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

Monday, September 30, 2013

Stuck in the Middle

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Here is Ben, stuck in the middle between his big and little sister. He is a riot, always cracking jokes. I can’t remember what he said to make everyone smile, but he is great at getting everyone to have a fun time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review—The Presidential Game

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It is a race to the most powerful job in the world: The President of the United States.

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The Presidential is a game that pits two teams, The Democrats and The Republicans, to see who will win the Presidency.  Along the way teams battle it out to win 270 Electoral votes and thus win the Presidency.

  • The Presidential Game
  • Ages 11+
  • 2+ Players
  • $35.00
  • Game Includes: Game board, Score pad, 3 blue dice, 3 red dice, 80 Politics cards, 40 write your own Politics cards, 150 Republican votes, 150 Democrat votes, Electoral WebMap Calculator web code

ClarkClan Experiences2013-09-24 21.06.17

This game worked very well in our family. The whole family played together which includes mom and dad, Sarah, 16, Ben, 11, and Rebekah 10. The age range for this game is 11+. What we discovered is that this age range is spot on. Rebekah liked the game, but would lose interest and did not grasp the strategy concepts required to win the game.She wanted to pick states based on what state she liked, not on how many votes they garnered.  Ben and Sarah on the other hand picked up on the strategies involved in campaigning.

The game begins by teams choosing whether they want to be Democrat or Republican.  Before the game begins, teams determine how many weeks there is until the election. A full game is 30 weeks, which takes an hour or more to play. Our family usually chose to play 20 weeks so the game did not last quite as long. On each turn, you can choose to either campaign or fundraise. To campaign, you must identify which three states you would like to campaign in before you roll. There are four states in which to fundraise. To fundraise, you must say which state you want to fundraise in before the roll of the dice.

Politics Cards added an element of fun to the game. These cards offer either rewards or penalties to the teams. They were written in a cute style which prompted a lot of teasing among our family. Ben would gleefully tell Dad he lost a state because he (Dad) forgot who won the Super Bowl, even though it was his home team. 

The game comes with a paper scorecard to record each teams votes.  Electoral votes would be added or subtracted on this scorecard. Instead of the scorecard, we choose to use the interactive WebMap to keep track of who was associated with each state. Since things can change quickly, this interactive map was very useful. It also kept track of what week we were on.

US Geography skills are also strengthened while playing this game. We found that the more we played the game, the better the kids became at knowing where the states were located.


I would recommend this game for Jr. High and above. It is a group game that requires participation between players. While there is strategy involved, luck also plays a part with the rolling of the dice. This would be a good game for a civics class to learn how the election process works.


Many of my Crew Mates also reviewed The Presidential Game. Visit the Crew Blog to read what their families thought of the game.

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Monday, September 16, 2013

Rain, Rain, Rain

We have had a very interesting two weeks of weather. Rain, lots of rain. We live in a desert. Yes, the monsoon season starts July through Sept., but the rain we have been having is something else. Instead of just clouding up and raining in the late afternoons/evenings for 10-30 minutes, we have had days and days of all day rain.

Ben described the sky as dark, depressing and oppressive. I agreed with him. I like to see my sunshine. Days of dark gray skies are really unusual. Rebekah has had a hard time concentrating on her school work, more fits and fusses than usual. The kids have snapped at each other a little bit more.

The rain has been very interesting for Matt, though. With his new job as assistant to the county Office of Emergency Services, he has been out and about with weather related issues. As a volunteer firefighter, he has been out because of weather related accidents. Last night, he was awakened about 2:00am for a car accident he needed to respond to with the fire department. Then on his way home, there was a flooded intersection on the main thoroughfare of the town.The city public safety department was busy with calls, so Matt directed traffic around the flood. He then came home, went to be for about 2 hours and was up and back to work by 8:00am.

Some forecasts are calling for rain for the rest of the week. The sun came out this afternoon and we went outside in it. I told the kids we needed to go outside for our daily dose of vitamin D. We will get through the rain. Well, maybe the dog won’t, he hates the thunder, I have had a shadow stuck to my leg for the past two weeks. But we know that the rain will end and we will go back to our normal, sunshine day after day after day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review–Logic of English–Rhythm of Handwriting–Cursive

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About the Product

The Rhythm of Handwriting  begins by teaching all the lowercase letters. The reasoning behind this is that since 90% of what we read and write is lowercase, learning them first provides students with the information they need to be successful  in learning to read and write.

