A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Movie Wednesday: Singin’ in the Rain

Singin in the Rain“Singin’ in the Rain” in the Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Image by Sam Howzit (cc)

by Brave Writer alum, Kyriana Lynch

Singin’ in the Rain, the classic musical starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor, was released over sixty years ago in 1952. Since then, it has become a household name as much as “bacon and eggs” (to quote the film).

The trivia about the film is abundant and oh-so-fascinating. Watch—or re-watch—the movie with the family, and discuss the trivia together!

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds was only 19 when she began filming this movie, and it was her first major film. Prior to Singin’ in the Rain, she was a gymnast and had no dance training.

Gene Kelly, a notorious perfectionist, criticized Reynolds’ dancing ability repeatedly while filming. One day, after some harsh words, she hid beneath a piano to cry. In a twist of Hollywood fate, she was found hiding by none other than Fred Astaire, who gave her some dancing advice.

During the “Good Morning” dance number, she kept up with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor for fourteen hours of dancing, only to be carried off set with bleeding feet. Later, Kelly would say of her, “Debbie was strong as an ox and could work for hours.” However, Reynolds maintained that, “The two hardest things I ever did in my life are childbirth and ‘Singin’ In the Rain’.”

Gene Kelly

Debbie Reynolds wasn’t the only dancer having difficulties in the film. Even Gene Kelly struggled through filming the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” scene. The scene took seven days to film, with six hours spent in the fake rain each day. Not only was the water mixed with milk to make it show better on camera, but the mixture made Kelly’s suit shrink. Even worse, the whole time while filming Kelly had a cold and a high fever.

Donald O’Connor

Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” dance has been described as one of the most complex numbers in cinematic history, and has never been repeated perfectly. After working himself to exhaustion filming the number, O’Connor was forced to rest for several days. Then, he learned that the film had been damaged. O’Connor had to record the entire scene all over again!

Other Trivia from the Movie

While recording the speaking voice for “The Dancing Cavalier,” it was decided that Debbie Reynolds’ speaking voice was not rich enough. Instead, the actress for Lina Lamont, Jean Hagen—who in reality had a beautiful voice—recorded the speaking voice in the scene. So in the film, Lina was dubbing Kathy who was dubbing Lina’s voice!

An initial idea for the ending featured Lina Lamont in a movie called “Jungle Princess,” where she would speak only in grunts. Also, she and Cosmo would have married.

Only two songs were written for the film: “Moses Supposes” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” The other songs were all taken from previous MGM films. Thus, the screenwriters were given a list of songs and had to connect them into the script for the movie.

Hope you enjoyed learning these trivial tidbits! Do any of them change how you view the movie or the actors and actresses in it? Discuss your reactions with your family!

Need help commenting meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing? Check out our eleven page guide, Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. Also, tell us about a film you and your kids watched together (along with a pic if you have one) and if we share it on the blog you’ll receive a free copy!

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Tuesday Teatime: Makes everything better

Tuesday Teatime_JenniferWhen we have tea it is usually with our breakfast. (Notice the crazy bed hair in the pic.) We enjoy powdered doughnuts, and pastries. We do read poetry at times, but this is often when we choose to do our daily read aloud.

The funny thing is that I really intend this to be for my 10 year old, but it’s my 5 year old that begs for tea time! She wants to have tea everyday. I recently went on a family vacation and came across the most beautiful tea set in a little gift shop. I bought it to add to our excitement. Tea time has been such a fun addition to our schooling.

Tea and snacks make everything even better.


Image (cc)

Want to start your own Poetry Teatime? Here’s how.

