Cooking, Finances, Gardening, Home and Family, Homemaking, Organization, Parenting

Learning life’s grammar

(Just a note- this post is awfully close to a rant.)

I looked up the word “grammar” in the dictionary recently, and one of the definitions is the “basic or beginning principles of a subject.”  It is generally paired with language, but everything in life has a grammar to learn.  With that definition in mind, I started thinking about the following:

  • Life is based on eternal, unchanging rules. We will be happier when we serve, smile, and learn to love people.  There are absolutes.  Dishonesty is wrong.  End of story.  Giving of yourself brings blessings to you ten-fold.  Family is the basic unit of society and deserves the best we can give it.  God is good.  Talk to Him.  He will help!
  • Parenting is a challenge.  Your children are NOT simply blank slates to write on at your will. Take time and read about how children grow, and what is reasonable to expect.  Personalities differ.  Learn about them.  Everyone has their own set of gifts and challenges.  Go to those who seem to know what they are doing, and learn from them.  Being a parent is so much more fun when you aren’t trying to “reinvent the wheel” and you can relax a bit!
  • Learn how to get organized.  Read books.  Search online.  Talk with people.  Chaos is unnecessary and makes everything harder.  Things don’t have to be in cute, designer, matching containers where everything color-co-ordinates!  Just learn how to put things together, and have a system that makes sense to you.  When you learn the basics of how to organize your space, time, and resources, you can move through life more smoothly.
  • Everyone needs to learn how to cook.  Not just how to read a recipe (although that is a good thing too), but why what happens in the kitchen happens.  Most whole grains cook up similarly.  Which are exchangeable?  A white sauce, gravies, and many other pan sauces start with a roux. What about a “skeleton recipe” for muffins, bread, soups, or casseroles?  When you know the basics of what is involved, you can mix-and-match what you have to make something new.  Which foods can you freeze and want to eat again when they are thawed?  We won’t all be gourmet chefs but we can all learn how to feed ourselves and our families without poisoning someone, or depending on pre-made, processed food.
  • Cleaning can be much simpler and cheaper if you understand which cleaners can be used for multiple applications, and which cannot.  We use an all-purpose organic cleaner, vinegar, citrus, shampoo, baking/washing soda, and peppermint oil to clean.  Just a few things will leave my house looking great and smelling fresh.
  • You get one body in this life.  What are the basic rules of health and nutrition to keep it running smoothly?  How much sleep does your body need?  How are your eating habits?  Is exercise a foreign concept?  Health challenges come to everyone but we can choose to make the best of whatever comes our way.
  • Keep a budget.  Know the basic rules of finances and make them your friends.  We have to learn to live with them.  Remember: $3 income – $2 expenses= happiness; $5 income -$6 expenses= misery.
  • Growing your own food is a boon to your health and your budget…unless you buy all the newest gadgets, pay for premium seed in the tiny packets, and haven’t learned when, where, and how to put things in the ground.  You can grow your own starts but if you plant them outside too soon, you’ll need to grow your own starts twice.  Some plants don’t handle the cold well.  Others need to go in before the threat of frost is past.  Peas and spinach prefer cool weather, and will bolt or die off in the heat.  You don’t need the latest and greatest of everything to begin; just borrow a couple of books from the library, find out how things work best in your area, and start digging!
  • Don’t try to teach your children advanced skills without building a foundation.  If they don’t know their times tables, algebra will be frustrating!  In that same light, they need to learn how to compromise and problem-solve before you send them out into the workplace to get a job, or go to college.

There is so much “grammar” we never learned at school.  Today is a great day to start!

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Homeschooling

Nerds, unite! (Are you able to parse this interrogative sentence?)

I admit it.  I am a full-blown nerd.  I love Sherlock Holmes, BBC dramas, Jane Austen literature, math jokes, and satire on just about anything.  There are few things that get me as excited though as new, solid curriculum (unless it is sharing my curriculum find with other people.)  And I just spent a good portion of the last day or so with my new Shurley English Grammar and Composition books.  YEAH!  (My apologies to those of you who are already familiar with this resource.  I had never seen it before last week.)  I used ABEKA Grammar for my own teens and like it alright, but I am so excited about Shurley English.  (My daughter walked in as I was playing the jingles CD that comes with the kit and rolled her eyes at me.  I was just grinning.)  Why am I so excited?

