Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

I’m so proud of home educators

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

Power of story- Jen

From a recent e-newsletter:

We read aloud to our children each day, fulfilling this basic “requirement” that our kids get an education from quality literature often not aware of how deep that education goes just from reading Redwall (again) or The Wind in the Willows. I don’t know if we (as a group) have plumbed the depths of how powerful all that reading is. In fact, I daresay that we mostly have not!

How many of us have associated the pleasure of Trumpet of the Swan with furnishing academic brilliance?

Yet this is precisely what is happening in living rooms strewn with Legos across the country (and globe). Home educators are doing a greater service for their children and the aims of education through the simple practice of immersing themselves in story each day than any other single practice.

You’re providing the education academics DREAM of providing.

Did you know that STORY is the foundation of a quality liberal arts education?

Rudyard Kipling says:

“If history were taught in the form of stories,
it would never be forgotten.”

Story as Education

Narratives, tales, myths, legends, fictions–the ability to see the story
in any subject area is the heart of a sophisticated, multi-faceted education.

Here’s why.

Academics like to talk a lot about the “imagination”–the capacity to imagine oneself into other times and places, cultures and worldviews, value sets and moral dilemmas.

Your child’s academic imagination grows
in direct relation to immersion in story.

Reading aloud, reading fiction, reading poetry, reading biographies, reading non-fiction, reading religious texts: Reading leads to a robust exploration of what it means to be human, sharing a planet.

Story also comes from other sources: film, video games, plays, documentaries, lectures, sermons, artwork, music, and television.

What homeschoolers do better than any other educational tool is plunge their children into the heart of STORY, every day:

narrative,
plot,
characters,
perspectives,
experiences,
moral dilemmas,
enriching cultural detail,
other times, other places, other worlds!

You’re great at it!

As we give our children this gift of STORY from the rocking chair or cuddled on a couch, we create connections in our children’s minds that resurface again and again. Charlotte Mason calls these connections: “The Science of Relations.” In Brave Writer, we call them: “Powerful Associations.”

Modern day stories that make use of ancient mythology are resonant for active readers (Percy Jackson books, Harry Potter, Hunger Games). Historical fiction shows us the world before we arrived and gives us context for our every day experiences (Johnny Tremain, The Master Puppeteer, The Bronze Bow).

Cross-cultural exploration through story shrinks the globe
and creates empathic ties to people who are different from us.

One of my favorite professors (40+ years as a professor, Harvard Ph.D.) said to me last week that what’s missing in too many of today’s in-coming college freshmen is the capacity to imagine richly–with texture, openness, and connection between subjects. Reading and writing in the humanities, in particular, depend on a complex intuitive understanding of the narrative arc:

what creates surprise,
the nature of viewpoint,
power dynamics,
moral right and wrong as they are funneled through lived experiences and confronted by characters/actors through dilemmas,
the underlying mythology of the narrative.

Moral Imagination

One of the core curriculum classes at Xavier University is called “Literature and the Moral Imagination.” The goal of that class is not dissimilar to what you all do every day you read aloud to your children. You are shaping your children’s understanding of morality, intuitively, without lecture. Your kids are forming their values through confronting the moral dilemmas faced by beloved characters!

As I spoke with Professor Dewey, I shared about what we do in Brave Writer. We offer classes that are designed to plunge our children into the juicy soul of STORY.

We not only read Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, we ask our students to write them!

We not only enjoy Greek Myths, we explore them for their structure and ask students to produce their own fictional accounts of Gods and Goddesses they create!

Dr. Dewey was thrilled, saying that he wished all schools did this for children.

We’re not just “creative writing” here at Brave Writer.

Our story writing classes offer your students a pathway to
intellectual excellence and moral development.

Hope you’ll take advantage of them!

Just So Stories ClassJust so stories

Every child wonders how our array of extraordinary animals came to be! Why did the rhino get a big horn on his nose? How did the kangaroo wind up with a built-in pouch for babies? Whose idea were those flamboyant feathers in the peacock’s tail?

Rudyard Kipling playfully recounts tales he told his children when they were small about the origins of many animal peculiarities. He makes use of his own literary style to do it (musical language, rhyme, nonsense words, and magical powers). After reading four of these tales together, students in our Just So Stories class get to write their own.

You know what else? One Tuition pays for ALL your kids class! Imagine working with everyone on one writing project for one price! We enroll you, the parent, along with your kids.

By the end of the month, you’ll have conquered a complete writing project for all the writers in your family, and September will barely be over!

Image of child reading by Brave Writer mom Jen

For Email Marketing you can trust

Do the math!

Monday, June 15th, 2015

How to plan for the upcoming school year and keep your sanity

As your “I’m so done with this year; so now I’ll think about next year” brain kicks in, let’s help it to plan in a sane way! The temptation is major overhaul and doubling down on the subjects that got short shrift this year.

