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

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review–Math U See

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There are three things that make Math U See a unique math program.

  1. Concept teaching: The teaching of why the problem is solved in a certain manner and when to apply that concept. Learning concepts comes first, then memorizing facts and formulas and being able to apply this to life. 
  2. Mastery Program:  Students should understand each concept and be able to teach it. Review is also a constant during each lesson.
  3. Complete K-12 skill based, multi-sensory program: Manipulatives are used from Primer through Algebra1. Because of the unique nature of how each kid learns, Math U See uses many senses to help students understand the materials they have learned. photo m-blocks_zps252c4656.jpg

Each level of Math U See is not called by a grade level. Instead they use the Greek alphabet as the names of the books. This makes it easy to take the placement test, found online, and place your child in the appropriate book, regardless of grade level.

ClarkClan Experiences


We have used Math U See as our math curriculum for years. When I was given the chance to review the new updated versions, I was quite excited. I chose to review the Zeta level of Math U See. This is one book above the level Ben is working on right now. Ben is half-way through the Epsilon book and he was so excited by being able to try out the Zeta book, he agreed to work on lessons in both books.

In all honesty, this review will be based on the new updates that we experienced in the Zeta book, as well as what we like about this curriculum for all levels. Between my four kids, we have used Primer, Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II. At this time, I have two children using Math U See. Ben, as mentioned earlier, and Rebekah who is working on the Delta level.

We first began to use Math U See with my daughter, Sarah, when she was about 8. She began with the Gamma level and continued on until she finished Zeta. She is now in a Christian school so has not used the high school levels. My older son Matthew, began using Math U See for Algebra I , Geometry, and Algebra II.  Ben and Rebekah have used Math U See for their entire schooling career.

I like the approach that Math U See takes in tackling one topic at a time per book. The Alpha book focuses on basic addition and subtraction. The Beta book’s focus is advanced addition and subtraction. Gamma’s focus is multiplication, Delta is division, Epsilon is fractions and Zeta is decimals and percents. 

This one topic was a new concept for me when we began. I quickly grew to like it as I watched Sarah, who knew nothing about multiplication, go from learning her basic facts to multiplying large numbers with ease. 

I have also found that this is one curriculum that has fit all my children’s learning styles. Rebekah uses the manipulatives frequently for understanding, Ben only needs to use the manipulatives occasionally, but will watch the video multiple times if he is having trouble. 

One of the new features of the Math U See curriculum is the addition of an “Application & Enrichment’ page. These pages provide unfamiliar contexts, or information in different formats. New concepts and challenges are part of this page. The instructions state that it is not necessary to master these concepts before going on to the next lesson. Exposure is the idea behind these pages.

Each student text is divided into about 30 lessons. Each lesson consists of 7 pages. The first three pages focus solely on the new material. The next three are review pages and the final page is the new Application and Enrichment. We work these lessons by first watching the video. If any concept needs more explanation than what was shown, I will re-teach it using the teacher’s manual. Then they work on the “A”page. If all the problems on “A” are correct, I let them skip to “D, E, F and G”. I always insist that they finish each of the review pages.



Multi-Sensory – This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest strengths of Math U See. Touch, vision, and hearing are the three senses that are called upon in each lesson. Watching the lesson on DVD, you can watch Mr. Demme teaching the concept. Then using the manipulative helps to physically touch and make “real” the concepts.

In the lower levels, manipulatives are used extensively. The color coded manipulative block set is used in the lower levels, as well as in the upper levels using special decimal inserts for Algebra and decimal concepts. To teach fractions, there are fraction overlays that help visually cement  these concepts.

Single Concept – One Concept is taught per lesson. The first three pages of each lesson focuses on the concept that was taught.

Review – Each lesson also includes three pages of review work. These pages work on previously learned concepts. They include concepts from the previous lessons as well as from previous levels.


Examples – While watching the video, there are times that my kids found that they needed more examples worked out. I solve this by following the teacher’s guide and adding examples, as needed.


I would highly recommend Math U See for all grades. I like the results I see for,the younger grades, but also know from past experiences that the levels work from Primer up through Algebra II. Math U See gives a good, solid, math education.

Some of my Crew Mates reviewed Math U See as well as I. Visit the Crew Blog to read more about what others thought.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

An Unwelcome Visitor

I had a very unwelcome visitor this past weekend. Anxiety, again. Last Fall I had a major problem with anxiety attacks. It happened after a minor female surgery and lasted about three months. I was miserable, but God is good and brought me through. I have not had any anxiety since the middle of December, until last Friday.

