iPhone Apps we use for school

I’m a strong advocate of limiting screen time but we aren’t total abstainers.

If I find something educationally useful and non-twaddlish, I have no problem allowing my students some screen time.

I do try to stick with the general rule that if you’re going to be playing something, it needs to be helping you to learn and thankfully we’re found several iPhone apps that do just that and in a fun way.

Here are some of the faves at the Clark Academy of Excellence:

Times Tables – Squeebles by KeyStageFun

Help rescue all 24 squeebles by answering your times tables correctly!
Abby really enjoys this one and it is a fun way for her do do otherwise boring Math Drills.

Presidents vs. Aliens by Dan Russell-Pinson

This is another creative way for the kids to be drilled onfacts that would otherwise be tedious to learn. For every multiple choice answer about a president that they get correct, they get to use that president to shoot down aliens that have invaded the state capitol and other historic U.S. monuments. SuperFun!

Stack The States and Stack The Countries (also by Dan Russell-Pinson)

These two games test the user’s knowledge of geography in a fun way. Stack up the states / countries above the line to move to the next level. Bonus games are included that you can unlock by earning a certain amount of states or countries.

Find Sums by Math Tappers

This game is a GREAT way to learn number pairs! Try to beat your own best time as you click off all of the numbers that equal your target number.  I REALLY like one.

Hungry Fish by Motion Math

This is one that even Sarah likes to play. The hungry fish needs to eat the two numbers that equal the number on his body. Grow huge and move to the next level by eating the right combinations. Kids also get to change the fish’s colors after each level. This has a free version and a paid version that includes negative numbers. We also like Motion Math Zoom by the same developer.

Phonics Genius by Alligator Apps

This one is less “game-y” and more “drill-y” but is does include quiz features and Nathan likes this one a lot. There are over 6,000 words grouped by phonic sounds so you can get a lot of usage out of this one for varying levels of children.

{Cross Posted at HelpMeHomeschool.com}

Filed under homeschool, iPhone Apps

You don’t have to be a farmer to reap a harvest.

Well goodness gracious. Where in the world do I begin?

First, a warning – This long overdue post will be a lengthy one. (You might need to go and fix yourself a snack. :) )

Sooooooo…… last fall, Bruce had become aware of a job opportunity that would finally, FINALLY have us fulfilling the dream of moving to a farm. As the new year dawned and the months rolled on, things came more into focus. Everything seemed to be falling in to place. YES. This was going to happen.

A contract was signed: Bruce was going to manage 600 acres of cattle in a little town about 45 minutes south of Franklin. A little house was part of the deal. We were moving!! (Excitement!)

Another contract wasn’t renewed: Bruce gave his notice to the school he had given the past decade of his life to. His time there had been very good for him and there had been much growth in him spiritually but that chapter was closing and he was ready to move to the next thing. (Bittersweet).

A lease was signed: We put an ad on Craigslist and rented out our house. We would be leaving the house that we had brought all 4 of our babies home to. The one with six homeschooling families on one street and oodles more within walking distance. The one with our family tree painted on the wall. The one with the Olympic Sized Swimming Pool in the neighborhood. The incoming tenants had scheduled their movers and the utilities were set to be transferred. (Mixed Emotions).

A contractor was hired: Renovations on the little house at the farm were underway. With the help of good friends, walls were knocked out, carpets were pulled, old cabinets were ripped out and new ones installed. Appliances were purchased, furniture was moved and paint colors were chosen. The owner was paying for the materials for the renovations. We had a contractor friend who was in need of some work and he gave us a deal on the labor. (It was a win-win!)

Yessirree. This was a done deal. The only thing left to do was to post it on facebook.

Our weekends were spent frolicking with the goats and picking buttercups, painting walls, spreading seed, planning the garden, and checking out the town that would be home.

We had met the neighbors and the man who would be Bruce’s assistant – the head of a Mennonite family with children very near in age to ours. Meals were shared, chickens were fed, cows were milked and a friendship had begun.

