August 26, 2014

Me vs. I: the Grammar Series

The dilemma of whether to use 'I' or 'me' in a sentence is actually much easier to understand than most people think, once you know the trick to remembering when and in what order to use each word.

Many people don't give it a second thought to say, "Me and Bill (or Bill and me) are going to the ball game."

What you should say, instead, is this: "Bill and I are going to the ball game."

There is another set of people, though, who use 'I' in everything, thinking it makes them sound like they've figured it out.

For example, "The ball game was too boring for Bill and I, so we went home."

All of the above usages are incorrect, though. Here's why:

The trick is to break the sentence down into two separate sentences.

Take this one, for example: "Bill and me are going to the ball game."

Who is going to the ball game? Bill is going to the ball game. Me is going to the ball game. Wait... that doesn't sound right, does it? 'Me' is going to the ball game? You have to ask your self who is doing what and see if it makes sense when you break the sentence into two parts.

In this case, the correct usage is as follows: "Bill and I are going to the ball game." Who is going to the ball game? Bill is going to the ball game. I am going to the ball game. That makes sense.

Second example: "The ball game was too boring for Bill and I, so we went home."

Break it down, now. "The ball game was too boring for Bill." "The ball game was too boring for I." See? That doesn't make sense.

What you should say, instead, is this: "The ball game was too boring for Bill and me, so we went home."

Break it down. "The ball game was too boring for Bill." "The ball game was too boring for me." Now it makes sense!

As a final note, no matter which form you use - 'I' or 'me' - the other person always comes first.  "Bill and I" or "Bill and me".  Never "Me and Bill".

Hopefully, I explained this well enough.  Please let me know if I just made it even more confusing, or if you found it helpful.  Thanks for reading!

 Previous post:  You Ain't Seen Nuthin Yet

August 19, 2014

FREE Simple Homeschool Planner

Back to school!

Many homeschoolers are gearing up for their first day of school.  I know we are.  I ordered all our curricula, and the boys peek out the windows at mail delivery time each day, eager to see if another book is arriving.  As soon as all our books arrive, we'll be ready to start.  Well, almost.

We need a plan!  Lesson plan, that is.  You can find dozens of planners made for homeschoolers.  They're popular among bloggers.  Filled with not only calendars, but also grocery lists, contact lists, meal plans, goals - like the one found here on a blog named Living Well Spending Less.  Appointment keepers, journal pages, attendance trackers, reading logs, and more, like you'll find in this in-depth, customizable planner (which is what I used last year) at Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus.

But, I don't need all that.  I use Outlook to keep track of appointments and contacts.  I use Homeschool Tracker Plus to track attendance, keep reading logs, and more.  And I use good old fashioned pen and paper for meal planning, grocery lists, and journaling.  

What I need is a simple calendar system.  A calendar for the full school year for each subject, where I can write in lesson plans for each day.

That's it.  Simple.

So I went looking for one.  I took to Google, Facebook, Amazon...  No luck.  Everything I found either had what I wanted, but with lots of other things attached, or only had something that was close to what I wanted, but not quite.

I decided to make my own.  Exactly what I want.  And, why not share it?  I figure someone out there is looking for just this type of planner, too.

Here's how it works:  

All pages are in PDF form, in hopes that the font I chose will remain intact whether you have it installed on your computer or not.  But, if it doesn't, I'm also including the ZIP file of the font that you can download, if you want.  Everything will work fine without it, though.

First, the cover page, which you can see in this image. 

Next, a full academic year (July 1st through June 30th) calendar page.  Here you can mark off planned days off, vacations, and holidays.  It's a year in review page.

Finally, monthly pages by subject, which is where you will fill in your lesson plans for each day.  One month per page.  When you print these, you can choose to either print them back to back (aka, duplex printing), or you can just print one month per page, which is what I prefer, so that when the pages are bound, the binding is always on the left side of the page I'm using.  

The subjects are color coded, but, to save on ink, you can print them monochrome.  Also, you'll notice there are only 5 days per week on the monthly pages.  They are Monday through Friday weeks.  I know, many of us school on the weekends, too, but I found the 5 day week planner to be most efficient for me.