Matt and I took the kids out on a shopping expedition that included lunch. During lunch, I began to get the creepy, crawly, hot feeling with the idea that I had to get out of there. So I left the restaurant and walked around calling and talking to my dad and my sister-in-law. This calmed me down and I was able to continue with our trip without much incident.

Saturday, I started out a little shaky, but was able to continue with all my plans for a busy day with no problems. Today, Sunday, I just had the anxious feelings come and go, until I was able to get out and exercise in the bright sunshine and  be with a good friend.

I am learning a lot through these “attacks”. I am learning that God will never leave me nor forsake me. I can call upon Him at any time and He is there. Reciting Psalms is a great way to keep my mind on good things, not evil.

But I think the biggest thing I have learned hit me while at Wal-Mart tonight. Everybody has something they are dealing with. It may be visible, such as a physical disability or it may not be visible, such as my anxiety. I am learning to be more understanding of someone who may appear rude. I may see a rude person, but it could be that they are just trying to deal with the chaos of the store without losing their cool. I realized that the best thing I can do is be kind, and if possible share the hope that I have in Christ Jesus.

If I had my way, I would never have to go through another anxiety attack. I am not sure if that is God’s will for my life or not. But I am thankful for the opportunity to learn more about the grace of God and his care for me.

Review–the art of POETRY

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  • Classical Academic Press presents:
  • the art of POETRY 
  • written by Christine Perrin, MFA
  • recommended for grades 6th through High School
  • $99.95 for the bundle set including; Teacher manual, student book and DVD’s. Each product also available separately.

About the Product

the art of POETRY  is a new curriculum written by Christine Perrin, MFA. Within this program, you will be led step by step to an understanding of many different types of poetry. Using many types of poetry, all elements of poetry such as metaphors and imagery, are explored.

There are sixteen chapters within the student text of the book. The first eight chapters explore The  Elements of Poetry. These elements include: images, metaphor, symbols, words, sound, rhythm, shape, and tone. Chapters nine through fifteen are based around The Formal History of Poetry. These lessons include History of Form, Verse Forms, Shaping Forms, Emily Dickinson, Open Verse Walt Whitman, and Narrative Poems. The last chapter is: Growing Your Interest.

This is a flexible curriculum enabling it to fit your timetable. One recommendation is to use it as a month long unit, with your student completing one lesson each day. It can be spread out over a year by completing two sections per month. The last way is to take a much slower pace and complete this over several years only using a couple chapters a year.

The teacher manual is a treasure trove of information pertaining to teaching poetry. This manual helps a teacher who may be intimidated by teaching poetry. It gives detailed descriptions to introduce the topic and poem as well as questions to ask after each poem is read. Activities, vocabulary, and explications take away all the fear of teaching this subject. All parts of the student book is included in the teacher manual along with the answers to the questions asked at the end of each poem.

The student manual includes 39 poems for discussion. Questions after each poem get the students to think and understand what is written. A short biography is included about each Poet studied.

A DVD is available that includes the author teaching a class of four eighth grade students through the book.  This is simply like sitting in on a class. You watch the teacher work through each poem with the students, hearing their answers and thoughts about the poems. If the teacher book is not enough, this DVD can take away any hesitation in teaching poetry.

ClarkClan Thoughts

We have reviewed other Classical Academic Press materials and have found them to be solid, interesting, in-depth, yet easy to teach. the art of POETRY is no exception. We have enjoyed using this book and are learning a lot about poetry.

I have been using this book exclusively with Ben, who is 11. He was excited about learning poetry and was eager to get started. We began by watching the DVD together. I quickly found that I enjoyed the video much more than he did. I think it was his age, but sitting and listening to the class session was a little too much for him. He became a little bored about halfway through. So, I changed tactics in how we would work through this book. I started teaching it exclusively from the teachers manual. This went much better. I could work through at his pace.

Ben is at the young end of using this curriculum, just going into 6th grade. He is learning, but we are taking it slow, going over approximately one lesson a week. I want to introduce him to poetry without overwhelming him. I can definitely see using this book again when he is in high school where he can glean even more information.

The teacher manual really is a treasure of this curriculum. It takes an intimidating subject and breaks it down into manageable pieces. All questions are answered for you helping you to pull the meaning out of the many poems included. 


I would highly recommend this curriculum. Poetry is a subject that is often glossed over or omitted because of fear in how to teach it. This helps to break through that fear. I found that I learned just as much, if not more than Ben.

