A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

A community experience

circle of friends

After a rough night in the states, it was a joy to wake up yesterday to a slew of new posts in The Homeschool Alliance—parents sharing their newfound confidence and productivity in homeschool and in their families. Today’s first quarter check in moved me to tears. It’s beautiful to witness the routines and rhythms grow and become the warp and woof of family life. I don’t know how to quite express to you how proud I am of this community experience. I want to share it and I worry that you will think this is just a promotional ploy. It’s not. I want you to know about this resource because I see how much it is helping the ones who is it helping.

I’ve had a desire for a decade (or more) to foster the growth of a community of parents who would feel supported in their homeschool journey. I envisioned shared readings about learning and family life—readings I’d provide in a Master’s Level class if I taught it at the university. I look through books that are not traditionally read in home education circles, finding key ideas that will enhance the experience of living, not just family dynamics or education techniques (though we will do some of that too over time, I’m sure).

I record mini audio lectures (2-3 per month) to go with the short readings (readings are usually article length—10-12 pages). These lectures are meant to zero in on specific aspects of the reading and then to develop and apply those key ideas to our home education context. There are threads for discussion but discussing is not required.

In addition to the readings, I give everyone a “One Thing” goal for the month—three levels of challenge: the easy-peasy challenge (which can be done with relatively little preparation), the moderate challenge, and the advanced challenge (you get to decide). The first month, we focused on Poetry/Teatimes. In October, we explored nature (in a variety of wonderful ways!). In November, we introduced hammers and nails and materials to create sculptures: Hand crafts. The results are starting to pour in. One of my favorite comments is by a mom whose son is sewing a doll for his sister for Christmas. They stay up working on it after the sister is in bed. He told her, “Mom, I love doing stuff with you.”

The parents post photos and share stories. We have a folder where parenting issues are posted by members and the thoughtful care given to answering is blowing me away. There are no “shoulds” or system or language requirements in this space. You get to talk how you talk and share what you share and everyone has the chance to take or leave what is helpful or not.

My favorite folder to prepare each month is the Selfcare Spa. In it, I provide a weekly five minute practice meant to calm and soothe the home educating parent. We’ve snuck squares of chocolate, we’ve lit candles while doing a household chore, we’ve stood in our backyards breathing deeply and looking at the sky, we’ve added color to a bleak view in our homes… It’s the little things that help us to remember who we are as people, first, as we perform this daunting demanding task to educate our kids.

The result of all this support, inquiry into new ideas, giving attention to one new experience a month, and learning how to take care of self in the process is… peace. Fewer tears, a sense of contentment in today, an ability to see learning happening rather than assuming it isn’t all the time, and grace for growth and process rather than condemnation for not measuring up… again.

If you haven’t quite got your groove this fall, or if you’re lonely for gentle kind support, or if you just want to see if this is something you’d like, check us out! It’s only $14.95/mth right now. You can try a month and then see how it goes. Start or stop any time.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I get hopeful when I see families being deliberate about creating nurturing spaces for children to grow up into responsible, emotionally healthy, academically prepared human beings. It is how we contribute to the world as home educators. Thanks for doing your part.


Cross-posted on facebook.
Image by Ashley Webb (cc cropped)

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Tuesday Teatime: Most delightful

Tuesday Teatime Erin

We added Poetry Tea to our lineup for school this year, and it has been an enormous hit.

My 6yo daughter was adamant we have our teatime a couple of days early last week so that we could include her grandparents, who were visiting from out of state. My mother-in-law is the person who gave us two of the children’s poetry anthologies that we use regularly for our teatimes, and I knew she would be delighted to participate.

My father-in-law snapped this picture of me and her, leaving through books, taking turns reading our favorites aloud. We did this for quite a long time, even after the children had lost interest in muffins, lemonade, and poetry and had skipped off.

It was our most delightful Teatime so far!


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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Give your children the gift of presence


In the season of gift-buying and gift-giving and gift-thanking, it’s easy to forget to be “present” with and to your children. It is nearly impossible to remember most presents people buy for you. You might remember the Singer sewing machine for kids that your mom bought you at age 9, or the brand new bicycle, or the pocket knife you longed for. But the vast majority of trendy dolls and toys and sweater vests and art kits and Nerf guns and Lego sets—these are happily enjoyed until they wind up lost in the basement.

