Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

BraveSchooler Permission Slip

BraveSchooler Permission Slip

A while back, a homeschool mom reached out to me for support. Her arms were tired from stringently clutching the schedule, the rules, even the “inspiration” she had heard was supposed to come when she embraced the so-called enchanted education.

The weariness was apparent in every sentence. She asked sincere questions like, “How can I keep going?” and “Why aren’t they happy when I’m trying so hard?”

I could relate. I’ve had those moments too—where it felt impossible to right the ship. We were all floundering in the sea of too many good ideas, workbooks, methods, ideologies. Which one would deliver us safely to the shore of “happy homeschool”?

It occurred to me that what might be missing—what had been missing for me at various junctures—was permission to simply enjoy homeschool. Such an odd revelation! As though I needed to be told that it was okay to get a kick out of my kids, to pause to notice the sweetness of the read aloud, to play soccer in the back yard and count it as “on task.”

The original Brave Writer motto was “Joy is the best teacher.” I had to scribble it at the top of notebooks to remind myself that when the crying comes, the lesson’s done. It was important for me to return to joy—not through a program, but through permission. I could have the homeschool I wanted—I just had to be willing to live it, to not discount it, to not undermine it when it showed up. I got permission from my best friend’s daily example. Her whole-hearted entry into her children’s world reminded me that I could do the same, and homeschool would sing.

As I read this mom’s email, I could tell she was looking for my permission. I represented some authority to her and if I told her it was okay to enjoy her kids and her life, maybe she’d let herself do just that. So I wrote a little permission slip (a paragraph) and sent it to her. She loved it!

I figured she might not be the only mom looking for that permission to be a happy homeschooler. So I wrote a long form permission slip and posted it to Facebook. It garnered hundreds of likes, shares, and comments—because we all want permission to be our happiest best selves.

I talked with my team about it in a staff call. I realized right away that what I really hoped parents would learn is to give themselves permission to be the homeschoolers they secretly aspire to be. True permission comes from within and that sense of confidence in our choices undergirds the moments when life is less than ideal.

In that spirit, I created a permission slip to download, print, sign, and date.

BraveSchooler Permission Slip

You might try framing it! It is your commitment to yourself to live your happiest version of your homeschool—as best as you can, without guilt or doubt (of course you’ll want to look at the document when those assail you).

Share it with your friends. Let’s get a movement going of giving ourselves permission to be the kinds of home educators we most wish we were. At the end of the day, what we want to remember is the joy of our children’s company in the exploration of the wide world around us.

Download Your BraveSchooler Permission Slip!

If you do print and sign your permission slip, I want to see it! Post it on Brave Writer’s Instagram or Facebook accounts with the hashtags: #bravewriter #bwpermissionslip I’ll come congratulate you when you do!

The Homeschool Alliance

Obedience vs. Collaboration

Obedience vs. Collaboration

In all our fretting over how to raise kind, respectful children, the temptation is to double down on discipline—to require “instant obedience.” Even our dearly beloved Charlotte Mason talks about obedience as a core value in child-rearing, saying that a child who obeys promptly is a joy to his mother!

And indeed, if all those little rascals would just do what I ask when I ask it I would feel waves of joy—explosions of glee, wouldn’t you?

Most obedience systems rely on some kind of punishment to enforce them—be it, time outs or spanking or withholding of privileges (or even withholding smiles—I read that once!).

Charlotte puts a huge priority first on children being known as persons—respected for their current completeness (not immature adults in need of maturity before they deserve full respect). When she talks about a mother giving a command, Charlotte assumes that the parent has already given a child a chance to grow in a habit that takes into account the child’s current developmental stage. In other words, Charlotte believes in practicing a habit before expecting it to operate effectively.

Today, we call this interaction with children “collaboration.” Collaboration is the value that says:

“Together, we will secure a healthy, respectful relationship
while developing habits that help us meet our goals.”

Those goals are shared, not imposed.

Obedience is too often a synonym for “coercion” rather than “glad cooperation.”

Collaboration, as a value, allows us to take into account the child as person, and our unique vantage point as parents. We can first get to know what the child needs, address that need, and then work to create the conditions of partnership to achieve our goals.

It might look something like this:

On occasion, I need to go to Target. Often, my kids are playing video games when it’s time to leave. I’ve recognized that this is a challenging transition for my kids. So I talk to them about how sometimes they will be interrupted based on my need over theirs. I’ve asked them how we can make the transition smooth, and we decided together that a five minute warning would help.

So we practice (no Target shopping trip about to occur). I give a fake five minute warning and we find out if it is possible to wind up games in 5 minutes. Kids give their input. “Yep, that was plenty” or “No, I need 15 minutes of warning.” More practice.

When the real Target-trip-moment comes, instead of expecting the kids to hop up and put away their games the moment I’m ready to leave, I follow our solution: “In fifteen minutes, we’ll need to go. Now is a good time to get to a stopping place on your game.”

When you respect your children’s needs,
they are much more willing to respect yours.

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Usually when you’ve taken the time to be respectful of your children’s needs, they are much more willing to respect yours. It’s a dialogue, it is not solved once and for all, and it doesn’t mean perfect cooperation at all times. What collaboration provides is a two-way street—everyone aware that their behaviors impact others both adversely and positively. Negotiating how to sustain the positive is the goal.

Respect for personhood is essential. Just because the situation seems easy for me to solve with one idea doesn’t mean that idea works for everyone. Collaboration requires a tolerance for views that interfere with our own best ideas about the subject.