Many of my Crew Mates reviewed  the art of POETRY as well as The Discovery of Deduction: An Introduction to Formal Logic. Visit the Crew Blog to read the reviews of these two products.


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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Essentials in Writing

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  • Essentials in Writing
  • Founded by Matthew Stephens
  • 1st to 12th grades available
  • $40 DVD and  download of Printable Worksheets $20 printed workbook (optional)

About the Product

Essentials in Writing is a full year grammar/writing curriculum. The goal of the program is “to help produce confident writers who enjoy the study of language.” Students are taught how to effectively communicate through the written word.

Essentials in Writing is a program taught on DVD by Matthew Stephens. Mr. Stephens teaches each concept using a step-by-step approach. Worksheets and writing assignments then help to “cement” the concepts presented.

The building blocks for the elementary levels goes according to this format.


Words = Sentences

Sentences = Paragraphs

Paragraphs are in personal/business letters, descriptive/expository/persuasive writing assignments, essays and research reports

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ClarkClan Thoughts

We reviewed the 5th grade level of Essentials in Writing. I was able to use this with both Ben (11) and Rebekah (9) at the same time. I would pull out the worksheets for each lesson, then we would watch the video, and finally they would work on the assignments.

The Fifth grade levels continues coverage of grammar, capitalization and punctuation. The writing skills portion includes formal paragraphs as well as, diary entries, invitations and lists. Students will also learn how to choose which form of writing is the most appropriate.

For the first three weeks we worked on the grammar lessons.  Then for the next few weeks we worked on the writing portion of the program. While the writing will talk about previously learned grammar, it is not necessary to do all the grammar first, then the writing. Mixing it up did not confuse my kids at all. We would complete approximately three lessons per week.

Ben is doing a combination of 5th/6th grade work. Rebekah is a mix of 4th/5th grade work. So reviewing the 5th grade program worked very well for us. Ben would fly through most of the grammar lessons, only stumbling occasionally. Rebekah needed a little bit more help. She would watch the lesson, then work on the worksheet and I would be available for questions.

Both kids enjoyed Matthew Stephens teaching the lessons. During the writing portions, they asked and I agreed that they could work together on their writing assignments. It was interesting to hear the discussion that went on as they were exchanging ideas and what should come next.

The length of each lesson was good for us. Each video lesson is fairly short, 5-10 minutes, Then there is a worksheet page, maybe two. In all, the lessons took us approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.


If you have been searching for an easy to implement, low prep needed, complete grammar/writing course, I would recommend Essentials in Writing. It is a solid program that presents all aspects of language arts for each grade level.

All levels of Essentials in Writing were reviewed by the Schoolhouse Review Crew. Visit the Crew blog to read what others thought about the levels they reviewed.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

ClarkClan Baked Oatmeal

A few weeks ago, I shared my granola recipe. Today, I thought I would share another great breakfast option: Baked Oatmeal.  Baked Oatmeal is an excellent, tasty breakfast option. It is quick to put together the morning of, or it can be made ahead. It is simple, yet impressive for overnight guests. I have not come across anyone who does not like Baked Oatmeal, even people who normally do not eat oatmeal like this one. I think it is because it tastes like eating an oatmeal cookie, for breakfast.

Baked Oatmeal

3 cups oatmeal (quick or old-fashioned, I always use old-fashioned)

1/2 cup brown sugar (can increase this to 1 cup, but I think it is sweet enough with the 1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon (you can add more or less depending on your taste preferences)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1/2 cup butter, melted

Optional Fruit

1/2 cup raisins or Craisins

3/4 cup chopped peeled apple (I don’t usually peel it)

1/3 cup fresh or frozen peaches

1/3 cup fresh or frozen blueberries,

In a large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Combine the eggs, milk and butter, add to the dry ingredients. Stir in one or more of the optional fruit, if desired. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch baking pan. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Serve with milk or cream if desired.

Very simple to make and wonderful to serve. This recipe doubles easily. You can use a bigger pan or just use the 9x13 inch and it will be thicker.

I have had all sorts of fun with this recipe. I have added butternut squash and just decreased the milk a bit. I have done the same with pumpkin. I have also added pecans, which I love, but my kids are not so crazy about them in their baked oatmeal.

