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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Unwanted Fear

I had a first today. My first mammogram. I was (am) nervous about it. Not the test itself, but of the results. A little over a year ago, I would not have given a mammogram a second thought. We had no breast cancer in our family, as far as I know on either side. But then, last July my mother found out she had breast cancer. It was a small spot, but invasive. She had a mastectomy, they biopsied lymph nodes and they were clean, so she was declared cancer free.

My primary care Dr. (who is also my parents primary care Dr.) said he thought it would be a good idea to get a base line mammogram for me. He gave me the order in February. It took me till July to work up the courage to go have it done. It took my mom calling and telling me that she made her appointment and I should make one for the same day. So I did. The mammography clinic was very nice, scheduled me for the next appointment after my mother.

The test went well. Not nearly as uncomfortable as I thought it might be. The technician was extremely friendly, and informative. She understood all my fears. She made sure that I knew there is a good chance I may be called in for a second mammogram. This is because of having nothing to compare the films to since it is my first time. She said it is very common for the Dr. who reads the mammograms to call and request a second one for comparison.

So it is over. The test is done. Now just waiting for the results. Most likely there will be no problems. But as much as I try not to, I still have a little fear. I need to remember, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1

Friday, July 26, 2013

Review—Homeschool Programing–KidCoder Visual Basic Series

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About the Product

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KidCoder Visual Basic Series from Homeschool Programming is a course designed for 6th through 8th grades to learn how to program using Visual Basic Express 2010. Visual Basic Express is a free computer programing language.

There are two courses which, if used one after the other, will comprise a full year of computer programming. The first semester covers Windows Programming and the second semester is Game Programming. In Windows Programming students will build fundamental programming skills. In Game Programming students will learn how to write computer games.

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No prior experience in programming is necessary to be successful in completing the course. Basic computer skills are all that is required to use this course. Being familiar with the keyboard and mouse, how to run programs and just being able to interact with their computer is recommended.  There are specific requirements for your computer before starting the KidCoder Visual Basic course. They are as follows:

Computer Hardware
Your computer must meet the following minimum specifications:
Minimum CPU
1.6GHz or faster processor
1024 MB
1024 x 768 compatible video card
Hard Disk Size
3GB available space
DVD Drive
DVD-ROM drive

The KidCoder Visual Basic Series is a self study course.  Each chapter is written so that the student can work independent of a parent. There are multiple visual aids to assist in figuring out what your screen should look like.

There are a variety of topics included in the two semesters of KidCoder.  These include the following:

  • Introduction to computer hardware, software and programming history
  • Using the Microsoft Visual Basic 2010 Express development environment
  • Managing numeric and text data
  • Making decisions about program flow
  • Obtaining and validating user input
  • Working with numbers and math operations
  • Working with strings (text)
  • Learning how to debug (find errors in) your code
  • Learning how to write loops to execute sections of code many times
  • Working with arrays (sets of data)
  • Publishing your programs to other computers
  • Putting it all together – write a simple graphical game!

Each chapter includes three to five lessons, a chapter review, then a “Your Turn” which allows the students to practice what they have learned in the chapter. There are 14 chapters in each semester book of KidCoder Visual Basic. By completing one chapter a week, KidCoder is a year long course.

Also available are videos to help your audio/visual learner be successful at programming. The videos are full color, with good visual graphics to demonstrate the lesson. A pleasant voice conveys the information while the words and animated visuals are placed on the screen. The videos are a supplement to the KidCoder Visual Basic coarse. They do not teach the full course but reinforce the content of each lesson.


ClarkClan Experiences

Ben is the kid that reviewed this product in our family. He is 11 years old and in 6th/7th grade. He was excited to begin as he is very interested in computer programming. 

Because this is a course written for students to pursue on their own, I let Ben attack this on his own. I told him if he had questions, he could ask his dad or older brother. Well, he took off with my lap top, after I installed the Visual Basic Express 2010 on my computer. He never had any questions. He would read the chapter, working through it. He never seemed to have a problem understanding any of the chapters because he never had to ask any questions. He was so excited about the program, he invited his 12 year old cousin over to work a couple chapters with him.

One note on how we used this. I gave this to Ben as a fun to do, but required course. Because of this, I did not use the chapter tests which are included. If you are looking to use this course for credit you may give the tests and keep grades.

Since Ben was the person who actually worked the program, I interviewed him for his opinions on the program. Here is the interview with my questions in bold and his word for word answers in italics.

