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

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Golden Prairie Press–Costumes with Character

Golden Prairie Press


Create historical costumes from eleven time periods using one master dress. Costumes with Character shows you how to take one plain dress and add cuffs, collars, bonnets and more to re-create history. Each time period is introduced with a fascinating overview of specific clothing, who wore it, how it was worn, hairstyles and shoes.  Sprinkled throughout each chapter are quotes from famous historical people and questions which bring the time period to life. Recommended Resources round out the chapter for extra research on each time period.

I will start by saying that I have prior sewing experience. I sew clothing, accessories and some quilting. I have found the instructions included in Costumes with Character to be very well-written. They are easy to follow, step by step and include many well-done illustrations. All  materials and needed notions  are clearly laid out at the beginning of each project.

The patterns included in the book include all accessories to make a plain dress into a time-specific dress. The beginning of the book gives things to look for in a pattern to make the basic dress. The dress pattern is not included, it may be store bought or home made. The pattern size included in the book is for a girl who is 16 and up. Instructions are included for adjusting the patterns down to fit a smaller child.

The patterns in the book are a small scale that will need to be enlarged to use. This was the hardest part of using the book for me. I am not so good at drafting from a small scale to large. Thankfully, Amy Puetz has anticipated this and provides two options. A bonus e-book which has some of the patterns already enlarged and ready to print on legal size paper. The second option is brand new and is one that I will probably buy to make things simpler on myself. This option is Costumes with Character Printed Patterns ($15.00), a 3‘ by 15’ printed sheet which included 45 pattern pieces. This will simplify making the costumes.

The collars and cuffs, belts etc. are not permanently attached to the dress, they go over the top of the dress and sleeves thereby making it easy to change time periods on a daily basis. One day your daughter can pretend she is a Quaker with a special collar, apron and bonnet. The next day she can quickly change to the Sailor style of the early 1900’s by changing to a sailor collar, adding a belt and sailor hat. The only stumbling block to the imagination is how fast mom can sew.

I have enjoyed reading through the history and looking through the different patterns in this book. Rebekah had a “pioneer” dress that we had made a few years back.  I have since made her an apron and a bonnet to go with it. Our next project is to make a Hoop Skirt to go under the dress. We will need to find another dress pattern to make as the one we have is short sleeved with a lace edged neckline. To fully utilize the patterns in this book we will need a long sleeve, plain neck dress.

Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew mates have reviewed Costumes with Character as well as many other books Golden Prairie Press has to offer. Click on the banner below to visit the Crew Blog and read the reviews.


Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the PDF e- book Costumes with Character and bonus Pattern e-book  for free from Golden Prairie Press in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Joy comes in the morning!

What a difference a month can make. It can change your entire life. At least that is what we have experienced this past month. About one month ago, my mother had a biopsy for a spot that was found on her mammogram. She has had biopsies before and they have all been benign, so she was not worried.

Two days after the biopsy, she received a phone call from the Dr. The biopsy came  back positive. It was breast cancer. Shock: I think shock is the best way to describe how we all felt. Thousands of thoughts run through your head, almost all of them bad. We went through the entire weekend alternately laughing and crying. Friday night was hard, Saturday was hard. Then on Sunday, God’s love was spoken through the Divine Service at church. Every hymn sung was a hymn of praise and assurance. The psalm for the day, Pastor’s sermon all pointed to the love God has for us.

And here we are, one month later. The tears of fear have been replaced by tears of joy. A body is no longer whole, yet is filled with life. Lymph nodes contain no cancer. Diagnosis: cancer free.  Over and over I keep saying this bible verse in my head, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (This is the second half of Psalm 30:5) Morning is here! We are rejoicing. Praise the Lord! I love you, Mom!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Christian Liberty Press

Mr. Pipes

“Praise God from whom all blessings flow, Praise him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen'”

I love hymns. I love to teach my children hymns. I feel hymns teach the great truths of our faith in a beautiful, memorable way. Hymns are a wonderful way to teach theology for both young, old and everyone in between.  When I was given a chance to review the e-book Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers I jumped at it. I was excited at the prospect of learning the origins of great hymns.

Mr. Pipes is a kindly, older man in England who befriends two American children, Annie and Drew, visiting England for the summer. Their mother is doing research in England and the kids are pretty much on their own for the summer.  They stumble onto an old church and meet a man who will become a great friend, Mr. Pipes. Mr. Pipes is the widowed organist of the church. He enjoys introducing the kids to music, through various hymns and hymn writers, as well as, boating and fishing. Throughout the book they learn many different hymns and the stories of when and how they came to be written. Annie and Drew also learn the value of traditional worship and praise. This is important to me as we attend a Lutheran (LCMS) church that uses traditional worship.