Writing is often in that category. You look back at the scraps of freewriting and the incomplete report that your daughter wrote, but never copied over and you resolve to not let THAT happen again.

So you begin. You plan to have each child complete a single project per month, the way I tell you to. Or so you think.

Brave Writer DOES recommend that you only complete a single writing project per month. We know that it’s important not to rush through the writing process, to allow time for research and revision. This once-a-month scheme sounds sane compared to curricula that suggest writing an essay every week, or a paragraph a day including drafting and revision!

However, what if you have five kids (like I did)? What if all five are capable of writing?

Let’s do the math. There are ten months in a school year. Five kids. Each doing one writing project per month. Even I can make that calculation: 50 writing projects, in a single school year.

Ha!

Do you think I supervised successfully 50 writing projects in a year? Do you think any home educator is supporting the production of 50 completed writing projects at five different levels in a single school year?

I’m here to tell you: we are not. I talk to home educators all the time. What leaks out in their moments of desperate confession is that they fear they are not doing enough writing. Some are not doing any writing, because of the paralysis that results from staring at a curriculum that requires even MORE writing than ten projects per child in a year.

So here’s my rule of thumb.

You want each of your kids to experience your hand-holding, super kind, invested involvement in one or two big writing projects per year

  • where they have a start (original draft, freewrite, list, notes, dictated narration to you),
  • a middle (rereading, adding new stuff, research, taking out stuff that doesn’t fit),
  • and an end (editing the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, typing it up, reading it to interested readers),
  • all accompanied by your availability and caring.

The rest of the time, attempt lots and lots of writing projects or pursue lots and lots of writing opportunities. It’s totally fine to, for instance, start any writing project in our materials and NEVER finish it! Maybe the meat of the project was simply attempting, or collecting, or getting an initial draft, or working through the research but never writing. Maybe the fantasy of the project was enough—talking about what it could be, or what your child wished he or she could do. Kids are developing—they are not complete themselves. Sometimes you have to have lots of fantasies about what you might be able to do some day before you get the cajones and courage to try!

Maybe you decide to do a group writing project where one kid does the artwork and another does the writing and a third edits it and lays it out on the computer. That counts! For everyone!

Freewriting weekly is a great practice and never requires revision, unless you and the child want to.

Reading books, playing with words, watching TV, language games, poetry tea times, listening to books on CD, memorizing song lyrics, telling jokes, leaving Post-it Notes with love messages on the doors of bedrooms, having Big Juicy Conversations, going to the movies…

This ALL counts as writing program.

You can certainly work through a writing project or two from start to finish with your kids this year (with each one)—and it will be enough if you actually do it and trust that it IS enough. Too often in our defeat, we give up completely or do a half job and then entertain ourselves with guilt.

Give up the guilt. Plan to get through the process with your kids 1-2 times a year (more is a wonderful bonus—and I promise, as you get better at supporting the complete writing process, it will be easier to do and more enticing). Not only that, as your kids understand the writing process, they will need you less!

So let’s get realistic about the coming year.

Lots of writing and reading and word play and conversations.

Some fantasizing, starting and stopping, trying and abandoning of writing projects.

A few start-to-finish supported writing project completions.

Okay?

You got this.

Image by Anssi Koskinen (cc cropped)

For Email Marketing you can trust

Returning to the Brave Writer philosophy for high school

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

More than a language arts program

Brave Writer mom, Dona, writes (and emphasis is ours):

Dear Julie,

We started homeschooling in January of 2002. I remember feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders as I began the journey of educating our children at home. In some areas I felt competent; in others completely incompetent. Writing was one of those terribly incompetent areas. We tried many different curricula, as well as me just making up writing assignments (oh, my, that was disastrous!). With each attempt I felt like I was alienating my child from the world of writing. I wasn’t much of a writer in school at any level; my undergrad and grad degrees are in a scientific field and my writing was rather bland. I wanted my children to learn how to write and write well. None was working.

Finally when Kimberly, our oldest, was 10 years old, I found you. We signed up for Kidswrite Basic and my eyes were opened to writing like never before. I watched my daughter flourish and begin to like to write. The feedback that you and your teachers give these children is so valuable in drawing out the writer in each of them. You teach them the power of words and language through real literature, their own experiences and by teaching them to observe the world they live in. You are rigorous and hold these kids to high standards, but in such a supportive environment that the kids succeed.

