Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’ Category

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

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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.

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Slow down, you’re moving too fast…

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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…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.

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Don’t trust the schedule

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

Open vela lleugeraImage by Club Nautic d’Arenys de Mar

Scheduling is a necessary tool for dental appointments, piano lessons, and date nights.

It is less useful for homeschooling. Here’s why.

When you create a schedule, you attempt to control time in a space designed for “escape from time.” Home is where we let go, let down, and live in a relaxed, unhurried, no pressure state. It’s where we go to get away from time’s demands. We unconsciously unwind at home (or at least, we certainly want to unwind at home).

Along come your “school-at-home” notions, built from your memories of traditional schooling; we bring the clock and bell into this relaxed, “be myself” environment. We decide to structure things like breakfast and teeth-brushing so that we can “start” the day of schooling.

We try to monitor the length of time spent at one subject area so that we can move to the next. We manage naps for babies and DVDs for toddlers to free time for the focused attention our olders’ need. We pick a time for lunch and try to hit it consistently.

Some parents are brilliant schedulers, and make this uncomfortable fit of time measurement and home, work. But for those who fail (or believe they are failing), there’s a good reason for it. Not only do your children resist being marshaled to accommodate the artificial imposition of time constraints on home activities, but at some level, so do you.

You know it’s artificial.

You do answer the telephone or respond to a text in the middle of the math lesson.

You do sleep in some days when the baby kept you up all night.

You are likely to flop on the couch and take a micro nap after the read aloud, because you literally can’t stay awake.

You walk around in pj’s long after breakfast, and suddenly remember you need to go online to pay a bill or reserve a space or change an appointment.

Home is a fabulous space because you actually can do all those things! You can’t in an office. You certainly can’t in a school!

Home is that place where you maneuver through the waves of activity like a skiff—quick, sharp turns, at full speed. You aren’t an ocean liner, needing ample warning to avoid icebergs, monitoring every engine, taking huge quantities of time to make small adjustments. You are navigating your day freely, weaving and bobbing around the interruptions, taking advantage of an open sea of time when it arises, and then shutting it all down when 3 out of 4 kids get sick. You do this even after you’ve created a schedule! That’s what’s so odd. You know that you aren’t truly tied to that schedule, which is why you violate it.

If you are living (and dying) by a schedule, sick children produce resentment: they are messing with your project for efficiency!

If you live by a schedule, the day you sleep in means you are behind all day (when I’m behind all day, I’m not as nice a mother or person).

The conflict between home and schedule can be resolved by dumping the schedule and admitting the nature of home.

Home is a space where each person has a certain amount of freedom to just “be.” Within that “beingness,” it’s possible to learn an enormous quantity of information. That’s why we brought our kids home from traditional schooling—we believed that the homey-ness of home was not antithetical to learning. Rather, we believe that home is even more conducive to learning than school with its clocks and bells.

That’s because it happens to be true: tutorial-based, interest-driven, time-unbound learning is effective—supremely so.

Home creates a space for that kind of learning to flourish. Why ruin it with a schedule?

What I propose is the homeschool routine. Rather than trying to schedule the days, set up a routine (a spare one—with a few reliable practices) that can be returned to when you have “one of those days.” Follow inspiration whenever possible. She is not a lengthy visitor.

But on the rest of the days, we can know that after we wake up, we eat breakfast (no matter how early or how late in the morning). After breakfast, we move to the family room for read aloud and I read until we are done (a single chapter or four, depending on the mood and happiness of the family).

After reading, we do copywork (at least a couple days a week). We pick the days based on everyone’s energy level for writing (if it’s a heavy writing day, we don’t do copywork and addition). We move to math after reading and writing. The math pages are chosen based on progress and effort. If a child struggles with a concept then more time is given with fewer problems to solve. If the concept is easy, the page is completed quickly and perhaps only alternating problems assigned.

An on-going history lesson or project follows lunch, picking up where we left off before (no assigned pages, no “place to get to by the end of February” in mind). History can continue this way…forever. Who said there’s a certain amount you must finish by June? My family got stuck in Ancient Greece and Egypt for two years. We loved it! We wanted to camp there.

