Once Upon a Time It Came to Pass

What is your favorite Christmas story?

Many of you will probably list Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas (‘T was the Night Before Christmas) or Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Once upon a time, an even better story came to pass.

If you routinely follow my blog, you know I like to recommend books, mostly children’s books and books that celebrate a particular season.

This month my top pick is Chapter 2 of the book of Luke. It’s the perfect story. It has a perfect arc. Its main character is flawless. According to Max Lucado, “The manger is the message!”

My father read this story aloud to our family every Christmas Eve. Because I heard it so often, I know most of it by heart. I carry it in my heart. Thank you, Daddy, for your wisdom and your witness.

And it came to pass in those days . . . .

In Jan Karon’s novel Shepherds Abiding, Father Tim recalls learning this same story from his mother:

“’And there were in that same country . . . ,’” said his mother.

“’Shepherds abiding!’”

“Very good, dear. And where were they abiding?”

“’In the field!’”

“And what were they doing?”

“’Keeping watch o’er their flock by night!’”

“Yes!” said his mother, pleased. He liked pleasing his mother, for he loved her more than anything, even more than Peggy. He also liked saying “o’er” instead of “over.”

His mother had spent hours teaching him the story of Christ’s birth, and the images she instilled in him had been vivid and thrilling, like a kind of movie cast with a score of animals—the great camels plowing over the desert sands, the donkey on which the Virgin Mary probably rode with Joseph walking beside her, the sheep and cows and horses in the hay-scented stable. . . .

And then, to top it all off, there was the heavenly host.

When as a child he heard the passages from Luke read aloud, he had also, on two separate occasions, heard the proclamation delivered by a multitude of voices. Though Scripture said nothing about the proclamation being sung, he was convinced otherwise—in truth, the music had come to him in the region of his heart as well as his mind, and the sound of the great chorale had been beautiful beyond all imagining.

Of course, he wouldn’t have told anyone that he’s heard—as if in his own sky, above his own house—Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. . . .

Father Tim and I were fortunate to have had parents to show us the Way. If you haven’t had a father or a mother to instill within you the importance of this story, take a moment this month to read it for yourself. Google it. YouTube it. Find out why it’s so awesome.

In Janet L. Christensen’s new children’s book Cairo’s Christmas Journey (illustrated by Irene Renon), angels also appear before a young cricket. They invite him to travel to Bethlehem to play a song for the Christ child. As a small creature he doubts he can make such an arduous journey; but with the help of a tortoise, a butterfly, and a fox, he reaches the stable in Bethlehem and plays a beautiful lullaby for the tiny King.

The characters in Cairo’s Christmas Journey all work together to honor the King and to serve Him and each other, much like the characters in Luke’s gospel. Mary answers God’s call, Joseph offers support, the innkeeper provides shelter, the animals share their beds, the angels sing, the star guides the way, the shepherds spread the good news, and perhaps a cricket chirps a lullaby. Everyone plays an important role.

As we journey toward the manger this year, we may be tired from a year of uncertainties. Like Cairo, we may doubt our abilities to make the journey. Like Mary, we may wonder why God has called us to play a role in His plan. However, with the faith of a tiny mustard seed (or a cricket), we can reach our destination and join with the heavenly host singing, “Glory to the God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Many, many books have been written about this Christmas season; but nothing, absolutely nothing, can compare to the story of the Christ child who came to earth one brightly lit night in Bethlehem. This story transcends genre, category, and age level. Yes, the manger is the message we all need to hear and the hope we can all hold in our hearts.

I pray you all find peace this Christmas season.

“Peace on earth will come to stay when we live Christmas every day.”—Helen Steiner Rice

“I heard the bells on Christmas day, their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet the words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men!”—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Romans 15:13; Isaiah 40:3-5

Blessings Abound

“Count your many blessings. Name them one by one.”

Yes, our daily lives, even in the midst of a pandemic, are filled with blessings.

