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

Friday, January 27, 2012

Snow Fun

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    My kids miss the snow. After living for 8 years in two different states where snow falls in the winter, then moving to New Mexico where snow is rare, my kids will play in snow any chance they get. Here in WI there is snow. According to locals, there is not a lot of snow. But, to my kids, it is snow none-the-less and they are ready to play. 

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     We walked down to a little park in the village and went sledding down the snow pile left by the snow plows. Not exactly the perfect place to sled, but we made it work. Even mom went down the sled a couple times. Going straight down the side of this pile, then the big bump at the bottom was not really my idea of fun, but the kids were thrilled I would go. The first time I went down, I had to sit at the bottom for a minute and make sure that I was going to be all right. The jolt I received at the bottom was quite severe. I am very thankful I was not sore the next day. Then I got the bright idea that maybe we should try the sled going face first instead of sitting upright. Bad idea. Sarah tried it and hit a big clump of snow at the bottom that knocked the breath out of her. After laying there a few moments gasping, she was up and ready to try it again.  We quickly decided face first was not a good idea.

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     Rebekah had fun making snow angels. Ben also tried his hand at making snow angels, then Sarah got in on the act.

     Back here at home, Sarah and Rebekah were told to go shovel the driveway. They did, then proceeded to sculpt a “couch” out of a snowbank. I thought it turned out really great. I even put on my snowpants and sat on it with Rebekah for about 10 minutes. Tomorrow they plan to sculpt a flat screen TV to go along with the couch.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Fashion Show

. The first two days of our arrival in Wisconsin, I spent the afternoons at the hospital. We worked on our school work in the mornings and then when I left Ben and Rebekah were able to play with all the “new to them” toys in Grandma’s playroom.

     Rebekah was fascinated by the dress up clothes she found along with the accessories of hats and jewelry.  She came up with the idea of holding a fashion show for Grandma when she came home from the hospital. Sarah became the backstage hand and script writer. Ben was the narrator and commercial entertainment during dress changes.

     They spent two afternoons working on this project. Rebekah picked out the outfits, Sarah wrote up the descriptions of each outfit. Ben, as the narrator, read the descriptions. Then Ben told jokes and played the drums for our entertainment.  When they performed their masterpiece, the practice they put into it was evident. What a fun way to welcome Grandma home from the hospital.

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Sunday, January 22, 2012

We Choose Virtues

  • We Choose Virtues Cards $5.99
  • Age Range 3 –18
  • Part of the We Choose Virtues Character Development Program
  • Created by Heather McMillan
  • Available from We Choose Virtues

     We Choose Virtues is a character development program.  Each Virtue is introduced and a catch phrase is taught. This introduces kids to what the Virtues are and why they are important.The catch phrase is the core of the system. These are positive sayings that reinforce correct attitudes and actions. It also gives kids a reference point with which they can compare their actions and behavior. Antonyms are given at the bottom of the card to identify the  behavior problem. 

     We Choose Virtues begins with a Family Character Assesment. This assessment helps all family members  to think about their behavior and place it on a scale of 1 to 10.  Then this assessment is completed periodically while using the program as a way to measure progress.  A coloring book introduces each of the Characters associated with the Virtues.

               The We Choose Virtues Virtue clue cards makes learning the virtues easy, both at home and while out and about. The handy pocket size and sturdy plastic case make these very easy to throw in the car or into a bag without being crumpled. Each business card sized clue card contains the Virtue being taught and the catch phrase along with a picture of the character that goes along with that Virtue.

     We Choose Virtues clue cards are only a part of the We Choose Virtues Character Development program. Two versions of the program are available: Community (without Scripture) and Faith Based (with Scripture) Visit the website to learn about the program in its entirety. The program is also available for Jr. High/High School.

ClarkClan Thoughts

     I used the We Choose Virtues, Virtue Clue Cards primarily with Rebekah, who is eight. As a way to introduce the cards and the characters to her, I gave her the coloring book I had printed from the PDF file.  She enjoyed coloring the pictures and learning all the names.

