Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Best Homeschool Lessons: Silly Sentences with Rigorous Research

I have a confession to make.

It was a sin. A wicked indulgence. I wish I had never seen that llama. But the illegal tweezer shipment was totally not my fault!

Actually, I never learned to diagram sentences.

I had a good grammar course in eighth grade. And it was at Pine View, which counts for much.

Still, though it emphasized recognizing parts of speech, it never covered graphical representations thereof.

Sad that I made from grade school through a decent university--with a BA in English!--without once diagramming a sentence in my native tongue.

This sad deficiency I have determined not to inflict upon my own children.

Today Eric wanted a "really tricksy" sentence. I decided to challenge both of us by writing the sentence first and figuring out how to diagram it later.

Part of the fun was that Eric got to make suggestions about words to add. In the end, I mostly wrote the subject and verb, while he constructed the rest of the predicate.

Left: A sentence growing progressively more complicated and silly. Right: the final result, "Mommy, who is very surprised, nevertheless placidly observes rogue undead arrows with tattoos attacking her."

We both learned a lot.

For my part, I learned how to show a relative clause. Also, I discovered some fantastic reference websites.

For Eric, it was doubtless salutary to watch Mom, who is supposed to be The Expert, saying things like "I think 'nevertheless' is a subordinating conjunction. But it's not acting like one here. 'However' can be both an adverb and a conjunction, right? Let me look it up....

It unsettled him a little, but he got through it. Aspie anxiety practice!

('However,' by the way, can, indeed, function as either an adverb or a conjunction. According to, though, 'nevertheless' is only ever an adverb. It seems like the sentence "I appreciate your concerns; nevertheless I must insist" uses it as a subordinating conjunction. Grandma Homer? Help?)

Speaking of Aspie anxiety, imagine how it will upset him tomorrow when I mention, "Oops. I just realized something. I think there should either be a comma between "rogue" and "undead," or we should have charted them differently. Sorry."

I also think a "sentence contest" would be fun. I write a hard sentence for Eric to diagram; he reciprocates. (*Shudder*) Grandma Homer could grade our results.

Or y'all could submit sentences which Eric and I could tackle together. Perhaps a complex/compound sentence full of silliness? Suggestions?


Krenn said...

In Eric's place, I'd probably stick with denial.

No mommy! you are NOT ALLOWED to be wrong! We are doing the NEXT lesson now!

LALALA I can't hear you!

Gail said...

Ronald -- although the Omnipotency Myth is very flattering, I expect it's good for Eric to face reality.

The other day he caught me having overlooked a distribution pair in algebra and gloated about it. I took this as a good sign.

I was less sanguine when he pointed out my oversight to Jon, of course, whom I will now have to begin retraining, once again, to believe that I am Always Right.

Krenn said...

Oh, in Eric's place, I'd be perfectly willing to admit that Gail-mother can be mistaken. It just can't MATTER that she's mistaken, when teaching me complex and non-relevant things.

Basically, I just wouldn't have the patience to sit around and listen to teachers dither, at least not after the initial lesson.

Not at Eric's age anyway. at my age, I still have to put up with GM's doing it, and that's bad enough.

Gregory said...

A current somewhat irritating trend in business speak is to make nouns verbs and verbs into nouns. (e.g. 'How much of a spend will they have to cloud their production network?') While I don't think I would claim it is a proper sentence, it does make for an interesting looking diagram.

Gail said...

Greg -- interesting example, thanks. I imagine I would treat it rather like a gerund, that is a form of a verb acting as a noun. As I recall, gerunds go on these annoying little pedestals.

Another fantastic question for the Greater Expert, Grandma Homer.

Gail said...

Oh, also, the thing that really annoys me is news-speak, like CNN anchors saying, "President Obama today announcing the death of Bin Laden." Grrr.

I think a real grammarian would just say "It doesn't parse" and not even try.