Just like little house on the prairie, right?

Well… not exactly.

You see… For as long as we’d been praying, dreaming, working toward making this happen, there were a few details that were less than perfect. The house was a bit small but doable. Only one full bath with 6 people? We would make it work. The yard was tiny and the house was not situated in an ideal country setting but rather on a busy county road but hey, the important thing was that Bruce was going to be doing what he LOVED and our family was up for the adventure. My mind was full of questions but my heart was full of excitement. This would also allow me to eventually stop working because Bruce would be running the farm and he had a solid plan for generating profit. I felt confident that he could do it and do it well. We were going to take the leap. The mantra became, “If not now, when?”

Whenever we would go down there and I would see Bruce up on the tractor riding over fields that would soon become his “office”, the fears that were building would subside. We had hoped for this for so long and here we were, about to embark on this new chapter. Our plan was coming to fruition even though it was looking less like the picture I’d had in my head for so long. I would adjust, wouldn’t I?

Just weeks away from our move date, we were at the farm doing some painting. We were outside and I was a bit discouraged by how loud it was. You see, the house sits very close to the road – a really busy road. We were moving to the country and trading in the city life for the country life but this didn’t feel serene and peaceful at all. It felt confining, uncomfortable… wrong. Half under my breath and half not, I said, “Wow. It’s really loud out here.” Bruce turned around and said, “Honey – Do we need to talk?” Hmmm… I didn’t really want to talk. I just needed some reassurance. I turned to him and said, “I just need to hear you say that you’re 100% sure you KNOW this is “IT” – that this is where we’re supposed to be. I need to know that you know that this is where God is leading us.

Silence.

And then he says, “I don’t know if I can say that.”

Ummmm, Yes. Now we needed to talk.

After a long, tense ride home and the bedtime routine of getting 4 sets of teeth brushed and lullabies sung, we settled in for what I was feared would be a pivotal point in our marriage. A devastating pivot. Could I tell him I was dreading this?

I had to. I had no peace about this. I had not been saying anything out of fear that I would crush my husband and put major stress on our marriage but here we were and he was asking me how I felt and I needed to be honest. I let it all out.

We’d outgrow that tiny house in just a few short years and it was part of the deal. What would happen if we wanted to move? We couldn’t even get internet access there. How was I supposed to work? I would be very limited in how I would have to do school with the kids. The yard was surrounded by electrical fencing. I’d never be able to just send the kids out the play. The busy, loud highway was right there in the front – that seemed dangerous! The owner was not keen on us having a horse, something the kids really wanted. How realistic was it that Bruce would really be able to include the kids in his daily work? That was one of the main aims of the whole lifestyle change but with kids this small, would that really happen? Had we been unrealistic about all of this? It wasn’t just THIS farm situation that I was starting to question (now that we were actually packing up the furniture), I was wondering if this large scale farming thing was really what we needed to be doing at all. Telling him this was HARD. I stopped talking and waited for the sky to fall.

But do you know what? It didn’t. As he listened intently to every word out of my mouth and then started sharing himself, a huge cloud lifted. All of the things that I had told him that I was concerned about, he said they had been on his heart as well. Over the last several weeks he had begun to have less and less peace about the whole thing, too. Additionally, some things had come to light on the business side of things and what had seemed like a safe venture now seemed to make very little sense on all fronts. He had been hired to manage the operation but now all of the suggestions he was making as to the direction he wanted to take were being dismissed. The work? Sure, he would love doing the farming thing. He loves being outside, working with his hands, seeing the miracle of God’s creation but that was where the good stopped and he wasn’t willing to take his family into a situation that would only be good for HIM.

He also told me that he would not attempt to get his teaching job back and he thought that we should go forward with leasing out our house. No job? No house? Guess what, I WAS TOTALLY OK WITH THAT. (For those of you who know what a control freak I am, I am sure you can see that only God could do this!)