Would you like your family featured on Tuesday Teatime? Email us your teatime photos with a few lines about your experience (put “Teatime” in the subject line)! If we select your photo to post then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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Top 10 Myths about Writing

Top Ten Myths

1. Writing is entirely different from speech

Not so. Speech is the source of voice—writing voice comes from being in touch with how the writer generates language and insight. These are first experienced in speech and then modified and expanded for writing. Valuing speech (even jotting some of it down for your fledgling writers) helps kids learn to value their thought lives, which in turn helps them to know what should be on the page/screen. Tell your kids that what is in their heads, what they might say aloud IS what you want to see on their papers. Once it’s there, you can mess with it.

2. Formats help kids know what and how to write.

Nope. Formats act like straight jackets. They tell children too quickly what can’t be included. Formats require a well planned outline and the ability to hold sequence and detail in the mind before writing anything at all. The best use of formats is after a period of freewriting and revising (revising the content to make it pop or feel more complete). Then the sentences can be rearranged to suit a format. But start with freedom and revise to format. Never start with format.

3. Write every day.

My revision of this idea is: Interact with writing every day. Some days read it, some days copy it in your own hand, some days use bits for dictation or word play, some days play a word game, some days revise a draft, some days edit a revised draft. And, of course, on some days, write from scratch! It’s exhausting to come up with original thought through original language every single day. Don’t require that of your kids. Engage language every day and they’ll be just fine.

4. Imitate the masters.

Imitation is challenging for 4th graders. And 12 year olds. And grown ups! The pressure to “outdo Aesop” is unnecessary. Read the masters. Use their quotable quotes for copywork and dictation. Allow their writing styles to naturally infiltrate your own. But do not deliberately try to write like your favorites (except for fun, fan fiction, or as a language play tool). You want to sound like YOU in your writing, but you also don’t mind if you pick up a bit of a JK Rowling accent or a little EB White on the side.

5. Use a thesaurus to enhance the vocabulary in a piece.

Please don’t do this for more than a word or two (best to use the thesaurus when you are trying to replace a term that repeats itself). Instead, when you see a word that is weak, consider replacing not just the word, but the sentence. Add detail, include an experience, expand the idea, create an analogy. Weak writing is not improved by better vocabulary. It is improved by more writing.

6. Adverbs add a layer of sophistication (the old “ly” words).

The best stylists advise removing every word that ends in “ly.” The use of adverbs is seen as “lazy writing.” For instance, “Instantly, she jumped from her seat.” The jumping is already an expression of “instantaneous action.” Delete the adverb, add power: “She jumped from her seat!” In academic writing, “ly” words can be covers for an explanation of the fact. “The study positively shows the effects of the drug.” Better to make it clear—are the effects positive or is the study reliable? “The study shows that the effects of the drug are positive when taken with x, y, and z” or “The study showcases the effects of the drug by using hard data, not only anecdotes.” To review: weed out adverbs to enhance the power of your writing. Ask yourself: “What do I want to say with this adverb?” Then say it!

7. There is no place for “I” in academic writing.

Not so! Ever since the revolution of postmodernity in the academy, the humanities (in particular) allow writers to indicate their “social location” (to explain who they are and how they relate to the topic for writing, if relevant). It is commonly understood today that writers bring bias and personal experience to their research. It’s important to be explicit about how those biases and experiences impact the writer’s position. The use of “I” is limited to writing about personal experience, not used for “I think” or “I believe” writing.

8. If you paraphrase, you don’t have to cite where the idea comes from.

Reverse the sentence. Paraphrasing requires citation just like direct quotes require citation. Always give credit—you can’t overdo it.

9. To grow as a writer, start your day by journaling.

Journaling is not necessary for growth in writing. Writing is. Any kind of writing. Facebook, twitter, texting, papers, stories, and journaling. The only people who should keep a journal are those who wish to. Journaling need not be done in the morning, either (what’s happened in the day to write about by 9:00a.m.?). Journaling before bed is a nicer time to record the day’s thoughts. Journaling only about special occasions, or when life is painful is equally valid to the “daily diary.” Let journaling be the individual’s choice.

