Entries from November 2010 ↓

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




Small Business Saturday 2010


First there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. This year, November 27th is the first ever Small Business Saturday, a day to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country. Small Business Saturday is a national movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the U.S.

More than a dozen advocacy, public and private organizations have already joined American Express OPEN, the company’s small business unit, in declaring the Saturday after Thanksgiving as Small Business Saturday.

From www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday 

Would you like to make a positive impact on small businesses that supply your community and your special needs (such as homeschooling)? Small Business Saturday is a great way for you to support local, grass-roots, entrepreneurial, and mom-and-pop companies. Americans love “big box” stores, but it’s important to support small businesses. We can’t survive without you!

Why Support Small Businesses?

  1. Small businesses are our nation’s economic heart and soul. Supporting us keeps us alive and thriving.
  2. In this “big box” world, it’s refreshing to patronize one-of-a-kind businesses and small companies with character.
  3. Small businesses such as Writeshop are often birthed out of a need. Entrepreneurship allows us to be innovative, inventive, and creative.
  4. Small businesses develop and choose products based on the needs of their niche customers, thus providing you with a wide array of product choices.

Save 20% at WriteShop.com

To learn more, visit Small Business Saturday on Facebook. I also hope you’ll join me in supporting small businesses. To encourage your support, here’s a discount coupon to use in the WriteShop store.

Use coupon code 20SBS at checkout to receive 20% off your purchase on Saturday, November 27 at www.writeshop.com.

Grammar lesson, Humphrey Bogart style

A rugged leading man gets a grammar lesson from his English-teacher leading lady. The 1940s flair adds a whole lot of fun!

Oh, and make sure to pay close attention to the credits. I missed this extra bit of subtle humor the first time through.

English is confusing

English is confusing. Writing mistakes can distract from the message you or your kids want to communicate.

Unless I’m typing in my sleep, I’ll probably never confuse its with it’s or your with you’re. I’m pretty handy with a hyphen, and I’m confident that I’m not prone to apostrophe catastrophes.

But I’m the first to admit that I don’t know all the rules—and I have to look up an awful lot of them.

English is confusing.

Sometimes I second-guess myself. Is it “all together” or “altogether”? Should that be “lie” or “lay”? And at such times, I’m thankful for grammar resources that answer my questions or quell my doubts.

Today, I thought it would be fun to look at some common usage errors. You may identify yourself or your children as guilty of one or more of these. If so, it’s time to learn a few new rules!

Between you and I

For some reason, many people use I by default. I suppose they think it sounds more educated. But between you and me, is incorrect in this case.

Center around

Center around is a bad hybrid of center on and revolve around. Center around is never correct.

Dr. Duckwillow’s presentation will center on the preservation of sand flies.

Chock it up

We chalk it up to experience. Chock it up is just, well . . . wrong!

Would of (could of, should of)

When spoken, the contractions would’ve, could’ve, and should’ve sound like would of, could of, and should of. But the correct word is have, not of.

I should have planned better. If I would have worn my blue suede shoes, I could have disco danced.

Dyeing vs. dying

Bertrille was dyeing her shirt chartreuse, and Mavis was dying to see how it would turn out.


Hermione can’t escape the truth: There is no such word as excape.


Whether you’re expressing yourself verbally or in writing, espresso is the correct way to spell the name of this strong coffee.

Mute point

A moot point is an irrelevant argument—not a silent one. Therefore, mute is not correct.

Why should we care?

Does anyone, at the end of the day, say to himself, “Hey! My toe didn’t hurt today!” As a rule, no. I certainly don’t give my big toe a second thought. But a few years ago, I really whacked it, and for days afterward, that throbbing toe clamored for my attention every time I bumped it.

Poor grammar and spelling have that same effect. Who reaches the last chapter of a novel exclaiming, “Wow! Not a single misplaced modifier in the entire book!”


That’s because good grammar and punctuation run quietly in the background, so no one really notices (nor should they) proper usage. On the other hand, errors like the ones above really do stand out like a sore thumb, er . . . toe.

Bottom line: Glaring mistakes in your speech and writing will distract from the message you want to communicate, and may even discredit you altogether, so if you’re not sure, look it up!

Photo: Life Mental Health, courtesy of Creative Commons

Happy Thankgivening


Today’s lesson is on compound words. A compound word  is formed by combining two words together to make one new word.

