A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Your secret weapon


You thought I’d tell you what it is in the first sentence? Oh heaven’s no. You will have to read a bit to find out.

You know how you have kids who don’t want to “do school” or resist a new curriculum or say they hate assignments or projects? You know how you keep telling them that at some point they will just “have to learn to write” or they “can’t write fiction forever” or they “can’t play all day”?

It’s one of those things where you kinda sorta freak out a bit when that resistance really gets going—in the form of fights, tears, refusal to even write one sentence, a willingness to outlast you.

So, are we on the same page?

The tendency is to view yourself in those moments as a teacher who deserves respect and authority by virtue of being the home educator. You think you have the right to expectations because you are in charge. You can’t understand why that sweet little munchkin is becoming such a curmudgeon!

Here’s the thing, though. You’re at home. You’re the mother or father. Your kids know that there is negotiating space. That’s what home is. It’s the one place where “have to’s” have less power. Home is supposed to be a relief from the stress of the outside pressures of life. Enforcing “school” at home feels so contrary to the natural untidiness, lack of schedule-ness that home is supposed to represent in life.

You need to embrace home as a home educator first—really allow yourself to notice and enjoy its properties (you know, like waking up when you want or wearing pj’s until lunch, or cuddling with a blanket on the couch for read aloud time).

For those formats and practices and programs you wish to see flourish in your home, then, you need to embrace them through that lens.

You ready? Here’s your secret weapon:

Stop talking, start doing.

In other words, if you want a child to write in a new form, stop telling your child to write in that form.

Wake up, gather paper and pencil, and after breakfast, without a word (that’s the key here), start writing. Write the kind of thing you are expecting your child to write. You might be writing a thank you note. You might be writing a short essay on paper dolls. You might be copying a quote from a book you love. You might write a non-fiction paragraph about Pocahontas.

Simply start.

Your kids may hover around you saying, “What are you doing? When do we start math? Mom, can I have more orange juice?”

You might respond: “I’m writing about Pocahontas. In fact, I can’t remember: does anyone remember the name of her tribe? Can someone get me the book we were reading?”

Keep writing.

Someone asks, “Mom what am I supposed to do while you are writing?”

You reply, “I don’t know. What do you feel like starting with today? I’m going to work on this. You’re free to help me. Or you can get going with math. But I’m doing this.”

Then do it. Keep going.

You’ll be shocked. Some will join you. And because YOU are doing the assignment, you will discover just how difficult it is, too. You’ll have some raw direct experience of just what it is you are asking your child to do!

At some point in the next few weeks of doing a couple of these, you will see that your kids start to participate. You don’t simply flip over to telling them to take over, but you can say, “If you want to work on your own version of this, I’m happy to help you while I complete mine.”

Be open to collaboration, to multiple children doing one project, to everyone helping you with your project. This is HOME. Not school. Not about grade levels. This is about giving your kids a chance to watch a process before they have to engage in it or learn how to do it. This is your chance to model and lead by silence, rather than lecture and enforcement.

Try it!

Stop talking. Start doing.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Sergey Khakimullin | Dreamstime.com

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Student Spotlight: Cassidy!

Student Spotlight Cassidy

Brave Writer student, Cassidy, not only won last May’s Preschool Powol Packets poetry contest in the 7-9 year old category (she entered a sonnet she wrote for our Shakespeare Family Workshop class) and created a Poet-Tree, she has now authored her own book!!

Roller Coaster: A Kid’s Guide on How to Write Poetry

A kid’s guide to writing poetry, by an 8-year-old kid like you! Cassidy wanted to show other kids how easy it is to write a poem of their own. In this book, she introduces and explains some of the most common types of poems. As examples, she also shares the poems she composed in April 2014 in honor of National Poetry Month. Some of the poems are silly and goofy. Some are clever. You will have fun reading and learning about poetry at the same time!

Congratulations, Cassidy! We’re so proud of your accomplishments!