007(Ben and Rebekah playing army men and paper dolls while listening to Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers.)

We have been using this book as a family read aloud. The chapters are lengthy and so we would read about half of each chapter at each sitting. The story line with Mr. Pipes and the children is cute and sweet. The information concerning the various hymn writers is interesting. The book holds the attention of Ben (10) and Rebekah (9) very well. Sarah (15) was interested in the information about the hymn writers, but found the story line with the kids a bit forced.

One thing we have found to be fun while reading this book is to look up the hymns in the hymnal that we use at church. Every chapter that we have read so far, has told about a hymn that we can find in our hymnal. One of the first hymns introduced in the first chapter, written by Thomas Ken is All Praise to Thee My God this Night, the last verse of which is the common doxology. In the book, Mr. Pipes teaches Annie and Drew how to sing this in a round. I thought that sounded fun and so I have taught my family how to sing it in a round.

As I stated before, I feel very strongly that teaching hymns to kids as a great faith building activity. This book has added to our family’s already established habit of learning one new hymn a week. There are four books all together in the Mr. Pipes series. I am planning on getting another one of the books when we have finished this one.

We received this book in an PDF e-book format. I was able to easily download this to my computer. Since I own a NookColor, I transferred the PDF file to my Nook. We have been reading the e-book from my Nook with no problems. Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers is also available in a traditional book format.

There were many School House Review Crew mates that also reviewed this Mr. Pipes book. Visit the Crew Blog by clicking on the banner below to read what others thought about this book.


Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the PDF e- book Mr. Pipes and the British Hymn Makers for free from Christian Liberty Press in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


apologia logo


Apologia book









 Apologia Education Ministries presents:

  • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Book by Norman L. Geisler and Frank Turek
  • Softcover book with over 400 pages. Click here to read a sample chapter. 
  • I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Curriculum by Frank Turek and Chuck Winter
  • Click here to read a sample chapter. 
  • 279 spiral bound pages
  • High School level Book and Curriculum

About the Book and Curriculum

I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist seeks to argue that Christianity in not only more reasonable than all other belief systems, it is more rational than unbelief.  The authors guide readers through traditional, tested arguments for the existence of a creator God. This book is a helpful resource for Christians seeking to intelligently defend their faith.

 The I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist Curriculum teaches how to go through the book for maximum understanding. It is organized to help you understand and remember what the chapter was about. The main content is organized into four sections.

     Hook—This reminds you what the book chapter talked about and warms up your brain.

    Book – This section takes you deeper into the issues discussed in each chapter. It focuses on knowledge and comprehension.

    Look – This has you check out information for yourself, not just take the author’s word. This includes research assignments and other activities.

    Took – This is a summary of the material and helps to apply the concepts studied.

    ClarkClan Experiences

    Sarah(15) and I both read the book and went over the  curriculum together.  We would read the chapter in the book, then spend about two weeks working through the work book. I had Sarah do the questions on her own, then would go over her answers with her and discuss them.

    We found this to be a very thought provoking book and curriculum. It really makes you think through tough issues. The questions require more than a one word answer.They are thought provoking requiring you to dig deep and really think.  The part of the curriculum that we had the hardest part with was the Look section. This section requires research and writing apologetic papers that we have never done before.

    The book is 15 chapters long, with an introduction and 3 appendices. The introduction  defines terminology and introduces three major religious worldviews: Theism, Pantheism, Atheism. Agnostic is also frequently used throughout the book.  Evidence for Christianity is explored in detail using a logical, twelve-point progression.