     I first attempted to implement the program by giving her a card with a virtue to work on for the day. This did not work out as well as I had hoped. Rebekah can be very stubborn. When I asked her if she was following the virtue on the card, she usually would throw a bigger fit and the whole thing would collapse.

     I stopped using  the cards for about 3 days, then took a different approach. This time I kept the cards. When Rebekah would finish a task, I would take out the cards that pertained to what she had done and present them to her. For example, when she finished her math I would give her the Perseverant card, the Obedient card, and the Diligent card. We would read them together, then I would tell her why I thought she fulfilled each of those qualities. I tried to remember to “catch” her throughout the day and let her know, with the cards, what virtue qualities she was fulfilling.

     I was pleasantly surprised by Rebekah using the cards herself one Saturday morning. Rebekah has been learning to put her hair into a ponytail all by herself. She came into me and asked if her ponytail looked okay. I told her it needed more work, then went back to what I was doing. About 15 minutes later she came in and asked if her ponytail was better. I looked at her and told her “yes, it looks great.” She got a big smile on her face and then pulled out from her pocket the Perseverant card. She said she was going to come ask me to help, but decided to keep on trying by herself. 

     I was very impressed with how much Rebekah began to enjoy using the cards. I am contemplating buying one of the Virtue Posters to implement the program on a larger scale in our home. I am also going to investigate the high school level posters to use in my high school Sunday School Class.


     Want to read even more opinions about the We Choose Virtues program? 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 We Choose Virtues Clue Cards for free from We Choose Virtues , in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Maestro Classics–The Story of Swan Lake




About the Product:

  • Target Ages: 5+ and families
  • Available two ways:
  • CD and Activity booklet  $16.98
  • MP3 Download and PDF file Activity  booklet $9.98
  • Available from Maestro Classics

    We popped the CD into the CD player. Suddenly the beautiful music of Tchaikovsky’s Ballet Swan Lake filled the room. Maestro Classics wonderfully narrated rendition of The Story of Swan Lake performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is a marvelous way to introduce kids to the beauty and magic of classical music.

     The first 30 minutes of the CD is pure wonder as Yadu narrates The Story of Swan Lake. You can imagine the beautiful  gowns swishing during the ball as the ladies and the prince dance the waltz. The music transports you to the lake, where the beautiful enchanted swan lives.

     The CD is accompanied by a 24 page book filled with various activities and information. You can learn fascinating facts about Tchaikovsky such as that “he was a messy and irresponsible child.” Read biographies of Stephen Simon, the conductor/composer, of Bonnie Ward Simon, the executive producer and of Yadu, the narrator. Learn about the leading authority on shred guitar, Joe Stump. Practice playing major and minor chords.

     Maestro Classics is the work of Stephen Simon and Bonnie Ward Simon. The mission statement of Maestro Classics is: To cultivate a love of music through education and joyful performances. They state their music has three major benefits. 1.) Expand listening horizons 2.) Develop listening skills and accumulate musical memories 3.) Encourage adults and children to listen to music together.


CD Highlights

  • The Story of Swan Lake

  • Tchaikovsky’s Life

  • Speed Metal Swan

  • About the Music

  • “Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet'”

  • Want to Have Some Fun? Prepare to Perform

  • “Tchaikovsky Wrote a Great Ballet” Sing Along

  • Total Playing Time 54:02

ClarkClan Observations

     The first impression that forms when the CD begins is beautiful music. It captivated us from the first few notes. Listening to the music and narration brings to life the music of Tchaikovsky.

     We found the track that features Joe Stump, the leading shred guitarist, fascinating. He performed Speed Metal Swan which is a heavy metal version of the main theme. Both my 14 year old daughter, Sarah and my 18 year old son, Matthew enjoyed listening to it. They also found the information in the book on Joe Stump interesting and continued to research him.

      In all, the ClarkClan can only give this Maestro Classics The Story of Swan Lake the highest recommendation. Each time we have popped it in to listen, something new catches our attention. Rebekah, who is 8, can be seen dancing around with the music. Ben, who is 10, has been caught conducting along with the music.