KidCoder Interview

Did you like the KidCoder program? Yes

Did you find it easy to use? Yes except when you make a mistake, but that is hard with any computer programming. Going back to find your mistake and fix it is time consuming. I once spent 15 minutes trying to erase a mistake I made. But I was able to get it fixed.

Were the chapters easy to understand? Yes

 Why?They were easy to read and went step by step.

Were there visual aids? Yes

Were the visual aids understandable? Yes, a few were a little different than what I saw on my screen, but by reading farther on I found the answer easily.

Did you like the programs you wrote? Yes, they were fun to show to other people.

You showed the course to your cousin. Did he like it? Yes, he and I had a good time working together.

Would you recommend this course to others? Probably yes. If you don’t like to read it would be bad because there is quite a lot of reading involved. I would recommend it because it is fun and easy to understand. I like computer programming and this course shows me how to do it.

A note about the available videos. Ben and I watched a few of the videos, but we realized quickly that Ben does just fine with the book and computer. He did not need the videos to be successful. We did feel that the videos were well done and informative.


I would highly recommend KidCoder Visual Basic programming. Ben had a great time with it. I liked that he was able to work independently and achieve great results. He will be continuing with this course until he finishes it.

Many of my Schoolhouse Crew Mates reviewed a variety of computer programming courses from Homeschool Programming. Read the Crew Blog to find out what they have to say about this resource.



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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review—Christie the Coupon Coach–Couponing Made Simple

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Ever clip coupons, but wonder if there is any way you can use them to greater effect? In comes Christie the Coupon Coach with her book, Couponing Made Simple. Christie says her process is “Not extreme, but Real couponing for Real people”


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Couponing Made Simple is a step-by-step guidebook on how to coupon well. Christi breaks down the steps it takes to be effective. From sorting, to organizing, to shopping, you can learn a simple down to earth system.

ClarkClan Experiences

How well did this system work for me? Well, I have had mixed results. I learned a few new tips and ideas I had never thought of before. But, there was also advice that just would not work where I live.

A little  bit about where I live. I live in a fairly small town, it has a grocery store, a super Wal-Mart and a military commissary. Since my husband is retired military, I use the commissary frequently as well as Wal-Mart as my second choice. The local grocery store is my third choice, mainly to buy homemade flour tortillas. The next bigger cities from us are 70 and 90 miles away, not very feasible to shop there frequently.

The other reason that I am not able to use a large amount of coupons is because of the way we eat. We are slowly switching to a whole food, non processed type of diet. This means I buy a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and very little boxed or canned items.  So for the most part, the coupons that work best for our family are for toiletries, craft, clothing and other non-food type items.

I liked the way Christie gave step-by-step instructions for following her system. It spells everything out in detail and is easy to understand. I like that she gives advice on where to find coupons, not just in the Sunday paper (which is a big part of couponing) but also coupons can be found on the internet and magazines or directly in stores. The organizational system is very well laid out and easy to follow.


I have  a mixed recommendation. If you do not use any coupons at all this book may be a great thing for you. It will teach you a simple coupon system you can use almost anywhere you live. If you already coupon effectively, this may not be a needed book for you.

Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed Christi the Coupon Coach, Couponing Made Simple. Visit the Crew Blog and read what others thought about the book.

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Sunday, July 21, 2013


Tonight for dinner we tried something new: Zoodles! They were very yummy (in fact all six of us liked them) and super easy. I served them with marinara sauce I made and a little feta or parmesan over the top.

What are Zoodles? All Zoodles are is zucchini. I used a julienne peeler and julienned two medium sized zucchini and one yellow squash. Then I put them in a glass casserole dish with a lid and cooked them in the microwave for 3 minutes 30 seconds. I cooked them for two minutes, stirred, then another minute and 30 seconds. They were perfect.


The marinara sauce I make comes out of my head. But I will try to put it into measurements and give the recipe.

Marinara Sauce

1 large onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

4 (14oz) cans diced )tomatoes

1/2 cup red wine (I used Merlot)

1 tablespoon dried basil (  was going to use fresh, but left it in my mother’s car Sad smile)

1 tablespoon parsley

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. Add diced tomatoes, wine, basil, and parsley. Simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes. Serve over spaghetti squash or noodles or Zoodles.

