Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

Catching up with Peter Elbow

Catching up with Peter Elbow

Peter Elbow is one of our favorite people here at Brave Writer! His ideas and published works about writing have greatly influenced our philosophy and practices.

Although he does not take credit for creating the idea of freewriting, Dr. Elbow has helped to popularize the practice and bring it further into the public consciousness, for which we are very grateful. Freewriting is an essential component of the Brave Writer Lifestyle (check out our writing prompts every Friday!).

Dr. Elbow has a helpful website, which hosts a vast amount of information and resources including:

Take a look around the site and hopefully you’ll end up as big a fan of Dr. Elbow as we are. And while you’re at it, watch our interview with Dr. Elbow from 2016!


Sign up for our free writing lessons: Freewriting Frenzy

The Preciousness of Life

The Preciousness of Life

This August we’re reading Station Eleven in our Boomerang Book Club (the book club for teens). Written by a Canadian homeschooler (Emily St. John Mandel), it was a national book award finalist.

The story is about a post-pandemic world where not enough people survive to sustain life as we currently know it—no one to ship our goods across oceans, no one to run the power grid, no one to drill for oil and turn it into petroleum, no more harvesting of crops, no running water, and so on… The modern world grinds to a halt. The remnant population is forced to hunt and scavenge in the ruins of the 21st century.

I read this book last August, in fact. It so moved me, I wept openly on a plane, amazed at the miracle of flight—that I had been born in a time and place where transcontinental travel was taken for granted, that even my tray and cupholder were perfectly designed and formed: a delight to use. A miracle!

All year, I’ve lived with that feeling—that we have lost touch with just how incredible it is to be alive now, in this moment aware of all the moments that came before and able to take full advantage of all that we offer each other now.

It’s taken all ten thousand years and billions of human beings to create every single taken-for-granted item and service we live with daily—to be at a point where travel, telecommunications, and agriculture make life on our planet comfortable, productive, and stupendously amazing!

The overnight news of rising tensions between the US and North Korea (I’ll admit) freaked me out. I’m amped on adrenaline and the old 1970s fear of nuclear holocaust (only so much more aware of what that really means) has returned with a vicious vengeance. I found myself wishing I were already dead—I don’t want to be alive when nuclear holocaust comes. Honestly.

It struck me as prescient really that we are reading this book about a kind of post-apocalyptic world as a community this month.

It’s an illusion to think that tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will be here waiting to be enjoyed or faced.

The luxury of the illusion of time allows us to be cranky, to be careless with our attitudes and words, to assume that an opulence of time allows us to mistreat one another knowing we can make up for it whenever we want to—some other day we can be kind, understanding, gentle, tender. Today, we’ll be moody, irritable, annoyed.

Yet today is a miracle—that you and I are still here, still sipping coffee, listening to music written by someone we’ll never meet, piped to us by machines the size of a pocket in a pair of jeans fueled by energy whose source is every bit as mysterious as a witch doctor’s incantation.

I’m typing my thoughts and they will instantly transmit to every corner of the globe through no effort of mine.

All of this astonishing achievement can be snatched from us in a moment—a careless, angry, ego-laden move by a national leader designed to protect one set of interests against another.

The real danger of our interconnected, startlingly brilliant 21st century world IS our interdependence—the collective need to collaborate rather than compete. Our nationality, our ethnicity, our geography hold us hostage. “Survival of the fittest” no longer works. To make it, we must partner and care about each other’s welfare as we do our own.

It starts at home. Today.

No more going nuclear on our kids, on our spouses.

No more permitting them to go nuclear on us.

It feels like we don’t have time to be cruel. I remember a friend saying years ago when faced with awfulness, to respond in the opposite spirit. It occurred to me tonight that in light of the international tension, we can flip the script at home.

It’s time to take time in hand and hold it gently, with reverence, sharing love with those we love, being kind and considerate. There’s no time to waste. This is it.

Be Good to You: Self Care Practices for the Homeschooling Parent

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.”

Determine Which Products You Need

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

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. And for a start, do our 7-Day Writing Blitz! It will give you a feel for how the Brave Writer Lifestyle might look in your home.

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 our 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 of 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.
  • In addition to our tools, you might also use a supplementary grammar reference (like Nitty Gritty Grammar) in the elementary years and then a more systematic program (we recommend Winston Grammar) once in junior high and once in high school (or learn a foreign language).

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.