A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Friday Freewrite: Airborne

Jumping Jack

What happens next?

Image by Wayne Silver (cc)

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You are not alone


Homeschooling is emotionally taxing. No matter how many practices you put into place, no matter how much you “let go” or unschool or relax, no matter how well you love your children—homeschooling is demanding. It requires a level of daily investment that for most people depletes them.

You are not alone if you feel that way. You are not doing it wrong, necessarily. It’s important to get relief and to keep working to expand how you homeschool into ways that rejuvenate and support you, so that you don’t end up bored, depressed, or temperamental. But the feelings of significance and investment that you hold in your heart every day are real and carry an emotional toll. I think it’s right and just to acknowledge that.

Just knowing that this is part of the journey of home education sometimes helps. It’s at least a good place to start.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Leo Hildago (cc cropped)

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“The funniest way to do dictation EVER”

Barnyard Buzzer Dictation board - Wendy blog

Hi Julie,

I enjoyed your talk on the Not Back to School program and just had to write because I came up with the funniest idea for dictation yesterday with my 10 year old.

I was reading a passage from Peter Rabbit to her, and she was trying to write it on our big wipe board. Well, I had found these Barnyard Answer Buzzers at a teacher store while traveling, and I wanted to find fun ways to use them. So we decided to assign one animal to the following:
Barnyard Buzzer Dictation - Wendy _blog

Cow Mooing: meant you missed a capital letter

Dog Barking: you have a punctuation mistake

Horse Neighing: you spelled a word wrong

Rooster Crowing: that word is RIGHT!


Well, it was the funniest way to do dictation EVER. I was hitting the ROOSTER on almost every word, but when she’d pass up a place for a comma, the DOG would bark and she’d start laughing and go back to figure it out. And the HORSE was hilarious because the neighing was really loud, so I’d hit it and hit it again at each attempt to change letters for spelling, until finally she’d get a ROOSTER crowing and she’d crack up.

I couldn’t think of anyone who would appreciate this home education triumph….except YOU!

Barnyard Answer Buzzers: Every Brave Writer family should have a set.


If you’d like to purchase you’re own set of Barnyard Answer Buzzers, they are available at Amazon.com (affiliate link). —BW Staff

Images (cc)

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Poetry Teatime meets Jot It Down

Tuesday Teatime Julie

Inspired by our reading of Rapunzel for the fairy tale project, we started off the new year with a fun teatime treat.

A stack of apple cider donuts on a dowel, a frosted muffin and an inverted cake cone…then green frosting in a tube with sugar flowers and a twist of yellow yarn…made in 5 minutes.


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 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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Happy Birthday, Agatha Christie!

Day 192: PoirotScreenshot from an adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express”

In celebration of Agatha Christie’s birthday (born September 15, 1890), we’re making a special offer! The Boomerang for her novel, Murder on the Orient Express, is:

HALF PRICE for one day only! ($4.95) OFFER HAS EXPIRED

Agatha Christie is known as the queen of mystery novels. In the course of her lifetime, she penned sixty-six detective novels, twenty-two collections of short stories, eighteen plays, and multiple non-fiction works. Her beloved characters Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple have been honored with many television and film adaptations.

Here are some fascinating tidbits about Agatha Christie:

Until age twelve, Agatha Christie was homeschooled by her mother and a succession of governesses.

Christie’s first book, A Mysterious Affair at Styles, was rejected by six publishers over the course of five years before it was finally accepted for publication.

Her favorite writers were Elizabeth Bowen and Graham Greene.

Agatha Christie’s plays have been performed continuously for the last 53 years in London’s West End theaters.

Christie’s books rank immediately behind the Bible and Shakespeare for the highest number of copies sold worldwide. Her works have also been translated into more languages than any other literary work in history.

So, celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday and take advantage of this special offer today!

Also, if you’d like to buy a copy of the novel, it’s available through Amazon: Murder on the Orient Express (affiliate link).

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 7th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Image by crimsong19 (cc)

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Compliment one of your kids today

Good Job Smiley Face

Quality affirmation given in a natural, intentional manner yields great results—trust, openness, self-confidence, and a willingness to take more risks. Affirmation need not only focus on a child’s successes, but also a child’s fierce engagement with struggle.

Here are a few models of friendly feedback you can use to help you enhance that parent-child bond:

  • Your voice is loud! I can hear it all the way across a room! That’s fabulous.
  • You were careful coming through that door with the folding chair. I noticed! Thank you.
  • It’s hard to nap. Thanks for trying to get to sleep on your own for ten minutes before getting up to ask me when the nap would be over. Let’s try ten more, shall we?
  • Wow. When you get deeply involved in your game, you can’t even hear me call for lunch. You really know how to focus when you are absorbed.
  • I appreciate your offer to help. That’s really nice of you.
  • You sure know a lot about __________. Must take real concentration to hold onto all those details.
  • That smile of yours? It always makes me a little happier. Thank you.
  • I can tell you are hurting. It’s okay to cry. Strong people cry—it’s a way to let go and recover from sadness.

You get to help define how your kids interpret their experiences. You can do that using positive reinforcements of their natural reactions, and also their attempts to be helpful or to be heard or to caretake themselves.

Affirm one of your kids today—look for opportunities to enhance your child’s self-understanding.

