Archive for the ‘BW products’ Category

Is Brave Writer a Complete Writing Program?

Is Brave Writer a Complete Writing Program?

Brave Writer is a complete writing and language arts program, not supplemental. The goal of what we do is to prepare kids to be competent, confident writers in a variety of settings, including academic contexts like college and beyond. We get there by beginning with writing voice and nurturing it so that a child discovers what it feels like to have something to say, something worth preserving on paper or on a computer. That self expression puts a child in touch with the part of self that generates original thought, accesses his or her vocabulary, and selects the best “container” for their writing (does this material suit a poem or a report, a letter or an academic essay?).

Where we differ from other programs is that we are not organized by grade level, but by developmental stages of growth in writing. We see writing in three categories:

  1. original writing (the process of generating original thought and putting that into the written word),
  2. the mechanics of writing (which we explore using living literature and the practices of copywork and dictation),
  3. and writing projects (bringing mechanics and thoughts together to create something—lapbook, mini report, a poster, textual criticism in an essay, research papers, and so on…).

The Writer’s Jungle is the primary manual that teaches both philosophy and process using a variety of activities and writing excursions. It is written to the homeschooling parent and is not a text book. Each chapter has a writing process to do with your child with samples and explanations about its application to the writing process.

The Wand, Arrow, and Boomerang offer a monthly literature guide focused on a single novel that is age appropriate. In these month-long guides you will find 4 weeks worth of copywork and dictation with detailed, user-friendly descriptions of the literary elements, grammar, spelling, and punctuation found in the passages.

The products like Jot it Down, Partnership Writing, Faltering Ownership and Help for High School are focused on writing products/projects. This is where we introduce forms for writing—but we get there differently than most writing programs. We focus first on

  • immersion in material,
  • developing original thought,
  • examining one’s own perspective against others,
  • and creating space for creativity (btw, creativity is just as necessary for a persuasive essay as it is for a poem).

Then we explore the convention of the form for writing and look at ways to apply it to the content generated by the student.

We take revision seriously—it is not just a process of correcting a few typos or spelling errors, or hunting in a thesaurus for a better term. Revision in Brave Writer is about giving new vision to the writing—engaging in a process of re-imagining the content—deepening and expanding it.

Our online classes cover all three aspects of writing: original thought, mechanics and literature, and writing forms.

It is possible to do only Brave Writer materials and classes for the entirety of your child’s childhood. That said, it’s also wise to give your kids the chance to write in additional contexts as well so that they experience how other people teach writing. I usually recommend including some other writing opportunities in high school (co-op, local junior college, working with another writing instructor) once the writing voice is strong and well formed. We do have a wide variety of writing coaches in Brave Writer, though, and that provides its own variety too.

I come from professional writing. What we do when we work with people aspiring to be writers is we stir up the writing life first.

We say: What do you have to say? Then we help them get that out.

Schools tend to say to students: Writing is difficult so I’m going to tell you exactly what to write and how.

In the school context, kids lose touch with having something to say and keep trying to figure out what the teacher wants to read.

In the professional context, the writer gets more and more in touch with having something to offer. That makes learning the various forms not only more interesting, but more powerful. The writing then sounds like them!

Adding one last thought about academic writing: I teach at the university level. What most professors complain about with college writing is that students know the formulas for writing but don’t have much skill with original thought or critical inquiry of texts. There’s a hunger among academics for students to break free of the rigid formulas and to connect with the discipline or the field.

In our high school writing classes, we do teach the academic forms, but we do so with a view to ensuring that our students generate insight first and that they learn how to do the rhetorical work of examining sources for credibility, understanding point of view, and learning to hold positions dispassionately.

Our students who have gone off to college and return to tell us about it have said that their professors often praise them for their original thought or that their writing sounds like them—not a formula. We use college composition principles and teach the MLA citation structures, but not at the expense of cultivating a writer’s rhetorical imagination. We do both. We just save that academic specificity for high school when the mind is more mature and ready to do that kind of work.

Curious about Brave Writer?

Early English Boomerang Collection

Early English Boomerang Collection

*NEW* Early English Collection of Boomerangs!

