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Character Ink 2018-2019 Cottage Classes! Live and Online Options!


Character Ink (CI) is announcing a tentative class offering list for the next school year for all three of our locations. Please note that the classes will be offered based on enrollment as of July 1st (for first semester) and November 1st (for second semester), so if there is a class that you want CI to run, please be sure to register early to be sure that class is full enough.


Registrations are on a first come-first served basis. A deposit of $50 per student (regardless of number of classes) is required with the registration form in order to hold class spots for a student. Students will be invoiced at the beginning of each semester with monthly payments as needed.


You may see the full schedule, prices, and descriptions at our Cottage Classes page. Registration forms coming soon! You may also request a registration form by e-mailing


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Families and Co-Ops: Online Writing Classes by Donna Reish (Character Ink Press)


I have had a wonderful year teaching online classes! The tech wasn’t as bad as I was afraid it was going to be. We didn’t really have any trouble getting papers back and forth between me and the students. And it was great to teach students from Canada, Florida, Chicago, Ohio, and more! So much fun!


I am excited to open up a couple more classes–and extremely excited for the interest from co-ops and small groups to join me! I’m still working out the details of the small group or co-op classes, but I would love to talk you on the phone to work your group in! (260-433-4365)


Also, if you have a group of four or more students, I would consider creating a writing or complete language arts class for your group possibly on a different day/time.


Here are the details as I know them so far!

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5 Tips for Past vs. Passed From Language Lady

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Slideshow: 5 Tips for Past vs. Passed From Language Lady



Pass Is the Verb

The first thing I teach my students is that PASS is the verb. It is the current tense. We do not say Today I PAST the test. PASS/PASSED is the verb.

To cement this further, I ask them what would happen if we added the past tense suffix ED to the non-verb PAST. I love doing this because they look at each other and try to figure it out aloud: PASS/TED? Then I have them write PAST on their paper and add ED to it. In unison, they say PAY/STED (pasted)! This helps them really think about the fact that PAST is not the verb! PAST with ED has nothing to do with PASSING–it has to do with PASTING, as in gluing!



Focus on PAST as a Preposition First

I like to break down and “play with” the word PAST first. Past can be one of three parts of speech (at least). Past is a preposition when it has an object following it: PAST the barn. PAST the house. PAST the school. 

I remind them of their Preposition Practice Pal and/or Preposition Check Sentences: Birdie flew PAST the tube or The angel flew PAST the cloud. Yep. PAST is a preposition. We practice with PAST as a preposition with many objects–and if I feel they are “getting it,” I will also have them highlight the verbs in the “past as a preposition” sentence. This helps them see that past is a preposition, and there is already a verb in that sentence. (More on this later….I don’t do too much of this yet!)



Focus on PAST as Other Parts of Speech for Older Students

If the students are well-versed in prepositions with me, they are also well-versed in the fact that prepositions can also be other parts of speech. (We talk about this ALL the time, beginning with the preposition TO also used as part of an infinitive phrase: to run, to be, etc.) So they are used to my talks of “prepositions can also be….”! So we delve into two of the other things that the word PAST can often be: adverbs and adjectives. 

PAST is an adverb when it tells WHERE you went: We drove PAST. We just walked right PAST. (Some would argue that these are prepositions with their objects missing!) More importantly, however, PAST is an adjective that tells after a time or before and describes a noun: half PAST twelve; it is PAST noon; those are PAST memories. (Of course, PAST can be a noun when used in place of the word history or distance, but since it is usually a noun that is the object of a preposition {in the PAST; don’t dwell on the PAST}, I don’t bring this up—first PAST is a preposition, then it’s an object of a preposition????–Stop the madness! Poor kids!) 



Use Structural Analysis When It Works

I like to give students as many tricks, tips, mnemonics, rhymes, jingles, and more for learning as I possibly can! And I like to use as many DIFFERENT ones as possible since one trick (recitation, for example) might work wonderfully for this student but not for another. Visual kids might not HEAR the difference between the base verb PASS and the word PAST (even without the ED added onto the PASS). However, that same visual student might do really well with structural analysis–analyzing the structure of words (and the visual/kinesthetic learner might learn really well by analyzing and highlighting or “coding” in some way). 

Thus, I like to point out that PAST ends with a T….. and THE begins with a T. Then I write on my board (or have them highlight it in their lesson where it is written): pasT The barn; pasT The school; pasT The park, etc. This further cements the fact that past is the preposition, not the verb. (We also place parentheses around all prepositional phrases when we “dissect” sentences, so I will have them do this as well.)



