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

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


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About the Website

We have used VocabularySpellingCity’s free version for a year or so. It is a great resource to turn to when helping kids with their spelling. You can choose lists or enter your kids words and they can play games or test themselves on it. We had been very happy with the free version.

But when I was given a chance to review the Premium membership, I jumped at the chance. The Premium membership takes all the free features and then expands the scope and breadth of the activities. It is almost overwhelming with all the features included for spelling, vocabulary, language arts, and writing.

I guess starting at the beginning is a very good place to start., with the parent log-in. When a parent logs in,. they are taken to the Premium Parent Toolbox. Here you can edit your profile, manage your lists, make and review assignments, see test results, review writing as well as keep track of all your students. 

One of the neatest features about VocabularySpellingCity is the ability to assign different lists to different students. You can choose from a pre-made list, (there are thousands of ready to use lists) or you can enter your own words.  You can let your students work with the lists on their own, finding games, testing themselves etc., or you can create assignments that your student must follow. Activities are graded and recorded. You can even choose to have the students take their test online so all spelling can be done on the computer.

The Premium membership also includes Teaching Resources. There are four categories in the Teaching Resources: Language Arts Lessons, Useful Word Lists, Articles, Help & Information.  Within these categories are video lessons, classroom ideas, printable worksheets, vocabulary lists, Educational resources and much more. Online instruction can be followed up with a printed worksheet for extra practice.  No time to make a list? Find one to use in the Useful Word lists. There are subject specific lists as well as Dolch-Sight word lists.

We used the spelling/vocabulary portions of VocabularySpellingCity the most. Some weeks I added my own lists, and some I used pre-made lists. Both worked equally well. With three kids at home, it was nice to be able to let them get on the computer for 20 –30 minutes and know their spelling was done for the day, and they were not complaining about having to do it.

I was very surprised one day when Rebekah chose, on her own, to write a paragraph. She was given a word bank and had to use all the words in the paragraph. It amazed me to see her laughing and typing while working for over an hour (this is a long time for Rebekah to work on one subject). She was so proud to read her story to me after she was finished.

Another feature I utilized with Rebekah and Miriam was the printable handwriting pages. They are both learning cursive and it was nice to be able to combine both spelling and cursive practice.

The assignments feature is really neat as well. I choose what list I want and then choose assignments. I can choose up to ten different activities to work. I can choose to let them pick the activities or choose to have them done in a certain order.  These assignments are automatically graded and I can see the results on my administrator page.

Sarah, who is 16 and attending a private school, was able to use her smartphone and the VocabularySpellingCity app to study for her 11th grade English class. She has a vocabulary list every week in which she has to learn the definitions and how to spell each word. I took her list, entered it for her and she was able to study on her own.


My kids said they highly recommend VocabularySpellingCity. They liked the games, they liked taking the test on the computer, they even liked the printable pages I ran off for them. When I asked them what they thought about the program, Ben, Rebekah, and Miriam all told me the same thing: “We really like it! Can we keep it?”


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed VocabularySpellingCity. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they and their children thought about the program.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Review–Barbour Publishing—Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story

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Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story has been one of those books that you pick up and don’t want to put down. From the introduction of EJ (Emma Jean, that is) a friendship develops and draws the reader deeper into the book. Follow along as EJ uses her highly developed imagination that both get her into scrapes, as well as get her out of them.

EJ is a fun, spunky 10 year old girl living in Spooner WI. She describes her town as being the most boring place in the world. But for such a boring town, EJ sure knows how to create adventure. She can use her imagination to take her just about any where in the world, (or out of it) and do any job imaginable.

Even when things don’t go the way EJ would like, she finds out that she can make the best out of any situation. Spelling Bees, camping trips, shoveling show for a grumpy neighbor. and being in the Christmas play show EJ how to be gracious. kind , and compassionate. With parents that love her and a little brother that adores her. EJ realizes Spooner may not be so bad after all.

ClarkClan Experiences

Diary of a Real Payne is written seamlessly between first and third person narrative. The introduction and beginning of each chapter contains a “diary” entry from EJ that introduces the chapter This is written in first person point of view. It is set apart by pictures and a notebook paper look to the entry. The book switches to third person narrative until EJ begins imagining things, then it switches back to first person. It may sound confusing, but the format works really well. Each chapter is introduced by a cute picture as well as a few illustrations in the diary entries.

