Dear Ms. B. Begins

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I have homeschooled my kids since birth. When I became pregnant with my first child in 1992, I was teaching at an inner city middle school in San Diego. My husband and I were part of a small Vineyard church at the time, and three of the families homeschooled. We were so impressed with their family lifestyles and the behavior of their kids that we both agreed we wanted to homeschool our own children.

Even through a horrible divorce eight years later, the Lord granted my heart’s desire and made it possible for me to continue homeschooling by developing the Writing Foundations program. I have been able to schedule Writing Foundations classes in a way that gave me time to work one-on-one with my own kids. While I taught other kids to write, my kids enjoyed dates with friends at the elementary level and took co-op classes at the high school level. Now, I have only one tenth grader who is still homeschooling. My oldest is a senior at a local music college finishing his degree in Production and Engineering. My middle child has graduated from high school and has come to work with me full time at Writing Foundations.

The years have passed so quickly! It astounds me to look back and think, “WOW! I did it! We’re making it!” The journey has been difficult at times and wonderful overall, and I could not have done it without the Lord every step of the way. Like every homeschooling veteran, and like some dedicated, life-long teachers out there, I have learned more than I ever imagined in twenty-four years.

Within the last few months it seems, I’ve been receiving email inquiries from parents with questions about how to help their students through different writing challenges. While I certainly don’t know it all, I have gained a bit of wisdom and knowledge about how children learn and think, especially when it comes to writing. It dawned on me the other day that these responses would make great blog posts.

Therefore, let this be an introduction to what lies ahead. Gradually, I will be posting my responses to questions that parents have sent me about how to best help their child with writing. I hope any readers out there will find them helpful.

The IMPACT Epidemic

The use of the word IMPACT is so common these days that few people know that they are using it wrong most of the time. Bloggers, tweeters, media reporters, as well as students, are using the word IMPACT for everything from worldwide political and social issues to describing the effect of a hang nail. This simplified and incorrect use of IMPACT is actually a weak and ineffective way of communicating. The English language is powerful, and using this one word for a wide range of circumstances actually undermines our communication efforts.

How did this happen?

The overuse of the word IMPACT has most likely arisen due to doubt or confusion about how to use the words affect (verb) and effect (noun) because of the pesky, rarely used, and minor form of effect as a verb, which literally means “to bring about or put into effect”.

For example: She effected change in the workplace.

Honestly, who actually says anything like that EVER? This usage is so uncommon that we need not even worry about it. Therefore, one way to strengthen your speech and writing is to scratch that worry off your list and confidently put affect (verb) and effect (noun) back to work again.

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It’s Portfolio Time!

It is Portfolio Time at Writing Foundations again. During spring semester each year, students polish up a collection of their best assignments and write reflections on what they learned from each assignment and how they have seen their skills grow. They open their portfolios with an introduction page that shares a bit about their experience in Writing Foundations. A few students have enthusiastically offered to share their introductions with the world. Enjoy! :D

From Colin, a Level One student:

Writing Foundations I is an intriguing and challenging class that has helped me become a skilled writer. Before I took this class, any paper or essay I wrote was dull and boring. Even my handwriting was intolerable, but after writing a few papers in Writing Foundations, my handwriting improved immensely. I have also learned that there are more than just essays and fables. Writing Foundations I has taught me how to write papers in steps versus just writing the rough draft and then typing it up. I now write all my papers in steps even outside of this class. Writing in steps helps the author stay concentrated on the information he/she needs. In this class I also learned about different types of speech. For example, I didn’t even know alliteration existed! After taking Writing Foundations I, I have found that I have grown in my knowledge of writing significantly.

From Savanna, a Level One student:

Writing Foundations is an auspicious home education cooperative class that helps students like me skyrocket in my vocabulary knowledge and writing style. During my two years of classes with our beloved and humorous teacher, Ms. B., my confidence and ability in writing and ALL forms of communicating has improved infinitely. For example, I have been able to speak more fluently while using an enormous quantity of intriguing words; I have grasped the power of greater vocabulary in writing; and I have grown to be more comfortable with multitudinous forms of writing such as summaries, fables, and storytelling (FTBs). I always look forward to Ms. B’s intense and suspenseful games, such as the great and well-known “dice game”. Writing Foundations classes may be frustrating at times, but in the long run they might very well be the most valuable classes of my lifetime. Ms. B. is truly talented and has, thankfully, followed a path where she not only uses her God-given talents to the best of her ability, but she also commendably shares her talents with others. Ms. B and Writing Foundations are gifts from God!

