A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Friday Freewrite: Middle of the road

Middle of road

You see this piece furniture in the middle of the road. Tell how it might have gotten there.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Rusty Clark (cc cropped)

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Startle your kids!


One way to bring energy into your family life is for you, the homeschooling parent, to embark on your own adventure. Pick an adventure that is yours alone (not bound to your kids in any way). That adventure can be grand (like planning a trip to Europe by yourself—I mean it!) or it can be homespun (like refurbishing dolls or growing organic vegetables in your front yard).

We want our kids to pursue their interests with commitment and heart. We certainly homeschool them with that energy (after all, home education is our grand adventure—truly). Yet because the homeschool adventure is bound up in them, it is somewhat invisible to them (they don’t realize it is an adventure for you), unlike, say, learning to surf, or painting with oils, or writing a novel in a month, or going back to grad school, or running a half marathon, or horse-back riding in Montana, or getting your real estate license.

Take it in baby steps. Perhaps you will simply take yourself to an art museum sans children for the sake of pure pleasure. I did that once. I met a friend from the Internet (we had not yet met in person) in Chicago to go to the Art Institute together over a weekend. It was a rare escape and it took me some time to save the money for the flight. That commitment to art, though, carried me and my kids a long ways in our homeschool. It was a natural part of our lives because it had become a passion of mine—one I nurtured without them around all the time.

You might start running each day—short half mile lengths, alternating with walks, until you build up to a 10K or a half marathon. Your kids will then say about you, “Yeah, my mom’s a runner.” It will mean something to them—the commitment, the willingness to make time for it, the sheer joy at having achieved your goal. It’s a meta-lesson in learning and passion, determination and practice. They get to root for you and celebrate your achievements—a lesson in valuing you, the way you value them.

I have a friend who has a dream book. In it, she puts pictures of her aspirations for different years of her life. As we paged through it together one time, I noticed that she had a photo of a trip to learn to surf in Mexico. She had taken that trip in time for her 50th birthday. I looked at that beautiful blue image. I grew up next to the ocean yet had never learned to surf. I made that my goal for my 50th birthday…and went! She surprised me and met me there. It was a magical week, one I’ll never forget.

Of course, when my kids were younger, my adventures were of a smaller, less expensive, scale. I learned to quilt, I wrote articles for magazines, I got interested in birding, I became passionate about Shakespeare, poetry, and art, and I took guitar lessons.

Each time you branch out for yourself, you are investing in your family. It sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s the truth. Because you are such a zealot for home-everythingness, I trust you to not overdo it (you won’t let yourself!). Rather, what I’m suggesting is that you not let your own adult life—these healthy years—scroll by in service exclusively of your children, thinking that a later date will come when you can go to grad school or visit a full service spa in the Red Rocks of Arizona.

You grew up to this age so that you could use your full adult powers for good—for your family, for your community, and also, just as importantly, for yourself. When you take that time and initiative to create a good happy life for yourself, as much as you do for your kids, you give your family energy—energy that rebounds into home education. The world becomes alive with possibility for all of you.

Most importantly, your kids can look ahead to adulthood and SEE that it is worth growing up and learning all kinds of things because that’s when you get to DO COOL STUFF! Like Mom! Like Dad!

Startle your children! Be the model of adulthood to which you hope they aspire.

Last thing: If you find yourself frustrated that your kids aren’t into learning as much as you are, forget them for a bit. Dive deep. Learn all you want. The more you indulge your cravings, rather than foisting them on your kids, the more likely it is they will want to “get involved” eventually, in some aspect of your current passion because passion is contagious.

Surprise your family; surprise yourself! Set a goal today and go after it, right in the middle of all the muddle.

Image by Zweirad-Industrie-Verband e.V. (cc cropped)

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Student Spotlight: Ben, Alex, and Katey


Dear Julie,

My kids and their dear friends have really enjoyed writing their own comics using the Comic Life application. I started this project using one of your free write ideas – write a list of opposites. Then I had them use your funneling technique to narrow down the topic. Then I asked them to come up with three exchanges for their characters.

