Entries from January 2010 ↓

Homeschool writer of the year competition

Molly Fox at HomeschoolWriters.com is sponsoring a unique competition to determine the Homeschool Writer of the Year! 

Fallacy Detective Giveaway!

Tell your friends about the Homeschool Writer of the Year Competition and you will be entered into a drawing for a copy of The Fallacy Detective by Hans and Nathaniel Bluedorn. 

Click here for giveaway details

What is the Homeschool Writer of the Year Competition?

This competition is not skill-based. The homeschool student who enters the most (not wins the most) writing contests in 2010 will be named Homeschool Writer of the Year and will receive his or her choice of an Elsie Dinsmore doll or William Wallace sword. What a wonderful motivation—and challenge!—for your children.

Click here for contest details


Prizes, drawings, and more – oh, my!

Win Some Free Goodies from WriteShop

To help Hal and Melanie Young celebrate the release of their new book, Raising Real Men, WriteShop is giving away two fabulous prizes:

  1. WriteShop Primary book and Activity Set Worksheet Pack of your choice.
  2. $35 WriteShop gift certificate good for any purchase at the WriteShop store.

To enter the WriteShop Primary drawing, simply leave a comment at Raising Real Men. To be eligible for the $35, you also need to become a Raising Real Men Facebook fan.

Hurry right over, because I’m not sure how much time you have before they close this giveaway!

Give a Little, Get a Lot!

Also, don’t forget that today is the last day of the Estes Family Benefit Sale. You can read my article about it here, or you can just go straight to the sale.

Either way, you won’t want to miss the chance to bless a wonderful family in need while gaining $350+ in homeschooling e-books and MP3s for a small donation of just $39! (This donation also puts you in the running for some great Super Packages valued at up to $849 in tangible products!)

Sale ends January 29 at midnight EST.

Betsy-Tacy Update

My apologies that the second set of Betsy-Tacy reviews (and giveaway info) aren’t up yet. It’s been a crazy couple of days. But hopefully I can get the reviews written over the weekend. Make sure to check back! Meanwhile, don’t miss the reviews of Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib.


Say What You Mean Convention coming Feb. 3

Three Flavors of Communication

Writing. Speech. Conversation. These “Three Flavors of Communication” provide the theme of the 5th Annual Say What You Mean Convention, which brings you a day packed with learning and laughter.

Sponsored by Art of Eloquence, this annual online convention offers keynote speakers, live workshops, and pre-recorded audios designed to equip you and your children with stronger communication skills.  The conference is peppered throughout the day with exciting activities such as contests, giveaways, fun, and fellowship.

Date: Wednesday, February 3
Time: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. PST / 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST

Workshops by Kim Kautzer

I’m excited to share that I’m one of the hosts and speakers again this year. That means you’ll get to hear me present four all-new workshops!

  • Writing Skills: More Important Than Ever!
  • How to Wrte a Speech
  • Speak the Truth in Love
  • The Lazy Student: What’s a Mom to Do?

Live Seminars

Most of the live seminars will also be recorded for later, but if you’re listening in live, you can win bonus gifts. Plus, you won’t want to miss the Michael Jr. live interview, which will NOT be recorded at all.

  • 8am PST/11am EST – Interview with Christian comedian Michael Jr. on Faith and Humor
  • 10am PST/1pm EST  – JoJo Tabares  of Art of Eloquence “The Three Flavors of Communication: Writing, Speech, and Conversation”
  • 12pm PST/3pm EST – Cindy Rushton of Talk-a-Latte “Building a Passionate, Forever, Happier, and Happier-Ever-After Marriage”
  • 2pm PST/5pm EST Joan Rudder-Ward of Girl Nurture “The Heat is On: Techniques to Protect You and Your Daughter from Becoming Culture War Casualties.”
  • 4pm PST/7pm EST Kim Kautzer of WriteShop “Writing Skills: More Important than Ever!”
  • 6pm PST/9pm EST Prayer Chat

Pre-recorded Audios

Read the descriptions of each talk here. The audios will be available at the Say What You Mean Convention website for one year!

  • How to Tailor Your Writing for Effectiveness
  • The Lazy Student: What’s a Mom to Do?
  • What Good Is a Speech Course If Your Kids Won’t Use It?
  • How to Write a Speech
  • Conversation: The Most Important Communication
  • Speak the Truth in Love
  • What Most Apologetics Courses Don’t Teach You
  • Talking vs. Communicating
  • Listening: THE Most Important Communication Skill
  • Humor: A Powerful Communication Tool
  • Avoiding, Reducing and Healing Conflicts
  • What It Takes to Be a Great Communicator

And More!