I began the review of this book by giving it to my 10 year old nephew , Eli, to read. Eli had it finished in two days and gave it back to me saying it was really good. I then gave it to Ben (12) to read.  He read it in about two days and told me that I had to read it because it was so funny. I began reading the book to see if Rebekah (10) and Miriam (8) would be able to read it. After reading the entire book, I made the decision that it was too good a book to read silently. I began reading it out loud to the two girls. Of course, Ben always comes running when I read it so he can hear it again, he liked it so much. The consensus with the kids in my family ages 8-12 is that is is an excellent book. They really like it.

Because I was enjoying reading the book out loud to the girls, I came up with the bright idea that I would like to see what older kids thought of the book. I took it in to Sarah’s (16) small Christian school and asked if I could read it out loud to her 11th grade class during their silent reading half hour. Despite Sarah’s misgivings about her friends thinking her mother was weird, I have found that the kids are greatly enjoying listening to the book. Five chapters into the book with these teens and I am hearing giggling over EJ’s troubles. Even the home room teacher told me that the kids are now talking about the funny book Sarah’s mom is reading to them.

So I guess you could say we recommend this book. Highly recommend. I love how the book features a little girl who is bright, funny, and not perfect. She makes mistakes, she gets annoyed with her little brother, but overall, she finds that her faith keeps her strong.

Another aspect of the book that I truly appreciate is that it is a book written with EJ’s faith being a normal part of her life. This is how my kids are being raised and I like that we can read a book out loud where the dad and mom talk to her about trusting in God for all things. The faith aspect is not contrived or thrown in, but woven seamlessly throughout the entire book.


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed Diary of a Real Payne Book 1: True Story. Visit the Crew Blog and read what they and their children thought of the book.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Home Ec Success

Rebekah loves to go to Grandma’s house once a week for Home Ec. They do a variety of projects sewing, crafts, cooking and more. Their latest project was making a pair of pajamas together. Now, Grandma always makes Rebekah’s pajamas, but this time Rebekah made the pants and Grandma made the top. They turned out super cute and Rebekah was very proud to wear them.2013-10-23 20.38.42

Monday, October 21, 2013

Review—God’s World News–Top Story

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God’s World News is a resource used to teach kids about the world around them from a biblical perspective. It is a current events news magazine featuring world events. Science, social studies, geography, religion all are explored through real life news.

Each issue of God’s World News is packed with age-appropriate stories, activities, puzzles and full color pictures. Starting in News Current, the 5th-6th grade level, vocabulary practice and comprehension quizzes are included.

From Pre-K through Middle School a MAP- IT! world wall map is included in the September issue. In each magazine, articles will include a locator map that corresponds with the wall map to teach kids where in the world the news is happening.

Web Access enlarges the learning of God’s World News. Web access includes extras such as biographies and extra lessons based on certain stories in that months issue. Quizzes for the lessons and biographies help teachers test students comprehension.

God’s World News produces six different news magazines for preschool through high school.

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God’s Big World – Pre-K –Kindergarten

Early Edition – Grades 1-2

News Flash – Grades 3-4

News Current—Grades 5-6

Tops Story – Middle School

Trak – High School


  • A full year- 10 month subscription costs $28 per magazine.
  • A group subscription (must be mailed to the same address) is 7 issues (school year months) and costs $21.

Full-year subscriptions include 10 monthly issues (every month except December and May).

School-year subscriptions include 7 monthly issues (September-April)

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ClarkClan Experiences

God’s World News is a favorite activity at our house. We enjoy reading through the news magazine together, discussing the articles and mapping the countries we are reading about.

We were given the August and September issues of Top Story to review.  A short synopsis of the August magazine will give an overview of the content contained in the issue.

August:  The main story in this issue is called “Sign Cutting on the Border” written about US Customs and Border Protection agents. The article discusses how, even though high tech equipment is in use, old-fashioned sign cutting  is still the main way the Border Patrol counts the number of illegal immigrants come over the border. High tech tools are discussed in a side bar. Bible 2 Life brings scripture study based around tracking both in real life and using the same skills to apply to God’s word. 

Another large article is called Wildfire Tragedy. This sensitively tells the tragedy of 19 firefighters dying  this summer in Yarnell, Az.

An article on “Lift” as it applies to flying is a multi-disciplined learning lesson. This includes lessons on technology, history, current events, and the bible.

News Shorts discuss commerce at Gettysburg, an auction of old Apple computers and a man who received his high school diploma at the age of 97.