10. Do not help your child write; it all must come from him/her.

This is my favorite myth to bust! No child learned to speak in isolation or without scripts given to that child to repeat. Likewise, it is entirely too challenging for children to go from barely reading and handwriting to transcribing their own thoughts all the time. It’s perfectly fine for you to jot things down for them, or to dictate their own words back to them as they write, or for the final product to be a mixture of your words and theirs. This is how every other practice in a child’s life happens—your help until they can do it alone. Writing works the same way.

Go forth and support good writing practices!

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Friday Freewrite: Risk Assessment

BLM Eastern States Connects America’s Heroes with Public LandsImage by Bureau of Land Management

Lots of activities come with some amount of danger. How do you decide if something is worth the risk?

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It’s the process baby!

Johannah and Noah Vintage Dance 1Johannah and Noah attending a Vintage Dance

Repeat after me: process, not product.

“Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” –Charlotte Mason

Let’s notice what Charlotte did not say.

She did not say:

“Education is meeting the requirements of the Common Core.”

She did not say:

“Education is the successful achievement of degrees—first high school, then college, then graduate school if you have a TRUE education.”

She also did not say:

“Education is mastering Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.”

Moreover, she did not say:

“Education is what someone does to you by teaching Important Information through tests and grades.”

Instead, Charlotte tells us to take our eyes off “end points” and to focus on creating a rich life through shaping the atmosphere (environment), through discipline (intentionality—being conscious of learning opportunities, creating them, acting on them), through life itself (the process of being alive is our best classroom).

You are on the right track when you get off track and focus instead on the feel of your home and family vibe. Ensure that people feel heard, loved, and that their dreams and hopes matter (can be achieved).

You’re on the right track when you ebb and flow—some weeks making a “course of study” a priority in a systematic way, other weeks learning as you go guided by curiosity and enthusiasm.

You’re on the right track when you see all of life as your classroom—that the conversation about recycling plastic bags over bagels at breakfast is as important as the math pages completed before lunch.

No one “arrives” at an end point: Time stamp—EDUCATED.

Rather, we have intermittent markers that let us pause to appreciate this new place (graduated, finished a book, learned to read, understood a principle and can use it). The purpose of education, though, is to LIVE a LIFE—not to idolize the mastery of facts, figures, and theories.

That’s why I return to this mantra: It’s the process, baby. If you can let go of your need to match the state’s expectations, or your schoolish memories, or the pressure of your very academic classical homeschool community, or the stringent requirements of some important university, you can surf the waves of learning as they roll onto your shores.

Johannah and Noah Vintage Dance 3For example:

You’ll feel freer to put Vintage Dance Lessons (and distributing flyers every Monday for three hours in the snow with kids along for the ride to pay for them) ahead of history for that one six months period. The learning is in all of it—the lessons, being with adults, the history of dance, the bartering work to pay for the lessons, the music, being in the cultural center of our local community, borrowing the fancy gown for the ball, participating in the ball, watching Jane Austen films over and over again to see which dances they are performing and which ones are being learned at class, manners, exercise, being paired with a sibling and learning to work together and love each other through it…

Atmosphere: dance lessons, with adults, people who are passionate about preserving historical dance.

Discipline: weekly lessons, must memorize steps and practice, weekly distribution of flyers to pay for lessons.

Life: siblings dancing together, community supplying costumes for ball, family attending the ball to see how the two students mastered the dances, attending rehearsals with all five kids, distributing flyers with all five kids to pay for two kids, watching and learning by being in the room with the dancers, being a family that loved Vintage Dance.


Did dance go on a single transcript anywhere? No. Yet Vintage Dance still ranks as one of our top educational experiences during the homeschooling years. AND no one still dances! The kids moved on…because it’s the process, baby. Onto the next atmosphere, discipline, and life.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Movie Wednesday: Anne of Green Gables

Green Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, CanadaGreen Gables Heritage Place, Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada. Image by Robert Linsdell (cc)

Brave Writer alum, Kyriana Lynch writes:

One of the most delightful movies from my childhood is the film series Anne of Green Gables.

