A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Friday Freewrite: Description

Friends

Think of a friend. Imagine he or she wrote a description of you. What would it say?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Philippe Put (cc cropped, tinted)

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Need help to take new home education risks?

March_2015_Alliance_safe_space

Do you wish you had companionship as you take new home education risks? Are you looking for input so that you can reframe your experience, add new tools to your tool kit, and find the personalized support you crave for your family?

The Homeschool Alliance is where I give audio lectures, readings, and personal reply support to our community of homeschooling parents. One of our parents wrote the following post (with permission to share) and I thought many of you might relate.

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Alliance member, Erin, writes:

I KNOW what I’m doing, I just don’t have confidence in myself to make the decision and stick with it. I doubt and second-guess constantly. I research things to death, make a decision, and then something else catches my eye, and so I research that to death and change my decision again.

I need to just go with my gut here. My gut tells me that your BWL philosophy is what I want for our family, it’s what I envisioned years ago when I was in grad school for elementary education, when I first decided I wanted to home school (nothing like spending a few years working INSIDE the school system to make you want to keep your kids OUT! LOL).

But why do I feel so unequipped? Maybe it’s not that I feel unequipped…maybe it’s just that what was engrained into my mind in school – the how/why/when to teach is just taking up too much space in my mind.

I have never felt like I understood science. I hated school growing up because it was boring, uninspiring, and dull. I didn’t want to do what the teachers wanted me to do…but because I worry so much that I’m in the wrong on what school should look like, I keep falling back to the very same thing I hated as a child.

But, after reading this first article, watching your first webinar, journaling, and reading all the above responses and comments, I’m realizing something.

I also hated history growing up, and never found it interesting at all. But last year, I embarked on teaching US History to my kids. I spent time gathering books….LOTS of books….about 150 to be exact. We got some used, got many from the library, and we curled up on the couch and read them together. We discussed them, sometimes we wrote about them or drew a picture, or completed a project I’d found on Pinterest….but the main ingredient, the thing that made it so successful, was that I was interested, curious, and driven to learn it myself. I took a topic that I had little interest in and I discovered value in learning it for myself, and THAT became the drive to teach it to them. It wasn’t to check off a box on some curriculum paper, or to appease some school system. It was because I decided that I wanted to learn about it in depth, and I drew my kids in….and they LOVED it! It was amazing!

I need to take that very same drive, curiosity, excitement, passion, and OBSESSIVENESS when it comes to other things I want us to cover. And not use such broad catagories (sic). I get overwhelmed with the idea of teaching branches of science – biology, earth and space, etc….so instead, I need to focus on smaller, more attainable goals….like learning about rocks and minerals. Spend a month or so immersing myself and the kids in books, projects, videos, etc about single topics….ones that don’t overwhelm me, ones that don’t require a year-long commitment (though it could very well go on that long if there is interest!). If I hear them talking about a topic they are interested in, I need to allow THAT topic to become what I focus/invest/perseverate on, instead of schedules or curricula. If my daughter says “I want to learn about rocks”, I would typically spend the next few weeks devouring all I could about which curriculum is the best one to use to teach about rocks…but that is really stupid and a waste of time.

My time would be so much better spent saying, “Absolutely! let’s go to the library today or tomorrow, and get some books about rocks!” and then immediately start finding some videos, and maybe see if we can come up with some project and/or experiments…to focus on HER and the thing she is interested in, instead of wasting hours chasing after the “perfect curriculum” that will teach it to her. It’s more fun for her and for me if we simply learn about things together. And you know what? One thing I’ve learned about myself since Grad school is that I LOVE LOVE LOVE to research and learn. It excites me and gives me energy in the morning. I love to figure things out and to be able to find answers to my own questions…THAT makes learning fun…and THAT is how I need to look at our home learning…a quest to take with my kids, for us to pave our own way and find our own path…for us to dig into topics together, and to stop worrying that we will miss something! I always think that if we do that method, that somewhere along the line, I will not know to teach that ONE thing that would have made a difference in their future lives!