History tells us the people who celebrated the first Thanksgiving likely experienced a plethora of perils. Nonetheless, they focused on their blessings. Their cups were more than half full.

In Meadow Rue Merrill’s picture book The Thanksgiving Blessing, Molly’s family reminds her that, in spite of their many troubles, the pilgrims found a reason to sing praises to God. Molly and her cousin Jacob learn that “Thanksgiving is more than turkey and mashed potatoes and a table full of tasty pies. Thanksgiving is thanking God for His many blessings. And that is something everyone can share.”

Aunt Jenny tells Molly and her family the pilgrims likely sang the words to Psalm 100 as they thanked God for their blessings. This “Doxology” encourages us, as well, to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

This November we need to “enter into His gates with thanksgiving and into His courts with praise; be thankful unto Him, and bless His name.”

I was reflecting on Aunt Jenny’s “Doxology” a few days ago when I was out running errands. As I traveled down a divided highway, I literally saw clouds to the left of me and sunshine to the right of me, but I was in the middle traveling with God. I had the option to focus on the darkness to my left or the Light to my right. Focusing on the Sonshine, I, like those pilgrims, found many reasons to sing praises to God.

Mercer Mayer’s Being Thankful provides another great reminder of why we should stop complaining about what we don’t have and start being thankful for our blessings.

In this story Little Critter longs for a Speed Blaster ZZ scooter with silver wheels, even though he already has a perfectly good scooter. He wishes he had brand-new AR Flyer sneakers to replace his plain old blue ones. As the story progresses, Little Critter continues to complain. Later, when his grandmother gives him a “thankful rock,” she helps him understand what it means to have gratitude.

Grandpa says, “Sometimes when I forget, I look at my thankful rock and I praise God for His goodness and for all the things I’m grateful for—like you, Little Critter!”

When Little Critter shares his new-found attitude of gratitude with Little Sister, they both learn the importance of being thankful.

“When I start wishing for stuff, I look at the rock and remember all the good stuff I already have,” Little Critter says. “Then I start feeling happy again, Try it. You’ll see.”

I often worry about coming up with an idea for my next blog, but like Little Critter, I simply need to remember all the good stuff God gives me. He always, always comes through.

I had already chosen Little Critter’s thankful rock as a theme for my November blog when I started reading Laura L. Smith’s book How Sweet the Sound. Her opening comments about family in the chapter on “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” moved me to tears. This song has always been one of my favorites, and I am truly blessed with a wonderful family.

In this particular devotion Laura asks me, the reader, how God has been there for me and how I might better remember His presence in my life. She then gives several examples of how characters in the Old Testament used rocks to represent their blessings:  Samuel sets up a monument to God for saving the Israelites from the Philistine army, Jacob marks the spot where he had his face-to-face encounter with God, and Moses erects a monument at the foot of Mt. Sinai. These Ebenezers (meaning stones of help) are like Little Critter’s “thankful rock.”

Lord, I am so thankful that you are my Rock!

Laura L. Smith’s devotion on “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” Psalm 100, Little Critter’s thankful rock, and the Thanksgiving holiday all remind me to count my blessings—to “tune my heart to sing thy grace” and never to cease appreciating God’s “streams of mercy.”

This month consider placing some kind of “thankful rock” or post-it note in a prominent place to remind you to count your own blessings. Before bedtime you might ask your child to place thankful rocks (maybe polished stones from a dollar store) inside a jar as a way of counting the blessings of the day. This could be a great prompt for nighttime prayers.

In The Berenstain Bears book Give Thanks, Grizzly Gramps leads his family in a beautiful prayer, one we might all consider offering during this Thanksgiving season:  “Dear Lord, we give thanks for all your blessings—for this great feast that you have provided, for the warm homes that give us shelter, for the love of our family that surrounds us today, and for all the beauties of the earth that you in your great love and wisdom have created. Amen!”

