A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

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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Invest 30 minutes in the morning

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-gardening-family-image19262314If you spend 30 minutes with your kids right after breakfast, you will be free for the rest of the morning.

Pick an activity that YOU want to do (painting a bedroom, re-potting your indoor house plants, baking cookies, peeling wallpaper in the ugly bathroom, figuring out how to hook up the new game console, cleaning out one closet, washing the camping equipment, reorganizing the cupboards, weeding the garden, watering the flowers, laundry) and involve your kids right with you.

Give assignments to everyone. Even the smallest child can help by dancing to music to entertain you while you read instructions for the IKEA bookcase you want assembled.

It is a slower process to do the needed activity with your kids. It’s even harder to distract them long enough to get it done without their “interference.”

You can circumvent the whole struggle by including them at the get-go. They love grown up activities, they love to be needed, and they can do more than you think (more slowly, with less proficiency). They will find themselves interested and learning while you get through this important task.

At a certain point, their enthusiasm or energy will fade (they are kids and care less about re-potting houseplants than you do). They will leave you to continue while they do something else.

And even if they don’t–if they need to shift activities and you must come with them, at least you will have invested 30 minutes into that project and you will have moved the chains another ten yards down the field.

If you invest 30 minutes right after breakfast, you prevent a build up of resentment, too. You won’t keep hoping for that “slip of time” when they are happy and you can get to work. Instead, you will set the agenda for the day by including everyone up front. You’ll get some of it done (or a lot).

Most importantly, you eliminate resentment (waiting for them to be happy so you can work; waiting for you to finish so they can have a playmate).

So what’s on the agenda today? What are you working on?

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

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Announcing: College Admissions Essay Class

Caitrin 2aNow you can get help with your student’s college admissions essay using Brave Writer practices and instructor support!

Introducing the College Admissions Essay Class which will start right at the end of August, finished in September, in time for all those critical fall deadlines. Make it easier on yourself—get help! I’ve been helping students with college admissions essays for a decade and have trained Nancy Graham, one of our high school instructors, to lead your kids into a thoughtful review of their years of homeschooling as they head off to college. Make that essay “pop”! Especially important for homeschooled kids whose essays are usually of great interest to admissions staff.

Class dates: August 25 – September 19, 2014

Fall Registration Opens Monday August 4, 2014 Noon EDT

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Tuesday Teatime: Hot chocolate and peanut butter spoons

Tuesday Teatime_Shelah

Throwback Tuesday (to the winter).

We were reading My America: A Poetry Atlas of the United States by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

My girls (9, 6, and 3) love Tea Time, and we usually have banana bread. I post this as an example that even when lovely baked goods can’t get done for Tea Time, there is always hot chocolate and peanut butter spoons.


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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