A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

It’s the context, schweetheart!

Chameleon Image by Lega Eglite

If you need to turn a day around, change the environment. No lectures, no shaming sessions, no tongue-lashings, no careful explanations.

Kids and teens respond to concrete experience, not abstract explanations and suppositions.

So, if you have cranky little guys, send them to jump it out on the trampoline. If you want them to learn their prepositions, act them out with a chair.

If you’ve got a tired hand, cramped from holding a No 2 pencil, hand the child a marker and a white board.

If the kitchen table is dull and uninspiring, write on a clipboard under the table.

If your teen drives, send her to the library or museum or local deli to study alone.

Sounds can change everything: play recordings of nature (rainfall, crackling fire, waves lapping the beach) during copywork. Use jazz music when cleaning up the family room (again!). Add salsa to bath time or lunch or art.

Create a centerpiece before math—scavenge rocks, pinecones, wildflowers (if you are lucky enough to have them yet), shells, moss on bark, driftwood and ask your kids to arrange them—perhaps in geometric shapes. Maybe they can go in a triangle, then halfway through the lesson, your kids can rearrange them into another shape (circle), then at the completion of the lesson, a polygon!

Before the read aloud, face-paint. Pick an image or symbol from the book and put it on each child’s cheek.

Save writing (for a teen) for midnight and candlelight. Forbid writing until they are alone in the dark, with a single candle. See what happens.

Wear dress up clothes, allow earbuds for music, use a typewriter (if you have one), dress up the table, light a fire or sit outside on a blanket, study at a coffee shop, write at a nature center, make calculations at the grocery store, skip count in Spanish, use British accents for all school related activities for an afternoon…

Instead of writing, draw.

Instead of calculating with a calculator, use an abacus or measuring cups or rods.

Instead of reading aloud, use audio books—go for a drive!

Add to this list, please! What else can be done to shift out of the familiar into another version that entices and revives?

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Bard Day!

449px-William_Shakespeare_1609We’re celebrating Shakespeare’s 450th birthday by offering the Boomerang based on Gary Blackwood’s book, Shakespeare’s Scribe:

Half price today through Friday: $4.95!

In Blackwood’s novel, we follow Widge, an actor in Shakespeare’s troupe. After the Globe Theatre is shut down due to the Black Plague, the company sets off to tour England, where Widge’s unique shorthand makes him a valuable member…until someone threatens to reveal a past secret.

The book is a sequel to The Shakespeare Stealer, but stands well on its own.

Also! Brave Writer instructor, Susanne Barrett, posted ways to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday in the Shakespeare Family Workshop.

Here are her ideas:

• Have a Talk Like Shakespeare Day (or even just an hour, if that’s all you can handle).

• Perhaps gather around the table with scones and jam and some Earl Grey tea and read some of Shakespeare’s sonnets aloud (you can find Shakespeare sonnet apps for your smart phone or check out this site).

• Read some of Shakespeare’s famous monologues aloud dramatically, perhaps even in costume. Here’s a list of some of the best single-person speeches, one list for men and one for women. Try performing them for family members and/or friends or at a co-op!

• Perform a Shakespeare scene as a puppet show or act out a scene in costume; either memorize parts or make copies of the scene for all the actors. Here are some scenes and scripts for kids from the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

• Watch your favorite Shakespeare play on film (mine is Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing). Check your local library or Netflix for some excellent titles, and the International Movie DataBase includes some helpful parents guides with advisory content for you along with ratings and information on most film versions.

• For older kids, check out Michael Woods’ in-depth documentary In Search of Shakespeare which first aired on PBS in 2004. Both the DVD and the companion book should be readily available through most public libraries.

• Better yet, see a live Shakespeare play as soon as possible. Check out college/university performances near you as they’re usually much less expensive than professional productions.

So, celebrate one of the greatest playwrights of all time and take advantage of this special Boomerang offer!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Image above: The Flower portrait of William Shakespeare, c. 1820-40 (via Wikipedia).