I also introduced the writer’s compass to the kids to make sure that their stories had a true north, that each character had a unique voice, and that their stories ended with a flourish!

Thank you for helping writing to be fun and creative, motivating my kids to write!


“The Amazing Story of Kite & Grass”

by Ben H, grade 4

CLICK HERE to read the whole comic in an enlarged version


“The Really Big Problem about the Stairs and the Elevator”

by Alex H, grade 1

CLICK HERE to read the whole comic in an enlarged version


“Uncomplimentary Colors”

by Katey D

CLICK HERE to read the whole comic in an enlarged version


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Tuesday Teatime: A tea poem

Tea time for the soul

Enjoy this poem with your Tuesday Teatime:

Afternoon Tea
by Marianna Jo Arolin

My copper kettle
whistles merrily
and signals that
it is time for tea.
The fine china cups
are filled with the brew.
There’s lemon and sugar
and sweet cream, too.
But, best of all
there’s friendship, between you and me.
As we lovingly share
our afternoon tea.

Marianna Jo’s first book of poetry, “Here In My Garden,” was published in 1999 by Watermark Press. Her poem, “Afternoon Tea,” is included in a lovely volume of poetry by Harvest House Publishers entitled, The Art of Tea and Friendship (affiliate link) illustrated by Sandy Lynam Clough.

Image by Jeff Kubina (cc cropped)

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 share on our blog then you’ll receive a free Arrow or Boomerang title of your choice (once per family). Note: all submissions fall under Creative Commons licensing.

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Reboot your day

6 ways to start

It doesn’t matter if it is 10:00 in the morning, or 2:00 in the afternoon, or five minutes before bedtime. You can start a day over at any point in the day. When it’s all going wrong—from sibling pokes to spilled orange juice to “Where is the math book?” to the dog peeing on the carpet AGAIN—you don’t have to wave the white flag and collapse into a quivering heap (though you TOTALLY have my permission to do that now and then—it’s cathartic!).

You can declare that the day is in reboot and begin again. Here are six ways to reset the temperature in the home.

Let’s count down to the most effective reboot practice.

6. Change rooms.
Move homeschool to your bedroom and do everything on the big bed. Toss pillows and blankets to everyone and put workbooks on clipboards. Cuddle the baby.

5. Get outside.
Bundle up and go for a walk with everyone. Or send the most rambunctious kiddos outside to find a pine cone or gather a bucket of snow to bring home to boil (for no good reason except to have a task) or to run six laps around the backyard.

4. Brownies.
They fix everything. (Keep a mix on hand for those days and resort to it.)

3. Have a shouting fest.
Everyone gets to scream for 2 whole minutes (set a timer) at the top of his or her lungs while jumping up and down and punching the air. Repeat. Until exhaustion.

2. Play music.
Dance. Sing. Wiggle. Involve stuffed animals. FaceTime mom/dad at work so s/he can see you.

And the number one reboot:

1. Poetry teatime.
Any time of day. Stop the math books, wipe up the orange juice, throw a few mugs on the table, grab the poetry books, and settle down. It changes everything. Promise! Every time. And you will feel like you did school, which counts for something.

Good luck!

Images by wooleywonderworks, Jason Walsh, Ben Francis, Beth Rankin, Cristiano Betta, Philippe Put (cc cropped, darkened, text added)

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Friday Freewrite: Description


Think of a friend. Imagine he or she wrote a description of you. What would it say?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Philippe Put (cc cropped, tinted)

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Need help to take new home education risks?


Do you wish you had companionship as you take new home education risks? Are you looking for input so that you can reframe your experience, add new tools to your tool kit, and find the personalized support you crave for your family?

The Homeschool Alliance is where I give audio lectures, readings, and personal reply support to our community of homeschooling parents. One of our parents wrote the following post (with permission to share) and I thought many of you might relate.