How could it be that we were having a discussion about NOT pursuing this anymore and we were at peace? Relieved, even? More on the same page than we seemed to have been in YEARS?

How could it be that by hearing His answer of  “NO”, we actually felt the presence of God in a more powerful way that ever before? We had also, for years, been praying about knowing the presence of the Lord in a more real way and having a stronger marriage. He hadn’t ignored us! HE HAD GIVEN US EXACTLY WHAT WE NEEDED!

As we continued to talk, we realized that it wasn’t just that this situation was not the right one. Maybe the cattle farming thing wasn’t even what we needed to do at all? We’d still maybe like a little land one day but the driving sense of having to make cattle farming a career seemed to evaporate before our eyes. Had we been pursuing this for so many years only to realize that it had been our plan and not God’s?

In God’s sweet and loving way, He had NOT answered our prayers for nearly 5 years and then, when we wouldn’t stop asking, He got us close enough to see that we didn’t even really want it! Oh, how He loves these broken and stubborn people!

This turn of events was one of the best things to have ever happened to us as a married couple. Bruce saw that his wife was willing to follow him anywhere and I saw that he was willing to step back from his dream and evaluate it in an unselfish way. This was good. What had the potential to be a marriage wrecking turn of events was transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a marriage strengthening situation.

We were not going. We were sure of it. And it was OK. It was better than OK. It was good. The releasing of tightly clenched fists gave way to open hands willing to receive what GOD’s plans were for us rather than chasing after our own. He was up to something.

No house? No problem. No job? No problem. God was working things out for our good. We went to bed facing uncertainty and everyone in the house slept more soundly than we had in months. The Hand of God, indeed!

…………………………………………………………………………………………………….


As providence would have it, we had a gathering that next day with my mom, my sister and her family, and Bruce’s parents. We would all be together at my mom’s new home – she had just moved and was starting a new chapter in a new place at long last. After leaving there, we drove 5 minutes down the road to visit with our best friends. All of these dear people live within a few miles of one another and we had been thinking about to moving 2 hours away? This was confirmation.

A few hours with our friends was a further relief for me. I listened to Bruce tell his best friend the story of the last 24 hours and was reassured that it was all good. This wasn’t just me not wanting to go. Bruce was genuinely relieved and had a certainty about him that I’d not seen in a long time.

Good friends are such blessings and we needed a sounding board. We talked about the possibilities – Where would we move? Was Bruce really not going to return to teaching? We took a walk in their neighborhood and dreamed about renting a house out there. Wouldn’t it be fun to be neighbors? What could be next for us? We brainstormed every possibility we could think of – even the crazier sounding ones like moving to Africa or living in their basement. Thankful for the much needed fellowship, we headed back home – still uncertain about what was next but absolutely certain that whatever WAS next, it was GOOD .

The next morning I woke up and couldn’t stop thinking about our conversation from the night before. My childhood home was sitting… empty. Mom was not sure if she was going to sell it or rent it. Living in Cindi and Allen’s basement was a crazy idea but what about moving to mom’s? Was moving to that house really such a crazy idea? The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. We could go there and do some of the fixing -up that it needed. It would help mom and it would help us.

I invited her to dinner.

When we told mom that we had decided to not go to the farm, the first thing she asked was, “Well – what are you going to do?” With a giggle I said, “Can we rent your empty house?” After a moment of stunned silence she laughed and said she thought it was a great idea.

Bruce had no job and our house was promised to another family but we didn’t even have time to get concerned about those things! In a span of 48 hours, God had provided not just a safe place to land while we sorted things out but (for me at least) it was the safest place – it was HOME. We told the kids about the plan and they were thrilled. Going to live at Grammie’s house? Sleeping in the same room that mama slept in? Riding bikes on the street mama learned to ride a bike on? Having tea on the patio with the same precious neighbor who had been next door to me when I was little? How fun!