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A little heart-to-heart

My aim in Brave Writer is to liberate parents from their anxieties around home education—to help them foster, nurture, and support the beautiful originality of their children, and to get some of that personhood to paper (or screen). I have compiled in our materials, on the blog, and through Facebook, an extensive collection of tips, tricks, personal experiences, theories, analogies, insights, processes, practices, images, and ideas to help make homeschooling alive, powerful, and satisfying.

My focus—the angle through which I express my homeschooling ideas—is writing (that’s my strength and expertise). Writing is fed by a vibrant cognitive life and rich lived experiences. Homeschooling is THE context in which both of these can occur easily, with great achievement and satisfaction. Quality writing will follow. I promise.

The context is everything…for everything. Truly. The materials are like intermittent signs on the path that are meant to urge you to “keep going” and to trust your instincts, hunches, and inspiration—to allow writing to be more than academic check boxes, but the vehicle through which you preserve the various voices of your children through their childhoods, just as photographs preserve their growing bodies.

Far be it from me to overly script how you live or how you instruct! I want your homeschool to look like your family!

So it pains me (if I’m honest) when I read a description online somewhere of BW materials that talks about them as though they are not rigorous enough or scheduled enough or leave parents not knowing what to do. Part of me wants to jump out of my chair and say: “Read, imbibe, ponder, consider, take a small action, see what happens, then allow your inspiration to be re-catalyzed before you take the next action.”

Home education is not all that amenable to hard-and-fast schedule. I’ve spoken with hundreds (?) or thousands (?) of parents in 14 years (I can’t count). No two want the same schedule. Truly!

I don’t want to be the one to tell you what the mark is that you won’t hit.

Yes, it’s useful to get a lay of the land (the Brave Writer Lifestyle is all about how to establish a routine that is soothing, adaptable, and predictable). But to tell you how many pages to read a day? To explain which day to read the words in the chapter and which day to do the writing project? That’s just destined to undermine you.

I want to be the one who tells you: You are hitting the mark you care about already—by being who you are. Now, if you need catalysts for your imagination, for your aspirations, and for academic achievement—try this, and this, and maybe this too.

I’ll put those ideas into carefully selected words, with maximum space for you to interpret them according to the quirky personalities of your particular family. There just isn’t enough homeschool curricula that thinks about YOU and your uniqueness. Most are focused on subject matter and “getting through” material.

There is no magic bullet here. No “wave the wand” and you will have academic achievement and happy learners.

Those feelings come from the attentive, slow study of your children. Materials aid you in acting on your best intentions so that you follow through (and so that you have ideas in the middle of pregnancy induced memory-loss hormones, breast-feeding let down, small child mind-distraction, and teenage child worry).

This is what I propose in every product—I’m offering aid, help, possibilities, giving you a new way to think to trigger your own creativity and thoughtfulness.

I am producing the next level (Faltering Ownership) for our writing products right now. I look forward to releasing it. My main worry in producing these “writing project” books is that parents won’t have made the paradigm shift around writing first—the ideas expressed in The Writer’s Jungle. Instead, they will bring the same set of suppositions and assumptions to writing that they’ve always brought, producing the same resistance they’ve always gotten, or they will feel that the schedule isn’t “clear enough.”

No schedule can be clear enough. As soon as it is, you wind up in guilt for not living up to it!

I won’t ever give you that “schedule.” But I also hope I will never give you that guilt.

Paradigm shifts are slow…slow…slow…until Ping! You get it. It takes reading and rereading, trying, testing, tasting, and waiting. It takes courage and a willingness to live with the discomfort of trust.

For those of you on the journey, I salute you! Keep going.

Thanks for letting me share.

If you have comments or thoughts, I’d love to hear them. I learn a lot from our BW families, and I hope that this little freewrite might let you better understand me and my aims for Brave Writer.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Tuesday Teatime: Intergenerational

Tuesday Teatime Sarah

We hadn’t seen my folks in quite some time so I thought what better way to reunite than with divine treats and poetry.

My children picked modern silly poems, while my folks chose nursery rhymes and older selections! My father even recited on from memory from his childhood! Impressive!

My daughter usually gets right into reading and has to be reeled in to allow others to read! While my son, sits and builds his confidence to read and he did, TWICE!! Love the power of positive ‘peer’ pressure!!

