Wordsmiths – Quality grammar, vocabulary, and writing materials in the field of English
Welcome to the home of Jensen’s Grammar, Journey Through Grammar Land, Jensen’s Format Writing, and other fine language books.
Our mission is to provide teachers and students with quality grammar, vocabulary, and writing materials in the field of English. Home schools, Christian schools, and private schools currently use and recommend our materials.
This site is designed to help you find out about and evaluate our materials. Some of our philosophy should come through as well. Your questions and comments are welcome.
Cathy Duffy has picked Jensen’s Format Writing as one of her 100 TOP PICKS for Homeschool Curriculum. It’s an honor we are proud of.
On the main menu you will find the various locations available. Enjoy your time with us; may it be profitable to you.
We have a very few books left to sell; check out the newsletter for details.
Notes from the Smithy…#102
winter – 2017-18
Hello from Southern Oregon! Cold, foggy, and some rain but it is winter after all. It’s a good time to be reading and studying.
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN a riddle
A POEM short and to the point
THREE AREAS what to teach
RECENT READS a very few from me
MISCELLANY as it says
Well, another birthday came and went, and I am no longer getting older; I am now just getting old. My mind and physical health is still good. Praise God!
I have a very few things left to sell: two older copies of Jensen’s Grammar with their Tests and Answers ($30), a very few copies of Jensen’s Format Writing ($25) which includes the JFW DVD for free. The DVD has a flaw in the first lecture, but the content is correct. The DVD by itself if $5. Shipping and handling is $5 no matter what you buy except the T&A by itself. For the Tests and Answers send $5; I ship first class on those.
If you have an older version of the vocabulary book and want the six quarterly tests, you can get them from me. They are free, but you have to send an email to email@example.com and ask for them. You will have to print them off. Each set includes the test and the answers. I will send them via an attachment.
There is a final test for Jensen’s Grammar. You can get that for free from me just by asking for it via email.
You can get the Journey through Grammar Land series from me for a few more weeks, but Vernie Jones, the coauthor, is taking over those titles in late January or early February. I will post his information after he takes over the inventory. We are thinking of doing something interactive with the series, but time will tell.
JUST FOR FUN
This puzzle was written by a lady in California in 1890 in response to a gentleman in Philadelphia who said that he would pay $1,000 to anyone who could write a puzzle that he could not solve. He failed to do so and paid the lady $1,000, a great sum at that time. The answer is a single word and appears only four times in the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible.
God made Adam out of the dust,
but thought it best to make me first.
So I was made before the man,
according to God’s Holy plan.
My whole body God made complete,
without arms, or hands, or feet.
My ways and acts did God control,
but in my body He placed no soul.
A living being I became,
and Adam gave to me a name.
Then from his presence I withdrew,
for this man, Adam, I never knew.
All my Maker’s laws I do obey,
and from these laws I never stray.
Thousands of me go in fear,
but seldom on the earth appear.
Later, for a purpose God did see,
He placed a living soul in me.
But that soul of mine God had to claim,
and from me took it back again.
And when this soul from me had fled,
I was the same as when first made;
Without arms, legs, feet, or soul,
I travel on from pole to pole.
My labors are from day to night,
and to men I once furnished light.
Thousands of people both young and old,
did by my death bright lights behold.
No right or wrong can I conceive;
the Bible and its teachings I can’t believe.
The fear of death doesn’t trouble me;
pure happiness I will never see.
And up in Heaven I can never go,
nor in the grave or hell below.
So get your Bible and read with care;
you’ll find my name recorded there.
I am not giving $1000 or even $1 if you get it right, but I will tell you if your answer is correct if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy.
Overheard in an Orchard
Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”
Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
The question most teachers face is what to teach. In some cases there is a highly regulated curriculum that takes up most of the time, but home schoolers have quite a bit more leeway. Certainly there are always decisions to be made about content and rightfully so. In English class, it used to be that seniors had English literature, juniors had American literature, and sophomores had world literature. I doubt that is the case anymore with all the political correctness determining things these days. Dead white guys are no longer in vogue. Well, I got that off my chest.
So what three areas do I propose are essential? I believe there are facts, skills, and attitudes that a good teacher will strive to teach. Let’s look at each one in turn, not necessarily in order of importance.
Facts just are; they exist. The world orbits the sun. Columbus discovered America in 1492. A noun names something. One plus one equals two. These are givens. Some post moderns don’t accept facts; they think everything is relative. Of course such reasoning just leads to confusion. Everyone accepts some things as fact. Just try defying the law of gravity.
The question for the teacher is which facts to teach since there are seemingly millions of facts. The age and maturity of the student along with the subject matter will narrow the teacher’s choices. A first grader has different needs and abilities from a seventh grader, and biology has different facts than literature. So the teacher must pick and chose accordingly.