At the beginning of this four-hour saga, the protagonist Anne is a spunky redheaded eleven-year-old orphan. She possesses a dreamy nature and is forever imagining things. She wishes her name was Cordelia, insists that her name should be spelled with an “e,” and abhors her red hair.

As she grows older in the story, from a child of eleven to a grown-up young lady about to begin her first job as a schoolteacher in Avonlea, she comes to accept her own appearance yet still retains her wonderful imagination and childlike faith in the beauty of the world.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the film:

“My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes. That’s a sentence I read once and I say it over to comfort myself in these times that try the soul.”

“Tell me what you know about yourself.”

“Well, it really isn’t worth telling, Mrs. Cadbury, but if you let me tell you what I imagine about myself you’d find it a lot more interesting.”

“I wish I were rich and I could spend the whole summer at a hotel, eating ice cream and chicken salad.”

“You know something, Diana? We are rich. We have sixteen years to our credit, and we both have wonderful imaginations. We should be as happy as queens.”

“I promise I’ll never do it again. That’s the one good thing about me—I never do the same wrong thing twice.”

“There’s a world of difference between being called crow-head and being called carrots. I shall never forgive Gilbert Blythe. The iron has entered my soul, Diana. My mind is made up; my red hair is a curse.”

“Marilla, I thought nothing could be as bad as red hair. Green is ten times worse.”

Anne of Green Gables is truly a wonderful movie to watch with the whole family. If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it from the library (or, better yet, buy it to view again and again) and set aside a rainy afternoon to watch the movie. You’ll fall in love with Anne and her sweet sayings and hilarious adventures!

Anne of Green Gables (affiliate link) is a Canadian television mini-series released in 1985. Directed by Kevin Sullivan, Anne of Green Gables is set at the end of the Victorian Era in the early 1900s. It was filmed where its author, Lucy Maude Montgomery, set the original novel—on the scenic Prince Edward Island in Canada.

Need help commenting meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing? Check out our eleven page guide, Brave Writer Goes to the Movies. Also, tell us about a film you and your kids watched together (along with a pic if you have one) and if we share it on the blog you’ll receive a free copy!

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Tuesday Teatime: No age limit

Tuesday Teatime Jennifer

I’ve been obsessing over the Brave Writer website this week… I’m anxious for my children to be old enough to dive in. (My oldest is in kindergarten.) Thankfully, tea and poetry knows no age limits. My 2 year old daughter was in heaven getting to use Mommy’s fancy china. I can’t wait to start scouring my favorite thrift stores for fun cups and saucers and teapots. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a wonderful family tradition. Thank you for the encouragement!!


Image (cc)

Want to start your own Poetry Teatime? Here’s how.

Would you like your family featured on Tuesday Teatime? Email us your teatime photos with a few lines about your experience (put “Teatime” in the subject line)! If we select your photo to post then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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Retreat Recap!

Brave Writer Retreat_2014
The weekend with our 54 Brave Mamas was amazing. It meant a great deal to me to see a long-held private vision of what a homeschool weekend event should be come to fruition. New friendships formed, shared ideas, time to rest and reflect, no dishes to clean up or restaurants to seek out, lectures combined with discussion and sharing in pairs and small groups, beautiful grounds, a lovely town adjacent… It seems we accomplished our mission—to train, inspire, reassure, and give rest to our intrepid homeschooling parents.

The most common question put to me as women left was, “Will you do this again next year? I want to bring…”

So naturally the googling for a larger retreat space started.

The biggest take away from the retreat for me: We parents are doing an incredibly courageous thing when we take on the 12 year educational task of one child, let alone 2, 4, or 7! We don’t know where we’re going when we start, we don’t know what it means to teach or understand developmental stages of growth, we have no yardsticks to measure our progress, or colleagues to meet with in the “teacher’s lounge.”