Along with the Zoodles I also made spaghetti squash. Since I was trying something new, I made the spaghetti squash as well since I knew my family will eat it. I also made a few noodles for my husband, who was leery of all vegetable noodles. But, to my surprise, as well as his, he ended up liking my veggie noodles. I will definitely make the Zoodles again this summer as long as the zucchini lasts.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Nothing to do Saturday

A Saturday with nothing to do?

Looking back through the calendar from June through today, every weekend has been busy. We have had something to do,or been gone for 7 Saturdays in a row. Today was different. We had nothing we had to do. I had a hard time accepting that strange occurrence. I kept checking my calendar to make sure I was not  forgetting something that needed to be done.

It was nice to have a day “off”. We were able to go to breakfast with Great-Grandma. Then we came home and actually had time to do a task that I have been putting off for two months. Clean our sunroom.

The sunroom is our play/craft room. Since the end of May, it has not been used very much. The main reason, it has no air conditioning and when it hits a 100 degrees outside the room is almost unbearable. Sooo.. . Toys, games, books and more piled up and never got put away. To put it mildly, it was a mess.

But today, that changed. It has been cooler  because of clouds and rain, so it was nice to be in the sunroom and clean it. We picked out things to take to the church rummage sale. We put games away so we could find them when we want to play. We swept and vacuumed. The most amazing thing of all: we did it all without tears or crying of any kind.

We still have a little more to do. Ben has a few boxes of Lego’s that he is sorting into the drawers I bought. I need to finish cleaning up my craft/sewing stuff. But the room is 90% better. It feels so good to have that project done.


To celebrate getting it done, we went swimming with our cousins. Unfortunately, we were only in the pool about 20 minutes when we had to get out because of lightening. Then, while walking to the car, it began to rain. It rained very hard and we all got just as wet as if we were in the pool.

To finish the day, Aunt Lisa, Uncle Joe and cousins came over to watch a movie and eat pizza, salad, and cherries. I have to say that even thought we were busy, it was a good, relaxing day.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vacation Bible School Musings

Today is the last day of our church’s Vacation Bible School. It has been a very fun, but very busy week. My job this week was to teach the Bible lessons to the kids. I love this job and was very happy to be given the opportunity to do it.

Because I got a chance to interact with all the kids I made a very interesting discovery about our Vacation Bible School this year. We usually talk about VBS as an outreach. We reach out to both those who know Christ as well as those children who do not know Christ. My discovery this year was almost every child who came to our VBS has prior church experience. The students who knew how to read all knew how to find a book, chapter and verse in the bible. Even the little ones could tell me that Jesus died on the cross and rose again.

This has been an interesting observation and has my mind turning thinking of how we can change the way we do VBS to better suit the needs of the kids who are attending. I think instead of a light overview of Law and Gospel concepts to introduce unchurched kids to Christianity, we should conduct a Bible School that includes more in depth study of the Bible.

This is just an idea in my head. I do realize that buying a pre-made program is much, much easier than coming up with something on our own. But I do think it would be great to deepen the faith of the kids attending while also addressing the needs of the kids who have never heard the Gospel message.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review–Susan K. Marlow & Kregel Publications

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Jem, his sister Ellie, and his cousin Nathan return in a book as full of adventure as the first book in the Series, Badge of Honor. It is discovered that the only way to get gold out of the Midas Mine is to create an air shaft using an abandoned mine. Unfortunately, the abandoned mine is being used by a Chinese family, who will have to give up their right to work it.

Jem is caught in the middle of a miner’s riot. He quickly finds out the trouble is over a gold mine that has been “played out” or not producing gold anymore. Jem has to think quickly to save the Midas Mine.

Many opportunities for adventure as well as character building lessons arise during the book. Branding cattle, without permission, and then dealing with the consequences, or navigating how to be loyal to both the Chinese Immigrants and family in friends are just a few of the lessons learned.

ClarkClan Experiences

Last December, we reviewed a book by Susan K. Marlow called Badge of Honor. Badge of Honor was the first book in  the Goldtown Adventures Series. Ben and Rebekah were enthralled with the book, which we used as a read-aloud. Each night they would beg me to read “just one more chapter, please?”

When we were given a chance to review the second book in the series, Tunnel of Gold, Ben and Rebekah were very excited. The book came in the mail and we began reading it out loud. I only was able to read about three chapters out loud when I had to leave for a trip. Instead of waiting until I got back, Ben and Rebekah had their Grandma Clark read the book out loud to them.

