Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

Shifting the paradigm

Monday, October 12th, 2015

Shifting the paradigm

So the idea is this: rather than teach, lead. Rather than talk, act. Rather than following the curriculum or opening the book, express what it is you wish to be known.

The secret of a vibrant homeschool is not in a book. It’s you.

You are the secret weapon.

Gorgeous, compassionate, expressive, curious, smart, creative, determined YOU!

You don’t have to be a good teacher. In fact, it may help if you are not. It’s better if you are an enthusiast—someone for whom the feast of ideas is so compelling, you sneak time to follow up on the material you read to the kids to get the adult perspective. You are the best home educator when you can’t wait to make dinner because that’s when you park the kids in front of PBS to watch Arthur while you listen to Jane Austen on Audible.

This is the magic: the contagious energy that oozes from your engaged, fascinated mind! This is why home education actually works! It’s why you don’t need teacher training. Yes, you might learn something about how to impart the mechanics of writing or the formulas of math. Of course! But you don’t need to know how to give lectures or prepare worksheets or organize data into incremental chunks to be mastered through quizzes and grades.

You get to lead by passionate example. You get to care and share.

Your hunger to be the best home educator you can be (according to your lights) will take you a good long way. And all of us together will help you make it the rest of the way.

Deep breath—who you are? Enough! More than a generous plenty!

Image by Dhinal Chheda (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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Brain-Based Learning: Part Two

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Brain-Based Learning: Part Two

Home education is a free fall of faith into a kind of learning, more than a set of objectives. We are trusting that the connections our children make between academics and snuggles, gaming and the three R’s will yield such a good overall education, our children will be prepared for the adult world—taking their place as fully qualified adults. We may move between home education and co-ops, public and private schools, tutoring and online courses to achieve our ultimate goals. Yet no matter how the homeschool is configured and no matter which aids we supply to our efforts, the belief is that the foundations we lay in the home as a family will result in both academic and social success—long term.

Yet what happens for most of us is that we flail! We can’t tell if we are making the right kind of progress. We doubt ourselves nearly every step of the way. We front load lots of scheduled academic work, then we back off in favor of delight-directed learning…until one child never leaves the computer for a 24 hour period and we freak out again and go back to daily work pages.

Then we wonder: What works? What am I doing right? If anything? Worse—What am I doing wrong? Everything?

To calm the anxious heart of an educator, it helps to take a bird’s eye look at what it means to learn. That’s the crux of our quest—the horcrux of our quest, really! If we could understand that learning was actually happening, we could relax a little, trust a little, take a few risks with less of the “freak-out” factor.

In last week’s Periscopes, I suggested that we would understand learning better if we looked at the research about the brain—examining what it means to learn. Part One of the Brain-Based Learning Scope has been viewed over 800 times in less than a week. I think it must be resonating! Part Two picks up where Part One left off. Be sure to watch it first.

Also, check out these two websites (they are easy to read and understand):


Caine Learning

I also reference a specific 12 point model that can be found here.

If you step back from the curriculum hunt and understand the objectives of what you are really about—connections in the mind, cognitive development—you can look at what is happening in your home differently. You will focus less on whether you are “covering” the right stuff and more on whether it is taking root, catalyzing investigation, creating those important interconnections, and so on.

P.S. Received this fun comment from Brave Writer mom Venessa:


Thanks for giving these talks on Periscope. I followed at your link so I couldn’t respond but I wanted to share with you that my 11 year old daughter was in the room working and in her peripheral perception was following your talk. She said more than once “See!!!?! She’s right!” Especially for points 7,9, and 11! :)

Thanks again!

Enjoy the Scope, Brain-Based Learning: Part Two!

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The hidden side effects of “not liking writing”

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

Why not hating writing is important

One of the hidden side effects of “not liking writing” is “not liking self.” We don’t talk about it much. We think that resistance to writing is a resistance to school or hard work. We tend to believe our kids are being disobedient or lazy.

To “hate” writing as a child usually means the young person has not yet made the connection that what is going on inside is worthy of the page! Heck, many adults have yet to make that connection! The pervasive critique of mechanics and raw thought makes many would-be writers withdraw from public scrutiny.

When we accept the idea that children “hate writing,” we unwittingly turn off the tap to joy in learning. Writing is the chief expression of self in academic life. Even higher math requires explanation and proofs in writing.

Children want to be seen as successful, bright, and capable. If they risk their private thoughts, ideas, and flights of imagination and are met with judgment, they decide that learning itself is not worth the effort. By high school, some stuck writers have checked out of traditional education all together!

It doesn’t have to be this way!

The writing life lives inside your young writers right now—no matter how poor their punctuation, spelling, handwriting, and grammar.

The writing life lives inside your young writers now—no matter
how poor their punctuation, spelling, and grammar.

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They need to know that the writer inside is alive and well—that the mechanics of writing are a necessary challenge to be mastered over time, but not a referendum on the child’s success as a learner or writer.