Not only does each teacher has to decide which facts to teach, but the teacher must also figure out the order in which to teach them. In some cases a natural order exists. In math it is normal to start with recognizing the cardinal numbers. In English the starting point is the alphabet and sounds. Other facts in these disciplines come later. In some cases a natural order exists in subsets. It doesn’t matter if one studies Egypt or Mexico first, but once the subject is settled on, some order will likely present itself; a least the history of a country follows a time order.
Some facts are foundational, and some facts are incidental except to the specialist. You, the teacher, should focus on the foundational facts, the ones the student needs to know in order to do well in the subject.
Some subjects are fact laden; spelling is a lot about facts. A word is spelled a certain way, and that’s it. Some subjects are not so; beyond a few basic facts, philosophy is about concepts and thought processes.
And that brings us to the second area of focus, skills. I identify skills as procedures or processes. If a student learns the process of adding two numbers together, then the student can add any set of numbers. Learning how to punctuate two sentences that have been added together into one sentence is another process. Mastery of skills allows a student to progress in mastery of the subject matter. Once addition and subtraction are down fairly well, multiplication and division can be introduced. Once a student learns how to write a decent sentence and punctuate it correctly, it is time to move on to paragraphs and then essays.
Skills or procedures put facts to work. What good is knowing the cardinal numbers if that’s where it ends? Sure, the person can count, but that’s about it. Similarly, what good is knowing a bunch of words if they can’t be strung together into some meaningful order? Once a skill it taught, it must be practiced in order to be mastered. Think to yourself how many addition and subtraction problems your teachers had you do. Remember how many times your teachers had you write sentences to practice getting that capital at the start and a period at the end.
Another point is that skills build on one another; they take the student to a higher level. As mentioned above, addition and subtraction lead to multiplication and so forth. At the student progresses, a new skill is often built on a combination of facts and basic skills. Writing an essay still relies on good sentences, proper spelling and punctuation, and some order of thought.
In reality, most of what a teacher passes on to his or her students is a set of facts and skills. Both are necessary to master most any given subject.
The third area I propose to cover, attitude, is quite different from the first two. Attitude is teachable at all levels, but the early years are quite formative. A negative attitude toward school or some subject is quite hard to overcome later on. Perhaps another word for attitude is character.
While most teachers don’t necessarily focus on attitude, they are teaching it, nonetheless. Think of the teachers you remember most. You can likely tell me they taught 2nd grade or 6th grade or they taught some subject in high school, but what facts or even skills do you remember they taught you? That’s a tougher question, but you will likely be able to tell me about that favorite teacher. She always looked nice and had big smile; he was firm and demanding but very fair. She was a great encourager; I wanted to do well just to please her. He really knew his stuff, obviously liked it, and was good at making things clear. Of course there were the opposites, the fellow who was a bit unkempt and unorganized, the strict disciplinarian who wouldn’t bend or show any mercy, the lady who seemed to be constantly distracted and not really thinking about teaching or the students. All of these characteristics reflect attitudes and character.
What is important to you that you want your students to know about character and attitude? Do you reflect those characteristics and attitudes in your teaching and the way you operate, both in class and otherwise, especially if you are home schooling mom?
It is my opinion that facts and skills are taught; attitudes are both taught and caught, meaning you can talk about the latter, but they should be modeled in your teaching and how you carry on in the presence of your students. Think about these things and maybe make some lists of all three areas, facts, skills, and attitudes, and then try to get them across to your students.
Fall is a busy time with fall clean up and bringing in the winter wood and a variety of other chores. Then there are the holidays and enjoying company. However, I was able to read some. What follows are brief reviews of what I have read since the last newsletter.
This time I read three books on my Kindle. The first was Longshot into the West, a western by Keith R. Baker. This was a nice little book to read. It had a mixture of action and geographical movement along with some interesting historical notes. It’s not often one reads about the Knights of the Golden Circle, so that was a plus for me. The first time I ran across the KGC was in a novel by Ernest Haycox called Long Storm many years ago.
Rob Finn, aka Longshot, is a Pinkerton and a spy for the Union, but he is not happy with the government and struggles with the real motives of the war. Well, who really trusts the government anyway? They were no better at that time than they are now, but their size and reach was much smaller then.
The book flows nicely and is an easy read. There is some attempt to portray character through language in the dialogue. “Them other two fellers know it too, cuz they showed their badges.” You get the idea. There isn’t much character growth, but the history and geography are pretty accurate and part of the fun anyway. The Indians were a nice addition, and their medical skills were of interest. His sidekick is a mulatto albeit he appears to be rather black in color. His back story is given almost at the very end.
If you like a quick read, pick this one up. It is the second book in a series of three, and I haven’t read either of the others, but the book stands on its own just fine.
The next Kindle book was by Shanna Hatfield; it was called Wrestlin’ Christmas. Full disclosure: I am a man in my mid-70’s with a degree in English. That means two things. 1) I am not the typical reader of these types of stories, and 2) I’ve not read a story like this that I can remember. My training early on was to avoid the pulp stuff and focus on real literature. I have strayed from that obviously since I enjoy westerns and science fiction and fantasy, but my review will likely be skewed by my background.