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Shurley English is the first formal grammar program which I have found that is easily used with all three learning styles and teaches grammar through PARSING.  I was taught to parse sentences in Jr. High and find the process such fun. (Seriously.  I love it.  I’m a nerd, remember?)  This course has children parsing during their first year of grammar study through an easily memorized series of questions.   If your sentence read, “I ate chips with my lunch,”  you would parse it this way:

  1. Who ate lunch?  I did.  Subject- pronoun first person singular
  2. What did I do?  Ate. Verb- past tense.
  3. What did I eat? Chips. Direct object.
  4. When did I eat chips?  WITH my lunch.  Prepositional phrase.  With- preposition.  My- personal pronoun modifying lunch.  Lunch- object of the preposition.

…and so forth.  Using a series of understandable questions in order to identify modifiers and classify parts of speech enables the child to analyze through a logical process and learn to both read and write in a logical manner.  This program uses visual cues (for visual learners), jingles and oral questions (for auditory learners), and some rhythmic clapping (for kinesthetic learners).

I LOVE THIS!  I was taught to parse as a teen, but with out the questions or jingles.  We simply drew lots of lines and arrows, parentheses, and labeled as we went.  It was almost like learning to diagram in reverse.  And I loved it then.  This has me over the moon!

I’m such a nerd…

Homeschooling

Those pesky prepositions

I am a firm believer in utilizing a formal, rigorous course of study for grammar when your children have entered the analysis level of learning (see post on 02/27/2013).  One of the greatest rewards of studying grammar is the opportunity it provides the student to present themselves well as they head out into adulthood, and one of the most helpful things to remember from grammar study is a basic list of common prepositions.  Why?  Those who take the time to re-arrange both their spoken and written word to ensure no sentences end in a preposition have generally learned how to create a well-worded sentence.  It can take some practice but it is well-worth the time!

Here is a list of the most common English prepositions:

about
above
across
after
against
along
amid
among
around
as
at
before
behind
below
beneath
beside
besides
between
beyond
but
by
concerning
considering
despite
down
during
except
excepting
excluding
following
for
from
in
inside
into
like
near
of
off
on
onto
opposite
outside
over
past
regarding
save
since
than
through
to
toward
towards
under
underneath
unlike
until
up
upon
versus
via
with
within
without

To simplify the memorization process Yep, we memorized them!),  I divided the list into sets of 5-10 (depending on the child) and we worked on one set a week until the complete list was memorized.  After they were comfortable with the list, we would get into the newspaper or other media and look for sentences which needed to be re-written.  Often advertizements and signage are written as incomplete sentences.  That fact can initiate a fun conversation!  You will also find prepositions ending sentences in the scriptures.  That is due to a difference in syntax when translating.  Another fun conversation!  Often, the current vernacular and regional idioms end in prepositions.  (Where is the store at?  What are you looking for? etc.)  As your teens grow older, encourage them in developing a speech pattern which recognizes and correctly places prepositions.  It can be a great mental exercise for the entire family including the parents!

Having the ability to present themselves well on paper or in person gives your children a boost when they leave home.  It is a good habit to develop and is becoming a bit of a lost art.  Let’s revive it!

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Homeschooling

Grammar rant

Warning to my readers-this post is a bit of a rant.

What ever happened to grammar education?!  I realize not everyone had the opportunity to learn to love grammar in Mrs. Pettengill’s ninth-grade English class, but there are two common mistakes that I keep hearing lately that set my teeth on edge!

#1-The misuse of the words fewer and less.  Use fewer if you are talking about a finite, countable number.  “I have fewer cupcakes than I need.”  Save the word less for describing large amounts that are not easily counted.  “This has less information than I was hoping to find.”  We do not have “less books” or “less minutes”; you can have “fewer books” or “fewer minutes.”  You can also have less time than you expected; don’t we all?  I have less fuel in my car than I thought I did (but that is easily remedied).

#2-At what point did the word “why” become an acceptable substitute for “the reason I did this” or “because…”?  “Why I was late is….” or “why I did that…”.  AUGH!!!!  Really?!  Let’s develop our thoughts just a few steps further before we speak them.

I admit I have been called “the grammar police” by my children (and others).  I do have the tendency to grit my teeth when I hear blatant incorrect adverb modifications, or problematic preposition use.

The English language is a wondrous, evolving, and magical language.  Let’s learn to speak it with all the majesty it deserves!

Okay.  Rant ended.