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

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adult child, Adult problems

It is very hard to watch your adult child go through tough times and you can not do anything about the problem. Matthew is now 20. He is a Detention Officer and a volunteer Firefighter/EMT. The other day he had an EMT call that is one of the hardest to deal with emotionally. The patient died. Watching Matthew go through the process of second guessing himself, anger, and just processing the traumatic scene has been hard.

I am thankful that I see this reaction. That his compassion for others is strong. I wish I could help him, take the pain away, make the situation better. But, I can’t. I can only sit and let him talk when he needs to let something out. I can fix him a sandwich to eat before leaving for work. I can give him a hug and tell him I am proud of him. I can tell him to go out for a run to help relieve the stress. I can pray with and for him. In the end, he has to come to terms with situations like this on his own.

I have no doubt he will come to see the situation in a different light as time passes. He has and will continue to learn from this experience. It will make him a stronger person, a better EMT. As hard as it is, as much as I want to make it go away, this is not something Mom can fix.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scaling Back

     I did some soul searching this summer and decided that I needed to scale back on some of my outside activities. For the past two years, it seems that I attended an activity every night of the week. The week went something like this:

    • Monday – Scouts
    • Tuesday – Chimes (for the kids) and Bells (for me)
    • Wednesday – Choir
    • Thursday – Karaoke
    • Friday – Cleaning houses three Fridays a month for extra money
    • Saturday – Youth Group (two a month)

     I decided that I needed a little more time at home in the  evenings. I don’t get school planning done. I don’t get blogging done. I don’t get sewing done. It just seems that I am running everywhere.

     I have been able to free up two nights a week. One night is because Matt received a new job so that he will not be working evenings anymore. This has freed up my Monday nights as he now has Scout duty. I also dropped Bell Choir. This was a hard decision, but I need another night that I do not have to be anywhere.

     My plan is to keep Monday nights for myself for sewing/craft projects. After supper when Matt, Sarah and Ben leave for Scouts I will have an hour and a half to sew. I have so many projects I want to get done, that it is going to be hard to narrow it down. But I am excited by the prospect of actually being able to work on and finish something.

     I am going to have to fight hard to not let new “busyness” creep in. But I am going to give it a shot.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Pumpkin Muffins

I made some of the most delicious pumpkin muffins today. I used a recipe I found on the website 100 Days of Real Food. The recipe called for Spelt flour. I had never used Spelt flour. I had found at our small natural foods store in town a tiny bag of Spelt flour. It had enough in it to make one batch of these muffins. Now I wish I had bought more. I think I will add Spelt flour to my Azure Standard order for next month. It made silky, smooth, light textured muffins with a great taste.


So I ate one pumpkin muffin and made my iced tea for breakfast. It was a wonderful breakfast to start what turned out to be a very busy, emotionally draining day.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Review–Reading Kingdom

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Reading Kingdom is an online reading program designed to teach kids to read to a solid third grade level. The program was designed by Dr. Marion Blank, who has spent over 40 years studying how kids learn to read.

The Reading Kingdom program teaches all six of the essential language skills for reading and writing. It differs from other reading programs by the skills it teaches and methods it uses.  Instead of a phonics approach, kids are taught words. The words are then used to build sentences and the sentences are used to build paragraphs. Since phonics has so many exceptions to the rules and whole word methods leave kids floundering in the unfamiliar the Reading Kingdom program combines the two while teaching additional skills for reading success.

Reading Kingdom uses The Integrated Six Skill Method of Reading and Writing. The six skills of reading and writing are: sequencing, writing, sounds, meaning, grammar and comprehension. It also uses 30 custom books, which the children will learn to read all of the words before the book is presented. This creates a successful reading experience and a want to learn more.

The program begins by the student taking a placement test. The test is to determine where to place your child in the program. Reading Kingdom is a “kid-customized” program. This means that your child will only work on what they are ready for. There will be no more working on items that they already know as well as not having to work on things that may be too hard for them. They progress at their own pace.