    This twelve point progression was originally presented by the authors Norman Geisler and Frank Turek in a seminar called “The Twelve Points that Show Christianity is True.” These points are:

    1. Truth about reality is knowable.
    2. The opposite of true is false.
    3. It is true that the theistic God exists. This is evidenced by the:
      1. Beginning of the universe (Cosmological Argument)
      2. Design of the universe (Teleological Argument/Anthropic Principle)
      3. Design of Life (Teleological Argument)
      4. Moral Law (Moral Argument)
    4. If God exists, then miracles are possible.
    5. Miracles can be used to confirm a message from God. (ie., as acts of God to confirm a word from God).
    6. The New Testament is historically reliable. This is evidenced by:
      1. Early testimony
      2. Eyewitness testimony
      3. Uninvented (authentic) testimony
      4. Eyewitnesses who were not deceived
    7. The New Testament says Jesus claimed to be God.
    8. Jesus’ claim to be God was miraculously confirmed by:
      1. His fulfillment of many prophecies about himself;
      2. His sinless life and miraculous deeds;
      3. HIs prediction and accomplishment of his resurrection.
    9. Therefore, Jesus is God
    10. Whatever Jesus (who is God) teaches is true.
    11. Jesus taught that the Bible is the Word of God.
    12. Therefore, it is true that the Bible is the Word of God (and anything opposed to it is false).

    (taken from page 28 of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist)

    The twelve points form a line of reasoning to be explored in depth. The authors state that these points need to be justified by evidence and good reasons. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist seeks to present this evidence in a format that is easy to understand. Each chapter in the book covers one of these points in depth using real life examples and solid evidence.

    Sarah’s favorite part of the curriculum are the profiles of important people and topics. These people and topics are mentioned in the  book and these vignettes help to understand them better. We also liked learning more about how to share our faith with other people. This was brought home to us as this past weekend as we worked at the county fair in the church fair booth. We had one man who stood at our table and announced he was not a Christian. Unfortunately, in the middle of our answer he walked off, but the encounter underscored the need for learning Christian apologetics.

    This study has been a challenge to both Sarah and I. We have enjoyed reading the book and are learning quite a bit about apologetics. We plan on continuing using this book and curriculum and would recommend it to others seeking a way to teach Christian apologetics.


    Many of my Review Crew mates also reviewed this book and curriculum. Click on the banner above to read what they had to say about it. 

    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received the book I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist and the I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist curriculum for free from Apologia  in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s

    Thursday, August 16, 2012

    Vocab Videos


    Looking for an effective system to learn the 500 essential vocabulary words that appear on tests such as the ACT, SAT, GRE? Vocab Videos has the answer. Using professionally produced short videos to illustrate the meanings of vocabulary words in a way students can relate. Expand your vocabulary while watching hilarious characters in original stories that put the words in action.

    Each episode of Vocab Videos feature 20 words and are approximately 10 minutes long.  The original miniseries are parodies of popular TV shows like Lost, The Office, 24, and Gossip Girl. Each video is designed to make memorizing easier. They use both auditory and visual clues. A freeze fame during the video gives the word and its definition in print while a voice over provides proper pronunciation and reinforces the meaning. The vocabulary word is illustrated by the action in the video and then a concluding definition uses the word in the context of the scene.

    Vocab Videos Features

    • High School level product
    • Online subscription
    • Videos featuring all 500 SAT vocabulary words
    • Study tools are included for students
      • Digital worksheets
      • Digital quizzes
      • Digital flashcard maker
    • Students are able to track their progress
    • Educators can monitor class progress
    • Educators can access all videos and study resources
    • Educators can download material for printing



    • Individual Student subscriptions available for:
      • $24.99 six month subscription
      • $39.99 twelve month subscription


    • Educator Package subscriptions, 12 month access
      • $74.99 small (up to 20 students)
      • $134.99 medium (up to 40 students)
      • $254.99 large (up to 100 students

    ClarkClan Experiences

    Vocab Videos had an interesting reaction for our family. I had set up Ben (10) and Sarah (15) as students.  I quickly realized that the videos are definitely geared towards older teens and adults. I was not very comfortable having Ben watch the his present age.

    Maybe it is because we do not watch any of the shows that Vocab Videos parodies, but Sarah had a hard time liking the videos as well. She found a few to be amusing, but for the most part they were not her cup of tea.

    One of the features that I liked was on the Educator side, I could track and see what the kids have done. I was able to quickly look up quiz scores, what date the quiz was taken on and the score received. The Educator’s page also had all videos available for viewing.

    We were not the only family who reviewed Vocab Videos. Click on the banner below to read what they thought about this online program.


    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received an educators  12 month subscription to Vocab Videos in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

    Monday, August 13, 2012

    Thomas Jefferson Education–This Week in History

    Thomas Jefferson Education


    This Week in History is a weekly  bundle of online resources that presents daily historical facts and fun. Each day’s resources provide math, science, language skills, geography, current events, the arts and more all tied together to events in history. These daily tidbits encourage kids to explore, learn and excel.

