Tag Archives: nonfiction

Face Cream Ads: Comparing and Contrasting




Grace’s most recent writing assignment was to find two ads for similar products in a magazine and then write a short essay comparing and contrasting them.  She found these two ads for face creams that will supposedly help you look younger.  (I could easily go into a rant about how much I despise our society’s love for this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you.) 😉

So, here’s what Grace had to say about the two ads she chose:

The brands OLAY and Origins each have an ad for anti-aging cream in a magazine. Both of these ads make their products sound scientifically advanced, using micro-sculpting technology for OLAY and raspberry plant stem cells for Origins. Also, they both have the bottle of cream in the picture to let you know what to look for in the store.


Origins seems to lean toward a bright, natural feel, telling you that nothing can actually erase wrinkles, but their cream uses natural ingredients to help your skin stay healthy while making you feel good about yourself. OLAY presents a flashy, modern feel, telling you that their cream uses the latest technology and ingredients to make you look younger fast.


Also, OLAY focuses your attention on a model, practically telling you that if you buy their cream, you will end up looking beautifully young, like her. They don’t have very many words, so that they won’t distract you from the picture-perfect user. Origins has no model, and focuses your attention toward the small paragraph they have about the cream. They use statistics to tell you that lots of people use their cream. They also tell you, honestly, that their product won’t erase your wrinkles right away. They say that their cream actually protects your skin, making you look and feel younger.


In conclusion, OLAY says their cream makes you look younger, and Origins says their cream makes you feel younger. Which cream would you choose?



Painting Birdhouses: A Descriptive Essay


Grace has been working hard on her descriptive writing.  Her most recent assignment was to write about an outing or experience with family or friends.  She chose to write about purchasing and painting our birdhouses last week. 🙂  Here’s what she had to say…in all of its descriptive, detailed glory. 😀


Gravel crunched underfoot. I pushed the heavy glass door aside as the smell of cinnamon and cheap air freshener filled my nose. Emily and I walked through the craft store, trying to spot the birdhouses. We came to a halt in a narrow aisle with woodworking supplies on either side. Emily scanned the houses, ruling out the expensive or ugly ones.


Which ones do you want?” she asked, nodding toward the birdhouses.


Ummm, how about these two?” I suggested, picking up two rough wooden houses. One was rounded, and the other had windows and a fake door. Emily nodded.


Alrighty, one more,” she said. She knelt down and plucked up a house with two holes for the birds to sit in. I smiled. We walked over to the paint, picking only a few shades of blue, yellow, brown, and white with two packs of brushes. We were quick to get them home.


As soon as we opened the door, the soft sound of clicking claws echoed throughout the house. Frank circled our legs like a shark, his shredded raccoon toy in his mouth and his tail wagging like crazy. Emily draped a huge black trash bag over the table, laying out all the houses and paint. As she lay the paper plates out, I sat down and pulled up a house. Emily sat down across from me. We each picked our paint and squeezed out the colors we wanted.


I dipped my sponge brush into the thick puddle of brown paint, getting way more than I needed. Not sure what to do, I pressed the side of the brush against the plate until some of the paint seeped out. I leaned in closer, the paint fumes filling my head. I applied a sloppy layer of paint onto the roof, trying to make as few mistakes as possible. In no time, the entire house was covered in brown and white. I looked up. Emily had both of her birdhouses finished and had left the table. I laughed. Maybe I hadn’t finished that fast after all.



How To…Write a Goal


Grace has finished up her writing unit on how-to writing.  For her final paper, she chose to write about creating goals (another skill we’ve been working on).  Here’s what she had to say:

Setting a Goal

The first step in setting a goal is gathering your supplies. You will need paper and a pencil. Then, think of something you want to accomplish, like writing a short story. After you have the idea of what you are going to do, write down how long it will take you to accomplish. For writing a short story, you might want to stick to three weeks.

After that, write the first thing you need to do to complete your goal. After writing the first step of your goal, write (on the same line) how long that step will take. You might think that creating the main plot for your story will take two days, so you would write that down. After that, write down the date you would finish that step. This is so you know when you complete each step. Use this method to write down all steps.

