Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Seeing Sentence Patterns

To continue exploring the links between grammar and reading, I'm putting together a challenge this week. In CC, we do a lot of memory work, and it's fun to test how much you are learning along with your students. So often, too, we read without noticing the grammar on which the books we read are built.

Next week, one of my posts will contain all seven basic sentence patterns that we study in Essentials. See if you can identify examples of all seven!

Of course, before we practice identifying and processing ideas in other contexts (dialectic), it's important to review what those big ideas are (grammar). So, here are the seven* simple sentence patterns (declarative purpose) that we work on in Essentials, with samples taken from the book of John:

1. S-Vi (subject + intransitive verb)
Example: Jesus wept.
Sample: "The light shines in the darkness" (1:5).

2. S-Vt-DO (subject + transitive verb + direct object)
Example: Jesus loves me.
Sample: "...and the darkness has not overcome it" (1:5).

3. S-Vl-PN (subject + linking verb + predicate nominative)
Example: Jesus is God.
Sample: "...and the Word was God" (1:1).

4. S-Vl-PA (subject + linking verb + predicate adjective)
Example: Jesus is holy.
Sample: "And the Word became flesh" (1:14).

5. S-Vt-IO-DO (subject + transitive verb + indirect object + direct object)
Example: Jesus made me a crown.
Sample: "The woman said to him, 'Sir,[you] give me this water'"(4:15).

6. S-Vt-DO-OCN (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement noun)
Example: Jesus made me a saint.
Sample: "...he was even calling God his own Father"(5:18).

7. S-Vt-DO-OCA (subject + transitive verb + direct object + object complement adjective)
Example: Jesus made me holy.
Sample: "...he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God"(5:18).

This week, as you study with your family, make a point of noticing the variety of sentence patterns in what you read. Check back in next week to try your hand at the challenge!


*Some people list only five patterns, because they group 3 and 4 together as S-Vt-SC (subject complement) and 6 and 7 as S-Vt-DO-OC (object complement).

Friday, August 27, 2010


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reading Road Signs

For a generation of children (and parents) used to a steady stream of images, captions, subtitles, and sound bytes, one of the most intimidating sights--as the satiric newspaper The Onion recently pointed out--can be a large, unbroken block of text.

In that panic, it's easy to overlook the written clues that help you navigate a document.

Take a look at these excerpts from the opening of George Whitefield's sermon, "The Method of Grace."

We are all desirous of peace; peace is an unspeakable blessing; how can we live without peace? And, therefore, people from time to time must be taught how far they must go, and what must be wrought in them, before they can speak peace to their hearts. This is what I design at present, that I may deliver my soul, that I may be free from the blood of those to whom I preach -- that I may not fail to declare the whole counsel of God. I shall, from the words of the text, endeavor to show you what you must undergo, and what must be wrought in you before you can speak peace to your hearts.

But before I come directly to this, give me leave to premise a caution or two. And the first is, that I take it for granted you believe religion to be an inward thing; you believe it to be a work in the heart, a work wrought in the soul by the power of the Spirit of God. If you do not believe this, you do not believe your Bibles. If you do not believe this, though you have got your Bibles in your hand, you hate the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart; for religion is everywhere represented in Scripture as the work of God in the heart. "The kingdom of God is within us," says our Lord; and, "He is not a Christian who is one outwardly; but he is a Christian who is one inwardly." If any of you place religion in outward things, I shall not perhaps please you this morning; you will understand me no more when I speak of the work of God upon a poor sinner"s heart, than if I were talking in an unknown tongue. I would further premise a caution, that I would by no means confine God to one way of acting. I would by no means say, that all persons, before they come to have a settled peace in their hearts, are obliged to undergo the same degrees of conviction. No; God has various ways of bringing his children home; his sacred Spirit bloweth when, and where, and how it listeth. But, however, I will venture to affirm this, that before ever you can speak peace to your heart, whether by shorter or longer continuance of your convictions, whether in a more pungent or in a more gentle way, you must undergo what I shall hereafter lay down in the following discourse.

Whew! Imagine reading that in one breath!

But look again. First, subjects and verbs:

We are all desirous of peace; peace is an unspeakable blessing; how can we live without peace? And, therefore, people from time to time must be taught how far they must go, and what must be wrought in them, before they can speak peace to their hearts. This is what I design at present, that I may deliver my soul, that I may be free from the blood of those to whom I preach -- that I may not fail to declare the whole counsel of God. I shall, from the words of the text, endeavor to show you what you must undergo, and what must be wrought in you before you can speak peace to your hearts.

Now look again. See how Whitefield uses conjunctions as transition words? They tell you about the relationship between what he's just finished saying and what he's about to say. For example, the first sentence of the second paragraph says,

But before I come directly to this, give me leave to premise a caution or two. And the first is...

That opening phrase tells you, "he's getting ready to take a side trip, so keep in mind that he's moving away from his main argument."

Next you notice the numbers: he's going to give you a list of "a caution or two." When you see an ordinal (indicating position) number like "first" you can mentally start creating a list:

1) ...that I take it for granted you believe religion to be an inward thing."

Words like "further," "next," and "second" help you continue making your list. See?

I would further premise a caution, that I would by no means confine God to one way of acting.

Remember, this is a side point he's making. Look for the key words that tell you he's going back to the big idea.

But, however, I will venture to affirm this...you must undergo what I shall hereafter lay down in the following discourse.

This tells you that a big idea is coming up, and he's about to change direction. Get ready!

Now it's your turn. What other verbal clues help you navigate this kind of text?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Heritage hosts Core conversation

Last Thursday, I got to talk to Becky Norton Dunlop and a group of like-minded folks at the Heritage Foundation about my new book, The Core. Here's how they described the book:

In the past, correct spelling, the multiplication tables, the names of the state capitals and the American Presidents were basics that all children were taught in school. Today, many children graduate without this essential knowledge.