Perhaps you have other library books to read to the little kids (picture books) later in the day. These are done before naps, as many as everyone wants.

Other activities can be included in the routine (scrapbooking, the Red Herring series, Tuesday Poetry Teatimes, an ongoing game, computer play, Rosetta Stone, birding, building a model, art and piano lesson practice). But each of these is given time (without a constraint) to be done as the child has the capacity to sustain interest.

It’s nearly impossible to schedule energy and interest level. That’s why school feels dull so frequently. The assigned hours have nothing to do with a student’s attention span, curiosity, energy to perform well, and the peacefulness of the atmosphere. Regardless of how a student feels, he or she is expected to perform in hard chairs, with small desks, surrounded by others, facing a teacher who is examining their eyes for attentiveness, while (perhaps) remembering being bullied at recess.

At home, kids have the benefit of being themselves. They can make themselves comfortable—lying prone on the floor, lounging on the couch, sitting at the kitchen island. Of course this kind of freedom produces two effects: keen concentration and absolute sloughing off! Both occur when we are allowed to “be” rather than feeling pressure to “perform.”

We create the conditions of excellence and quality performance when we honor the rhythms of life at home, when we value the hot white fire of passion when we see it (rather than remarking, “But that’s not on the schedule today”). We sustain growth when we return to the comfort of the routine when all other energies are subdued. And we honor our human frailty if we toss routine, schedule, or structure when we are falling apart (sick, irritated, frustrated, in pain, exhausted, or bored).

Schedule is tempting. It holds the promise of “getting it all done” which we translate into our heads as “completing our children’s education.” Don’t be seduced by that promise. Mostly what I hear from parents under the pressure of schedule is “I’m behind” and “I feel like a failure” and “I’m terrible at staying on schedule.”

Of course you are. You’re at home. Be home. Embrace the properties of home. Love. Live. Be. Learn. Thrive.

We’re so lucky to be home. The best gift you can give your family is to be glad that you are, and to live as though home is the ideal space for learning to occur. Because it is.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Blog Roundup: February 24th Edition!

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Image by KristinRead how other homeschooling families implement the Brave Writer Lifestyle:

Teaching Writing in Our Homeschool with Brave Writer “Many writing curricula come at writing from what I think of as a ‘teacher’ mindset instead of a ‘writer’ mindset.” ~Tristan, Our Busy Homeschool

Partnership vs. Performance Learning “In Partnership Writing, author Julie Bogart explains how we as parents have no problems helping our child with other schoolwork but feel that if we help our child with writing it then no longer becomes “theirs.” This is a great thought, however, if you are anything like me, this has been an issue in areas outside of writing as well! Partnership Writing has inspired a whole new thought process in me on partnership learning!” ~Nicole, One Magnificent Obsession

The Homeschool Chronicles {Brave Writer} “I want to be a brave writer. I want my kids to be brave writers. Apparently writing can be useful (hello, blogging!), so I absolutely want writing in our homeschool to be about authentic communication, to be so much more than essay outlining, to have a liveliness not found in diagramming sentences.” ~Rachel, Stitched in Color

Unschooling Plans for English and Maths “I’m intending to use Brave Writer’s Daily Writing Tips: Volume 1 for inspiration, especially as a springboard to write alongside J(8) who has suddenly taught himself to spell (two years after we gave up spelling lessons and six months after we stopped his phonics programme. There’s a lesson for me there).” ~Lucinda, Navigating By Joy

Teaching Kids to Write – Sentence Order “In my head there is an ideal writing philosophy. Creating an enjoyment of writing is number one. Communicating thoughts and ideas should be the purpose. Grammar, spelling and punctuation are important, but focus on these writing topics discourages kids from writing.” ~jmommymom, Highhill Homeschool

We hope to share more roundups in the future! If you write about an aspect of the Brave Writer Lifestyle, let us know! Email your post’s url to Jeannette, our Social Media admin (blog@bravewriter.com). Thanks!

