Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

Summer To Do List

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

Summer To Do List

Saw this fantastic To Do list for Summer while at a family reunion and thought of all our Brave Writer families. The activities are things like

water balloon fights,

taking a hike,

riding a pony,

movie in the backyard,

sidewalk art, and

visiting Grandpa at work!

You might consider creating vision for the summer in a similar way!

For Email Marketing you can trust

“They fight me on everything”

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015

How do you know that your kids are having a satisfying homeschool experience? Listen to this brief message on creating your own Fantasy Homeschool. It’s an excerpt from a talk given at the 2014 Brave Writer Retreat.

For Email Marketing you can trust

Do the math!

Monday, June 15th, 2015

How to plan for the upcoming school year and keep your sanity

As your “I’m so done with this year; so now I’ll think about next year” brain kicks in, let’s help it to plan in a sane way! The temptation is major overhaul and doubling down on the subjects that got short shrift this year.

Writing is often in that category. You look back at the scraps of freewriting and the incomplete report that your daughter wrote, but never copied over and you resolve to not let THAT happen again.

So you begin. You plan to have each child complete a single project per month, the way I tell you to. Or so you think.

Brave Writer DOES recommend that you only complete a single writing project per month. We know that it’s important not to rush through the writing process, to allow time for research and revision. This once-a-month scheme sounds sane compared to curricula that suggest writing an essay every week, or a paragraph a day including drafting and revision!

However, what if you have five kids (like I did)? What if all five are capable of writing?

Let’s do the math. There are ten months in a school year. Five kids. Each doing one writing project per month. Even I can make that calculation: 50 writing projects, in a single school year.


Do you think I supervised successfully 50 writing projects in a year? Do you think any home educator is supporting the production of 50 completed writing projects at five different levels in a single school year?

I’m here to tell you: we are not. I talk to home educators all the time. What leaks out in their moments of desperate confession is that they fear they are not doing enough writing. Some are not doing any writing, because of the paralysis that results from staring at a curriculum that requires even MORE writing than ten projects per child in a year.

So here’s my rule of thumb.

You want each of your kids to experience your hand-holding, super kind, invested involvement in one or two big writing projects per year

  • where they have a start (original draft, freewrite, list, notes, dictated narration to you),
  • a middle (rereading, adding new stuff, research, taking out stuff that doesn’t fit),
  • and an end (editing the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, typing it up, reading it to interested readers),
  • all accompanied by your availability and caring.

The rest of the time, attempt lots and lots of writing projects or pursue lots and lots of writing opportunities. It’s totally fine to, for instance, start any writing project in our materials and NEVER finish it! Maybe the meat of the project was simply attempting, or collecting, or getting an initial draft, or working through the research but never writing. Maybe the fantasy of the project was enough—talking about what it could be, or what your child wished he or she could do. Kids are developing—they are not complete themselves. Sometimes you have to have lots of fantasies about what you might be able to do some day before you get the cajones and courage to try!

Maybe you decide to do a group writing project where one kid does the artwork and another does the writing and a third edits it and lays it out on the computer. That counts! For everyone!

Freewriting weekly is a great practice and never requires revision, unless you and the child want to.

Reading books, playing with words, watching TV, language games, poetry tea times, listening to books on CD, memorizing song lyrics, telling jokes, leaving Post-it Notes with love messages on the doors of bedrooms, having Big Juicy Conversations, going to the movies…

This ALL counts as writing program.

You can certainly work through a writing project or two from start to finish with your kids this year (with each one)—and it will be enough if you actually do it and trust that it IS enough. Too often in our defeat, we give up completely or do a half job and then entertain ourselves with guilt.

Give up the guilt. Plan to get through the process with your kids 1-2 times a year (more is a wonderful bonus—and I promise, as you get better at supporting the complete writing process, it will be easier to do and more enticing). Not only that, as your kids understand the writing process, they will need you less!

So let’s get realistic about the coming year.

Lots of writing and reading and word play and conversations.

Some fantasizing, starting and stopping, trying and abandoning of writing projects.

A few start-to-finish supported writing project completions.


You got this.

Image by Anssi Koskinen (cc cropped)

For Email Marketing you can trust

Take Learning Rests

Monday, June 8th, 2015

Take Learning Rests

Sometimes in our efforts to instruct our kids, we push, push, push them to complete books, to go to the next level as soon as the previous one is mastered, to move from easy-readers to chapter books as soon as the child is comfortably reading the easy-to-read book. Sometimes we cram a lot in a day just because the morning felt productive and we think we need to “capitalize” on all this good learning energy before it dissipates.

