A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Freewriting: How it’s done!

Maya_blogBrave Writer mom Misty writes:

My 11 yo daughter, Maya, just completed the Friday Freewrite idea on the blog [Explore the same event from two different points of view! Describe a hide and seek game from the perspective of the one who hides then from the one who seeks].

Here is her first draft:

She ran upstairs and tried to hide. She ran into every room, every closet. But it wasn’t good enough, until she found this little crevice in the wall that could hide her.

She counted impatiently with her nose in the corner. She finally got to a hundred. She searched the whole house like the FBI. In the living room. Not there. In the kitchen. Not there. In Mom and Dad’s room. Not there. Well where could she be? Finally she went upstairs and looked in every closet. But in this one particular closet, she walked in, and something tackled her! She screamed, “Mwwaaa!” Wait a minute, that was no monster, that was her friend.


New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

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Tuesday Teatime: A frugal Poetry Tea

Tuesday Teatime Saree

A dear friend introduced us to Brave Writer and I recently purchased Jot It Down and a few back issues of the Arrow to use in our homeschool learning from the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op.

I am addicted to books and when I was thrift store book shopping (a favorite Sunday activity of mine) and stumbled upon 8 scholastic poetry books in perfect condition I was thrilled! I also love a good deal! Last month on hip2save.com I also saw a post for free tea samples AND a recipe for Nutella crescent rolls. This was more than a sign, so today we had our “frugal” Tuesday Poetry Teatime.

What a treat! I enjoyed my tea samples and the boys enjoyed some warm apple cider. The boys made the Nutella crescent rolls with little help and they were delicious!

My two boys (ages 7 & 5) had a fabulous time and loved using Mom & Dad’s wedding china in our formal dining room. Not only did we enjoy poetry we were able to talk about table manners, family traditions and etiquette.

We are looking forward to trying our first Arrow issue!

Thank you! Saree

Images (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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Spring Class Registration is OPEN!

Spring Registration 2015 blog


What makes Brave Writer classes awesome:

  • Your kids will be writing in the company of other young writers!
  • Feedback is not only about “accuracy,” but about writing voice–finding and fostering the child’s natural self-expression while expanding it and enhancing it!
  • Relationship-building instruction. We are as much about fostering a healthy, reciprocal, respectful relationship between child and parent as we are about teaching writing.
  • Our classes are a deep-dive for 3-6 weeks, and then you all get to take a good long break before writing again.
  • Instruction is directed to parents, not just kids! We want to help you be the effective writing coach and ally your kids need, and the sort you want to become!
  • You can sign into the classroom any time of day from anywhere in the world and not miss a lick of class! All instruction is asynchronous while taught by a real instructor.
  • Our teaching staff are published writers and home educators–they know the dynamics of teaching their own kids to write, which is one reason they are so helpful!

Spring Class Schedule!

Classes are listed alphabetically. Click on the titles for more info.

Expository Essay
Instructors: Samantha Burtner, Jean Hall

March 30 – May 8, 2015 (Burtner)
May 4 – June 12, 2015 (Hall)
(6 weeks)
13-18 years old
$249.00 per student

High School Writing Projects
Instructor: Christine Gable

May 4 – May 29, 2015
(4 weeks)
High School
$199.00 per student

Kidswrite Basic
Instructors: Deb Bell, Lora Fanning, Kirsten Merryman

March 30 – May 8, 2015 (Bell)
April 6 – May 15, 2015 (Fanning)
April 13 – May 22, 2015 (Merryman)
May 11 – June 19, 2015 (Bell)
(6 weeks)
Identical sessions; pick only one
8-14 years old (with parent support); 15-18 years old remedial
$199.00 for the first child; $99.00 for each add’l child

Kidswrite Intermediate
Instructors: Jean Hall, Lucy Olson

March 9 – April 17, 2015 (Hall)
April 20 – May 29, 2015 (Olson)
(6 weeks)
High School
$229.00 per student

Literary Analysis: Shakespeare (Twelfth Night)
Instructor: Susanne Barrett

May 18 – June 12, 2015
(4 weeks) High School
$219.00 per student

Movie Discussion Club: Sherlocked!
Instructor: Nancy Graham

April 27 – May 22, 2015
(4 weeks)
Family Class (all kids enrolled for one price)
$199.00 per family