    This Week in History is presented by A Thomas Jefferson Education. It is suitable for all ages and grades. The cost is $9.99 a month. This Week in History is accessed in two ways. First, there is a dedicated This Week In History blog feed at Thomas Jefferson Educations website. Second, it is sent by email directly to your inbox using a secure email service. Subscribers have the whole years archives accessible to them and all content is searchable by date, topic and keyword.

    ClarkClan Experiences

    This Week in History has been fascinating for us. My favorite way to access it is through the weekly e-mail. I love the feature of having it emailed to me. I can access all that weeks content through the e-mail, which makes it very handy for me  to use.

    The content is amazing. It has been fun to see what happened on certain days in history. When the e-mail comes through on Wednesday morning, I  quickly scan the content to see what is coming up that week.  There is no extra work involved for me. Everything I need is contained in the e-mail.

    Within each day, there is a wealth of information. A brief overview of what is special about that day is first, then there are multiple links to go along with it.  Some of these links are information, some are pictures, music and some are printable games or worksheets. For example, July 17 we learned that Handel’s Water Music  premiered. Then 6 separate links were given to be able to further explore Water Music. Links to Handel biographies, music and even an activity book were included.  Learning activity questions were included to further spark curiosity.

    I liked that the History tidbits highlighted came from both popular and obscure items.  We learned what day Disney Land opened for the first time in CA. We learned about San Francisco Trolleys. We also learned a fact about the death of Peter Safar. We had no idea who he was until we read that he was the Father of Emergency and Resuscitative Medicine. Interesting information for kids whose dad and big brother are Fire/Rescue volunteers.


    To be honest this is probably not something I would have chosen on my own. Saying that, I feel I would have been wrong in discounting the wealth of information contained in each week of This Week in History. We use it as a fun break during our day and a neat way to add more history into our lives effortlessly.


    Many SchoolHouse Review Crew members reviewed This Week In History. Visit the Crew Blog by clicking on the banner above to read what they thought about this program.

    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a year subscription to This Week in History for free from A Thomas Jefferson Education  in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

    Sunday, August 12, 2012

    Math Made Easy


    • Children learn the addition and multiplication facts
      without counting on their fingers
    • Mastery of facts in 6 weeks
    • Only 36 facts to memorize
    • Homeschool Multiple Package Includes:
      • Lesson Plans
      • PreTest
      • Six Weeks of Daily Activity Sheets
      • Post Test
      • Games
      • Flash Cards
    • Created by Glenda Brown James
    • $24.95
    • Available from  Homeschool Addition and Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy

    ClarkClan Experiences

    In our house, Rebekah was the one to use and test this product. She knows her multiplication facts, but could use some help in instant recall.

    The premise behind this program is that by eliminating certain multiplication facts that are easily learned, such as the zero, one, ten, and eleven facts, there are only 36 left to learn. These 36 facts are then divided by six weeks, so 6 facts per week are introduced. The facts are not presented in fact families, but as six  random facts per week. In actuality the facts are not random but  have  been carefully selected and studied  for maximum comprehension. This random learning of facts forces a child to rely on their memory.

    There are daily activity sheets, games and flashcards to help in learning each weeks six facts. The activity sheets feature the same type of activity in order for each week. For example, the first page for each week is a color by number.


    Games help to reinforce the facts for the week as well as previously learned facts. Flash cards are also included for extra practice.


    This program had some aspects that were really good for Rebekah and some that did not work out so well. Some of the things that worked really well for Rebekah were:

      • Simple to use
      • Varied activity sheets
      • Games

    Rebekah liked the variety of the activity sheets.   There were some sheets she just loved. The color by number sheets, where she had to do a multiplication problem to find out what color she should use, were fun for her. The pages involving solving problems to find the secret code as well as the pages with cutting were big hits with her. Rebekah likes variety in her schoolwork.


    One worksheet required a lot of pencil work, this always became a struggle for Rebekah and we ended up just talking this page out.

    One of the  games was confusing. This particular game had no instructions that I could find. Rebekah and I made up our own rules to this game. All the other games had instructions.

    Flashcards are a chore to Rebekah, so the flashcards did not get much use while we were reviewing this product. I tried more than once to use them, but she just was not interested


    This product worked decently for Rebekah. It is not a flashy program, but it can teach a child their facts. As far as mastery in 6 weeks, we have not seen that result, but we have seen improvement. 