Book reviews: Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib

I’ve always been a reader. As a child, nothing made me happier than checking out a new book from the library.

OK, that’s not exactly true, for I also loved to read—over and over—the old friends that lined my bookshelf at home. Among those treasured favorites was a well-worn hardback of Betsy-Tacy, the very dearest member of my small collection and a book I’ve read at least a dozen times since I was seven.

Reviews . . . and a Giveaway!

Eventually I read (and loved) all the Betsy-Tacy books, so imagine my joy when the current publisher—Harper Trophy/Harper Perennial Modern Classics—sent me the whole set to review and give away on my blog! I’ve decided to do the review—and the giveaway—in several parts, mainly because I haven’t finished reading the later books in the series, but also because it’s more fun to spread the love!

Today I’ll review the first two books in the early series: Betsy-Tacy and Betsy-Tacy and Tib. In a day or two, I’ll post my review of the third and fourth books: Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill and Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown. And on Friday, I’ll tell you how you can win the set for your own daughter, niece, granddaughter, or young friend.

About the Early Betsy-Tacy Books

Written autobiographically by Maud Hart Lovelace, and whimsically illustrated by Lois Lensky, the first four Betsy-Tacy books are a recollection of the friendship and simple little escapades of three best pals—Betsy, Tacy, and Tib—during their carefree childhood at the turn of the twentieth century. Though their life 100 years ago doesn’t much resemble ours today, their joys, worries, and adventures remind us that children will always be children. Even with a century between us, I still think these girls are among the most relatable children in literature!


Want a book that completely captivates your inner child? Never mind your daughter—you’ll want your very own copy of Betsy-Tacy!

How I love this book about the spirited, imaginative Betsy Ray and her best friend Tacy Kelly! When they first meet at Betsy’s fifth birthday party, the two become inseparable. They share all sorts of adventures on their safe little street at the very edge of town: supper picnics on the hill, playing paper dolls, dyeing Easter eggs, and dressing up to “go calling” at the chocolate-colored house with the stained glass window.

Betsy loves to tell stories, and even her make-believe experiences—such as floating on feathers or riding in a buggy pulled by a talking horse—will delight every young girl’s fancy. Experienced through Betsy’s and Tacy’s eyes, the ordinary days of childhood are somehow transformed into a magical place of wonder!

Just as Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books deal with difficult issues in an age-appropriate way, the Betsy books are similarly sprinkled with reminders that a little trouble comes to all of us. For example, the subject of death is gently broached when Betsy, in her childish innocence, finds a touching way to comfort Tacy after the death of her baby sister. And Tacy, one of nine children, finds just the right words to encourage a befuddled Betsy at the “surprise” arrival of a new little Ray bundle.

This sweet book is filled with stories both humorous and tender, making Betsy-Tacy a treat for the heart.

Betsy-Tacy and Tib

When my own daughters began reading the Betsy-Tacy books as young girls, I loved that they could escape into such an untroubled, innocent time and place to join hands with Betsy, Tacy, and their new friend Tib.

As the title suggests, the inseparable duo becomes a trio when good-natured Tib Mueller moves into the chocolate-colored house on Pleasant Street—and the escapades continue!

It was strange that Betsy and Tacy and Tib ever did things which grown-ups thought were naughty, for they tried so hard to be good.

Betsy is usually the ringleader, but Tacy and Tib participate eagerly. Whether cooking up a mess in the kitchen or thinking of ways to remember one another after they’re gone (think “hair” and “scissors”), their antics often manage to land them in a hot water. But when the girls are naughty—and it seems (in this particular book) that they often are—it’s always with the best intentions to do right; they even form a “Christian Kindness Club.” Even so, when Betsy, Tacy, and Tib do act impulsively, they experience conviction, remorse, and contrition, and their parents impose appropriate consequences. I appreciate that!

This book explores friendship, loyalty, and the joy and curiosity that come with being carefree eight-year-olds. Although they do get into occasional mischief, the girls set a positive example of how to behave in a friendship: through thick and thin, they’re faithful to the core; there’s no finger-pointing, quarreling, or envy among them; and they rejoice in each other’s successes. Betsy-Tacy and Tib is a wonderful sequel to Betsy-Tacy.

Note: Betsy-Tacy begins when the girls are five. By the fourth book, Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, they are pre-teens. As Betsy, Tacy, and Tib grow up, the situations, vocabulary, and reading level become slightly more complex with each book. While a five-year-old would enjoy hearing Betsy-Tacy as a read-aloud, she may not show interest in the other three books until she herself is a bit older. But a 10- or 12-year-old is sure to enjoy all four in the early series.

