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.
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Notes from the Smithy
SUMMER 2017 – #100
Greetings from Southern Oregon! Summer and hot weather is what we are experiencing. While I don’t advocate year round school, some learning activity, at least some reading, during the summer is good.
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN elimination logic
MY WRITING CLASS a final report
THE FUTURE what’s ahead
SENTENCE COMBINING variety in sentences
RECENT READS only a few
MISCELLANY as it says
Last time I mentioned New Leaf and the reprints. I have nothing new to say at this point other than that they have all the books in stock and are selling them both wholesale and retail. My stock is reduced to four copies of Jensen’s Format Writing. I am selling them at the regular price but will include the JFW DVD for free. The DVD has a flaw in the first lecture, but the content is correct.
What do I have left that you might like? 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 for the asking. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
If you need the Tests & Answers, the keys for Jensen’s Grammar, I have them also. They cost $1, but you have to pay for shipping and handling, so send $5. I ship first class mail on these.
There is a final test for Jensen’s Grammar. You can get that for free from me just by asking for it via email.
I still sell the Journey through Grammar Land series for now.
JUST FOR FUN
Here is a small elimination logic puzzle. There are five houses in a row each with a different occupant, house color, fruit tree and pet. Work it out from the clues below. If you need the answer, post me at frodej@jsgrammarcom, and I will send the answer to you.
Mary lives in the green house and owns a cat.
The peach tree is at the fourth house.
The same person owns the dog and pear tree.
The middle house is red.
Bill lives in the second house.
The fish lives with Sally.
The cat sits in the peach tree.
The yellow house is next to the third house.
The second house is next to the blue house.
The gerbil lives next to the fish.
The apple tree is next to the red house.
The peach tree is to the left of the last house.
Sally is next to the second house.
The peach tree is between Fred and the cherry tree.
Bill lives next to the canary.
The cat lives between Sally and the white house.
The gerbil is next to the first house.
Mary lives in the second house from the gerbil, but not next to Sam.
MY WRITING CLASS
This is my final report about the writing class I held this year. The final quarter was a bit much for a few students due to their schedules, but eight of the twelve finished the class and turned in all the final papers.
They did three major papers, 1200+ words, on three different topics: climate change, gold & silver vs. paper money, and alternative medicine. They had two weeks to work on each paper. Each paper added something new, an appendix or endnotes. All papers had a title page and a works cited page.
So, how did they do? Well, not too bad. Some of them muffed the appendix and endnotes, but that was partially my fault. I didn’t teach them; I simply told them where the material was in the book. In retrospect, it would have been better to meet with them between each paper to explain the new add-ons. I only met with them prior to the first paper, and that was it. Everything else was done by email.
Did they become good writers as a result of the class? Not really. Did they become better writers? Absolutely, and they all vouched for that. Oh, yes, they all learned a bit about deadlines because one day late would cost them a full grade. It was pretty expensive to miss the deadline. A couple of them missed the first one; they all made the last two.
It was generally a good experience for them and me, and the students improved their skills. Writing is not rocket science; however, decent writing doesn’t come naturally to most folks. A little instruction goes a long way. The students who went through the class now have a better skill set for writing than they did when they entered, and that was the reason for the class. Mission accomplished.
This is issue #100. I’ve been writing the newsletter for 25 years. This is a milestone issue. What does my future hold? At this point I really don’t know what will come about. My health is relatively good, and I remain physically and mentally active. God has richly blessed me in those respects.
My partners in the Grammar Land series are talking about making the series interactive and publishing ebooks and some other ideas. They will do whatever they will, but my role will be quite diminished. Vernie Jones is scheduled to pick up the remaining books and sell them. Just when that will happen is as yet unconfirmed.
New Leaf controls the Jensen’s books at this point. They print and sell the books. All the day to day distribution is in their hands. Once in a while I am asked to do some editing, and I might suggest a change or two in the future, but those changes will be very minor.
I am toying with the idea of making English Fun Stuff an ebook. The original printing is sold out, and I am not going to reprint it. It is an excellent resource for teachers who want to have something for students to do that uses the language and their brains but is fun as well.
We have decided to move from our present location to be closer to town and relieve ourselves of the work necessary to keep up the 45 acre tree farm and the large house we currently occupy. There will be lots of changes and adjustments I am sure. Will things settle down? I suspect so, but the transition will put me off schedule for a while. Will this candle wink out? Someday it will happen, but the timing is uncertain at this point.
One of the hallmarks of a good writer is the ability to use various structures, that is, to use different methods of combining ideas into sentences.
There are two basic methods of combining ideas, addition and embedding. Of the two, addition is the easiest and only appears in a couple of forms. Because it is easy, it is often used by younger writers. Embedding shows up in a variety of ways. Some are common, and some not so much.
Let’s do some illustration. Here are two sentences that we will use to show various combinations.
The boy was a strong swimmer.
The boy was floating in the pond.
Using the addition method, we would just add one sentence onto another.
The boy was a strong swimmer, and he was floating in the pond.
While the boy was a strong swimmer, he was floating in the pond.
The boy was a strong swimmer although he was floating in the pond.
The boy was a strong swimmer; nevertheless, he was floating in the pond.
Technically the four sentences above use three methods of addition: the coordinating conjunction, the subordinating conjunction, and the conjunctive adverb. The subordinating conjunction method shows two variations by subordinating two different sentences. The two sentences could have been reversed in order to give us even more variations in structure.
Embedding takes part of an idea from one sentence and puts it into the other sentence. Here are some examples using the second sentence as the source for the idea to be placed in the first sentence. The first sentence is the consumer sentence since it consumes the idea from the second sentence, the source sentence.
The boy who was floating in the pond was a strong swimmer.
The boy floating in the pond was a strong swimmer.