    Many of the SchoolHouse Review Crew  reviewed the Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy book as well as their Addition package.  Click on the banner above to read what they thought of the program.

    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy book for free from Homeschool Addition and Multiplication Teaching and Learning Made Easy  in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s.

    Friday, August 10, 2012

    Bubble Fun


    We have had the best time recently making giant bubbles. I saw the idea on the internet and decided it would be a fun activity to do with the church youth group. So I gave my dad the instructions and he made the “wands” for us.  Sarah, Ben, Rebekah and I have all had a blast learning how to make these. Through trial and error we have discovered the bubble solution that works the best for us.


    We made our own homemade bubble solution. It works okay, but not great. Then we used store bought bubble solution. It worked okay, but not great. Then Sarah got the idea to dip the string into the homemade solution and then into the store bought solution and then try to make the bubbles. This works the best for us. We get fairly large bubbles that do not pop easily. Today instead of dipping twice, I mixed the two solutions in one bowl and it seemed to work well.

    Bubble Collage 2

    This has been a fun thing to do this week. It has taken patience and persistence to learn how to do it, but it has been worth it. Sarah and I can’t wait until Sunday when we are going to teach the youth group how to make giant bubbles.

    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    King Alfred’s English

    King Alfred's English

    • King Alfred’s English A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do
    • Author Laurie J. White
    • The Shorter Word  website for the Author
    • Ages 12-Adult

    Every so often a book comes along that is so interesting you do not want to put it down. King Alfred’s English A History of the Language We Speak and Why We Should Be Glad We Do by Laurie J. White was one of those books for me. 

    I received this book as an e-book and immediately put it on my Nook. Finding time to read a book just for myself has been very scarce lately. So when I climbed into bed that night, I picked up my Nook and started to read King Alfred’s English.  I was fascinated from the beginning. I kept nudging my husband to tell him little facts and tid bits I was gleaning from just the first chapter.

    English and History are two subjects that you do not usually think of as going together. This book meshes them beautifully. I felt so naïve about the English language we speak while reading this book. I realized I knew almost nothing of the origins of our language.

    I learned that English was almost suppressed in favor of French at one time in history. I found fascinating the alphabet letters Old English used to have and are no more. Learning  little nuances of our language brought greater focus on why we spell words in ways that do not make sense to us in modern times.  The book ends with the Reformation and the struggle to get the Bible printed in English.

    My plan is to have Sarah (15) read King Alfred’s English to enhance both her English class and her History. While the book in itself is an excellent resource and learning tool, the author has made the study even more in depth by adding a Student page and a  Teacher page to her website.  The addition of these pages enriches the study making it a complete one semester English History course.

    The student page is divided into chapters. Within each chapter are three sections: Not to be Missed, Expanding the Lesson, and Literature/Primary Source.  These sections vary in length depending on the chapter. They include videos, movie suggestions, websites

    The teacher page includes worksheets and tests for each chapter. The worksheets can  be printed to be done with pencil and paper. Tests can be printed, as well, with all the test questions coming directly from the worksheets.

    Once again, fascinating, is the only word I can think of to describe this book both from an English standpoint and a History standpoint. I feel this is going to be a great asset to our understanding of the why’s of English Grammar. And who knows, just maybe it will stop Sarah’s complaints of “Well, it should be spelled that way!” when she knows the reasons behind the strange spelling.


    Many members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed  King Alfred’s English. Visit the Crew Blog by clicking on the banner above and read what others thought about this book.

    The author Laurie J. White has authorized me to give out a discount code to 5 people for approximately 50% off the retail price. This would make the book $8.47. For the first five comments, if you leave me your e-mail address, I will send you the buying information and discount code to be used through the month of September 2012.

    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received an e-book version of King Alfred’s English  for free from Laurie J. White in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s

    Tuesday, August 7, 2012

    Create Better Writers

    create better writers

    Homeschool Writing Action Plan

    $15.95 e-book

    $19.95 softcover

    Starting with The Homeschool Writing Action Plan, you will learn all the steps needed to create competent writers. This book presents teaching writing in three clear parts. This is the “big picture” of using the Create Better Writers program. It gives all the steps needed to teach writing, includes pacing charts, and a “Road Map” to implement each step.

    How to Write a paragraph

    $7.99 e-book only

    How to Teach the Paragraph is the beginning step in teaching writing. It begins around the third grade and is the beginning step for all programs. The premise is that if a student can write a paragraph, they can write anything, from and essay to a report. This book teaches one simple trick to writing a paragraph, has the student practice this one trick and then proceeds to more advanced writing.