Leigh Bortins, a leading figure in the homeschooling community, is having none of it.

In The Core, Bortins gives parents the tools and methodology to implement a rigorous, thorough, and broad curriculum based on the classical model.

Now you can watch the video of our conversation here:


(Or click here to watch the video on their website.)

Friday, August 20, 2010


To celebrate the start of CC programs around the nation, today's "News" is all about CC families and their hard work.
Did I miss one? Email or leave a comment with your link to recent articles or blog posts about CC!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tax Free in TX and CT

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

It's here! Tax Free Week(end)s for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Texas or Connecticut, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 20 (Friday) to August 22 (Sunday)

In Texas: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100, including backpacks under $100 (for elementary/secondary school) and layaway items.

Still going on through August 21 (Saturday),

In Connecticut: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $300.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sleuthing your way to better reading

Sometimes becoming a better reader is as simple (and as challenging) as becoming a grammar sleuth and hunting for subjects and verbs.

Take a look at these notoriously difficult first sentences:

In dealing with the State we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born; that they are not superior to the citizen; that every one of them was once the act of a single man; every law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a particular case; that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good, we may make better. (Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Politics.")

From a little after two weeks oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that-a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them. (William Faulkner, Absalom, Absalom!)

...and one of my favorites, which you may have heard me use as an example in this summer's Parent Practicums:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Whew! Is the sweat popping out on your forehead yet?

Although some writers, like Faulkner, may use incorrect grammar as a stylistic technique, subjects and verbs are still the key to breaking their sentences into manageable chunks.

Look again.

In dealing with the State we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born; that they are not superior to the citizen; that every one of them was once the act of a single man; every law and usage was a man's expedient to meet a particular case; that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good, we may make better.

From a little after two weeks oclock until almost sundown of the long still hot weary dead September afternoon they sat in what Miss Coldfield still called the office because her father had called it that-a dim hot airless room with the blinds all closed and fastened for forty-three summers because when she was a girl someone had believed that light and moving air carried heat and that dark was always cooler, and which (as the sun shone fuller and fuller on that side of the house) became latticed with yellow slashes full of dust motes which Quentin thought of as being flecks of the dead old dried paint itself blown inward from the scaling blinds as wind might have blown them.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

From there, you're poised to pick out other features of the sentence--conjunctions, modifiers, and so on--but none of those pieces can stand alone without the core of the sentence: Subject | Verb.

I | Am.

Remember?

Now for a fun challenge: do you and your family like to diagram sentences? Send a digital image of your favorite diagram to 1SmartMama@gmail.com, and I'll post it on my blog! It can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Or, suggest a sentence you would like to see in a diagram, and we can work on it together.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Tax Free in CT

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

It's here! Tax Free Week(end)s for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Connecticut, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 15 (Sunday) to August 21 (Saturday),

In Connecticut: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $300.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tax Free in FL

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

It's here! Tax Free Weekends for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Florida, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

In Florida: August 13 (Friday) to August 15 (Sunday), shop sales tax free on clothing, shoes, and books under $50, and school supplies under $10.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tax Free in MD

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

It's here! Tax Free Week(end)s for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Maryland, keep shopping and saving this week.

Here's the scoop:

In Maryland: August 8 (Sunday) to August 14 (Saturday), shop sales tax free - see this government bulletin (PDF) for details.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Getting Back to Celebrating

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once wrote, "What we want is to see the child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child."

Sometimes the phrase 'Back-to-School' has something of a funereal ring to it.

But if we treat our designated 180-day learning period as something to be endured rather than a necessary part of living and loving life, is it any wonder that students find learning boring and purposeless?

This year, I want to challenge you to think about the "school year" in terms of a celebration of knowing God and making Him known. Let's get excited about delving into the mysteries of the universe, the beautiful order of mathematics, the great stories of history, the power and insight of literature, and the expressiveness of art with our children.

Let's share the laughter, mishaps, and triumphs as we work to gain knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as whole families restoring the lost tools of learning together.

Let's revel in the opportunity to draw closer together and share in the glory of searching things out. Remember, "It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out" (Prov. 25:2).

Now does that sound like the cause for gloom and doom?

What are you excited about this school year? What are you looking forward to learning yourself? What are you looking forward to teaching your children? What challenges are you ready to overcome?

You (and your smart families) can do it!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tax Free in 9 States

SALES TAX HOLIDAYS

It's here! Tax Free Weekends for Back-to-School shopping 2010. If you live in or near Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, or Maryland, get ready to start shopping and saving.

Here's the scoop:

August 6 - August 7 (Friday and Saturday)

In Iowa
: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100.

August 6 - August 8 (Friday - Sunday)

In Missouri: Shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, school supplies under $50, computer software under $300, and computers under $3500.

In New Mexico
: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100, school supplies under $15, computer supplies under $500, and computers under $1000.

In North Carolina: Shop sales tax free on clothing, shoes, and school supplies under $100, sports equipment under $50, computer supplies under $250, and computers under $3500.

In Oklahoma
: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100.

In South Carolina: Shop sales tax free on clothing, accessories, footwear, school supplies, computers, and computer equipment.

In Tennessee: Shop sales tax free on clothing under $100, school supplies under $100, and computers under $1500.

In Virginia: Shop sales tax free on clothing and shoes under $100 and school supplies under $20.

August 8 - August 14 (Sunday - Saturday)

In Maryland: Shop sales tax free - see this government bulletin (PDF) for details.

Stay tuned to 1 Smart Mama for other upcoming tax free weekends between now and the end of August. Happy shopping!