This will be a treasured slice of divine for me and was a great experience for my children!!


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 select your photo to post then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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Difficult decisions

Rain Image by Sveta Sunorina

The following message is for homeschooling moms—specifically those of you facing difficult decisions about your marriages and your kids, all while homeschooling.

I’ve had emails and messages asking me for advice in these delicate matters (divorce, separation, single parent homeschooling).

I want to say first that Brave Writer is a writing and language arts curriculum, as well as a philosophy of home education. I am not a therapist nor a lawyer by training, and I don’t want to confuse what Brave Writer is about by tackling legal and mental health issues that are beyond the scope of what I offer through our company.

That said, home education is directly impacted by the context of your family—its warmth, the sense of emotional and physical safety present in it, the shared caring of the parenting team, the security of the financial resources, and the intrinsic experience of happiness and well being of each and every member.

I find it troublesome that we ignore those factors and focus almost exclusively on curriculum choices and homeschool philosophy. If a family and/or marriage is in crisis, no amount of workbook switching will bridge the underlying anxiety that permeates the home. That anxiety/dysfunction must be addressed. Moreover, if you are suffering from chronic rejection in your marriage (in whatever form it takes), it is difficult to be the parent your children need.

I don’t want to articulate a theory about when divorce is justified or not. It’s an enormously personal decision, rarely made glibly (in idealistic families like those who choose to home educate, I’ve never yet met someone for whom divorce was an easy, glib decision—how could it be?). Usually it is the last last exit off a long highway, after every avenue (and both partners) have been exhausted, taken as a kind of defeat—a recognition that there are no more last steps.

The goal in every marriage ought to be: get as much help as you can to have the best marriage that you can for as long as you can. That’s true for everyone from year 1 to year 75.

The usual tools do actually help:

Therapy for you
Developing yourself (school, hobbies, exercise, work)
Reading about how to have healthy relationships

Sometimes just doing these things buys you time—time you can stay married longer than you thought you could, which is often good for kids.

When you come to the point where you know you can’t any more (whatever that means to you), lots of decisions must be made and a clear head (unencumbered by guilty ambivalence) is required.

In most homeschooling circles, a scarlet letter “D” attaches itself to divorce, which leads children and parents who are divorced or separated to feel like they are second-tier homeschoolers—that somehow, the children in a divorced homeschool family are unlikely to achieve the level of success and emotional balance that is available to the other “still-married” version.

It is possible to home educate successfully after a divorce, but it is much more difficult to do for several reasons:

1. Finances: Likely you are a SAHM, without an income. It is also likely you have not kept up with your field. It is much more difficult to home educate and work at the same time—for you, and for your kids. It can be difficult to find work, that fits your homeschool schedule, let alone supports your life.

2. Ex-spouse: Not all exes support home education. Homeschooling might be contested by your ex out of anger, or simply out of disagreement. You may “lose the right” to home educate your kids. It’s not a given that you will get to keep homeschooling, even if you want to.

3. Custody: Today, joint custody (50-50) is common. That means the kids are going between two houses every week. Talk about jumbling the continuity of schoolwork. It also means two sets of routines, two ideas about discipline, two levels of stress.

4. Moving: Not every divorced couple can support two complete households. It is common for families to sell their primary homes (where home education has been happening) and for the kids and mom to move into a much smaller space. The move is disruptive, as is the adjustment to a different standard of living. One study says that the change in standard of living is the most difficult part of divorce for children, even more than the parents living under separate roofs.

5. One adult: With two adults at home, you get a break each day (hopefully). It’s a challenge to be all things to all kids all day every day. It may feel like relief initially (and may in fact be relief), but it is also an enormous responsibility. The immediate relief that comes from not living under the same roof with your alienated spouse today is not necessarily what the long term requirement to live on your own for the rest of your children’s childhoods will feel like down the road.

Think carefully about how you will mitigate these factors. What are your finances? How dependent are you? Will you be able to continue to home educate? How important is that to you and your children? Will your ex support that choice? Will the ex live close enough to you to provide some relief (weekends off, driving to soccer practice)? Is it possible for you to keep the house (it provides enormous continuity for kids, if you can keep them where they are already living)? Is it possible for you to have primary custody?

