Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

Are You New to Brave Writer?

Are You New to Brave Writer?

Welcome to Brave Writer! You made it. This is where the magic happens. We’re all about:

  • exploration,
  • curiosity,
  • taking it one thing at a time,
  • not having to know what to do yet,
  • figuring it out as you go,
  • and asking for help.

There are no right answers. There are only attempts to create your own rhythm, style, and routine. We’re here to help you find what works for you!

Brave Writer is a program of interconnecting parts. You can’t mess it up.

If you’re brand new to us, though, here are some blog posts, podcasts, and resources that might help you learn more about our philosophy and practices.

Have a Paradigm Shift

Get to know our educational philosophy. It is THE most important step in implementing the Brave Writer program in your home!

Learn about the Natural Stages of Growth in Writing

Discover which stage of writing your child is in. It’s much more effective to look at how writers grow naturally than to focus on scope and sequence, grade level, ages, or the types of writing that ought to be done in some “established sequence.”

Implement the Brave Writer Lifestyle

Take Brave Writer’s natural and lifestyle-oriented approach to living language arts and incorporate it into your family life.

Determine Which Products You Need

Decide which Brave Writer products will work for your unique homeschooling family.

Practice the One Thing Principle

Start with the product or idea that piques your curiosity or inspires you or seems to meet your need. Ignore the others for now.

Join the Community

The Homeschool Alliance

The Homeschool Alliance provides coaching from Stephanie Elms and me. It’s the one-stop Internet community sandbox for home education. We’ll do it together, one month at a time, one subject or child at a time, making sure that you can see and measure your progress.

Together we will build a community that supports your risk-taking choices, that applauds your successes, and empathizes with your struggles.

Braveschoolers Facebook Group

Our Braveschoolers group offers support from fellow homeschoolers as you allow your knowledge and intuition to guide you to what you need for your particular family.

The Homeschool Alliance

Which Brave Writer Products?

Which Brave Writer Products Do You Need?

Brave Writer is unlike other writing programs!

We don’t organize around grade level or writing format instruction.

Our products address writing in three ways:

  1. Original writing: learning how to express thoughts in writing.
  2. Writing mechanics and literature: using the practices of copywork and dictation drawn from literature to teach spelling, punctuation, grammar, literary elements, and writing craft.
  3. Writing projects: creating developmentally appropriate writing projects that combine original writing skill with mechanics aptitude (letters, reports, poems, essays, and so on).

You are free to mix and match these programs according to your needs. Please do!

Listen, I homeschooled five kids. I found it challenging to work with five levels at once. When I designed Brave Writer, I wanted to be sure parents could choose a program to use with all their kids—adapting it up or down a little depending on the academic center of gravity in the family. For instance, the Writing Project programs—Jot It Down! and Partnership Writing—are easy to adapt to ages between 3-12. Pick one, use it for everyone.

The Writer’s Jungle is written for parents and addresses the writing needs of kids between the ages of 8 and 18.

Our language arts programs can be purchased 10 at once when you buy our current year’s collection, or you can buy them one at a time (Arrow and Boomerang). With a big family, you might consider buying individual issues from a variety of levels using only one per month, rotating through them.

Brave Writer is oriented to you, the real homeschooling parent.

Use the guide below for more help!


Brave Writer Products

Would you like to use the Brave Writer in your homeschool but aren’t sure which products you need? This may help!

To become an effective writing coach

To facilitate original writing and create writing projects

  • DO-IT-YOURSELF: Freewriting! Also create your own writing projects (Appendix 1 in The Writer’s Jungle) or take the easy way out and use one of our writing project programs: Home Study Courses. Each course has ten or more writing projects in it to last you at least a year.
  • GET HELP: Sign up for an online writing class with our awesome writing coaches (who are also, by the way, homeschoolers like you!).

To combine literature with mechanics

  • CUSTOM-BUILD: Pick novels to read, select your own passages for copywork and dictation and apply the lessons of Chapter 1 (The Writer’s Jungle).
  • BRAVE WRITER CURATED: Pick one of our ten-month Language Arts Programs or purchase our language arts guides a la carte to go with the books you are already reading.
  • GRAMMAR: In addition to our tools, we recommend a supplementary grammar program (affiliate link) three times in your child’s life.
    • one year during the later elementary years,
    • one year in junior high,
    • and a foreign language or advanced grammar program in high school.

For homeschool continuing education and support for you

Also, sign up for our newsletter to stay current with what’s happening at Brave Writer!

Learn more about Brave Writer products

Reframe Their Resistance

Reframe their resistance

by Stephanie Hoffman Elms

The age old dilemma. Should we or should we not “give in” when we get a lot of resistance from our kids, especially in regards to school work? After all, if we don’t “make” them continue when they start complaining, then won’t we be rewarding them for that behavior? And if we “reward” the behavior, then won’t it just encourage it? Plus, don’t they have to learn that sometimes you just need to do things even if they don’t want to?

I will admit that when my kids were that age, I definitely erred on the side of “giving in” and now that they are 17 and 20, I am happy to say that the leap of faith paid off.