I was given the report by all three of them, Grandma Clark, Ben, and Rebekah, that they all loved the book. Ben said it was as good as the first book. Rebekah said it was excellent and she really liked it. Grandma Clark said it was a pleasure to read and she liked the characters and how well developed they were.

Not only is the GoldTown Adventures series a set of great books, Susan K. Marlow has also written Enrichment guides for each book. The Enrichment Guides are provided free of charge on the Goldtown Adventures website.   The Enrichment Guide for Tunnel of Gold has five parts. Parts one through four cover the chapters in the book and part five is a page of related web links. The activities in the study correlate with the action in the book. The Enrichment Guide turns the reading of the books into a Literature and History study.

Each part begins with a vocabulary section and then a reading comprehension section. After that the activities vary based on the events in the book. Once part talks about brands, another is a recipe, and yet another part the Trans-Continental Railroad.


Ben and Rebekah both highly recommend the book. They gave it five stars out of five when I asked them what their rating would be. I liked that the book was based on Christian principles but is realistic in it’s characters. They make mistakes, they have problems, but they also trust in God, turning to Him for guidance.


The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed both books in the GoldTown Adventures Series. Visit the Crew Blog to read what others thought about the books in the series.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Chores through the Years: Laundry

Laundry. Laundry can be overwhelming when you have six people living in the house. Over the years, I have done all the laundry myself. You know, wash, dry, fold, put away. Then as Matthew and Sarah got older, I had them help me, but mainly it was my responsibility.

When Matthew was about 10 years old, I decided he could start helping me more with the laundry. So I made a chart and hung it in the laundry area. My chart covered sorting, water temperature, soap amount and wash and dry settings. This worked pretty well for Matthew and then Sarah to learn how to do the laundry.

As it happens when you have older kids and younger kids, I relied on the older kids to get the laundry done and left Ben and Rebekah to just be the “helpers”. About the time Matthew turned 18, he started doing his own laundry. So Ben and Rebekah had to start doing the laundry with Sarah.

Now, two years later, Sarah has decided to do her own laundry. Matthew still does his own. I do Matt and mine. So that leaves Ben and Rebekah to do their own laundry. They each sort their own clothes, wash and dry them together. After the clothes are dry, they then take the basket between them and pull out their own clothes to fold and put away.

This system is working pretty well for our family. The only problem we have encountered is me remembering to tell Ben and Rebekah to get their laundry done. So we are solving this problem by giving them a day, Monday, that is their laundry day.

Laundry is one chore that is ever evolving in our family. Cleaning the bathroom is another chore that keeps evolving. But, I will tell more about that “fun” task in another post.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Starting Over

Trying to eat better is very hard. I have been trying very hard to eat more whole foods. But then the weekend comes and we have three parties to go to, all of them include food.  It becomes almost impossible to eat in a whole foods, less sugar, less processed diet. While there may be a choice or two that is healthy, most of the food is not really all that healthy. Usually there are way too many desserts, pastas, chips, white breads. The problem is that as much as I like healthy food, I also like the junk food. And once I start to eat the junk food, I have a hard time stopping. Then I feel way too full and bloated, and I am back to square one.

I I am going to continue trying. I am not going to give up. And I am going to continue to fight my cravings. I am going to tell myself that even though I may not eat the way I should, I can always start over.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review–Dig It Games–Mayan Mysteries


Dig-It Games

  • Mayan Mysteries
  • Ages 11 + specifically designed for grades 6-9
  • Single User License $21.99

Dig-It Games is a company that produces educational, yet very fun computer games. Their Roman Town games was a favorite of Ben about two years ago when we were able to review it for the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Their newest game Mayan Mysteries is proving to be just as fun and exciting for Ben as Roman Town.

Mayan Mysteries is an adventure game that is played online. Journey back in time to investigate the Mayan Culture. Decode glyphs, find artifacts, visiting Mayan cities, and exploring the Mayan Calendar are all designed to be challenging.

The premise of the game is that a looter has been digging up Mayan sites. In comes Team Q to help put a stop to this. You are trying to see if you are worthy of reaching the mythical city of Ich’aak. This city is only revealed to those with pure hearts and the knowledge to protect the artifacts, sites and culture.

The game begins with a cartoon strip that introduces the player to the problem that someone is looting and stealing ancient artifacts. The game uses a variety of activities to teach history, culture, and geography. Multiple choice, true false, map work are just a few of the activities that Mayan Mysteries deals with.