I have found this freezes well, also. I make the entire batch of baked oatmeal up, then put the wet mix in a ziploc bag. We freeze it and then when I need a nicer breakfast I pull the bag out the night before to thaw and then bake as usual. I also store all leftovers in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pondering on my Shortcomings

How come I tell my kids not to wait until the last minute, to get things done early, and then I am always scrambling at the last minute to get my things done?

Why can’t I follow my own advice? Or is it that I see this as a character flaw in myself and am trying to teach my kids a better way?

Can I change this about myself? I know what needs to be done. I know how I should approach tasks. But, the question remains:  Can I change permanently?

I think I will try, using my small changes approach.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Artistic Pursuits

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A Comprehensive Art Program Designed to Involve the Student in the Creative Process While Developing Observational Skills

About the Product

ARTistic Pursuits is a curriculum company focusing on teaching art to students from Kindergarten through High School. A variety of art lessons teach both expressive and technical aspects of art. Artistic Pursuits is designed to meet the needs of homeschoolers.

ARTistic Pursuits works with the interests of the students to teach them observational skills as well as learning to enjoy the process of creating. . Skills emerge as students progress through the book while observing nature closely.

Each Unit in an Artistic Pursuits book  includes 4 lessons that follow a predictable pattern. Lesson One includes two parts: Conceptual Application and Expressive Application. Lesson Two  includes: Practical Application and Art History. Lesson Three includes: Technical Application Lesson Four is: Practiced Application.

ARTistic Pursuits  is not a step by step How to Draw book. Students using this program will practice how to observe and ponder the world around them. They are introduced to new materials and techniques and then given an opportunity to practice what they learned.

ClarkClan Observations

During the winter of 2011, we were given an opportunity to review a High School level Artistic Pursuits book. Sarah, who was 13 at the time, loved the curriculum. (You can read that review here.)  Because of this past experience, when I told Ben and Rebekah that they were going to review an ARTistic Pursuits book of their own, they were quite excited.

We received Elementary 4-5 Book Two, Color and Composition. From the first lesson on the Color Wheel, Ben (11) and Rebekah (9) were enthralled. Since the book is designed for students to use independently, I started from the very first lesson letting them read it for themselves. I instructed them to take turns reading the text out loud and then follow the instructions given.


My first observation was that while each lesson was complete, they were also not too long. Each lesson took about 10 minutes or less to read through, then the rest of the time, between 30-40 minutes, was spent in producing their art. This was great for Ben, who has a long attention span as well as Rebekah, my short attention span, needs to be doing something with her hands, child.

I was impressed to see that Ben and Rebekah both did the lesson as instructed, but then took what they were learning and used it again during their “free” time. I specifically remember from Unit One, the lesson on becoming aware of the many colors in the world around us and then translating that to artwork.  Each of them drew me a picture, using the technique. But since that first lesson, I have been given 10 or so drawings, all including multiple colors for the sky or water or even grass.


Another feature that makes this curriculum a good one, in my mind, is the Art Appreciation/History lesson. This is very interesting and I love that they are looking and observing famous art pieces as well as reading the history about the artist.

Using different and slightly exotic (at least to my kids) art supplies, such as watercolor colored pencils,  makes my kids want to do art. I am sure it does not hurt that they get to borrow their big sister’s supplies. We happened to have all of the art supplies needed. Nothing in the supply list is hard to find nor very expensive.

When I asked Ben and Rebekah what they would like to say about Artistic Pursuits they both just simply stated, “I really like it.” This is very high praise coming from both of them.


I would highly recommend ARTistic Pursuits. The curriculum is slow and gentle, but very effective. I realize the cost of $47.95 may seem a bit high, but after using this feel it is well worth the price.

Want to read even more reviews, click on the banner below to see what others had to say about the Artistic Pursuits program.



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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Abraham’s Journey

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About the Book

Abraham’s Journey A Celebration of the American Dream  is a small, paperback book with an important message. The book follows a boy named Abraham through an adventure in Cyber Space via his smartphone. Along the way he meets Historical Characters and learns something from each of them.

The book is set in the present day, but time travel inexplicably occurs and Abraham finds himself meeting and interacting with such figures as Amelia Earhart and Norman Rockwell.

The premise of the book is that Abraham’s parents have both lost their jobs. Christmas will be scarce because of a lack of money. So Abraham decides to help his family out and earn money to buy gifts. Along his cyber journey, Abraham finds a hidden talent.

ClarkClan Thoughts

I had both Ben (11) and Rebekah (9) read this book on their own. Neither had trouble with the reading level on this book. Ben stated he learned about people he never knew.