    How to Teach the five paragraph essay

    $17.95 e-book

    $19.95 softcover

    How to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay contains a step-by-step plan for teaching students how to write a five-paragraph essay. With this book the teacher is given everything needed to help students organize, format and write a five-paragraph essay in about an hour. This book will prepare students for class, district or state writing tests.

    All books and more are available from


    • Simple to use
    • Use from Grades 3-12, nothing else to buy
    • Basic supplies needed, pencil, paper, printed worksheets (included)
    • Only requires approximately 15-30 minutes each day
    • Moves at your child's pace


    • Teacher intense
    • Written to the classroom teacher

    This product had mixed reviews in our family. For Sarah and Ben, the format of Create Better Writers worked very well. It is a no frills, teacher-led program. Sarah and Ben have no problems with this format. Sarah, 15, worked on writing a Five-Paragraph Essay while Ben, 10, started with Paragraph writing.  Both of them have progressed quickly and like the pacing of the program.

    Rebekah had more trouble with this program. She is 9 and has previously been introduced to writing paragraphs. She did fine with learning the five parts of the paragraph. She could recite them to me when asked. When we moved on to the Pre-writing activity, she had a bit more trouble. She quickly became distracted with the  process and drew pictures out of her pre-writing oval.

    When it came time to actually write the paragraph, Rebekah could not understand how to take the information out of the pre-writing oval and put it in paragraph form. It just seemed liked an overwhelming task to her and she had one of her infamous (as least in our family) meltdowns.  I decided it was not worth the effort or frustration at this time and have not used it since with her. My thoughts are this program uses some abstract thinking skills that Rebekah has not developed fully yet.


    Make sure to visit the Crew Blog and read what others thought about the Create Better Writers program. Click on the banner above to read all the reviews.

    Disclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received 3 e-books  for free from Create Better Writers in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    Co-ops -- Starting a new Venture


    For the last day of the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop we are talking about Homeschool Co-ops. My first thought when I heard the topic was one of panic. I have never been a part of a co-op. I don’t really know anything about them. But then I remembered that my friend and I are starting a small co-op, I guess you could call it, this Fall.

    Stacy and I have decided to start meeting at church for a weekly writing class. She and I will be teaching the class with Stacy teaching one lesson over two weeks and me teaching a lesson for two weeks and so on. We are inviting another family to join us, if they would like. They will be new homeschoolers this Fall and we are trying to help them out as much as possible to make the transition smooth. All together there will be six kids, three boys and three girls ranging in age from 6 to 10. I think this is a perfect number to start.

    After the writing class, we plan on letting the kids play together. Mostly this will be unstructured, but I may organize a few physical activities or games just for fun. My 15 year old Sarah may throw an art lesson in every so often.

    We have asked our Pastor to lead a short devotion or science lesson the day we meet. He has done this before for private schools and seemed interested in doing this for us. I think it would be a great way for the kids to get to know Pastor better.

    We also decided, to make it easier on all of us, that we would meet the same day as the kid’s chime choir. We figured this way we will get everything done on one day and not have to make multiple trips during the week.

    I am very excited by this new venture. I think it will be a lot of fun, both for the mothers and the kids. All the kids are quite excited by the prospect of knowing they will see their friends during the week. This is something I have been wanting to try, and now I have found just the right person to help me.

    Schoolhouse Teachers .com


    Spend time with the biggest names in online and home education: Kim Kautzer (writing), Diana Waring (history), Terri Johnson (geography), Adam Andrews (literature), the Hands of a Child team (lapbooking), Malia Russell (home economics), George Escobar (filmmaking)—and many more. Each month, new teachers in new subject areas will join the team.

    ClarkClan Experiences

    Overwhelming! This is the only adjective I could think of to describe The wealth of information available on the site is astounding. The price for the amount of teacher lessons, helps and extras is amazing as well. This site is designed for parents to be able to use with kids of all ages from infants to adults.


    $1.00 first month

    $5.95 each additional month

    Site Overview


    Monthly lessons

    There are 17different monthly lessons available. The lessons are written by a variety of experts. To give you an idea of what the lessons are like, I will give an overview of the High School Math lesson for the month of August.

    The High School Math lesson for August is written by David Chandler. David is the author of the Home Study Companion series. He has taught physics, mathematics, astronomy, and computer programming and is currently teaching at a K-12 charter school that works with homeschooling families.

