Archive for the ‘Julie’s Life’ Category

Failure

We fail our children when we blame them for not learning.

It snuck up on me when I didn’t expect it. I had successfully home educated my kids into readers for years—and then Caitrin didn’t read. She didn’t read, and she didn’t read, and she didn’t read. This child who had been writing since 4 years old—lengthy volumes of cryptograms, flowing loops across a page, odd mixtures of capital letters and lowercase in assorted arrangements—didn’t read. She wrote, not words, exactly. Though not, not words, either. She warned us: “Do not open my notebooks. They are secret.”

Of course they were. Her notebooks were filled with marks on a page that represented real thoughts.

Caitrin thought as she wrote. That’s the essence of writing—hooking up the brain and hand so that the thoughts of the mind travel down an arm into the hand and out onto the page. Was it her fault that she hadn’t cracked the code of word-creation so that others could also read her transcribed mind life?

She was my number five child. The other four were reading and writing. She was just writing.

I tried the phonics programs I had used with the other kids. Letter-sound. Repeat.

I was deluded multiple times into thinking she had broken through, only to discover that Caitrin had simply used her superior memory to store entire books, word for word, in her mind to recite back to us as though she was reading—although in hind-sight, that IS a kind of reading. Matching the visuals, the sentence length to her memory and following the pagination, is all a part of literacy.

A new book would stump her. She stumbled over words like “all” and “the.”

My exasperation boiled over too many times—I exclaimed: “You already know how to read this!” as though that was true. As though she was holding out on me for some unknown reason. As though she enjoyed being a disappointment to me.

We’re so crazy sometimes—the way we believe our kids deliberately wet the bed to spite us (I believed that), that they refuse to apply what we know they know in math just to be ornery (it couldn’t be possible that what they learned yesterday wasn’t quite stored well enough to reproduce it today), that they hate spelling and so deliberately waste time using the wrong spellings in their writing when they know better because…well I don’t know why they would do that honestly, but it sure pisses us off when they do it!

It’s as if our yardstick for growth—academic growth—is tied up in how well we’ve taught them. When they fail to apply what we believe we have taught, it’s such a blow! It’s even worse if we trusted the notion that we could “back off” only to see that they haven’t budged in any direction of progress. We fall into the double panic of “I’m behind!” and “It’s too late!” The failure isn’t theirs—it’s ours. The anger, the fear, the frustration, the doubt—that is all about us.

Kids just do what they do. They remember sometimes and they forget. They are still encoding the properties of reading, writing, mathematics, and a worldview, one moment at a time. Fluency in any of these is on a distant shore called adulthood and they can’t even see an outline of it when they’re 10. All they have is today and that’s all that matters.

Meanwhile Caitrin wasn’t reading at ages 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9. Please count how many years that is. That’s 5 years. F-I-V-E years.

After four other kids were already reading.

I’ve written before about how she tripped the wire into reading. She was almost ten and once she crossed the threshold, she went right into chapter books and today is a linguistics major in college.

Rather what I wanted to share today is the damage it does to our kids and to ourselves when our focus is on failure rather than on the child. Failure twists us into unkind, anxious, uptight people who lose access to our inspiration, insight, patience, curiosity, and generosity.

Our kids want to please us because they live to be known by us. (Don’t you still want your dad to be proud of you, or for your mom to ‘get’ you?) How much more is this true when your children share square footage with you?

The failure isn’t reading or not reading, spelling or not spelling. The failure is in the disappointment you feel that your child has not lived up to her end of the homeschool bargain by being the learner you need her to be in order to feel good about yourself.

In other words: you fail your child when you blame the child for not learning.

Fortunately there’s a fantastically simple solution to this painful experience.

Turn up the volume on curiosity, kindness, and support.

Run to your child. Turn up the volume on curiosity, kindness, and support. Believe what your child tells you (reading is hard, math is dumb, I hate spelling). Start there. Share your own struggles (remember the times when you weren’t believed, when you found a learning moment really challenging, when someone blamed you for not knowing when you really didn’t know).