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever.”—1 Chronicles 16:34

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”—A. A. Milne

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18; Ezra 3:11; Psalm 9:1

Language Lessons: Capitalization

The season of fall seems like a nice time to review the rules of capitalization.


Sorry! I didn’t mean to yell, but society has prompted me to provide a few pointers on the proper use of capitalization.

According to Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook, general rules of capitalization include proper names; the first and all important words in titles; the first letter of a sentence; and names of computer keys, menu items, and icon names.

Like the comma, capital letters can be overused. In today’s social media lingo, capital letters can be misconstrued as conveying anger, excitement, or a myriad of emotions.

Therefore, I advise setting a good example and trying to avoid using a capital letter unless the rules of grammar call for it.

Although e. e. cummings took poetic license to use unconventional rules of capitalization and punctuation, James Patterson once advised that we should know the rules before we break them.

Click below for a downloadable pdf of mistakes to avoid. Use this as a refresher course of any rules you may have forgotten. I am also providing a worksheet with answer key if you wish to use it for personal practice or for homeschooling help. (Both Hodges Harbrace Handbook and Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition were consulted for examples.)

“I’m a big believer in random capitalization. The rules of capitalization are so unfair to words in the middle.”–John Green

Galatians 6:11

Shine Your Light

Welcome to October and its bright blue weather!

As I’ve mentioned before, fall is my favorite time of year. Frost is soon to be on the pumpkin in Tennessee, trees are teeming with their new fall fashions, and Walmart is selling Christmas decorations!

October also features football, harvest carnivals, hay rides, candy corn, “Trunk or Treat,” colorful chrysanthemums, and pumpkin spice-flavored everything. It’s a month full of festivities!

All these sensory subjects appear before the backdrop of God’s brightest blue skies. In the words of Helen Hunt Jackson, “Ye cannot rival for one hour October’s bright blue weather.”

The puppy dog in Amy Parker’s Night Night, Pumpkin takes note of the wonders of fall as he revels in the October fun:

The cooler winds whistle in;

The leaves all dance and glow;

Fall is making its grand entrance—

Putting on quite the show!

As he dons his pumpkin costume, the puppy enjoys spending time with his family at the corn maze and in the apple orchard. They gather round a campfire as Grandpa tells them stories of God’s creations. They all snuggle together in the hay as they ride through the fields while the rumbling tractor and the mooing cows lull them to sleep.

My family has experienced similar traditions. From hosting hayrides to exploring pumpkin patches, October is a memorable and special time.

For years my family drove to Monteagle Mountain every October to celebrate my nephew’s birthday. We packed a picnic lunch and basked in the beauty as we watched fall make its grand entrance. We always enjoyed the I24 scenic overlook, one of God’s best canvases.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” –Psalm 19:1

The beauty of this new month reminds us of God’s awesome powers of creation, his ability to spread His Light into the world through us.

Liz Curtis Higgs uses the symbol of the pumpkin to remind us of how we can spread that Light to others. In her book The Pumpkin Patch Parable, Higgs describes the birth of a pumpkin from seed to harvest.

October came at last. The sky was bright blue and the air was cooler. Every night it got dark earlier than it did the night before. It was time for the farmer to harvest his pumpkin crop.

Because the farmer has a special plan for his chosen pumpkin, he takes care to wash off the outside dirt and cull away all of the inside pulp and slime. Then the farmer carves a face in the pumpkin, a face with a beautiful smile.

What happened next was wonderful. The farmer put a small, white candle down inside the pumpkin and touched the wick with a flame. How that pumpkin glowed!

This smiling, glowing pumpkin becomes a symbol of God’s plan for us as an important part of His creation.

“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; you know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”—Psalm 139:13-16 (The Message)

Like the pumpkin in this parable, God casts Light into this dark world. We can see it if we will turn our faces toward Him. He also invites us to accept His Light into our own lives so that we can share it with others.

