A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Tuesday Teatime: Escape

Julie teatime 8-25-14 -blog

When phone calls dominate the day I escape to the patio to finish working. My own private teatime.


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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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Use writing in your lives


I had a question about what program I would recommend to a child who has recently come out of school and is dysgraphic and a perfectionist. Of course, my first thought is to scrap programs. This kid needs a zoo pass and Legos!

What to do about writing, though. He is struggling and fears it. Of course! We all avoid those skill areas where we are weakest.

To start changing the narrative around writing in your family, even before you buy Jot it Down or Partnership Writing, make writing more interesting, more useful, more fun right now in your home.

Put Post It Notes all over the bedroom door of your child. Fill them with comments about his or her strengths, jokes, silly word pairs, brief memories of their exploits, hints about the fun you will have at winter break, questions of the universe (“Who am I and why am I here?” “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”), aphorisms… You decide. Put these Post-its all over the door after the child is asleep and see when he or she finally notices them. You might leave a stack of Post Its and a pen somewhere nearby. See if the child reciprocates. Some will.

Use lipstick to leave love notes on the bathroom mirror for your kids.

Create a treasure hunt—that rhymes! Send your kids hunting for some treat with clues you design. Then later, ask them to make one for you (on your birthday! or for Mother’s Day!).

Tape words to items in the house—any words. See who notices first.

Play with refrigerator magnets.

Mail letters to your kids. Text your kids. Facebook chat with your kids. Even when you are all sitting in the same room (hilarity will ensue!).

Write margin notes in the books they are about to read—like, “This was my favorite part” and “I can’t believe she did that, can you?” and “When you get to this section, come to me. We must discuss.”

Leave notes in a teenager’s car with cash: “Here’s three bucks for a hamburger! Enjoy.”

USE writing in natural, life-affirming ways. See how it changes the feel of writing in your home.

Go for it! Now Today! It’s far more likely you will grow writers if you live like this than if you tirelessly work on paragraphs. Paragraphs will come, once everyone is friends with writing.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Lefrenchbazaar | Dreamstime.com

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Student Spotlight: Eleanor Nash

Eleanor NashCongrats to Brave Writer Eleanor Nash for being published in The Kansas City Star! She writes:

I took Brave Writer’s High School Writing Project class this spring, and in the class I wrote an essay. I submitted the essay to my city’s newspaper and this Wednesday it was printed.

Thank you for the writing help,

Eleanor Nash


Here’s the opening of Eleanor’s article:

The Internet can bring teens together

By ELEANOR NASH Special to The Star

Scrolling a while back through the comments on BuzzFeed’s “26 Reasons Why 2014 Has Already Been The Worst Year Ever For Teens,” I came across this statement: “Just another list among many of why this generation sucks and will probably be the downfall of the USA.”

Such comments are not unusual. Teenagers are often portrayed in the media as wild, hopeless, dumb, doomed, uncontrollable and overall a disgrace to their elders.

But this attitude is nothing new…

Read the rest here.

Way to go, Eleanor! We’re so proud of you and all our Brave Writer students!

Image @ The Kansas City Star

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Friday Freewrite: Colors


For each family member, pick a color that represents him or her. Explain your choices.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Dominique Godbout (cc)

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Care less


I don’t mean to be “careless,” but rather, to “care less” (two words). In other words, can you lean back, figuratively put yourself on a porch swing and let your feet dangle as you glide back and forth, not a care in the world—while you homeschool?

Can you relax your jaw, lighten your tone, notice the puffy clouds floating by?

We are so invested in how our kids respond to what we offer them, and how we guide them, that sometimes we jinx the outcome! They stiffen or put up their defenses to avoid having to live up to our expectations.

Think about it: Have you ever felt pressured to like a certain meal someone made for you, or felt you were going to owe such a big show of gratitude for a favor done, you almost wished the person had just not “helped” you?

