Friday, April 16, 2021

Five Minute Friday - Permission

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One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind Five Minute Friday and this is today's free-writing post.



did you ask permission?
grant permission

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I had to think for awhile about what permission actually is. I didn't check the dictionary, but here's what I realized when I thought about the situations in which someone asks for or needs permission to do something. Permission is needed to do something that is otherwise not allowed. 

My kids needed permission slips to go on trips with youth group or school groups - because normally they shouldn't be travelling without family. They asked for permission to go to a friend's place for dinner or for the weekend - because normally they would be eating and sleeping at home. When they were ready to learn how to drive, they got a learner's permit - because normally you're not allowed to drive unless you have a license. In many cases a work permit is required, giving permission to perform a certain task or be in a certain area - because under other circumstances you wouldn't be allowed access there. However, if you have a license to do something, you don't need permission - because the license means it is normally allowed or that you have been given the right.

I noticed this in the Bible as well. Israel asked for permission to travel through Edom; Nehemiah asked the king for permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls; Esther requested permission for the Jews to defend themselves against Haman's edict; Daniel asked permission to follow a diet other than the food the king had allotted; demons asked Jesus' permission to go into the herd of pigs; and Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate's permission to collect Jesus' body from the cross and bury it. None of these things were otherwise allowed. The authority that granted permission essentially granted (or denied) an exception to the law or expectation. 

So what? What did I learn? It made me think about the power I have to grant or withhold permission. I shouldn't feel guilty or selfish if I decide not to give my permission. The very fact that someone needs my permission in order to use something of mine or to do something means that it is something I am responsible for and under my authority. And I don't HAVE to give permission. Others need to respect my decision, and should also be respectful of the trust and privilege they have when I do give permission. And when that transaction goes in the other direction, I need to respect the other person's decision about giving or withholding permission for something under their authority. 

Perhaps it gives new meaning to this declaration and others like it:
Nobody can hurt me without my permission. ~Mahatma Gandhi
I don't have to allow others to dictate what I feel or think. I don't have to allow circumstances to control me. I don't have to allow harmful attitudes or thought patterns to take up residence in my life. I have a responsibility to "take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." (II Corinthians 10:5) I shouldn't grant permission for sin to stick around in my heart and life. God certainly doesn't give HIS permission for that, and I shouldn't either.

Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
~Proverbs 4:23~
And one more reminder - the ultimate authority is God's. Nothing outside of the laws he has set up happens without his permission. God is in control. Read that again: God is in control.

Who can command things to happen without the Lord's permission? ~Lamentations 3:37
One more time to make it clear: 
God is in control.

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This post is linked at Five Minute Friday for the word prompt "Permission".


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Tuesday, April 13, 2021

High School Writing Tip Sheets - Word Count Requirements

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For the last couple of years I have been teaching high school writing in our homeschool tutorial co-op. Having seen several groups of students through the courses, I've noticed some issues and questions coming up regularly. I hope these Tip Sheets will be helpful to my students, their parents, and perhaps to other students and parent/teachers as well.

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Students sometimes wonder how much the word count requirement on writing assignments matter. What if they are under the word count? What if they go over? How far over or under before it's a problem? And what can they do if their paper is quite a bit too short or too long?

Personally, I generally follow the word count suggestions for assignments that are given in the textbook. The author does know a lot more about teaching writing than I do, and those word count suggestions are based on her experience and expertise in how long certain types of essays should be in order to handle the subject matter. In addition, some assignments have word counts based on practical concerns, such as article length for newspaper or magazine type publications. I read an interesting article at Inside Higher Ed suggesting A Teaching Experiment: Eliminate the Word Count and it was intriguing. The idea was that students will often just stop writing when they hit the word count target, regardless of whether they've adequately handled the subject or told a complete story. While that's likely very true, the experiment is suggested for college students, and I don't know that it's a great idea for high school students. At least not students writing non-fiction. 
One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being impossible to misunderstand. ~Quintilian
You don’t write because you want to say something, you write because you have something to say. ~F. Scott Fitzgerald
How important is it to get the right number of words?