SIGN UP for less than $25/month

Alliance member, Erin, writes:

I KNOW what I’m doing, I just don’t have confidence in myself to make the decision and stick with it. I doubt and second-guess constantly. I research things to death, make a decision, and then something else catches my eye, and so I research that to death and change my decision again.

I need to just go with my gut here. My gut tells me that your BWL philosophy is what I want for our family, it’s what I envisioned years ago when I was in grad school for elementary education, when I first decided I wanted to home school (nothing like spending a few years working INSIDE the school system to make you want to keep your kids OUT! LOL).

But why do I feel so unequipped? Maybe it’s not that I feel unequipped…maybe it’s just that what was engrained into my mind in school – the how/why/when to teach is just taking up too much space in my mind.

I have never felt like I understood science. I hated school growing up because it was boring, uninspiring, and dull. I didn’t want to do what the teachers wanted me to do…but because I worry so much that I’m in the wrong on what school should look like, I keep falling back to the very same thing I hated as a child.

But, after reading this first article, watching your first webinar, journaling, and reading all the above responses and comments, I’m realizing something.

I also hated history growing up, and never found it interesting at all. But last year, I embarked on teaching US History to my kids. I spent time gathering books….LOTS of books….about 150 to be exact. We got some used, got many from the library, and we curled up on the couch and read them together. We discussed them, sometimes we wrote about them or drew a picture, or completed a project I’d found on Pinterest….but the main ingredient, the thing that made it so successful, was that I was interested, curious, and driven to learn it myself. I took a topic that I had little interest in and I discovered value in learning it for myself, and THAT became the drive to teach it to them. It wasn’t to check off a box on some curriculum paper, or to appease some school system. It was because I decided that I wanted to learn about it in depth, and I drew my kids in….and they LOVED it! It was amazing!

I need to take that very same drive, curiosity, excitement, passion, and OBSESSIVENESS when it comes to other things I want us to cover. And not use such broad catagories (sic). I get overwhelmed with the idea of teaching branches of science – biology, earth and space, etc….so instead, I need to focus on smaller, more attainable goals….like learning about rocks and minerals. Spend a month or so immersing myself and the kids in books, projects, videos, etc about single topics….ones that don’t overwhelm me, ones that don’t require a year-long commitment (though it could very well go on that long if there is interest!). If I hear them talking about a topic they are interested in, I need to allow THAT topic to become what I focus/invest/perseverate on, instead of schedules or curricula. If my daughter says “I want to learn about rocks”, I would typically spend the next few weeks devouring all I could about which curriculum is the best one to use to teach about rocks…but that is really stupid and a waste of time.

My time would be so much better spent saying, “Absolutely! let’s go to the library today or tomorrow, and get some books about rocks!” and then immediately start finding some videos, and maybe see if we can come up with some project and/or experiments…to focus on HER and the thing she is interested in, instead of wasting hours chasing after the “perfect curriculum” that will teach it to her. It’s more fun for her and for me if we simply learn about things together. And you know what? One thing I’ve learned about myself since Grad school is that I LOVE LOVE LOVE to research and learn. It excites me and gives me energy in the morning. I love to figure things out and to be able to find answers to my own questions…THAT makes learning fun…and THAT is how I need to look at our home learning…a quest to take with my kids, for us to pave our own way and find our own path…for us to dig into topics together, and to stop worrying that we will miss something! I always think that if we do that method, that somewhere along the line, I will not know to teach that ONE thing that would have made a difference in their future lives!

But I do realize that that is simply ridiculous. One fact about rocks, or one experiment about the human body or whatever, is not going to damage them if we skip it. What’s more important anyway? Learning 53 facts about the human body, or developing a love of learning and teaching them HOW TO FIND ANSWERS! I need to teach them to enjoy the process….learning is and should be looked at as a process, not a means to an end. But in our society, it’s viewed as a means to an end…when you turn 18 and graduate from high school, you are “educated”….even though we all know that’s not what makes a person educated…lol!