This solo act is done purely out of love. Home educators cling to a vision of what a lifestyle of learning could be, might be, ought to be! They spend their much-needed vacation time and money on better understanding how to do this task, rather than dipping their toes in turquoise blue water, sipping a pineapple daiquiri.

I’m moved by the audacity of the commitment, and the resolve of beleaguered, uncertain, hopeful parents (in this case—mothers!) who keep going, even when they are exhausted, in pain, or can’t see the fruit of all that investment.

I could see the fruit, though—the happy stories, the unrelenting care, the creative solutions, the trudging ahead, the adapting to teens and toddlers, the attempts to consider all options… This is what success looks like when you are still in the trenches.

It was an honor to share the weekend with these women.

Here’s a little collection of memories from the retreat. If you were there or weren’t, this will give you a visual over view. Thanks to our awesome videographer, Jim Sutter, and photographer, Dotty Christensen.

Cross-posted on facebook.

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Friday Freewrite: Independence

A Little HelpImage by Jenn Durfey (cc)

In the United States, we are celebrating “Independence Day” – the day that the US colonies declared their independence from the rule of England. What is “independence”? Can a country, a person, or a business operate completely independently? Is there such a thing as “total independence”? Explain your thoughts.

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Today’s little unspoken homeschool secret

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-secret-concept-word-appearing-behind-torn-brown-paper-image39071492The secret: After X years, we all homeschool a little worse than we used to.

The number varies. For some, 4-5 years is the threshold. For others, it takes getting the first one through high school and then the doldrums follow.

The older kids get the benefit of your eager energy and boundless curiosity.

You hope the younger kids get the benefit of your experience, but sometimes they get the tedium of your boredom.

Where you once drew maps of the Native American hunting grounds to help your older children learn about early American history, your younger kids are left to read a book by themselves.

Where seeing the oldest child read was akin to the first time she held her head up by herself, by the last child of six, you worry that it will never happen. You are weary of sounding out. It feels so slow.

You’re not alone. All educators go through dry spells. The creative well runs dry after years of drawing from it. You can’t get to “new” or “imaginative” through repeating what you’ve always done.

It matters that you reset the dial and that comes through a few deliberate choices:

Take real time off.

It’s easy to “sorta school” all summer. You feel badly that you didn’t finish some book or topic during the year so you tell yourself you will “sorta” work on it off and on all summer (math, reading, writing). Then you kind of try to do a little of it once in a while, feeling guilty for not hitting it harder. Perhaps you never get to it and so instead of a rest, you simply slather yourself with guilt like suntan oil. No matter what, you don’t successfully purge the guilt by your half-hearted efforts. What you are feeling (and need) is a genuine break!

Take one. Don’t push any specific subject. Be with your kids in free, new ways. Play games, go to the pool, take walks, do all the arts and crafts you never did during the year, have friends over, go to museums or the zoo. Put the books away.

Get away on your own.

Difficult to do if you have babies, but you can take the baby with you. Go away for a whole day, if you can. Make it a day that revives you: art museum without kids, library, beach, delightful cafe for a yummy salad, nature preserve, indoor rock climbing center, one-session of yoga, a painting class, a wine-tasting, the symphony, a professional baseball game…

You do need this. Time alone should not be optional. If you find a way to put a few hours together every week for yourself, even better.

Notice that it’s warm outside.

Drink lemonade, wear sandals, and paint your toenails. Winter is so cruel. Now is the time to feel the sun on your skin and to notice it. I’ve been trying to sit on my deck for at least 10-15 minutes per day. I put a hibiscus plant out there (pink blossoms, new every day!). Makes me so happy. It’s the little things, right?

Pick two. Make them happen.

Badminton, corn hole, ladder ball, croquet, volleyball, bonfires, s’mores, twinkle lights over the deck/patio.

Happy life results.

Simply acknowledge: I’m exhausted! Then have a little guilt-free fun.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image © | Dreamstime.com

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