I invite you on this new October day to recall Harry Dixon Loes’ children’s song “This Little Light of Mine.” Perhaps you learned it in Bible School or saw one of the many YouTube versions.

I encourage you to sing this song in your heart today, or sing it aloud for all to hear. Just sing it! Be like the farmer’s pumpkin, and shine your light!

Our world needs His light and yours to make it a better place.

“God the Father offers his children the chance to be made new, full of joy and full of light, shining like stars in a dark world.” –Liz Curtis Higgs

“Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”—Maya Angelou

“There are two ways of spreading the light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”—Edith Wharton

“Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”Matthew 5:16

“The ripe, the golden month has come again, and in Virginia the chinkapins are falling.”–Thomas Wolfe

Psalm 31:16; Proverbs 15:13; John 1:5; Romans 12:12

Fall 2020 Newsletter

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my fall 2020 newsletter! I love this season! It’s my favorite time of year!

Pumpkin spice is brewing, the leaves are falling, and the evenings are crisp.

According to Robert Browning, “God’s in His heaven, and all’s right with the world.”

Speaking of the poet Robert Browning, fall also makes me think of poetry. The beauty of the fall season cannot be expressed in a prosaic fashion. The sights and sounds and smells all require hyperbole and personification and simile in order to be fully understood.

I came to love poetry as a young child when my mother read aloud “Little Boy Blue” by Eugene Field. I jumped rope to the cadence of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” in elementary school. When Mrs. Medley required a poetry notebook in seventh grade, I learned to appreciate Wordsworth’s daffodils and Gray’s country churchyard. By high school I was writing haiku and loving the language of Poe, Dickinson, Shakespeare, and Tennyson.

In college I basked in the beauty of poetry, but I never enjoyed analyzing it. I wanted to let it be. I didn’t always understand what the poets were saying, but I believed they said it beautifully.

In a similar way, fall contains a kind of beauty that cannot be expressed. It must be experienced through the senses.

James Whitcomb Riley describes these sentiments in his poem “When the Frost Is on the Punkin”:

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere

When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—

Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,

And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;

But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze

Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days

Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

John Keats personifies the season in his poem “To Autumn”:

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep.

Emily Dickinson’s “Autumn” reveals the transition from summer to fall:

The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “God’s World” oozes with imagery:

Thy winds, thy wide gray skies!

Thy mists, that roll and rise!

Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag

And all but cry with color! That gaunt crag

To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!

World, world, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all

But never knew I this.

Here such a passion is

As stretcheth me apart. Lord, I do fear

Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year.

My soul is all but out of me—let fall

No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson shares mixed emotions about the passing of one season into the next:

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
Tears from the depths of some divine despair
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
In looking on the happy autumn fields,
And thinking of the days that are no more.

Percy Bysshe Shelley says, “Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar.”

According to the poet and psalmist David,

Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy. Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with them.” —Psalm 126:5-6

When I taught my high school poetry unit, I shared examples of figurative language and explained how poetry differed from prose. I personally marveled at the words of poets like Tennyson, Pablo Neruda, and Dylan Thomas. However, I did not require my students to analyze a poem’s possible underlying meaning. I simply wanted them to enjoy the words, the language of the poet.

I directed them to resources such as Frank Magill’s Critical Survey of Poetry and Harold Bloom’s literary criticisms. On one occasion when I shared a textbook analysis of Poe’s “The Raven,” a student asked how we could be certain Poe meant what the critic said he had meant. I told him that was a great question, and I quoted the raven.

So how do I connect poetry with this new season? I only need to look out my library window and watch the oak leaves change before my eyes. I see their contrast against the bright blue sky. I marvel at the wonder of His creation. Fall is a poem waiting to be written or read.

I encourage you, my readers, to take a moment to read a poem or two. Certainly share some poetry with the children in your life. Help them to appreciate rhythm and rhyme and the cadence of the classics. Sit outside with them, and share the sights and sounds of the season. Encourage them to write a poem of their own—maybe an ode to an acorn?

