My grammar ain’t what I thought it was – and how I’m fixing it.

March 22, 2012

Raise your hand if you learned how to spell using a spell checker?  Yep, that’s the quickest way the kids and I have tidied up our spelling.  Let’s face it, if the words are important to you because it’s your own writing (and you don’t want your friends on Facebook to laugh at you), you pay more attention to the spelling.

Today, I’ve been doing the same with grammar and have already learned a few new things.

I was offered a trial of Grammarly, a new internet grammar checker if I would try it out and write a review to let you know what I thought of it.

I figured I could certainly use some grammar help while teaching the kids, and I had just been wondering how to find an editor for the fantasy novel I just finished (after way too number of years).

So, I gave it a whirl.

First, I chose to check the first few pages of my novel that had already passed Microsoft Word’s grammar check.

I was excited to see a score of 85/100, and I didn’t have any of the embarrassing your/you’re, there/their, and its/it’s mistakes.

However, there were certainly some problems.

See if you can catch this grammar mistake:

  • I guess I should be checking my grammar like my English teacher told me.

I didn’t.  Apparently, if there is a verb in the clause after “like”, you should actually use “as”.

  • I guess I should be checking my grammar AS my English teacher told me.

I’m impressed with the catch.  The Grammarly pop-up window not only identified the problem, it also gave a detailed explanation of the grammar rule along with examples.  So, I was learning as I went.

Some other appropriate corrections:

  • Apparently when I write I use long run-on sentences that could use a comma after the beginning clause – like “Apparently when I write,
  • A few run-on sentences that benefited from removing the “and” separating them and writing them as two sentences. (I knew that one at least)
  • Alternate suggestions for common words like “nice” and “definitely”.  Who knew they were very overused?
  • Removing a couple unnecessary commas – I can’t win.

Some mistakes by Grammarly:

  • Said I should use “were” instead of “was” because my subject was plural”  “… a maidservant clad in wealthy hand-me-downs who was wrestling her water cask into position.”  The subject was incorrectly identified as “hand-me-downs” instead of “maidservant”.
  • The plagiarism checker matched a few short phrases with some blog and internet sites.  I don’t consider “… hit him like a brick in the face,” plagiarizing even if its found word for word on another website.  However, I can see the suggested referencing tips coming in pretty handy.
  • Tried a couple of times to add a “to be” verb when reflexive pronouns were used, like “himself”, saying that the sentence was missing a verb.

Pros:

  • Offers both a short and long explanation of suggested corrections.
  • Offers a synonym detector that highlights words in red and gives you suggested synonyms.  Nice for adding some variety and depth to your writing.
  • Beats the pants off of Word’s grammar checker. which often give the unhelpful: “sentence fragment, consider revising”.
  • The highlighting is done intuitively, so you can easily see the issues and suggested corrections.
  • You can print or download a report of your results.
  • Offers a downloadable add-on to use within Word and Outlook.
  • Big time-saver for editing, polishing, and identifying trouble areas in your writing.

Cons:

  • It’s not free.  🙁  But, it is rather reasonably priced at about $8/month if you pay for a full year.
  • It does take a bit of time to process, especially larger documents.  Not a big deal.  You just need to plan for it.
  • Makes occasional mistakes, but much cheaper than a professional editor.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to having help polishing my manuscript and helping the kids do the same for their writing.

Thanks Grammarly!

Posted under Language Art Websites

SmartHistory – Is the Collosseum a giant kitty litter box?

February 13, 2012

Have you ever thought of the Collosseum being compared to a giant kitty litter box?

Well, that’s just what one of the SmartHistory historians does as she explains how the sandy arena in the Collosseum worked in Roman times:

“…imagine the colloseum as a gigantic donut.  You have the inside, that’s the arena.  Arena, originally in latin meant sand.  On the floor where gladiators were fighting, they used sand to absorb blood and body fluids, you know like a gigantic cat litter, if you think about it.”

A bit gory, I know, but right up the alley of my Percy Jackson-loving boys.

SmARTHistory (now merged with one of our favorites: KhanAcademy) really gets students engaged in learning art history.

One thing I really enjoyed is how the site gets historians together and has them talking excitedly about their favorite areas of expertise, with videos, rotating models, images, etc., to demonstrate their points.

