Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Speech Recognition Software: What Worked For Me

Several years ago, I attempted to use Speech Recognition (SR) software in order to write a book.  After spending time loading the software, working through the tutorials and writing sample documents, I discovered that the software was not recognizing my speech well enough to warrant the time invested.  The process was time consuming, the software was expensive and I wasn’t pleased with my progress.  So, for a time, I gave up on the idea.

Last fall, I reconsidered trying out SR software and I began looking into the options.  The highest rated SR software appeared to be Dragon by Nuance.  Last December, my husband purchased the software for me as a Christmas gift.  After spending over eight hours attempting to just load the software, I went online and started reading about other people’s experience with loading this particular software.  I discovered that many people had the same issues. Customer service’s advice was to remove specific files and documents from my computer so they wouldn’t interfere with the software.  The problem was that those particular files helped my computer run more efficiently.  So once again, I returned my SR software.

As I was reading various blogs online about SR software experiences, I found one blogger who mentioned SR software that was built into Windows.  If you have Windows Vista, 7 or 8, you already own SR software.  I simply went to “Start” on my desktop and typed “speech recognition” into my search box.  Amazingly, I discovered that I did have the software built in and it included a tutorial.  I worked through the tutorial in less than an hour and I was using the software immediately after, with the help of the included quick reference chart.  In fact, I wrote this blog post using that software.

Now, if you use another SR software and love it, that’s wonderful.  I am grateful that my frustrating experience eventually led me to software I already own.  Although I am still in the early stages of using it, overall I am very pleased with the progress I’m making.  So, if you have the appropriate version of Windows and you have wanted to check out SR software, you should give it a try. 

If you have a child suffering from physical disabilities, dyslexia, dysgraphia or processing issues, SR software can be very helpful.  If you or your child process ideas verbally, as I do, you might enjoy using SR software and find that it saves you significant time.

I would like to hear about your experiences was SR software, so be sure to leave a comment below.  If you have recommendations for SR software that you’ve used successfully, please be sure to share your product information with our readers.

God bless you in the new year,

Monday, December 1, 2014

CYBER MONDAY SPECIALS - they just keep coming!

3:30 PM
Register for Writing for Publication today and receive a free live tutoring session on how to create e-newsletters using WORD or PUBLISHER (student choice). 

CYBER MONDAY SPECIALS throughout the day, so be sure to check back!

12:30 PM 
Register for any second semester course today and receive a free writing assignment evaluation for any one of your children! Register for more than one second semester course, and receive a writing assignment evaluation for each course!

CYBER MONDAY SPECIALS throughout the day, so check back!

9:30 AM 
Register for our second semester Author Study: Jane Austen course and receive a free copy of 
Sense and Sensibility with your paid tuition! 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Student Writing Contests

When CBB mom, Deb Plant, emailed me about the HSLDA essay writing contest, I wondered about other opportunities out there for our students to use their writing skills to win awards, money and other prizes. As well, it’s awesome when homeschoolers represent our learning community in such positive ways. We will also post these contests on Student Voice, our CBB student blog. Pay attention to deadlines as some of them are very soon. 

If you’d like CBB to edit your child’s essays and offer recommendations after they’ve been written, whether your child is a CBB student or not, take advantage of our Evaluation Services.  Essay evaluation starts as low as $7. Just make sure the contest guidelines allow for adult evaluation. Be sure to note that your child is participating in an essay contest when submitting work to be edited so we know to keep your deadlines in mind as we respond. 

Please note that this is not meant to be a comprehensive list. If you have other writing contests that you would like to share, please be sure comment with a link to contest details.
Ages:  7-19
Length:  700 word max
Theme:  varies by age; see website
Deadline:  must be postmarked by Nov. 1, 2014

Grades:  K-12
Length:  1000 words
Theme:  What Does The Second Amendment Mean to You?
Deadline:  must be postmarked by Dec. 1, 2014

Grades:  6-12
Length:  500 - 1000 words
Theme:  Biographies of Contemporary Women in Mathematics
Deadline:  online submission form must be emailed by Jan. 31, 2015

Grades:  9-12
Length:  750-1450 words
Theme:  Examine the history and current-day relevance of religious freedom.
Deadline:  online submission form must be emailed by Nov. 17, 2014 or postmark mailed documents by Nov. 24, 2014

Grades:  4-12
Length:  500-1500 words  (depending on grade level)
Theme:  Read a book, poem or speech and write to that author (living or dead) about how the book affected you personally.
Deadline:  December 15, 2014 or January 15, 2015 (depending on grade level)

Grades:  9-12
Length:  700-1000 words 
Theme:  Write about an elected official who has demonstrated political courage.
Deadline:   January 5, 2015

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hope and Habits

Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.
-Mahatma Gandhi

I came across this quote recently and it gave me pause. I even sent it to a student who had emailed me about his hope for a successful school year and his desire to make it his best. I really appreciate how Gandhi started with "beliefs." The idea that what we believe ultimately results in our destiny could not be more true.