But I do realize that that is simply ridiculous. One fact about rocks, or one experiment about the human body or whatever, is not going to damage them if we skip it. What’s more important anyway? Learning 53 facts about the human body, or developing a love of learning and teaching them HOW TO FIND ANSWERS! I need to teach them to enjoy the process….learning is and should be looked at as a process, not a means to an end. But in our society, it’s viewed as a means to an end…when you turn 18 and graduate from high school, you are “educated”….even though we all know that’s not what makes a person educated…lol!

Thank you again (I’m feeling like that’s going to be something I say to you every day!)…you have rekindled my love of teaching and learning…and given me a resource to help me set up my track to run the race. I feel like I’ve run in circles, and been bumping into obstacles constantly, and I look up and I’ve lost my way….but I’m realizing that I need to learn to be more accepting of myself and my kids, and to just trust that 10 years is a LONG ENOUGH time to teach the things that I think matter!

And…sorry this is so long…but I wanted to share. I did our first Freewrite last night…my husband and I and our 3 kids all sat down and wrote about what kind of candy we wished would fall from the sky, and then we all read them aloud. The kids LOVED it and my middle daughter (who usually takes FOREVER to write anything), couldn’t wait to get into bed last night and work on another one! She filled up a front and back of a paper in no time and was all giggles and smiles! Just in the last 3 days, I have felt such a fresh wind blow through our home, and it’s all because of the wisdom I have gained from 2 of your webinars and some of your blog posts and The Writer’s Jungle! Thank you for all you do to support us moms who are still in the trenches! I think that this Homeschool Alliance may be the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing I’ve done for our homeschool so far….it’s helping me to really think about and process what I value and what I think is important, and to really think about what I want our life to look like…I cannot wait to read and learn more! Thanks!

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Fairytale Writing Assignment: Making the bad guy good

Student Spotlight Frederick

Dear Julie,

My family is in co-op with another family, and they have been using your teaching tools this year for writing. My son, Frederick (12 yrs), wrote a piece for an assignment of making a well-known, fairy-tale bad-guy seem good. His fabulous instructor, Karyn, liked it so much, she recommended sending it to you.

I wanted to thank you for all you have done to make reading and writing so much more engaging. We appreciate that you have shared your talents! It has made this year very enjoyable!!

Thank you again,
Dawn

The Word of the Witch

by Frederick

“Now, before I tell you the actual, factual story, I need to tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Winnuwich and I am a witch. I am mostly blind and can’t hear very well. I also can’t remember much. Now I will tell you my – oh, where was I!! Um, um, oh, yes, that’s right, now I will tell you my story.”

“I don’t like eating candy all of the time” I said “I want some healthy water and all the stuff from the food pyramid…except the bad stuff . I wish I had some nice company around here, no offense broomy. Hmmmm…Aha!!! I’ll get some children in here and, I’ll lure them by making my shack into a big, fancy gingerbread house using my candy!!!

Now to cast the spell. Now where did I put that spell book? That’s right, under my couldren cooking pot! Okay, now abracadabra, my new ginga bread house!! There, now I’ll just start making a meal for – wait, what was I going to do? I’ll just take a short nap…

Crunch, crunch, crunch!!!

“What, who’s there? Oh, no!!! My guests!!! They’ve come!!! I haven’t made any food for them!!! I’ll just have to let them in anyway!!!

Creek!!

“Oh, hello, what are your names little ones?”

“My name is Hansel” said Hansel.

“And my name is Grettel” said Grettel.

“My name is Winnuwitch” I said. “Come inside and I’ll make you some food.”

“Thank you” they said, and then came inside and sat at my table.

Quickly, I whipped up a magic turkey dinner and they were gobbling up the food.

“Would you children care for some dessert?” I asked them.

“Yes we would” they replied in perfect unison.

“All right then I’ll get that ready for you. What are your names again?”

“Hansel and Grettel” said Grettel.

“Hazel the petel? Like a hazel tea petel!!! I will make some tea with you!!” I said. “I already have my couldren boiling so I’ll throw you in now!!!”

Just as I reached the couldren, they wriggeled out of my grip and pushed me into the couldren!!! Then they ran away. I almost died when they did that!!!