Here is what I found. Giving in did not mean throwing up my hands and giving up and letting them decide everything. What it did mean was that I recognized that resistance was their way of communicating that something was not working for them and that it was up to me, as the adult in the relationship, to try to better understand what that was. Yes, whining and complaining is a very immature form of communicating, but then again, kids are by definition immature!

Sometimes “giving in” took the form of just recognizing that an 8-year-old’s priorities and my priorities were naturally going to be different. Is it really that strange that an 8-year-old might not want to do all the school work that I deem is important? 😉

Reframing their resistance from them being stubborn or difficult or lazy to them being a typical 8-year-old little boy can open up lots of options that I might not have seen before…

  • can I shift around when we do things,
  • can I let something that is causing a lot of head butting go for right now (for both our sakes),
  • can I “add brownies” and find a way to make it more acceptable,
  • can I troubleshoot with him and see if he has any suggestions for making it work better?

The tricky thing with this approach is that it is one that takes a long-term view and does not always produce quick results. By focusing on our relationship, it turns things into an ongoing conversation and a series of experiments which might take awhile to hit on a workable solution. But it also makes life with my kids easier on the whole and more enjoyable (I just don’t have it in me to be the enforcer all the time!)

Contrary to worries that I had about reinforcing the resistance, the more that I demonstrated that I was willing to work with them, the more they became willing to work with me. I often shared that I really was not sure of what was the best thing to do…that I could understand where they were coming from, but still had my own concerns (which I shared with them) and we would go from there…sometimes giving what they wanted to do a try, sometimes me realizing that nope, I felt strongly enough about this to not want to give in this time.

Where this paid off was in the teen years. I joke that Jason listened to me way more as a teen than he ever did at 8 years old and that is the truth! Because I did my best to “give in” when I could when was younger, he did not get into the habit of pushing back against me. So as he got older and more mature, he started wanting and valuing my advice…he had learned to trust that I truly wanted to let him do what he wanted to do, so when I had concerns, he was more willing to listen.

It can feel like a huge leap of faith, though! Hoping my experience helps. I really worried about “creating a monster” (especially with Jason, my more intense, head strong kid) and there seems to be little support in much of the parenting advice out there in our society at large, so this is a topic I like talking about. I also wrote about this more on my blog: On Giving in to Our Children.


Stephanie Elms has homeschooled her two boys for ten+ years and is a coach for Brave Writer’s The Homeschool Alliance. She blogs at Throwing Marshmallows.

Implementing Brave Writer in Your Homeschool

Implementing Brave Writer in Your Homeschool

The goal of The Writer’s Jungle:

  • Read a chapter.
  • Do what’s in it.

Allow yourself to actually take the time to do the processes. Don’t hurry ahead. Trust that the process IS teaching. You want your kids to slowly build the ability to tune in to themselves and hook up the hand with the brain.

Each chapter in The Writer’s Jungle gives you something to do. Don’t run ahead. Focus on one chapter at a time. Skip the Preface (it is meant to be additional material that we added in 2005). Save it for later. Start with the core chapters (and Chapter 14 provides a nice overview).

For the Arrow—the process goes like this:

  • Read the book aloud.
  • Go at any pace that works for you.

Then each week, look at the passage for the week. Read it together. You can read it from The Arrow or in the book itself. You can read the notes I give you ahead of time and discuss them with your child in your own voice, or you can read them aloud. Whatever feels right to you. You don’t HAVE to cover every item in the notes. They are meant to slowly train YOU to see literary devices, grammar and spelling opportunities, punctuation and more.

You can zero in on one or two or all of them depending on your child. Discuss a little. Look at the passage and say (for instance): “Who sees periods?” They will point them out. Then ask, “Any other end marks?” They point to an exclamation point and a question mark. Ask: “How do they change how you read the sentences?” Then have them try reading the sentences in a row each one with a slightly different emphasis. Then use the notes to help you explain. Like that.

Next, your child will handwrite (copy) the passage—it might take all week, it might take a day. You can choose to then use the same passage for dictation or one of the other two methods on a day of your choosing. Read the Guidelines to get some insight into how to do that.

The WHOLE goal in the Arrow is to give you tools to help you bring the passage to life and to see it for its mechanics and literary value—while using copywork and dictation practices.

The Literary Element each month can be read and discussed and then experienced with the Writing Activity of the month (which should take about half a day). You aren’t going for some kind of mastery as much as conversational exposure and repetition until your kids SEE them themselves in writing and then eventually TRY them in their own writing.

Try not to overthink this. It is meant to be easy for you!

Think of it more like this: we are giving you notes (things to consider as you read). You don’t even have to master them yourself. Just consider. For instance, in The Green Ember we talk about affixes. You certainly don’t even need to use the name “affix” unless you want to. But what it you simply go back to the Week One passage and find any word that seems to have a little extra bit on it? The “un,” the “ly,” the “in” are all given to you to find. Look at the words. Think about them. Discuss how words are “built” like Lego. Like that.

Our goal is to give you things to look at, to talk about, to consider. Try to move away from “mastery” and “getting things done.” Allow the notes to give you pause and create moments of inquiry. Yes, you may not actually know these terms or categories! It’s like when I realized I didn’t understand multiplication or couldn’t remember how to divide fractions.

