The Love of Learning

The Love of Learning

I’m a picky eater, even today. But at 12? Really picky. My friend Pam’s mother was a charter member of the “clean platers” club. Mrs. Citron expected me to eat all the meat loaf and mashed potatoes and limp wet dull metal green beans on my plate. I choked these down with glasses of milk despite the fact that my own family was vegetarian. Mrs. Citron’s friendly glare required it of me.

Then she brought out the dessert. Nuclear waste green pudding. I didn’t even like chocolate pudding. The texture, taste. This swirl of unnatural green in the parfait dish sat in front of me and I knew I would be required to eat it.

I weakly fought back: I was too full. This mother countered that “No one is ever too full for dessert.” I asked for more milk thinking I could drown each bite. She retorted that if I was too full for pistachio pudding, milk would make me fuller, therefore no milk for the dessert.

No escape—the family of four had already licked their spoons empty and my pudding sat uneaten, swirled to inviting perfection.

At this point, Mrs. Citron excused the family, but not me, from the table. They didn’t leave. They all sat staring at me and my uneaten pudding wondering what would happen next.

She got out of her chair, walked to my side of the table, and stood behind me. She put her hands on my shoulders and began to knead them, Delores Umbridge style.

Her declaration: “Pudding is delicious. You’re going to love it. Take a bite.”

I’ve always been a good girl. I want to do what’s expected. But my stomach was a rebel. It lurched. I took one small slippery, putrid bite and thought: I will puke the meatloaf. I choked back the gag reflex.

“Good girl,” she shoulder rubbed. “Now you’re doing it!”

Despite my poor math skills, I quickly calculated that there were likely to be 15-20 bites of pudding ahead of me. Tears flooded my eyes instantly. I was trapped and embarrassed. Everyone was watching.

I took the next bite and the next one, willing myself to not throw up, wishing my sentence would end, hating everyone at the table, and especially hating pudding makers for ruining my sleep over.

As I got near the bottom of the dish, Mrs. Citron’s incessant shoulder rubbing and constant coaxing, “There you go! One more delicious bite honey!” ramped up.

“Wasn’t that yummy? Aren’t you glad you enjoyed your dessert?”

I had no words left—just teeth coated with a green memory.

I ran to the bathroom and burst into tears. I drank water straight from the tap. I rested on the toilet seat. I wished I could magically transport myself out of this hell hole called a family home.

No amount of sugar, sugary sentiment, pretty dishes, colorful pudding, reassuring comments, or gentle shoulder massage could ever EVER coax me to love pistachio pudding. EVER! I promised myself.

I’ve made good on that promise.

Now swap multiplication for pudding.


The Secret to a Happy Homeschool Is…

The Misunderstood “Child-Led Learning” Model

Stealth Attack Learning

Friday Freewrite: Sore Loser

Friday Freewrite

A sore loser gets easily upset or angry when losing a game or contest. Describe what it’s like to either be a sore loser or to play or compete with one.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Exploring Learning Differences: ADD, ADHD, Dysgrahia, Autism, Dyslexia

Exploring Learning Differences

In the recorded broadcast below we talk about learning differences, and I hope that our family’s journey gives you some food for thought.

I know how much it helps me to read other parents’ stories. In our case, I want to say: go with your gut. You are your child’s parent. If you suspect that there is something to look at, try out different learning contexts to discover it. And never feel badly about tailoring your child’s learning to his or her needs.

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Movie Wednesday: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Movie Night: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

[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!]

One of the most successful book series of all time, Harry Potter has enchanted several different generations and inspired millions. The books have all been adapted into an equally successful film series, beginning with the first one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (links to digital edition).

Orphaned as a baby and living with his horrible aunt and uncle, Harry James Potter isn’t the happiest boy in the world… until a giant kicks down the front door and tells him he’s a wizard. Enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry’s life becomes quite literally magical. He makes new friends, Ron and Hermione, learns extraordinary spells, and discovers a secret hidden at the heart of the school. The teachers at Hogwarts are protecting something, and it may be in a lot more danger than they think…

You may well have seen it before, but the first Harry Potter film is still a marvelous experience for the whole family.

Discussion Questions

  • If you’ve read the book, how do you think the film compares?
  • A character arc is the “transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.” How do you think Harry, Ron and Hermione change throughout the film?
  • Is Hogwarts really a safe place for children, considering how many dangerous animals live in the grounds? Would you want to actually go there? Why or why not.
  • Harry essentially kills Quirrell at the film’s climax, unlike in the novel. How do you feel about this rather dark alteration?
  • When a series is loved by millions, as Harry Potter is, we can sometimes lose sight of what makes it so special to us. What does the story of Harry Potter mean to you personally?