From the Mead-Hall to the Drawing-Room

6 Issue Set for $59.00
(Also sold individually)

With this special collection of Boomerangs, we offer you a guided tour of history-making classics from early English literature. The Boomerang is our literature guide that uses living literature to teach both the mechanics of writing as well as the wonderful content of the literature itself!

This particular collection is meant for high school and can satisfy half a credit toward a year’s course in literature. Most high school English programs require one year of British literature, a year of American, and a year of world literature. We’re happy to offer you this set of Boomerangs to help you fulfill that requirement.

You will receive all six issues at once. Or the Boomerangs can be purchased as single issues by clicking on the individual titles themselves.

Book List (books not included)

[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

  • Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
  • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • Sir Gawain translated by Simon Armitage
  • Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  • Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Purchase the books here.

Early English Boomerang Collection

What is the Boomerang?

The Boomerang is a digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context, using copywork and dictation. It is a language arts resource that equips you, the homeschooling parent, to fulfill your best intentions related to:

  • Spelling
  • Punctuation
  • Grammar
  • Literary elements
  • Quality living literature
  • Literary analysis

The practices of copywork and dictation teach your children the fundamentals of written communication. These practices naturally facilitate the development of accurate mechanics in the context of quality literature (the best words, in the best style, accurately edited).

Early English Boomerang Collection

Trees in the Forest: Day Five

Trees in the Forest: Connecting with Character

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I
Day Three: Bits & Pieces II
Day Four: Story Symbols

“You have helped ease my mind . . . Seeing you demonstrate that there are choices to be made in every passage is liberating. I see more clearly that we are laying a path. What that means is this: it’s a process!” —Tara, Homeschool Parent

Connecting with Characters is one of the chapters in our book, Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension.

Cartooning Characters is a strategy we explore in order to enrich understanding in a story. We readers are more likely to relate to a story’s theme when we relate to the story’s character. Cartooning is one step in Laying a Path to deeper comprehension.

In interpreting our character’s conflict and the stories themes, we begin to relate the story’s ideas to both the broader issues of the world and the narrower issues of our own lives. This is the definition of connecting with text and active reading: the ability to understand the writer’s themes, analyze how and why ideas are revealed, and to relate those ideas to our own lives and to all of humanity. Connecting with text is a tall order; all of us—children and adults—grow in these skills throughout our reading lives.

Helping readers develop a habit of making connections and analyzing text can happen at any age, especially when we capture and record our thoughts while reading. In our book we use the practice of copywork to help us capture and record our thoughts. We teach strategies to intentionally turn a story’s passage into a language arts study, taking a small bit of learning (a tree) and using it to gain understanding of literature (a forest). We call this in-depth study of copywork (the equivalent of studying a tree) Intentional Copywork.

Intentional Copywork must begin with comprehension—after all, understanding is a necessary first step in deep learning. I discovered in my Foundations class through Brave Writer that many families weren’t using the practice of copywork and dictation to its fullest, and therefore, either giving up or missing opportunities. Sometimes families assigned copywork, but didn’t realize their kids weren’t reading and understanding the chosen passage. Thus, part one in our Trees in the Forest Series gives various ideas for one aspect of language arts—comprehension—that can be used within a week of Intentional Copywork. Like our Cartooning Characters activity, we provide strategies that can be used again and again—all containing Bits and Pieces of writing.

Today we will add context to our cartoon. One way we add context is by engaging in copywork. We will add a quote from the story that seems to fit our cartoon. It might be a favorite quote, an oft repeated character line, or just something that tickles our fancy. The quote might illustrate the symbol or the theme. The quote might illustrate the conflict. It is the artist’s choice! But since the writing is going onto our week-long project, let’s write as neatly as we can. If you have a young or struggling writer, be sure to add lines for guidance.

Voila! We just gave our children a great reason to be neat in their copywork.

Lastly, we will add context to our story by drawing in the setting. Every story is told in its own little world. But story worlds are designed to help the reader relate the conflict and themes to two other worlds: the larger human world and the smaller world of our own lives. We use another activity in our book to help children make this connection, but Cartooning Characters is a great start.

If you haven’t already, download the free PDF to see how we encourage children to think about their character’s world, adding context through setting and quotations. We will add context to our drawing sheet that now contains all five days’ worth of activities. There is an example for your reference.