In a writing-editing relationship, we’ve found this to be profoundly true. You get the most writing from a child whose writing voice and ideas are respected and valued. Over time, as the child practices writing about what he or she values and has the pride and love of a parent, a time comes when a parent can ask for writing related to a subject that is important to the parent’s educational objectives for the child…and the child will be willing to comply.

Collaboration in other areas of life builds trust and cooperation that facilitates learning in others. Collaboration leads to the “peace” that Charlotte promised. In fact, in trusting respectful relationships, kids do sometimes simply hop right up when you call them and that experience really IS pleasing to the mother.

The Homeschool Alliance

Look at the Child

Blog Look at the child

One of the dangers of philosophical discussion is the hunger we all have for a turn-key method. We hope we can find a set of rules or practices that makes learning natural, magical, and practical. We want to have education be about happiness and ease, natural aptitude and hunger. We want to ensure that the natural method also fulfills state requirements or college application transcripts.

When we see boredom or loss of appetite or struggle, we doubt any method (any!).

Instead of looking at method, look at the child. By tuning in to your young person, you will be given the awareness you need. This is a moment by moment kind of parenting—not a “plan” for X child. Sometimes it feels nurturing to have someone else plan a lesson, sometimes it feels positively liberating to be free to pursue whatever it is that fascinates, and sometimes it is wonderful to join a class under the leadership of an expert.

If we move away from labels (relaxed schooling, unschooling, classical education, Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Project-based Learning, Brave Writer Lifestyle, textbooks, public school) and move toward the child (with our expanded understanding of education and learning based on the research we do for our own satisfaction), we will navigate the landscape of learning according to the map that the child gives us and have a wide variety of options to offer. We can move confidently between them because we aren’t trying to match someone else’s vision. We will instead be aware that it is up to us and our children to evaluate method and practice year by year, subject by subject, interest by interest, sometimes day by day.

When we recognize that learning happens all the time, when we see the whole wide world in all its variety as source material for a rich education, we change the tone of our relationship to education AND our children. To me, that’s its chief gift and one worth revisiting frequently.

The Homeschool Alliance

Meet Peter Elbow!

Meet Dr. Peter Elbow

[This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Brave Writer!]

My love affair with Dr. Peter Elbow started in the mid 1980s. My mother, a professional author, handed me his book Writing with Power as one of her chief sources of writing inspiration.

I got midway through the first chapter and my margin notes said things like, “Wait, that’s what I do!” and “I never realized other people wrote this way, too!”

Writing with Power put my writing life into words and identified the processes that came naturally to me. Even more, Peter Elbow gave me new ideas to test and new methods to aid me in expanding and exploring my mind life in writing. Writing with Power popularized the term “freewriting” and Peter’s work cascaded into a revolution of writing practices at all levels of the school system in the 1980s-1990s.

Over the ensuing decades, I’ve studied his writings eagerly adding to my “Elbow book shelf.” In 2000, after I published The Writer’s Jungle, I packed up the three ring binder and shipped it to Peter without pausing to consider the audacity of that move. Peter served as the head of the writing department as a professor at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I told him how his work had inspired me and shaped what I teach in Brave Writer. I thanked him for his ground-breaking ideas and the influence they had on me.

I never expected to hear back.

A month later, an email arrived from Peter! Imagine my shock (and anxiety). What if he thought I was a hack? Instead, the warm voice I had come to know in his books greeted me immediately. Peter thanked me for the manual and told me he was glad I was taking his ideas to the homeschooling market since he had no access to home educators. He liked what I had written. Satisfaction and a big confidence boost came along for the ride.

A few years later, Peter’s secretary contacted me and invited me to hear Peter speak at Miami of Ohio University. I couldn’t believe he even remembered who I was! I attended a writing workshop for professors as Peter’s guest, was seated in the front row, and got to spend time talking with Peter before and after the seminar.

We’ve since had a few email exchanges, including a recent one where I praised Vernacular Eloquence. The pattern had repeated itself. As I read his latest book, I discovered that what we do in Brave Writer is exactly what his writing theories set out to assert—only in this case, we were successfully practicing the principles long before he had completed his 7 year magnum opus! All I could think was how glad he’d be to know that his deepest, most sacred beliefs about writing and process and reader response were most effectively experienced in the home, not school. I couldn’t wait to tell him!

When I realized that I would be traveling to Seattle (where Peter and his wife, Cami, now live), I let him know. Peter invited me to lunch. Cindy and I joined him at his lovely home and followed the meal with a Periscope (live video) where he and I freely dialogued about our shared writing values and strategies. It is not an overstatement to say that spending time with Peter is on par with meeting Bono in person.

For me, Peter is my writing “rock star” and I feel privileged to know him and call him my friend! We played off one another, I learned more from him, he seemed genuinely interested in what we are doing in Brave Writer, and we laughed and laughed.

His most gratifying comment to me came after we turned off the camera.

Peter said, “I meant to say this while we were filming but we kept moving forward. You articulate many of my ideas even better than I have!”

I can now die happy.

Dr. Peter Elbow is 80 years old. His commitment to the writing process and to gently holding a writer’s self-expression while giving meaningful carefully worded responses to that writing is inspiring.

With this introduction, I give you my writing guru, Dr. Peter Elbow. (Yes, I gush, blush, and fawn like a fangirl.)

May you find new inspiration for how to support your children in becoming free, brave writers.

The conversation with Dr. Peter Elbow was recorded on Periscope.

Parallel Play!

Parallel Play

Parallel Play

Your stealth attack strategy
for catalyzing learning!

Watch the recorded Parallel Play webinar on YouTube (below) or on Facebook.

Then grab your FREE illustrated 12-page pdf download.


  • the benefits of parallel play
  • how to implement stealthy learning
  • encouragement in the process!