Some great parts of the SmartHistory website:

  • A rich, multimedia, art history course offered for free.
  • Learn by Artist – Like this page on Leonardo Da Vinci
  • Also study by ‘Time Period‘ or a specific ‘Style‘ of art.
  • Many themed articles about art history from the Introduction to Art History, to overviews of time periods, and explanations of art media.
  • Great unit-study resource.
  • Much of the content offered as free SmartHistory Podcasts you can take with you, listen on the road, or even while you’re in a museum looking at the artwork itself.
  • They are publishing some nice travel apps like Rome: A First Look ($2.99) and Rome: A Closer Look ($4.99) that will walk you through Rome’s historical sites as you travel and visit them.

How do you teach art in your homeschool day?  I’d love to hear ideas and suggestions.  Take a moment to make a comment, if you would.

Enjoy!

Posted under Art Websites

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a little sign language . . .

January 25, 2012

Check out this rich online resource called A.S.L.U., a free sign language website that offers lessons, videos, tests, quizzes, and everything you need to educate yourself to communicate with deaf friends and family.

I recently started working closely with a deaf woman in our church and really wanted to be able to communicate better with her.  I was pretty excited to find this site because the lessons were well organized and started out with valuable conversation tools I could use right away instead of just vocabulary lists.  I was frustrated with other resources that would teach me a bunch of words, but not how to ‘chat’ with my new friend.

It’s basically a full high school or college ASL curriculum offered online for free.  Take a few moments a day to do a lesson or encourage your children to.  It’s lots of fun, keeps the mind agile, and can help bridge a communication barrier in all kinds of situations.

Enjoy!

Posted under Foreign Language Websites

Quizlet is an amazing Flashcard Resource for learning almost anything

January 12, 2012

Have you ever sat with your child helping them learn history facts, Spanish words, multiplication facts, or any of the myriad of facts they learn throughout their school years?

Next time, head over to this great website that has done most of the work for you already:

Quizlet.com

What we like:

  • It’s free, funded by ad revenues.  (You can upgrade to ad-free and ability to load images onto flashcards for an optional $15/yr)
  • It’s well-established, so almost any facts you’re looking to study will probably already have a set of flashcards entered for you by previous users – over 8 million sets!
  • A well designed dashboard showing all your flashcards, recently studied, statistics, etc.
  • Many learning methods including spoken flashcards for foreign languages.
  • Games to increase speed and fun with learning.
  • Groups – If you are learning in a group, you can get together, share flashcard decks, keep in touch and help each other.
  • Printable – A new feature allows you to print your flashcards if you need to take them with you.
  • Built from scratch by a high school sophomore into a thriving business.  Read his story here.

What a great resource!  Enjoy.

Posted under Homeschool Websites

If you’ve been thinking about setting up your own website – 40% off Today Only

July 4, 2011

For the 4th of July – Today Only there is 40% off of Host Gator web hosting plans!

I thought this might help some of you out, since I’ve had a few readers ask about setting up their own websites and how I do it.

I’ve been using Host Gator to run my websites for the last 3 years and was looking to renew, since they’ve worked out pretty well for me.  I really liked being able to install the WordPress software with one click.  They also have lots of ready made templates, free shopping cart software, live chat around the clock, and lots of other things that I’ve found helpful.

They often have a 20% off deal running, but I got an email that for the 4th of July only they are offering 40% off.  On the 3-year plan, which usually runs about $280, that’s $114 off – so about $4.75 a month to host an unlimited number of websites.  If you only have one website, it’s even cheaper.

Enjoy!

Posted under Homeschool Websites

Great Homeschool Printable Websites

April 6, 2011

I’ve been browsing other homeschool blogs this week and enjoying myself.  Here’s a good one:

Check out the The Faithful Homeschool and her post about a couple of fun printable websites with screenshots and pics of her kids doing the projects:

  • Sen Teacher – Lots of math, literacy, and other free printables with some cool prism cut-outs we’ll be doing for math soon.
  • Classroom Jr. – Printable worksheets, lesson plans, and fun ideas for school subjects.

Enjoy!

Posted under Homeschool Websites

Free High School Math and everything else you ever wanted to learn

January 19, 2011

I was looking online for some ideas to teach Algebra.  I stumbled on these great videos all done by a man named Salman Kahn.  In each video, he picks one concept and then walks the viewer through it step-by-step.

It turns out that Salman Kahn had a younger cousin who needed a bit of long distance math tutoring.  From that small start, he has created the Khan Academy with thousands of YouTube videos explaining math concepts plus a myriad of other topics in short 10 – 20 minute chunks.

Read the inspirational story of Salman Kahn (under the FAQ tab), the man behind all the educational videos.  His ambition is to provide a world-class university level education to the world for free.   Khan Academy provides lectures similar to online universities from some of the best colleges out there.  His work is really a great contribution of knowledge to everyone in the world.

