Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

Are you one big happy family?

Are you one big happy family?

Practical Homeschooling Advice for the Frazzled!

You might be running yourself ragged trying to teach to four or five grade levels a day! Pulling out workbooks for four subjects times five kids, leads to math I can’t even do! (Well, okay, I can do it, but it’s too many workbooks!).

What does it take to be one big happy family and homeschool at the same time? We tackle that ginormous subject in the following video!

More Help for BIG Families

If you’ve got a passel of kids

Managing Multiples

Image of children © Oneblink |

A little enchantment goes a long way

A little enchantment goes a long way

We see passion in chess tournaments—and applaud it.
We see passion in video gaming—and shame it.

Same skills—same immersive, passionate engagement.
What’s going on here?

Why aren’t our kids more interested in chess (we wonder)? Why are video games so compelling to kids (we hand wring)?

Because video games are enchanting. They are filled with treasure hunts, mysteries, problems to solve, doors to unlock with special keys, magical appearances, plinks and shimmers of sound and visual delight. Video game-makers create passionate fans because they know how to build worlds that enchant children!

Which frustrates the living day lights out of most of us!

I get asked: Is it possible to enchant academics? I say a resounding “Yes!”

Adults need a paradigm shift. We need to refrain from asking if what children are learning will serve them later and instead look at what they are learning right now that they value.

Let me say that again.

Our chief responsibility as parents and educators is to unlock treasure on the other side of the locked academic door. We want to move from “Pages completed” IS the goal of education to asking: What’s the mystery, surprise, risk and adventure inherent in fractions or pronouns or the revolutionary war?

No one learns to read so that they can
pass a test or complete a work book.

We become enthusiastic readers because there are stories —surprises, heartaches, relationships, the keys to becoming a whole healthy happy loved person, the dire mistakes made by others laid before us so we might learn to do better.

We read to become proficient in repairing a lawn mower or to bake a pineapple upside down cake! We read for the playfulness of language—the linguistic gymnastics of poetry and tongue twisters! Why is math different? What is the exceptional experience of becoming mathematically proficient?

The kids who catch on play with math like to play with Legos or video games. They program or build, they apply math to their ordinary lives and you never hear about it (it happens inside).

I remember Noah created a multiplication table that was built from base 12. That means he introduced two new characters into his multiplication system, and then had to actually carry those digits through as he multiplied. And he did it. Himself. No assignment. That little times table lived in his wallet for years.

You should also know that in his math class in high school, he wrote poems during his first math test. Math, poetry—they were friends, not separate subjects.

Learning because you want to know is possible for everyone.

It isn’t just for the few. It isn’t “Well my kid isn’t that interested in learning” or “You haven’t met my kids.”

Learning is so natural, your children are already passionate fans of it. What adults sometimes fail to see is the passion inside the child’s mind.

The passionate interest of a child is invisible to the parent/educator and therefore, it goes unappreciated or even unknown! Sometimes when we find out what’s there, we don’t value it at all.

What we’ve done in the name of education
is strip learning of its magical powers.

I like to say that the least taught literary element in writing is: surprise. Yet everything in writing depends on it. Surprising language, plot twists, unexpected facts, a quote about a topic that is shocking given who said it—this is how writers find readers every day. They say what no one will say or they say it in a way you haven’t heard it before.

You will stop reading if there is no surprise coming. If you think you know what’s ahead, you won’t finish the book or the page or the article.

Take that principle—the element of surprise, the element of subversion, of mystery, of risk and adventure—and right now, apply it to your homeschool.

Is your homeschool surprising?
Is it in any way an adventure?

Make it smaller. Is there anything to look forward to, today, in my home?

Homeschools gone wrong are trying too often to apply systems. Parents are looking to eliminate surprises (like low scores, or unruly behavior, or messes, or distractions). We are literally working against our best ally for education most days.

What if you embraced what you consider an obstruction to your carefully planned curriculum? What if you could see the magic in the mess, in the rabbit trail, in the off-task inspiration? What if you could do that just once this week (not every day, not every time)?

Give your kids the chance to surprise you. You don’t have to create surprises for them nearly as much as you need to be open to the element of surprise in them. The next time someone asks you to look at what they are reading, doing, seeing, STOP—and read, do, see it. Get inside that amazing mind of your child. It is all mystery and surprise in there!

There is enough in the mind of a child to lead to a lasting education for a lifetime.

A little enchantment goes a long way

Check out our Writing for Fun class!

Obedience vs. Collaboration

Obedience vs. Collaboration

In all our fretting over how to raise kind, respectful children, the temptation is to double down on discipline—to require “instant obedience.” Even our dearly beloved Charlotte Mason talks about obedience as a core value in child-rearing, saying that a child who obeys promptly is a joy to his mother!