After you have finished writing your steps, calculate when you will finish completely. If you didn’t give yourself enough time to finish, you might want to rethink your time limit. If you finish early, then you have plenty of wiggle room, or time to make mistakes. If you start your goal on April 1st, your paper should look like this:

Writing a Short Story

(three weeks)

1. Create main plot (two days) 4/2/13

2. Create characters (three days) 4/5/13

3. Write chapter 1 (three days) 4/8/13

4. Write chapter 2 (three days) 4/11/13

5. Write chapters 3 (three days) 4/13/13

6. Proofread (1 day) 4/14/13

Wiggle Room: 1 week

Check up on your goal every time you finish a step to make sure your timing is correct. If not, think about what you are doing that is causing you to take longer than you had planned. Are you slacking off? Did you not give yourself enough time? If you are early, you know you gave yourself plenty of time and can use that information for future goals.

Have fun!


Homeschool Persuasion


While studying ancient Greece, Grace is learning about the value of a good speech.  One of her assignments today was to write a persuasive speech to sway all of the land to her way of thinking. 😉  Of all the things in the world to write about, she chose to convince the people to homeschool their children. 😀  Here’s what she had to say:

Every parent wants their children to have a good education, but some children have problems with the public school system. Maybe they don’t get along with their classmates? Perhaps they’re having problems, but the teacher never gets to help? It may be as simple as they don’t study. If public school just isn’t working, there is something you could try…homeschool!


Homeschooling is a fun way to teach your child what they need to know in a way just right for them. It allows each child to have one-on-one time with their teacher, making problems with their work easier to solve. Homeschool also gives your family more time together and can build up parent-child bonds. But the best part about homeschool is it creates independent thinkers.


Some families may say that they don’t want their children sitting at home all day, want their kids to socialize more, or simply can’t afford homeschool, but there is a solution…join a homeschool group! This allows your child to meet with other homeschoolers away from the house, and you don’t have to pay for the supplies! Also, you don’t have to quit any current job to homeschool your child; the schedules are extremely flexible.


From a current homeschool student, I must say that it has been a great improvement to my life. I am getting much better grades, bonding with my family, and enjoying every second of it! Maybe homeschooling is right for you?




The planning stages of Grace’s speech.

Weekly Braaaaiins: Zombie Parkour Runner Review


Grace chose to do a game review for Weekly Braaaaiins this week…check it out:

Zombie Parkour Runner, or ZP Runner, is a free game for your iPhone, iPad, or apple device. The best part is, it’s free! You can download the app by clicking here.

Oh, no! Zombies have taken all your stuff! Play as the mysterious character Kara through 36 incredibly challenging (and fun!) levels to get it back. As you run, you pick up coins and perform amazing stunts by swinging, sliding, and jumping. If you can spot one, you can pick up items the zombies have dropped and learn about Kara’s past.

This game has great, smooth graphics and a catchy, techno theme. The zombies have a unique look to them. I especially like the zombie themed billboards in the background. I could totally see Zombi-E instead of Wall-E.



If you want, you can purchase items that can get you farther in the game, like a trampoline that automatically bounces you to the next checkpoint if you get stuck. Warning, these items do cost actual money.

The only problems I could see were that it sucks up the battery and the reaction time is a little slow. I’d tap to jump, and Kara wouldn’t do it. Of course, that has only happened a few times, and it’s usually right after I double-tap. Another warning, if you don’t like to have to try a level ten times to finally get to the end, I suggest skipping this game.

Overall, I really enjoy it and recommend this game to any zombie lovers. Even if hard-headed Kara doesn’t jump once in a while, I think it’s anything but a waste of time. It’s the perfect game to occupy ourself during those long hours on a car trip!



Grownup edit:  Grace says this game is appropriate for all ages…no blood or gore or anything scary.  It might be frustrating for the younger crowd because of difficulty.  Some reading required.

Getting Into the FBI


Yesterday as Grace and I were driving to her science class, we discussed several careers she is interested in.  She expressed an interest in becoming an FBI agent, but we weren’t sure how to go about entering that field…and so today’s language arts assignment became a bit of research about how to join up with the FBI.  Here’s what Grace found out:

FBI Special Agent Job Requirements

Not very many people who apply for the job of FBI agent are accepted. But, given the right personality traits and experience, you could have a fair chance.

First, you must be a twenty-three year-old American citizen to apply, but people above thirty-seven are not accepted. You will need to have at least a four-year degree and three years or more of work experience. You will also need a valid driver’s license.

