Friday, February 27, 2015



1. In what year were each of the four men with birthdays in February born?

2. Who was the first president born in the 19th century?

3. Who was the first president born in the 20th century?

4. Who was the first president to be born after the American Revolution?

5. What president had the campaign slogan, “I like Ike.”

6. Teddy Roosevelt’s niece Eleanor married a future president while Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House? What was the name of her husband?

7. Who was president when the Berlin Wall was torn down?

8. What president wrote the best selling book, “Profiles In Courage”?

9. How many presidents were assassinated?

10. What president had a popular dog named Fala?


1. Washington 1732, William Henry Harrison 1773, Lincoln 1809, Reagan 1911.

2. Milliard Fillmore 1800.

3. John F. Kennedy, born in 1917,

4. James K Polk was born in 1795.

5. Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower.

6. Eleanor Roosevelt marrie her fifth cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

7. George Herbert Walker Bush

8. John F. Kennedy.

9. Four

10.Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Pick up a biography of one of our presidents or first ladies and read about his or her life.

When historians are asked to rank the presidents, the three top ranked are George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt. Look these men up in an encyclopedia. Why do you think they rank at the top?

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Yesterday I showed you the PAO (Person, Action, Object) method of creating a pegging list. It is a preferred method of memory competition champs and because everybody’s PAO list is different, it is often well suited to the individual student and less boring than the alphabet.

I will be giving you other pegging lists. But practice with this one for awhile.

As a college English instructor , I found an alternative use for PAO lists. I used it to introduce students to the parts of speech.

In class we followed the steps of yesterday’s blog. We created a list of people, and then a list of transitive verbs (They take an object) and finally a list of nouns that named people places or things.

Put the items in the list together in fun ways and you have a PAO list.

Barack Obama (person) sews (action) coats (object).

Lady Gaga buys cats.

Mickey Mouse chases bumblebees.

The sentences can have some nonsense in them because this makes them easier to remember.

Those objects (coats, cats and bumblebees) are all direct objects. They get their action directly from the verb.

I mentioned yesterday there were two other types of objects.

Indirect Object

I bought my brother a car.

Obviously I didn’t buy my brother. I bought the car. So brother is the indirect object.

I plowed my neighbor’s driveway. Surely I didn’t plow my neighbor. He is the indirect object.

Find the indirect object by rewriting the sentence. If I can put either of the prepositions “for” or “to” in front of the word, that word is an indirect object.

I bought a car for my brother.

I plowed the driveway for my neighbor.

Object of a Preposition

When I was in grade school teachers told us if we could not recognize prepositions, we had to memorize the list in the book. I don’t think any of my classmates memorized the list. We all told ourselves we could recognize a preposition.

As a college instructor I have had students come up to me after class and start reciting the prepositions in alphabetical order. Those were the students who memorized the lists of prepositions. They learned them well, and all these years later were able to rattle off the list of prepositions.

“About, Above, Across, At…” These students could do the entire list.

We had a notetaker in class one day, and I asked her how she recognized prepositions. She shrugged. “I don’t know. I just do,” she said.

I am like that too. I just know a preposition when I see one. Two of my students taught me some easy methods for those who don’t recognize prepositions on sight and who never memorized a list of them.

The dog house rule:

If I can put the word in front of The dog house,” it is a preposition.

A mouse can go under the dog house: the dog can walk to the dog house. I can hang a bird feeder above the dog house.

Other prepositions are into, on in, of, from, for, beneath.

If you try this with a list of prepositions that you find online or in an English book, some may not work. “During” is a preposition, but it does not work with “the dog house.” There are a few others, but the dog house rule limits the prepositions you might have to memorize

Anyplace a Mouse Can Go

Another student told me a preposition is anyplace a mouse can go. Above, over, under, into, on, off, past, onto.

I hope these grammar tips help.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


Memory experts have a type of pegging list called PAO. The letters stand for Person Action Object. Memory champions use PAO like any pegging list be it a list of locations or a list inspired by the alphabet or some other recognized order. I sometimes use the names of the forty-four U.S. presidents as a pegging list. Most people would probably prefer PAO. It is more memorable.

Creating a PAO list is fun and easy. First write a list of people’s names. These can be actors, historical figures, cartoon characters, fictional characters or friends and relatives. Let’s start with ten names.