Nature Journaling
Instructor: Christine Gable

April 6 – May 1, 2015
(4 weeks)
Family Class (all kids enrolled for one price)
$219.00 per family

Passion for Fiction
Instructor: Nancy Graham

March 23 – April 17, 2015
(4 weeks)
High School
$199.00 per student

Photography and Writing
Instructor: Nicole Rae

May 4 – May 29, 2015
(4 weeks)
High School
$199.00 per student

SAT/ACT Essay Prep
Instructor: Jean Hall

May 4 – May 29, 2015
(4 weeks)
10th – 12th grades
$229.00 per student

Shakespeare Family Workshop
Instructor: Susanne Barrett

April 13 – May 15, 2015
(5 weeks)
Family Class (all kids enrolled for one price)
$199.00 per family

Write for Fun 1
Instructor: Karen O’Connor

April 6 – April 24, 2015
(4 weeks)
10 – 14 year olds
$149.00 per student

Write for Fun 2
Instructor: Lora Fanning

May 11 – May 29, 2015
(4 weeks)
10 – 14 year olds (Write for Fun I not a pre-requisite)
$149.00 per student

Winter Classes Still Available

Just So Stories
Instructor: Kirsten Merryman

March 2 – March 27, 2015
(4 weeks)
Family Class: 9-14 years old (with parental support)
$199.00 per family

Literary Analysis: Rebecca
Instructor: Susanne Barrett, MA British Literature

March 2 – March 27, 2015
(4 weeks) High School
$219.00 per student

Middle School Writing Projects
Instructor: Christine Gable

March 9 – April 3, 2015
(4 weeks) 10 – 14 years old
$199.00 per student


Image by Brave Writer mom Joanna (cc)

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Blog Roundup: March 2nd edition


Welcome to the latest blog roundup! See how other homeschooling families practice the Brave Writer Lifestyle.

Using Copywork to Teach Grammar and Spelling

I could have entitled this post “oh, so that’s how you do Copywork!” – Maybe I’m just slow on the uptake and this is going to be old news to most; it was, however, a bit of a revelation to me when I discovered how copywork could be used as an effective means to teach not just spelling but also grammar, punctuation and the literary elements of writing. I also picked up some great tips on how to make it work for a struggling reader and writer. ~A Pilgrim’s Heart

Brave Writer Review

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~William Wordsworth

I have an enthusiastic writer and a reluctant writer and I really want to encourage both of them in their individual learning journeys.

I chanced upon Brave Writer when I was in search of some inspiration to help me teach my kids how to write. What I found was not a curriculum but an approach to writing that started to help me formulate a clearer view of what I wanted for my kids. ~A Pilgrim’s Heart

Brave Writer – Our Family Diary

Daily blog posts about one family’s journey:

This is a personal record of our daily brave writing. I thought it would be helpful for others to see a family venture into this wonderful program for the first time. ~Shauna, Eco Educational

Living Learning Lists

If home educators applied a Brave Writer Lifestyle to other subjects:

I am a long-time fan of the Bravewriter Lifestyle List. I love the ideas in it and how an entire language arts experience can be built on a few rich, real-life routines.

I have often thought, wouldn’t it be amazing to have a list like that for all the subjects? What if instead of following a curriculum all the time, there was a way to help worried moms spread a feast of learning ideas in the home — in addition to using a curriculum or in place of using it. ~Pam at edShapshots

The Storybook Village

An example of narrating through creating storybook villages:

When we built our storybook village back in 2011, I had no idea it would grow to become one of our favorite winter traditions. Camille was 4 or 5 at the time and it was a fun way to create spaces those characters who dominated her imagination and lived in books that had to be read again and again. Each year we pull out the village and Camille adds new elements…new literary neighbors, snow men, trees, etc. ~Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish

Image by Brave Writer mom, Carmen (tinted, text added)

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Friday Freewrite: Dogs and cats (and llamas!!)


This writing prompt was originally going to focus only on our canine and feline friends, but in light of the “llama  drama” yesterday…

Imagine that the dogs (and the llamas!!) are upset because they can’t roam as freely as many cats can.

For instance, the law in Ohio states that dogs must be “physically confined or restrained or properly leashed and controlled by a person, except in cases where the dog is hunting with its owner or keeper.”

