Epic! 2011 list of banished words goes viral


Since we’re on the cusp of the new year, I thought it would be both fitting and fun to close out 2010 with Lake Superior State University’s 2011 List of Banished Words.

According to my friend, author and editor Mary Jo Tate:

GOOGLE the banished words list for 2011.

It really has the WOW FACTOR and will surely go VIRAL when THE AMERICAN PEOPLE FACEBOOK it.

I had an A-HA MOMENT when my friend Jay Ryan posted it before I did. EPIC FAIL. What’s the BACK STORY to this competition? It’s not like we’re BFFs.

Guess I need to MAN UP (or would that be woman up?) and LIVE LIFE TO THE FULLEST before he REFUDIATES my linguistic reputation.

A word to the wise: Don’t mess with MAMA GRIZZLIES. I’M JUST SAYIN’.

I had my own AHA MOMENT when I realized I’ve used a few of these myself, particularly in my Facebook status. Oops. Guess that’s a big ol’ FAIL for me.

Personally, I’m a fan of using GOOGLE as a verb (“I googled for XYZ”), but I do agree that most of the other Top Ten words and phrases are indeed over the top.


Over the top. Is that on the list?

Fortunately not, but I may need to MAN UP and retract it when it appears on the 2012 list. JUST SAYIN’.

. . . . .

Do you agree with LSSU’s Top Ten list? Which words or phrases would you like to see banished?

14 creative Christmas letters

14 ideas for creative Christmas letters! Write from the pet's or toddler's perspective, make a Top Ten list, create a family newspaper, and more!

It’s December 20th, and I still haven’t written my Christmas letter for 2010. But hope springs eternal! If you’re in the same boat, you might appreciate a few ideas to inspire you.

Creative Christmas Letters

1. Use a newspaper format with major events written as “articles.”

2. Ask one of your older children or teens to write the letter.

3. Make a quiz about the year’s family events. Include multiple choice, true/false, and short-answer questions.

4. Create a Year in Pictures collage, letting the photos and brief captions do the talking.

5. Write your letter from your pet’s point of view.

6. Or, write one from your toddler’s perspective.

7. Invent your own MadLibs Christmas story featuring your family.

8. Write a Top 10 List.

9. Mail a digital Christmas letter.

10. Ask each person to contribute his or her own year in review to a family letter. Either a paragraph or bullet points will work.

11. How about a Year of Favorites? Share about favorite events, places visited, books read, etc.

12. Write a rhyming letter or poem.

13. Christmas by the numbers (such as 1 cruise, 3 trips to the emergency room, etc.)

14. If you completely run out of time, write a Happy New Year letter recapping the year, and mail it in January.

Do you send out Christmas letters? What have you done in the past to make yours stand out from the rest? Post your ideas in the comments!

Mama said there’d be days like this…

Ever have one of those days? Do tell!

Cartoon © Todd Wilson at Familyman Ministries. Used by permission.

‘Tis the season to abandon spelling rules

I’m pretty sure cake decorators have to pass some sort of spelling test. Apparently, this doesn’t apply to seasonal help. . .

Well, I suppose this would be OK if you were ordering a cake for a chef . . .

And Happy Hally Days to you, too!

What you might wish a hippopotamus at this merry time of year.

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Photos used with permission from Jen at CakeWrecks

We’ll always have to edit

          “No matter where we [are] in our writing careers, we’ll always have to edit. We’ll never become so good that we outgrow the need for it.”

–Jody Hedlund

How to build a strong reading foundation

This article contains affiliate links for books we’re confident your family will love!

Guest Post by Nancy I. Sanders

During the important elementary years, your children are developing the ability to read well and learning to form a positive attitude toward reading. You have the amazing privilege of shaping their hearts to embrace reading as a natural and desirable part of their world. Building a strong reading foundation gives them the wings they need to fly successfully into the world of writing. 

Read Together

Some parents mistakenly think that when children become old enough to acquire basic reading skills, it’s time to pack them off and send them away into the land of independent reading. Yes, it’s time for them to build strong reading skills by reading on their own, but these pre-teen years are also the perfect time for them to build reading fluency and grow as readers (and writers) by hearing stories read aloud to them.

Read aloud daily to your children.

We read aloud to our two sons from their earliest years on up through junior high. Even though they were avid independent readers at a young age, they still cherished these daily reading sessions as they grew older. Our selection of books grew as they matured, and we exposed them to books they probably wouldn’t have tackled alone at this age.

You’ll find many book recommendations in this article. These are affiliate links because we’re confident these personal favorites will enhance your family bookshelf for years to come.