1. Elvis Presley

2. Queen Elizabeth

3. George Washington

4. Eva De Neve (my mother) Substitute the name of your mother, aunt or teacher.

5. Mickey Mouse

6. Snoopy the beagle

7. Barack Obama

8. Justine Bieber

9. Snow White

10. Sleeping Beauty


Now make a list of ten transient verbs. These are verbs that take an object.

Kissed, kicked, swallowed, ate, read played, broke, carried, caught, cleaned, drank. paid, stopped, helped.

That is more than ten, but we don’t have to use them all. Feel free to look up more transitive verbs online.


Now make a list of nouns that name people or things.

fiddlestick, cow, donkey, dog, drums, book, spaghetti, Bugs Bunny, cat, paycheck, lamp, sofa, door, bedroom, bumblebee.

These are just examples. Use them or your own list.

Now let’s make sentences.

Elvis Presley kissed a cow.

Queen Elizabeth swallowed bumblebees.

Greorge Washington kicked Bugs Bunny.

Go on make your own sentences. Comeback when you are finished.


Now memorize the list of PAO’s. Add more than ten if you like. Why? Because we often have more than ten new items to memorize. Memory exercises are great exercises to grow the brain. Also a pegging list can be used to more easily memorize something else.

Say I want to memorize ta few state capitals.

To memorize Montgomery, Alabama I see Elvis Presley kiss a cow while actress Elizabeth Montgomery. I connect the two images in my mind, so I can remember the new material easier.

Also you just got a grammar lesson.

The people in your first list are here being used as sentence subjects. An easy way to determine what the subject of the sentence is, us to ask who or what the sentence is about.

Those action words were all verbs.

The last list is a group of words used here as objects. Nouns usually function in sentences as either subjects or objects. There are three kinds of objects. Object of a preposition, direct object and indirect object.

In the examples given the cow, the bumblebees and Bugs Bunny are direct objects; they get the action right from the verb.

Let’s save the lesson on indirect objects and objects of prepositions for tomorrow or the next day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Has unschooling ever worked for any student? It did for me.

I fell in love with American history at a young age. I read books about the American Revolution, westward movement and the presidents. Every week I went to the library and selected two of three books to devour. I read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s and Zane Gray’s books. I loved John Dickson Carr, whose mystery stories included locked room puzzles. They were great lessons in critical thinking, not that I knew that then.

Despite my passion for reading, I was not doing well in school. I was a strange kid with stringy brown hair that would not hold the bouffant hair styles so popular then. I wore thrift shop clothes, had cavities in my teeth and just didn’t make friends very well.

On the bus and on the playground, the bullies tormented me. I was ashamed of not having friends to play with, so I tried to hide in the bathroom with a book. The teachers would make me go outside.

I hated the lunches, so the teachers picked on me about that.

I was bored with the lessons. We studied the same things every year. Apostrophes have to be the most boring thing on earth, not to mention comparative and superlative adjectives.

I did poorly in all my subjects except history and English. I did well in history because it didn’t bore me, though the textbooks were not as good as the books I took from the library.

I did well in English because I was a reader. Maybe I didn’t know the comma rules or the nouns and verbs and other rules, but I had seen enough proper sentences in books that I could recognize the correct version. I was like a musician who plays by ear. I read and wrote by ear.

School did take its toll on me. I stopped even trying to study. I retreated into a world of daydreams. I watched television and read books because the fantasy worlds in both fed my daydreams.

But I did not just learn in books.

I joined a humane society and a writers club. These were adult evening activities, so even though I had no friends my own age, I spent time with intelligent mature people who did not repeat the same boring material over and over.

Unschooling will not work for all students. Most students don’t skip school to go to the library like I did. They have little or no interest in history, animal welfare or writing, but there has to be alternatives to public school for those of us who do not thrive there and cannot learn there.

Homeschooling is a great option, but most parents don’t have the resources for homeschooling. It takes time, effort and money.

What other options are there?

The granny cloud works in India, and I will have more about that and other options in future columns.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Smart schooling often requires tossing out the television. Or at least limiting the hours it is on. There is nothing wrong with television like there is nothing wrong with wine and candy. But a diet rich in any of these items is unhealthy. Television is addictive, and children are easy victims of its lure. We would all do best on a diet of one or two pre-selected programs a week.

When we do watch television,we need to learn from it. That doesn’t mean we select a television diet of documentaries and news programs. If I watch a CSI program, I can take an interest in the science. If I watch the “Tudors” or any historic recreation, I can take an interest in the history.

Are there any old westerns playing this week? The American west is rich in history, science, ecology and geography.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

This article is a must read for all parents. Schools don't just fail our boys.