But, it’s not always the same for cats (see section II. D.)

Now imagine you’re a dog (or a llama!!) and write down the arguments you might use to show that you deserve the same freedom as cats.

Then imagine you’re a cat and share reasons why it’s purrfectly fine to have different laws for cats and dogs (and llamas!!).

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Images by Dave Fayram, KamrenB Photography, Jeff Turner (cc cropped, tinted)

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You have time to prepare


Do you remember how to divide fractions? I didn’t. I had a 4th grade math book whose page I turned and discovered, “Oops! We are up to division of fractions. I can’t remember how to do that.”

I whisked myself away to the garage to teach myself. My kids made messes in the living room.

I returned ready to show Noah how to divide fractions. He performed the task easily. At the end of the page, he commented, “So I don’t have to really remember this? I won’t need fractions as an adult? I only need to know them for today, right?”

Ha! He took a different lesson than the one I meant to impart. My inability to remember how to divide fractions stood out, naked and then ashamed. I countered that my handicaps in math were just that—skills I didn’t get to use when I needed them. I hoped for better for him, and I told him that I would do a better job of preparing to be his teacher in the future.

It’s with this experience in mind that I make the following recommendation. It is wise to prepare. In fact, it is essential to learn how to home educate your kids. It is entirely on task to read blogs, Facebook groups, books, and the directions that precede any lesson you expect your kids to complete.

In fact, it is so on task, may I make a bold statement? I know you don’t have time to study “learning” by yourself, in some ideal context of private, quiet, peaceful hours in the day. I know this.

So, here’s my advice: just do it—right in the middle of the day with kids all around you, “off-task” in dress up clothes, acting out Frozen one more time. Tuck your feet under you, snuggle up to the corner of the sectional, and read, scroll, page. Use headphones if you need to. Highlighter in hand, read. Take notes. Absorb.

It is so much better to let go of today’s and tomorrow’s lessons in order to drill down to the essential ingredients of math or writing, or to understand a period in history, or to get a glimpse of how the science experiment should go and what its objective is, than to muddle forward with doubt and your child’s resistance.

Prepare quoteIt is not better to just “get it done” and hope for the best. There is no “automatic” method for any learning. It just doesn’t happen that way. Depth, immersion, exploration, and guidance are the core values of education.

We are concerned with completion of pages or curricula, and then we worry that our kids aren’t making progress, and we hope for a quick fix—some solution that won’t require us to take valuable time to understand before implementation.

But this approach is backwards. You didn’t go to college (most of you) to get a teaching credential. You’re becoming educators on the fly (even unschoolers are embarking on a huge new project of how to be that parent who facilitates learning or invests deeply in a child’s passions). These choices necessitate information that informs how you spend time with your kids, and what you impart.

You will feel so much better if you have a handle on the contours of a subject area, than if you plod through a book hoping for magic (that the lesson leaps from the page without you knowing why or how it works).

You do have time. For all the hours you don’t spend in preparation, you will find yourself frustrated with basic problems. Why isn’t my child of 10 spelling well? This is answered quickly in a book that explains the natural stages of growth in writing. 10 year olds don’t spell well. Here’s why, here’s how to foster the continued growth.

Without that bit of knowledge, you will be tempted to push your child or to shame him for not spelling well. I know. I’ve done all of that. I’ve pushed, I’ve shamed, I’ve blamed, I’ve plowed forward in a curriculum expecting it to teach and finding out it did not.

Then a new day dawned. I saw that my home life was fluid—we didn’t have set school hours, we didn’t have a teacher’s lounge for me. We had the mixed up mess of living and learning and all my insecurities about parenting and educating—together in one living room, at one kitchen table. It finally occurred to me: If I was unsure about how to impart a specific skill set for them or share about an area of passion for me, I could spend daytime looking into it. Right when I wanted to.

I wanted my kids to have an art education, but had no idea how to go about it. We spent time in the library where they read books they wanted, and I checked out books about art. I read them. I bought some. I started hanging prints on the wall. Finally, I ordered the 6 video set of Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting. I put them on every day for a couple of weeks, right after breakfast. My kids were free to come and go, but I took notes. They remember this period of our homeschool.