It is unusual to read a book with historical figures interacting with a modern day boy. I was skeptical at first, but after reading the book for myself, I  found that I enjoyed the book. It is not a long book, easy to read in one sitting for upper elementary level kids. I liked that Abraham wanted the best for his family, even if that meant sacrificing something for himself to be able to afford gifts for others.The authors achieved their goal of showing how hard work and determination can  help further the American Dream.


I would recommend this book to others. The only drawback is  the price tag. The book is $14.99, a little spendy for me.


Many of my CrewMates also  reviewed Abraham’s Journey. Click on the banner above to read what they thought about the book.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

My Challenge to Myself

Note: I am linking this post up with Crystal from Money Saving Mom. She is hosting an Early to Rise Challenge based on the book Early to Rise by Andy Traub. I have bought the book and am working my way through it one day at a time. Visit Money Saving Mom and read her Early to Rise Challenge for more information.

Early to Rise

I have recently (My less than a year) been working on getting up earlier in the morning. This has been quite a challenge for me. I have slowly been working my way to getting up earlier and earlier. Right now I am at about 5:30am. My goal is to get up about 5am everyday.

Why am I working towards an earlier wake up time? Mainly because there is so much I want to get done, but never seem to be able to accomplish everything. I want to start each day with devotions for myself. I want to sew. I want to blog more. I want to write reviews in the morning, not late at night, I want to exercise. Well, the exercise is the only task that I am very faithful and consistent in getting accomplished.  Thanks to having walking partners, I walk every morning at 6:30am. But the rest of the list, forget it. My personal devotions come when I get the chance, not always in the morning. I have not sewn in ages. Blogging is hit or miss. Reviews always seem to be started in the evening when I am tired and grumpy.

Around New Years, I began making small changes. Getting up earlier was one of those changes. The main reason I started was so I could get up early enough to throw a load of laundry in the washer before I left for walking. Once I was consistently getting this done, I started thinking of all the things I could accomplish if I got up even earlier. So now I am working towards this goal.

One way I have been able to accomplish actually getting out of bed earlier is that I got a puppy. Once I set her up on a schedule of getting her out of her crate around 5:30 am, she expects me to do it everyday. Then my older dog heard the two of us up and about, so he had to join in as well. So now, 5:30am the two dogs and I get up, I feed them and then my problem is: what do I do now?  This week’s task will be getting my devotions/bible study done before I start any other task, (well after I feed the dogs, they are pretty insistent about that task coming first.) I would like to add more, but know from past experiences I really need to take small steps.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

College Common Sense

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About the Product

College Common Sense is a company that was started by Denise Ames. Denise has been in the college admissions and financial aid process for the last 10 years. Her goal with College Common Sense, is to de-mystify the process of financial aid.

The Going to College and Paying for It  DVD set and Downloadable worksheets explain how to earn the most FREE money you can.  Denise Ames says that no age is too young to start looking for scholarships She carefully guides through all options giving advice on how and when to get started looking for money to pay for your child’s college degree.       

There are six videos to watch in the series. Each video covers an aspect of the college application and financial aid  process.   The accompanying videos are the heart of the program.  Video titles are:

  • The Big Picture
  • How Financial Aid Works
  • All about the free money!
  • The System that Works
  • You in the Process
  • Put it All together

As you watch the videos, you follow along in the downloadable workbook pages. These pages help to cement the information being presented in your mind.

ClarkClan Thoughts

Financial aid and college can be scary words. Denise has tried very hard to make the process smoother and more understandable. She gives information in small doses while making sure to cover every aspect of the financial aid process.

I found the videos to be very informative. I generally would turn on the video, but then let it continue to play while I just listened. I had my college age son watch a few videos with me so he could get a better feel for the process as well. Denise recommends starting a scholarship binder. With this binder, you can keep all your specific scholarship information in one place.

Having a son in college, I found that the College Common Sense program was thought provoking and  helpful for my next child. We have done things in a different manner than recommended. and while I think we did a lot right, there were things that we could change. Denise specifically recommends starting early looking for scholarships as well as applying to colleges.

To get a feel for the program, Denise offers an unpaid weekly newsletter. These newsletters are for kids of all ages and grades. There are specific assignments for elementary, middle school and high school.

I would recommend this product especially if you have a high school student. For the investment of $25 (for online  videos) you can reap much more back in scholarships and grants.


I was not the only one to review the College Common Sense program. Click on the banner above to read what my CrewMates thought about the product.

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