This does depend somewhat on the instructor and on the assignment, but in general you can be over or under the target by 5-10% without it being a problem. So an assignment requiring 500 words could be between 450 and 550 words. The minimum word count is usually more important than the maximum. You are probably not covering the subject adequately if you are not hitting the minimum word count. I hesitate to give a maximum word count, but some students actually do need to know when to stop! If you are going way over the suggested upper limit, you are probably trying to cover more subject material than necessary. 

When grading, yes, I will take off points for assignments that are noticeably short or much too long. Essays that are too short may indicate that the student didn't put enough time or effort into the assignment. Essays that are too long may indicate that the student has not organized the material well, or that he is rambling or repeating himself. It could also be that it's something the student is passionate about, and has a lot to say, but he should still learn to say it concisely.
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. ~William Butler Yeats
Any one who wishes to become a good writer should endeavour, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid. ~H.W. Fowler


My paper is too short! How can I make it longer?

This is a pretty common concern from students. They don't have enough words in their essay and don't know what else they can say. If this is your situation, ask yourself these questions:

Is my topic too narrow? If you're trying to write a how-to paper, for example, and the process you've chosen to describe is very small and only has a couple of steps, your topic is likely too narrow. 

Did I do thorough research? Use reputable sources, and use more than one when doing research. For a high school essay based on research, using at least three sources is recommended. Make sure you have plenty of source material from which to craft your essay.

Did I include all the parts and elements of the essay required? Almost all persuasive essays at high school level need at least five paragraphs - an introduction, a conclusion, and at least three paragraphs explaining the arguments. Make sure you develop each of your points well, and that your conclusion includes a clear and measurable call to action if it's required for the essay. Check that you have a separate paragraph for each point and that each one is developed well.

Did I deliver on the thesis statement? First, make sure your thesis statement is clear and well-stated, and that it's where it belongs in the essay. Many essay types should have the thesis statement at the end of the introduction, but in some essays it may appear in a transition paragraph somewhere in the middle, or in the conclusion. Wherever it is, make sure your essay supports it and backs it up.
Be grateful for every word you can cut. Writing improves in direct ratio to the things we can keep out of it that shouldn’t be there. ~William Zinsser

My paper is getting too long! How can I trim it down?

While some students do find themselves getting too wordy without meaning to, it may surprise you to hear that there are some students that are genuinely unhappy that they must limit their word count to whatever the teacher has specified! Don't fall into the trap of thinking that more words and longer papers demonstrate more intelligence. Respecting the word count requirements will help you to be concise and clear if you have a tendency to be wordy. If your paper is bigger than it should be, ask yourself the following:

Is my topic too broad? You've got a how-to essay assignment that's supposed to be around 500 words and your topic is home repairs and maintenance. Chances are you will have way too much material to cover properly in the word count range. Try narrowing it down to just one area like plumbing basics and you'll have a better chance. If you've got reams of notes from your research, that's another clue that your essay topic needs to be narrower. A brief biography of a well-known historic figure, for example, probably will need to focus on a particular aspect of their life rather than try to cover their entire life and career.

Am I including unnecessary details? Review your thesis statement, and then your supporting points and make sure you're supporting the thesis and not going onto rabbit trails. If you're including a little historical background to frame an argument, keep it as brief as possible. The tangents may be fascinating, but if they're not essential to making your point, they may not be essential to your essay. Just as the student with a too-short essay should ask Did I deliver on the thesis statement? the student with a too-long essay should ask the same. Focus your essay on that thesis statement and save the extras that aren't related for another time.

Am I choosing words wisely? Prefer the active voice. Trim adjectives and adverbs and use strong nouns and verbs instead. The simplest explanation is most often the best. Be concise. State it simply and don't try to be flowery and fancy. Also make sure you are not repeating yourself.