Thank you again (I’m feeling like that’s going to be something I say to you every day!)…you have rekindled my love of teaching and learning…and given me a resource to help me set up my track to run the race. I feel like I’ve run in circles, and been bumping into obstacles constantly, and I look up and I’ve lost my way….but I’m realizing that I need to learn to be more accepting of myself and my kids, and to just trust that 10 years is a LONG ENOUGH time to teach the things that I think matter!

And…sorry this is so long…but I wanted to share. I did our first Freewrite last night…my husband and I and our 3 kids all sat down and wrote about what kind of candy we wished would fall from the sky, and then we all read them aloud. The kids LOVED it and my middle daughter (who usually takes FOREVER to write anything), couldn’t wait to get into bed last night and work on another one! She filled up a front and back of a paper in no time and was all giggles and smiles! Just in the last 3 days, I have felt such a fresh wind blow through our home, and it’s all because of the wisdom I have gained from 2 of your webinars and some of your blog posts and The Writer’s Jungle! Thank you for all you do to support us moms who are still in the trenches! I think that this Homeschool Alliance may be the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing I’ve done for our homeschool so far….it’s helping me to really think about and process what I value and what I think is important, and to really think about what I want our life to look like…I cannot wait to read and learn more! Thanks!

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Fairytale Writing Assignment: Making the bad guy good

Student Spotlight Frederick

Dear Julie,

My family is in co-op with another family, and they have been using your teaching tools this year for writing. My son, Frederick (12 yrs), wrote a piece for an assignment of making a well-known, fairy-tale bad-guy seem good. His fabulous instructor, Karyn, liked it so much, she recommended sending it to you.

I wanted to thank you for all you have done to make reading and writing so much more engaging. We appreciate that you have shared your talents! It has made this year very enjoyable!!

Thank you again,

The Word of the Witch

by Frederick

“Now, before I tell you the actual, factual story, I need to tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Winnuwich and I am a witch. I am mostly blind and can’t hear very well. I also can’t remember much. Now I will tell you my – oh, where was I!! Um, um, oh, yes, that’s right, now I will tell you my story.”

“I don’t like eating candy all of the time” I said “I want some healthy water and all the stuff from the food pyramid…except the bad stuff . I wish I had some nice company around here, no offense broomy. Hmmmm…Aha!!! I’ll get some children in here and, I’ll lure them by making my shack into a big, fancy gingerbread house using my candy!!!

Now to cast the spell. Now where did I put that spell book? That’s right, under my couldren cooking pot! Okay, now abracadabra, my new ginga bread house!! There, now I’ll just start making a meal for – wait, what was I going to do? I’ll just take a short nap…

Crunch, crunch, crunch!!!

“What, who’s there? Oh, no!!! My guests!!! They’ve come!!! I haven’t made any food for them!!! I’ll just have to let them in anyway!!!


“Oh, hello, what are your names little ones?”

“My name is Hansel” said Hansel.

“And my name is Grettel” said Grettel.

“My name is Winnuwitch” I said. “Come inside and I’ll make you some food.”

“Thank you” they said, and then came inside and sat at my table.

Quickly, I whipped up a magic turkey dinner and they were gobbling up the food.

“Would you children care for some dessert?” I asked them.

“Yes we would” they replied in perfect unison.

“All right then I’ll get that ready for you. What are your names again?”

“Hansel and Grettel” said Grettel.

“Hazel the petel? Like a hazel tea petel!!! I will make some tea with you!!” I said. “I already have my couldren boiling so I’ll throw you in now!!!”

Just as I reached the couldren, they wriggeled out of my grip and pushed me into the couldren!!! Then they ran away. I almost died when they did that!!!

“Ya know broomy” I said afterwards “I don’t think I’ll ever have guests again. I’ll change my house back right now, Abra-Kadabra,my old litta shacka!!! There, all better. I’ll just go take a nap now.”

