Podcast: Permission to Party School

Brave Writer Podcast Party School

When my kids were young, I stumbled onto a principle that transformed how I understood learning. I had thought education was something I prepared for my kids and then required them to “do.” You can imagine how that went.

One day I paired tea with poetry—and a party broke out! Which led me to reconsider my strategies for homeschooling. What would happen if we threw a party for the California Gold Rush? How about the study of India? What kind of party could we host for the solar system or learning about birds?

Yes, parties take some energy—but it’s all the good kind! Kids get into it. And they learn.

Still skeptical? Tune in!

What are the components of Party School?

  • Research! You need to learn about this topic, just like you might for a report – but you pair every aspect of research with a party experience.
  • Decide who’s coming and then make invitations, AKA copy work. Handwrite the list and the invitations, and have fun with them! You can also have your children create a Facebook event, teaching them how to use technology to schedule an event. That’s a skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
  • Look at the features of this subject area: the important people, location, foods, activities, music, books, and other historical elements. Check out books from the library, watch movies, and take diligent notes!

Party School takes time away from your other schooling – and that’s okay! You get to have a deep, invested experience with your children, so it’s okay to push the normal routine out of the way.

After the party is over, you will have everything you need to know written down in your notes – so all you have to do is put it together by writing or dictating to create a report!

The Principles Behind Party School

When we do Party School, we aren’t just trying to get out of doing school. We’re actually trying to inspire learning!

We all have a drive for meaning, an innate craving to know the meaning of something. But as adults, we often expect our children to find the same meaning in any given subject that we do. Our job should be helping our children identify meaning that is relevant to their age today.

How can we do this?

  • For kids to experience meaning, it has to be immediate.
  • The experience of meaning has to be public, published, or provide recognition.
  • The context has to require the child to do their best, and that only happens if they think it’s important. For a child, the distant future outcome is not a good enough reason. It’s that immediate experience of significance… and a party provides that!
  • What you’re working on has an end date.
  • Pride of accomplishment is critical to retaining what a child (or anyone else) learns.

This is the education your children deserve, and that’s what Party School offers them!

Want some ideas for your own Party School? Check out our friend Mary Wilson’s blog: The Ultimate Collection of Party School Book Club Ideas. Mary also writes the Party School suggestions included in our Arrows and Boomerangs (literature-based language arts products).

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Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!

June in the Homeschool Alliance: Building Friends and Community

June in the Alliance 2018

Not everyone has access to a great co-op or a city filled with active homeschoolers. Even if you do, sometimes it’s difficult to find “your people”—the ones who “get” you, who homeschool in a similar way, who share your values and dreams.

One of the reasons I started The Homeschool Alliance was to create a community of that kind—we want you to find your people here, with us. Not only that, we want to help you connect to those friends in a deeper, more personal way.

This month, Mary Wilson (Brave Writer Party Schooler and Book Club Instructor) will join us to discuss ways to develop close homeschooling friends who will walk the journey with you. Jeanne, Stephanie, Mary, and I will share what has worked for us over the years, we’ll talk about the in-person meet-up we have planned in 2019, and we’ll help you find each other in the Alliance itself.

Sign up for a FREE 7 or 14 day trial—see if we are a good fit for you, before plunking down your hard-earned cash.

The Alliance is hosting two webinars in June.

  • Tuesday, June 5, 2018 7:00 PM (The Self-Driven Child—May’s reading was so good, we’re doing a second webinar!)
  • Tuesday, June 19, 2018 7:00 PM (Building Homeschool Friends and Community)

We’d love to see you there!

Join the Homeschool Alliance!

Friday Freewrite: Story

Friday Freewrite Story

Write a story based on this photo.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Artist Highlight: Vincent van Gogh

Artist Highlight Vincent van Gogh

This May is all about Art Appreciation in the Brave Writer Lifestyle, which makes this the right time to break out some Vincent van Gogh art!

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Vincent van Gogh is considered one of the greatest artists to have ever lived, but in his own lifetime he was considered something of a failure. While alive, he had difficulty finding buyers for his paintings and was financially supported instead by his brother Theo. This might feel somewhat hard to believe nowadays when we’re used to seeing his works on display in museums next to plaques explaining their great significance to the art world, but Van Gogh’s fame only came about posthumously.