You can do this for your child every time you value the writing risk. Hold the writing in your palm tenderly, with a look of love. Yes, even the writing that says, “I hate writing” and “This is dumb.”

Underneath those objections is a quieter cry: “What if what I put on paper makes your face look worried or disappointed? What will I do then?”

Start early—value the writing risk, love the child’s self expression, get as much of it to paper as possible, hold it as a sacred crystal vase—sturdy, beautiful, fragile. See the light refracted through it.

Work on mechanics as “no big deal” and “we all get there eventually” and “you don’t have to be a good speller to be a GREAT writer.”

Children raised this way see learning as open to them, and education as satisfying.

This is the gift you can give your children if you protect them from hating writing.

You can do this!

Image by Brave Writer mom Melissa

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The Enchanted Education

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

The Enchanted Education

What is being learned, exactly, when your kids walk with you on a trail in the woods?

What are they gaining when they lie on their backs on the trampoline, looking at the sky?

What’s educational about visiting Disneyland or the zoo with an annual pass?

Is there educational benefit to meandering through a farmer’s market or picnicking by a pond?

I remember days of enchantment. There was the afternoon my girls made fairies out of fabric and pipe cleaners. They created little houses out of leaves and sticks, and then planted the fairies in their homes in the nooks and crannies of tree branches and bushes.

Our little homeschool brood took trips to the art museum so frequently, each child had a favorite painting. The quiet, the color, the high ceilings, the Chihuly chandelier, the post cards in the gift shop… magical.

In those outings and experiences, time moved molasses slow, deliberately, peacefully (for the most part), with pleasure and focus.

The Enchanted EducationImage by Steven Depolo (cc cropped, tinted)

And yet…were these outings, these experiences ‘educational’?

I’m certainly not the first home educator to strip an event of magic through ‘adding information.’

Fairies? Here’s a book about the history of fairies. The act of making little houses isn’t enough. We need information to legitimize the craft. Let’s read, narrate, and discuss fairies, and then write about it.

The woods? Shouldn’t we pluck wild flowers (by name) or make bark tracings or compare birds to a field guide? We walk quietly, together. Is pleasure and fresh air enough? Surely not! Here—use these binoculars, draw this tree, note the temperature in your notebook.

Sometimes the most sacred moments in our days with our children
show no outward educational value.

We can’t quantify them. Books and records ruin the spirit—the shared purpose, invisible, intangible, yet felt by all.

The Enchanted EducationImage by Steven Depolo (cc cropped, tinted)

The enchanted education.
Collect these moments like treasures.

Set them on a shelf in your heart—the time you all soaked your tennis shoes in the tide pools; the trip to the frozen yogurt stand that led to sitting side-by-side on a wall in the sunshine, licking; the weekly visit to the zoo where the lions and tigers nearly became your family pets.

You can’t say or know what is being learned. You know it by heart, by feel, by love, by pleasure, by shared memory.

These little wisps of attentive focus without an intended program lay the rails for so much learning that is by the book. It’s just that you won’t always see the correlation—because this is a work happening on the interior, person by person, connection to connection, created through peace.

The threads of happiness and opportunity, creativity and exposure in outings and long stretches of focused attention forge connections, invisible to you. Education results.

The Enchanted Education. Trust it.

For more about an Enchanted Education, watch this Periscope Talk given live yesterday:

Top Image by Mikael Leppa (cc cropped, tinted, text added)

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Becoming comfortable with language

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Immersion into Written Language

Originally shared on the Brave Writer Lifestyle Facebook Group:

Think of teaching writing to your children in the same way you taught them to speak. You didn’t tell them to conjugate verbs or to use articles. Sometimes they even made attempts to get the right plural and “missed.” But over time, through exposure, modeling, and a little intentionality, they “got the hang” of speech.

Instruction after they were comfortable with spoken language created opportunities to teach your kids etiquette, how to introduce people, how to answer the phone (maybe!), and more.

Written language can work the same way. For instance, each of our Quiver Arrows focuses on language inductively—the passage suggesting the focus. You can certainly ask your children questions:

What is the dot at the end of the sentence?
Do you know its name?
What do you think it does?
What do you see in the word after every period?

Your kids’ answers may even surprise you and yield new ways of “seeing” what the sentence markings do.

The point is you don’t have to follow a systematic approach to written language any more than you did with speech. The goal in all the Arrows, etc. is to help you immerse—with your kids—noticing, commenting, exploring, playing with. Over time, your children will develop a sense of how it works through copying, dictation, and practice that is intuitively fluent (which is easier to sustain than memorizing rules).

Also, allow yourself to be led by your own curiosity and understanding. Some of the writing in our products IS for the parent—to help you grow in your own understanding of how language works and what are literary devices—to keep you aware and present to possibilities within the text. But if something doesn’t yet feel comfortable, you’ve got years with each child ahead of you. You’ll be circling back over these ideas again and again.

Sips—take sips.

Image by Africa Studio / Fotolia (text added)

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