On his home page, he has over 70 video explaining the Algebra I concepts in an organized list.  Directly below it are another 180 videos working Algebra I problems with step-by-step explanations.

It’s an entire video Algebra I curriculum, entirely free!  If you explore the tabs and rest of the page, you’ll find videos on tons of other topics as well.

After my son finishes his Math 7 curriculum in the next month or so, he’s planning on working his way through the Algebra I videos.  We’ll post an update about how it goes.

Has anyone else used the Kahn Academy videos?  How did they work for you and which ones did you like the best?

Enjoy!

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Where to find Free Ebooks – Guest Post

December 11, 2010

(Thank you to Alisa Gilbert for this guest post on a few places to find free Ebooks!)

Places Homeschool Moms Can Find Free eBooks

Some of my favorite tech gadgets of late are eReaders whether it be a Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader or even the super-cool iPad, which serves as an eReader among other purposes. Avid readers can carry around one of these lightweight contraptions capable of holding hundreds of eBooks instead of lugging around tons of books or filling their already overflowing shelves. I also happen to think eReaders are a great tool for a homeschooling mom.

These eReaders can be quite the investment (particularly if you opt for the iPad), so it’s nice to have a few web resources up your sleeve where you can download free eBooks.

    1. Probably one of the best-known resources for free eBooks is Project Gutenberg. The site allows you to search by author or title, and is chock full of excellent classic literature to supplement an at-home English or literature class. The site only offers books with expired copyrights; many of the titles were written by authors who have passed away, so no one’s losing money as a result of you using this site.Of the 33,000 titles you can download here, many are classics you likely have built into your curriculum, such as A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol (perfect for the holidays!) by Charles Dickens, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. For older students, there are more complex works, like Moby Dick, Metamorphosis and War and Peace. You can also find fiction works here other than the classics.

  • You can also do an advanced book search on the newly launched Google Books and download numerous titles in the public domain. All you do is mark that you are searching for titles that are “full view only” and your searches will bring up books that are available for download in their entirety. I found Great Expectations and The Jungle Book here in a casual search.

  • Sony’s eBook store is also a good place to find free eBooks in the public domain.

  • Another good site is Free E-Book, where in my most recent searches I found books like The Red Badge of Courage, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Call of the Wild all available for free download.

  • Barnes & Noble also has some titles available for free if you happen to have the Nook. Take a look at the free Nook Books available. You may want to be careful though. A lot of them are harlequin romance novels that probably won’t give your child the right kind of education! There are some useful titles, though, like The Scarlet Letter and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Enjoy!

By-line:

This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree.

Places Homeschool Moms Can Find Free eBooks

Some of my favorite tech gadgets of late are eReaders whether it be a Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader or even the super-cool iPad, which serves as an eReader among other purposes. Avid readers can carry around one of these lightweight contraptions capable of holding hundreds of eBooks instead of lugging around tons of books or filling their already overflowing shelves. I also happen to think eReaders are a great tool for a homeschooling mom.

These eReaders can be quite the investment (particularly if you opt for the iPad), so it’s nice to have a few web resources up your sleeve where you can download free eBooks.

Probably one of the best-known resources for free eBooks is Project Gutenberg. The site allows you to search by author or title, and is chock full of excellent classic literature to supplement an at-home English or literature class. The site only offers books with expired copyrights; many of the titles were written by authors who have passed away, so no one’s losing money as a result of you using this site.

Of the 33,000 titles you can download here, many are classics you likely have built into your curriculum, such as A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol (perfect for the holidays!) by Charles Dickens, Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. For older students, there are more complex works, like Moby Dick, Metamorphosis and War and Peace. You can also find fiction works here other than the classics.

You can also do an advanced book search on the newly launched Google Books and download numerous titles in the public domain. All you do is mark that you are searching for titles that are “full view only” and your searches will bring up books that are available for download in their entirety. I found Great Expectations and The Jungle Book here in a casual search. Sony’s eBook store is also a good place to find free eBooks in the public domain.

Another good site is Free E-Book, where in my most recent searches I found books like The Red Badge of Courage, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Call of the Wild all available for free download.

Barnes & Noble also has some titles available for free if you happen to have the Nook. Take a look at the free Nook Books available. You may want to be careful though. A lot of them are harlequin romance novels that probably won’t give your child the right kind of education! There are some useful titles, though, like The Scarlet Letter and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

By-line:

This guest post is contributed byAlisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics ofbachelors degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:alisagilbert599@gmail.com.