Am I quoting too much? It's tempting to use lengthy quotations from the experts to back up your opinion, but the essay should be mostly your words, not a collection of other people's words. If you have a lot of quotes, see if you really need all of them. Can you summarize what the expert said rather than including the entire quote? Can you trim down to just a phrase or two from the quote rather than the entire paragraph? 

Did I stick to the assignment specifics? Often students that turn in too-long assignments are trying to include elements that are not part of the assignment. A logical persuasive essay doesn't need the emotional appeal. A hard news story should stick to just the facts and quotes from witnesses. 

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subject only in outline, but that every word tell. ~William Strunk and E. B. White
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Do you have any other questions about word counts in high school writing? Do you have some advice to add for writers that are struggling to get their essays to just the right length? Please leave some feedback in the comments - or let me know what other writing topics I could talk about.

(Most of the quotes were collected from PlainLanguage.gov)

This post is part of the Write 28 Days Blogging Challenge hosted by Anita Ojeda. Find all my posts for the challenge here: Write 28 Days Blogging Challenge - DisappointedThe challenge took place during February 2021, and I did create content every day, but some articles - like this one! - were not ready to be published during those 28 days. 





©2006-2021 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://kympossibleblog.blogspot.com/ 

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.


Friday, April 9, 2021

Five Minute Friday - Pressure

This post contains affiliate links - using affiliate links from Homeschool Coffee Break helps fuel this blog.

One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind Five Minute Friday and this is today's free-writing post.


under pressure
no pressure though!
peer pressure

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I understand pressure. Time, expectations, fear, and other elements put pressure on us all the time. It's inevitable. How I react and respond to pressure makes a difference though. Will I let the pressure squeeze and twist and break me? Or will I let it shape me and strengthen me?

To be under pressure is inescapable. Pressure takes place through all the world; war, siege, the worries of state. We all know men who grumble under these pressures and complain. They are cowards. They lack splendour. But there is another sort of man who is under the same pressure but does not complain, for it is the friction which polishes him. It is the pressure which refines and makes him noble. ~Saint Augustine

Pressure and stress can weigh on us and drag us down, crush us. Or it can make us better. Just like steady pressure is needed to help glue bond something broken back together, and just like pressure is sometimes needed to stop a wound from bleeding, it can be necessary and helpful. Pressing too hard can be harmful though. 

The pressure from the world and people around us is not something I can control, only respond to. Hopefully, by trusting in God's strength and grace, I will respond with grace.

No pressure, no diamonds.
~Thomas Carlyle

When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure. ~Peter Marshall

As pressure and stress bear down on me,
I find joy in your commands.
~Psalm 119:143

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On a lighter note, let me leave you with this gem:

Hermits have no peer pressure. ~Steven Wright


This post is linked at Five Minute Friday for the word prompt "Pressure".




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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Coffee Break Reading List (April 7, 2021)

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I really had wanted to be doing these round-ups of interesting tidbits every couple of weeks, or at least once a month! Life has had a way of keeping me scrambling lately, and I've not managed to be consistent with this. Will things settle down at all after this weekend? Realistically, probably not. It will just be a different kind of busy. I'll keep trying to find a good rhythm, and for today, I hope you find something of interest in some of the reading material I've gathered.

Some of the things around the web that I've been reading or exploring during recent coffee breaks: 
  • The very first thing I'm sharing this time around is a documentary movie that I just reviewed and promoted over at Just A Second. It's called Colors of Character and it's about artist Steve Skipper. It's available on DVD or On Demand, and let me tell you - it is good! It is the inspiring, true story of a prolific sports artist who spent his teen years in a violent gang before returning to the Lord and to his natural talent for art. He was able to walk away from crime and addiction, and use his talent to become a successful and respected artist, giving glory to God. Scroll down just a wee bit to see the trailer.
  • Do you know what the Bible writers meant when they talked about God as their "Helper" or asked God to "help"? The word translated "helper" is a little different from our modern English word. Check out this short devotional for a bit of insight: What To Do When You Need a Helper
  • I've been dabbling a bit in adjusting my blogging to fit my post-homeschool life. Wondering if I should re-brand? Shut this down and start over? I found this article from Karen Del Tatto's blog helpful as I consider my options: A Note to the New Christian Blogger: 5 Key Lessons I Learned in 5 Years of Blogging. Even if you're not a new blogger, there are some words of wisdom there.
  • At The Guardian - Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health. It's not a good effect. We are all in trouble, and I think most of us know it. What are we going to do about it?
  • One of the weird and interesting rabbit-holes I went down a couple weeks ago eventually led me to this article at the National Archives Pieces of History blog: The World War II-Era Actress Who Invented Wifi: Hedy Lamarr and it was so intriguing that I promptly ordered the book The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict from the library. I hope to get started on it soon!