Reading Kingdom has good parental communication. Parents can log-in and look at reports of how their child is doing in the program. They can see exactly where their student is in the program and what percentage they are getting right. These reports may be printed out, if desired.

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ClarkClan Experiences


Miriam, who is 8, was our tester for this product. She picked up the program very quickly and loved to work in it. I would log in for her and then she would click on the owl, and away she would go. She would complete at least one lesson, but usually two at a sitting. This would take anywhere from 15 –25 minutes depending on how many lessons she would do.

Miriam loved to get the little rewards when she collected a pre-determined number of points. This was a pass port that she could open and balloons would be waiting at the bottom. For each reward a balloon would float up and she could click on it to see the surprise that came out!

I found this to be a very engaging program for Miriam. She was always eager to play and thought of it more as a game instead of a reading program. We used this as her fun computer time during the day.

I think this program has helped Miriam specifically with her writing. It requires capitals and punctuation when typing which has helped her remember these in her pencil and paper writing. Because she already reads above grade level, this program served as a great supplement to help keep up her reading skills.


I would recommend this product specifically for kids that are just learning to read or who are struggling with reading. It is a gentle program that really appealed to Miriam.


Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed Reading Kingdom. Click on the banner above or here to read .

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Book Covers

Sarah started her junior year at Legacy Christian Academy this week. She came home with two hardcover books that needed book covers. I did not have any paper bags to make the covers, so my first thought was to make them out of fabric. But as I was walking out to look for fabric, something else caught my eye.

It was a flannel backed table cloth that we use as a drop cloth for when Rebekah is painting or Ben is practicing his calligraphy. I pick up these tablecloths for about a dollar or two when they go on sale at the end of seasons.

So I quickly decided to use two different patterns and make Sarah’s book covers out of them. I did not need to line the tablecloth since it had the flannel backing. My sewing machine had no problem sewing through the plastic. I thought they turned out great and Sarah really liked them as well.

Bookcover collage

Spelling Test

Today was our first spelling test of the new school year. To make it a little bit more fun, I had the girls take their test in a pan filled with rice. They both thought it was really fun and did really well on their spelling test.


We also use these rice trays to help with their handwriting practice. I get them out and have them practice their cursive letters, tracing them in the rice with their fingers.

Review—Notgrass Company–America the Beautiful

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Notgrass Company is a family run company that began publishing in 1999. They seek to glorify God by producing materials centered in His Word. They offer curriculum for Kindergarten through High School. They mainly focus on History, Art, Government, and Bible studies. This review focuses on their America the Beautiful curriculum.

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  • America the Beautiful American History
  • Published by Notgrass Company

  • written by Charlene Notgrass with Ray Notgrass, Mary Evelyn McCurdy, and Bethany Poore contributing

  • Designed for Grades 5-8. This can be used with older as well as younger kids with some modifications.

  • Curriculum Package includes 6 books:  $99.95
  • America the Beautiful Student Workbook: $11.95
  • America the Beautiful Lesson Review Book: $9.95

About the Product and ClarkClan Experiences

I have been using America the Beautiful with Rebekah, who is 10, and Miriam, who is 8. I will say right up front. I LOVE this curriculum. It has been easy to use, yet is also a very thorough curriculum.

I read in the introduction to  America the Beautiful that the Notgrass Company creates “curriculum that is as easy to use as a textbook but with the richness of a unit study.” I feel this is a very appropriate description. I have usually had a hard time with unit studies, so when I read that I was skeptical that it would work for us. But the more I looked the books over, I realize this was a perfect fit for our way of homeschooling. I can use it with multiple ages of children at one time and we can even involve Dad and an older brother on occasion, such as helping make an Iroquoian Longhouse out of toothpicks and gumdrops.