ClarkClan Thoughts

Ben (11) was our tester for this program. He had a great time playing the game. He told me he would recommend this game to others.   I think the wide  variety  of activities kept  him from being bored and held his attention quite well.

There was one part that Ben had a slight problem with. He was to decode a Mayan math problem. He became discouraged so I sat with him to help him figure out the math so he could “buy” what he needs to get past this level.

One of the neatest features of this game is the opportunity to “excavate” a Mayan historical site. There are four towns to excavate: Ceren, Copan, Tikal,and  Caracol. You are told to be careful and not break any of the artifacts that you find. 

. Another feature we liked was the choice to read what the characters on the screen were saying by yourself, or click on a speaker and it would read the words out loud. Ben said he would sometimes read the words and sometimes have the computer read it to him. By going to the settings on game launch page you can choose to have the words read automatically.

The only negative about the game was the music. It was a repeating tune that became annoying after a while. But then after some investigation, I found that you could turn the music up or down by using the settings on the launch page.

All in all, we found this game to be exciting, educational, and easy to use. We would recommend it to any one with kids in the late elementary/junior high school age range. The price is a one-user license for one year. If you have two or more kids, you can have one work through the game, then when they reach the end start over with the other student.

Visit the Crew Blog to read more about what people thought about the game for their children.



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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Review -- Classical Conversations

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Classical Conversations is a Classical Christian Community focused on assisting parents who desire a Classical education for their children. It is a service to help guide parents in using a challenging, Christian, classical curriculum. Their Bookstore provides the curriculum needed for their Classical Education programs. It is not necessary to join a Classical Conversations Community in order to use their curriculum.

A new resource that Classical Conversations is providing is called PreScripts. This program teaches children cursive while reviewing history, art, and Scripture. There are four levels of PreScripts: Cursive Letters and Coloring, Cursive Words and Drawing, Cursive Sentences and Art Lessons, Cursive Passages and Illuminatiions.

The PreScripts program is designed to help children acquire fine motor skills by imitating well written words.  A variety of techniques are used throughout the program. Coloring, drawing, tracing and copying seem like simple tasks, but to a child, imitation is the heart of their learning.

ClarkClan Experience


Rebekah was our tester for the PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing book. She is ten years old and has been asking to learn “real’ cursive. We were given a choice of which book we would like to review and I chose the second in the program. Rebekah was a little on the older side for starting cursive, but this book fit her well. The book starts with a review of letters and ends with paragraph writing.

The focus of the Cursive Words and Drawing book is Scripture. It includes three parts. The first part are Letters, Words, and Scriptures. The second part is Writing Numbers in Cursive. The third part is Tricky Letter Combinations in the First Chapter of James. Each days work follows the same pattern. There is a review of the letter to trace and write. Then a word that begins with the letter and finally a bible verse. Everything on the page is designed to follow a “trace and then copy” model.  The second page are drawing lessons. This is an excellent way to practice the skills needed for cursive writing while avoiding busy work.

Rebekah enjoyed working on her Cursive book. She liked learning traditional cursive and she loved the drawing lessons. The book states that by working one lesson a day you  can complete the book in a school year. They also said older students could work two pages a day and work through two books in a school year. Because Rebekah asked to learn cursive I let her work through this at her own pace. She is approximately half way through the book and doing great. She was a little shaky at first, but I can tell the difference after a little practice.


We liked the PreScripts Cursive Words and Drawing book. I thought it did a good job of teaching Rebekah cursive. The book was designed so students could be self-sufficient and I feel that they hit the mark. Rebekah was able to take the book and run with it, asking for help only if she needed. I would check her work and correct any errors I may have seen.


The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed all levels of the new PreScripts handwriting program. Visit the Crew Blog to read what they thought about the program.

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Monday, July 8, 2013


I read in  No More Perfect Moms a quote that has stuck with me since I read the book last February. It is “Don’t compare the insides of your marriage to the outsides of other marriages”. I have broadened this to include all of life. I tell myself often, “Don’t compare the insides of your life to the outsides of other’s lives.”

I love Facebook. I love that, even though we have moved many times, I can keep up with and see friends and family who are far away. But, there are times I have to repeat to myself, “Don’t compare the insides of your life to the outsides of other’s lives.” I have to remember that I pretty much only put the “good stuff” of my life on Facebook. I don’t usually talk about how Rebekah threw a huge fit over having to clean her room. Or, I don’t put on that Sarah and I had words over what size shirt to buy her.