#ColorsofCharacterMIN #MomentumInfluencerNetwork

The homeschool reading corner: 
  • Let me start with a question - are any of you familiar with The Scholarship System? I'm really curious, and obviously we could really use some help from scholarships as our daughter looks to transfer to a four year school to finish her degree. Decisions, decisions. She wants to live at home or close to home, but that doesn't leave many options. And we're also concerned about committing to a school without knowing whether the classes will be in-person or not.
  • If you're NOT homeschooling, and you're struggling with all the turmoil surrounding whether schools reopen and how, I encourage you to look at a couple of articles like this one at Reason - The Year Teachers Killed the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg - and ask yourself if you REALLY want to send your kid back into the public school system. Do you? If so, you may appreciate some of the guidance offered in Back to School for Parents from Family Policy Alliance. And if you think it's a good time to consider homeschooling, check out the Schoolhouse Ambassadors page and look for someone near you to help answer questions. Any homeschooling questions, even if you're not new to it! If you're in Maryland, I'd love to help you. Please connect with me!

Some fun things I've found during coffee breaks:  

  • That reminds me - I also loved Rowlf's recitals on The Muppet Show!


What I've been reading during longer coffee breaks: 

Patrick by Jessica Dunn
Hope Between the Pages by Pepper Basham

I'm about to get started on several new books in the next few days. Find out more at my book blog Just A Second.

And for the Online Book Club, this month I will be learning from:




Found anything interesting on the web lately? Read any good books? Leave a comment and let me know!

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 ©2006-2021 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://kympossibleblog.blogspot.com/ 

 We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

 


Monday, April 5, 2021

Online Book club - April Theme: Migration

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I've been joining some blogging friends in an online book club, and all our readers are invited to join in as well. Here's how it works:
At the beginning of the month Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool will share a book theme with us. It will be a theme instead of any specific title, so that anyone can participate - moms, dads, teens, kids, or the whole family. During the month, we will read books that go with the theme, and at the end of the month we'll share about what we read. Homeschool families may want to do unit studies or activities that go with the books they read, and they can tell us all about what they did and learned. Adults and teens may just want to share book reviews. 
Visit Hopkins Homeschool to find out more about what she has planned!

It's springtime here, with trees budding and flowers blooming - and migratory birds returning! I expect that's what inspired the April theme of Migration. We may think of birds migrating south for the winter and returning north in the spring, but other animals have seasonal migration patterns as well. And yes, even people migrate. I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go with my reading, and didn't have anything in particular in mind, so I went to my library and another bookish website and just took a chance on what would come up when I searched the keyword 'migration'. I migrated along several different paths myself before finding a very simple book that appealed to me. My original thought about the theme - migrating birds - led me to order this one from my library: Feed the Birds: Attract and Identify 196 Common North American Birds by Chris Earley. Since I was a kid, I've been interested in watching and identifying birds, even though I've never really taken it seriously. We've been dabbling in adding bird feeders around our property and trying to pay attention to what kinds of birds we see in the area, so I think this will be practical at my beginner/hobby level of birdwatching. Plus it's the kind of book I can browse through rather than read cover to cover, which is a big plus during this very busy time of year!