How emotionally well are you? Are you depressed, checked out, overwhelmed? Can you home educate under these circumstances? What can you do to become a healthier, more stable you?

How are the kids? What emotional toll has the long-term unhealthiness of the family already taken on them? How can you support them in healing and becoming emotionally whole? Just because they seem fine doesn’t mean they are. Studies show that five years after divorce, kids often hit a wall (become depressed, act out), even if they have appeared to cope well before that.

For children, even if they agree that divorce is the right option for their family and experience relief once it is done, there isn’t a single child in the world who is happy to have a divorced family. No one says, “I’m glad that the best option for my family was divorce.” Everyone wishes they had a family where divorce was not necessary at all.

Not only that: problems within a marriage (where it’s clear that there are issues – parents fighting, parents not speaking, parents who take cheap shots, parents who neglect each other) are understood as bumps in the road between two people who love each other. The love is bigger than the problems. Divorce says, “The love is not bigger than the problems.” Kids are introduced to the idea that one parent (sometimes both!) are not as lovable now. That’s a serious idea to introduce to young people who share genes with both parents. We all want to believe that our parents are worth loving, in spite of their flaws.

That is not to say that divorce isn’t the right choice, can’t be survived, and that good can’t come of it. Recovering space for emotional well being is of enormous value for children. Learning to identify abuse or mistreatment, and seeing that cruelty has consequences is important too. Showing your children that they are strong and can stand up for themselves can be life-changing.

Ensuring that the place your children call home is safe, warm, and generous is an act of love and courage. If it can be done while preserving the marriage, so much the better. If it can’t, then consider carefully ways to create as peaceful a transition as possible.

In the end, the most important thing to know is that every life has challenges—married or divorced. Our job is to help our kids learn how to manage the messiness of life, while providing them with strong emotional support as they have their own (different) reactions to our choices than we have.

Homeschooling depends on parents being responsible, emotionally well, stable people who model what it is to have healthy (as healthy as possible) relationships with each other and with their children. It’s your job to become that person for them, however that happens according to your lights.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Friday Freewrite: Don’t worry

Don’t worry be happy Image by Evil Erin

Have you heard the saying: “Don’t worry, be happy”? What does that mean to you?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

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The Value of Poetry



The Value of Poetry

It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.

William Carlos Williams

As we celebrate National Poetry Month, I just finished teaching Brave Writer’s annual “Playing with Poetry Workshop.” And once again, I recognized the intrinsic value of reading, teaching, and learning to write poetry to and with our kids.

So why should we study poetry in our homeschools?

Poetry teaches us the beauty and potential of the English language. The innovative use of language—of diction (word choice), metaphor and simile, other figures of speech, punctuation and capitalization—encourages our fledgling writers to take a chance with language. Our kids (and we parents alongside them) learn to play with words and language: transforming a noun into a verb, altering the “correct” use punctuation to create a fresh result, comparing two extremely different objects that seem to have no connection whatsoever, using alliteration (repeating initial consonant sounds in a line/sentence) for emphasis, employing a certain rhythm and cadence to our writing, and experimenting with new ways to entice readers through language.

Take a look at this apparently simplistic poem by e.e. cummings, one of the most innovative poets of the 20th century:

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,

and milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:

and may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

This poem, which seems to be intended for children, has a lovely rhythm, containing rhyme in only the first and last couplets (a two-line stanza or “paragraph” in poetry), alliteration (the repeating “m-” sound at the beginning of words in the first line), simile (a “stone/as small as a world and as large as alone”), metaphor (“a stranded star/whose rays five languid fingers were”), personification (“a shell that sang/ so sweetly”), and a theme (message): “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)/ it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.”

In the wonderful book Painless Poetry by Mary Elizabeth, she sets forth some excellent ideas for learning to enjoy poetry:

Notice the overall way the poem fills (or doesn’t fill) the page. It doesn’t look like the usual prose paragraphs we read in textbooks or novels, does it? Lines of poetry don’t cover the entire page. Also, look for breaks between groups of lines. Poems are often written in collections of lines that are called STANZAS—kind of like paragraphs of poetry. Stanzas consist of short, long, or different lengths of lines, most of which have at least several words. Each poem looks different, depending on the number and length of lines and stanzas; each poem is a unique creation, and being aware of each poem’s appearance is important in appreciating it.