Choose full-length books and read them aloud to your preteens from beginning to end, day after glorious day. Pick humorous books, adventure stories, and popular titles your kids want to hear. Devour classics together such as Farmer Boy, The Hobbit, Treasure Island, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Make reading books a good place to be.

Create an engaging and enchanting environment for reading aloud to your children.

  • Snuggle together on the couch if your children like to snuggle.
  • Go to unexpected or exotic places and let your children experience the sounds and smells around them as you read.
  • Visit a farm, climb a hayloft, settle down in a comfy pile of hay, and read Charlotte’s Web aloud to them.
  • Go on a picnic to an outdoor spot with a beautiful view and read from Anne of Green Gables.
  • Carry a backpack with portable painting supplies. While your kids paint the scenery, read aloud from a collection of poems such as Poetry for Young People: Robert Frost.

Read Alone

Of course, elementary-age kids also benefit from independent reading. You can help make this experience a highlight of their childhood memories!

Decorate your home to be a nest for books.

  • Start by giving beautiful hardback children’s classics and boxed sets as birthday and Christmas gifts.
  • Install bookshelves for rows of family favorites.
  • Scatter square baskets or crates around different rooms to hold short stacks of books handy for small hands to reach in and grab.
  • Provide reading spots with good lighting and comfortable chairs, beanbags, or couches.

Turn off the TV.

Unplug the video games. Turn off the radios and CDs. Invite everyone to grab books and settle in for some down time with a good read. If reading isn’t an everyday part of your normal routine, schedule it in. Show your kids reading is a priority in a world jam-packed with the stresses of organized sports, loud TV shows, and time-consuming responsibilities. Stop what you’re doing and read when they read, too.

Take frequent trips to your library.

Get children their own library cards. Give them their own book bags to lug their selections home and to provide a place to gather books together again when the due date looms near.

Read together, read alone! Building a strong reading foundation gives children the wings they need to fly successfully into the world of writing.While they’re exploring and selecting their own titles from the library shelves, look for books geared for their level of independent reading. Most libraries offer countless titles of beginning readers and first chapter books for both struggling and advanced readers. Some titles are known as hi-lo books, which present themes and topics of interest for kids in upper elementary but use vocabulary words and sentence structure for lower reading levels.

Select a wide variety of books geared specifically for your child’s independent reading level that will help her gain confidence and strengthen her reading skills. If you’re not sure where to look, try these ideas:

  • Ask your librarian for help.
  • Using the library’s (or your home) computer, visit a webpage such as Leveled Book Lists to find lists of books for different reading levels.
  • To find out the reading or interest level of a particular book, try Scholastic’s Teacher Book Wizard.

Of course, always use discretion to ensure each book meets with your family’s standards and values.

While at the library, be sure to choose titles for your own enjoyment as well. Show your children that reading is important by modeling reading yourself. While you’re at it, visit the library’s used bookstore and purchase titles to build your own family’s personal library at home.

Look for reading enrichment activities.

These don’t take the place of reading, but work to enhance the environment you’re creating in your home.

  • Give your children magazine subscriptions for their birthday.
  • Listen to audio books in the car while on a family road trip. There are a variety of options such as The Word of Promise: Complete Audio Bible
    and Tyndale’s Radio Theater’s audio version of The Chronicles of Narnia
  • Many popular children’s classics are also available on CD. Dive into the world of books so your child’s reading and writing skills can blossom during these crucial formative years.

Copyright 2010 © Nancy I. Sanders. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Family table photo: Pierre Vignau. Library bookshelf photo: Steven Depolo. Courtesy of Creative Commons.

Nancy I. Sanders, author of the WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior series, is a frequent contributor to Focus on the Family newsletters and magazines. She is the author of over 75 books. Her picture book, D Is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet, won the 2007 NAPPA Honors Award and the 2008 IRA Teachers’ Choice Award. www.nancyisanders.com

Your vs. you’re: It’s an epidemic

Your on? Wow. I’m struck dumb every time I see a sign or ad like this. When a multi-million dollar corporation pays through the nose for marketing and advertising, wouldn’t you think someone—ANYONE—would catch this?

Your the best.
I hope your feeling better soon.
Your standing on my foot.
He told me your aware of the new guidelines.

No, no, no!

When in doubt, just ask yourself if it should say “you are.” If the answer is yes, then you’ll want to use “you’re.”

You’re the best.
I hope you’re feeling better soon.
You’re standing on my foot.
He told me you’re aware of the new guidelines.

That little apostrophe makes a big difference, so do your best to use it correctly!

. . . . .

Stop by every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Wednesday for a peek into the world of spelling, punctuation, or grammar gone wrong!

Photos used with permission from Maria Ford at Illiterate Businesses.

How to write a Christmas carol haiku

How to Write a Christmas Carol Haiku

Haiku poems may be short in length, but they’re long on vivid

description and imagery that make the most of every word.

