Fun with Words for Your Budding Wordsmith

Max just finished up a week-long online live grammar class.   Other than having some difficulties with our microphone, overall the class was a success and a nice wrap up for the grammar work we’ve done this year.  There were seven or eight children taking the class from all over the world!  One little boy was in Israel, one in Mississippi, a few in New York, etc.  Max enjoyed interacting with them while proofreading paragraphs and combining sentences.  It was a good situation all-around.  I let him handle the class while I went off and dove into exciting piles of laundry in an effort to make them smaller.  We both succeeded in meeting our goals.

The class was offered on (which stands for Curriculum in a Click).  They have a nice mix of secular or Christian classes, if that’s what you are looking for.  I mentioned in another recent post that we’ll be using part of the Connect the Thoughts curriculum (CTT) for next year which will be 5th grade.  This curriculum set is offered on Currclick, too.  Check it out if you’re curious – it’s a really neat curriculum.  You can read my post about it or go directly to the CTT website (psst…..I’m REALLY excited about this curriculum!)

So – back to words.  Here are some entertaining books to help round out a good look at homonyms, hyperbole, alliteration, figures of speech, similes, metaphors.  Gosh, I would benefit from a refresher course on these, too:


Cartoons help seal the above concepts in writing.  Looks great!  By Marvin Terban.

Have you ever gotten this mad?  Do hens get this mad?  Also by Marvin Terban, as are the next few.

Riddles = laughter.  Usually.

 We’ve never had much luck with guppies, but ours never sported formal wear, either!

Did you catch that title? 

There is a whole series of these by Brian Cleary.  We have a few of them and used them this year.  He uses rhyming wordplay and charming characters to teach.

Do you ever wonder where some words originated? 

For a slightly younger crowd, but it looks good.  Maybe it’s available at the library!

I saved the best one for last!  Twenty-four five-star reviews on Amazon.  “Debra Frasier has created a masterpiece of clever wordplay in her hilarious and poignant story of the exquisite pain of schoolgirl mortification. One sentence using vocabulary words from A to Z runs along the bottom or side of each page (“Obliterate me, send me to oblivion–no one could outdo my stupidity”). Not just for word-worms, virtually any kid will identify with the occasionally confusing world of learning, and be reassured by the happy conclusion. Frasier’s youthful artwork was inspired by her daughter’s fifth-grade desk. “No fancy art supplies; just markers, notebook paper, pencils, glue, and scissors.” The result is eminently inviting for grade-school children. (Ages 8 to 12)”




Clue Finders

Well, it all started with Carmen Sandiego, which led to me paying attention to the software company, which led to me looking up said software company, which led to finding all of this OTHER software…..this is how it always happens!  Following these trails is exciting because the end result is usually good.   Mapless, no global positioning system – just hunting for out-of-the-ordinary materials to make our school days more creative and fun.

The Learning Company produces a few noteworthy products for sure.  We have thoroughly enjoyed chasing Carmen Sandiego hither and yon all over the globe, learning world geography along the way.  She’s just so darn slippery!  Kind of like those games in Las Vegas, if you ask me – she’s rigged to get away every time.  The Learning Company is responsible for the Carmen Sandiego games and here are some others to hopefully get you and your kiddo excited:

[Click on the pictures to get more information and to read reviews]

Learn Essential Subjects in an Egyptian Adventure!

  • Math – Multiply the two numbers on the sign above each jeep to figure out which one can make it all the way to Cairo.
  • Reading – Build reading comprehension skills as you interpret reading passages and earn valuable Cairoglyphs to gain your next clue.
  • Geography – Master U.S. and world geography as you help ship packages around the world. Can you locate the city west of Denver?
  • Vocabulary – Learn antonyms, synonyms, and homonyms as you move blocks of stone one at a time to complete a sentence.
  • Science – Develop your knowledge of mass, force, and angle to construct a bridge across a river. Watch out for the crocodiles!
  • Math – Solve math problems with decimals as you stack the correct column sections to build a miniature palace.
  • Word Problems –  Solve word problems to gain access into a mysterious ancient pyramid. More adventure awaits inside!
  • Spelling – Spell your way across the chasm to stop the evil archaeologist before he takes over. Be careful, one wrong letter can spell disaster!

***UPDATE AS OF 3/24/10Well, I had high hopes for the above-mentioned software.  I purchased it used on Amazon and we have stumbled upon some computer glitches.  We are able to get maybe 15 minutes into the adventure and then the computer crashes.  We’ve tried two different computers (Windows platform), to no avail.  I’m really disappointed!  I may contact The Learning Company to see if the problem can be resolved because what I saw of the game so far I really liked.  Math, geography, history…….Max was having fun while it lasted.  So, read the reviews and decide if you want to give it a try.

A tsunami, a lost island and a volcano ready to erupt add the adventure to this edition – this is probably the one we would start with.

Mutant plant warriors (?) threaten to take over a town and it’s your job to protect it through sheer brain power!

All of these tap into math, reading, science, vocabulary, geography and spelling skills.  They are formulated for your PC or Mac and are not expensive.  Don’t forget to check eBay or your local homeschool co-ops – you might be pleasantly surprised at the inexpensive or free materials floating around out there!  Good luck on your hunt.

The Exclamation Point Always Has to Shout!

Sometimes it’s helpful to view the world through someone else’s eyes.  We learn much this way.  How about viewing the world through someTHING’s eyes?  Say an exclamation mark or an apostrophe?  This fun twist on perspective might help kids understand punctuation marks and why they ‘act’ as they do!  Simon Basher’s book below offers this unique perspective and I have a feeling reading through this would help kids better grasp the nuances of punctuating sentences.  And of course the exclamation mark is a loud mouth!  Could it be any other way?