This may be your kids! It’s tough to know on some intuitive level that my mom’s happiness is contingent on how well I enjoy the lesson, or book, or curricula, or activity, or field trip. The part of us that wants to have our own original experience resists/balks at the pressure to make the “giving person” feel good.

You know what I am talking about—think of your mother or father-in-law or next door neighbor who stands back waiting to be thanked. How do you feel about the service rendered? A little resentful?

Kids have big emotions. They need room to feel and express. It’s never about you—these reactions to books or lessons or strategies for learning. How can it be…really? Who doesn’t want to be loved by a parent, to feel the parent’s approval?

Yet they resist what we offer them when two things happen:

1. They feel they owe you more than they will get out of it for themselves.

2. They feel nervous that they can’t live up to your expectations.

So care less. Unschoolers use a term called “strewing” – the strategic placing of unattended items in the way of a learner—allowing a child to explore the item or book or movie or game—unattended, independently, privately.

Other ways:

Do the activity, workbook, lesson, game without the kids, without announcement. Get involved by yourself, in front of them, without a word.

Ask your child for help—in any arena. Does this sound like a good program to you? If you could be in charge today, what would we be doing?

Openly judge flops with a sense of humor. “That collection of manipulatives must have been created by someone with 12 fingers!”

If the house is filled with tension, try one of these:

Disappear. Go into the other room and read a book or page through a catalog, or make yourself a snack.

Grab a blanket and curl up on the couch and doze.

Head outdoors (put the baby in the backpack). Walk, exercise.

Do not judge a day or week or month gone wrong. Care less. You have tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow. All you have is time. Take the time you need, trust the process, care less about the minutia of today.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © Bialasiewicz | Dreamstime.com

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Our “One Thing” Brave Writer day

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-calendar-september-blank-note-paper-free-space-your-text-image43068547Hi Julie-

I just had to share the glowing success of our “One Thing” Brave Writer day to thank you for the inspiration. I also wanted to encourage other homeschool moms to “go for it” and not put off trying it. It’s really not that hard and the rewards you will reap far outweigh anything I could have dreamed.

Inspired by re-listening to your podcast about “One Thing” and also your blog post from August 27 (blog roundup where the family did a day of working on mysteries), I created a Mystery Day for us.

I had been wanting to do this for a long time, but somehow it all clicked after hearing the podcast. I prepared (looked up some references about elements of mysteries, which really took no time at all), chose a day (today Friday, September 5), then told my children a few days ago to keep myself accountable. We are starting back to homeschooling next week, and I thought this would be a great way to start the year off right!

I made our day workshop style. All my children were included, from my 19 year old homeschool graduate who starts a Physical Therapy Assistant program later this month, 17 year old daughter who is a senior, 15 year old special needs (Asperger’s/ADHD) son, 10 year old daughter, 7 year old son and 4 year old son.

I got out our large dry erase board and colored markers and we brainstormed about the essential elements that can or should be in a mystery, we talked about favorite mysteries we had read, watched (don’t forget Blue’s Clues for the younger crowd) or listened to (such as some from Adventures in Odyssey). An important thing to note is that mysteries do not have to involve foul play or actual crime (we don’t read or watch those). Then I set the timer and everyone wrote for 10 minutes to come up with some ideas for protagonists, whether amateur or professional detectives. I did the “jotting down” for my 7 year old, and he wrote a whole story! My special needs son he found his niche by “jotting down”and typing out my 4 year old’s stories, since it was too stressful for him to come up with something of his own. We reconvened then discussed what we came up with. Then I set the timer again for 20 minutes to try to come up with a plot, working backwards from the resolution.

The rest of the day was spent by my children in avidly working on their stories. None of them are completed yet, and that’s okay. They have been inspired and this has gotten their creative juices flowing. We even talked about how, many years ago, when the older children were young, I started writing my own mystery story (they were amazed)…someday when they are all grown, I just might finish it!