We enjoy biographies and have had a good time reading the biographies included as web extras. For the month of September the biographies were about Jane Austen and Hank Aaron.  We read these out loud from the computer, but an option for printing them out is available. The biographies consist of an article to read, Bible to life study, and a quiz to test comprehension. We generally did the quizzes  out loud.

Another part of the web extras include extra lessons based on two of the articles in the monthly magazine.

The entire magazine is also available on line as part of the extra web features.


Each God’s World News Favorite Features from the kids

  • In Toon:  Ben really liked the political cartoon feature. He would look at the cartoon and then read the explanation. As a mother, I thought this was a great feature as sometimes it is hard to explain what a political cartoon is and what the meaning behind it is. This feature teaches how to analyze and understand this difficult aspect of the news.
  • Map-It!: Rebekah is a map girl. She loves to find places on a map. So the Map-It! feature is a favorite of hers. She would look at the small Mat-It! box on certain articles and then we would go to the World Map and find it on there.


I would highly recommend God’s World News. Our family has a long history of using this product at various age levels. We have enjoyed it in the past, and are greatly enjoying it again as a review product. Ben and Rebekah enjoy learning about what is going on the world, and I like that it is at a level they can understand.


All levels of God’s World News were reviewed by the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Visit the Crew Blog and read what others thought of this news magazine.

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cousins Day!

Nothing brings a family together like a wedding. Today seemed to be cousins day. Lots of fun hanging out with cousins. Since most of them live 1300 miles or more away, it is a very special time.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Review–Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose

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Youth With a Mission publishes a series of books called Christian Heroes Then and Now. These book are written by Janet and Geoff Benge. They tell the fascinating lives of many different missionaries to various countries around the world. There are 41 books in the series starting with missionaries from the 1700’s all the way up until 1940.

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ClarkClan Experiences

Christian Missionary biographies are a genre that we like to read. Learning about the trials, tribulations, and joys that missionaries go through is fascinating for us. One of the best series of books that we have found of this genre is the Christian Heroes Then and Now series.

These books are well researched and engagingly written. I like that they start at the beginning, when and how each missionary decided that this was the path they wanted to take. The series does not shy away from presenting hard topics: beatings, imprisonment, death, but presents them in a matter of fact, dignified manner. Nothing is graphic, but the whole, real story is told.

The Unit Study Guide follows the book and provides activities for further learning.  There are a variety of activities to fit all learning styles. They fit a variety of ages and skill levels. Comprehension questions help to see if kids are understanding what they are reading. Arts and Crafts, creative writing, hands on activities,  essay, audio visual activities round out the study.

We were sent the book,  Jim Elliot : One Great Purpose and the Unit Study Guide to review. Jim Elliot was a missionary to Ecuador in the 1950’s. HIs parents had made sure that their children had many interactions with missionaries. Jim was intrigued by these missionaries and decided he would like to be one. The first part of the book chronicles his early desire to be a missionary and the training he received.

When Jim first began his missionary journey in Ecuador, he was not married. In the book, we are introduced to his wife and how their courtship went.   It is hard to imagine today, just how  little communication there was in the 1950’s. A radio that you called on once a day or less to talk with the outside world. Dangers abound in the jungle from weather, to animals to the people you are trying to reach with the Gospel. But Jim and his wife Elizabeth persevered. They were blessed with a daughter, Valerie.

The primary native group that Jim was reaching out to were the native Quichua Indians. The Elliot’s started a school, taught the natives the Gospel and lived among them in peace. Jim and four other missionaries had heard stories about the savageness of another native group,  the Auca Indians.  They decided to find this tribe and bring them the Gospel of peace.

The Aucas  were known to be brutal, killing anyone they had a disagreement or a feud with. As a result, they were a fairly small tribe, but very much feared. Jim and four other missionaries carefully planned an expedition to go to this tribe with the Gospel of Christ. In the process, all of these missionaries were killed. This is the legacy of Jim Elliot, martyred for Christ.


I would highly recommend the book Jim Elliot: One Great  Purpose as well as the Jim Elliot Unit Study guide. We have enjoyed reading the book and following the activities in the guide.  I like having the comprehension questions so I can tell if my kids are understanding what they are reading. I usually ask the questions out loud instead of writing them on paper. This gives us a good chance to discuss what is happening and I can see if they are having trouble processing what is going on in the book.


Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what my Crew Mates thought of this book as well as George Washington: True Patriot.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Nutmeg Update

Nutmeg is now 10 months old. She weighs 8.1 pounds. Her favorite toy is a tennis ball. She loves to chase a ball. She does not like it though, when the ball goes under the couch or recliner, then she barks and whines until someone gets it out for her. 