Other CD’s Available

     Maestro Classics has 9 different Story CD’s available. Each is $16.98 for CD or $9.98 for MP3 download.

  • Peter and the Wolf
  • The Soldier’s Tale
  • The Story of Swan Lake
  • Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel
  • My Name is Handel: The Story of Water Music
  • The Tortoise and the Hare
  • Casey at the Bat
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice
  • Juanita, The Spanish Lobster (also available in Espanol)

     Many other of my Crew Mates reviewed The Story of Swan Lake along with our family. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought of this CD.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received The Story of Swan Lake for free from Maestro Classics, in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“Do I Have to Do School?”

      I have four kids, the only one who has been in public school was Matthew. He went to Kindergarten, First and Second grade before I pulled him home. Sarah went to a public school pre-school which included speech therapy, but we then pulled her home for Kindergarten.  Ben and Rebekah were both born after we began homeschooling, so they have never known anything different.

     I want to address an issue that I feel homeschooling mothers can really get down on themselves. Kids who complain they do not like school. I began thinking about this when I was talking to a friend who is homeschooling her 9 and 6 year olds. She asked me if my kids complained about having to do their school work. I said, “Of course, everyday”. She was relieved that it was not only her children. She thought maybe she was doing something wrong.

      I don’t think she is doing anything wrong with her kids. They are nice, polite, happy kids. But, I sure can remember having the same feelings myself during the early years. I used to wonder what I was doing wrong and would my kids not complain if they were in public school. I came to the conclusion that kids are going to complain no matter where they are. There are always going to be “fun” things that my kids will think they are missing, and then my kids will tell their PS friends things that they wish they could do. It is our sinful nature to want what we don’t have.

     When we began homeschooling, I was under the impression that my kids would be happy and joyful and love learning. I am way past that delusion now. It used to really bother me that my kids would not jump out of bed and just love school. I wondered if it was me, did I just not make it “fun” enough. I don’t worry about that anymore though. When my kids whine “Do we have to do school?” I don’t try to talk to them to find out what they are unhappy with or how can I make it better (like I did at the beginning). I look at them now and say something along the lines of “Tough, this is life. Let’s get to work”.

     I have noticed that my kids don’t whine as much about school work if I have a matter of fact attitude. I make the assignments, kids do the assignments. Some things are fun, others are work. Learning to get your work done with a good attitude, even when you may not want to, is a skill that will serve them well their entire lives. So, no, I do not go out of my way to make every assignment fun and games.  I also take my kids complaining with a grain of salt.

     Matthew, who was my first student 11 years ago is now graduated. Yes, from homeschool. He is  attending college. He came home one day last semester, put his arms around me  and said, “Don’t worry, Mom,  I am doing just fine in college.  You taught me what I need to know, and I can learn what I don’t know.” High praise from a kid who used to cry over his math saying how much he hated it.

      If you are in the beginning or middle of those tough school years, where kids just want to play and Mom comes along to put a damper on their fun with school, take heart. You are not alone.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Z-Guide to the Movies


  • Available from  Zeezok Publishing
  • Kit Kittredge An American Girl
  • Elementary/Jr. High
  • $12.99

     Zeezok Publishing has developed learning guides that make it easy to incorporate movies into your history program. They have dozens of guides, each of which cover a specific period in history.  The guides include 10 different learning activities. These begin with an overview of the movie, then questions to answer as the movie is being watched.  The next several activities focus on the historical time frame of the movie. Research and writing skills are emphasized.  A hands on activity, a worldview activity and a Filmmakers Art activity round out the movie guide.

     Zeezok recommends taking a week to use one of the guides. The synopsis and watching of the movie begin on the first day. Then approximately two activities are done each subsequent day for a full week. The final activity is called the Filmmakers Art. This teaches the student how  filmakers uses different tools to influence the viewer. The goal teaching in the Filmakers Art is to teach kids how to discern not only the movies agenda, but how it is influencing them.

ClarkClan Thoughts

     We had the privilege of reviewing a Zeezok Z-Guide to the Movies last spring. We reviewed a high school level guide on the movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.  We thoroughly enjoyed using the guide. (If interested, you can find my review here.)