I will leave you today with some of my favorites which can be found in One Hundred and One Famous Poems, an anthology compiled by Roy J. Cook, and a book I think should grace every home.

“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae

“Little Boy Blue” by Eugene Field

“How Did You Die?” by Edmund Vance Cooke

“Solitude” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“The Spider and the Fly” by Mary Howitt

“Crossing the Bar” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“If” by Rudyard Kipling

Caroline Kennedy’s Poems to Learn by Heart also offers a mixture of old and new poems as well as beautiful illustrations by Jon J. Muth.

I invite you to use my fall 2020 bookmarks to save your spot in your favorite book of poetry. Click on the link below to download and print.

May this new season bring a withering of worries and a harvest of hope.

Poetically yours,

The Literary Lyonesse

“Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” William Wordsworth

“The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.”—Isaiah 40:8

Sage Superheroes


grandpa hero

Grandparents Day, officially recognized by President Carter in 1979, occurs this year on Sunday, September 13. These grand gems deserve much recognition!

According to Psalm 145:4, “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” I am eternally grateful for the family and friends of previous generations who have nurtured my faith and served as my role models. They are nothing less than sage superheroes.

Many of them wore overalls or aprons, not capes or masks; but they all put on the full armor of God. Ma and Pa Sartain, Ma and Pa McCullough, Daddy Warren, Ma Shelton, Pop Churchman, Grandma Treva, Miss Dean, aunts, uncles, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, and many others impacted the early years of my life.

My grandfather had a limited education, but he was one of the wisest men I’ve ever known. He taught me faithfulness, generosity, kindness, honesty, compassion.

In the book of Ruth, Naomi adopts her daughter-in-law’s baby as her own grandchild. Naomi is obviously Ruth’s superhero! “Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and became his nanny.”–Ruth 4:16

Ma and Pa

In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods, Pa Ingalls tells Laura about the faith of her own grandpa.

“Supper was solemn. After supper, Grandpa’s father read aloud a chapter of the Bible, while everyone sat straight in his chair. Then they all knelt down, and the father said a long prayer. When he said, ‘Amen,’ they got up from their knees and each took a candle and went to bed.”

These habits, commended from one generation to another, create a community of faithful believers.

My own grandparents shared with me the importance of praying and reading the Bible and going to church. I can still see my mother’s father reading his well-worn Bible in his chair in the corner of his little house in the country.

A cousin who lived for a time with my paternal grandmother recently shared with me our grandmother’s routine of praying on her knees before getting into bed every night. While I never saw my grandmother in this prayerful pose, I saw her faith in the life she lived.

For a week every summer my sister and I vacationed “in the country” with my mother’s parents. My grandfather taught us to milk cows and bale hay, and my grandmother shared her cooking and gardening skills. We learned how to tie a June bug to a string and spit watermelon seeds and gather “hicker nuts” and thrive on our grandparents’ love.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” –Proverbs 22:6

Ma Sartain

Johanna Spyri reveals this kind of relationship between grandchild and grandparent in her children’s classic Heidi. Through Heidi’s grandfather, Peter’s grandmother, and Klara’s grandmamma, loving relationships develop throughout the story as the characters spend quality time together. Through the examples set before them by these grandparents, Heidi and her friend Klara learn to find faith in God as a result of and in spite of their difficult circumstances.


Heidi tells Klara, “We must pray to God every day, and tell Him everything, everything; so that He can know that we do not forget Him, and then He will not forget us. Your grandmamma told me so. But we ought never to think that God has forgotten us because He does not grant our prayers, and so stop praying, but rather pray in this way: ‘Now I am sure, dear God, that there is something better in store for me, and so I will be happy, because you will provide.’”