The move was an easy one. The transition went as smooth as it could have possibly gone. We would eat our meals in the kitchen with the strawberry stained glass window. Take walks and listen to stories about when I was little. Eat popsicles while sitting on the swing in the back yard. Live closer to family. It didn’t feel like we were moving, it felt like we were going HOME.

What about Bruce’s job? No problem. God had been preparing him for this all along.

For several years, Bruce has had a love for antique cars. He has a real eye for them and has been able to buy and sell them and turn quick little (and sometimes not so little) profits here and there. Without the commitment to a 40 hour a week job, it would be easy to make it more profitable. (He actually had been looking at buying one in the weeks before we decided not to go to the farm.) How’s he doing? He’s sold 2 cars so far and has already made half of what he used to make in an entire year of teaching and he’s got another one ready to sell. For him, it was an easy decision as to what he could do to provide for his family. Something he loved? Something that would allow him more time with family? This had been right under our nose the whole time but we had to let go of something else before we could see what a blessing this could be.

This job allows him to be home, be involved in the schooling and training up of his children in a way that farming would have prohibited, especially while they are so young. Riding tractors and tending to cows would have been good but riding in classic cars and tending to the hearts of this family is GREAT.

The plan that we had been striving toward for years was to live on a farm so that we could be together more as a family. Bruce had a strong desire to be home with us and be more a part of the kids’ everyday lives. We thought farming was the way to accomplish that but the closer we got to it, the more we realized how unrealistic our expectations were. He was going to be so busy with farm work that there would probably have been MUCH LESS time with us than when he was teaching.

Now? He makes some phone calls, makes a few road trips, spends some time on the computer for work. And he gets to do this:

Read to Sarah until she falls asleep in his arms.

Work in my mom’s back yard, serving her by getting the house ready to sell. (And this is something that the kids CAN help with and not fear getting electrocuted or run over by a cow!)

Lead us in daily family worship:

Play in the rain and find the biggest puddles:

The other day as I watched Bruce and the kids spreading seed in the barren places of my childhood back yard it struck me:

We have the fertile soil of young hearts with us wherever we are and we are intent on tending it well under the direction of The Good Shepherd. Sowing and reaping IS our job, no matter where we live.

You don’t need a tractor or farm for that!

I don’t know if Bruce will be in the car business forever. I don’t think we’ll live in this house for very long but I do know that this is where we are supposed to be at this moment in our family’s story. Maybe we will live on some land one day and have some cows. Maybe we will live in Africa one day and minister to orphans. I don’t know, but I DO know that we are being led by The One who made us, knows us, and loves us!

I DO know that living in such a way as to be open to God’s direction is far better than digging in our heels and telling God what WE want.  This is a new place for us, being wide open and listening to God rather than asking Him to listen to us. We are seeking His will for us instead of trying to make things happen. What a different way to live. I must say, I am digging it!
Life today is sweet. Full of peace and joy, togetherness and promise. My heart is overflowing with thankfulness for this life we are living and the gift of TIME together that we have been given.

Oh how I pray that the Lord would reveal His plans me and to you! Let us seek Him and trust that He is good and that  His plans for us are GOOD. They’re not just good. They are exceedingly abundantly above all that you could ask for or imagine!

BACK TO SAY: I can’t get this song out of my head as I re-read my words posted above. Listen and BE BLESSED! He restores the wasted years!

“You give us your best when what we thought was better. You are to be praised.”

Filed under bruce, cattletalk, family work, farm living, moo

This is what school looks like in the Clark Household.

Here’s Abby reading the bug book to little brother. (She’s learning about bugs, practicing her reading aloud skills, and even reading the book upside down!) And yes, that IS a life jacket. No, I have no idea why he has it on.

Abby is a great big sister and a voracious reader. I never have a problem getting her to read to herself or to her siblings.

We try to do an hour of silent reading each day. Nathan asked if he could read out loud so that Sarah could hear. Yes, she’s only wearing undies. (That’s actually a step up for her.)