Click on the book for further information if you like.

A Mouse’s Guide to Latin

Minimus is a mouse with a mighty task – to facilitate an elementary course in Latin!  These books are rated for the 9-12 year old, but ‘much’ older students would enjoy the introduction, too – we adults stand to learn something here!

A grasp of Latin is the key to fully understanding not only the English language but many others.  It is foundational stuff.  Minimus presents lessons in a non-overwhelming manner; his cute little face encourages us to give it a try.  The caricature drawings in the book are light and friendly, drawn in cartoon fashion.  The lessons are not difficult and  dispersed throughout the book are interesting tidbits about Roman Britain’s history.

No need to fear the pronunciation monster!  An audio CD is available to complement the text, as is a teacher’s guide to help us over the humps (seems like the CD is a good purchase since there is no other pronunciation guide offered.)

You’re not a geek if you study Latin.  Rather, you are incredibly intuitive to realize that looking at the fundamentals of our language can serve a person well throughout a lifetime.  Invite Minimus into your home and read him together!

Click on the books for more information:

Minimus Pupil’s Book:  Starting out in Latin by Barbara Bell

Teacher’s Resource Guide

The audio CD for the first book; sounds like (no pun intended!) is quite helpful since a pronunciation guide is not included.  Well, rats.  Sorry, Minimus.

Minimus Secundus Pupil’s Book:  Moving on in Latin

The teacher’s resource for Minimus Secundus

The audio CD for the second book

Now, one thing I did notice and do not like is that the teacher’s books are exorbitantly pricey at near $70 a piece!  What’s that about?  The other texts are in the $15 range at this writing.  Maybe you could go in on the teacher’s guides with another family or two and pass the course around?  Or better yet, maybe these are available at the good ol’ library.  Let’s hope.

Poetic Math

Yes, you can mix poetry and math together! You can mix mustard and whipped cream together, too, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Yick!  The math/poetry thing seems like a more palatable endeavor, so why not give it a try?  Afterall, math and poetry are just two forms of language and expression  The idea also fits nicely into the Living Math approach (die-hard fan, here), which is another reason to consider a few of these books.

Click on each book to link to more information:

Theoni Pappas wrote this one; she is the author of The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat and the Further Adventures of Penrose (two books which we’ve read – Max really liked them.)  This book is designed to be shared by an adult and a child, reading together.  Nice rhythmic language about another type of language……math!

Students will learn math concepts and operations, place value and fractions, geometry and graphs, measurement and money, and word problems.   Elements of poetry are in fresh context, including similes, metaphors, alliteration, line breaks, and poetic language and forms. And perhaps best of all, the creative process enhances your child’s recall of the concepts taught.

Marvelous Math is a playful look at the sometimes surprising ways math is part of our daily life. The poems cover a vast range of topics from multiplication, division, and fractions to time, counting and measurement, but all relate math to our everyday world.

Julie Brennan of has this to say about this book (she’s a phenomenal resource, so straighten up and pay attention!):  “Okay, it’s not like regular poetry, it’s *mathematical* language. This is an unusual book in which the text mixes language with mathematical concepts, symbols and vocabulary to produce some really interesting connections.

Many children have difficulty connecting math with language. Math readers help bring math in this world, rather than it being isolated as a bunch of abstract symbols. The poetic “equations” in this reader are logical, artistic and creative uses of symbols and ideas. All of my kids from ages 5 to 13 love the book.”

One of my homeschooling idols has spoken!

So, I’m wondering…….how big can Amazon wish lists be?

Donate Rice to Stop World Hunger and Learn at the Same Time

Thank you, Tammie, for this resource.  The United Nations World Food Programme designed this concept and a website to help bring attention to world hunger, and more importantly, to put an end to it.  Your child can help right from your living room!  Your child can spend time on this site anytime, answer questions about many subjects (from chemistry to Spanish to geography to math and more), and for each right answer, ten grains of rice are donated to hungry people all over the world.  No fluff here, it’s the real deal.  According to the UN, a child dies every 6 seconds from hunger.


Today Max answered questions about vocabulary and geography and in the process earned 600 grains of rice.  That’s the best part.  Secondarily, he got to practice some of his language and geography skills.

The subjects covered are:  famous paintings, chemistry symbols, English grammar and vocabulary, world geography and capitals, French, German, Italian and Spanish, pre-algebra math and the multiplication table.  Within each subject you advance to harder levels to keep going.

If you answer a question incorrectly, FreeRice will ask the same question again later so you can try again.  Here’s a section quoted from the FreeRice site explaining how questions are chosen for you:

FreeRice has a custom database containing knowledge questions at varying levels of difficulty. There are levels appropriate for beginners and levels that will challenge the most scholarly professors. In between are levels suitable for students of all ages, business people, homemakers, doctors, truck drivers, retired people. everyone!

FreeRice automatically adjusts to your level. It starts by giving you questions of increasing difficulty and then, based on how you do, assigns you an approximate starting level. You then determine a more exact level for yourself as you play. When you get a question wrong, you go to an easier level. When you get three questions in a row right, you go to a harder level. This one-to-three ratio is best for keeping you at the ‘outer fringe.’ of your skills, where learning can take place.

In the vocabulary section, you can hear each word pronounced by clicking on the megaphone symbol next to the word – nice feature.

Companies sponsor banners on the FreeRice site; money from these banners help to purchase the rice that is then given to those suffering from hunger.  Another quote from the FAQ section:

FreeRice does not make any money from this. FreeRice is a website committed to the cause of ending hunger around the world. It is run entirely for free and at no profit. All money (100%) raised by the site goes to the UN World Food Programme to help feed the hungry. Sponsors make all payments to the UN World Food Programme directly.”

Enough said.  Go play and help save the day! This is win-win.