Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

A little more inspiration

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

A little 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 inspiration 2

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)

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Don’t hate on TV—here’s why!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

The following clip is from the “Brave Writer Lifestyle” talk given during our 2014 retreat. See why watching television is an important part of creating a language rich environment in your home.

Learn more about the Brave Writer Lifestyle!

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What makes your homeschool work?

Thursday, May 7th, 2015

Do you ever wonder why your homeschool isn’t working as well as you’d hoped? Here’s an excerpt from the “Fantasy Homeschool” session during the 2014 Brave Writer retreat. Watch it and discover what makes a homeschool function. The answer may surprise you!

To learn more about how to create your dream homeschool, check out the Homeschool Alliance’ FREE webinar: Make Your Fantasy Homeschool a Reality.

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Challenge for the week!

Monday, March 9th, 2015


“We’re most happy when we forget the time.” Pico Iyer

Think about your best homeschooling moments. Aren’t they like this? When you become absorbed in the moment and forget what you haven’t gotten to, or what the state standards are, or where you are supposed to be at 2:00 p.m.—aren’t those your best moments?

A challenge for this week:

Allow yourself to become absorbed—once, this week. Allow one experience (of reading or talking or tea timing or crafting or chasing a question through Google or playing soccer in the backyard…) to take over the clock—to induce you to forget the clock. See how that feels and what its contours and properties are.

Then report back either on our facebook page (and the post is pinned to the top) or here on the blog and let us know how it went!

Image by Paul B. (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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“So much more than a Language Arts program”

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

Writing_child mom hands


I just finished watching the webinar on Copywork and Dictation and I have to tell you the impact it had on me.

Brave Writer is so much more than a Language Arts program. It surpasses all the parenting coaching I’ve undertaken, all the advice looked to throughout my parenting life from psychologists, teachers, friends, all the workshops on teaching and learning in all areas.

It is indeed, as you say, a lifestyle in loving life and connecting with your children.

My little man is about to turn 11 and he has suffered greatly through the years. Last year he went through a depression, saying things like ‘What’s the point, I may as well kill myself,’ feeling so sad saying he had no friends, no-one liked him, etc. (he has life long friends scattered around but struggled to have everyday relationships with kids his age in educational settings). And he would face the world every day from the perspective that life was dangerous and acted accordingly.

He absolutely refused to go to school in the end and I am finally letting go of the guilt I have carried by listening to the school rather than listening to him.

We have since moved to the Sunshine Coast, live on the beach, started homeschooling (including his little sister aged nearly 8) and with this new focus on connection, presence, time in nature, and ‘letting go’ we are hearing him laugh again, seeing him smile again, witnessing him choose happily his own company over the company of some of the unkind children in the street. And at the same time make new friends.

After watching this webinar, I am moved to tears as I watched you, with such a grounded and joyful energy remind us to follow the path of learning together with our children and seeing it as joyful rather than a task.

I was beginning to put myself under pressure again, thinking I wasn’t doing enough and I know very well when I do that, all the wonderful, whimsical interactions come to grinding halt and the learning stops anyway.

I wish to purchase that webinar to watch it again and again.

My heartfelt thanks to you for putting yourself out there for us all to gain the best perspective in life and parenting. To trust.


Watch the webinar:
Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Copywork and Dictation

Image by Carissa Rogers (cc tinted)

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The Brave Writer blog is 10 years old!

Monday, January 5th, 2015

Brave Writers Life in Brief 1

We have all kinds of reasons to throw confetti and toss balloons this month!

Not only is Brave Writer celebrating our 15th Anniversary (with a 15% OFF discount on products) but the Brave Writer blog, A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief, is 10 years old!

To commemorate a decade of inspirational and educational posts, we’re going to start sharing past entries every so often.

And here’s the very first post that was published on January 4, 2005!

“Together, we can generate energy and enthusiasm for Brave Living,
not just brave writing.”


Image © Jorge Salcedo |

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Remember to pause

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Santa Cruz at night Capitola Beach Dec 2014
Santa Cruz at night. Capitola Beach. December 2014.

December catches me off guard every year, as though I don’t know it’s coming. As though I have never shopped for presents before, or haven’t had a busy calendar in the last month of any other year.

I confess to just wanting it to be over sometimes. The hassle and hustle of the season triggers my guilt, too. Why do I rarely succeed in getting lights up on the house? How could I let my college kids come home for winter break to an empty home (I was away traveling to see extended family members who are sick)? I even found myself wondering how necessary a decorated tree is to our over-all well-being.