Van Gogh was born on March 30th, 1853, in Zundert, Netherlands. He spent much of his early career as a painter drawing and painting the downtrodden, particularly coal miners. Even later, when his paintings became brighter and more vibrant, he still liked painting people at work. We traveled across Europe, perhaps most famously to France. He struggled with his mental health throughout his life, painting many of his most famous works during his stay in an asylum, before eventually taking his own life in July of 1890.

Vincent van Gogh, the man behind the art, can be challenging to discuss with children due to the way his life ended. The rebooted British children’s show Doctor Who has an episode in its fifth season (aptly titled Vincent and the Doctor) which shows Van Gogh’s illness in a gentle and sympathetic light that may help with contextualizing these issues for kids (we do recommend that parents view the episode first, before deciding if it is right for their families). Its time travel concept also allows for the inclusion of a beautiful moment of wish fulfillment, since one of the great tragedies of Van Gogh’s life is that he never knew that his art would one day be considered essential viewing for the art lover.

But even if your kids aren’t ready for the details of his life, you can still bust out the art books this month and enjoy the riot of colors and the uniquely expressive beauty of Vincent van Gogh’s artwork.


Vincent’s Colors – “Van Gogh’s descriptions, arranged as a simple rhyme, introduce young readers to all the colors of the rainbow and beyond.”–Amazon

Vincent and the Doctor – Doctor Who episode in which the Doctor and Amy Pond travel back in time to meet Vincent van Gogh

Art Appreciation Through Projects and Stories – From notbefore7 (includes Van Gogh and other artists)

Brave Writer Lifestyle

Movie Wednesday: Annie

Movie Wednesday Annie

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

Annie is a foster kid living in the “care” of the bitter and mean Miss Hannigan. Will Stacks is a rich business mogul turned politician determined to become mayor at any cost. But everything changes for both of them when one day Stacks saves Annie from an oncoming truck. A media frenzy quickly swirls around them. Seeing an opportunity to use the positive press to his advantage, Stacks takes Annie in. As the odd pair slowly get to know each other, Annie’s indelible and optimistic spirit begins to crack the armor Stacks has built around himself to keep others out and they each learn that first impressions can change.

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Annie is the 2014 reimagining of the Broadway musical classic of the same name based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strips. The film stars Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie and Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks alongside an ensemble cast. It features several familiar songs from the Broadway show, including the extremely famous “Tomorrow” as well as “It’s a Hard Knock Life,” but also features new music written exclusively for the movie.

The Tony Award winning original Broadway production of Annie first opened in 1977. The show was adapted to film in 1982 and again for television in 1999 before being brought back to film once more for a 21st century audience in 2014. In this remake the plot and characters were “updated” to reflect the time the film was made in.

One such update can be seen in the casting of the title character. The character of Annie is traditionally thought of as a white girl with freckles and red ringlets. Casting an African American Annie in the 2014 film was a step forward for diverse casting in Hollywood films. Watching this film can be a great opportunity to talk with your kids about the importance of diversity in storytelling.

Another one of the more noticeable changes is the way the film treats the character of Miss Hannigan, the cruel woman in charge of Annie’s care at the beginning of the story. Previously portrayed as a one-dimensional villain, in the 2014 film Hannigan is given humanizing moments and a character arc. In storytelling, an “arc” is when a character goes on a journey which results in some form of noticeable change. Basically, the character does not end the same way they began. Miss Hannigan goes on just such a journey in the 2014 film.

Discussion Questions

  • The character of Annie is a pop cultural icon. Did you grow up with her or is this movie your first exposure? How do you feel about the character?
  • If you’ve seen the older Annie films or the stage musical, how do you think the 2014 film compares?
  • Do you have a favorite song from the film? What is it and why do you like it?
  • The film was harshly criticized for its use of auto-tune, which is a process that can allow incorrect singing pitch to be digitally corrected but it can also simply be used as a stylistic choice. How do you feel about the film’s use of this?
  • In this version, Miss Hannigan is given a character arc. Did you find yourself feeling differently about the character by the end of the film? Why or why not?

Additional Resources

Annie Party Ideas

Movie Discussion Club