Over these five days, we have

  • explored a favorite character,
  • added our own thoughts with Bits and Pieces of writing,
  • identified conflicts,
  • discovered symbols and themes,
  • and added both the story’s content (quotes) and context (setting).

We began with a simple drawing, and ended with a complex character sketch! We gained insight and added our thoughts to the story. As we say in our book—without a reader’s response, there is no story.

Download our PDF, or continue with Day Five . . .

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Think deeply to write deeply. . . Geared to parents, educators and Speech Language Pathologists, this creative resource can be used to aid children in becoming lifelong readers and writers. Available in PDF or PRINT formats.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]

Rita Cevasco

Trees in the Forest: Day Four

Trees in the Forest: Story Symbols

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I
Day Three: Bits & Pieces II

“He was convinced you were going to ask him why he has trouble writing, so I think he was relieved when you talked about the brain and helping other kids (some who struggle more), allowing him to be honest about how he hates writing. Plus, you were so positive about his strengths and interests.” —Melissa, Homeschool Parent

Non-struggling readers and writers find it easier to match their writing skills to their thinking skills. They can achieve a flow from head (thoughts) to hand (writing on paper). Yet even those of us who easily flow from head to hand find writing in Bits and Pieces a great way to capture and stimulate our ideas.

Most children who struggle with reading and writing have perfectly wonderful thinking skills, but their writing skills cannot keep pace. For children who write more slowly than their thought process, Bits and Pieces of writing is a useful tool in helping them grow as independent writers. Bits and Pieces keeps the emphasis on their thoughts.

Lower output helps lower their struggle.

The Bits and Pieces of writing strategy also serves as a bridge from writing for your children to them writing independently. Even though we, as parents, applaud our children’s thinking skills, they become convinced of their abilities when they can write their ideas for themselves. In all things, kids believe real progress is defined by “I can do it myself”—from tying shoes to driving a car.

Cartooning Characters gives kids new ways to convey their ideas. This is empowering, especially since they are still learning how to analyze a story and interpret a writer’s message. Yesterday we gave attention to what our characters want. When we make personal connections with characters, we become more comfortable interpreting our character’s thoughts and desires. Once we understand our character’s thoughts and desires, our story’s conflict is revealed. As conflict is revealed, our story’s themes begin to rise to the surface.

One of the ways we gain insight into our story’s theme is by watching for symbolic language within a story. Today in Cartooning Characters, we will begin to identify our story’s symbols.

Some symbols are the result of the writer’s intentional efforts. Noticing these symbols, and the messages they represent, is important to understanding a story below the surface of the text. Other symbols occur in the head of the reader, based on personal experience. For instance, to some readers, a character’s car might represent socioeconomic standing or cool-factor, while others may disregard the car as unimportant. Some readers might resonate with a specific scene, so an item within that scene may be their choice to represent one of the story’s main ideas.

Remember: Symbols often point to themes. Recognizing themes in a story is easier when we identify not only the character’s conflict, as we explored yesterday, but also the story’s symbols, as we will explore today. Symbols are signs, so we want to imagine what our signs are saying. Like advertisements, they allow the writer to share the story’s sound-bites with us, the reader.

When we draw today with our children, we will look for symbols within our story, and then write a tag on the symbol to tell what the symbol signifies. Again, it may help to think about an important event in the story, and what items are in that scene. One of those items can become our symbol for important ideas in our character’s world. We will also create a sign for our character to carry—like a placard—broadcasting each character’s personal message to their world. We will again use Bits and Pieces of writing on signs and symbols to explore our story’s themes.

If you haven’t already, download the Cartooning Characters PDF to see how we encourage children to identify and interpret their character’s symbols. You will receive a packet that contains a blank drawing sheet, five days’ worth of activities labeled Day One through Day Five (each adding to the original drawing), and an example of Tracy’s completed cartoon for your reference.