The Rhythm of Handwriting uses four learning modes: seeing, hearing, doing and speaking. First the student is shown how to form the letter. They hear the instructions orally. Then the student is asked to repeat the action (doing) as well as narrate what steps they are taking (speaking).

Large Motor Movements are initiated first. The motion originates in the elbow and helps establish the sequence of movement for each letter. The Rhythm of Handwriting book provides enlarged handwriting lines so students can first practice the letter with their pointer finger.  It is encouraged to let the student practice with markers on individual white boards, sensory boxes or chalk.

Explicit instructions are given on how each letter is formed. Key words provide abbreviated directions that students can remember to help with the natural rhythm of each letter. Rhythm is emphasized so that students learn to have their pencil continue in a steady motion.


ClarkClan Experiences

Rebekah, 10, used the Rhythm of Handwriting book. She had been introduced to cursive writing, but only knew a few letters. She has been wanting to learn cursive and has been very enthusiastic during this review.

We would introduce the letter to learn and have her practice with her pointer finger. Then I would have her practice that letter with her pen on the provided pages. These pages have varying size lines so kids can use which one they prefer. We had Rebekah use  each size so she could learn how to write in different sizes. It takes us about 15 minutes a day to work on her cursive.

We also used a “sensory pan” to practice each letter. This was simply a jelly roll pan that I poured rice into. She would write the letter with her pointer finger in the rice. Sidewalk chalk outside also was a fun activity to learn the letters. The last idea Rebekah came up with all on her own.. We had bought large pads of paper at a clearance sale. Rebekah decided to use these large lines to practice her cursive letters.


ClarkClan Recommendation

I found this to be a very adequate book for teaching cursive handwriting. It is not flashy, but simply a two page spread teaching how to form each letter in words, then forming the letter with the pointer finger, then eight lines of practice in varying widths. Rebekah is motivated to learn cursive and she took this book seriously. She told me she liked learning each letter, but true to Rebekah nature, thought there was too much practice.

I would recommend this book for teaching cursive. The instructions are clear and concise. It is a good, no frills way to easily teach a beautiful script.


The Logic of English produces many homeschool products. The Schoolhouse Review Crew not only reviewed The Rhythm of Handwriting but also reviewed their Essentials program and Foundations program for teaching reading and writing along with an i-Pad app.  Visit the Crew Blog to read what other reviewers thought of The Logic of English programs.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bedtime Writings

Rebekah has trouble going to sleep at night. This is not a new thing, in fact, she has been this way since pretty much about 2 years old. She just never seems to “shut down” at night. We have tried many, many things. Melatonin works the best. But lately, she has decided she does not want to take it. Since I have had conflicting advice from Dr.s, I said ok.

What I have noticed is that she does still have trouble shutting down. She gets out of bed, she gets a drink, she comes out to ask questions. . . then when she knows she is pushing my limits, she will stay in her room. Not that she goes to sleep, but that she starts doing quiet activities. She will dress her dolls, or do their hair. She will color pictures while listening to her I pod. She will read books (this from the girl who fights me during school that she hates to read is reading chapter books at night.) And then I found out she is writing stories.


If I were to assign her to write a story for school, she would fuss, cry, whine, anything to get out of it. So I was pleasantly shocked to find out she has been writing at night. She showed me a story. She asked me to correct her spelling, which amazingly enough there were only four misspelled words. This is amazing for Rebekah. And, then she re-wrote the story on the big pad of paper I bought at the clearance sidewalk sale at Wal-Mart.

It is interesting to me to read her stories. This one is about our puppy Nutmeg. Rebekah writes like she talks, sometimes a new thought will just pop up  out of no where. But the story is coherent. It is informative. The handwriting is nice. Most of all, it is written without any fussing or fighting. I love it.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Complaint Letter

I wrote to a fast food restaurant today. I wrote to Carl’s Jr. to let them know how disappointed in their company I am. I am disappointed because the ad they placed on the radio contains a swear word. I do not feel this is appropriate and I told them so.

I realize that I am just one person, but it made me feel better to tell them that I am upset. Because they only allow 200 words on their comments section, I did not get to tell them how we went to a different restaurant because I was not going to support their advertising.

This is not the first time I have written a company to both complain and compliment. One time I wrote the Arby’s in town to tell them how we ate at their restaurant and everyone ended up sick with a stomach bug.  One time I wrote to Olive Garden because the waiter we had overcharged us and Olive Garden sent me a $40 gift card along with a very nice letter. There was a time Matt emailed Arby’s in El Paso. We stopped in before picking someone up from the airport who was coming in late. The music was a Christian station and very nice and relaxing. So we let them know we appreciated it. We received a very nice e-mail from the area manager who thanked us for the nice letter. She said she picks the music for her area restaurants and she appreciated knowing that we liked it.