To have any chance of getting in, your degree will have to be in one of the following:

  • accounting

  • computer science

  • language

  • law/law enforcement

  • engineering

  • finance

  • physical science (chemistry, physics, biology, etc.)

When you apply, the FBI will look through your past in a background investigation. They will look for a trustworthy, reliable character with a good attitude. They will also look at your reputation, financial responsibility, and ability to preform well under pressure. The FBI will look at your drug and alcohol history and may take a full medical exam, including vision and hearing tests. You will need to pass a written test and attend many in-person interviews.

If you are accepted, you will agree to be sent anywhere in the world and be assigned to one of the five career paths: intelligence, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cyber, or criminal investigation. Then, you are sent to a 20-week training course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

At the Academy, students will be taught how to deal with the basic rules and skills of an FBI Special Agent. This includes:

  • the intelligence cycle

  • counterterrorism
  • counterintelligence
  • how to handle weapons of mass destruction
  • cyber fraud and intrusions
  • human behavior
  • communications and interviews
  • information development
  • physical fitness and defensive tactics
  • how to collect and handle evidence
  • firearms
  • practical problems

Fresh out of the Academy, agents are usually sent to small offices, working their way up to the larger, more complex offices. They work with given cases and assignments based on their career path. Most agents retire around the age of fifty-seven while some stay an extra year or two.


Information sources:



Ebola Virus


This assignment was a little strange and only vaguely related to To Kill a Mockingbird, but I knew Grace would enjoy it, so I went ahead and let her have at it. 😉  There is an incident in To Kill a Mockingbird that involves a dog with rabies, so this assignment branched out a bit in that direction.  First we discussed rabies: how you get it, the treatment, the symptoms, etc.  Then Grace got to pick a disease from a list (oh boy!) for a little bit of research.  This was, of course, a rather short assignment, not a full-on research project, so I only required a couple of sources and a short write-up.  She went straight for Ebola, and this is what she found:


The Ebola virus is a contagious disease that originated in Africa, but has never infected a human in the United States. It it spread through direct contact of an infected organism or bite of an infected animal. Symptoms include vomiting, sore throat, stomach pain, dehydration, diarrhea, weakness, rash, dry, hacking cough, fever, muscle and joint pain, severe headache, internal and external bleeding, and hiccups.

Scientists do not know where exactly the virus came from, but suspect from some sort of animal host. There has been a report of infected monkeys imported from the Philippines for lab-work. Some of the researchers became infected, but showed no sign of the illness. Still, scientists suspect that the virus originated in primates similar to the monkeys. There is no vaccine nor cure for the virus, but scientists are working to find one.











A Personal Narrative Sample from Grace


We actually struggled to get this personal narrative sample completed.  Grace didn’t seem to be able to leave the fiction behind and write about something that happened to her.  Her first attempt was completely fictional, so we ditched that one right away.  Her second attempt was about her first day of homeschool, but it was filled with things that didn’t actually happen, so we threw that one away, too.  After having a chat about personal narratives (something that, in theory, she had no trouble understanding), Grace decided to write about the very scary time she was chased by a dog.  Isn’t it strange that someone who writes so well would struggle so much with one little sample about herself?

Anyway, I share all of this so you know that our writing samples aren’t always great on the first try.  In fact, they rarely are.  Grace proofreads her work and makes corrections.  I proofread her work for grammar and spelling, and she makes corrections.  Sometimes, we still find corrections that need to be made after a sample hits the blog.  Sometimes entire essays get thrown to the wayside.

I’m also oh-so-grateful that homeschool allows us the time to deal with the grimy, gross bits of writing.  I don’t feel like she’d have the opportunity to trash things, re-write things multiple times, and spend days developing characters and plots in other schooling situations.  Yay for homeschool! 🙂

Okay, without further ado, Grace’s personal narrative:

I pushed away a low hanging branch and inspected the tree’s base.  Pulling away the dead leaves, I dug around its base for small boxes or containers.  I sighed.

“Any luck?” I called. Emily looked up from the bush she had been prodding.  She shook her head. I got back on my knees.  “Why,” I whispered. “Do geocaches have to be so well hidden?” I looked around.  At least the area was pretty.  A small fountain bubbled in the center of a garden, filled with violets and lilies.

Suddenly, just as I had leaned down to search some more, Emily let out a loud, triumphant ha-ha! I jerked my head up, whacking it   against a low hanging branch.  Running my fingers over the not, I walked over to Emily.