Some years I’ve had every gift purchased and shipped by the start of December. Other years, I’m paying the extra fees for one day shipping. And still others, I’ve had to box and wrap a receipt, letting the teen know the gift would arrive within a day or two of Christmas.

So it was with great curiosity and interest that I listened to a friend share with me a strategy for being in the present moment—something I need to remember to do for myself. Maybe it will be helpful to you too.

She told me that when she finds herself whipped up into a frenetic energy, or guilt, or anxiety—she deliberately pauses, for a moment. She checks in with her thoughts, her feelings, and her body—to see what’s really there, so that she’s not just operating from a script of past holiday seasons or past expectations.

The pause.

I had forgotten about the pause! It helps to re-center myself and ask the basic questions: Where is my mind (what am I thinking about, or obsessing over)? How do I feel (am I churned up? am I excited? am I distracted and edgy)? What’s going on in my body (clenched jaw—I grind my teeth so a clenched jaw does tell me a lot about how much I’m holding inside; upset stomach, headache, short breath)?

Once I’ve paused to see what’s going on with me, I can then accept it and honor it. I don’t have to sweep it away or pretend it’s not there or overcome it. I can allow myself to embrace that moment, and the next, and the next one too.

From this place of checking in with myself, I can then make choices that take me and how I’m doing into account. Usually when I blow or lose it, it’s because I am checked out—I’m attempting to fill expectations or am moving really fast or have decided that this moment is annoying and I just want to get past it. When I’m in that mindset, I lose the moment and my choices.

Maybe today we can all pause—simply stop long enough to be present to ourselves and to our families; to let 2014 be its own unique holiday season, not a remix of all holidays past.

I paused this morning. I noticed a lot of agitation and urgency inside. A dismissiveness toward the demands of the season. A resentment brewing.

Time for a run, a cup of tea, and a hot shower. Then I’ll rouse Noah out of his well earned slumber, and we’ll go get that tree I keep putting off. I want to enjoy it with him, not rush through it (or even skip it!). That’s what I discovered when I paused this morning.

Thanks for your emails and posts. It is wonderful to hear from you. What are you discovering when you pause?

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Never enough, never enough

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Panning for GoldImage by Amber Strocel (cc)

I had this odd little homeschool habit. See if you can relate.

If my kids and I found something wonderful to do in a day, and if that wonderful activity wasn’t already on the calendar for a week or more prior to doing it, and if that something wonderful dawned on me out of the blue—a fresh, bright idea—and we acted on it that day (not scheduling it for a future date so that I could put it on the calendar first), I felt guilty counting that experience toward “school.”

In other words—spontaneous education felt fake (like I was getting away with something, like I was not a serious educator).

I imagined that most homeschoolers had schedules and plans and knew what was coming each week. Certainly school teachers must never lecture on the fly or succumb to inspiration of the moment rather than inspiration that led to a “plan” for some time later.

The cycle looked like this. We had our routine—the practices we usually did each day. Then I’d get internally, unconsciously fed up with the daily predictability. We’d be studying some cool topic like gems or fingerprints or Vietnam. Bam!

Let’s go to Little Saigon!

And off we’d go. Dropping everything. We’d have a fabulous, learning immersed day.

That I didn’t count.

Because it wasn’t planned.

Because I hadn’t thought about the learning values in advance; because good teachers don’t string together a bunch of inspiring moments and call that learning; because the event/activity/outing wasn’t a part of an integrated unit of study—it felt hap-hazard and too dependent on my flights of fancy.

My educational drive came from behind. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with a unit study about the the gold rush until we were knee deep in Levis and fool’s gold. I felt my way. The ideas would come as we read. How could we read about panning for gold and not pan for gold? So we abandoned all our other school work and planned a “panning for gold” party. The kids even tried to build a sluice (failed, but the effort was awesome!). The fake gold collected was traded for sarsaparilla and licorice. That party project sidelined math, science, read aloud time, and copywork for a month.

It was big and disruptive and unplanned. Not in a single one of my books. Just a moment of following this nagging thought: How can we read about the Gold Rush and not try it?

Similarly, I didn’t know what to do about the solar system and my kids—books didn’t quite get it. Small pictures about unimaginable sizes. Once we were reading, though, the scale of the numbers related to planets blew my mind (space is huge!)—I wanted to blow my kids’ minds. I called my next door homeschooling neighbor to help me. We went outside into our cul-de-sac, and attempted to replicate to scale, the space between the planets and the sun. Discovering we’d have to send the youngest child more than a mile away to approximate Pluto’s relationship to the rest of us ended that project—and made its primary point.