She also likes her crate, food, plastic bones, squeaky toys and  people, just about everything. She thinks everybody should pet her, love her and be her friend. Rebekah likes to dress her in doll clothes and carry her around. I take her on my walk in the mornings. She can go three miles with me now with no problems.

Here are some pictures of Nutmeg. It can be hard to get pictures of her, she moves so fast.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

When I grow .up…

We are a family of volunteer firefighters. My husband has been one for 20 years, my oldest son, Matthew, is one, I am on the auxiliary. Volunteer firefighting is just what we do, it is a major part of our family.

This fact hit home tonight when Ben and I were driving to choir practice. Ben announced., “When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter.” This is a pretty normal comment for an 11 year old boy, but the next part is what makes this so funny to me. In the next breath, after the firefighter announcement, Ben says, “Yeah, I want to be a firefighter, then for my real job, I think I want to be a police detective.

“My real job” I thought this was so funny and am going to have to remember it the next time Matt is out on a call, that this is just his fun job. His real job is not nearly that exciting.                                                                                                                                                                                        

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review–VideoText Interactive

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Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Algebra II ? Where should I start with my ! student? Do they have to do Pre-Algebra? VideoText Interactive has come up with the answer! Use one course Algebra: A Complete Course, to teach Algebra from 7th grade and up.

VideoText Interactive strives to teach the teen brain how to develop problem solving skills and analytical thinking skills. They go in depth to explain the “why” behind every concept taught in the course. Students are not learning “tricks” or shortcuts, but they will learn why those procedures work the way they do.  A strong foundation is set during the early lessons allowing younger students to feel successful and older students progress quickly to the upper levels.

VideoText Interactive is available as  a video based web course or a DVD based course.   .  All teaching is done through a video online, but parents are strongly encouraged  to sit with their student and watch the lesson stopping frequently to talk over the concepts. By doing this, parents have a clear understanding of what their student is learning. Note taking during lessons is discouraged as it can distract from the information being taught. Note sheets are provided to help jog a students memory of what was taught during the lesson.

VideoText Interactive is a “mastery method of learning”. Concepts build on to each other. By ensuring students master a concept before going, the need for repeating previous lessons is eliminated. Mastery is achieved through daily work and quizzes. Students are required to show every step on their daily work problems. Solution manuals showing every step quickly points out where their thinking has gone wrong and can get them back on track.  Quizzes are taken after each lesson in order to ascertain whether mastery has been achieved. 

ClarkClan Experiences

Ben, who is in the 7th grade, was our tester for VideoText Interactive. He was starting the program at the youngest age recommended. We took it slowly, having him work at his own pace, going over lessons twice if needed. I would have him watch the lesson (usually with me, not always). Then he would read the note sheet and work on the problems on the worksheets. I would check these for him. The next day, he would take the quiz for the lesson to see if he should go on or re-do the previous lesson.


  • We liked the video format. The videos were not flashy but conveyed the information in a clear, concise manner.
  • We liked the no-textbook format. The “textbook” is the video. All lesson sheets, notes and quizzes are easily printed out.
  • We liked that the program offered lots of opportunity to practice on a single lesson. Two forms of the quizzes were available, if needed.
  • The idea that only one Algebra Course is needed for what others essentially break down into three grades is a big advantage.
  • Ben and I had two separate log-ins. His took him to the student site where he had access to all work and quizzes. I also had full access to work sheets, quizzes and  notes and solutions.


  • I found the website to be be a little bit “clunky” and while not exactly hard to navigate, not the easiest to navigate. I eventually realized to make it easier on myself, I printed out all lessons, quizzes and notes. Then I placed them in a 3 ring binder so Ben would have all he needed for each lesson.
  • Without looking at Ben’s notebook, there was no way to know what lesson he was on. I would like to know what he has completed online.


This is a solid math program. I would recommend this program for students who are ready to start a Pre-Algebra class.  Because this is a Complete Course, this is the only Algebra program you will need to buy. It covers pre-Algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II. In all honesty, this has not been Ben’s favorite math program. He found it to be a little dry. He said he liked the instructor, but he did not like having to take a quiz every other day.


Many of my Crew Mates reviewed Algebra: A Complete Course as well as Geometry: A Complete Course. Click on the banner above and read what they had to say about their experiences with this vendor.

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