The precise meaning of a poem depends on the precise meaning of the words in the poem. The more familiar readers of poems are with words in a poem, the easier understanding and analyzing poetry can be. We need to keep our eyes and ears open and resist skipping words or phrases that we don’t understand in a poem; instead, we should always research unfamiliar words in dictionaries or online. If we don’t thoroughly understand each word and phrase in a poem, we may miss an important clue to the overall tone (mood/emotion) or meaning of a poem. Poetry is all about the details!

Poems are meant to be read aloud even if we are studying poetry by ourselves. Poetry is more than just the meaning of words: sound is central to understanding poetry. Listen for repeated sounds, words, and phrases (circle or underline them)—repetition is always a key to the poem’s meaning or tone. Also consider how the sound of the poem adds to the meaning or tone of the poem. Take note of rhyming words and other sound effects that may emphasize certain words and/or phrases. Again, sound effects often provide clues to the meaning and tone of poems.

The relationship between sound and meaning may not always be obvious, but possible relationships between sound and meaning may lead us to a deeper understanding of a poem. Consider images or memories that may be triggered by a poem and decide if they are important to understanding the poem. Always read a poem at least three times, if not more. We need to give ourselves the chance to pay attention to all of the elements of a poem each time we read it, and remember to read it ALOUD—always! Jot down any ideas about meaning or tone, any questions, anything at all in the margins of the poem. If you happen to be squeamish about writings in books, then make a copy of the page the poem is on and write on that copy.

Copywork is very important in understanding poetry, and it’s not only for our younger students. Even now as an adult, I still copy poems that grab my attention into my journal or commonplace book. Somehow, the poems become so much clearer to me as I linger over what flows from the nib of my pen: word by word, phrase by phrase, line by line, stanza by stanza. Writing poems out by hand slows us down, allowing us to think more deeply about an image or a metaphor; in addition, writing a poem in our own cursive penmanship helps us to make poem more ours—it gives us a feeling of kinship and/or ownership of the copied poem. It’s also lovely to have a journal full of the poems that speak specifically to each of us.

Composing different forms of poetry also reinforces our study of poets and their work. In the Playing with Poetry Workshop, we teach the basics of poetry analysis and structure and how to read and truly enjoy poetry. Then we experiment with composing free verse including autobiographical and “I Am From…” free verse poems; visual poetry including shape poems, concrete poems, and acrostics; cinquain and diamante poems; the Japanese poetry forms of haiku and tanka; conventional poetry, including couplets, tercets (and terza rima), quatrains, and limericks; and finally alternative poetry which encompassed fragmented poems, “After…” poems, kennings, and then various types of “found” poems including black-out poems, highlighted poems, and book spine poems, among others.

Some of the families from the Playing with Poetry Workshop reinforce the value of studying and writing poetry:

Jeena writes,
“We see poetry everywhere now and you have opened our eyes to many poetic forms. Poetry is now a topic I feel comfortable discussing, I used to shy away from it. Josh has widened his writing range. Most of all I want to thank you for a writing class that didn’t seem like a writing class. Josh, my usually reluctant writer, wrote fast and enthusiastically and never once complained. That really is a miracle for us! He felt encouraged, understood and positively challenged.”

Linda shares,
“When I began this class I thought about poetry as something classical that I should have read or known about already but didn’t, as something silly and childish that rhymed, as something esoteric and mysterious. But now that I’ve taken this class I have fortunately had my eyes opened to new and amazing poetic possibilities. First of all anyone can write poetry, about anything. It just takes a willingness to play with sounds and words and ideas. Learning about free verse has been the most marvelous concept I have come across in a long time. I am so glad we began the course this way. I understand now why children find it so hard to write a poem (i.e., one that rhymes). All the effort goes into finding some unconvincing rhyme while all the lovely naturally spoken phrases and words that come unbidden out of a child’s mouth disappear unused into the ether. I also appreciate the fact that sometimes there isn’t anything to “get” about the poem. I can enjoy it as a delight of words instead of thinking I’ve missed some deeper meaning.