I may not get anything from my letter to Carl’s Jr., I do not expect anything. I just wanted to let them know I did not like their use of foul language in their advertising.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


We received a nice surprise today: Fresh Rhubarb. Where we live in New Mexico, rhubarb does not grow well. It is too hot. But up in the mountains 20 minutes away, it is cool enough that they can grow rhubarb. And a lady from church brings bags of it when she comes and gives them away. I was the recipient of two bags this week..

I asked Matt what he thought I should make with it he promptly said, “Deep dish rhubarb pie. So, sometime tomorrow or Saturday, I will be making a rhubarb pie. I am planning on using the Spelt flour I bought to make muffins. I will also make rhubarb sauce, too. Rhubarb sauce is so easy to make and the kids love it. They use it as  ice cream toppings, as jelly on sandwiches and just to eat a bowl of it.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Venture

I am beginning a new venture. Most times when I am making a decision, I think about it, I talk it over, probably ad nauseum, with people. I think about it some more and then I decided to do it. This time, I did nothing of the sort. I just went for it.

So what is this big momentous decision. Simply, I am going to sell Lilla Rose. Lilla Rose is a company that sells Flexi-Clip hair clips along with a few other hair accessories. I had seen these clips online last Fall. I thought they were beautiful and sounded good but not knowing anybody who sold them personally, I did not want to order something I wasn’t sure was going to work. On Monday, I went to the last hour of the Cottonwood Festival here in town. I almost walked by one of the booths when the name Lilla Rose caught my eye and it hit me that those were the hair clips I wanted to try. Well, I ended up spending more than I usually spend to get several of the clips that Sarah, Bekah and I really liked.

That evening, Sarah and I are looking through the catalog, finding different clips we liked and it was mentioned that maybe I should become a consultant. Because there are no minimum quotas that I will need to meet and it is perfectly acceptable to be a “casual” consultant, I decided to become one. So now I am an Independent Consultant for Lilla Rose. You can visit my website at

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review–Homeschool Spanish Academy

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  • Total Immersion Spanish Language program

  • Classes available from ages 5-adult

  • Classes taught by native Spanish speakers

We have spent the last 8 weeks reviewing Homeschool Spanish Academy. This is a very intensive, thorough program for teaching students of all ages. We specifically reviewed the Early Language Program. This review will cover what we thought of that level as well as an overview of all levels. The pricing depends on the level being taught. Visit the Homeschool Spanish Academy website for complete pricing information for all levels.

Cost for Early Language Program

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early pair pricing

We reviewed the Pair Pricing for Half a Semester. This is one class per week for 7 weeks. The cost for this program is $89.99.  For two classes a week for Half a Semester the price is $150.99. A full Semester is 15 weeks worth of classes either one or two classes per week. For one class per week the cost is $145.99 and two classes per week for an entire semester is $299.99.

About the Program


Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA) is a Spanish language learning program unlike any other. It uses live instructors and technology to create a top notch learning experience. HSA  founder is Ron Fortin. Ron was given an opportunity to be the principal of a Guatemalan school. While being the principal of the school he saw an opportunity to provide high quality Spanish instruction from native Spanish speakers to homeschool students.

All instructors in the HSA program are certified Spanish teachers from Guatemalan institutions. To become an instructor they must pass extensive tests and teaching simulations. Once they become instructors, they then receive continuing education and evaluation in English, teaching techniques and technology.

Each lesson is conducted through Skype. The instructor places a Skype call and the instruction begins. You initially can see the instructor on the screen and interact with each other. During instruction time, the instructor can switch between face to face and white board type instruction. My kids were able to see what homework page she was using and pointing to while watching the screen and talking to her.

Homework is given after each session.These are PDF files accessed through the website that can be printed out. The homework is to be done before the next scheduled session. The older levels can turn the homework in, but in the early learning level we just had the homework with Ben and Rebekah and they went over it during the session.

There are four levels of instruction offered through HSA.