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Tuesday Teatime: Hot apple cider, cake pops, and Shel Silverstein

Tuessday Teatime Sonya blog

Hot apple cider, cake pops (a rare treat from Starbucks), and the silliness of Shel Silverstein made for an enjoyable teatime this week with my posse of boys.

“Oh, I found one more I want to read!” my eight-year-old squealed over and over before beginning another poem from Where the Sidewalk Ends.

While something always seems to spill and table manners could always improve, Tuesday Teatime is a special treat for all of us.


Image (cc)

Want to start your own Poetry Teatime? Here’s how.

Would you like your family featured on Tuesday Teatime? Email us your teatime photos with a few lines about your experience (put “Teatime” in the subject line). If we share on our blog then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang title of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program 2014

NaNoWriMo Participant-2014-Web-Banner

November 1st is the start of NaNoWriMo!

What is NaNoWriMo?

From their website:

National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create!

That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.

In 2013, over 300,000 adults participated through our main site, and nearly 90,000 young writers participated through the YWP.

Click here for more information about the NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program.

Sign up today!

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Focus more on the subject and less on the child

NaaD 34 Ariana blog

I want to let you in on the fruit of a lot of late night reading and middle of the night insomnia. The question pawing at me like a nocturnal kitten: What works in parenting? I’m plum worn out from the sad accounts of kids who are clearly bright, sharp adults who rendered the verdict on their childhoods: thumbs down.

I know that we parents come into the task completely green. Sure, we were parented, but we rarely feel qualified to be parents on that basis alone. We head off to websites and books, retreats and conferences looking for models that will ensure that OUR children will have good lives and grow up to be responsible, cheerful, good people. We want guarantees, because life is fraught with chaos and surprises (both welcome and unwelcome).

We trust experts and friends and religious leaders and therapists and anyone who seems authoritative and successful in their own right. We trust methods untested. We hope we are doing right by our kids.

What I am starting to see, though, is this odd trajectory.

The kids who claim to have had happy childhoods were not their parents’ projects.

Rather, the children who grow to be successful, happy adults are the ones whose projects were absorbing to their parents.

See what I did there?

In other words—if you focus more on the stuff that you and your kids care about (the big wide world of learning—books, birds, boats, Beowulf, beauty, bobcats, Broadway, battles, buoyancy, bodies, baked goods, Barbies, Bilbo—and those are just some of the subjects starting with the letter ‘B’!), you will create a much more bonded relationship with your children and they will learn how to be competent adults, than all the character training you impose, expect, exact, and create through whatever parenting method you choose.

Focusing on how to parent your child is less powerful than joining your child in the shared adventure of living, it turns out.

In the end, what leaves the best impression on your kids is your hearty, enthusiastic participation in the stuff of life—and sharing those experiences with your kids as though they are welcome and a constitutive part of your own experience!

Some of that exploration will be parent led, some of it will be child led, but all of it will be experienced with wide-eyed wonder, a lack of judgment (no more—does Minecraft really count? are Barbies dangerous?), and an investment of real time—time you don’t have—time that could go to other stuff like chores, bedtimes, math pages, and baths.

Our homeschools thrive when learning is what we care about more than parenting. Ironically, being a good parent gets tossed into the bargain, when we do. Punishment, teaching responsibility, lectures about character, holding kids accountable to adult standards of behavior—these don’t seem to produce the results we think they will.

But jumping into the middle of an adventure—reading, playing a video game, building a bonfire, hiking, calculating to produce a quilt, joining a dance company, visiting the zoo every week, playing with words, baking cookies, acting out scenes from Shakespeare—these do more to “parent” your kids than you realize.

Go forth and be interested in life…bring your kids along. They’ll thank you for it when they get older.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Brave Writer mom, Ariana (cc).

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Friday Freewrite: Three characters


Pick three different characters (each from a book by a different author) then imagine what it would be like to have them all to dinner. Write it!

Image by Pierre Vignau (cc)

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

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We’ve been nominated!


Brave Writer has been nominated for an award in the Writing / Composition category on Homeschool World!