Though there are variations, the typical haiku poem contains three lines with a specific syllabic pattern:

Line 1 = 5 syllables
Line 2 = 7 syllables
Line 3 = 5 syllables

For a special holiday twist on the traditional nature-themed haiku, invite your children to pattern a haiku poem after a Christmas carol. This can be challenging, making it a good activity for teens, but younger children might also enjoy giving it a try.

Since it’s rare for the lines of a carol to match the requirement of 5-7-5 syllables, they’ll need to do some creative rearranging of words and lines. Just make sure they stay true to the message of the original song.

Tips for Turning a Carol into a Haiku

Add or remove words to create an accurate syllable count.

O what Child is this (5)
On His mother’s lap, sleeping? (7)
He’s the King of Kings. (5)

Silent, holy night (5)
The Virgin Mother and Child (7)
Sleep in perfect peace. (5)

Hint: If the line has too many or too few syllables, find a synonym or replacement for one of the words. Sleep in heavenly peace contains 6 syllables, but by changing heavenly to perfect, the line now has 5 syllables. Sometimes a thesaurus will be useful in helping your child find an alternate word.

Swap the order of the lines.

Earth receives her King (5)
Ev’ry heart prepares Him room (7)
Joy to the world. Joy! (5)

Pick and choose lines from the carol.

Hark! The angels sing (5)
Glory to the newborn King (7)
Join in the triumph. (5)

Babe in a manger (5)
Jesus lay down His sweet head (7)
Asleep in the hay. (5)

Combine ideas from several lines of the carol.

Town of Bethlehem… (5)
Tonight, everlasting light (7)
Shines in your dark streets (5)

O red-nosed Rudolph (5)
It’s a foggy Christmas Eve (7)
Drive my sleigh tonight. (5)

Dashing through the snow (5)
In a one-horse open sleigh (7)
O’er the fields, laughing. (5)

Choose a lesser-known verse from the carol.

Come to Bethlehem (5)
Worship Christ on bended knee (7)
He whom angels laud. (5)
(based on “Angels We Have Heard on High”)

. . . . .

Need some ideas to get you started? Ambleside Online’s Holiday Carol Book and Caroling Corner list dozens of popular (as well as lesser-known) Christmas songs, along with lyrics, to inspire your young poets.

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Do I really need a writing curriculum?

Do I Really Need a Writing Curriculum? | Helpful Homeschool Checklist

Most of you are a few months into the new school year, and by now you have a pretty good idea of whether writing is humming along nicely or stubbornly dragging its heels. Now is a good time to evaluate this often-neglected subject and decide if you need to make any mid-course corrections.

It may help to ask yourself: Do I really need a formal writing program? Surprisingly, you may not. Here are some things to consider.

Do You Need a Writing Curriculum?

No, if you . . .

  • Are a self-starter.
  • Provide your kids with a variety of writing activities and projects.
  • Feel comfortable taking your children through the steps of the writing process.
  • Include writing as part of your unit studies.
  • Regularly incorporate writing across the curriculum.
  • Enjoy thinking up writing lessons for your children.
  • Are good about remembering to have your children write several times a week.
  • Don’t worry too much about whether you’re missing something.

Yes, if you . . .

  • Tend to push writing to the back burner.
  • Feel uncertain about what to teach and when.
  • Worry about not doing enough writing with your children.
  • Prefer a bit more structure.
  • Like a more systematic approach to teaching.
  • Are more comfortable following a schedule.
  • Feel overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with writing assignments or creating your own lesson plans.

Did You Answer Yes? Read On!

What to Look For in a Writing Program

  • Clear teaching directions.
  • Step-by-step student instructions.
  • Creative, engaging ideas for prewriting, brainstorming, and publishing.
  • Ungraded materials that allow you to teach several children.
  • Materials that will encourage a reluctant writer, yet challenge a stronger or more eager writer.
  • An approach that appeals to different learning styles.
  • A program that builds the writing process into the lessons.
  • Lessons that offer models or examples.
  • A program that teaches self-editing.

What to Avoid

  • Materials that just tell children to write rather than teach them HOW to write.
  • Rigid lessons with very specific writing topics and little room for flexibility.
  • Comprehensive curricula that attempt to fully teach both writing and grammar.
  • Generic or all-purpose grading rubrics that require too much guesswork on your part.

. . . . .

When you’re comparing writing programs, WriteShop is a good place to start. Whether you’re teaching elementary ages or teens, WriteShop products meet many of the above recommendations for a solid, parent-friendly writing program.

Photo: Jeremy Page, courtesy of Creative Commons.


Thankful in so many words

thank · ful  adj.










at peace




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