And indeed, if all those little rascals would just do what I ask when I ask it I would feel waves of joy—explosions of glee, wouldn’t you?

Most obedience systems rely on some kind of punishment to enforce them—be it, time outs or spanking or withholding of privileges (or even withholding smiles—I read that once!).

Charlotte puts a huge priority first on children being known as persons—respected for their current completeness (not immature adults in need of maturity before they deserve full respect). When she talks about a mother giving a command, Charlotte assumes that the parent has already given a child a chance to grow in a habit that takes into account the child’s current developmental stage. In other words, Charlotte believes in practicing a habit before expecting it to operate effectively.

Today, we call this interaction with children “collaboration.” Collaboration is the value that says:

“Together, we will secure a healthy, respectful relationship
while developing habits that help us meet our goals.”

Those goals are shared, not imposed.

Obedience is too often a synonym for “coercion” rather than “glad cooperation.”

Collaboration, as a value, allows us to take into account the child as person, and our unique vantage point as parents. We can first get to know what the child needs, address that need, and then work to create the conditions of partnership to achieve our goals.

It might look something like this:

On occasion, I need to go to Target. Often, my kids are playing video games when it’s time to leave. I’ve recognized that this is a challenging transition for my kids. So I talk to them about how sometimes they will be interrupted based on my need over theirs. I’ve asked them how we can make the transition smooth, and we decided together that a five minute warning would help.

So we practice (no Target shopping trip about to occur). I give a fake five minute warning and we find out if it is possible to wind up games in 5 minutes. Kids give their input. “Yep, that was plenty” or “No, I need 15 minutes of warning.” More practice.

When the real Target-trip-moment comes, instead of expecting the kids to hop up and put away their games the moment I’m ready to leave, I follow our solution: “In fifteen minutes, we’ll need to go. Now is a good time to get to a stopping place on your game.”

When you respect your children’s needs,
they are much more willing to respect yours.

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Usually when you’ve taken the time to be respectful of your children’s needs, they are much more willing to respect yours. It’s a dialogue, it is not solved once and for all, and it doesn’t mean perfect cooperation at all times. What collaboration provides is a two-way street—everyone aware that their behaviors impact others both adversely and positively. Negotiating how to sustain the positive is the goal.

Respect for personhood is essential. Just because the situation seems easy for me to solve with one idea doesn’t mean that idea works for everyone. Collaboration requires a tolerance for views that interfere with our own best ideas about the subject.

In a writing-editing relationship, we’ve found this to be profoundly true. You get the most writing from a child whose writing voice and ideas are respected and valued. Over time, as the child practices writing about what he or she values and has the pride and love of a parent, a time comes when a parent can ask for writing related to a subject that is important to the parent’s educational objectives for the child…and the child will be willing to comply.

Collaboration in other areas of life builds trust and cooperation that facilitates learning in others. Collaboration leads to the “peace” that Charlotte promised. In fact, in trusting respectful relationships, kids do sometimes simply hop right up when you call them and that experience really IS pleasing to the mother.

The Homeschool Alliance

5 Tips for Your Morning Homeschool Routine

5 Tips for a SANE Homeschool Morning Routine

Some say: follow your children’s delight! Let them play and see what they want to learn.
Others say: plan your day with check boxes so that your kids know what to do when, and what to expect.

I found a third way—a practice that led to our

  • greatest productivity
  • most engaged learning
  • least conflict-producing atmosphere
  • best memories

Our Morning Routine became the foundation of our homeschool, and it happened by accident, and grew into the strength of our home education experience.

Watch the workshop below (recorded on Periscope) to learn more!

Nature Journaling

Best of the Brave Writer Blog: Nature Journaling

The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful. ~e.e. cummings

Nature Journaling is an important part of the Brave Writer Lifestyle. Turn the exploration of the great, messy outdoors into a joyful writing opportunity!

The Basics

  • Walk together.
  • Collect little rocks, leaves, twigs, mosses, acorns, flowers, and feathers.
  • Bring them home.
  • Set a few of them on a large sheet of white paper in the center of the table.
  • Using drawing pencils and paper, sketch one or more of the items.
  • Then record a few details about the object or the day. One good sentence about the color, or texture or the memory of collecting it or what it looks like, or what it reminds the writer of, is perfect.

Branch Out!

Here are three blog posts full of tips that will enhance your nature journaling experience.

If You are New to Nature Journaling

Nature Journaling Wherever You Are

Writing Exercise: Make Your Nature Walk a Color Walk!

Also, Brave Writer offers an online class each spring and fall that is designed to make nature journaling a natural part of your life. Click on the image below to learn more.

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Nature Journaling