Go Deeper With Older Students

For older kids, I give a dozen or more examples of all of the parts of speech that PAST can be–again pointing out that it is never PASS in these instances since PASS is a verb. I also have them practice writing examples of each instance of using PAST.
    a. Preposition: They drove PAST the gate
    b. Adjective: He is the PAST president. 
    c. Adverb: He flew PAST. 
    d. Noun: Let’s leave that in the PAST. 

Older students can also grasp the concept that if there is another MOVEMENT verb in the sentence (and it’s not a compound verb), you want the word PAST with it: We DROVE past the park. However, if there is not another movement verb in the sentence, you want the VERB PASSED: We PASSED the park.

Thanks for Joining Donna to Learn About Grammar and Writing!

Check Out Other “5 Tips From Language Lady” slideshows!

5 Places to Find Language Lady/Donna Reish Teaching Grammar and Writing

Welcome to Summer School


I know that title is a lot cheerier than most people are when they think of Summer School. However, I want to help you look at Summer School in a little more positive light. It CAN be an opportunity to catch up on missed skills, reinforce what was just learned, or prep for the upcoming school year. It CAN be an opportunity to focus on one area of academics instead of several. It CAN be an opportunity to grow your student in an area of interest. It CAN be a great opportunity!

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Delighting in the Dailies—Part II of II


So now that you are convinced that “delighting in the dailies” will help you accomplish your goals, how do you get them started (and keep them going) during the initial stages—when there isn’t a lot of fruit to show for your efforts, and you are convinced some day that you should just forget making dinner and go play solitaire or buy some sort of farm equipment (on the computer…lol)?


Here are some tips for learning to truly “delight in the dailies” and make those dailies a long-term reality in your home:

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Conjunctive Adverbs–Comical Sentences Plus Tricky Trick Sheet for Students!


Conjunctive Adverbs (CA’s) are one of the most confusing parts of speech to teach because they are not used that often. However, we need to teach students what they are and how to write with them because they carry so much meaning! They are amazing for transitions–and they show so many relationships between words and between parts of a sentence. (Check out the Tricky Trick student download in this post for the four places to use Conjunctive Adverbs in a Sentence!) They also have several punctuation options (depending on whether the CA is in between two sentences, at the beginning of a sentence, at the end of a sentence, or splitting on complete sentence).

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Delighting in the Dailies–Part I of II

If you have heard us speak or read any of our blogs, you have probably heard my stories about how I used to be a “closet lady.” That is, I always cleaned out closets, organized toy cubes, shelved books in order, and made one hundred freezer meals in one day—instead of doing the dishes, laundry, trash, and other “dailies.”


It took me a while as a young mother to get to the point where I could set all of my projects aside—all of the more “creative,” fun, and cool things–in order to do the things that I needed to every day….the dailies.


But once I did, my life was forever changed. You see, it is the daily ins and outs that truly make us successful in homeschooling (and in life!).

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5 Tips for Beginning Essay Teaching From Language Lady

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5 Tips for Beginning Essay Teaching From Language Lady



Essay Writing Is the Easiest Writing Place to Start

The range of “fun” and difficult in essays can’t be beat! An essay can be fun (three reasons Superman is the best super hero), hobby related (three easy cross stitch patterns), personal (your three favorite vacation foods), straightforward (three colors of the rainbow), formal (three quotations about a topic or by a person), or research-based (three reasons smoking should be banned in public buildings). Essays are easier to scale in terms of difficulty level because even second graders can learn to write a one paragraph personal essay (compared to a research-based report or story with story writing elements).

Along with the difficulty level in general, the number of skills needed is significantly less in beginning essay writing than in other types of writing. A student in elementary school who has learned the fundamentals of what a sentence contains, what a paragraph contains, and how to create a simple outline can start essay writing. There are myriad of skills that are needed for research writing and/or story writing. (Not that essay writing can’t be complex, as shown in my book, Meaningful Composition 11 I: The Three P’s of Persuasive Writing. However, those skills are not needed to begin essay writing.)



Teach the Three-Topics-Three-Paragraph Method to Your Older Students

If your high schooler has never written a five-paragraph essay before, I recommend that you begin with what I call the “three topics/three paragraphs for the body” (P’soB) approach. This is a simplified way of teaching students how to write multiple paragraphs when they are not used to writing more than one or two paragraphs. In this approach, the student writes about three different things, such as three different foods or three different beaches or three different novels, etc.  For the overwhelmed older student who is trying to catch up in his writing skills, it is ideal because it feels like “three little essays” as opposed to three complete paragraphs for the body of a one-topic essay.