From Simeon, a Level One student:

Writing Foundations writing classes are the most outstanding and scintillating classes that have taught me innumerable writing techniques. This year in Ms. B’s Writing Foundations class, I completed summaries of stories, personal storytelling (FTBs), fables, and grammar error searches (Gwups). Aside from our multitudinous writing assignments, in class my classmates and I played games including “The Dice Game” where we had fierce war-like competitions for invaluable awards of monkey stickers. In addition to our weekly writing assignments each week, we completed “Wow Word” definitions and survived brutal, hamster-brain killing quizzes. We also kept a journal each week to exercise our word muscles. Our class is known for our eruptive and contentious team tournaments. Laughter abounds! My favorite aspect of Writing Foundations is the feeling of success and accomplishment I gain each week. I am satisfied to know my capabilities continue to grow. I am enormously thankful for Ms. B and her talents for writing and teaching. I know her classes, the knowledge I have gained, and the memories I have made will accompany me for the rest of my life.

How we roll around here…

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This little snippet (click the image to enlarge and clarify) shows how we edit and score papers for webinar and online Independent Study students using iAnnotate on the iPad. We do the same for local co-op students, only those assignments are done on paper with fabulous pens from JetPens.com.

This paper, from a Level 2 webinar class, was a 1-paragraph summary from an outside source about Emperor Justinian. You can see that the lesson included work with bibliographies and parenthetical references. The student included the bibliography entry below the paragraph, not shown in this picture. The student color-coded the required techniques from earlier lessons, which we made sure were used correctly. The editing codes refer to a grammar guide that explains the details behind every edit so the student can revise the paper correctly. The red box that falls off the right side of the page (with the 3) takes the student to a comment that gives suggestions for fixing that confusing sentence. The yellow shape at the bottom is part of a “thumbs up” stamp with a positive comment typed near it. We send such a draft back to the student who revises and submits one more time for a final score on the paper. When it comes to taking the mystery and misery out of learning to write, this is how we roll here at Writing Foundations!

Thought for the Day

If you have a child who is PASSIONATE about an activity or skill that would fall nicely under an academic heading such as foreign language or science, etc…

FEED THAT PASSION, but…

DO NOT EVER TELL him that it is part of his school work!

Keep clandestine records of her activity if you must, but NEVER let her know you are counting it as “school”. The minute you do, the revelation will act like a nasty, sharp, pointy pin of drudgery that will perniciously pop your student’s bubble of desire.

Resist the urge to take the reigns in the name of “homeschooling”. Rather, sit back and savor the ride as true growth and education blossom before your eyes.

Journeys of Faithfulness Review

Devotional books for teen girls are plentiful in book stores across the country – a blessing that many folks appreciate more and more in today’s world. However, finding just the right book that clicks with your teen can be a challenge. The angle, the language, the author’s voice, the theology, and other elements play an essential part in the appeal and effectiveness of such books. Some devotionals come across as too juvenile, irrelevant, or preachy. It is a double gift to find one that stikes the cords of your teen’s heart.

Apologia Educational Ministries publishes Journeys of Faithfulness by Sarah Clarkson. As I’ve said before, this household has never met an Apologia product they haven’t liked, and Journey’s of Faithfulness is rapidly becoming a lifelong treasure in my two teen girls’ lives. It is a devotional chapter book written for teen girls ages 12 and up.

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Bibliographies Gone Wild! Free Download!

The weblings and I created a new version of a bibliography game tonight. We’re on week 8 of the webinar classes and in the middle of writing summaries from a single source.


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Crossbow Reading Rulers Review

When it comes to textbooks, keeping your place while reading and staying focused and alert can be a challenge for students of all ages. Whether a student struggles with significant visual or reading issues or not, eye strain when consuming information in any subject is a common problem.

Crossbow Education specializes in tools that address reading issues for anyone, and especially for those who struggle with dyslexia or other special needs. As part of the Old SchoolHouse Review Crew, I received a set of 10 colored Eye Level Reading Rulers that NerdGirl and I took for a month-long test drive.

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Box of I.D.E.As. Review

Did you know that the Great Wall of China was paid for by salt?

Neither did we until we had the opportunity to explore the Box of I.D.E.As. unit on salt. The Great Wall of China module and the Salt March module were just two of the fascinating activities that we enjoyed as we worked our way through this treasure chest of ideas.

A physical box product from Box of I.D.E.As. is a unit study-like package that contains 10 or more zip-locked bags (modules) that focus on one unique, particular topic such as Salt, The Number 11, WWII, Quilting, or Laundry, and there are many more to come!

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A Cry From Egypt Review

“Up until 3-ish reading A Cry in Egypt! Do not wake UP!” That pretty much says it all for this review. You can read the rest if you like, or you could save time and go buy the book right now.

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