The next day, I found her “reading” to Andrew:

Science: Bruce found some turtles while he was working in the yard. The kids decided to let them race. Afterward, we did some turtle related crafts and research. And yes, once again, Sarah is pants-less. She’s got a few months of this left. (The Clark family rule is that once you hit five, you have to wear pants. :) )

Sarah loves to write her letters and numbers each day.

She has been tracing them for a while but the other day she surprised me by writing her name and Abby’s name with no help! After praising her for her remarkable penmanship, however, I had to scold her because it was written with a sharpie on the freshly painted wall!

Fun times!

Filed under homeschool, homeschooling sense, sarahstories

School’s back in session

Don’t tell my kids that everyone else gets a break, OK?

Here at the Clark Academy of Excellence, we don’t really do summer breaks. We believe that school can happen anywhere and anytime so we just keep on trucking and stay in the mindset of “learning all the time.” That’s not to say that we don’t have days in which we don’t crack open a single workbook. There are plenty of days when we spend a good deal of our time just reading for pleasure or doing other things that involve learning but nothing that my kids would say is really “doing school.”

To mix things up a bit, today Bruce cleaned out the van and then I had Abby make a chart of all the items that we brought in. There were 11 shirts, 9 shoes (one is ALWAYS missing), 6 DVDs, 9 books and an unquantifiable amount of trash. :)

But just in keeping with the “record all of the important dates” theme that I’ve tried to keep on this here blog, I thought it was needful for me to post a picture of their first day at “school.” Since we’re living in a different part of town this year, they’ve started a new one-day-a-week tutorial. They love it and Sarah’s even getting to go!

FLASHBACKS: Many First Days! And More! And More! And one more!

Filed under milestones, school

My generous girl

Lots of haircut chatter going on today, huh?

Two weeks ago, I took Abby with me to the salon. She’s been talking for weeks about giving her hair to locks of love and she was ready.

We took before and after pictures and she loves the new ‘do.

I’m super proud of her for thinking of others and giving 10 inches of her hair to someone in need!

Does she look more grown up?!?!

And because y’all know I love the flashbacks…

Here’s a blast from the past! A digiscrap layout I did of a haircut for Abby when she was about three years old.

Filed under abbyadventures

Baby boy’s first haircut

Little man’s locks were getting a bit, well, not so manly.

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It broke my heart to think of trimming those gorgeous golden curls but I had to admit, the time had come. Truth be told, things were getting a bit out of hand:

Aunt Jen has the magic touch and she graciously offered to shape up those unruly strands.

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Did you know it takes a village to give a child a haircut?

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Grammie fed him ice cream while Jen strategically snipped away.

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He’s still precious, don’t you think?

Filed under andrewanecdotes, milestones

Sometimes we get it right!

I have to admit something to you all: As enthusiastic as I come across about homeschooling, there are occasional days that find me wondering if I’m doing it “right” or doing “enough”. (Ok, that happens more often that I’d like to ‘fess up to.) As much as I tell other mamas not to do this, I’m guilty of it myself!

Today, however, was a blessed day in which I was given the sweet assurance that it’s all good.

When the mail arrived, there was a package with a 3rd grade Horizons Math book in it and Abby was over the moon.

She hugged it tight, found a pen and proceeded to do the first 3 lessons.

We had to make her put it down so that she could go to sleep. :)

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Yup. We’re getting it right.

Filed under abbyadventures, homeschool, homeschooling sense

The Blessing Jar

There it sits, on the buffet in plain sight. The candy jar. I got it last week and filled it to the rim with goodies as a way to reward my children for good deeds. (Bribing them? Would that be a more accurate description? Maybe.) You see, Sarah has decided that she does not like to nap but she DOES love to eat. I thought that the promise of a treat might entice her to stay in her and bed and fall asleep without having to threaten punishment. That’s always the preference, right? That children would respond to the promise of blessings rather than the promise of discipline? Well, it has worked. She more readily falls asleep in the afternoons with visions of sugarplums dancing in her sweet curly head.