The beauty of this approach is that a student does not have to think about so much information for three paragraphs. He can simply plan out information for one paragraph of 6 to 8 sentences about one topic. He moves onto the next paragraph, and it is about a completely different topic. Then the student can tack on a thesis to the first paragraph and a closing sentence to the last paragraph—and have a three paragraph essay! I use this method extensively in my junior high writing books to teach students how to move into multi-paragraph writing painlessly.



Always Have Students Outline Before They Write

I have had students who come back from college and bring me a paper to help them edit. When I mention that it seems a little “rambly,” the student sheepishly tells me that she didn’t have time to outline. And it shows. (She couldn’t have gotten away with that in my cottage classes as we take a grade on the outlining/prewriting step as well as any research steps that are needed for report writing!)

Outlining keeps a writer from rambling. It helps him get thoughts on paper in shortened form—while the ideas are flowing. He doesn’t have to interrupt the creative process with writing out full sentences or paragraphs. He can jot down notes quickly—thus, keeping up a little better with the mind than writing full sentences usually allows .Outlining is the thinking/creating step. Writing is the style step. By learning to outline first, the student’s focus is on gathering data and organizing it in the order he wants it. He doesn’t have to do so many skills at one time—research (or think in creative situations), write notes, determine order/placement of material, write quality sentences, divide paragraphs, edit, etc.



Do Not Expect a Student to Include Too Many Unusual or “In Progress Skills” in One Essay

One of the most important things in teaching to me is student success. I want them to feel successful at the end of each project. The opposite of this happens when we assign a project without giving them the skills that are needed to complete the project. Because of this, all of the writing assignments in my books have skill building lessons for the tasks that are needed to complete the project. Thus, if they are doing a quotation essay, students will have lessons on how to punctuate quotes. If they are doing a research report, they will have lessons on how to research and organize material.


When students are first learning skills, we don’t want to expect too many of them all at the same time. For example, if he is still in the quotation process, have him simply add one quotation and be sure that, that week’s lesson includes quotation writing as a skill building lesson. Don’t assign a project with a formal tone if he doesn’t know the difference between first person, second person, and third person. In every project, a student should know how to do the skills that are expected of him in that type of writing.



Don’t Make the Essay Writing Process Too Open Ended

One of the reasons why students have so much trouble in writing is because we simply give them writing topics. I know because when I first began writing curriculum in language arts and composition, I had a bookshelf full of writing prompts or writing idea books. We have to understand the difference between telling a student to write something and teaching a student how to write that.

We need to be sure that he understands the parameters–how many paragraphs, what each paragraph should contain, whether he is doing an opening or closing, whether the opening or closing had to be a specific style, what person he’s writing in, the tone of the paper, and much more. Writing idea books and writing prompts do not give a student the tools needed to learn how to write.

Resources for this Slideshow:

  1.  Essay Writing Is the Easiest Writing Place to StartCheck out a two-week sample from one of my intermediate essay books

     2. Teach the Three-Topics-Three-Paragraph Method to Your Older Students Check out a two-week sample from my upper level high school essay book

  1. Always Have Students Outline Before They WriteGet a free one month writing book at any level 
  2. Do Not Expect a Student to Include Too Many Unusual or “In Progress Skills” in One EssayCheck out these pre-writing skills…
  3. Don’t Make the Essay Writing Process Too Open EndedSee how students need specifics, not vagueness in this lesson and download

Thanks for Joining Donna to Learn About Grammar and Writing!

Check Out Other “5 Tips From Language Lady” slideshows!

5 Places to Find Language Lady/Donna Reish Teaching Grammar and Writing

5 Influences to Determine Your Priorities

There are five influences that we have found in determining priorities in life. Obviously, there are more impacts than these; however, these are the five that have guided us through the years. Like everything else we have learned and applied in our lives, these were learned from others (especially through Gregg Harris Seasons of Life seminar)—for which we will be eternally grateful.


The five influences on prioritizing include the following:

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3 P’s of Persuasive Writing Review Session Video (With Free Download!)


I recently had a student miss an important class session in my sequence of teaching the 3 P’s of Persuasive Writing, so I recorded the review for him. When I finished recording it, I thought it would make a good review for parents and teachers who are teaching in these areas (and for those who would like to see what goes on in my advanced writing classes). So….here you go!


Watch the teaching video and follow along with the downloadable portions provided. It really is fun to learn how to take your POSITION, design your POINTS, and gather your PROOFS! 🙂

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