We are on Day Four of the activity, so be sure to work up to that day. Tomorrow, we will give you insight into Day Five’s strategy. We will explain why the next step matters, so be sure to return to the blog. Spreading cartooning over many days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension (Volume 1)Think deeply to write deeply. . . Geared to parents, educators and Speech Language Pathologists, this creative resource can be used to aid children in becoming lifelong readers and writers. Available in PDF or PRINT formats.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Learn more at Rita’s website: Rooted in Language

Trees in the Forest: Day Three

Trees in the Forest: Bits and Pieces II

by Rita Cevasco and Tracy Molitors

Day One: Laying a Path
Day Two: Bits & Pieces I

“In light of having a very reluctant, older, dysgraphic child, I appreciate the information surrounding ways to entice, encourage, inspire, appreciate, and respect where he is at and where he hopes to go—even when he doesn’t have the faith that he can get there.” —Tara, Homeschool Parent

Bits and Pieces. Every bit of writing lays a stone on the path to more elaborate writing. Each word on paper is a necessary ingredient to helping a reader and writer see that they can write. Blank pages are intimidating, so filling a page with drawings surrounded by Bits and Pieces of writing is a means of Laying a Path. Stones are small steps, so we write in defined boxes and circles to encourage children to take another step. We respect each child’s current ability level, luring kids along with tender encouragement and care. Bits and Pieces of writing is a necessary ingredient for the struggling learner who needs even more encouragement and tinier steps.

Bits and Pieces of writing is good for all of us. All readers and writers, whether they struggle or not, grasp a story on a surface level, yet must grow in deeper understanding to comprehend below the surface of a story. Deep comprehension requires us to interpret not only how a character acts, but why a character acts or thinks a certain way. Not only what a story is about, but why a story is being told. Cartooning characters with Bits and Pieces of writing encourages all of us to answer why questions.

Today we are going to continue to add Bits and Pieces of writing to our character cartoon. Each day, each Bit will help our children elaborate on their understanding of both the character and the story’s meaning. Each Piece will help them get their words on paper.

No matter the age, kids can engage in some level of interpretation about what their character wants and what stands in the character’s way. This is known as conflict. As we engage in this activity with our children, we will notice that having general ideas about how a character thinks is far less demanding than writing what a character is thinking. Writing even a simple sentence requires us to capture our stray ideas and formulate them into one cogent thought.

By putting pen to paper, our children can see their thoughts in a new way. Written words are not fleeting: they remain in place and in time, giving children an opportunity to ponder. When re-reading our own words, our ideas are magnified, so our understanding solidifies. I have had students exclaim, “Oh, I get it!” after seeing their own words on paper. It seems that speaking our thoughts helps focus our lens, writing our thoughts brings a closer focus, then rereading our writing magnifies our ideas! Written interpretation has the power to deepen our comprehension and then inspire further insight.

Today our children will write in Bits and Pieces about their character’s conflict. We do this by taking on the character’s perspective and voice. We must think about the entire story, then converge on one single idea: “My character wants to . . .” In this way, we begin to identify the character’s conflict: what our character desires versus what or who stands in our character’s way. When you are done with today’s writing, have each family member read aloud what they have written; notice whether today’s writing leads our children to deeper insight and discussion about their character.

If you haven’t already, download Cartooning Characters to see how we encourage children to interpret their character’s problem. You will receive a packet that contains a blank drawing sheet, five days’ worth of activities labeled Day One through Day Five (each adding to the original drawing), and an example of Tracy’s completed cartoon for your reference.

We are on Day Three of the activity, so be sure to work up to that day. Tomorrow, we will give you insight into Day Four’s strategy. Each day we will give you insights into how and why the next step matters, so be sure to read along throughout the week. Spreading cartooning over many days allows us to revisit our character, each day digging deeper into our thoughts and writing a bit more.

DOWNLOAD Cartooning Characters


Trees in the Forest: Growing Readers and Writers through Deep Comprehension
by Rita Cevasco with Tracy Molitors

Think deeply to write deeply. . . Geared to parents, educators and Speech Language Pathologists, this creative resource can be used to aid children in becoming lifelong readers and writers. Available in PDF or PRINT formats.

For the digital PDF version:
Take $5.00 off at check out!
Enter Discount Code: RITA5

(expires January 31, 2017)

[This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. When you click on the link to make a purchase,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Live with Rita!

Rita CevascoIf you’ve been thinking of joining The Homeschool Alliance now would be a great time! Rita Cevasco will hold a LIVE web conference for Homeschool Alliance members Thursday, January 12th, from 4:00-6:00 PM EST!


Learn more at Rita’s website: Rooted in Language