What is remembered with the gauzy haze of romance and happy are the shared traditions—where kids got to do what adults do, and were enjoyed in the process. Mashing the potatoes, rolling out pie crust, creating a center piece, singing holiday songs while cleaning the kitchen, hand-drawing place cards with gold ink pens, hanging lights, lighting the fire in the fire place, touch football after turkey in the backyard with all the uncles and aunts and cousins, lounging in each other’s laps in front of the TV, taking walks in the neighborhood bundled in scarves and hats, eating as many turkey sandwiches as a person wants without asking permission, staying up late, sleeping in, sparkling cider toasts to the out of town relatives in for the weekend, taking turns bouncing the baby…

Ask your children what “traditions” they love. You will be surprised that some of the things you’ve done once (!) are on that list and now you know you’d better put them on the list for this year too!

One of our holiday traditions is to make an apple pie with a top crust made from maple leaf cut outs. I did it once—it became firmly cemented in all future Thanksgivings forever and ever, amen. Everyone wants a turn cutting the leaf shapes. My kids are adults. See what I mean?

Be present. Pause occasionally and appreciate the splendor of family that lives under one roof without the need to fly them in from anywhere. Look at the way the children light up thinking about their favorite foods when your energy flags. Ask for hugs and someone to tell you jokes while you cook to keep your own energy high!

Give to get to give to get to give to get… This is how the exchange works.

Be present to yourself, to your family, to your joy this holiday season.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Alexander Shalamov | Dreamstime.com

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Friday Freewrite: If you lost your memory

NaaD 45 Christa -blog

Today’s writing prompt is a twist on one by Homeschoolingmom4two:

If you lost your memory and couldn’t remember your friends and family, what could they do and where might they take you to remind you of the relationships.

Image by Brave Writer mom, Christa (cc)

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

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It all counts


Today’s thought: It all counts

The dish washing,
the foot rubbing,
the tub bathing,
the skip counting in the car,
the singing at the tops of your lungs together off key,
the carefully copied passage,
the shopping for groceries,
the spontaneous walk in the neighborhood,
the sorting the laundry into the right colored piles,
the charging of the dead phone,
the pause to text your sick mother-in-law,
the five minutes you take to regroup,
the gentle way you overlooked your child’s Big Mess,
the fifth book read after lunch when you usually only read three,
the naps (oh yes, the naps count!),
the petting of the dog,
the recitation of a few historical facts,
the listening carefully when your child explains how to beat level five,
the eye contact,
the cuddles,
the enthusiastic cheer for small successes and big ones,
the science experiment you finally got through with all the right ingredients,
the trampoline jumping,
the needed and taken break…

This stuff also counts:

The short word,
the worry,
the rushing,
the aimlessness that takes over when exhausted,
the bickering,
the harsh tone when a child is simply being a child,
the endless pages of material a child already knows,
the push, push, push to work harder on what a child isn’t ready for,
the conversations with a spouse overheard by the child,
the missed opportunities to play,
the loss of contact with a teen,
the blankness that sets in when sick of homeschooling,
the lost moment when a child was excited but you were distracted,
the anxiety that something’s wrong,
the blues,
the bad math book that you spent too much on,
the co-op where a bully mistreats your one child,
the not-taken, much-needed break…

You get to choose what will count in your homeschool.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Martin Novak | Dreamstime.com

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Movie Wednesday: Watch a film adaptation


In Reading the Movies, William Costanzo notes that it has been estimated that a third of all films ever made were adapted from novels. If you count other literary forms, such as drama or short stories, that estimate might well be 65 percent or more. Nearly all of the classic works students study in high school have been adapted for film, some several times in several different eras. —From PBS’s Adaption from Novel to Film

It can be fascinating to see favorite characters from a book spring to life on screen. Whether we like the adaptation or not, it can give us insights into the story that we didn’t see before.