If I am posting mostly good stuff on Facebook, others are too. Putting up a good front. Showing their best side. If someone writes that their kids were so obedient and left the park with no fussing, I have to remember that I have just as many days that they behaved than misbehaved .  When I read that someone’s husband cooked them dinner or brought flowers, I have to remember that there are many things my husband does for me, too.

So, I guess my lesson for myself today is: take what you see on Facebook with a grain of salt. Be happy for others happiness.  As Romans 12:15 says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Review–Institute for Excellence in Writing

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Teaching Writing Structure and Style

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Andrew Pudewa is a coveted speaker at home school conventions. His writing seminars are well attended and sought out. But not everybody can attend a convention or has access to a seminar. This is where Teaching Writing Structure and Style (TWSS) comes in. This is a full “how to teach writing” seminar on DVD.

Mr. Pudewa is a violin/music teacher who also began teaching 7th and 8th grade English in a private school in Montana. In order to be better prepared to teach writing he attended an 11 day writing workshop in Canada given by Dr. James B. Webster. After attending this workshop 3 years in a row, he was invited to learn to teach the workshop.

This was the beginning of the TWSS course. Mr. Pudewa and Mr. Webster redesigned the course to be taught over 2 days to home school parents. This course became very popular and from it sprung DVD’s with writing seminars for students. While skeptical at first, Mr. Pudewa found that parents liked the DVD’s of him teaching the writing seminars and their children responded to him.

There are 10 DVD’s included in the TWSS. The DVD’s are accompanied by a notebook of worksheets and note sheets just like you are in a live setting. The DVD topics are:

  1. Overview of Structure and Style
  2. Stylistic Techniques: “Dress Ups”
  3. Stylistic Techniques: Sentence Openers
  4. Stylistic Techniques: Advanced Dress Ups, Decorations, and Triples
  5. Writing Reports from Multiple Sources, Creative Writing with Structure
  6. Essays: Basic, Extended, and Super, Critiques, Conclusion
  7. Tips and Tricks
  8. Student Workshop, Grades 2-4
  9. Student Workshop Grades 5-7
  10. Student Workshop Grades 8-10+

There are two ways to use the TWSS DVD’s. You can sit for two days and watch them one after the other as in an actual seminar. Or, you can watch DVD 1 and teach Units 1 and 2 then watch DVD 2 and teach Unit 3 and so on. I choose to watch each DV D one at a time the day (or sometimes hour) before we were doing the lesson.  This worked for me as I then had all the information fresh in my mind in order to convey it to my kids.

Mr. Pudewa has an excellent way of presenting. He takes what could be a dry, boring subject matter and infuses humor and interest.  I found myself wanting to watch the videos because they were so interesting. Throughout the seminar you are given opportunities to put into practice the skills you are learning. While you may not be able to share your work with a partner at home, you can practice good writing techniques and be able to remember how to teach them with your students.

While watching the TWSS DVD’s you can follow along in the workbook. The Workbook is a three ring binder organized into the same categories as the DVD’s. Then while Mr. Pudewa is teaching on the DVD you can read the pages provided, make notes if necessary. I like how the presentations include teaching procedures, how to adjust for grade levels. Many, many examples are explained in detail. I found there was no question about what I was supposed to say or do. After watching TWSS I felt quite well equipped to teach writing to multiple age students.

TWSS is a detailed writing program. It does not, however, teach spelling, handwriting, or formal grammar. These subjects will still need to be taught. I also thought it was interesting that while this training seminar is a complete syllabus, you can also use it to supplement other methods of teaching writing.

Student Writing Intensive Level B

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The Student Writing Intensive (SWI) Level B is a video seminar designed for Middle School Students.  This is a DVD course of Mr. Pudewa teaching an actual seminar and being videoed while teaching. The SWI includes a notebook for the student. It is a three ring binder that is divided into five tabs: Models/Sources Checklists, Outlines/Compositions, Structural Models, Style Charts, “Banned” Words. The only supply that you will need to provide is notebook paper. There are detailed instructions on how to set the notebook up and where to put completed assignments.

Each lesson includes a page of detailed Teacher’s Notes. This note page starts with a chart telling which disc, disc times, Chapter Titles, what Student Handouts are needed and any Reinforcement materials. Then the notes page tells what TWSS disc to review (if using). The Lesson notes tell which disc to watch and where to start and stop on the disc. Sample outlines and Board notes are included on the back of the Teacher Notes page.