I lived a happy life with broomy and without guests from that day onwards.

That is the total truth now don’t forget that – where was I again? Oh, that’s right, now I will tell you my story…

Image © Frederick

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Tuesday Teatime: Night Flower

Tuesday Teatime Jennifer blog

Brave Writer mom Jennifer writes:

I just wanted to share that my 6 (almost 7) year old daughter spontaneously wrote a poem today! This is such a feat since she has always been behind in language arts and her least favorite thing to do is write.

She did not start talking until she was 4 years old. When I say she wasn’t talking I mean next to nothing was coming out of her mouth, lots of defiant stares, but no words.

I decided to homeschool because I wanted her to have one-on-one help getting her caught up. After A LOT of work, she is at her grade level for reading and is as talkative as ever. Her least favorite thing to do is… WRITING!

She has had her days of tears and hulk-like rage at the prospect of writing and I was ready to give up. I made it my goal to focus on this aspect of language arts so we can foster a love of writing in our everyday lives.

I am SO GLAD I found the Brave Writer Lifestyle and products. I have been implementing the suggestions over the last month and am amazed at the results.

Poetry Tea is probably everyone’s favorite so far. While painting today she made a flower and made squiggly lines on her page. She told me, “I am writing a poem Mom.” I pulled the closest thing to me out and asked her to “read” me her poem. I jotted it down and was very impressed that she had such lovely thoughts to share.

Again, this is amazing because she has never enjoyed telling me anything to write down until now. I look forward to the progress we will make over the next year using this program!!

Emily’s Poem:

Night Flower

When the flower only comes out at night
I saw how beautiful it was
It did not grow in sunlight
but the moon shined onto the flower
and it started to grow
It looked as beautiful as purple.

Emilys Purple Night Flower blog

Images by Brave Writer mom, Jennifer. Painting by Emily.

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Is it confusing? Is it difficult? Are you worried?


Good. Means you’re doing it right. Means you want to do it right. Means you’re evaluating and considering, caring and revising.

How can you possibly find the right program and not ever reconsider?

How can you teach high school math when you found it impossible yourself?

Why wouldn’t you worry about your socially awkward tween or your dyslexic 2nd grader or your moody 16 year old?

Of course you’re tired—anxious, weary, feeling alone.

You have assigned yourself an enormous task—the complete education of your precious children, without having done any training, without any certainty that you can do it. You live in a petri dish of your own making—hoping that if you bring together the right ingredients with your children, an educated person will emerge and contribute to the world.

Even more—there are no guarantees your children will thank you for the herculean effort you are making on their behalf. They may grow up, go to college, marry, and say, “Heck no! I’m putting my own kids in school.” What then? Will that feel like you somehow failed them?

So, yes. You worry. Some days you feel overwhelmed and sad—wondering if this is how homeschool is supposed to feel. You want joy, natural learning, enthusiasm to explore the wide open world. You hope to see ties form between bickering children, and you want to feel close to your teens as they move away from you into their inevitable independence.

Will you do a good enough job? Will your kids agree?

Yes, this is how it is supposed to feel. Lean into it. As long as you homeschool, some doubt will ride sidecar to all the good you do every day. Not every decision will pan out, not every day will show fruit, not every effort will be worthwhile.

Yet if you stick with it, if you make adjustments that are considerate of your children as they are (as they show themselves to you), over time (cumulatively), your children will receive an education that suits them to adult life.

Doubt, worry, confusion, anxiety—as long as these are not swamping you (preventing you from doing the work of home education), they are simply conditions that go with the territory.

Keep going. Keep trying. Keep expanding your options.

Once in a while pause—admire how far you’ve come, how many things you’ve learned, how much you know now about education that you didn’t know when you started. Remind yourself that you are still learning and will know even more in another year! How grand is that!?

You’re okay now. Just as you are. Breathe.

Image © Uptall | Dreamstime.com

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