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.


  • 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.


  • 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

Online Reading, Writing, Science Curriculum Free May 4th – 8th!

April 23, 2009


Looking for some online literacy and science curriculums?

Learning A-Z is having a free trial week in honor of Teacher Appreciation Day.  If you’re investigating literacy resources, this is a good time to check them out.

They offer the following:

  • Free all week long:  A collection of online books kids can choose, listen to, read along, or read on their own for $60/yr.  (Raz-Kids won Learning Magazine 2009 Teacher’s Choice Award for the Family)
  • Free on May 4th:  Reading A-Z: Everything you need to teach reading including phonics, leveled readers, lessons, worksheets, etc. for $85/yr.
  • Free on May 5th:  Science A-Z: A K-6 science curriculum with lessons, experiments, worksheets, etc. for $60/yr.
  • Free on May 6th:  Writing A-Z: Writing resources including research packets, mini-books, story cards, writing prompts, lessons, etc. for $30/yr.
  • Free on May 7th:  Vocabulary A-Z: After building your word list, a lesson generator will give you a week’s worth of lessons, activities, games, and a graphic organizer.  $30/yr.
  • Free on May 8th:  Reading-Tutors:  If you need tutor lesson plans, this site offers 450 complete tutoring packets with lesson plans, games, activities, etc. for $60/yr.

[tags]reading, writing, phonics, science, homeschool, printables, worksheets, lessons, learning, teachers, websites, review, free [tags]

Posted under Language Art Websites, Reading Curriculum, Science Curriculum, Writing Curriculum

Not Sure if a Book is Appropriate? Check The Literate Mother.

March 9, 2009


It’s a big milestone when your children finally start reading books on their own just for fun.  But, my son quickly followed in my footsteps and started checking out stacks of books to read.  So, how can I get some idea of what he’s reading and if there are topics I need to discuss with him or ask him to avoid reading?

Well these two awesome moms have put together reviews and ratings for lots of children and teen books on The Literate Mother website

They have personally read each book and given it a 0 to 5 rating for:

  1. language
  2. violence
  3. sexual content
  4. adult themes

They want to help parents and teacher be informed about book content so they can suggest, discourage, or be prepared to discuss reading material.  Thank you!

Posted under Books to Read, Language Art Websites

We only write on PAPER! . . . and other tips for Homeschool Handwriting Practice.

January 27, 2009

Writing is an everyday part of a young homeschooler’s life: 


  • Writing ‘I love you’ notes to Mom (or ‘I hate extremely dislike you’ on a bad day)


  • Drawing scribble landcapes as seen out the window. . . on the wall . . . in marker.
  • Adding emebelishments to older brother’s math workbook so it looks much prettier
  • Drawing a mustache . . . on my face . . . with marker (the cheap non-washable kind) . . . oh, and perfect circles . . . around my eyes.
  • Writing my name . . . in pen . . . all over my arms and legs.

You can see why I’m always on the look-out for APPROPRIATE writing exercises.

While searching for printables I found another very generous homeschooler:

I loved the comprehensive set of homeschool handwriting lessons she designed and offers free for personal use.  She includes a whole set of printable handwriting paper, along with 6 handwriting fonts she uses, so you can design your own worksheets.

Also on her website, she offers the following to homeschoolers:

Thank you!  And enjoy!

Would you like to get the latest from HomeschoolBytes without checking back every day? You can have posts delivered right to your inbox, or subscribe to my RSS feed! Thanks for stopping by!

Posted under General Homeschool Curriculum, Language Art Websites, Writing Curriculum

Save your money on expensive Handwriting Paper.

January 21, 2009


I admit, among the awesome curriculum and school material gathering dust on my storage shelves in the basement are a couple reams of handwriting paper – in all the various sizes for progressive ages of students.

Why is it gathering dust and turning that nice shade of yellow that old paper turns? Because it’s easier to use online tools and print exactly what I want.

Here is my favorite writing website called Handwriting Worksheets.  What’s great about this site, is you can type in any copy work you’d like, poetry, scripture verses, famous quotes, or names, and print a sheet with the text dotted on the first line, and then the following lines will print typical handwriting lines (top and bottom solid, center dotted) with a nice little dot to show where to start each letter.

Even better, you can choose between basic print, D’Nealian style, cursive, and large and medium styles.

Also, if you have a pre-writing child who needs help, check out this great blog review by Jolanthe of a program called Peterson Directed Handwriting.

Posted under Language Art Websites, Writing Curriculum

Phonics and Learning to Read – Part 3 –

October 24, 2008

This series wouldn’t be complete without at least one post on an awesome internet resource to help with phonics, so I’ll write about one of my favorites:

This site is amazing!  If you only check out one internet educational site, this is it.  I stumbled on Starfall a few years ago and have watched the site improve and grow with new features all the time.  Here is an explanation of the site for parents.

The first thing I really loved about Starfall was the founder’s story.  Although Stephen Schutz went on to earn his PhD, he struggled to read as a 9-year-old and was always at the bottom of his class in reading.  As an adult, he was inspired to give something back that would help other children who were struggling like he was as a child.  How cool is that?

What we like:

  • How interactive it all is.  The kids can click everywhere – on the letters to hear the sounds, on the characters to watch them do something funny, on the words to hear them read or sounded out, etc.  And it’s all very intuitive with big buttons even my 2-year-old can navigate.
  • It’s progressive, starting with beginning sound and letter skills and moving all the way through advanced reading skills.
  • My kids really enjoy the games, videos, and stories that go along with the early reading section.  It’s a fun way to reinforce early reading skills.
  • You can buy books and other educational supplies that parallel the online phonics stories for a very reasonable price.  But even better for the bargain hunters in the group, they offer some great printable PDF documents for FREE.  🙂  You can print cut-up take home books, printing practice sheets, reading/writing journals and more.
  • And my usual favorite, once again, it’s free 🙂

Do you have a favorite reading site online?  Please share it with us in the comment section.  Thanks!

Other Posts in this Series: 

Also, since this blog is still new, feel free to post links to articles and the website, or to email links and recommendations to friends.  The more readers the better!  Thanks!

Posted under Language Art Websites, Reading Curriculum

Want to Make Spelling Fun? Try

October 21, 2008

Have fun practicing your spelling words  

Practicing spelling lists can often be boring for kids, and we’re always looking for creative ways to make learning fun.

We found a great website that offers lots of great help for reviewing spelling lists:  Spelling City!

What we like:

  • You can enter your own spelling lists, name and sort them.  Totally customizable!
  • The ‘Teach Me’ section will read the spelling word to you, read the letters out loud, and then even recites a sentence using the word.  Their database has over 37,000 spelling words along with contextual sentences for each!
  • The ‘Test Me’ section will read the words to you along with the contextual sentences and then you type the word into the testing box.  After the test you get a score and can even print a report showing your score along with all the words including correctly and incorrectly spelled answers.
  • The ‘Play a Game’ section has nine games for a lot of fun reviewing.  Games include classics like HangMouse (Hangman), crossword puzzles, and word searches.
  • Lots of Spelling Lists are already entered.  You can search among many spelling lists to find ones that suit your children.
  • Parents can create a Login and then save and manage lists for kids to practice, so you don’t have to reenter the words each time.
  • Did I mention it’s free?  You’re also welcome to make donations to support the site.

When I find sites like this, I take a moment to be grateful for dedicated people who do so much to share their skills and give back to society.  Thank you!

Do you have a suggestion for making spelling work more effective or more fun?  Please share it with us in the comment section.  I really appreciate the suggestions and feedback!

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Posted under Language Art Websites