And then make sure you follow up and compliment each of the other ones, each of the remaining days this week and into next week if you need it! Put it on the calendar to remind yourself.

Cross-posted on facebook. Image by Steven Depolo (cc)

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Friday Freewrite: The Cookie Incident

ben loves cookies

What comes to mind when you hear this title:

The Cookie Incident

Write it!

Inspired by this pin. Image by eyeliam (cc)

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Harry Potter kick


Hi Julie,

My kids are on a big Harry Potter kick. My 9 year old daughter has written several Daily Prophets for our reading pleasure, including tidbits such as:

Self Stir
The cauldron shop is now selling self stirring
cauldrons as well as pure gold silver and patterned that
sing and warn you if your potion is poisonous

Don’t trip grip
shoes that tie themselves don’t let you
trip and hurry you up. Even come fancy

Pop wiz fly
the new candies make you puke bleed sing fly wiz and more
hats that make your head disappear and portable swamps
all for sale now.

Hogwarts Express
Parents are to be reminded to send children to platform
9 and 3/4 by leaning not running unless very careful

Professor Rich tried again to find a way to stop the
crusio curse and is again in Saint Mungos for serious
injuries. more on page A2

The Daily Prophets were entirely my daughter’s own idea. How or where she got the tabloid format, I have no idea.

My more mathematically inclined son drew maps of Portkey sites, coded and numbered. Then wrote lists and lists of times of departures and arrivals like a bus schedule! It’s interesting to see where both kids take an idea on their own. They have played magic school, practiced their spells, written letters (delivered by owl stuffies), read every book, watched every movie etc etc.

What I find even more magical is that they are 9 and 11 years old and can still play this imaginatively and this seriously with an idea. Talk about being hooked. I want to read them the Narnia series but don’t dare start it until this one runs its course.

I have to leave you with one more bit of delightfulness. Attached is a picture of our Mandrake (I couldn’t resist when I saw the pattern on Ravelry – you have to have props after all) reading his newspaper (invented jointly by both giggling children as a surprise for me one morning). The featured headlines are:

Mr. Howard A. Mandrake insulted by wizards

Raspberries growing well

Screams for charity go well

Sandspit Roots beat the Leaves 3 to 2 in soccer

Mandrake dollar down 0.32 cents
to fall at $0.972 Elven dollars

Human farms doing well Over 7000 humans cultivated

Young Mandrake needed for Military!

Plants for sale
red tag days start at 1.99 per plant!

Mrs. Elizabeth had a baby!

Root dollies now carved

Kind regards, Linda

Image (cc)

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Movie Wednesday: Enjoy it with loved ones!


Watch a film today with your kids!

Movies are just as important as the novel was in its hey-day. Movies are not a sub-standard art form that only the poorly educated enjoy. On the contrary, film today is just as important as literature and we would do well to enjoy it and study it, rather than to shun, condescend to and disapprove of it.  —from Brave Writer Goes to the Movies

Need help commenting meaningfully on plot, characterization, make-up and costumes, acting, setting and even film editing? Check out our eleven page guide. 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!

Image of WALL-E figures by Morgan (cc cropped)

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Tuesday Teatime: Mindfulness practice

Tuesday Teatime Jenny-blog

This is our first year implementing the Brave Writer Lifestyle. Today was our first day, and the Poetry Tea was a huge hit with my son. We did our baking the night before so that we could easily transition to other activities. Elliot helped by boiling water for tea, setting the table, choosing the linens and picking several poems to read aloud. He enjoyed adding milk and sugar to his tea and stirring it with a spoon– I think he drank at least four cups between bites of banana bread and ginger snaps.

We took our time and savored the experience. It felt like a rare occasion to share this time together, which was different than our normal routine. Less utilitarian. Less objective driven. His reading of Longfellow’s Day is Done melted my heart, especially the line:

Then read from the treasured volume
the poem of thy choice
and lend to the rhyme of the poet
the beauty of thy voice.

I once began our school time by reading a poem, but this experience was better. Pairing poetry with tea calls for a slowing down, like a mindfulness practice to center us. It also gives the learner more responsibility to select a work, to create an atmosphere and to actively participate in a simple yet timeless tradition. I didn’t feel like I was presenting information to be absorbed, hoping that he would finally understand the value or the meaning behind the words. The meaning came from the sharing.

Thank you for the direction that the Brave Writer Lifestyle offers. For the first time in four years, I’m no longer anxious or stressed about teaching writing. Even if we struggle sometimes, we’ll look forward to our tea.

Banana Bread Recipe

The banana bread recipe was adapted from our Betty Crocker Cookbook, but I reduced the sugar by 1/3. It is also lactose free.

1/2 c sugar
1/2 c butter or margarine (we use lactose free Smart Balance with flaxseed oil, but coconut oil would add a tender texture!)

2 large eggs
3 ripe mashed bananas
1/2 cup almond milk or water
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour (could substitute with gluten free flour and xanthan gum)
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350. Grease bottom only of mini loaf pans (this recipe makes four mini loaves).

Combine sugar with all the wet ingredients. Gently mix. Stir in dry ingredients but do not over blend. Too much stirring makes the result tough. (less is better, keep it lumpy!)

Bake mini loaves 30-35 min until golden brown and almost split on the top. Cool completely before slicing so that the bread does not get crumbly. Store in a ziplock for up to four days…as if they would last that long!

Serve with your favorite tea and poems.