Here’s a helpful list of children’s books that have been made into films. After you’ve read the book and watched the movie adaptation, you might discuss:

What were the similarities and differences between the book and the film?

Did the cast fit the characters in the book?

If you’d been the director, what changes would you have made?

Were there scenes in the movie that were better than in the book?

Imagine that the author and the screenwriter met for dinner. What might they say to each other?

Happy adaptation watching!

Also, this winter we are offering a twofer movie club!

  • Four movies about Brave Girls, four about Gutsy Boys (and a number of titles are adaptations!)
  • Two movie clubs united by their intrepid protagonists.
  • Sign up for one or…
  • Join both clubs and save!

Click here for more information about our upcoming Movie Discussion Club!

Image by Emily Hildebrand (cc cropped)

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: Unleashing their voices


The simple things. This is year two of doing our weekly Friday morning tea time of reading and free writing with also a sweet treat to savor during our time of reflection and sharing. Some of our Fridays, the eager girls come to the table dressed in a role (strollers, baby dolls, pretend glasses) as their props for writing. The creativity of what our Fridays look like are endless fun. These are sacred moments, and despite if our week is a whirlwind (Oh, how that can happen with 4 young ones!) there is great anticipation the night before as they set out their journals and selected books in preparation for our Friday morning. We have collected various pieces of writings of poems and stories together from these cherished Fridays that is “our family book of writings” in the making. There is much value in the words from a page, the creation from the pencil, and a voice. We all have a story to be told. What these children have to say is worth to be heard, and I’m grateful I get to experience their story in the making every Friday. We talk a lot about how their voice and creativity has importance, and with time, craft, and patience, that voice can be unleashed and used for mighty things.

We enjoy making a dramatic drum roll when whoever is up in turn to share what they wrote. We end with lots of applause and encouragement for being brave with sharing their thoughts. Our 4 1/2 year old started referring this year to herself as “a writer.” She sure is, I tell her! She is recognizing that even at her young age, she too, has an important voice to be heard. Her journal is filled with scribbles of pictures and letters that all tell her story. When she sits up so proudly to share during our ritual every Friday morning tea, she looks down to her collage of pictures from her journal. and confidently shares. I record every word from that precious mouth. I re-read aloud what she narrated, and she will often say, “I wrote that!” My oldest now writes freely with limitless creativity, and my kindergartner doesn’t feel restrained since she can’t spell many words yet; she picks up the pencil and intently carries on drawing and sharing her writings. I record and re-read what my preschooler and kindergarten share, and their faces light up with such joy to hear their story being told.

Beautiful thoughts and words start early on. There just needs to be endless opportunities to unleash it. My hope is that my children discover some of their voice on this journey during our Friday mornings of writings.

Kirsten Casper, Brave Writer fan, mom to four children who have voices to be unleashed: 2nd grader, kindergartner, preschooler, & 9 month old)

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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Two ways to grow teens

Rolling thunder!

Teens present a challenge to parents who are used to the cozy snuggly younger years of wide-eyed curiosity about lady bugs. Teens can become bored by the wonder of the world around them as they navigate the far-more-interesting-to-them inner world of their thoughts, emotions, and yearnings.

That first teen—how I pity her or him! Parents don’t want to be awakened from the dreamland of their perfect, precious child. They want to prolong innocence and enchantment.

Teens want risk and adventure. They want to prove to themselves that one day, they will in fact be competent adults who live in the world outside the living room walls. They can’t know that they will be successful in that world until they get their hands on it—until they are out in it!

How do we—the anxious parents of these gawky, voice-changing, hair-growing, newly curvy bodies—give them what they need without panic and anxiety?

There are two critical pathways to the expansion of self:

1. Witness
2. Encounter


One way to grow is to increase your exposure to a world that is different from your familiar one. We adults do that every day by reading the news, or watching television, or listening to radio. We “witness” the events from around the globe via film or satellite, we read interesting discussions about those events, we listen to interviews with people who live in the midst of those events, and we receive stories through movies, memoirs, and novels of people who live very differently from us. This “witness” to the experiences of others expands our worldview and rearranges what we understand as normative or important. We discover our values differently when they are held up next to the values of others (whether those others live down the street or across an ocean).