Heidi and Klara become great philosophers as a result of the sage superheroes in their lives:

“Do you know why the stars are so happy and look down and nod to us like that?” asked Heidi. “No, why is it?” Klara asked in return. “Because they live up in heaven, and know how well God arranges everything for us, so that we need have no more fear or trouble and may be quite sure that all things will come right in the end. That’s why they are so happy, and they nod to us to be happy too. But then we must never forget to pray, and to ask God to remember us when He is arranging things, so that we too may feel safe and have no anxiety about what is going to happen.”

In Laura South Sassi’s picture book Love Is Kind, Little Owl, much like Heidi and Klara, faces disappointment and frustrations throughout his day. However, when he spends quality time with his grandmother, he learns the importance of kindness and love. As she rocks and cuddles Little Owl, she shares her wisdom. She is his sage superhero!

little owl


Glenys Nellist’s new picture book Grandma Snuggles also focuses on the importance of grandparents in our lives. From prayerful pandas to playful puppies, Grandma Snuggles reminds children that all creatures, including our own human grandparents, are gifts from God. As the young beaver declares, “Grandma snuggles are the best. She’s God’s gift to me.”


The sage superheroes in our lives provide the support and encouragement we need to carry on, to forge ahead. Those literal and metaphorical “snuggles from grandma” reassure us that all will be well.

Even though my grandparents are no longer living, I am reminded of them often. I snuggle under my grandmothers’ quilts in the winter, and I still hear their wise words of advice. I am proud to carry on their legacy of faith.

If possible, go and spend some time with your own grandparent or another sage superhero in your life.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”                                                                                –Julian of Norwich, a prayerful superhero of the Middle Ages

“Every house needs a grandmother in it.” –Louise May Alcott

James 1:17; Proverbs 13:22; 2 Timothy 1:5


Language Lessons: Verb Conjugation

Verb heart

When asked to identify the most important part of speech, many people might answer, “The noun.” However, in my opinion, the verb is the most important, and often misused, part of speech. A sentence cannot function without a verb. Even in imperative sentences with an implied subject, the one spoken or written word of that sentence is a verb. Listen. Learn.

Colloquially, people often say things like, “I seen it!” or “I had went.” Even though everyone else might be using these expressions, they are grammatically incorrect.

Whether you are currently involved in homeschooling, distance learning, or virtual learning, I’d like to offer some assistance with basic verb usage. Younger children might be introduced to verbs through Irina Gonikberg Dolinskiy’s Parts of Speech Parade (illustrated by Mark Wayne Adams).

parts of speech parade

Middle school students might benefit from Everything You Need to Ace English Language Arts in One Big Fat Notebook. (Disclaimer: I do not own this book, but I have skimmed through it at Walmart. It appears to be a good resource.)

middle school language arts bk

For high school students, as well as college students and adults, the latest edition of Hodges’ Harbrace Handbook can be a valuable reference tool. Yes, I know Google or Alexa is readily available, but your Wi-Fi hot spot might not be.

harbrace handbook

Once again, the verb serves as the heart of the sentence. It expresses the action of the subject, or it links the word following it back to the subject. In English, six tenses are used to show the time of the verb’s expression: present, past, or future.

Verb conjugation 2

Regular verbs form their past and past participles by adding “d” or “ed” to the base form. These words are not difficult to conjugate. Most problems arise with irregular verbs which have no consistent usage rule.

This list of Common Irregular Verbs pdf may be used for practicing conjugation. Simply plug in the correct form of the verb in the proper section of the Conjugation Graphic Organizer pdf.  Use the Verb Conjugation (go) pdf to determine which form of the verb to use with which tense. The Conjugation of See pdf might also help.

Note: The past form of the verb is never used with a helping verb. The past participle form of the verb is always used with a helping verb.

I am also including an explanation of Troublesome Verbs pdf, which I hope you will find helpful.

My language lessons are based on your requests; so if you need guidance in other areas, please let me know.