The floating boy was a strong swimmer.
Above we have three different ways of putting the idea into the consumer sentence. The first is a relative clause; the second is a participial phrase modifier, and the third is a simple participle modifying the boy. You will notice that the embedded items all modify the boy since that is what the sentences have in common.
If we were to make the second sentence the consumer sentence and the first sentence the source sentence, combinations would look like what follows.
The boy, a strong swimmer, was floating in the pond.
The strong swimmer was floating in the pond.
The first example is an appositive; the second replaces boy with strong swimmer. The source sentence determines what kind of embedding can take place. The first sentence has a subject complement to work with; the second sentence has verb phrase to work with. There is more, but that’s enough for now.
It was a busy spring, so reading took a back seat this last quarter. Wood cutting, mowing fields, gardening and church responsibilities all take time. Only a few reviews follow, but I continue to read as I am able. However, those are just excuses for being lazy and occupied elsewhere. Enjoy the reviews.
Robert Jordan penned the Wheel of Time series. The first book in the series appeared in paperback in 1990. It’s been quite some time since I read the first nine books in the Wheel of Time series. Book #10, The Crossroads of Twilight, has just been sitting on my shelf along with #11 for far too long. I thought it was time to dive in again. The time lag definitely worked against me. A few things came back, but there were so many terms and threads and groups of people, it was a struggle to get through. At times I was reduced to looking up names in the glossary and looking at the glossaries of earlier books.
Jordan’s books are long; this one was 822 pages. The story, stories actually, are of interest, but getting and keeping them all straight is a chore. I liked the book. Yes, there’s lots of description of what people wear and how things are decorated, which to me is mostly space filler. However, there are lots of things going on with intrigues and movements of armies and so forth, so the book keeps moving along. Maybe it’s just pride, but I am going to read the last few books to see how all these threads come together and resolve.
Then I read Knife of Dreams, #11 in the series, all 837 pages of it. Yes, I am getting back into the series now. Four major stories with a couple of sub stories but all intertwined because so many were friends as youths. Still lots of descriptions of what people wear and how certain places are decorated, but it does provide some color to the story. There is plenty of action as well, and that moves things forward, sort of. The battles won or lost don’t seem to change much except cost men on both sides that will be needed to fight the Shadow when that takes place. I still struggle with remembering the back stories on a number of the secondary characters. A word of advice: if you decide to read the series, keep up with it; don’t let 15 years go by in the middle of it.
Catching a few Darkfriends was a plus for the good guys, and Galina’s punishment with the Shaido was a nice touch and quite fitting I thought. Mat’s dice continue to bounce in his head, and his relationship with Tuon/Precious is a chuckle. Perrin fights to free his wife, and Rand loses a hand, but they seem to have a Forsaken as prisoner. Why not kill Semirhage? Only Jordan knows. Hmm, yes, things do go on.
This was the last book in the series written solely by Jordan, so the next one by Brandon Sanderson using Jordan’s notes will be interesting to read to see if there are noticeable changes in style. Likely not much since Jordan’s wife oversaw the project.
Prophet on the Run is about Jonah; it is written by Baruch Maoz. On a recent Thursday evening I had the opportunity to meet and hear Mr. Maoz speak. I purchased two of his books at the meeting, this being one of them. He writes similarly to the way he speaks. He is direct, at times humorous, and always understandable. This book is a commentary and a devotional. By that I mean Mr. Maoz goes through the book of Jonah but not in a verse by verse exposition. Other ideas get covered in the course of his discussion. One short aside shed light on how to engage the question of practicality in preaching. The Gospel is readily presented in every chapter as are challenges to the reader. There is a summary at the end of each chapter along with a few questions for discussion.
The book is a quick read at 95 pages, but those pages are relatively packed. It was interesting to read what a modern Jewish Christian thinks of an Old Testament Jewish prophet. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone wanting to know more about Jonah and his story.
Blaine Harden wrote Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West. I read it on my Kindle.
This book is disturbing. What do I mean by that? Simply that it identifies a situation that has been going on for years and is largely ignored by the world. Shin was born in a slave labor camp. His crime was that his father’s brother had defected to South Korea during the war. The family must pay and pay and pay. He has no idea why his mother was in the camp.
Twisted, that describes Shin’s view of the world, well, at least of the camp and the people in it. Until he met a man in prison at the age of 13, Shin knew nothing of the outside world. The fence was the boundary of the world. The rules were simple, brutal but simple: snitch on everyone while trying to stay alive and get enough to eat. Shin’s ultimate reason to escape was to get food, not freedom. Idealistic values had no place in his life. He was almost totally consumed with survival while in the camp.
This book opens one’s eyes to the degradation of North Korea and its rulers. The camps are well known to the outside world via satellite images and the few defectors/escapees who have made it out. Shin was the first one to escape who had been born in such a camp. At present, I know of no others. It is sad to see how warped a person can become through indoctrination. The Nazis did such things for three years, and the world was horrified. The North Koreans are doing similar things today and have been for 50 years, and the world turns a blind eye. Justice is absent in this case.
The book moves along in most spots. Shin’s existence and experiences are real but surreal to someone like me. Find out how Shin survives, what he eats, how he gets a glimmer of what it might be like outside the fence, how he manages to escape, and what happens afterwards. His is a true story that has been vetted by those who know about such things. It is a relatively easy read and will keep your attention, but it might also create some unease in your soul.
- My policy is to post this newsletter quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe. You will note my website and this newsletter are free of commercials except for random plugs for my own stuff.
- 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. I suspect the folks at New Leaf are answering a few questions now as well.
- 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.
- I am not sure if there will be a next issue of Smithy Notes. Lord willing, if it happens, it will likely appear in the fall some time.
In Christ alone,