“By working every day with poems and poetry my children definitely had a jump start in their understanding of elements and artistry. We talk the poetry lingo more intelligently now, flipping off phrases like, ‘Oh yes this stanza has an abab rhyming scheme’ and other perspicacious verbalisms. Seriously though, we are noticing things like alliteration, personification, similes, etc., etc., and thinking about persona more readily in poetry we read as well as recognizing it in our own poetry (where it still mostly happens by happy accident). We have had good discussions about appealing to senses other than the overused one of sight. We are beginning to be able to express why we might like this poem but not that one. There is still so much to learn, but at least we are unfolding in the right direction.”

So how can we celebrate National Poetry Month?

The Academy of American Poets hosts all sorts of poetry fun at their site. Here’s their page devoted to National Poetry Month. And they even have a National Poetry Month FAQ, so check it out!

It was through Poets.org that I first started reading the Poem-a-Day e-mails. A free service, recipients receive contemporary poems, usually unpublished and written within the last year on weekdays while weekends are reserved for classic poems in the public domain, a.k.a. “old friends.”

You may sign up for this amazing gift of starting your day with poetry here: Poem-A-Day. And it was recently revealed that the American Academy of Poets “…signed a deal with King Features to syndicate Poem-a-Day. This means that the new, previously unpublished poems we are publishing during the week will be available to editors at a wide range of newspapers, news websites, and magazines…. It’s been a generation since new poems have been available to daily news readers.”

In addition, Poets.org started the annual celebration of Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day in which we are encouraged to tuck a favorite poem (written by us or by a favorite poet) into our pocket and share it with at least one other person during the course of our day. Which day? Thursday, April 24 is the official Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day, so prepare!! More information can be obtained on the page Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day.

Also in celebration of National Poetry Month, students may write poems in response to poems written by professional poets: 2014 Poet to Poet Project. Very cool!!

So whether you take a trip to the library and check out some poetry books to peruse together during Poetry Teatimes, or look up some poetry forms and try to write them together as a family (involve dads, too—they can write some awesome poems!), or share a Poem from Your Pocket on April 24, find a way to make poetry part of your week—even part of your day—in your homeschooling life.

“You will find poetry nowhere unless you bring some of it with you.” ~Joseph Joubert

~Susanne Barrett, Brave Writer Senior Instructor (MA Poetry and British Literature)

Photo Credit: Tammy Wahl Photography

Slow down, you’re moving too fast…


…Gotta make the morning last now! (Simon and Garfunkel)

To feel groovy, you have to let yourself move slowly, savor, find a rhythm and stick to it, meander.

Home education is a trip on side streets.

It’s the wasted time of sleeping in and running late and “Where is my other shoe?”

It’s the long straggly gaggle of children, strollers, and backpacks making their way across a crowded, dangerous parking lot to a museum. Inside, an hour spent looking at three paintings is plenty. It leads to side-tracked conversations about “unrelated” subjects and what is retained is hidden from view for years (maybe a decade). Then the whole kit and caboodle reverse course to saunter, dawdle back to the car where the buckling, clicking, and tucking in take longer because everyone is tired and hungry.

Home education is charging forward with new materials and slogging slowly through old, comfortable ones.

When lightning strikes (She’s reading! He finished his story! She mastered the 7′s! He learned all the capitals!), celebration takes time and words, and uses up treats in the toy box or refrigerator. Happiness has room to be felt and known. Personal pride is admired. Nothing more is accomplished in the basking glow of success.

Homeschool is the next chapter begging to be read because the last one was so good, and who can stop when everyone (including mom or dad) wants to know what happens next?

Math is ditched when Nova shows the migration habits of your favorite birds. All manner of family members hunker down under blankets to let the visual feast of scenes unspool at their deliberate unhurried pace.

Making muffins for teatime lasts an eternity of measuring the ingredients, struggling to stir the messy mix, and unevenly filling the cups, only to bake them and wait, wait, wait for the wonderfully yummy end results.