Take the time to think about the concepts so that YOU have a moment of transformation. If it feels like too much, just do that for one passage in a month. Let THAT be enough depth and simply copy the other passages. Like that.

Grow over time, allow the tools to be your guide, not your task-master.

Curious about Brave Writer?

You Want Them to Disagree with You

You Want Your Kids to Disagree with You

Trust me on this.

When you get that inevitable push back to your great ideas from one of your kids, the initial energy surge is, well, about like this:

“Wait, what? Why are you not cooperating with my genius plan for your life? If you simply do as I say, we will all be happier.”

Your “genius plan” includes a whole slew of practices and beliefs that wind up in disputes with your kids. You ask them to:

  • Wear shoes rather than slippers to the store
  • Hang up coats before they sit to watch TV
  • Agree that brushing teeth prevents cavities
  • Choose to go to bed before 3:00 am without nagging
  • Realize that the family can’t add two ferrets to the pet menagerie
  • Accept the family budget limits; no big dreams
  • Enjoy G rated films rather than PG and R films
  • Support the family politics and religious viewpoint
  • Date the right people
  • Eat the food the parent prepares even if the child doesn’t like it
  • Help around the house without ever being asked
  • Finish every book, even if the child loses interest
  • Complete assigned schoolwork without ever complaining
  • Suck it up when having a bad day
  • Reserve silliness for the “appropriate” times
  • Put on a jacket because it’s cold
  • Never argue with a sibling
  • Always show gratitude properly to everyone
  • Be polite, kind, and generous no matter what

… you can think of more.

These seem like perfectly reasonable requests of a child—until you see them in a list… And then, don’t they feel like a straight jacket of good manners and expectations rather than the organic growth of a human soul? Is it possible to be kind, polite, cooperative, and helpful all the time, every day, no matter what? Yet this is what we ask!

Kids know (intuitively) that they grow when they challenge authority, when they ask big questions, when they resist what doesn’t feel right to them. They push back not to make a parent’s life miserable. They push back to explore the boundaries of the ideas that inform the request.

For instance, why is it better to hang up a coat when you first get home rather than an hour later after watching TV? Is one choice morally superior? Is one action more necessary? According to whom?

If we pause and consider why a child resists our plan, we discover that a whole different calculus is at work. The child has different priorities—and these priorities make a natural, personally-arrived-at-sense for the child. The choice to “civilize” a child into the family standards can be experienced as stifling, as nonsensical, as irritating.

When kids have had too many commands in a day, sometimes the child simply picks the latest one to resist, “But why? Why does it matter when I hang up my coat?” This question feels like disrespect when in fact it is the self standing up and asking to be noticed.

We respond, “Don’t try to get out of it.”

We say, “Coats need to be hung up immediately or you will never do it and then I get stuck with the task.”

We chide: “I’m tired of your stubbornness.”

We give up: “Fine. Leave it out. See if I care.” (Except that we do.)

What’s needed is engagement! Think instead: Aha! There’s a child thinking, processing, wondering.

“Good question! I like it when we hang up coats because it keeps the house a little neater for me and I am a nicer mother when my field of vision isn’t cluttered with stuff. How do you see it?”

If we share our truth and then invite comment, we give our children a chance to witness our own priorities and how we came to them. We allow them to mull over their own. It’s so tempting to play parent rather than to connect!

When your child challenges the plan, pause and remember: This brilliant child of mine is using her mind, is exercising his will and choices. Draw them out—”Tell me more about why you believe tooth-brushing is a waste of time and doesn’t prevent cavities. I want to hear more about where you learned that and why you believe it.” Then really listen!

Big debates on topics of moral importance to your family go much better if you’ve cultivated a habit of listening to your child’s pushback in the early years over things like bedtimes, jacket wearing, and what to eat for dinner.

Children and teens become self-regulating when they are allowed to challenge parental regulation. Boom Right? How are they self regulating if we tell them what to do ALL the time? The only way they learn how to form their own priorities is if we take them seriously when they tell us what those are!

If a child isn’t polite or doesn’t say thank you? What happens? What does that child experience? Sometimes they need to find out through action, not blame and shame.

A child who wants to stay up until 3:00 am to play an online game with a friend in another time zone is creating a new life habit—going to bed later, sleeping in. Is it worth it to find out if this is a boon to that child’s happiness and thus life before considering it from a parent’s point of view? We’re so quick to say, “You’ll be too tired tomorrow. So no.”

Your kids grow in direct proportion to how well you allow them
to explore their own understanding of why they do what they do.

The more children get to expose and articulate their own thinking, the more power they have to create meaningful lives. They may not always side with your interpretation of what creates a great life, but they will be better able to negotiate with you when they know that you respect their efforts to communicate their own vision.

Next time one of your kids argues with you, stop and think: “This is great! I see a mind at work. I must be doing it right.”

Then enter into the conversation with curiosity and love.

Image by Catherine Murray / Fotolia


For Coaching and Support
Join The Homeschool Alliance