The foundation from that season was laid in me. I couldn’t wait to go to museums with the kids. They were excited to see paintings we’d already viewed in the video series.

I didn’t set out to make this a lesson for them. It was a lesson for me. I didn’t “go to another room” to understand it and then come back with the pretense of “Aha! Here’s the lesson you have to learn now.” Rather, I learned, in front of them.

Did our Sister Wendy odyssey take time away from math? Yes, yes it did.

It also showed me the value of taking time to prepare the feast of ideas I hoped would be my children’s education.

The benefits were life-changing:

  •  To understand—to be prepared.
  • To get behind the lessons to why the lessons.
  • To discover the germ of value in the material.
  • To grow as an educator.
  • To fuel my creativity.
  • To spark my enthusiasm.
  • To feel competent.
  • To hold realistic expectations for each age and subject area.

These are the benefits of preparation. You deserve these benefits. Take the time to get them.


Image by Pedro Ribeiro Simões (cc cropped)

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How to use a movie for dictation practice

Movies and dictation

Today’s post is from the February 5th FREE Daily Writing Tip:

Use a favorite scene from a well-loved film for writing dialog from dictation. You should have kids who are already skilled in copywork of dialog first.

Then, try it like this:

  1. Load the DVD.
  2. Cue it up for the dialog scene (no more than 2 speakers, only back and forth 4-5 times).
  3. Go over basic punctuation conventions for dialog (remind kids how to use quotation marks, that periods and question marks go inside the quotes, that each new speaker starts on a new line, indented, etc.).
  4. Play the scene through.
  5. Then play it a bit at a time, pausing as your children write. Do this for as long as it takes.
  6. Finally, play the scene all the way through, while the child compares their work to what they hear, making adjustments.

You will be the one to correct the finished product, but do it alongside the child in conversation – “Good job here. I think you need an apostrophe for the possessive here. Oops! Changed speakers. What do you do? That’s right. Indent, new line.”

Have fun!

Image by Francis Bijl (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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Tuesday Teatime: On a Wednesday or a Friday or a Saturday

Poetry Teatime

These clowns LOVE Poetry Tea Time Tuesdays! Sometimes I’ll come downstairs and they’ve set the table and put the kettle on – on a Wednesday, or a Friday or a Saturday! It is the most consistent homeschool routine we have – we love Tuesdays.

As for our choice of poems we ALWAYS read Shel Silverstein – along with a collection of others old and new – I try to pick some that are fitting to the season or month – as for treats – I used to try and make cookies the day before but found that if that didn’t happen we would miss poetry tea time – so now I just buy a package or two of store bought treats! It is also important that the cream goes in the glass creamer – if I try to just put the carton on the table someone always mentions it! We have a candle that usually sits on our dining room table and the oldest rotate turns lighting it.

I used to stress a bit over tea time – wanting it to be perfect – Julie had posted something about this on her blog once – about keeping it simple – so I took her advice to heart and we now enjoy tea time very regularly – sometimes more than once a week!

Thanks for all you guys do over at Brave Writer! Our family sure appreciates you all.


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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Five Magic Words


Get a dose of at least one of these per day and see if your home environment doesn’t improve.

I’ve provided two possible examples of each one to get your creative juices going. Build from these! Please post your own ideas for how to apply these to your homeschool in the comments section.

1. Surprise

  • A margin note in the math book
  • Cake for breakfast

2. Chance

  • Roll of the dice—numbers represent “how many” of whatever work for the day (number of math problems, number of letters traced, number of pages or sentences or words read…)
  • Flip a coin—heads means working independently for ten minutes; tails means working with a partner for ten minutes (child chooses which subject for independence or partnership)

3. Mystery

  • Handwritten clues leading to a new board game or snack or treat
  • Invisible ink to reveal a new copywork or dictation passage

4. Secret

  • Provide a lock n key diary for secret entries
  • Tell a child a secret plan to spend time with them (that day, later in the week…)

5. Discovery

  • Walk, bike, kayak somewhere new
  • Explore little known works of authors or poets you love

Good luck!

Image by StephaniePetraPhoto (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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Friday Freewrite: Happy ending

Sad clown

Should fictional stories always have happy endings? Why or why not.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Shawn Campbell (cc cropped, tinted)

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