After all pages are printed,  match up the month of July 2014 pages for each subject (putting them in whatever order you like), then match up August, and place them behind July, then September, and so on.

The subjects included in this planner are Math, English, History, Science, Health, and Bible.  There's also a calendar with no subject heading, which you can print as many times as you like to use for any other subjects you need a planner for.  Also, each subject's calendar is a separate file, so if you aren't teaching Health, for example, you can skip printing those pages.

The simplest way to bind your pages is with a 3-hole punch and a 3-ring binder.  You'll need a 1" to 1 1/2" binder.  I prefer the ones with the clear plastic cover where you can slide your cover page in the top opening.

Done!  Now you can start planning your days. 

For a first effort, I'm pretty happy with this planner.  For next year, I'll probably play with the design to make it more visually appealing.  This year, I went more for practicality. 

Let me know if you like this, if my instructions were clear, and if you have any suggestions.  Also, feel free to share the link with your homeschooling friends.  But, please, be sure to give credit where credit is due.  The link below will take you to Google Drive, where you can view and print the planner. 

Free Simple Homeschool Planner

August 18, 2014

You Ain't Seen Nuthin Yet: the Grammar Series

Let's talk about the word 'seen' - a word many people misuse regularly, and don't seem to even realize it.

I seen Bill at the ball game the other day.  I seen a cat cross the road.  I seen a bug on the window.  I seen when you did that.

The use of the word 'seen' in the above examples is so very wrong.  

What you should say, instead, is this: I saw Bill at the ball game the other day.  I saw a cat cross the road.  I saw a bug on the window.  I saw when you did that.

The only time it is acceptable to use the word 'seen' is in a cases such as these: Have you seen my jacket? Or... The movie couldn't be seen by the people in the back row.

When in doubt, just figure out a way to say what you want to say without using the word 'seen' at all.  For example:  I can't find my jacket; do you know where it is?  Or... The movie screen was blocked from the view of the people in the back row.

That way, you're always safe.  Using the word 'seen' incorrectly, unfortunately, has the effect of making a person sound less intelligent than they actually (probably) are.  That may sound harsh, but it's true.

Now, let's discuss the word 'ain't'.

Why should you never, ever, ever use that word? I don't care if you DO find it in the dictionary! It's not a word, and using it, just like the word 'seen', makes a person sound ignorant.  Harsh, I know.  But, true. 

'Ain't' is a fictional conjunction made up of the words 'Am', 'Is', and 'Not'.

When have you ever in your life used those three words successively in a sentence? Have you ever in your life said something like, I am is not going to take your lip anymore, young man! Or, I am is not joking.

No. You have never.  Because it makes no sense.  Neither does 'ain't.  Please don't use it.

Previous post:  Have Got is a Do Not

Next post:  Me vs. I


August 11, 2014

Have Got is a Do Not: the Grammar Series

I've got an idea.  You've got an idea.  We've got...  They've got....

There is more than one problem here.  First, redundancy.  "I have got."  "You have got."  "We have got."  "They have got."  'Have' and 'got' mean essentially the same thing here.  There's no need for both words.  Simply say, "I have an idea."  "You have an idea."  We have...  They have....  Or, if you want to sound all fancy like, you can even say "I've an idea."  "You've an idea."  We've...  They've....   Using "I've got" is like saying "Done did."  I done did my chores.  You done did your homework.  

Second problem, assuming we're speaking in the present tense, is that "got" is past tense, so it does not work.  Therefore, don't say "I got an idea."  "You got an idea."  We got... They got....  Not when you're speaking in the present.  Not when you're speaking about something that's happening right now.  'Got' is only appropriate when you're referring to something in the past.  I got sick.  You got the mail.  We got together.  They got an eviction notice.

Get it?  Got it?  Good.

Previous post:  That, Which, and Who 

Next post:  You Ain't Seen Nuthin Yet


August 4, 2014

That, Which, and Who: the Grammar Series

This is one of those things that not many people think of, but it really does matter

That vs. Which:  "That" should be used when your "that" information is necessary to make the meaning of your subject clear.  "Which" should be used when your subject can stand alone. 