“Good words are better than bad strokes.” –William Shakespeare

Colossians 4:6; Proverbs 141:3; Proverbs 21:23






A Reader Review: The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion by Annette Whipple

LIW pictures

Annette Whipple’s “Companion” to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books offers a true side-by-side study of life in the Wisconsin woods, the Kansas prairie, the Minnesota creeks, and all the other settings of Wilder’s Little House stories. For example, in Chapter One of Little House in the Big Woods, Laura describes how Pa provides food for his family by hunting wild game and growing his own fruits and vegetables. In the Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, Whipple compares the “Butchering Time” of the 1870’s to the modern methods of purchasing meat today. In addition, each chapter contains a “Live like Laura” section filled with recipes and crafts for children to make. A “House Talk” section also provides reflective questions relating to each of Wilder’s nine books. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion can be a perfect tool for supplemental study of the Little House books, and it can also serve as a resource for homeschooling parents to enjoy side by side with their little ones. Rich in resources and history, this book is a must-read for fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Grappling Guidelines

isaiah image

For years I began the new school year by teaching Carl Stephenson’s short story “Leiningen Vs. the Ants.” Charlton Heston played the role of this character in the movie adaptation, The Naked Jungle. If you know anything at all about Charlton Heston, you know he was good at overcoming obstacles. (I think he also played the role of Moses.)


“Organization is the key to grappling with life,” I repeatedly told my students. Leiningen, the hero of this story, overcame great obstacles by adhering to this adage, and he felt this was the first step toward becoming “master of his fate.”

I wanted to initially impress upon my students the importance of perseverance in their academic studies, and I also wanted them to know life might require a bit of “grappling.”

Warned that soldier ants were headed toward his South American plantation, Leiningen learned how to grapple. He developed a Plan A, a Plan B, and a Plan C. He understood the severity of the forces against him and planned accordingly.

How many of us develop even one backup plan, much less two? How have we managed in the midst of this so-called year of “perfect vision?”

Solomon tells us in Proverbs 6:6 to consider the ways of the ant and be wise. They never ever give up! They adapt to whatever life throws their way.

[Leiningen] did not need to be told that ants are intelligent, that certain species even use others as milch cows, watchdogs, and slaves. He was well aware of their power of adaptation, their sense of discipline, their marvelous talent for organization.

This year life has thrown us a pandemic, and fear of the unknown looms over us like an ominous storm cloud. As opening day of the new school year dawns, everyone hopes students and staff stay safe and well. Parents, teachers, administrators, and students are unsure of what lies ahead. However, having a Plan A, a Plan B, a Plan C, and perhaps a Plan D will see us through. There is hope in the midst of the storm.

Like the ants, we must be able to adapt; but first, we must have faith. (2 Corinthians 5:5)

In Chris Van Allsburg’s children’s book Two Bad Ants, a couple of wayward characters decide to abandon their fellow ants and go against the teachings of their queen. As a result, they find themselves in hot (literally boiling) water. Yes, their waywardness gets them in trouble, but their perseverance gets them back on track. They learn their lesson in the end, and they stay loyal to their queen.

This school year, educators, like the ants, may have to march into dark, uncharted woods. They may be required to climb mountains whose peaks they cannot see. They may find themselves in a strange and puzzling world. They may need to paddle hard to keep their heads above the crushing waves of schedule modifications, new policies, and procedures.

two bad ants

We can all better adapt (like the ants) when we consider others before ourselves. Philippians 2:4 encourages us to “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others.” 1 Peter 3:8 also reminds us to “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, and be compassionate and humble.” These are the characteristics of empathy.

In We Don’t Eat Our Classmates, author Ryan T. Higgins shows children how to be like-minded and love one another. On the first day of school, Penelope Rex worries that her classmates may not like her. Indeed, her classmates are afraid of her because she tries to eat them!

It was NOT the best way to start school. Still, Penelope was determined to have a good first day.