It’s simple, really. Thanks + giving = Thanksgiving

Now, you try it.

Thanks + giving = Thankgivening

Um, no.

Let’s try another one, shall we?

Thanks + giving = Tanksgiven

*Sigh* — I give up.

. . . . .

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

I’m nominated!

Overflowing-inbox Monday.
Piles-of-laundry Monday.
Rainy, drizzly, mountains-shrouded-in-fog Monday.

You’ve-been-nominated-for-a-blog-award Monday.


Just when Monday was threatening to overtake me by storm, I learned that In Our Write Minds has been nominated for a 2010 Homeschool Blog Award in the “Best Curriculum and Business Blog” category.

I’m humbled and thrilled at the same time!

If my blog has blessed or encouraged you this past year, I’d be honored to have your vote. Voting ends November 18.


30 days of gratitude

30 Days of Gratitude | November--this most "thankful" of months--is a perfect time to cultivate gratitude in your family.

The word “writing” can strike fear in young hearts because children tend to associate it with lengthy and often-painful tasks such as essays and stories.

But as I’ve frequently shared here on my blog, writing can truly be as simple as making lists, playing word games, or publishing a story as a craft. By offering your children a varied writing diet, they learn to enjoy appetizers and desserts along with the main meal.

One way to inspire writing is through focused journals such as a diary of a vacation, a memory book about a special friend or family member, or reflections on a season or holiday. Today, I’d like to encourage you and your family to focus your journaling on 30 days of gratitude.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

Does your home more closely resemble Grumbletown? Is everyone wearing you down with their bickering and squabbling? Are tempers flaring? Do you find yourself long on complaints and short on compliments?

Sounds like you or your children may be in need of an attitude makeover, and November—this most “thankful” of months—makes a perfect time to cultivate gratitude in your family.

Many people (myself included) are taking the opportunity to journal every day about the things we’re thankful for. These journalings go by different names, but they all serve the same purpose: To count our blessings and record them. It’s a way to purposefully acknowledge our gratitude for those things, both large and small.

Plan Your Journal

30 Days of Gratitude | Keeping a Gratitude JournalWhen I say “journal,” don’t break into a cold sweat on me, OK? For this little project, I’m only asking for a sentence (or two or three).

Are you breathing easier now? Good. Then let’s talk about how to actually do this!

First, everyone needs to decide where and how to record their thoughts. Each person needs an outlet—and the choices are many!


  • Notebook. Keep a daily journal in a something as elegant as a leather diary or as simple as a spiral notebook.
  • Blog. Record your journal online, if you have a blog.
  • Journal Jar. Scribble your thanks on scraps of paper and store them in a mason jar or small box.

It’s very possible that you might have four family members journaling their thankful thoughts in four different ways. Yay for diversity!

Next, choose a name for your Thanksgiving gratitude project. Here are a few ideas:

  • Gratitude Journal
  • 30 Days of Gratitude
  • Thankful Project
  • My Thankful Box
  • I Am Thankful

Count Your Blessings

Ponder a bit. What makes you thankful? At first, the obvious will pop into your minds: Food, family, friends, faith. But encourage your children to look for hidden, unexpected, or less obvious things too, such as the smell of clean hair, hugs from Nana, a warm bed, a kind deed.

Write Them Down

Younger children can write one thing every day. Older children and adults can write five things you’re grateful for. Whether each note is brief or lengthy, it should be personally meaningful.

Make It Personal

If you wish, you and your children can make your journal or box even more personal by including quotations, Bible verses, or photographs.

Journal Faithfully

Keep your gratitude journals for the entire month of November—or at least through Thanksgiving. As a special Thanksgiving Day activity, invite each family member to share one or two excerpts from their journals.

With everyone’s hearts and minds turned toward giving thanks and recording blessings, I know that renewed attitudes and more pleasant temperaments will be the refreshing outcome.

I hope you’ll join me! Will you take the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge? Leave a comment to let me know.

If one is good, two must be better

Found on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Midway. That unnecessary extra “N” is a good example of government excess.

“Why does this say ‘upcomming’ events?”

“Because it’s plural. If they were talking about just one event, it would have said “upcoming.'”

“Oh, OK. Upcomming toumaments.”


“That’s what it says.”

Second photo courtesy of Mike at abusersofenglish.blogspot.com

. . . . .

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

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