No one wants to stop reading poetry…ever. So some days you don’t stop, and it’s wonderfully okay.

When the sun comes out after its long absence, kicking a soccer ball in the backyard is on task and feels right. No one misses the phonics workbook that day yet everyone knows it’s not gone forever. Just for today—this one glorious long day of nothing but sunshine.

Take time today—to be, float, notice, hang, enjoy, savor.

Homeschooling is a ridiculous waste of time—it refuses to be boxed into systems, schedules, and requirements.

It is the long, lazy, loving look at learning through the eyes of children.

It takes time—time you don’t have, time you aren’t used to spending in all your adult hurry. Give in. Let go.

Feel groovy.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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It gets better

1300 feet high, no rope… Image by Maria Ly

I’m not one for pie-in-the-sky platitudes (though clearly I’m okay with cliches). Being told that things will get easier, make more sense, or feel better in some time that is not now can feel like a pat on the head, not a rope thrown down a cliff.

But things will get better because you strive toward that end—that’s who you are. You are a responsibility-taking initiator of “good things.” I know this about you because you homeschool. That’s the only kind of person who chooses this life.

I also know that you are an intrepid researcher because you homeschool. Those are the sort of people who take on the education of their children without degrees or training. They’re the kind that tackle Big Huge Risky Tasks because they have such unswerving faith in their abilities—at minimum, their ability to research and apply what they need to know to achieve their ideals.

Oh, I know it doesn’t always feel that way. Some days you feel like curling into a ball on a beanbag chair sucking your thumb. Those days don’t last too long, though, because you won’t permit it.

You’re the kind of person who after a few days of self-pity, looks into the mirror, gives a yourself pep talk, and re-ups the commitment.

You most certainly do have that confidence. People without it don’t homeschool.

This is the rope. Thrown down the cliff to you.

It’s not a list of practices like breathing or running.

It’s not a set of precepts about education and child development.

It’s not the “perfect curriculum” that relieves you of the obligation to teach your children.


The rope –> YOUR own tenacity and audacity. That’s it!

Today’s difficulty is merely one in a long string of challenges that you will attack with spirit and drive. Sure, it’s not always rainbows and licorice in the middle of the muddle.

Of course not!

But you know that. You knew that when you started. It’s like running: you know you’ll get tired and out of breath. Well, here’s that moment. Keep running.

At the core, you can trust that you will be better at this thing called homeschooling tomorrow than you are today. A year from now? Even better. The next to last child? Better than the first two. You will get the hang of it.

Wait. I hear some of you say: “What if I never do get better at it? What if homeschool never feels happy or serene or satisfying the way I want it to be?”

Guess what I know you’ll do? You’ll figure out something else! Your drive to ensure a quality childhood for your children will leave you tireless in your pursuit of a better situation. You may have to change course. You may stop homeschooling after several years. Who’s to say that is the wrong decision or an admission of failure? It might be the most powerful act of self-advocacy in your entire adult life!

I trust you!

You can figure out what to do!

Here’s what I know: homeschoolers are ethical, sincere, committed, hard-working, optimistic, and resourceful.

That’s you!

I trust your choices on the basis of those characteristics alone. Whatever you do, your life with your kids is going to get better and better (even through the messiness of teens or toddlers). That’s how it works for parents like you.


Grab the rope—it’s you! You can pull yourself up, by your own strength of character. It will get better.

I’ve got cookies at the top. See you there.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Tuesday Teatime: Frilly dresses

Tuesday Teatime Becky

For our first teatime the girls got all dressed up. Frilly dresses, necklaces and rings. I didn’t expect them to do this but it was cute. They also invited along a few of their stuffed friends. In the beginning I selected some books of children’s poetry but now they look for books of poetry themselves.

A few weeks ago when we had snow for three days. After playing outside in the snow we changed Tea Time Tuesday to Hot Chocolate Wednesday. The girls loved it.

We do not have Teatime every week but when we do we all seem to enjoy it and learn something in a relaxed and delicious environment.


You can enjoy more photos of Becky’s teatime on her blog, Stain Stick Required.

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 select your photo to post then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang of your choice! Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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