      When we were given the opportunity to review another guide, I was thrilled. This time I picked an elementary level guide based on the movie Kit Kittredge. Once again Zeezok did not disappoint. This guide was just as thorough and just as fun to use.

     We owned the movie Kit Kittredge, so we did not have to find it from another source. Zeezok says on their website that almost all movies are available through NetFlix. The guide comes as a PDF download. I printed the guide out to have a paper copy on hand, and was able to make a copy of each activity, as needed, for my kids. Since we have watched this movie before my kids knew what it was about. When we watched the movie using the movie guide, I paused it and we talked about each overview question as it came up.  Ben and Rebekah kept exclaiming over the details that they had never noticed before.

     Then we took the next few days to complete the rest of the activities.  One day we researched the Great Depression by answering 6 questions using the internet for the answers. A favorite activity was decoding “Hobo sign”. A vocabulary page was included. Activity 5 had us writing a newspaper article using the five “W” questions. I also enjoyed going over the Family Discussion questions with my kids. Another neat feature of the Z-Guide to the Movies is that all answers are included in the PDF download.

About Zeezok Publishing

     Zeezok Publishing originally began as a company known as The Book Peddler in 1993. After 10 years of traveling around the country attending homeschool conventions, they began publishing and selling their own materials.  Since 2003, the company has been slowly growing and adding new things. Their newest product is a high school level government program called “A Noble Experiment”. Another product that I have purchased from Zeezok is their “Presidential Penmanship” program. This supplemental handwriting program exposes students to the quotes of America’s founding fathers and presidents.  Make sure to visit their website to see all the educational products they have to offer.


     Want to learn more about the Z-Guides to the Movies. Visit the Crew Blog and read what my Crew mates had to say about the guides. Many different guides were reviewed so you can see a variety of movies available.

As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of TOS Homeschool Crew I received the Kit Kittredge Z-Guide to the Movies for free from Zeezok Publishing , in exchange for my honest review of their product.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Duct Tape Tote Bags

     Back in November I was invited to join a group of ladies at church to make a tote bag out of duct tape and a t-shirt. I was told bring a t-shirt and matching duct tape.  I had a great time learning to make this no-sew project that is very useful.

      When I brought it home, my girls were fascinated. They were slightly green with envy that I had made the bag for myself, not them.  I promised that one day I would make each of them a bag, too. That day came on New Years Eve.

     Sarah has a favorite t-shirt we bought almost 3 years ago when we visited Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.  She loves that t-shirt, but after three years of growing from 5’ to 5’8”, she has outgrown it. She would still try to wear it, but I finally told her it was becoming almost obscene it was so short.  This was the shirt she wanted to use for her bag.

     When I was shopping at Target on Black Friday, I found a really cute Christmas t-shirt for Rebekah. I bought it and told her to wear it all Christmas season, and then we could make a bag out of it. So her green Christmas shirt with the trees on it became her bag.

     The process of making the bags is fairly simple. I had the basic idea from making one at church, but looked it up on YouTube before I made the girls’ bags. Basically, you cut off the sleeves, turn the t-shirt inside out and cover it in duct tape on both sides. Staple the bottom of the bag and staple across each point on the sides to make a flat bottomed bag. Then turn the bag right side out and finish off the top with more duct tape. The outside of the bag is the t-shirt you used and the inside is duct tape. This makes the bag waterproof on the inside.

     On the internet, I found a way to make the handles using the t-shirt itself. But the way I was shown first, we finished the top of the bag and then added grommets and rope for the handles. I have used this bag for the whole month of December and it is pretty sturdy, so I decided grommets and rope were the way to go for the girls. The only bad part about using the grommets is the hammering it takes to get them attached to the bag. I smashed my thumb on the first one and Matt had to finish putting them in. 

     The bags turned out really great. Sarah wanted a bag to keep her drawing supplies. We also used longer handles so she can wear the bag over one arm and her head, with the bag sitting on her hip. Rebekah decided to put pink and white stripes on the inside of her bag. Each bag turned out  unique and special.

Front of Bags

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Inside of bags, all duct tape

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