More to come . . .

Stay tuned! I’ll post my review of Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill and Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown in a day or two. And then I’ll tell you about the giveaway!

Words matter

Words matter:

write to

Learn what

you know.

—mary anne radmacher


© Mary Anne Radmacher. Used with permission.


Why on-the-job writing skills are more important than ever

Will your teens have strong on-the-job writing skills? Studies show it's more important than ever if they hope to get---and keep---a job.

We parents give an awful lot of thought to what our children will do once we’re done homeschooling. Will they go to college or university? Take a vocational track? Enter the ministry? Will they become scientists or mortgage lenders? Clerical workers or nurses? Entrepreneurs or educators?

One thing seems clear: No matter the profession, studies show it’s more important than ever that your teen develop good writing skills if he or she hopes to get—and keep—a job.

Writing: A Ticket to Work . . . or a Ticket Out

According to a survey polling 120 American corporations (whose payrolls include nearly 8 million people), an employee’s on-the-job writing skills can either hinder or advance him in the company.

The survey may be a few years old, but its ramifications remain relevant today. Here are some of the survey’s findings:

  • People who cannot write and communicate clearly will not be hired and are unlikely to last long enough to be considered for promotion.
  • Two-thirds of salaried employees in large American companies have some writing responsibility. “All employees must have writing ability,” said one human resource director.
  • Eighty percent or more of the companies in the service and finance, insurance, and real estate (FIRE) sectors, the corporations with the greatest employment growth potential, assess writing during hiring. “Applicants who provide poorly written letters wouldn’t likely get an interview,” commented one insurance executive.
  • Half of all companies take writing into account when making promotion decisions.
  • More than 40 percent of responding firms offer or require training for salaried employees with writing deficiencies. Based on the survey responses, it appears that it may cost American firms as much as $3.1 billion per year to remedy poor writing skills. “We’re likely to send out 200–300 people annually for skills-upgrade courses like ‘business writing’ or ‘technical writing,’” said one respondent.

You can read the entire report here.

Focus on Key Writing Skills

What does this mean for your child? Simply, it doesn’t matter whether or not she’s college-bound. If she expects to succeed in the workplace, she’ll need to demonstrate better-than-average writing skills.

So make sure to focus on basic but key writing skills throughout junior high and high school to adequately prepare her. Minimally, by the time your teen graduates from high school, she should know how to:

  • Write a clear, well-organized essay.
  • Write a business letter.
  • Use correct grammar.
  • Use proper punctuation, including correct use of quotation marks and apostrophes.
  • Use good sentence structure, including avoiding run-on sentences and sentence fragments.
  • Avoid using slang and shortcuts common to texting and instant messaging.
  • Properly site sources (avoiding plagiarism).
  • Self-edit and proofread her own writing.

Helpful Resources

If you’re looking for a place to start or need a few supplemental resources, check out some of these links and products:

Photo: Isabelle, courtesy of Creative Commons

Incredible homeschool sale benefits a family in need!

3 Truths about Homeschoolers

As a 15-year homeschooling veteran, I’ve discovered three truths about most homeschoolers:

  • We love a bargain, especially on curriculum!
  • We’re a passionate bunch.
  • We watch out for and care for each other.

Now you have a chance to prove just how true this is! Let me explain.

A Special Family

Some of you may be familiar with the wonderful homeschooling company, Hands and Hearts. The owners, Jeff and Kate Estes, create fabulous hands-on history kits you can use to supplement your history studies.

Not one of us is immune to life’s trials, but the Estes family has experienced more than their share. I cannot tell you how much I admire their deeply rooted faith. If you’ve had a chance to follow Kate’s blog, you know that in the midst of their darkest hours, their faith and peace has been a tremendous inspiration.

These past several years have produced a string of exceptional trials for this family:

  • Last spring, their Hands and Hearts business was stopped temporarily by unreasonable CPSIA regulations,creating tremendous hardship as the company’s profitability took a nosedive.
  • Their little 3-year-old Noah suffers with mitochondrial disease. Ultimately, this rare disease will claim his life. He is hospitalized frequently—and often suddenly—leaving Kate to drop everything to rush him to the hospital.
  • Jeff has been out of work for many months. He has been unable to land another job that gives him the flexibility to care for their other seven children while Kate is at the hospital with Noah many miles away. Their savings has been exhausted and they are close to losing their home.

A Chance to Give . . . and Receive!