“Ya know broomy” I said afterwards “I don’t think I’ll ever have guests again. I’ll change my house back right now, Abra-Kadabra,my old litta shacka!!! There, all better. I’ll just go take a nap now.”

I lived a happy life with broomy and without guests from that day onwards.

That is the total truth now don’t forget that – where was I again? Oh, that’s right, now I will tell you my story…

Image © Frederick

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Tuesday Teatime: Night Flower

Tuesday Teatime Jennifer blog

Brave Writer mom Jennifer writes:

I just wanted to share that my 6 (almost 7) year old daughter spontaneously wrote a poem today! This is such a feat since she has always been behind in language arts and her least favorite thing to do is write.

She did not start talking until she was 4 years old. When I say she wasn’t talking I mean next to nothing was coming out of her mouth, lots of defiant stares, but no words.

I decided to homeschool because I wanted her to have one-on-one help getting her caught up. After A LOT of work, she is at her grade level for reading and is as talkative as ever. Her least favorite thing to do is… WRITING!

She has had her days of tears and hulk-like rage at the prospect of writing and I was ready to give up. I made it my goal to focus on this aspect of language arts so we can foster a love of writing in our everyday lives.

I am SO GLAD I found the Brave Writer Lifestyle and products. I have been implementing the suggestions over the last month and am amazed at the results.

Poetry Tea is probably everyone’s favorite so far. While painting today she made a flower and made squiggly lines on her page. She told me, “I am writing a poem Mom.” I pulled the closest thing to me out and asked her to “read” me her poem. I jotted it down and was very impressed that she had such lovely thoughts to share.

Again, this is amazing because she has never enjoyed telling me anything to write down until now. I look forward to the progress we will make over the next year using this program!!

Emily’s Poem:

Night Flower

When the flower only comes out at night
I saw how beautiful it was
It did not grow in sunlight
but the moon shined onto the flower
and it started to grow
It looked as beautiful as purple.

Emilys Purple Night Flower blog

Images by Brave Writer mom, Jennifer. Painting by Emily.

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Is it confusing? Is it difficult? Are you worried?

Worried_confused

Good. Means you’re doing it right. Means you want to do it right. Means you’re evaluating and considering, caring and revising.

How can you possibly find the right program and not ever reconsider?

How can you teach high school math when you found it impossible yourself?

Why wouldn’t you worry about your socially awkward tween or your dyslexic 2nd grader or your moody 16 year old?

Of course you’re tired—anxious, weary, feeling alone.

You have assigned yourself an enormous task—the complete education of your precious children, without having done any training, without any certainty that you can do it. You live in a petri dish of your own making—hoping that if you bring together the right ingredients with your children, an educated person will emerge and contribute to the world.

Even more—there are no guarantees your children will thank you for the herculean effort you are making on their behalf. They may grow up, go to college, marry, and say, “Heck no! I’m putting my own kids in school.” What then? Will that feel like you somehow failed them?

So, yes. You worry. Some days you feel overwhelmed and sad—wondering if this is how homeschool is supposed to feel. You want joy, natural learning, enthusiasm to explore the wide open world. You hope to see ties form between bickering children, and you want to feel close to your teens as they move away from you into their inevitable independence.

Will you do a good enough job? Will your kids agree?

Yes, this is how it is supposed to feel. Lean into it. As long as you homeschool, some doubt will ride sidecar to all the good you do every day. Not every decision will pan out, not every day will show fruit, not every effort will be worthwhile.

Yet if you stick with it, if you make adjustments that are considerate of your children as they are (as they show themselves to you), over time (cumulatively), your children will receive an education that suits them to adult life.

Doubt, worry, confusion, anxiety—as long as these are not swamping you (preventing you from doing the work of home education), they are simply conditions that go with the territory.

Keep going. Keep trying. Keep expanding your options.

Once in a while pause—admire how far you’ve come, how many things you’ve learned, how much you know now about education that you didn’t know when you started. Remind yourself that you are still learning and will know even more in another year! How grand is that!?

You’re okay now. Just as you are. Breathe.