“What was that for?” I asked. Emily smiled.

“I found it!” she said, holding up a small grey lunch box. I smiled.

“Great! Now all we need to do is sign in.” Emily pulled out a pen and started writing. When she was finished, she stuck the box in a nearby tree.  We turned and followed the worn path back to the parking lot of the church. I could see the car, so I decided to run to it. As soon as I got within twenty feet of it, a huge black dog emerged from the trees.

He stopped, and I got the feeling he either wanted to play or to have a snack, so I did the logical, calm thing: I ran for my life.  But there was a small flaw in my plan: the dog was faster than me. Way faster. Soon I could hear him panting beside me. Fear bubbled in my chest. My legs burned, but I forced them to go faster. I saw Emily waving her arms and shouting. Whatever she was saying, it slowed the dog down.  His panting grew faint. I slowed, and started panting myself.

Emily grabbed my hand. I heard a snap from behind me and a short man pushed his way through the trees.  He called out, and after a few seconds, the dog came to him.  Emily’s eyes hardened. Oh no. She marched up to the man.

“Excuse me, but your dog just chased her halfway across the parking lot? Why was he not on a leash?” she snapped.  The man stared.

‘We were just taking a walk,” he said tonelessly.  I glared. Even if you’re ‘just taking a walk,’ your dog needs to be on a leash!

Emily rushed over to the car and opened my door for me. I sat down without a word.  Emily started the car and pulled out her phone. Please not 911, please not 911, please not 911, I thought.

“Animal control, how may I help you?” a muffled voice said. I sighed. Better.

“Hi, my stepdaughter was just chased by three large black dogs. The dogs had and owner, but he had practically no control. What? Ok, his license number was…” I stopped listening and leaned against my door.  I didn’t even notice the other two dogs. Sighing, I closed my eyes, and for the first time, did not feel very fond of dogs.


A School Day (Personal Narrative Sample)


Here’s a small sample of some personal narrative writing from Grace.  Her assignment was to write a letter to a friend about her day at school. 🙂

Dear Destiny,

School today was awesome!  We started off with a little reading. Fortunately I had finished the last book in the Percy Jackson series last night, so I could start on the first book in the Heroes of Olympus.  I got through a good chunk of it before we did grammar.  I whizzed through that…strange, grammar usually takes a good 15 minutes.  I guess I was just lucky.  After a good, educational sandwich, it was time for math.  Now, you know me, I usually love math, but today we were reviewing start and end times, and it seemed to go on FOREVER.   Finally, after a long hour of math, it was sweet, sweet science homework time.  I got to sniff, look at, and poke a bottle full of rotting food with brown watery stuff and write down my observations.  After that pleasant experience, I read a little about some funky, gazelle-looking thing that stands on its hind legs to get food.  Apparently, it reaches the plants that are too high for gazelles and too low for the giraffes. Cool!  Finally, after a long, hard day of school, the whole family (except Daddy and Emily and Frank the Dog) sat down to watch an episode of “Out of Egypt” about devil-like creatures in Ancient Egypt, Rome, and other places.

Send me a letter about one of your awesome school days! I’ll even give you a whole, U.S. penny! 

See ya soon!


The True History of Hello Kitty


Another nonfiction sample from Grace:


The True History of Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty was originally created to fit on a coin purse in 1974 by the Japanese company Sanrio. She was created as a white Japanese Bobtail with big ears, dots for eyes, a yellow dot for a nose, no mouth, and a signature red bow in her left ear. Hello Kitty was created to be able to relate to pre-teen girls.  With her no mouth and blank stare, young girls could imply their own emotions into the lovable cat. She weighed the same as three apples and stood five apples tall (including her ears). Even though she was introduced to the world as a Japanese character, Hello Kitty herself lived in London.  She lived in the suburbs with her mother, father, and sister.  Her name was Kitty White.  Her sister, Mimmy White, looked identical to Kitty, only she had a yellow bow on her right ear.  The White family was introduced to America in 1976, shortly after their creation in Japan. All around the world, children, teens, and even adults (my stepmom included) fell in love with such a wonderful character.

 Hey, you can’t refuse such a cute cat!



Information from:





 Also, don’t forget about your chance to win a signed copy of The Mark of Athena…you have until 2:00 on Friday afternoon. 🙂