    Finding Areas Using Reasoning is the lesson for August. The lesson begins with an explanation of the goal of the lesson.  Four videos, each between 15 and  30 minutes teach the lesson in detail, then 5 pages of problems.

    That is a taste of one of the 17 monthly lessons available. These monthly Schoolhouse Teacher lessons are “grab and go” lessons, most with printable pages, yet are in depth and impart a wide variety of knowledge.

    Schoolhouse Teacher Lessons include:

    • Career Exploration
    • Chemistry
    • College Choice Guidance
    • Economics
    • Figures in History
    • Filmmaking
    • Geography
    • High School Math
    • History
    • Home Economics
    • Lapbooking
    • Literature
    • Music –voice
    • Reading Lessons
    • Special Needs
    • Technology
    • Writing


    Daily lessons

    Schoolhouse Dailies provides a wide variety of daily lessons that need little to no advance prep. Core subjects as well as fun themed lessons are the mainstay of the Schoolhouse Daily lessons.

    Right now, there is an interesting study of the Summer Olympics. For this study a sport or competition is defined each day, then there are questions to answer and a hands on activity. This hands on activity may be done out loud or a link to a version suitable for printing is also available.

    I have used a few of the Schoolhouse Dailies lessons. Mainly when our days are very busy and our regular schedule is impossible. I can then quickly go the the Schoolhouse Dailies and pull off fun, yet simple to use lessons.

    Schoolhouse Dailies lessons include:

    • Summer Olympics
    • Daily Grammar
    • Daily Math
    • Daily Writing
    • Ditch the Desk: Hands-on K-5
    • Everyday Easels
    • Everyday Explorers: Canada
    • Everyday Explorers: USA
    • Pre-K Activities: Read and Play
    • Summer Shakespeare
    • This Day in History
    • This months menu


    Schoolhouse Extras

    I feel like an infomercial, but I have to say, “But, wait! There’s more!” also includes many and varied extras. Here you can access monthly and free E-books. You can find MP3 recordings of the information filled TOS Schoolhouse Expos. 

    My favorite part of the Schoolhouse Extras has to be the famous Schoolhouse Planners. I have used the planners for two years now and LOVE them. With the membership to every planner they produce is available for download.  You can print off the pages you want and customize a daily planner for yourself, your children. You can make a planner specifically for home maintenance or chores or….the possibilities are endless. These planners are a great resource.

    Schoolhouse Library

    The last resource on is the Schoolhouse Library. This section has articles on a wide variety of topics. You can find a monthly Reading list. Articles on Homeschool Life, Art, Crafts, Homemaking and Housekeeping, Nature and more all make an appearance. New articles are constantly being added to keep things fresh.

    I have just given a brief overview of the mass of information and helps on the website. To see even more information and to check out the pages in depth visit the Samples pages.

    I have enjoyed using the information provided on I have been amazed at the amount of information and real lessons available on the site. I definitely think it is worth trying out.

    Many of my CrewMates also reviewed Click on the banner below to find the list and see what they had to say about the website.

    PhotobucketDisclaimer:  As an Independent contractor for The Old Schoolhouse and member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew I received a years subscription to, for free from The Old Schoolhouse magazine  in exchange for my honest review of their product.  All opinions given are mine and/or my children’s

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    Classroom? What Classroom?


    Today for the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop we are talking about classrooms. We have lived in many houses over the past eleven years. They have been many sizes and layouts. We have learned to use what we have as well  as how to overcome space challenges.

    The house we are in now is about 1500 square feet with three bedrooms. There is one largish living room, a small eating area and a miniscule kitchen. We do not have a separate room to school in, so school takes place in the living/dining areas and occasionally a bedroom.

    I have a two bookcases in the living room, one is  for reading books and one is for our school books. We only keep the school books that we are actively using in that book case. The rest are stored in the garage.  On top of the bookcase are daily school supplies such as pens and pencils, a pencil sharpener, a basket of glue, tape, paper clips etc.

    In my garage, I have set up shelves that hold Bankers Boxes. Inside the Bankers boxes are all the schoolbooks that I want to keep. I have each Sonlight Core program divided and labeled into one or two boxes. Extra math  and science programs are stored in those Bankers Boxes waiting for Ben and Rebekah to use them.