One of the greatest aspects of your classroom is the fact that each student can read the work of all the other students and see the teacher’s feedback. My children have learned about what works and what doesn’t work by reading so many other pieces of writing with feedback. I remember always wanting to see my peer’s work to understand where I fell in the spectrum and to see if I could learn more from others. It was often very difficult to get this kind of information unless my close friends were willing to share. Brave Writer is so much more than a language arts program; it is a philosophy that can be applied across the board…

The high school thing scares me, I’ll admit! Why? I don’t know for sure… I was in a foreign country in a foreign school during my HS years, don’t have a HS diploma, but managed just fine in college and grad school. I’m looking for a much more relaxed atmosphere here in our home. This year, everybody has been glued to the computer all day, tied to strict deadlines in everything. Kimberly thrives on this environment. I’m comfortable with her finishing here next year; she had 2 years of HS at home with a different atmosphere.

Nicole on the other hand, has lost any zeal for learning and is just checking off boxes. Part of online school she likes… interacting with the other kids. But the schedule is killing her. Her passion is her goats. We are just barely into building a real show herd. She has learned so much about the goats and is the best midwife ever! She knows how to go in and find legs that are coming out and arrange them to come out and pull. For her, studying out of a book doesn’t cut it. She needs hands on, an apprenticeship would be so good for her. Why don’t we have apprenticeships for HS aged kids? Why do we have to sit in a classroom or at the kitchen table to learn everything? I am not sure how to fashion a learning environment for her that could lead her to where she wants to be; possibly an American Dairy Goat Association judge, maybe an animal science degree, maybe vet tech or vet school. She isn’t motivated enough yet to do all the tedious study required to be accepted at vet school. I want to restore her love her learning. At the same time I’m afraid I won’t prepare her for college if that’s where she intends to go. I personally don’t think college is the end all be all and it may not be for her. Her father thinks otherwise, though. Mind you, he is very supportive of homeschooling, but believes all paths must lead to college.

I’ve been reading your posts and been feeling nudged to make changes; return to the Brave Writer philosophy I love so much. I’m trying to think out of the box, but that is hard for me! It would sure be nice to toss ideas around with you and those who really know how to do it. I want to bring back Tuesday Teatime, more reading together and still be able to prepare my kids for college if that’s where they are headed. I’m having a difficult time wrapping my brain around how to accomplish this. Is the ACT really the only factor for most schools if you don’t have a HS diploma? We can teach to the test, study for it and probably do well on it. Kimberly has done very well on the ACT. Do we have to have a transcript?

Sallie just finished Kidswrite Intermediate with you. She absolutely loved the class! She is sold on Brave Writer. I need to figure out what my “out of the box” is so I can be prepared for her and the 2 boys who follow her! Sallie loves to write and I don’t want to intimidate her or squash that love at all. She loves reading your daily writing tips. I’d like her to take Expository Essay next fall or winter. Do you think she is ready for that? Would that be your recommendation for her next course?

Julie, thank you so much for all you do. I’ve told you before, but I’ll tell you again… you are a presence in our home in a way that no other homeschooling influence has ever been. I feel like you are our friend and I so appreciate you! Thanks for listening!

Sincerely,
Dona

Thank you so much for your wonderful kind words of feedback! They mean a lot.

A few things occurred to me:

1) The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewelyn is fabulous for helping you think about things like apprenticeships, preparing for college in a more unschooling natural learning format. So get that. Cafi Cohen’s What About College? is also excellent (affiliate links).

2) Colleges LOVE unique experiences. They see transcript after transcript of AP courses and GPAs. They are far more impressed by stuff a child pursues independently. Noah put Klingon on his transcript for college and they counted it! He spent years immersed in constructed languages and supplied his reading list. They waived his second year of foreign language and second year of science due to that (he attends University of Cincinnati). Remember: becoming a cool person is far more interesting to colleges than ticking off the boxes. You have to do a certain amount of that, but it’s not the only thing.

3) The Expository Essay class would be great for Sallie. She can take it now or in the fall. Either.

4) College is important but it’s also expensive. I made the mistake of paying for Noah when he wasn’t ready. He quit for 3 years and is back now paying for it himself. Liam is not yet decided about college (18, done with high school) so he’s going to Europe for a month just to get out of the tedium of work and life here. He needs to have a new experience so he’s getting one. I told him I won’t pay for college until he knows he’s ready and wants to go.

This is an okay way to live. There’s no rule here that says they have to be ready at 18. Your daughter could be looking at places to work with goats. Why not? Is there a way to become a goat midwife? Or could she be a goat midwife blogger who photographs and records difficult births, regular births etc.?

Caitrin (16) kept a fashion blog for an entire year (13-14). She shopped at thrift stores and wore a completely new outfit every day. We took photographs each day and she wrote a description of the pieces, where they came from, and witty remarks. She subscribed to Vogue, Elle, W and other fashion magazines all year.