For example:

Her prom dress is a shade of red that is tinted with burnt umber, which happens to be my favorite color.

In describing her prom dress, it doesn't suffice to state that it is simply red, because it is not simply red.  Her dress is red, and it is tinted with burnt umber.  That is necessary information in accurately describing her prom dress.  However, mentioning the color of her prom dress happens to be your favorite color is not at all necessary.  You could leave that part off completely and still accurately convey the meaning of your subject.

That/Which vs. Who:  "That" and "Which" refer to things - places, animals, objects, etc.  "Who" refers to human beings.

For example:

I'll meet you under the big oak tree that is next to the park bench.  Notice here the use of "that", adhering to both rules.  The location of the oak tree is necessary information to aid the listener in finding the correct oak tree to meet the speaker under.  And, the oak tree is a thing.  Therefore, "that" is the correct word to use in this case.

I'll meet you under the big oak tree, which is one of the prettiest trees in the park.  Here, the word "which" adheres to both rules.  Whether or not the oak tree is the prettiest in the park is not important information to describe where the listener should meet the speaker.  And, the oak tree is a thing.  Therefore, "which" is the correct word to use in this case.

The big oak tree in the park is the favorite tree of my best friend, who is meeting me there today.  This is where many people use the wrong word.  Many people use the word "that" instead of "who" in this case, but "who" is the correct word to use, because the speaker is meeting his/her best friend - a human being - at the tree. 

"That" would be correct in a case like this:

The big oak tree in the park is where I found my pet rock that I am putting back under the tree today.  "That" refers to the pet rock - a thing - therefore, "that" is the correct word to use here.

One last thing:  Always use a comma before "which" and "who".  Never use a comma before "that".

And that is that, which I wrote for you folks, who probably don't care.

Or, do you?

Previous post:  Articles

Next post:  Have Got is a Do Not


August 3, 2014

Limiting Screen Time: how to break the addiction

Xbox.  Playstation.  Wii.  Kindle.  Nook.  iPad.  Galaxy.  Laptops.  Desktops.  Smart phones.  

Games.  Apps.  YouTube.  Twitter.  Facebook.  Snap Chat.  Tumblr.

Angry Birds.  Skylanders.  World of Warcraft.  Candy Crush.  Minecraft.

If you have a teenager, or even a pre-teen, you've no doubt heard of most of these.  Since the invention of the telephone and television, parents have struggled with keeping their kids from becoming addicted to electronics.  There's just something about a screen that keeps kids from focusing on anything else.

My approach to this difficult task differs from most, I think.  If you spend any time in parenting groups on social media, you've probably seen the popular questions:  "How do I keep my kids from spending too much time on their screens?  What do you do in your family?  They're addicted!"

Typical responses include these:  "We set a timer for 30 minutes, and when it goes off, the screens do, too."  "We have our kids do chores to earn screen time."

In my opinion, though, these tactics of negotiation should be avoided.  We're the parents.  Negotiation isn't our job.  It's our job to train our children up in the way they should go, which means we make the rules, and the kids follow the rules.  Save the negotiations for your car salesman.

We don't use timers.  We don't have the kids earn screen time.  We don't say, "If you do X, then you can use your screens."

Here is what we do:

Our kids must ask before they use any electronics.  Then, when we feel they've spent enough time on their screens, we tell them to turn the screens off.  They comply, or they receive consequences for disobeying (which usually involves having their electronics taken away for a period of time).

That's it.  There's no magic number of minutes or hours a child should or should not spend using electronics.  There's no magic formula for deciding when and how much screens can be used.  

Whenever I see a parent on social media complaining about their kids being addicted to screens and pleading with others for ideas on how to limit screen time, I always want to yell, "Just tell them to turn the screens off!"  But, I don't.  I'm afraid that would offend some parents.

Seriously, though.  Don't negotiate with your kids.  If you don't allow them to become addicted to screens, then they won't become addicted to screens. Set clear boundaries, and when they cross the boundaries, initiate consequences. They won't hate you.  Much.