We received one full curriculum set of America the Beautiful. This includes:

  • America the Beautiful Textbooks: 2 volumes
  • We the People: Words from the Makers of American History
  • Maps of America the Beautiful
  • Timeline of America the Beautiful
  • America the Beautiful Student Workbook
  • America the Beautiful Lesson Review
  • America the Beautiful Answer Key
  • Not included, but available for purchase, ten literature books to be used through the year.

When I received the curriculum in the mail, I took it to my daughter’s volleyball practice and spent time carefully looking it over and seeing how it worked. I made the decision that it looked like something that I really would enjoy using. So, the next day I ordered extra consumable books for Miriam. I ordered a maps workbook, timeline workbook, and student workbook. Since she is only 8, I did not buy the Lesson Review book as that is for older kids.


  • America the Beautiful Textbook: The textbook is the heart of the program. It is a hardback book printed in full color. It comes in two volumes, Part 1 is America from 1000 to 1877 and Part 2 is America from the Late 1800’s to the Present.  All the instructions are written within each chapter. Each unit begins with an introductory page which includes lesson titles and what books will be needed for that unit. At the end of each lesson the activities are written. I loved that I was told what book to pull out and what pages to do. This made planning very easy.  The textbook includes many pictures. The pictures are referenced within the lesson, meaning that there was an explanation for every picture written seamlessly into the text.
  • We The People textbook:  This book is a collection of stories, essays, letters and more. It is an important part of the literature section of America the beautiful. My girls really enjoyed listening to the stories and journal writings. We would read the textbook, do the workbook activities, then go back and read the We the People book to end the lesson.
  • Maps Book: If I liked the timeline book the maps book is even more impressive to me. The lesson will tell what map is to be used. The girls turn to that map and follow the instructions for that lesson. They have really great looking maps that they are remembering information from. (Just a quick tip, we found erasable colored pencils that are excellent for the map work. If mistakes are made they can just be erased and start over.)
  • Timeline Book: The activities section lists if the timeline book is needed. Then it tells what year and what sentence to write. When your child opens the timeline book and finds the year, there is a box with lines for writing the information. You know it is the right space because the lesson number is written at the end of the line. My girls liked the pictures included in the timeline and were excited to color them.


  • Student Workbook: After each lesson is read, a page is done in the student workbook. There are a wide variety of activities which the girls loved. Sometimes it is a word puzzle, a word search, fill in the blanks, matching, rebus pictures and much more. These activities help to cement the information learned from the lesson. Miriam, at 8, needed a little bit more help in doing the work than Rebekah.
  • Lesson Review Book: The lesson review book is a workbook of five questions for each lesson.It is for older kids, 7th or 8th grade, but says it can be used by younger students as well. I had Rebekah use this book. Her attention span is getting longer and this book has been wonderful in helping her move to more pencil and paper short answer questions without overwhelming her. There are only five questions per lesson.  There is a quiz to be taken at the end of each unit.  The Lesson Review book also includes questions for each of the 6 literature books that are assigned to read throughout the year. I like the layout of the book in that the literature questions are in order of when they appear in the lessons. For example, Lesson 110 has the usual 5 questions, then immediately following are 5 questions on the assigned literature book Blue Willow. There is no searching for which page something is on which makes it very easy for me.
  • Answer Key: The answer key book is simply what it is titled, an answer key to every other consumable book in the America the Beautiful Curriculum.
  • Literature Books: There are 10 literature books that are assigned through the year, five the first semester, five the second. These books can be purchased from Notgrass Company as a set or found on your own. Since we own all the books required, it will not be hard for us to implement them when the time comes. The books help to give a better perspective on the various time periods that are studied. The student is assigned anywhere between 1and 3 chapters a day and is completed in 1 to 2 weeks.


Well, after reading all the above, you could probably guess that I will highly recommend this curriculum. I have been very impressed with the thoroughness and ease of use. It is very intuitive to me to pick up the textbook, read through the lesson and then follow the activities. The extra books, do not clutter up the curriculum, but enhance the learning. It was fun to listen to the girls talking to their dolls about where the Caribbean Islands were on the map because they had learned that in their map book. The lessons are long enough to convey all needed information, but not too long that the girls lose interest.