And eliminated math pages, phonics, and handwriting time. And nap time. And laundry.

That night, still on a solar system high, my kids and I drummed up the idea to host an impromptu planetary tea party (at night! with the stars!). Our neighbors joined us, and the oldest girl surprised us, dressing up like Jupiter! (Red blotch over her eye.)

But was this learning? I worried about it. I hadn’t made a lesson plan in advance. Were parties and field trips and impromptu experiments enough?

Back to the workbooks and planned curricula we’d go.

However, no matter how many days we logged in the workbooks and planned activities, I couldn’t tell if the kids were making the kind of progress they should be making. I had no measuring device to reassure me. Eventually we’d get bored or restless or the flu would visit and all semblance of the routine would go out the window.

After a holiday, I’d regroup and start again.

What I couldn’t know then that I do know now is that it is MORE than enough and life looks like this stitched together variety of practices, habits, and flights of inspiration. Taken together, you work your way around the circle of learning (planned activities, lessons, incremental worksheets for skills, field trips, parties, spontaneous crafts and experiments, wasted days, child-led days, parent-led days). All of it comes together.

It’s both enough, and never enough.

Learning doesn’t have an end point—you know that because you are still learning almost as much as your kids are while you educate them. Don’t you sometimes wonder how they let you out of college when you can’t remember a stitch of information about Manifest Destiny or the Pacific theater in World War 2 (and you were a history major!)?

Because of your natural home educator neuroses, you will cycle through these various educational styles over and over again, attempting to “hit” the target that keeps moving backward from you.

That’s how it is supposed to be and is. Even the least “schooly” among us are still standing by, alert, seizing those moments when they can support and honor the natural curiosity of their children.

When you feel the anxiety of “never enough” creep up, remind yourself that every day—no matter what you do—your intention is the good of your children and their educational advance. Research and buy curricula, plan amazing experiences, follow your flights of fancy, be inspired by your children’s curiosity and ambition to try things, provide resources, set up a routine…

…and trust the process.

In the end, it’s all learning and it all counts and it’s enough. Your kids will take what you give them and expand it beyond what you ever imagined. They will know how to do that because you will have modeled so many different ways to learn right in front of them for their whole lives. They’ll be comfortable with structure, freedom, exploration, testing, routine, inspiration, abstraction, practical application, curiosity, expertise, practice, performance, and achievement.

The subject areas are merely opportunities to show your kids what it is to learn through a variety of means so that they can continue that journey on their own after they leave home.

So hats off to you! On the calendar or not, it all counts. It’s enough.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Talk, talk, talk…and talk some more

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Writing comes from thinking. Thinking is expressed in several ways:

Action (you act on the thought: Toothbrush into mouth to clean teeth)

Speech (you speak the thought: “Hand me my toothbrush.”)

Writing (you fingerwrite a note on the steamy bathroom mirror: “Where did you put my toothbrush, goofball?”)

Because writing is the transcription of thoughts into words, we need to recognize all three components and help our kids make the connections.

For instance, action often occurs without much “word-conscious” thought. We go about our business without narrating it to ourselves in words. We might walk to the refrigerator to get a carton of milk, but are thinking about when we get the next turn on the Wii to play Dance Revolution. At least, this is what is happening for our kids. Both require thought, but one is thought in words and the other is thought in activity.

One way you can help your kids grow into writers is to help them narrate their actions and thoughts with words (spoken words). By speaking words: “Let’s see, I need to brush my teeth before I put on my pajamas and before Jordan hides my toothbrush again,” you help your child to use language for thinking.

You model the narrating of life in front of your kids. Literally be the crazy lady or man who talks to self: “I need to pick up the dry cleaning before I call the arena to buy the football tickets.”

Some kids (particularly math/science kids, or those who are introverted, or speech-delayed) find it most difficult to speak their thoughts. They can do them more easily (punch the offending party, slam a door, open the bottle of 7Up, toss a football, take the dog for a walk, roll around on the floor in frustration).

Your job with your kids is to talk: talk, talk, talk, talk. Name what you see (without judgment) giving the action language:

“I see you rolling around on the floor. You were just playing a game. What happened?”

Get the story. Try not to evaluate what you see; allow your child to find words. You can help as he or she works it out.

“Are you frustrated? Angry? Worried? Did someone misunderstand you?”

