remembering the sequence of events about the Attack on Pearl Harbor, “The Day that will live in Infamy”.

Box of IDEAs collage


I would definitely recommend Box of I.D.E.As. to other families. We have had a great time with it. I found the age range of 9-16 to be fairly accurate. My 9 year old had some trouble with the math activities, but Ben at 10 could do them with help.  We did not do all the writing extensions included as they would have taken a lot of time and help from me. If I were to use this with my 15 year old daughter, I would definitely have her doing the writing assignments to make it more in depth for her. I liked the mix of “book work” and “hands on activities” included in each module. My kids looked forward to getting the pencil and paper activities done so we could play the game for that module.

I reviewed the PDF version of this product. This was not a huge deal to me, as I have a nice laser printer. But, I wanted to mention that there is a lot of printing that will need to be done, as well a lot of the games are printed in color. Many cards are actual pictures, so if ink costs are a factor, looking into the physical box may be a better option. A nice feature of having the PDF is that you can print off as many copies as you need for how many students you have. With the physical box, you can purchase extra student modules for $4.00. These include all consumables so you can teach more than one child.


Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew members reviewed Box of I.D.E.As. The two topics up for review are the World War II physical box and PDF version and the Salt physical box and PDF version. Click on the Crew banner or here to read what others had to say about the product.

Disclaimer: As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a PDF copy of Box of I.D.E.As. World War Two Pearl Harbor for free from Box of I.D.E.As. in exchange for my honest review of their product. All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.