The voting deadline is December 15, 2014, and those who participate are entered to win a prize: Rosetta Stone Language Software!Rosetta Stone

One voter at random will receive one level of the language of their choice from Rosetta Stone – a $159 value!

So, if you’d like to cast your votes for the best homeschooling products – hopefully including ours – then VOTE HERE.


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Be kind, be gentle

Opportunity for a kindness

I spent too much time today reading accounts of child abuse in homeschooling families. I couldn’t stop. It was like watching train wreck after train wreck in slow, horrible, inevitable motion. I didn’t want to keep reading; I couldn’t stop reading.

The dirty little secret in home education is how much control and anger get directed at our sweet young kids (and awkward fledgling teens) in the name of “helping” them to become self-disciplined models of character and academic achievement. Be warned: A habit of hardness leaves lasting scars.

Certainly plenty of parents are the garden variety that offer big love and abundant support mixed with the occasional exasperated outburst and the daily hand-wringing (sometimes turned lecture) about how to ensure a successful education and smooth transition to adulthood—family jostling and bumping into each other as they make their way through the “we all live together” years.

But some of us bring that little bit extra—that zing, that pop, that over-zealous, over-functioning rigidity to our homeschools. We scream, we shame, we blame, we demean, we punish, we prophesy doom, we herald the end of the world… and sometimes, we even succumb to abuse—physical and verbal—in the name of love, in the name of homeschool, in the name of our ideology.

Tonight, I want to say: Shhhhhhhh.

Let it go.

Let your children be children. Let your teens struggle to emerge. Let yourself off the hook.

You don’t owe the world a model family. You don’t have to get it right. Neither do your kids.

Everyone gets better at growing up over time—including you, the parent.

Be the one who stands for kindness in your family. Be remembered for your gentleness. Wait an extra hour before acting and reacting.

Remember the kindness of your parents or significant adult caregiver—the stand-out memories that helped you through childhood. Be that person for your children.

And if you need it: get help. Today’s a great day to heal, to start over.

Your kids deserve peace, and so do you.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Celestine Chua (cc)

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Movie Wednesday: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe


We watched the 2005 (Adam Adamson directed) release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with some friends as part of a birthday celebration. The kids who watched are 16, 14, 13, two 9 year olds and a 4 year old. It was a repeat for the older kids but the first time for the younger ones.

It was fun to listen to the discussions between the kids about the imagery and symbolism.  Throughout the movie and after, the younger kids would ask questions like:

How is the wardrobe the entrance to Narnia?
How did the tree get on the door?
Who is the snow queen?
Why didn’t Aslan fight her, he’s a lion after all?

It was a running and continuous conversation! The older kids would respond, surprisingly patiently, with answers often referencing the books. They said more than once that the books are always better. That melted my heart!


Image © Izanbar | Dreamstime.com

Need help commenting meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing? Check out our eleven page guide, Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. Also, tell us about a film you and your kids watched together (along with a pic if you have one) and if we share it on the blog you’ll receive a free copy!

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Tuesday Teatime: Grandma was invited too!

Tuesday Teatime Tara

We had our first poetry teatime today, and it was a huge hit!

Grandma had said how she hated poetry, so I made sure she received an invitation too. She and my son (8) devoured Where the Sidewalk Ends while Baby mostly devoured cookies. Everyone had a great time.

We are recent converts to BraveWriter. (I’ve read Jot it Down and am making my way through Writers Jungle.) I already see a huge difference in my boys enthusiasm for language arts! Just learning that I don’t need to make him do all the writing has made a huge difference. I can’t wait to read more strategies and suggestions.

Poetry Tea Tuesdays are a keeper for sure! Thank you for sharing the Brave Writer lifestyle!



Image (cc)

Want to start your own Poetry Teatime? Here’s how.

Would you like your family featured on Tuesday Teatime? Email us your teatime photos with a few lines about your experience (put “Teatime” in the subject line). If we share on our blog then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang title of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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