Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

Meet Peter Elbow!

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Meet Dr. Peter Elbow

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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!

Wednesday, May 11th, 2016

Parallel Play

Parallel Play

Your stealth attack strategy
for catalyzing learning!

Watch today’s recorded webinar on Parallel Play on Facebook! Here’s the link.

Then grab your FREE illustrated 12-page pdf download.

Includes

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

Reflections: Warm Fond Feelings

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

Poetry Teatime

Shared on Facebook last night:

As I crawl into bed exhausted tonight, all of you will be on my mind. Today was an extraordinary day for me and our team, and I hope for all of you. As Jeannette and I discussed moments ago, the Poetry Teatime website is a labor of love. We have been captivated by a vision and it is extraordinary to see it come to life!

My heart is full. I feel a shift coming to the way homeschooling can be known and experienced. Homeschooling has, for too long, been about “doing it right” whether the “right doing” came from a rigid schoolish application of text books, or the totally radical version of unschooling.

For decades, homeschooling has been a defensive movement—trying to prove to nay-sayers that it has value, that it is not only as good as, but better than, the public and private school alternatives. That worry/anxiety was necessary in some ways. It caused home educators to take the educations of their children seriously and it gave them the courage to stare down the traditional educational establishment.

Today, though, it feels like we can move on. As homeschooling finds its footing in the mainstream, we can let go of the need to wear sandwich boards and ring bells. Instead, perhaps we can turn our attention to the heart of our homeschool hopes and trust them. And what are those?

Warmth between family members
Eager interest in any subject area

When these two experiences are natural to the family, learning flourishes. When either is absent, no amount of “right doing” fixes the stress and sadness that are beneath the daily drudgery.

Poetry Teatime is that sweet spot—the nexus of warmth and academics, family and learning.

It’s a model of sorts—a felt sense that can be remembered in the body (not just wished for in the mind). When you’ve experienced that deep dive into poetry and shared learning, you will want to find ways to bring that same spirit to other subjects. Your own idea of what it means to homeschool shifts—it’s not about hitting markers or filling in workbooks or passing tests.

It’s this other thing—the thing we thought we were signed up to do only didn’t know how.

Today—it feels like we fully opened the door to “The Enchanted Education.” Your first blush with enchantment may just be poetry teatime.

Enchantment is not the result of mom working hard to throw a party that the kids will like. Rather, enchantment shows up spontaneously—when we “set the table” and enter fully into the joy of whatever topic is before us.

The experience of enchantment, simply put, is happiness.

It’s my wish that homeschooling families would know happiness in all aspects of their lives together. Seems like poetry teatimes are a good place to start.

Thank you, again, for all the love today! It was a bit like a holiday for our team, because you made it so.

xo Julie

Poetry Teatime

What Enchanted Education is NOT

Monday, March 28th, 2016

What Enchanted Education is NOT

We’ve talked about what an Enchanted Education is.

Let’s look at what it is not.

Enchantment is not about Pinterest-worthy projects or crafts. The point is this: Academics are better received by children when the properties of surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure attend them. They are better mastered with some level of routine and measurable progress. The nexus of these elements is what creates and sustains momentum in the homeschool.

You can’t be all parties and you can’t be all workbooks. There needs to be some kind of mixture where the routine provides the sustained practice of academic growth, but the surprises and adventures lead to enthusiastic bursts and deeper dives.

Remember: enchantment can be eye contact, time alone with one child, adding a cookie to a math lesson, taking time to do the science experiment rather than just reading about it, reordering the day to accommodate a morning dress up time, laying on your bed to do copywork, sitting outside to read alone, playing with alphabet magnets on the refrigerator, watching a movie about history rather than reading about it, reading historical fiction, triangling in an expert, reading any book aloud, poetry with tea, staying up late to discuss politics on the bed of your teen, changing the tools to new ones (gel pens, iPad, writing on Post it Notes)…

The aim isn’t to create an arts and crafts homeschool, or even an elaborate series of spectacular events! (Remember: I’ve said I could only pull off one or two “parties” in a year, if that!)

The goal is to remember that for kids and teens, rote learning using pen and paper (abstraction) and receptive learning through reading text books is rarely enough to keep the enthusiasm high and the learning applied. Anyone can “enchant” learning because you have heart, connection to resources, and a home filled with space for exploration and coziness.

Take advantage of home (and for teens, take advantage of outside the home)! That’s your best way to think about enchantment.

Shared on BraveScopes

The Homeschool Alliance

This IS school

Thursday, February 4th, 2016

This IS school

Turn your child’s interests into real learning experiences! It doesn’t matter what the interests are–baseball, Minecraft, horses, Star Wars. Think outside the box! In fact, we had a conversation on the Brave Writer Lifestyle Facebook Group recently, and here’s an example of how it might be done with a child who loves gymnastics:

Gymnastics is fabulous! Go to the library, find a few books, make sure she is watching YouTube videos (you’ve got the Olympics coming this summer—find the top gymnasts in the world to research and watch NOW so she is prepared to love the in August). Have her figure out how to teach one tumbling trick to someone (you, sibling, her dad). Take notes. Create a “how to” for/with her.

Other activities to try:

  • Put tape on the floor that is the same width as a balance beam. Have her measure and draw it out and then tape it. Then try doing some beam movements (walking, leaping, one-foot turns, forward rolls). See how well she can stay “up” on the beam.
  • Draw gymnastics costumes. Create a template for a leotard (online I’m sure) and have her color hers in the way she wants it.
  • Look at flags from countries that have major gymnasts. Find the countries on a map.
  • Explore the scoring system used for each piece of equipment. Find examples of routines at different scoring levels (lots of math here!).

Is she a gymnast? Is she taking lessons? If not, take her to a gym to watch a class. Perhaps let her take a series of lessons. If she is, then have her watch a more advanced class.

This IS school—it’s everything you want to do with her at her age: reading, writing, calculating, physical education, even the science of gymnastics could be explored (bodies, injuries, physics of vaulting and uneven parallel bars, geography through world renowned gymnasts, Olympic history of gymnastic competitions). She can do copywork from a book about gymnastics or she can make a list of the top gymnasts or all the tricks she wants to master in tumbling…

Above all else: enjoy.

The Homeschool Alliance