We had some serious trials in our family this year and watched many people we love struggle as well with issues far beyond the daily grind of life. God used this time to grow us tremendously, engraving what we know to be true onto our hearts, giving us words we'd never had on our own and encouraging us to act and respond in ways we would've never imagined. But I think the habits are what surprised me the most. It was our habits of prayer, being in the Word, turning to Christ and loving each other that sustained us and drew us nearer to our Father even when we were shocked by the circumstances.Now, looking back, the trials were really just as difficult as they seemed, but what they were does not matter as much as how we responded and where God has led us in the process.

As we begin a new school year, I truly want to encourage my students, and their families, to consider their habits. Your habits are based on what you believe. If you believe yourself to be a child of God, heir to His Kingdom, covered in His glory and fully forgiven for all sins, then let your habits reflect such. If you believe that God will carry you through all things with His love and strength, then leave the worries of school behind and embrace the learning opportunities that He is giving you. If you believe that He only wants what is best for you, then take advantage of the wisdom being shared and respond in kind. If you believe His Word to be not only true, but the foundation for all truth, then revel in it daily and carry it with you. If you believe that Jesus died for you, rose again for you and sits at the right hand of God as your intercessor, then make it a habit praise Him in all things. We can talk about habits of exercising, getting work completed on time, studying, eating well and getting rest, but if our spiritual habits are lacking, then we will still be striving rather than succeeding.

There is such hope in a new school year...as the previously mentioned student noted in his email, he wants this year to be his best. Habits, both spiritual and physical, help us to develop into the people that God wants us to be. So, what habits will you rely on this year? What habits would you like to develop to help you grow spiritually?

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, 
because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13

God bless your family through this school year,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Relevant Writing Strategies You Can Use!

Many of my students' parents and readers of my blogs have commented on a phrase that I use "relevant writing."  This idea encompasses the thought that relating writing to what children are already learning makes the most sense. It's the difference between treating writing as a life skill rather than an academic subject. It's how we teach writing at Classes by Beth.

I taught first grade in a private school for several years. Although it's a wonderful age to teach, I was often frustrated by the writing assignments from our language arts curriculum. I wondered if the authors ever actually worked with young children. The assignments often required students to think of original material with very little direction. Children at that age have lived a very limited life. How many original ideas could a first grader possibly have? The way I solved the problem was to adapt the writing assignments so they related to other material that we had been reading and experiencing. I used the same method when I taught my own children, and others, to write as a homeschool mom.

Relevant Writing Strategies You Can Use in Your Homeschool
  •  As you plan activities in other subject areas, such as science and history, combine writing with specific concepts from those subjects. Have your child retell a historical event in writing or explain a science concept. 
  • Utilize activities such as field trips, family vacations and other special events as writing opportunities. Be sure to create specific assignments rather than general ideas like "Describe the field trip" or "Write about our family vacation."
  • Choose assignments that are developmentally appropriate for your child. 
  • Make sure you and your child have a clear understanding of the goals of the writing assignment before starting. Writing assignments make more sense when students know what is expected.
  •  Vary the length and depth of writing assignments. Every written assignment doesn't have to be a report or essay. Shorter writing assignments can often serve the purpose, cause less student stress and make it easier for you to grade.
  • When assigning longer assignments, such as reports, break it down into parts such as notes, thesis statement, outline and multiple drafts.
  • Consider giving your child multiple options for writing assignments. Students often feel more empowered and eager to complete work when they have choices. No more than three choices will alleviate undo pressure for most students.
  • Give your student's written work as much attention when grading as you expect him or her to give it when writing. Discuss the writing, both positives and negatives, and allow for more than one draft, if needed. Encourage your child to improve his or her writing without demanding perfection with every assignment. Keep in mind that writing is a process that improves with practice and additional skill level.
If you view writing as a life skill and not a series of lessons or an academic subject, you'll transfer that perspective to your child as you teach. If it is a burden and hardship for you, if you can't see it as an essential life skill, your child will view it that way as well.

Happy Teaching!