Other times, we push for different reasons. The end of the year is nigh and we worry we didn’t do “enough” of whatever subject. We see a child struggling with times tables or spelling and we worry that that child hasn’t gone up a grade level so we double our efforts to make that child work harder, to compensate for our worry that the child isn’t making the kind of progress we expected.

Some kids quit working on a difficult-for-them skill—they refuse, won’t budge, complain. We turn the screw and require them to keep trying—to reassure ourselves that the child isn’t going to give up on this subject forever.

Deep breath. You have time for all of it—and you will have more success if you simply let go once in a while.

Skills sometimes magically solidify when you let time go by. Truly. A child who is breaking down in tears over handwriting or reading is not learning. A month or two off strangely allows what was taught to simmer quietly (invisibly). When you return, maturity and rest often lead to a breakthrough (or at minimum, renewed energy to try again).

Rest also looks like time off of everything—not just the difficult subject. Some days deserve to be “wasted”—days where climbing a tree or running around with the dog or watching television are considered “on task.” Concentration is not only given during an individual task. Concentration for the routine of homeschool is a months long commitment of mind and attention. It’s one reason I did enjoy taking summers off with my kids. It felt good to let go of the schedule and to wake up any old time each day with nothing on the agenda but swimming at the YMCA and taking walks and baking cookies and sharing the home space with no particular direction from me.

By August, we were always ready for the return of the routine because by then, we had exhausted the aimless freedom of summer.

Learning rests allow you and your kids to grow, to rest, to mature, and to flourish. It is absolutely on task to take them. You can even say to a struggling child, “Thanks for that painful effort you just put in. I think we all deserve a rest. Let’s put this subject aside for X amount of time and allow your very smart brain to make connections for you while we eat popsicles and run through the sprinklers.”

It’s a great model for kids, too, to learn to pay attention to their need for breaks and a rest. In fact, most adults need to learn how to let themselves off the hook more often—to allow the mind to go fallow, to stop performing, to pause the endless drive to improve self.

Take your shoes off and sip some lemonade. And grow without doing anything.

Image by Leah-Anne Thompson/Fotolia

For Email Marketing you can trust

A little more inspiration

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

A little more inspiration

Hi Julie,

I want to sincerely thank you. When I decided to home school my children a year and a half ago I had a vision in my mind of what I wanted “my school” to be like. I pictured three beautiful, happy children eager to learn anything and everything. I saw them frolicking about in nature and devouring everything beautiful. What actually happened was anything but…

Like most new homeschoolers, my heart was in the right place when I zealously purchased everything I came across – science, math, and history curricula, language arts books for grammar, reading, spelling. I snatched up anything that anyone suggested was educational. With all of these tools, I filled our days with various subjects and stuffed binders full with my daughter’s work. (I have two smaller ones, a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old son who are just along for the ride at this point). A fellow homeschooler lent me The Writer’s Jungle and told me about your program. I read through TWJ and was inspired, but honestly, I fell back into the “must have a curriculum” mindset for a while. We added Poetry Tea Times,The Communication Game, and Keen Observation to our routine. We were already spending time in nature and enjoying regular trips to The Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, so I felt like we incorporating enough of the lifestyle.

Fast-forward a year and I decided that I needed a little more inspiration. My kids were learning a ton but I felt like we were missing something. I wasn’t exactly sure WHAT we were missing, so I re-read TWJ. What inspired me the most this second time around was your recommendation to slow down with younger children and simply fill their lives with beautiful things. The Big River. It resonated so strongly within me. How can you expect kids to write unless they have something to write about? That goes for all subjects. You have inspired me to allow my babies to experience more life, more beauty. There is plenty of that in the world – in experiences, in delicious literature, in nature, in music, art, and poetry. I don’t feel the need to “test” my daughter with worksheets and paperwork anymore. A Big Juicy Conversation, a narration, or a drawing is more than enough.

A little more inspiration

You have also inspired me to better myself, for my own sake and for the sake of being a living example to my children. I have been taking mandolin lessons alongside my piano-and-voice-studying daughter. We have been reading some of the most delicious, beautiful literature and poetry. Additionally, our family has decided to take yearly “World School” trips around the globe. Our first trip is a month in Ireland next March. I am so grateful that we are able to expose our children to the diversity and beauty of the world.

So, I don’t have any stories (yet) of a reluctant writer turned prolific, but I do have a precious little girl and her two curious younger brothers who are blossoming in a lifestyle that you inspired! Thank you!


Images © Christina (used with permission)

For Email Marketing you can trust