I have been homeschooling for 12 years and had only briefly overheard about a curriculum company called Notgrass Company. Now that I have reviewed their product, I will definitely look into more of their offerings and advise others to do the same.


I was not the only one to review offerings from the Notgrass Company. Visit the Crew Blog to read what my Crew Mates thought of the America the Beautiful as well as Draw to Learn.

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Review—Bible Study Guide for All Ages

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About the Product:

Bible Study Guide for All Ages is a unique product in that all ages will study the same Scripture lesson at the same time. The materials are tailored to different age groups, but the lessons correlate with each other so all the kids in one family will be studying the same lesson.

Mary Baker, a mother of four children, began writing a Guide to use with her own kids as well as the kids in her church Bible class. The first Teacher’s Guide Unit was published in 1980 and since then has grown and expanded to make it easier to teach specific age groups.

The core value of Bible Study Guide for All Ages is for all children and adults to learn and understand the Bible, while applying it to their own lives. It is not affiliated or controlled by any denomination, but strives to present the Bible alone.

The Bible Study Guide covers the entire Bible in 416 Lessons. This is a four year cycle. The lesson pages are sold for a quarter year at a time. They are consumable and should not be photocopied.

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5th-6th Grade Advanced Level

The Advanced Level is designed for grades 5 and 6. Students are challenged to think for themselves and apply what they are learning to their lives. The lessons are interactive and illustrated along with  a time line, maps and application activities.

The Bible Book Summary Cards are “flash cards” for learning about every Bible book. They provide a quick reference to teach students the basic content of each and every book of the Bible. The cards are 81/2” X11” and printed on card stock. The front of the card has pictures that focus on the main content of the Bible book. The back has a brief description and questions for  the teacher to ask while reviewing the card.

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ClarkClan Experiences

I used the Bible Study Guide for All Ages with Ben(11) and Rebekah(10). I used the 5th-6th grade level with both of them. They each had their own student pages and one set of Summary Cards.

We would start the lesson by going over the Remember It? section. Then we would go through the Bible Summary Card. Then we would use the Discover the Bible Section to read the selected passage and complete the activities that comprise the back page of the worksheet. These are illustrated, easy to follow activities. Ben and Rebekah have two different learning styles. Ben has not trouble completing pencil and paper work but Rebekah tends to get distracted if asked to write to long. These pages worked well for both of their styles. Ben enjoyed the lessons and Rebekah did not find them too long or drawn out. I liked that she was able to complete the work with very little complaining about how long it was.  After the Bible Discovery page we would do the Time Line and Apply It sections. If we had time we would complete the Get Active section.

It took us about an hour to complete one lesson and we worked on two lessons a week. I liked the variety of activities for the Bible Discovery page. It was not just fill in the blank answers but sometimes you would fill in the blanks, sometimes draw pictures, draw circles or boxes around the right answers. This is why this curriculum worked well for Rebekah. The variety helped her so she did not feel like it was a never ending sheet of writing answers. I liked the timeline portion. A timeline on every lesson helps to place the lesson in a student’s mind in the correct time in history. There is a wall time-line available to purchase that would work very well for a Sunday School classroom.

There is just one aspect of the program that hits one of my pet peeves. I realize not every one feels the same, but my pet peeve is Bible lesson pictures drawn as cartoon figures. The pictures were a little too “cartoonish” for my taste. I prefer realistic pictures for Bible lessons so kids have no confusion over what is real in the Bible and what is not real like cartoons they watch on TV.


I would recommend the Bible Study Guide for All Ages to other parents. I like the idea that all ages will study the same lesson together, just at different levels. ( I cannot speak about how well this is accomplished since my kids are at the same level, but I like the idea and see it working well.) I liked the cost of the program. Each quarters lessons were only $5.95 for the consumable Student Pages. The Bible Book Summary Cards only need to be bought once for the entire program.