The One Thing principle has energized the atmosphere in our home, especially for me as a veteran (15th year) homeschooler. This is something so bonding and encouraging about working together on a project like this that I’ve been meaning to do, but never got around to.

This was so successful that I plan to do a full month’s focus on mysteries, reading them, talking about them, watching them. Everyone is thrilled.

And I definitely want to plan for a One Thing Day each month!


Image © Alexander Kharchenko | Dreamstime.com

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Tuesday Teatime: Homemade butter and cinnamon toast

Tuesday Teatime Bryce Andrea

Today was our first Poetry Teatime. I didn’t know how my children would like a “formal” teatime, but they loved it. They raced to help me set the table (something they don’t do for a normal mealtime). We used my grandmother’s battenburg lace tablecloth and her silver. We had fancy store-bought cookies and homemade butter (which we’d made for a history/science lesson this afternoon) for cinnamon toast.

For our poetry, I chose to read some of Lewis Carroll’s silly poetry. My son, 7, who is a beginning reader, asked me to read “The Sneetches.” My daughter, 10, picked out a poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses, but she didn’t want to read it aloud. As this was supposed to be a pleasant experience and not a lesson in “do it because I said so,” I told her she didn’t have to.

Both kids were excited to find out I want to do this every week. And maybe my daughter will become more comfortable with the idea of reading aloud.

Thank you for introducing our family to Poetry Teatime!


P.S. Instructions for making homemade butter:

We let 1 cup of heavy whipping cream sit at room temperature for a little while, then we put it in a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. The kids took turns shaking it for about 10 minutes (making sure they had a good grip on the jar!). We noticed it got really thick and we couldn’t hear it sloshing anymore. Then we started to see butter granules on the sides of the jar and, all of a sudden, there it was! A lump of butter floating in the buttermilk! We poured it into a (non-metal) bowl, then poured off the buttermilk. We worked the butter with a wooden spoon (metal makes the butter taste funny) under cold water, until the water ran clear (it takes a little while). Any milk left will turn the butter rancid. We worked some salt in to help preserve it. By the way, shaking the cream breaks the protein casing on the fat, allowing it to form a lump, i.e. butter!

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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Purchase the Arrow and Boomerang novels

Arrows 2014-15 Original

You can now buy the novels for the 2014-15 Arrows and Boomerangs at our new

Amazon store!

Nitty Gritty Grammar and Winston Grammar are available, as well.

When you purchase anything through our page it benefits Brave Writer at no extra cost to you.

Thank you for your support and happy reading!

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Inhabit your happiness

Julie Flowers - surprise of happy quote

A strange thing happened to me. Two of my adult kids shared essentially the same thought with me. Liam shared that he appreciates college and that he has to remind himself to “inhabit this happiness” rather than continuing to feel as though he is still working to arrive somewhere happier. He’s arrived. Time to be happy.

Then just this morning Johannah talked about how she’s considering the truth of the idea that there is no other moment to get to. What we need to feel content exists already within us. What prevents us from feeling the happiness is our belief that there is some other space to go to before we can allow ourselves the feeling of contentment.

I was struck by the similarity of these ideas. We all have objectives and goals. We all want to see evidence of growth in our children. We are looking for signs of happiness and beauty in our children.

What if today we simply chose to be glad about where we all are? What if it were okay to not know the times tables and to have to do visual processing therapies with the middle child and to skip naps and to make sandwiches for dinner?

What if we could exercise the “happy muscle” for a few minutes today? Not gratitude necessarily (though gratitude can be a good place to start). More like this:

“I’m going to choose to find genuine happiness in a moment today. I’m going to let that moment surprise me. I am hereby on alert for a surprise of happy.”

During the darkest year of my life, this is one of the ways I got through each day. I couldn’t feel happy, but I chose to stay open to a surprise of happy and then to inhabit it, even for a moment.

Let me know how it goes for you!

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Friday Freewrite: Airborne

Jumping Jack

What happens next?

Image by Wayne Silver (cc)

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

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