You can’t reel these off in a list, but you can ask them gently over time. You can help the child to sort the action into feeling words.

Feelings aren’t the only “thoughts without words” that kids experience though (and mothers often think this is the height of child self-awareness, but articulating feelings are only one piece of the thought-without-language puzzle).

Sometimes kids need help puzzling through actions and sequences of those actions in words.

“Okay, you’ve finished breakfast. Let’s go over what will happen today. Catie, what do we do next this morning? What comes after that? When will we eat lunch? How many hours until lunch then? Okay, so how much time do you think we have for reading and copywork? Is there time for you to play Candy Crush now or later in the day?”

That’s a dense word-picture of how to engage through words, but these comments can be items in a dialog of conversation back-and-forth, back-and-forth. Your goal is to lead your child into language for action and thought. So your child, who mostly operates without a clock and let’s you initiate all the activities of the day, can now begin to put words to those activities, can be called on to calculate time frames, can sequence the events of the day, can examine how her desires fit into the structure of home education. All in language.

How does this help with writing? Kids need practice sequencing, naming emotion, evaluating priorities, planning in words. These are all skills that go into the production of papers and detailed examination of other processes and sequences.

Your job, as a home educator, is to talk your mouth off! You want to talk, talk, talk, narrating—probing in a gentle, genuinely curious way, lending words and vocabulary to your fledgling thought-generator.

You do so much automatically, as though you’ve always lived from this ease-of-thought to action and word, you forget that you need to train your kids in these practices. The more your children explore language for ideas, thoughts, actions, experiences, sequences, priorities, plans, and connections, the more language will be available to them when they go to writing. Count on it.

You’ll also have models to draw from: “Remember when you were frustrated? How did you show that to me? How did I know? Exactly: you were yelling at the computer screen. How might you use that action to show General Washington’s frustration when he….?”

You might say, “Remember when we figured out how to plan the day so you had time to play your favorite game? We saved the game for last. ‘Emphatic order’ is kind of like that: you save the best argument for last…”

This is how it works—a dialog between one’s natural life and language, leading to an application of all that narrating to writing.

Cross-posted on facebook. Shared on Hip Homeschool Moms.

Image © |

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Slow down, you’re moving too fast…

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

…Gotta make the morning last now! (Simon and Garfunkel)

To feel groovy, you have to let yourself move slowly, savor, find a rhythm and stick to it, meander.

Home education is a trip on side streets.

It’s the wasted time of sleeping in and running late and “Where is my other shoe?”

It’s the long straggly gaggle of children, strollers, and backpacks making their way across a crowded, dangerous parking lot to a museum. Inside, an hour spent looking at three paintings is plenty. It leads to side-tracked conversations about “unrelated” subjects and what is retained is hidden from view for years (maybe a decade). Then the whole kit and caboodle reverse course to saunter, dawdle back to the car where the buckling, clicking, and tucking in take longer because everyone is tired and hungry.

Home education is charging forward with new materials and slogging slowly through old, comfortable ones.

When lightning strikes (She’s reading! He finished his story! She mastered the 7′s! He learned all the capitals!), celebration takes time and words, and uses up treats in the toy box or refrigerator. Happiness has room to be felt and known. Personal pride is admired. Nothing more is accomplished in the basking glow of success.

Homeschool is the next chapter begging to be read because the last one was so good, and who can stop when everyone (including mom or dad) wants to know what happens next?

Math is ditched when Nova shows the migration habits of your favorite birds. All manner of family members hunker down under blankets to let the visual feast of scenes unspool at their deliberate unhurried pace.

Making muffins for teatime lasts an eternity of measuring the ingredients, struggling to stir the messy mix, and unevenly filling the cups, only to bake them and wait, wait, wait for the wonderfully yummy end results.

No one wants to stop reading poetry…ever. So some days you don’t stop, and it’s wonderfully okay.

When the sun comes out after its long absence, kicking a soccer ball in the backyard is on task and feels right. No one misses the phonics workbook that day yet everyone knows it’s not gone forever. Just for today—this one glorious long day of nothing but sunshine.

Take time today—to be, float, notice, hang, enjoy, savor.

Homeschooling is a ridiculous waste of time—it refuses to be boxed into systems, schedules, and requirements.

It is the long, lazy, loving look at learning through the eyes of children.

It takes time—time you don’t have, time you aren’t used to spending in all your adult hurry. Give in. Let go.

Feel groovy.

Cross-posted on facebook.

Image © |

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