  • Early Learning:  designed for students starting about age five (seven is the recommended starting age) and continuing through age 12. Each session lasts 25 minutes and is tailored to your student. This level can be used individually or in pairs as long as the kids are within 3 grades of each other.
  • Middle School: this is designed for students ages from 12 to 15. This level goes beyond the basics and students will learn the how and why Spanish is used. They expand their sentence structure and phrasing. Each session is 50 minutes and can be taken singly or in pairs.
  • High School: This is a tailor made program designed to be 1/2 credit per class. An example is that level 1a is 1/2 a semester and 1b is completes the year. So the student would receive a credit of Spanish instruction by completing the two courses. Three years of high school level Spanish are available through HSA. These classes are 50 minutes and offer true immersion in the Spanish language.
  • Adult: Adults Spanish learning needs vary greatly. Some need it for business, or patients, some want to learn for fun and edification. This program is tailored to the needs of the adult. The sessions are 50 minutes in length.

Each student is evaluated when first starting out. Then a program is  made for that individual student, or students if they are paired with each other. Each level is offered on an individual basis as well as in pairs, as long as the students are no more than three grades from each other.

To experience HSA for yourself you can take a free lesson.

Because each class is individual, you  can pick the day and time you would like to work. There are many instructors from which to choose. It is your choice whether you would like to stay with the same instructor or change instructors.

ClarkClan Experiences

Because we have reviewed this program before, I knew what to expect. I was not disappointed. We found Homeschool Spanish Academy to be a phenomenal program. Friendly, courteous, and very knowledgeable are the trademarks of the HSA.

To begin the experience, you receive a phone call from tech support. They go over all the technical aspects of your computer system and run a test of all systems. This phone call ensures that your experience with the instructor will go off without a hitch.

Then your child, (or children in our case) sit in front of the computer and answer a Skype call. The next 25-30 minutes are spent talking with the instructor, going over homework and learning new material.

I used one main instructor, Rosa. We had used Rosa last time and my kids requested her again. It was really neat to hear the joy in her voice as she greeted them on their first session, remembering them by name and telling them how much they have grown. We found Rosa to be very patient and kind. When mistakes were made they were gently corrected. I noticed that when a pronunciation error was made, Rosa just corrected it, but did not make a big deal about it.

For one of our sessions we had a “substitute” teacher. I received an e-mail from Rosa two days before our scheduled session saying she had an appointment during our scheduled time. She had two options, I could re-schedule with her or Martin could substitute for her. I chose to have the substitute and it was an interesting experience to see how this worked and what happens when a problem arises.

I wondered if Martin would use Rosa’s Skype account or would I have to accept him as a Skype contact. So we turned our computer on 10 minutes early and waited. No contact request came, then our appointment time came and we did not receive the expected Skype call. After five minutes, I was beginning to wonder if I should call and ask about no instructor. Then at seven minutes, my telephone rang. It was the HSA tech department asking if I was having problems. It was a very friendly call and when I told her that we had been waiting for Martin, she asked a couple questions and then talked to Martin. I liked that she told me what she was going to tell Martin and then I could hear her speaking Spanish to him. Within 3 minutes we had the problem resolved and the lesson began.

The lesson with Martin was interesting. He was good with the kids and knew exactly what homework they had and what they were supposed to do that day. I have read that the instructors take detailed notes of each session and can share those notes with other instructors, if needed. I can say that I think this worked great since my kids did not miss anything using another teacher. But, yes, we did go back to Rosa because they requested her.

During our sessions the kids, among other topics,  covered: numbers up to million, days of the week, months of the year, seasons, identifying people, the verb to be, birthdays. I was amazed at how much they covered and retained.

In our family, Ben picked up on the lessons a little quicker than Rebekah. He also tried to use the Spanish outside of the lessons a little more than Rebekah. But Rebekah did try and she would practice with Ben or myself a little. She seemed to be more self conscious about speaking and making mistakes. During the online Skype sessions Rebekah was the one who was quiet and I would remind her to speak up and actually answer questions. She seemed to be a little intimidated at times by the camera. At the end of the 7 sessions, she was becoming more comfortable with the format and talking to the instructor.

I found it easier for me to pre-schedule all seven sessions. This way I could put them in my calendar and make sure we did not forget to do a lesson or get so busy that the lesson for that week was skipped. If needed, you can re-schedule as long as it is 24 hours in advance.


I would highly recommend Homeschool Spanish Academy to others. In fact, I already have one lady extremely interested in the program for her grandchildren. This is a great way to learn Spanish from native Spanish speakers. I have no doubt that if we continue with the program, they would continue to become more proficient at speaking and comprehending the language.


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed all levels of Homeschool Spanish Academy.  Visit the Crew blog to read what they thought about the program.

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