Image by Brave Writer mom, Kristin (cc)

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Brave Writer Blog Roundup!

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Image by Chasity 2Ever wonder how other homeschooling families implement the Brave Writer Lifestyle? Here are several bloggers who share how they do it (click on each link for the full post):

Language Arts Lately “Fourth grade has turned out to be such a funny time for language arts.  Such an in between time.” ~Farrar, I Capture the Rowhouse

Word Games “I am trying to make Wednesdays Word Games day now. We have played some word games before, but the trick is to make it into a routine. We just discovered Rory’s Story Cubes and I think they were the “push” we needed.” Alexandra, Life on a Canadian Island

Family Learning – Week In Review “Messes were made.  Crafts exploded across tables. The chest freezer thawed partially when the cord got knocked out of the outlet. I cooked a lot of unexpected meals thanks to that one.  ;)  Life is never dull!” ~Tristan, Our Busy Homeschool 

A few of my favorite things Brave Writer is “so much more than a language arts program.” ~Lori, If I had a blog…

Impromptu Nature Walk “On our way home from a co-op field trip (the kids got to tour Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits behind the scenes), Kathryn and I stopped on the side of the road to check out a little body of water and some plants.” ~Michelle, Oh, Sweet Honey Iced Tea

Tuesday tea time, hold the tea “Today we decided to take tea time and poetry on the road. We headed to our local library to return several books and pick out some new ones.” ~AspieMom, The Heathen Homeschooler

Poetry Tea Time Resources “Poetry Tea Time has been a part of our weekly routine for a while now, and it’s something we all look forward to with eager anticipation…What I love about it is there’s really no agenda, other than to slow down, eat a snack, drink something, and read some poetry. I don’t have a preconceived idea about which poems we’ll read (though sometimes I do pick something out in advance)…” ~Amy, Hope Is the Word

Cozy Homeschooling Spotlight: Julie Bogart of Brave Writer “I have listened to all the Brave Writer podcasts, and the most recent fleshed out the ‘one thing’ concept with practical pointers. It’s safe to say that it has impacted me profoundly and has set a new course for the way I think about teaching and learning.” ~Stephanie, Less Makes Room for More

We hope to share more roundups in the future! If you write about an aspect of the Brave Writer Lifestyle, let us know! Email your post’s url to Jeannette, our Social Media admin (blog@bravewriter.com). Thanks!

Image by Brave Writer mom, Chasity (cc)

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Brave Writer Lifestyle Facebook Group!

Saturday, February 1st, 2014

BW_facebook groupLook at all these beautiful Brave Writer families!

Sarah, Brave Writer mom, set up a Brave Writer Lifestyle Facebook Group. You can join if you’d like to discuss all things Brave Writer.

Thanks Sarah and good luck! I’ve joined, but will be scarce. Want you all to feel free to discuss whatever you need to!

–Julie

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Your ideal life

Monday, December 30th, 2013

Kids Playing Monopoly ChicagoImage by FamilyTravelCK

What would your ideal life with children be if you could live it without guilt or fear that you might fail; without worry that you are not meeting academic expectations?

My recipe looked a bit like this:

Homemade muffins and tea

Time outdoors (swimming in summer, hiking in fall, planting flowers in spring, skiing in winter)

Reading together from some great book like Harry Potter or Julie of the Wolves

Watching something good on TV or a movie

Snuggling

Messing with paint or clay or colored pencils

Yummy foods (like Farmer’s Market fruit or a new recipe from a foreign country)

Playing a board game all the way through

Spending time with another family

A trip to somewhere else (art museum, movie theater, nature center, a parent’s office, the YMCA, a pumpkin patch, the local nursery, a local gaming center, shopping for stuff we need and want)

A homeschooling co-op

Poetry and Shakespeare

It’s always interesting to me that school subjects rarely make the list of things we’d love to do if we had the time, if we had no guilt, if we could “do what we want.” Yet math, writing, foreign language, history…these are all riveting when handled with passion, creativity, and relevance to the age and stage of the child. They can be just as wonderful as messing with paint and clay. In fact, messing with clay or going to a museum or spending time out of doors may be the most effective vehicles for teaching the three R’s and history!