Being a reader of fiction, I also couldn't pass up an excuse to add a novel to my Kindle collection. Paper Wife: A Novel by Laila Ibrahim is about a Chinese woman immigrating (migrating) to the USA. Will I have time to read it this month? It's hard to say, but I'll at least get started. I am pretty sure I won't have the time to finish, but we'll see. I'll include the blurb so you can see if it looks interesting to you.

 

Southern China, 1923. Desperate to secure her future, Mei Ling's parents arrange a marriage to a widower in California. To enter the country, she must pretend to be her husband's first wife - a paper wife.
On the perilous voyage, Mei Ling takes an orphan girl named Siew under her wing. Dreams of a better life in America give Mei Ling the strength to endure the treacherous journey and detainment on Angel Island. But when she finally reaches San Francisco, she's met with a surprise. Her husband, Chinn Kai Li, is a houseboy, not the successful merchant he led her to believe.
Mei Ling is penniless, pregnant, and bound to a man she doesn't know. Her fragile marriage is tested further when she discovers that Siew will likely be forced into prostitution. Desperate to rescue Siew, she must convince her husband that an orphan's life is worth fighting for. Can Mei Ling find a way to make a real family - even if it's built on a paper foundation?

Visit all the participating bloggers sometime during the month to find out their reading plans:


And be sure to check back near the end of the month to see what I learned about identifying birds, and what success we've had in attracting them to our yard!

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 ©2006-2021 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://kympossibleblog.blogspot.com/ 

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Saturday, April 3, 2021

Five Minute Friday - Gentle

This post contains affiliate links - using affiliate links from Homeschool Coffee Break helps fuel this blog.

One word. Five minutes to write about it. This is the idea behind Five Minute Friday and this is today's free-writing post.


gentle giant

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There's something about the word picture of the 'gentle giant' that is so appealing and comforting to me. Maybe because it helps me understand what gentleness is, and that it's not just soft and delicate. Obviously a kitten or a feather would be gentle, but I think it's how you handle a kitten or a feather. That's where the gentle giant comes in. No matter how big and strong he is, he handles the kitten gently.

Many, many years ago, a preacher gave that analogy of a burly farmer or fisherman carefully holding a tiny kitten as a definition of gentleness - power and strength under control. 

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit and it's a word used to describe Jesus. But Jesus certainly wasn't weak or timid and we are not to be weak either. In fact, Jesus displayed power and strength controlled and directed. He commanded the wind and waves, but healed the blind with the touch of his hand. He flipped the tables of the moneychangers and wielded a whip to clear them out of the temple, yet he took little children in his arms to bless them and took the hand of a little girl and brought her back to life.

God's power is beyond our ability to define, but because he is love, he uses his power for our good. Although we fear God in the sense of being in awe of his power, we do not need to be afraid of him, because he is gentle towards us in his love.

After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 
~I Kings 19:12

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." 
~Matthew 11:29

"Say to Daughter Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey; and on a colt, the foal of a donkey." 
~Matthew 21:5

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 
~Ephesians 4:2



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This post is linked at Five Minute Friday for the word prompt "Gentle".




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 We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.



Wednesday, March 31, 2021

March Photo Album

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Welcome springtime! I guess since it is raining and a bit gloomy today, I'll say that March is going out like a lion, and I suppose the weather was mild enough at the beginning of the month that it's fair to say it came in like a lamb.



We've had a quiet but busy month, mostly getting ready for the wedding and all the related concerns. As soon as the weather on a weekend was nice enough we started grilling and smoking. I've done a little baking (Pi Day!), and got a bit anxious to start reorganizing some things. Which means spring cleaning, I guess. One project leads to another, which leads to another . . . and I need to make sure I am ready for Easter this weekend, for house guests and wedding the following weekend, and not upend things too much before those events are over!









Milkshakes at the Bus Stop:




Starting to update the kitchen and dining room:




This post will be linked at Wordless Wednesday, hosted by Life on Chickadee Lane, and at Pictorial Tuesday, hosted by Peabea Scribbles.




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 ©2006-2021 Homeschool Coffee Break. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://kympossibleblog.blogspot.com/ 

 We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.