Additional Resources

Potter Party Mania! – How to plan and execute a very Harry Potter party!

Harry Potter Crafts – A great resource for all things Potter crafts. Everything from knitting to food.

Harry Potter Recipes – 13 recipes every Harry Potter fan will love.


Learn language arts with the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.


The Homeschool Hand Grenade

The Homeschool Hand Grenade

You’ve got homeschool humming along. Pencils flying, kids laughing, toddlers misbehaving manageably, babies napping just long enough.

You look about your petite kingdom and for a moment, allow yourself pleasure—happiness. It’s this rush of well being that says, “I love my life! I love these kids, this work, that mess made by the 2 year old…” You sigh contentedly.

For two minutes.

Or two hours.

On rare occasion, two days.

And then: a triggering event dashes the momentary zen-filled peace.

Your friend raves about a new homeschool product.

Your mother asks why Sydney (age 7) isn’t reading yet.

Or worst of all, you simply feel uncomfortable sitting in that seat of happiness. It’s this comfy bean bag chair by a sunny window and you worry if you fall into it for too long, to sleep you’ll go—off duty, off the watch for the ever present danger threatening to ruin your children (what catastrophe would you wake to!?).

“Happiness is untrustworthy,” the restless mind whispers. Happiness is a sign that someone is not working hard, that something worthwhile is not occurring, that play has taken over where work should be.

Right as mastery is growing, contentment is blooming, the routine is taking root, what do we conscientious mothers do?

We toss a homemade hand grenade into the living room of happy homeschooling.

  • We buy a brand new text or work book that is unfamiliar and a change in the comfortable routine because the one being used is “too easy.”
  • We shift focus because the we’re worried that we aren’t being rigorous enough.
  • We require longer, more, and better results because ease means the child isn’t working at top capacity.
  • We decide that even though homeschool is going well, household chores are a nightmare and so create brand new pressures for everyone—ensuring that somewhere, someone is doing work that causes a little pain (learning IS suffering, isn’t it?).

This homemade hand grenade is designed to detonate with one purpose: to ensure that home education is challenging because we believe that true learning is associated with difficulty and hard work.

So right as you and your kids find your stride, right as your children show they love doing pages of fractions or happily write reams of silly stories about kittens or have watched 12 YouTube videos about WW2 tanks, you yank that comforting floor from beneath their feet and require them to do this most important other thing they are neglecting to prove to yourself and to them that they are actually learning something of value. Right? Right?

And then BAM!

You are back to homeschool h-e-double hockey sticks.

Let’s not do that. Let me help you keep the pin in the grenade (aka the new not-yet-purchased program in the online shopping cart).

Principles to pin to your wall:

1. Ease and joy indicate flow.
Flow is optimal for learning. When a child is happily working on a skill, that means that child is actually doing the very thing you most desire: learning. They are creating the neural pathways that will help the child retain the skill and information. Lean into it and let it roll!

2. Practice creates automaticity.
Understanding is not enough in any field. Repetition/practice that is stimulating and comfortable leads fluency. If a child loves ripping through pages of times tables after demonstrating mastery, let him! When you child learns to ride a bike, we don’t say, “Now you must learn to use a pogo stick or a unicycle.” We let them ride! That’s the privilege of understanding and fluency in a skill. Using it with joy is the reward for having mastered it.

3. When the stars align, do not wake the baby!
The baby, in this case, is YOUR HOMESCHOOL! Let it sprawl all over that bean bag chair of learning. Allow the apparent happiness to last as long as it will, because you and I both know someone will start teething or grow underarm hair and that serene moment in time will end abruptly. YOU don’t need to be the one to wreck the peace. Peace-wrecking is already on its way for you. Let it come.

4. Learning (the true kind) is not pleasure-less.
Banish the notion. Adopt our family policy for going to parties with kids: “Leave while everyone is happy.” Let your son stop working the math problems while he is alert and proud of his work. Let your daughter stop her copywork after a carefully handwritten sentence, before she gets sloppy for an entire paragraph. Pleasure is the fruit of challenge and success, not struggle and stress.

Don’t wreck the peace! Opt for happiness and allow it to run its course. You can keep the happy going by enjoying it when it appears.

Psst. You’re allowed to.

Read More: Make Peace with the Peace