The truth is, we have these ideas of what makes life rich and then we have ideas of what our obligations are. We tend, most of us, to either follow a slavish routine of meeting obligations or slowly capitulate to the inertia of not following through on the routine, and yet we never quite make the alternative plan happen! The desired harmonious lifestyle of satisfying experiences combined with routine is a phantom image of someone else’s homeschool, but never ours.

I remember a homeschooling veteran saying to me once: “Any time your child wants to play a board game, do it. Don’t wait until later in the day, or for the next day, or for rain. Get the game out, clear the table with a sweep of your hand sending all those papers flying, and put out the Monopoly board and play! That’s why you are home: so you can play hours of Risk or Zooreka or Stratego!” Today, of course, the same could be said for Wii Golf or Mario Cart.

I took this advice to heart. The next thing you knew, I was learning how to play Yugi-oh cards, how to “open” as the white pieces in chess, how to be strategic in RISK. My kids started creating their own games. We have homemade versions of Clue, Seinfeld Trivia, “Stick the Take” (don’t ask —Caitrin’s game she designed at age 3—the only one she could reliably “win” in a house of older siblings), homemade Mancala, Pogs, brand new card games, 3 dimensional chess, and more.

Dice-rolling, calculating percents, determining rules and winners, articulating specific facts onto small cards in one’s own handwriting—now that’s education! That’s learning.

It all started with board games made by Parker Brothers. It continued with board games made by Bogart brothers and sisters.

Board games

Brave Writer mom, Knelly, sent us photos of the board games her students created!

The fantasy homeschool that lives in your head is the vision created in your heart, by your instincts, and with your best intentions. It’s a good vision. It’s a right vision. You aren’t imagining plopping your kids in front of a television six hours a day so you can read romance novels and drink bourbon.

Your homeschool vision is whole, it’s filled with learning and living, it’s relational and peaceful, it’s personality honoring and generously giving. It’s a worthy life to lead!

It’s absolutely essential to value the whisperings of your inner homeschool muse. As I like to say, “Inspiration is not a lengthy visitor.” If you don’t trundle down the path behind her, she will leave you alone with your text books and end of the year exams.

Follow, see where she leads, trust the process and your aspirations. The fruit is so well worth it.

Just know that you can’t always see the fruit the same way workbook pages reassure you that “learning” is happening. When you spend hours talking, laughing, tickling, playing made up games, going on walks, listening to songs on the radio, skipping stones in a creek, competing in Dance Revolution, drawing pictures of pumpkins, walking the dog, calculating how much money to save each month for an American doll purchase, and eating 1/6 pieces of homemade quiche, you don’t always see the academic growth in the same month or year. The effects of this lifestyle are cumulative and compounding. But they are good effects!

What starts off as a trickle of enthusiasm, becomes a meaningful obsession by 24. But between 8 and 24, you will see undulations of enthusiasm and boredom, progress and stagnation.

THAT’S HOW IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.

Case in point. My daughter (24) took inner city kids on a camping trip (she’s a social worker). She was excited to introduce them to nature in a direct way. I said, “I love hearing about your enthusiasm for nature. Remember how you used to say you had no interest in the outdoors?”

Her reply: “Mom, I’m not 15 any more.”

Ha! Too true!

So do the things you know are good for all of you, trust these activities to teach and nourish your family, believe in the power of a well-rounded life. Then watch the unfolding of amazing lives—lives you’ve had the privilege to shape and love.

That’s the homeschool you believe in. So live it!

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Don’t be so shocked that your efforts pay off!

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Happy woman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite emails are the ones that have lots of exclamation points in the subject line:

It works!!! or

I love the Brave Writer Lifestyle!!! or

We had our first poetry teatime!!!

I imagine grown women bouncing in a bounce house shouting to their friends: “I can’t believe that happiness is possible in homeschool, wheeeeeee!”