I liked the book, but for me it was sanitized, Christian Chick Lit. The end is or at least should be obvious to most readers; the story is all about getting there, and that is where the interest lies. There is little character development. Cort begins the story being depressed with a drinking problem, but he changes as soon as he sees K.C. Kaley, on the other hand, struggles with her demons almost to the end. Of course they work out their differences; that’s how romance novels are supposed to end. You know it before you read them. The couple will come together, and everything will be tied up with a big red bow.
A couple of scenes were a bit steamy, but there was restraint, and nothing untoward happened. Cort’s friends, Tate and Kenzie, give major support to both the main characters, and Cort’s family is helpful as well. The setting was in eastern Washington with some things taking place in eastern Oregon and Idaho; being familiar with the area myself made the novel more appealing. The ranch setting and the weather were all quite believable. Cort’s relationship with Jacob, Kaley’s son, was very nice, and in that respect Cort proved to be quite giving; he really liked the kid, and Jacob reciprocated and thought Cort was a hero.
In sum, it was an easy read and appealing in that it showed compassion and forgiveness. The author kept things moving while bringing up the past to fill in the Kaley’s back story at appropriate times. There was no swearing, gratuitous sex, or macho behavior; that was nice. I would not recommend it to younger readers, but those who like romance novels and have some maturity will probably enjoy the book.
The third Kindle book I read this quarter was a sci-fi, Fluency, by a woman, Jennifer Foehner Wells. It was interesting and imaginative, had good action with a side love story, and I would say it was rather well-written. I liked it, but two issues were detractions for me: 1) way too much swearing by Alan but at least he doesn’t blaspheme God, and 2) an unnecessary sex scene which only confirms that Alan and Jane have interest in one another and that Ei’Brai is messing with their minds.
But on to the good parts. I really liked the tie-in to Roswell NM 1947 and the reference to Area 51. Good stuff. The military is the military; they have their views, objectives, and methods. Jane, the main character, doesn’t really fit, and that makes it interesting. Her action at the end is classic. The flashbacks give some indication of her psyche. Just how she is/was given the language ability is unclear. The hints of legend from Ei’Brai about man push the reader to want more explanations, probably the fodder for future books.
There are a couple of revelations in the book; things happen that seem to have one cause when another is later revealed. I liked that. Walsh, the commander, is hard line military, gun out and ready to shoot. Jane is supposed to make first contact and establish communications. The two objectives don’t go well together, and that provides some of the tension in the book. The slugs mutating into some nasty animals that were hungry for anything moving provided dramatic confrontations. The gel tanks for healing were a nice touch. Then there was figuring out the squillae that infected the Sectillus, the original members of the ship; that was a problem to solve. Who set that in motion and why? Those answers have yet to be provided, but again there are books to follow.
So, if you like sci-fi, some military action of a sort, and lots of tension among a squad of explorers, you will like this book.
Now lest you think I only read fiction, the other book I read this quarter was Hearts of Fire: Eight Women in the Underground Church and Their Stories of Costly Faith. The book was published by Voice of the Martyrs. It was unclear who actually wrote the stories.
Convicting and disturbing is what this book is for me. Disturbing in the sense of what these ladies had to go through, and convicting in the sense of how easy I have had it in my life. The stories cover eight different women in eight different countries at eight different times. The common thread is they are all women who suffered for their faith. Their situations were different, so their sufferings took different forms, but they persevered, or in some cases, still are persevering, at least as of the writing in 2003.
What did they undergo? Separation from family, imprisonment, torture, loss of loved ones, physical deprivation, abuse, lack of freedom and rights, and general hardships in many cases are just some of what they endured. Communists, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and even their own family members at times took part in their persecutions. The ladies had great faith, and God in His mercy protected them.
With eight different stories, there was some unevenness in the book. The stories all read easily enough, and they were all interesting although some were more so than others. The conviction of the women to do some of the things they did was very humbling. Knowing they were wanted and watched and would likely be caught and punished did not seem to deter them. Their faiths were strong and inspiring.
I liked the book a lot and read it quickly. It is a good book for a church library, and maybe it will inspire some to take a greater interest in missions. Hopefully it will cause more people to pray for and support in other ways those Christians who suffer for their faith in foreign lands.
1. I am hoping to post this newsletter more or less quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe. Lord willing, maybe I will get another issue out in the spring.
2. Remember, if you have questions, I am only an email away at email@example.com. I am here to help, so use me when the need arises. I try to email a response within a day or two. The more specific the question, the better my answer will be.
3. Thanks so much to those of you who purchase, use, and recommend my books. I am pleased to know that my materials have helped many students and teachers/moms over the years.
Trusting in Him,