Archive for the ‘Brave Writer Philosophy’ Category

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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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:

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

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