When their fellow Christian publishers heard what was going on, we all jumped in to try to help. Check out this incredible way you can bless the Estes family and get nearly 10X your donation back in gifts from homeschool publishers you know and trust, including:

I’m putting out a call to action! Can you help this dear family? If so, by making a small donation of only $39, you’ll receive over $350 worth of fantastic products .

Not only that, if you donate $39 or more, your name also goes into a drawing for several Super Prize Packages. There are two Grand Prizes valued at over $849 each, and three First Prizes, valued at over $100 each. Among the prizes is a WriteShop package worth over $100!

So please:

  • Show your passion!
  • Help another homeschooling family!
  • And land a bargain for yourself in the process!

If you would like to receive a fantastic assortment of homeschool goodies while helping Jeff and Kate, please click here. Even if you’re not a homeschooler and you would just like to make a donation without taking the products, you’re welcome to do that as well. The sale continues through January 30.

Edited: The benefit sale has ended, but if you’d still like to make a donation, please click here and find the PayPal button.

Thanks for taking the time to read about this very difficult situation. And whether or not you are able to donate, would you please remember to pray for this dear family?

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory.”  Ephesians 3:20-21

With deepest appreciation,

Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, Kate Estes, and stock.xchg.

Adjectives in a series: Commas or no commas?

Sometimes we get grammar questions in the WriteShop mailbag.

Q: How is it determined when commas are needed or not needed between adjectives in a series? In WriteShop’s Copying and Dictation Exercises, Lesson 5, there’s a phrase I’m confused about. “Bright, fresh lemon flavor” has a comma between the adjectives bright and fresh, but not between the adjectives fresh and lemon. Further on in the paragraph, the words “special fresh flavor” have no commas between adjectives. Can you help?

A: This is a great question, and one that many families would love to understand. I find Jane Straus’s rule easy to apply.

Use the “and” test

According to Jane Straus, author of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, it’s actually pretty simple:

Use a comma to separate two adjectives when the word and can be inserted between them.

Examples: He is a strong, healthy man
                The man is strong and healthy; hence a comma.

    We stayed at an expensive summer resort.
    You would not say expensive and summer resort, so
    no comma.

Going back to your example, we could say “bright and fresh lemon flavor.” That’s why there’s a comma between the first two adjectives. But we wouldn’t say “fresh and lemon flavor,” so no comma.

Reverse the adjectives

Another test: Can you reverse the adjectives and maintain the meaning?

Examples: He is a healthy, strong man still works, as does
                fresh, bright lemon flavor.

                Summer expensive resort and bright, lemon, fresh
do not pass the reversal test.

Note: You could correctly say “bright, lemon-fresh flavor,” but that places a different meaning on the sentence altogether!

One last example

The word “special” refers to the “fresh flavor” as a whole. It’s not a “special flavor,” nor is it simply a “fresh flavor.” It’s a “special fresh flavor.” Since it’s not likely one would say “special and fresh flavor,” the “and” rule applies.

Not only that, the phrase “special fresh flavor” means something different from “fresh special flavor.” The reversal rule works well here as well to demonstrate that no comma is needed.

. . . . . 

We love The Blue Book so much that we’ve been carrying it for years in the WriteShop store. We also include it in the WriteShop Starter Pack. It’s a combination reference book and workbook, oh so easy to use, and handy for home or office. Jane’s examples are short, simple, and practical. We know you’ll love it too! Want to read some reviews? Just click here. And to read some of Jane’s Grammar Nuggets, type “Jane” in the search box above.

Bakery blunders

"Hour" fearless leader

No candles "aloud"

Serious homophone issues—two good reasons why you should ALWAYS give the bakery written instructions!

. . . . .

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

Photos used with permission from Jen at CakeWrecks

Winner of our 10 Stumbling Blocks drawing!

Congratulations to EMILY! You’re the winner of a $25 WriteShop gift certificate!

Blog visitors could earn up to eleven chances in the drawing by leaving comments at our 10 Stumbling Blocks to Writing series. Emily’s name was drawn from among 110 comments (her comment, #53,  appeared here). Way to go, Emily!

If you missed this encouraging, informative series, why not begin here with this introductory article: 10 Stumbling Blocks to Writing? Then, you can read about each individual stumbling block in the following posts:

  1. Lack of confidence
  2. Lack of skills and tools
  3. Lack of motivation
  4. Limited writing vocabulary
  5. Perfectionism and self-criticism
  6. Laziness
  7. Procrastination
  8. Worry about criticism from mom or dad
  9. Wondering what’s the point
  10. Learning difficulties that interfere with the writing process
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