When the tables are turned and a goldfish tries to eat Penelope, she finally understands the importance of seeing life through the other person’s eyes.

we don't eat our classmates

As the new school year begins, I encourage everyone to focus on three goals.

First, stay organized. According to Leiningen, being organized is an important step in facing life’s hurdles, and it can help alleviate stress. Having a place for everything and having everything in its place gives you one less thing to worry about. Also, develop your own Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.

Show empathy, and understand that others may be experiencing anxiety just as much as you. Focus your attention on being kind to someone else, and you may forget your own fears. Now is not the time to eat your classmates, your principal, or your co-workers. Don’t get too close to them, for that matter. Keep your distance, but show compassion.

Above all else, have faith. Continue to pray without ceasing. Don’t let the sugary sweetness of temptation lure you away from the One True God.  Remember the words of Psalm 18:2: “The Lord is my protector; He is my strong fortress. My God is my protection, and with Him I am safe. He protects me like a shield; He defends me and keeps me safe.”

May less grappling be required of all of us as we go forward into this new month of this memorable year.

Go in peace.

“Follow the Christ the King. Live pure, speak true, right wrong, follow the King.”—Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”—Harper Lee

“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.” –William Shakespeare 

James 1:3; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Ephesians 2:10; Isaiah 26:3



Language Lessons: Pronoun Usage

I recently heard Prince Harry give an interview about why he and his wife had moved to Canada. His elocution seemed flawless, and I usually love hearing him or any other Brit speak. However, when he said, “This was the best decision for Meghan and I,” I cringed. I’m sorry, but I cringed.

I truly want Prince Harry and every other human on earth to live a happy life; so whatever decision they need to make is their business.

Proper grammar, on the other hand, is one of my fields of interest.

I had a great response earlier in the year when I shared some homeschooling help on comma rules. Some of you indicated you would like to see more grammar help; so this is my attempt to accommodate your requests.

Today’s “Language Lesson with the Literary Lyonesse” covers pronoun usage. If you would like help with other specific areas of need, please feel free to make comments to this post; and I will address those areas in future lessons.

First, take a moment to watch Bill Flanagan’s explanation of the pronoun problems I’ve addressed in these exercises. Interestingly, this clip first aired on CBS Sunday Morning in 2014, but it’s still a major issue.

The problem with pronoun usage lies in not knowing the function of the cases. For handy reference, I have created a pronoun chart which explains the three cases and their functions.

Using this chart, you may be able to identify the errors in this pronoun quiz found in “The Tale of the Baby Bats.” A pdf answer sheet is also available.

After you have studied the chart, see if you can identify the correct pronoun in each of the following references to Aesop’s fables.

  1. A lion asked his friends to tell him if his breath smelled bad.

[The sheep thought, “The lion has asked the wolf and (I or me) for an honest answer.]

“The fox gave a hollow cough, then cleared his throat. ‘Your majesty,’ he whispered, ‘truly, I have such a cold in the head that I cannot smell at all.’”

The fox knew he should say nothing at all if he couldn’t say anything nice!

  1. A lion and a goat arrived at a mountain spring at the same time.

[The goat said, “The lion or (I or me) might be eaten by vultures.”]

The lion and the goat both learned not to be greedy.

  1. One day a fox met a lion, a creature he had never seen before.

[“I hope this lion will be friendly to the other animals and (I or me),” declared the fox.]

The fox learned the lion was not a danger to him.

  1. Once upon a time, a lion fell in love with a woodman’s daughter.

[The woodman shouted, “You make her mother and (I or me) afraid”!

Even a wild lion in love can be tamed.

  1. A hungry lion and a hungry bear fought over a dead carcass.

[The lion watched as a fox stepped boldly between the bear and (he or him) and dragged the carcass away.]

The lion and the bear learned not to fight over their food.

good grammar

I hope you enjoyed this “Language Lesson with the Literary Lyonesse.” Stay safe, and stay tuned for a future lesson on verb conjugation.

Matthew 6:26