Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

The Georgian Theatre Royal

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Georgian Theatre Royal

The Georgian Theatre Royal

by Finlay Worrallo

In the heart of England, in the Yorkshire Dales, amid the shops and supermarkets of Richmond, lies the Georgian Theatre Royal. It doesn’t look much: a small building between a hotel and a pub, hemmed in by a chemist and a bakery on the other side. But creep down the cobbled alleyway and heave open the solid stage doors… and wonders are waiting inside.

The soft, black curtains swish around the sturdy planks of the stage, which creak as actors step on them. There is a constant hush around the dark corners behind the curtains; the air is thick with the smells of dust and excitement.

Deep in the theatre’s belly there is row upon row of exotic costumes. Coarse fake beards that have tickled a hundred chins; strange felt hats, pointing forward like giant ravens’ beaks; billowing capes of crimson with mysterious designs stitched into them; dresses that went out of fashion two hundred years ago. I’ve worn green and yellow waistcoats that clash spectacularly under the spotlights, and bright blue trousers with golden rosettes sewn on.

It’s crowded behind the curtains and uncomfortable when you’re jostling for space with half a dozen other actors. It’s not much better in the dressing rooms – every surface is strewn with clothes and scripts, and there’s usually only a couple of chairs. The floor gets saturated whenever it rains, and the lights overheat if left on too long. It’s a battered old building, it’s true, but within it we can create entire worlds that last for a few hours at a time, then burst like soap bubbles.

High in the rafters, countless beams and metal poles illuminate me with their glaring lights. The audience is a sea of unpredictable darkness. Will they laugh at the jokes? Will they sit in silence? I feel tiny on stage, someone else’s words on my lips – but then they laugh and I feel like a giant again.

I’m thirteen. I’m standing in a pool of blue light, dressed in black, eyes filled with defiance in the face of defeat. I raise my arm as I deliver my monologue. The audience is silent, but I can feel hairs standing on end. It’s an electric moment.

I’m fourteen. I’m bursting with adrenaline, as I’ve just kicked another boy to death. The other characters stare at me, appalled, but I don’t care. Fifty seconds later and I hit the ground myself, the hero’s knife in my stomach. There is silence.

I’m fifteen. I’m in a crowd of international teenagers in white and red – we’re chess pieces. And we’re dancing. Left, right, forwards, backwards, hands thrust up to the ceiling, shimmying and spinning and loving every second, music bursting all around us.

I’m sixteen. I’m dressed in a seventeenth-century coat, mostly hidden by a bright red tabard that makes me look like a playing card. I draw my sword and snarl an insult. Three heartbeats later and I’m in the centre of a bloody duel. All of my comrades fall and I have to dash off stage, hat and dignity both gone. Why do the heroes always win?

It’s addictive – the thrill, the nerves, the glory of holding an audience spellbound. Come into our world, we say, conjuring realms in our wooden O. Quite simply, it’s magic.

This is a place where anything can happen. If you have the patience to sit upon the unforgiving hard seats for a few hours, magic will unfold before your eyes.

At the Georgian Theatre Royal, everyone is ever so slightly mad – but it’s a place where everyone is accepted. This is a place where I belong.

Image by slgckgc (cc cropped, palette knife, text added)

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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!

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“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.

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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)

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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

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