For teens—they “witness” a larger world in much the same ways, if they are given the chance! They have the Internet—which offers them Twitter, Facebook, bulletin boards for affinity-related discussion, news organizations, blogs like Tumblr, and more. It’s easy to want to limit the use of the Internet, but it’s almost impossible to do so successfully (teens can work around just about any limit you set). It’s even better to create conversation around what they learn there and to be a willing conversation partner for the cognitive growth that is happening at breakneck speed in that space.

They also witness the larger world through novels and films. These two vehicles help teens to absorb the motivations and complexities of being human in unfamiliar (or very familiar!) contexts. They can read, take time off, read more, and process it all safely at home with you.

Witness provides teens with a chance to explore unfamiliar territory at arm’s length. The experience is under their control. They can shut down the computer, they can turn off the television, they can close the book. They are free to sample or deep dive, to agree or disagree without consequence to their life’s situation.


Encounter is the more challenging, more impacting way to grow. Encounter is not at arm’s length. Encounter means being overwhelmed (all five senses) with the experience so that you can’t escape it nor package and manage it. For instance, you might “witness” what life is like in Iran by reading a book like Reading Lolita in Tehran. But to encounter life in Tehran, one would have to go and stay there! Travel is one level of encounter (visiting a place for a short stay). An extended stay working in a foreign country is another level of encounter. Moving to live in a foreign country is the most intense form of encounter.

In terms of raising teens, encounter can look a few ways. It is meeting someone who embodies whatever life experience and values are his or hers (that differ from your own). It is befriending someone who comes from a different background. It is visiting the sites where other views take place (for instance, going to a temple for a visit when you are studying about that religion, especially when it is not your religion; another example—visiting a plantation in the South when you grew up in the North hating plantations as representations of slavery).

Encounter is eating the food, hearing/speaking the language, wearing the clothing, adopting the customs.

Encounter is deliberately putting yourself in the uncomfortable position of being with someone different from yourself and allowing that experience to impact you.

We help our teens grow when we give them both opportunities. They love risk and adventure! When you allow them to develop affinities, to explore their curiosities, and to meet/know people who are different from them, you help their brains! They will experience the kind of cognitive growth critical to being critical thinkers and healthy adults!

Cater to their natural inclination to take “thought-risks” and put them in contact with material and people who challenge their assumptions. Celebrate the results (whatever they may be!). Remember: no teen retains the values developed at 14 and 17. Are you today the same person you were at 15? I doubt it.

Everyone adopts positions to try on like shoes when they are teens. So let them adopt away! If you create space for a teen to imagine herself into a viewpoint, she will also have space to move through and out of it too, if she gets more and new information from witnessing or encountering!

It’s an exciting time to parent, if not a little nerve-wracking at times. Try not to grip too tightly, and enjoy the ride.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Lin Pernille Photography LLC (cc text added)

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Friday Freewrite: Touch

Friday Freewrite - Touch

Today’s writing prompt is inspired by Brave Writer’s Keen Observation exercise with a focus on touch:

Choose three items (can be natural or man-made), close your eyes, and explore what each feels like. Record your thoughts then compare and contrast the items. And feel free to use similes: “This one feels like…”

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Images by martinak15, LearningLark, and Graham Milldrum (cc photos are cropped)

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Winter class schedule is up!


Registration Opens Mon, Dec. 1, 2014
Noon Eastern (12:00 p.m. EST)

Classes Offered:

Expository Essay
Groovy Grammar
High School Writing Projects
Just So Stories
Kidswrite Basic
Kidswrite Intermediate
Literary Analysis: Rebecca
Middle School Writing Projects
Movie Discussion Clubs: Gutsy Boys and Brave Girls
Playing with Poetry
Photography and Writing
SAT/ACT Essay Prep

Feel free to email Julie or to contact Brave Writer via the online chat option (lower right corner of the home page) if you need help determining which classes would be best for your kids and you.

Click here for more info!

Image by Brave Writer mom, Colleen (cc)

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