But the treat jar has also become a point of contention. When offered a treat (great attitude during school, helping with a chore that was not yours to do, staying upstairs until 7:00 and letting mom sleep in for a few extra minutes :) ) they often do not want the piece of candy that is right at the top of the jar – Not content with the blessing that is offered. They shove tiny fingers down deep, digging, fumbling for the root beer flavored barrell and passing up the bright red hot cinnamon disk. The words fall fast from my lips, “Can you just take what you are offered and appreciate it? Can’t you be happy with what you are given!”

As usual, The Lord speaks to me through my words to my children. He does this every single day. Sometimes they are sweet words and sometimes they sting but they always ALWAYS remind me that this parenting journey that He has set me upon is the most refining thing that I could possibly go through. How many times a day to I implore my children to be no respecter of persons? How many times a day to I plead with them to treat others the way they want to be treated? How many times a day do I remind them that being a servant is being like Jesus? The words that fall from my lips come straight from God’s heart and are meant for me more than they are meant for my children.

As I am striving (struggling, flailing wildly if truth be told) to transmit the truth of the covenant of grace to them, The Father is using my own mouth to speak truth to me. What a blessing. I’ll take any and all of them. Even the butterscotch ones. :)

Filed under faith

Reading Party!

Nathan has been reading for quite some time now but this week, we had a major milestone. Until now, if he has seen chapter books he has automatically assumed that they were too hard for him to read. (He was reading 8 or more smaller books a day during our reading time instead of reading a book that had chapters. Don’t you love the way their brains work!?)

We were at the library not long ago and he picked up a book called The Ball Hogs (Kickers, No.1) about a little soccer team. It had 11 chapters. He brought it home and started reading and as he realized that he was READING A CHAPTER BOOK, the excitement began to build. He would come and inform me every time he completed a chapter and let me know what had happened and what he thought was going to happen next.

So, when I heard the book clap shut early on Thursday morning, I knew what that sound meant. It was followed by little footsteps running up the steps. “I finished it! I finished my chapter book!”

Hugs and High 5′s and pictures came next. The sisters were excited and little brother knew that something good had happened.

That night before we went to bed, Bruce and I decided that we should have a special breakfast in Nathan’s honor.

I set the table with the special plates and put a book on each plate. The kids got new bookmarks and I had just purchased some things at the parent teacher store to use for school so we decided we’d give them as presents.

The next morning, Nathan read from “The Greatest Story ” during our family worship time and we talked about how it’s such a privilege to know how to read because now he can read God’s Word.

After they had opened their presents (multiplication, subtraction and reading games for Abby, Nathan and Sarah respectively) Nathan came up and gave me a hug and said “THIS IS JUST LIKE CHRISTMAS!”

They played games for an hour (and yes, I count that as school!) and Nathan picked up the second book in the series and began reading it.

What a sweet morning it was.

I’m so very thankful that as homeschoolers, we have the flexibility to do life in this way.

Filed under homeschool, homeschooling sense, nathannarratives

We are so low tech!

Several years ago, we felt compelled to unplug a bit from all of the available distractions. Because we homeschool, it can be challenging to keep the TV and computer from becoming a distraction.

When we moved, we made the decision to NOT bring our big mammoth TV with us. My sweet brother had given it to us several years back when he had found out that the TV we had only had audio on certain channels. It was a blessing but it weighed a gazillion pounds and we just decided not to lug it with us. Plus, we had no where to PUT it!

So, here at the new (old!) house, we just have this little tv with a VCR built in. And not long ago I found an old-school style video game at a garage sale that you plug into the TV and play PAC MAN!

I’m not opposed to video games per se but for us, it’s just better not to have them here so as to not become a distraction from school. This little gadget comes out as a reward for things like finishing a workbook or getting 100% on a spelling test.

And my kids think it’s the greatest thing EVAH.

Filed under general clarkness