Yet it does come as a shock, doesn’t it? We want lessons to be rich with concentration and joy, but we don’t really expect it to happen. Really. I mean, is it actually possible to fall in love with fractions? To become so engrossed in a read aloud, the entire room goes silent except for the clicking of Legos? To discover the power of poetic language over brownies and slurps of tea? To learn the parts of speech with Post It notes?

Niggling guilt rises from the depths. “Is this okay?”

There’s a malingering memory of school—staring at the clock at the end of the day, willing it to inch forward to the bell; exclusion from the popular kids’ lunch table; the embarrassment of changing into polyester gym shorts; True/False tests that jumble facts and figures, yet never confirm learning…

School is hard. School is dull. School is meant to train you to learn in spite of… fill in the blank.

Homeschooling is an adventure, a purpose, a chance at educational rebirth. It’s a reinvention of a life (yours!) and education (theirs and yours!). You risk this noble ideal on your kids’ future (brazen and bold!) because you see the opportunity, you see the potential!

You expect homeschooling to go well (or you wouldn’t do it), but then you can’t believe it IS going well when you enjoy it!

It’s the craziest thing!

I get calls and emails asking if you’re doing it right or doing enough or if there is something you are missing. Invariably these questions come after a successful, happy homeschool experience, bizarrely enough.

It’s almost as if the moment we relax, follow our hunches, and trust the process, the inner doubter pipes up and says, “Hey! Grammar study is painful and necessary. Stop laughing. Stop enjoying that read aloud book. Get over here, slit open a vein, and diagram that sentence in your child’s blood. Pronto!”

Ignore those requests.

When a child is speaking a blue streak and your hands can’t keep up with typing, when two children giggle over traded poems, when you wake to a budding novelist’s cheerful keyboarding unprompted by you, when everyone begs you for one more chapter, when a child stitches together her own copywork book, when your son decides to learn calligraphy, when Post It notes litter your household items with verbs and adjectives, when artwork is strung on clotheslines across the living room, when dress up clothes are scattered in the hall, when your teen has to explain in writing an important point online to his gaming community, when your daughter is reading all the Jane Austen books in a row and then watching their “made into film” versions, when your child is more of an expert about World War II or birds or lacrosse or Japan than you have ever been…

Yes, it’s working! Those are the signs. These are the very evidences of a life of learning, of loving learning, of living a life of love for learning.

Happiness? Check.

Engagement? Check.

Evidence? Check.

Growth? Check.

Depth? Check.

Eager cooperation? Check.

Self starting? Check.

Now why on earth would you stop all of that to go back to what thwarts, frustrates, or bores your kids “to be sure they aren’t missing anything”?

Why would you?

You wouldn’t!

Keep going!!!!!

(A few extra exclamation points to nudge you back to the happy trail!!!!!!!)

Cross-posted on facebook.

Image © Andres Rodriguez | Dreamstime.com

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Our Brave Writer Lifestyle

Monday, November 25th, 2013

 

We recently featured a poem by 11 year old Kayleigh. Her mom, Mary, blogs at Not Before 7:00 and she wrote three fabulous posts about her family’s Brave Writer lifestyle. Check them out!

Part I: Our Brave Writer Lifestyle

Mary shares her journey from Classical Education to Brave Writer. She writes:

I don’t even know where to begin with the changes in our homeschooling since I found Julie at Brave Writer. I have been inspired and encouraged to finally embrace the homeschooling lifestyle that I think has always been “me” deep down inside.

Part II: Our School Year

Their Language Arts program is explained. Read how Mary “deprogrammed” herself and tossed out the spelling, grammar, and vocabulary workbooks!

Best of all…this year my kids all consider themselves WRITERS!  They keep poetry journals.  They talk about their stories and write for fun.  Even my 4 year old asked one night if he could tell me a story!  The next day he told me another and I wrote it down in his writing journal.

They all have learned that they EACH have ideas WORTH WRITING DOWN!  And I can think of no better goal for writing at this age!

Part III: Essentials

Take a peek at their Tuesday Teatimes and Friday Freewrites (complete with adorable photos!).

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