Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

Deep investigation led by fascination

Monday, February 8th, 2016

Deep investigation led by fascination

Shared this on BraveScopes:

Turner Classic Movies did a marathon of Emma Thompson films last night. We caught the end of “Much Ado About Nothing” (always a family favorite!) and then watched in full “Sense and Sensibility.” S&S will always be special to me. It was a breakthrough in my homeschool—an epiphany moment! I watched it, then I watched it with the kids, then I read the book, then I read some of it aloud to my kids, then I read Emma Thompson’s book where she writes about making the film and writing the screenplay (fabulous~!), then I read parts of that to my kids, then I discovered that she and the actors wrote each other letters in character to help deepen their acting, so we did that in our family.

Then I checked out the soundtrack to the music and we used it for our copywork time. It became my most checked out CD from the library in all the years I took the kids there (I never bought it—no money for that!). That soundtrack led to listening to soundtracks. This became a “thing” in our homeschool and to this day, Jacob still shares soundtracks with us (and his love of classical music bloomed as a result).

Finally, I received the DVD as a Christmas stocking gift one year and the Jane Austen set of novels (several times…haha).

I found myself watching all the Emma Thompson films, I became acquainted with Ang Lee films (he’s the director of S&S and so I watched “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman” –Chinese subtitles first, and then most of his films like “The Ice Storm,” “The Wedding Banquet,” “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” “Brokeback Mountain” [my favorite], and “Life of Pi”).

Because of S&S, I became familiar with amazing actors: Kate Winslet (before “Titanic”), Hugh Grant in a more serious role, Alan Rickman (RIP—Snape!), Hugh Laurie, Imelda Stauton, Greg Wise, and more. We found ourselves looking for more films that featured these actors, the director, and so on. I wound up reading “Emma” to Johannah at night before bed and she went on to write a novella set in the Civil War based on the story-line of Emma. Our Jane Austen love affair led to our Vintage Dance experience. Our enjoyment of Emma Thompson in “Much Ado About Nothing” fueled our Shakespeare habit.

I wanted to share this with you because as I was watching the film last night, this flood of memories came to me and I saw in a way I couldn’t while it was happening, the richness that came from one film, one deep investigation led by my fascination, my craving for romance and British accents, and great acting and writing.

This is what home education IS. Last night I missed it so much, it almost hurt. I beat back tears several times as the actors uttered lines that had become family favorites (Fannie is PRICELESS “I am the soul of discretion” and “I will be as silent as the grave” and so is Mrs. Jennings—”I’ll find something to tempt her. Does she like olives?”).

As you build your family lives, you are bringing a kind of education that DEFIES planning. Know what I mean? It’s the “way leads on to way” education.

Embrace it.


And here’s the scope that accompanied these thoughts:

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)

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!

“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.

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)