Then tell your child you are on the same team and you will work on this together until you both find a solution that brings about the critical epiphany for learning to leap forward…as it invariably does.

Your success hinges on your loving commitment
to your child’s well being,
not their ability to prove to you that they are educated.

Caitrin read at nearly age 10, when I stopped worrying about reading and instead focused on the amazing world of languages and lettering and sounds. We became partners in playing with the Greek alphabet and sounding out. Something clicked. In a family of readers, sounding out had felt beneath her. Once she understood its value, she read.

My victory wasn’t in the reading. It was in letting go of my panic about failing as a parent and home educator.

The Homeschool Alliance

YouTube Thursday: Books I Love

Some of Julie Bogart's favorite books

Whenever you read a good book,
somewhere in the world
a door opens
to allow in more light.

–Vera Nazarian

Here are books I love! The criteria I used for choosing the titles: Did the book fit a critical moment in my life? Did it suit me for some unique reason?

In the scope below I share the books and the unique reasons. Enjoy!

Books Shared

A big thank you to Angela of Nurtured Roots for jotting these down!

[This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting Brave Writer.]

Shadow of the Moon by M. M. Kaye
I Remember Nothing by Nora Ephron
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Drawing on the Artist Within by Betty Edwards
I Hate Mathematics by Marilyn Burns
Nitty Gritty Grammar by Edith Fine and Judith Josephson
More Nitty Gritty Grammar by Edith Fine and Judith Josephson
The Tea Party Book by Lucille Recht Penner
The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield
Clues to Acting Shakespeare by Wesley Vari Tassel
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Writing with Power by Peter Elbow
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Otherwise by Jane Kenyon
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore
Close Range by Annie Proulx (short stories)
Siblings without Rivalry by Adele Faber
Everything Bad is Good for You by Steven Johnson (good to read with teenagers)
Poems New and Collected by Wislawa Szymborska
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster

The Homeschool Alliance

Homeschooling & Marriage Podcast

Podcast with Leslie Gustafson

I’m excited to introduce you to my good friend (and sorority sister, ha!)

Leslie Gustafson!

Leslie’s worked as a marriage and family therapist for over 25 years and is a homeschooling mother of a teenage son. She regularly appears on the Fox Morning show in Denver Colorado sharing relationship advice for couples.

Because so many have asked me for help with how to keep your marriage thriving while dedicated to homeschooling your kids, I thought I’d bring in an expert! Leslie is a wonderful communicator, has fantastic advice, and has eagerly participated in our Brave Writer Community as a member of our Facebook pages and on Periscope.

Leslie regularly scopes about marriage with her husband (The Amazing Intimacy Show), and also hosts a regular scope series called “Ask the Therapist” where she takes questions from the audience that help you heal brokenness and grow as a person.

Have you wondered about any of these?

  • How do you share a homeschool vision without conflict?
  • What should you do when you and your spouse don’t see eye-to-eye?
  • What about romance? Is it even possible while homeschooling?
  • How can the non-homeschool parent get involved?
  • What does it mean to be partners (rather than adversaries)?
  • When is school-worry legit and when is it unhelpful control?

In the following podcast, you’ll learn strategies for how to address these kinds of issues and more. And yes: I share about my experiences as well. As you’ve come to expect, I tell you the truth—the good, the bad, and the dysfunctional!

Thanks for listening to our podcast despite the poor audio. We had to scramble the day of the event due to some technological fails. This is the best we could do, but consider the conversation a gold mine of amazing insight and advice. Hope you’ll hang in there, listen, and enjoy!