Posted under Reading Curriculum, Social Studies Websites

Fun and Easy Way to Learn All the Math Facts – Math Rider Review

November 8, 2010

I’m always looking for easy ways to get kids excited and learning their math tables.

Drilling math facts has got to be one of the more boring and arduous tasks of early math education.  It’s often as hard on the parents as the kids.

We just found something new to add to our math toolbox.  In return for an honest review, our family was offered a trial copy of a fun game called Math Rider.  My 9-year-old daughter sat down the first time and spent almost an hour jumping her horse, ‘Shadow’, over addition fact obstacles on the quest to save the princess.  She enjoyed the game so much, that the math practice was swallowed along with the ‘spoonful of sugar’ added by the game.  (See the end of the post for what the kids said about the game)

MathRider - A New Intelligent Math Game

Here is what we think:

The Math:

  • Drills all 4 sets of math facts from 1 – 12, starting with addition and progressing to subtraction, multiplication, and then division.
  • The game automatically figures out the speed to present the math and which questions to choose based on how the child is doing.  The faster they are answering, the faster the new questions come.  And they see the ones they have trouble with more often.  We found it to be very well adapted to the skill level of each child.
  • With easy, medium, advanced, and mastery levels for each type of math problems, the math facts are introduced in small chunks at a time, making them easier to learn.

The Game:

  • All my children can have their own accounts with different log-ins.
  • Controls are easy.  You only need to type in the numbers and hit enter for the horse, Shadow, to jump the obstacles.

  • The quest is broken up into ‘rides’ that last 30 questions, which is a nice chunk to keep interest without getting bored.  Then each ‘ride’ is plotted on a section of the map, so the player can see their progress in the quest.

  • The story is fun and there are rewards for each completed level that the player gets to keep in their home field.

The Feedback on how the math is going:

  • If you miss a problem, your horse Shadow stops, and the problem and the answer appear in big numbers on the screen while a voice recites the math fact.
  • After each ride, there is a row of bars for each problem attempted.  Green bars mean you answered the problem faster than previously.  Yellow is slightly slower and a red bar is a lot slower.  The kids can easily see how they’re doing visually.  Mouse over any bar to get details about the specific problem.

  • There is a statistics page showing all the facts currently being attempted with details about each.

  • A running score and percentage of mastery is kept.  Further visual feedback of your progress is given by how high your flag is on the flagpole
  • Prizes are earned for each level completed.

Cost

  • Current sale price is $37 with 30 day money back guarantee for any reason.

Cons:

  • The story line is the same for all four math operations, although the prizes do change.  My son was a little disappointed that the quest didn’t continue with a new storyline when he advanced to subtraction.
  • My oldest son is spoiled by state-of-the-art graphics and thought the drawn characters were a bit ‘kiddie’ looking.
  • There is some frustration at about the 85% mastery level where two of my kids seemed to get stuck, completing ride after ride, but not reaching mastery level.  I think this may resolve with a bit more practice typing numbers accurately.

What the kids think:

Review by Alex, 11-years-old

“I liked how he turned simple flash card problems into a computer game and made it with a medieval storyline.  I think it’s a fun way to do my math.  I like that it has all four types of problems, addition, subtraction, multiplication,and division.”

Review by Brooke, 9-years-old.

“I really love it.  It puts fun things in a game, but it’s really just math.  I like how it tells stories to you about math.”

Review by Chris, 7-years-old.

“I like it because it’s pretty easy and it’s kind of fun . . . and it’s easier than my other math :-)”

In summary, I found MathRider to be highly beneficial to my kids – mastering fundamental math is a key to all the math they will learn in the future.  If you have kids who are struggling with math or could use a boost in their abilities and/or confidence, then I recommend you give MathRider a try.  Here is the link once more:  Math Rider.

Posted under Math Curriculum, Math Websites

Vote in the Homeschool Blog Awards!

November 10, 2009

blog_award_button

You are the nicest readers!  Thank you for nominating me for the “Best Homeschool Mom Blog” and the “Best Eclectic” homeschooling blog.

The voting just started and won’t be up long, so if you have a minute and would like to vote for Homeschool Bytes . . .

It’s really easy:

  1. Click here –> The Homeschool Blog Awards
  2. Scroll down and click on “Best Homeschool Mom Award” and/or “Best Eclectic” blog.
  3. Find “Homeschool Bytes” on the list and click on it.
  4. Click the “Vote” Button

That’s it 🙂

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and expecially for your suggestions and comments.  I really enjoy hearing from you!

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Posted under Homeschool Websites