The Schoolhouse Review Crew reviewed many different levels of the Bible Study Guide for All Ages. Visit the Crew Blog to read how well the program worked or did not work for others on the Crew.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homemade Bread

One of my greatest challenges in my efforts to eat less processed more whole foods is bread. My kids like (or shall I say love) bread. Toast for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, they would have a hard time going without bread. Reading the side of the package on the whole wheat bread I have been buying for years revealed to me a long list of ingredients, with many things I couldn’t pronounce. This certainly does not fit in with my new policy of only eating things with ingredients I would use in my own kitchen and only buying food with five ingredients or less.

So what to do? I searched for bread with fewer ingredients. I found some at Wal-Mart but it was expensive as well as being a small loaf. They also did not always have it in stock when I needed bread. I thought about making it myself. I have made bread in the past. I like to make bread. But, making bread takes time. Even my favorite way of making bread in 5 minutes a day, takes time to make the dough, let it sit, and then come back and shape and bake it.

One thing I had never thought of was using a bread machine. I do not have a bread machine and it never entered my mind to use one to make bread. But then while talking with my Aunt and Uncle about my bread woes, they offered me the use of their bread machine. THye said they do not use it much anymore and I could take it and try it out to see how I like it.

So far I love it. I have made three loaves of bread and we have liked every one of them. I like knowing exactly what is going into my bread and using fewer ingredients.  We have used the bread for toast, for sandwiches, as a snack with honey and more. The house smells so good while it is baking and most importantly: I know what ingredients have gone into my bread.

Monday, August 5, 2013



A couple weeks ago, I walked out into our backyard. As I was going around the corner of our sunroom, some movement on the ground caught my eye. That movement was a tarantula! I was startled, but not completely surprised, we do live in a desert. We called my sister to bring her kids down and everybody came to look at our tarantula.


To get a closer look, we had the tarantula walk onto a paper plate. Then Zac, who is 12, came and picked the large spider up. After looking it over, we put it in a plastic jar.  Sarah took the tarantula to a science teacher at her school to keep in his classroom.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Review–Gryphon House–Global Art

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About the Book

Looking for a way to make geography or history more of a “hands on “ subject? Global Art, Activities, Projects and Inventions from Around the World is more than just an “art” book. It makes geography and history come alive as kids are able to have a concrete hands on experience while traveling the world in their minds.

This book contains a variety of projects that range from painting, sculpture to cooking and simple sewing. There are over 135 art projects that explore the variety of cultures around the world. Every continent in the world is represented.

Each chapter focuses on a different continent. Within the chapter, multiple countries are represented. For each project, various icons in the upper corner of the page tell at a glance the experience level, the art technique used and how much planning and prep work is needed.

ClarkClan Experiences

We have only begun to scratch the surface of this art book. Rebekah, (10), Miriam (8), and I have been able to look through, plan and execute various art projects. I have been having the girls look through the book and decide on a project. Then I have them get our globe out and find the continent, and country. We read the fact about that country associated with the project and then get to work.

Global Art Review Collage

Their favorite project so far has been face painting from Africa. We learned how to make an easy to use, easy to wash off face paint. They have had so much fun with this. Making a drum decoration was also a hit. It about drove me crazy hearing the drum thumping and thumping.  Miriam was very excited to see the project called Chamorro Mat Weaving as she just moved back from Guam and knew all about the Chamorro culture.

I really liked the use of the icons to quickly let me know what is needed and how involved the project may be. I also liked that some of the projects were food related. Making spinach egg dye is on our list to try as well as baking sandbakelser (sand tarts). I also found the instructions to be easy to follow. The variety of projects also impressed me.


I would recommend Global Art to any family with kids in elementary to Jr. high ages. The projects contained in the book will enhance any geography or history program and can be easily incorporated into any curriculum.


Many of my Schoolhouse Review Crew Mates reviewed Global Art as well as The HomeGrown Preschooler: Teaching Your Kids in the Places They Live. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they thought about these programs from Gryphon House.

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