    Daily schoolwork is done in the living/dining room. I do not allow Ben and Rebekah to do their school work in their bedrooms. I want to know what they are doing and be able to answer questions. Rebekah is easily distracted and I can keep her on task better if I can see her. The only subject I will allow Ben and Rebekah to do in their rooms is silent reading.

    Sarah is allowed to do some of her schoolwork in her bedroom. Because Ben and Rebekah are in the living room, I allow Sarah to do any subject that does not require the computer in her bedroom. If she needs to use the computer, she has to be in the living/dining room area. We do not allow anyone under 18 to use a computer in their bedroom. (We only have laptops.)

    The last place we will do our schoolwork is outside. I learned a long time ago that the kids all liked to be outside while doing school. But in Montana and then Idaho there were not many school days that were conducive to being outside. Now that we live in New Mexico, where the sun shines consistently we go outside for school frequently. Being outside helps Rebekah and her distractibility. I would think she would be more distracted outside, but it has a calming effect on her.  We use our outdoor table with the sun umbrella up. I can hang clothes while they are working, which works out well.

    I know when we finally buy our own house, our school routine will change again. But we have learned to be content in whatever school space we have. I tell people a smaller space just makes us a closer family.

    There are many blogs participating in this blog hop. Visit and read some of them by clicking on the links below.

    Plan? Can’t I just fly by the seat of my pants?


    When I mentioned to Sarah that today’s topic for the Back to Homeschool Blog Hop was planning she looked at me and said, “We plan?”.

    Do I plan? Yes. Do my kids know all my planning, probably not. To begin with, one of the reasons I love Sonlight is for the teacher’s guide that has daily work scheduled out for me. Now obviously, not every program has this feature, and if you read yesterday’s post, Sonlight is just one part of our curriculum, now. So I do have to plan out what I want done and when.


    To begin with, I do a general yearly overview type of planning. I pick out which major programs I am going to have the kids use.  I determine if anything new has to be bought. While I have a lot of curriculum to pull out and just use, there are items I still need to buy. For example, last fall I decided to try Phonetic Zoo from Institute for Excellence in Writing for spelling for Ben and Rebekah. (As a side note, I LOVE this spelling program. It has worked wonders for Rebekah.)

    I do not necessarily concern myself with getting a program “finished” within a year. We just use things until they are done, going as fast or as slow as needed. Consequently, this breaks down what I need to buy and spreads it out over the year.


    Daily is where I have to do a bit more planning. When I just had Matthew and Sarah in school, Ben and Rebekah as toddlers/pre-schoolers, I tried out the Managers of the Home program. This touts scheduling an entire day out. This somewhat worked in our home, but I am not as disciplined as I should be for the schedule to work a its optimum.  It also seemed like our day always had some type of “interruption” to it which would upset the whole system.

    Matthew, was a kid who wanted his list of assignments daily, and then would work to get them done so he could go play. Sarah and Ben did well with mom telling them what needed to be done next. Rebekah, well Rebekah was a challenge at first. We spent the first two months of her Kindergarten year with a daily battle over some aspect of school.

    What I discovered was that having a daily, set, school schedule for Rebekah stopped 90% of the meltdowns  with which we were struggling. I came up with a school schedule that she and Ben would follow throughout the day. I did everything in 30 minute increments and even built into the schedule a “recess” time that my others had not needed. She thrived  under this schedule system.

    Now, at the age of 9,  I  give her a sheet every morning with what tasks I want her to complete. These include both school and chore assignments. She loves the act of checking things off her list as she finishes them. And, she knows she cannot be done with school until everything is checked off.  For the most part, she does the assignments in the order they are given. The only thing I have changed over the past six months is that I have taken the specific times off the schedule. I just expect her to get it done, even if we have left the house for some reason, she can come home and pick up her list to finish.

    I use the same system with Ben. He gets a sheet that looks pretty much like Rebekah’s. They do many subjects together, so their lists tend to be in the same order.

    For Sarah, I just give her a list of the subjects she needs to complete that day. I do not care what order she completes them. She has a tendency to “forget” an un favorite subject if I were to just leave her to her own devices. So I write down every subject and expect to see work at the end of the day. Since she uses Sonlight for her history/literature I simply put “Sonlight” on her assignment sheet and she looks up what needs to be done daily in the Sonlight schedule.

    I have found that a little bit of planning goes a long way. We get way more accomplished when I have written down what needs to be done.

    Thanks for reading how we plan in our homeschool. Don’t forget to visit the other blogs participating in this Blog Hop.