Image © Uptall | Dreamstime.com

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Friday Freewrite: Waited on hand and foot

Cat_Butler

What if you had an attendant who took care of your every need? List three reasons why that might be awesome then list three reasons why that might be objectionable.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by tanakawho (cc cropped)

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Single efforts can teach profound skills

Boy writing at desk BW

Because we focus on depth and connection when we teach, we don’t need repetition of activities to the degree that schools need it. We aren’t pushing kids through material to ensure we don’t “miss anything.” On the contrary, we have the opportunity to patiently focus on an individual moment in time, looking at a specific skill, working with that child until it is understood.

It may be that you will revise a single piece of writing with one child this year. If you do a thorough, caring, patient job with your child, ensuring that the child feels connected to you and open to the teaching (through kindness, consideration, and helpfulness), that single editing/revision experience may be enough for the entire year! It is possible to learn it all in that one paper—enough for this year’s effort. When a child is well taught—when you care to give full commitment once in a while to a specific skill—your student will “get it” and not need repeated pushes and nudges and practice over and over again to the point of irritation and tedium.

Instead, your child will be able to take what you imparted and then practice as needed using the skills acquired in that one event.

Likewise, you might find that your child produced one fabulous session of copywork where the handwriting looked elegant, and the proportions on the page were spot on, and the care to copy punctuation and indentation succeeded. That experience teaches so much more than dozens of pages of half-hearted effort.

We focus too much on what isn’t getting done instead of recognizing the power of specific, intentional, well-executed moments in time. Do your kids need to love every lesson? No. They don’t have to fall in love with writing to become good writers. They need the skills—they can get them with far less pain if you change your expectations. Quality instruction, affection and closeness over quantity of products.

Trust these single efforts. They are working better for you than you know.

Image by Tim Pierce (cc cropped, text added)

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A “why” child

Seeing the point

Brave Writer Team:

We started using The Writer’s Jungle, Arrow, Boomerang, and following your blog in November. I thought teaching writing would be easy because I was a natural and prolific writer in school winning numerous contests some of which included publication in anthologies. Our oldest son is very talented with improvisation. He spontaneously conducted a very entertaining interview with our Vizsla.

During Tea Time, he would hold up one of our Shakespeare Sonnet collections and recite what we would believe is Shakespeare just to inform us in the end that he made it all up. However, when it comes to getting it down on paper, he shuts down, I scream, and we both cry. We tried Write Shop, using Dragon Naturally Speaking to eliminate “writing,” and Writing with Skill without success.

We haven’t shed a tear or had a screaming match since starting Brave Writer. He even comments on how much he likes it because he can see the point behind everything we do. He is very much a “why” child.

I believe there was a disconnect between writing for fun and writing for “school” which caused the barriers. We are making progress. [Below is] his first free write that was taken through the process. He is 13 and enjoyed doing this. He even read it to the family during dinner.

Lanika

VizslaThe Walk

I charge out of the door, tail wagging franticly for my walk. I see new things, sniff new things, and pee on new things. I scurry down the drive way, nails clanking on the concrete, over to the mail box lift my left leg up and release. I walk back to the door and allow my owner to put my leash on my collar. The leash despises me and I despise it. It is like a game of dominance between me and the leash; it tugs while I stay in place trying to observe things.

As we’re walking approaching other dogs, I want to play with them; I run towards them; my leash pulls; my owner tells me to sit. Upset with my owner, I give him the “you’re no fun” look. The dog dashes towards me; his owner pulls him away too. We look at each other – a possible friend gone by.

I continue walking, sniffing, and peeing on where other dogs have been. Smelling the scent of the ducks and birds drives my natural instinct to chase and retrieve.

Tongue hanging, wind hitting my face, and ears waving I sprint after the ducks. They protest with loud quacks and feathers rain down from the fleeing ducks. I come to a screeching halt as my owner stops me – not trusting me to stop on my own. I wasn’t going to go in the water – geez! I turn away, annoyed, walking back head down snorting.

As the sun set, we walk back home glancing at the gleaming water thinking about the walk.