SWI Level B covers many of the topics in Level A, but expands upon them. If your student has never worked with this program before, they will start with the level they need. For Level B there are four disc which include the topics:

  • Outlines, Summary, and Dress-Ups
  • Story Summary, Dress-ups
  • Reference Summary, Paragraph Structure, and Sentence Openers
  • Creative Writing, Sentence Openers

Units 1 and 2 teach how to create a key word outline and a few simple dress ups. Dress ups are simply a way of changing a sentence to “dress it up” a little bit, to make it more interesting. Because all the paragraphs are provided, the student never has to worry about what to write about. The key word outline breaks the paragraph down sentence by sentence and asks the student to pull out what key words are in each sentence. The goal is for three words or less. Symbols are acceptable, as long as the student can remember what it stood for. After the outline, students narrate back what the story was using only their key word outline. Then comes writing the paragraph on notebook paper using the key word outline.

There are many “helps” for a student to succeed. There are “-ly” adverb lists for use when writing dress ups that include adverbs. There is a preposition list. There is a banned words list. The goal of the program is to help students to not only learn how to write, but have fun doing it.

ClarkClan Experience

I used this with four children. My two, Ben and Rebekah and their cousins Zac and Miri. The way we worked this was in two classes. One class was Zac and Ben, 6th and 8th grade and the other class was Rebekah and Miri 3rd and 5th grade.  I used the Student Writing Intensive Level B with the older boys. I also had Level A from  using it a year ago and I used that with the younger girls.

I had watched the Teaching Writing with Structure and Style DVD’s before I started working with the kids. To see how well I learned from watching this seminar course, I taught the younger girls level A. Since I had received a Student Writing Intensive Level B DVD to review, I used that with the boys. This worked extremely well for us. The younger girls got the face to face interaction they needed and they boys did very well watching Andrew Pudewa on the DVD.

The Boy’s Experience


Zac and Ben used the SWI Level B DVD’s. This meant that I would give them the papers they would need for that days lesson. Because our TV is in our living room, I had them set up two tray tables in front of the TV along with kitchen chairs to sit on. Then they would start the DVD. I would sit with them while they were working to answer any questions that would come up, I could stop the DVD when needed and make sure they were doing the work.

These boys enjoy working together and doing a writing class together was no different. They thought it was fun to be able to talk through things and share ideas. They could laugh at all the funny things that Mr. Pudewa says on the DVD and have someone to share the experience with. I heard them talking through things like what adverbs they were going to use and how they were going to  combine their sentences.

I found that for my boys, it was great having the DVD do the actual teaching and I could just facilitate. They responded very well to Mr. Pudewa and looked forward to each lesson.

The Girl’s Experience


To test how well I could teach without relying on the Student Writing Intensive DVD, I taught the girls. I had the Level A DVD from buying it in a previous year and going through it with Ben, but  did not use the DVD portion, just the lesson pages.

By me teaching the lesson, I was able to tailor the amount of time the girls needed for each part. I found that because they are younger than the boys, their attention span was a little shorter. So we would work a bit on the lesson, then take a break, go back and work some more.  The hardest part for Miriam was doing a lot of writing all at once. So we would write a couple sentences and then take a break and write a few more until it was done.

Just like with the boys, the girls really enjoyed working on this writing program together. I will say that I am not nearly as funny as Mr. Pudewa, but the girls did not seem to mind. We had a great time laughing and discussing what words should be included on the key word outlines. They learned that they did not have to have every word the same, but could pick their own key words, as long as they could narrate the paragraph back.

Miriam had the most trouble when it came to dress-ups. I think because of only just going into third grade, she is just learning the concept of taking two sentences and putting them together. This is where teaching without the video came in handy. I could work one on one with her until it clicked and she understood.


I would highly recommend both the TWSS and Student Writing Intensive. Because TWSS is a writing seminar, you can use the SWI as a stand alone writing program.  I had used only the SWI  about a year ago and it worked well. But, I found that I really learned a lot more by watching the TWSS. Even using the SWI Level B with the boys, it was so nice to know what Mr. Pudewa was talking about and I could help the boys with no problems.

If cost is an issue, my recommendation would be to go with the TWSS and teach writing on your own. The seminar is so complete that you really can learn to teach writing by watching it.


Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed the TWSS seminar as well as various levels of the SWI. Others reviewed a program called Teaching the Classics. Visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews on these products.

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