Follow Leslie in these places

Facebook.com/AuthenticTrue
Twitter.com/LeslieGustafson
Snapchat: @ldgustafson
Instagram: LeslieGustafson1
Persicope.TV/LeslieGustafson

Gold Star Story

Karen O'Connor

At the recent Brave Writer staff retreat, our instructors were asked to share their history with writing. Karen O’Connor (Write for Fun classes) told us this inspiring account.

Gold Star Story

by Karen O’Connor

“I sold it! I sold my article for kids,” I called into the bright morning sky from the balcony overlooking our backyard. “I am now a professional writer! And I can prove it,” I added waving the publisher’s check with giddy abandon.

Three birds perched on the telephone line overhead flapped their wings in a sudden flurry. “Thank you. Thank you,” I joked and bowed from the waist. The ‘applause’ died down and my feathered friends rested at attention. “It’s all up from here,” I shouted, and off they flew, self-appointed messengers of my glad tidings.

I leaned against the railing and breathed in the scent of spring. It was a solemn moment–and a grateful one. This was the ‘gold star’ I had reached for since I left the tender care of Sister Mary Pius, fourth grade teacher at Our Lady of Charity Elementary School. I could still picture that sweet old nun–not much taller than the boys and girls in front of her–pinning my prize-winning story to the bulletin board in the back of the room one sunny April day. “This is a gold-star story,” she said aloud, as she licked the small glittery sticker and placed it above the title line for all to see.

ON MY WAY

After school that day she called me to her desk, and in a tone that sounded serious to my little-girl ears, she said, “Karen, you’re going to be a professional writer someday.”

Then her eyes sparkled like the star on my story. She leaned forward and a soft smile broke across her wrinkled face. “That star,” she said, pointing in the direction of the bulletin board, “is just the first of many to come. Reach for those stars. Write the words God gives you.”

The whistle of the teakettle brought me out of my reverie and I stepped back inside my house. I sat down with a cup of Mint Medley, my thoughts and memories, the letter of acceptance from the editor of Crusader Magazine, a copy of my ‘sold’ manuscript, “A Trail of Tips for First-Time Campers,” and the check–for $12.50! I didn’t know what was ahead but I couldn’t imagine anything topping the wonder I felt in that moment. “It’s all up from here,” I reminded myself.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was that to go up requires a lot more than simply hitching your dream to a star. Though it felt good to have my head in the clouds for a moment or two of celebration, I would soon discover that to earn the next gold star I had to plant my feet firmly on the ground. Even to go underground for a time–to learn my craft, to unearth the thoughts and ideas that are worth writing about, to mine my soul for the words God had for me, to experiment, to think.

And so I carried on bravely practicing, learning, and submitting my writing, selling articles and books and also receiving rejections from time to time. But that’s all part of the process of becoming a ‘brave writer’ for a lifetime.

Karen O'Connor with her granddaughter
With my granddaughter Mairin, age 18, at her high school graduation party.
I helped her with writing during a stretch of homeschooling in her early years.

Karen O’Connor is an award-winning author and speaker from Watsonville, California and teaches Write for Fun 1 and Write for Fun 2 for Brave Writer.

YouTube Videos: The Bogart Kids

YouTube videos: The Bogart KidsFrom left to right: Caitrin, Liam, Jacob, Johannah, Noah

It’s YouTube Thursday! The scopes released today feature the Bogart kids! Homeschool projects they did over the years are shared and then Noah, Liam, and Johannah are featured in broadcasts. There are also cameo appearances by Jacob and Caitrin. Enjoy!

Show & Tell: 17 Years of Great Successes and Epic Fails

Table Top Games with Noah

Here’s a list of all the suggested games!

You are the Blueprint PLUS Liam Talks about Video Gaming

Johannah and Noah: A Conversation about Homeschool

This periscope is in podcast form and can be listened to here.

And though Jacob and Caitrin have yet to be featured on Periscope, you can catch a glimpse of them at the end of the video where Cindy and the Brave Writer community shared a big surprise!

What on earth?! I’m being ambushed by Cindy!

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