Pencil image by r. nial bradshaow (cc cropped, tinted, text added) / Vizsla image by Maja Dumat (cc cropped)

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Call for Teachers: 2015!

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Brave Writer is growing!

We need Brave Writer instructors and writing tutors. If you’re looking for a way to supplement your family’s income and have writing and homeschooling skills, Brave Writer may be right for you! Brave Writer instructors work part time from home. Hours and scheduling are flexible. Pay is based on student load.

Our requirements are straightforward, but critical to our success. If you do not match all the criteria and still feel convinced that Brave Writer would be a good fit for your skills, please explain in your email to us. We’re interested!

1. Homeschool Experience
You must have homeschooled your kids for at least 3 years, or you must have been homeschooled for 3 years.

2. Publishing
You need to have been published.

  • magazine articles
  • a book you’ve written
  • an active blog with a readership
  • a community newsletter (like church or homeschooling)
  • newspaper letters to the editor or editorials
  • You Tell Me! (There are lots of ways to be published today.)

3. Online presence
You need to have a warm, online presence that can be observed. I prefer to know that you are active in an online community (homeschooling, film, gardening, theology, gaming) or that you have an active Facebook or Twitter account. I need to be able to see how you relate online since that’s what teaching for BW is all about!

4. Excellent writing skills
You need excellent writing skills in casual email/online conversation.
That means you are a natural speller, have good natural grammar, and write with clarity and ease.

5. Creativity
You need to be a creative person who can problem solve and foster imaginative solutions to writing dilemmas. We’ll train you in our method, but it helps if you have a knack for editing, or expanding writing content already. It also helps if you have homeschooling experience that enables you to support and encourage other parents.

6. Knowledge of academic writing forms and literature.
Not required, but helpful.
In addition to our usual instructors who work with parents and kids between the ages of 8-13, we also have a need for instructors who can teach high school writing forms—college prep writing. Please indicate in your letter/resume if you feel qualified to teach academic forms and any experience that validates your qualifications.

Follow these submissions requirements
We will not read any application that has the wrong subject head or includes an attachment!

Please submit a single-page resume in the body of the email not as an attachment to Paula Horton (Human Resources Administrator) phorton@bravewriter.com.

The title of the email needs to be: Brave Writer Teacher Application

In your resume, include evidence of the 6 items above as well as:

  • Your name
  • Where you currently live
  • Your degrees (high school, college, graduate school – whatever you have)
  • Your teaching experience (if you have any) related to writing
  • A writing sample—something you share with me that shows your writing voice.

We need quite a few teachers and we are also starting a tutorial service (where you will work with individual students weekly) so take a chance and let me know of your interest. We’ll hold a training this summer to see if you are qualified to teach for us (you must be available for the training: July 13-24, 2015). There is no invitation to work for Brave Writer until you’ve completed the training.

All resumes are due by Friday April 17, 2015.

Once we have received your email, you will get a confirmation note from Paula. We will contact you by April 30 to let you know if you are invited to interview with me in May. Invitations to our training will come by the end of May.

Paula and I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday Teatime: A snowy time!

Tuesday Teatime Andrea border

Hi Julie (and staff!),

First, I want to say thanks for being such an inspiration to everyone. You are helping me find my way in homeschooling and parenting. We thoroughly enjoy our teatimes, especially during the winter months. But, I will admit, they don’t often include poetry.

This particular tea time did. We finally got a “warm” day during this snowy month of February and decided to take teatime outside to get some fresh air. We spent the time sipping tea and letting our surroundings inspire us to come up with our own poetry.

Here is the one from my 7 year old daughter:

I Forgot

I forgot when I went out one winter day
I brought my bathing suit and shorts
Then I said, brr it’s cold for a summer day

Then I looked around and said “what’s that?’
Then I remembered it was a winter day.

I forgot you can’t really run in deep, deep snow
Or you’ll trip and fall you know.
I forgot that too.
Then I remembered when I fell flat on my face

And my 5 year old son came up with:

Snow falls down and around into a blanket of white.
It may be a little bit slippery, but that’s all right.
Everything sleeps in the blanket of white.

~Andrea

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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Andrea