It’s good to fulfill basic high school requirements and to be “prepared” for the option of college, but you don’t want to shortchange the chance to do amazing things! This is the time for it.

My oldest two kids were in a Shakespeare Acting company in high school, btw, as one of their “big things.”

I hope that helps a little. You’ve been a wonderful family to work with over the years!

Julie

Image by Pat Pilon (cc cropped, text added)

For Email Marketing you can trust

The myth of the “dream of constant okayness”

Monday, April 6th, 2015

The myth of the 'dream of constant okayness'

Pema Chodron writes:

“Our discomfort arises from all our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness.”

No matter what my worldview has been, no matter how well I work out the right principles (for parenting, the cosmos, home education, self improvement, intimate relationships), I’m repeatedly surprised to find that other factors I haven’t considered interrupt my “dream of constant okayness.” I want control so badly—I want to be assured of outcomes, to be known as conscientious, faithful, intentional, self-aware, and open. I want to know that those in my circle of influence feel heard, valued, trusted, upheld, and supported.

I put all my energy into living that kind of life—the one that is examined, the one worth living.

And still unexpected waves of confusion, complexity, suffering, and pain find their way to me and my loved ones. Even as I try to make peace with the less than ideal, my peace is assaulted again. Even my attempts to “be okay” with not being okay are foiled.

I can’t stay there—even the awareness that it’s important to accept life on its own terms is one that comes and goes. I can’t pin it down and cling to it either.

If life is like that, how much more is something as uncertain as home education?! We are continually revising our efforts, revisiting old ideas, adopting new ones, testing curricula and philosophies. Even as we find a rhythm, someone gets sick or someone ages out of the wonderful plan or we get bored.

The way forward is acceptance of this fractured lifestyle—the one that never quite gets up and running consistently, predictably, with clear results evident to us when we need them.

One way I help myself is to say: “So this erupted and I’m freaking out. To be expected.”

Then I have the full freak out! I don’t try to thwart it—I just feel it, completely, right down to spilling all my anxiety on the most willing party in my life. I get to work meeting the demands of this new moment as best I can. I have to remind myself that I’ve been in a pickle before and have gotten out of it, and that I will again. I also remind myself that no peace is lasting and so here is that moment without peace (which means—huzzah!—that peace will return to overcome this “no peace” place).

The “dream of constant okayness” is the message sold to us in advertising, spirituality, education, and relationships. It’s a myth.

As Pema concludes, we long for “freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human.” Yet in our lived experience, we rarely stay there.

Real life is as unnerving as you experience it to be—which is how it is and is supposed to be. Which is a-okay. Ultimately.

Image by Kevin Cole (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

For Email Marketing you can trust

Is it confusing? Is it difficult? Are you worried?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Is it confusing? Is it difficult? Are you worried?

Good. Means you’re doing it right. Means you want to do it right. Means you’re evaluating and considering, caring and revising.

How can you possibly find the right program and not ever reconsider?

How can you teach high school math when you found it impossible yourself?

Why wouldn’t you worry about your socially awkward tween or your dyslexic 2nd grader or your moody 16 year old?

Of course you’re tired—anxious, weary, feeling alone.

You have assigned yourself an enormous task—the complete education of your precious children, without having done any training, without any certainty that you can do it. You live in a petri dish of your own making—hoping that if you bring together the right ingredients with your children, an educated person will emerge and contribute to the world.

Even more—there are no guarantees your children will thank you for the herculean effort you are making on their behalf. They may grow up, go to college, marry, and say, “Heck no! I’m putting my own kids in school.” What then? Will that feel like you somehow failed them?

So, yes. You worry. Some days you feel overwhelmed and sad—wondering if this is how homeschool is supposed to feel. You want joy, natural learning, enthusiasm to explore the wide open world. You hope to see ties form between bickering children, and you want to feel close to your teens as they move away from you into their inevitable independence.

Will you do a good enough job? Will your kids agree?

Yes, this is how it is supposed to feel. Lean into it. As long as you homeschool, some doubt will ride sidecar to all the good you do every day. Not every decision will pan out, not every day will show fruit, not every effort will be worthwhile.

Yet if you stick with it, if you make adjustments that are considerate of your children as they are (as they show themselves to you), over time (cumulatively), your children will receive an education that suits them to adult life.

Doubt, worry, confusion, anxiety—as long as these are not swamping you (preventing you from doing the work of home education), they are simply conditions that go with the territory.

Keep going. Keep trying. Keep expanding your options.

Once in a while pause—admire how far you’ve come, how many things you’ve learned, how much you know now about education that you didn’t know when you started. Remind yourself that you are still learning and will know even more in another year! How grand is that!?

You’re okay now. Just as you are. Breathe.

Image © Uptall | Dreamstime.com

For Email Marketing you can trust