A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief

Thoughts from my jungle to yours

Friday Freewrite: Dear Mom and Dad

Friday Freewrite doorway

Imagine you are one of the kids in this photo then finish this letter:

Dear Mom and Dad,

We’re SO sorry for what happened. It all started when…

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Image by Maryland GovPics (cc cropped)

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Summer To Do List

Summer To Do List

Saw this fantastic To Do list for Summer while at a family reunion and thought of all our Brave Writer families. The activities are things like

water balloon fights,

taking a hike,

riding a pony,

movie in the backyard,

sidewalk art, and

visiting Grandpa at work!

You might consider creating vision for the summer in a similar way!

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“They fight me on everything”

How do you know that your kids are having a satisfying homeschool experience? Listen to this brief message on creating your own Fantasy Homeschool. It’s an excerpt from a talk given at the 2014 Brave Writer Retreat.

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Create a love for poetry in your whole family!

Arrow Poetry Guide

The Arrow Poetry Guide

In this specialty issue of The Arrow, you’ll explore four weeks’ worth of poetry lessons, using popular poems for children.

This digital product does not contain exercises in futility, hunting for images so subtle, you go cross-eyed in the search. Rather, your kids depict a poem’s meaning through acting, they’ll copy a poetic form, and they’ll create a visual poem using collected images. The month winds up on a high note as children write limericks to amuse and amaze you!

Get Yours NOW–Just $9.95!

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.

Image by Alexandra Dekerf (text added)

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Do the math!

How to plan for the upcoming school year and keep your sanity

As your “I’m so done with this year; so now I’ll think about next year” brain kicks in, let’s help it to plan in a sane way! The temptation is major overhaul and doubling down on the subjects that got short shrift this year.

Writing is often in that category. You look back at the scraps of freewriting and the incomplete report that your daughter wrote, but never copied over and you resolve to not let THAT happen again.

So you begin. You plan to have each child complete a single project per month, the way I tell you to. Or so you think.

Brave Writer DOES recommend that you only complete a single writing project per month. We know that it’s important not to rush through the writing process, to allow time for research and revision. This once-a-month scheme sounds sane compared to curricula that suggest writing an essay every week, or a paragraph a day including drafting and revision!

However, what if you have five kids (like I did)? What if all five are capable of writing?

Let’s do the math. There are ten months in a school year. Five kids. Each doing one writing project per month. Even I can make that calculation: 50 writing projects, in a single school year.


Do you think I supervised successfully 50 writing projects in a year? Do you think any home educator is supporting the production of 50 completed writing projects at five different levels in a single school year?

I’m here to tell you: we are not. I talk to home educators all the time. What leaks out in their moments of desperate confession is that they fear they are not doing enough writing. Some are not doing any writing, because of the paralysis that results from staring at a curriculum that requires even MORE writing than ten projects per child in a year.

So here’s my rule of thumb.

You want each of your kids to experience your hand-holding, super kind, invested involvement in one or two big writing projects per year

  • where they have a start (original draft, freewrite, list, notes, dictated narration to you),
  • a middle (rereading, adding new stuff, research, taking out stuff that doesn’t fit),
  • and an end (editing the grammar, spelling, and punctuation, typing it up, reading it to interested readers),
  • all accompanied by your availability and caring.

The rest of the time, attempt lots and lots of writing projects or pursue lots and lots of writing opportunities. It’s totally fine to, for instance, start any writing project in our materials and NEVER finish it! Maybe the meat of the project was simply attempting, or collecting, or getting an initial draft, or working through the research but never writing. Maybe the fantasy of the project was enough—talking about what it could be, or what your child wished he or she could do. Kids are developing—they are not complete themselves. Sometimes you have to have lots of fantasies about what you might be able to do some day before you get the cajones and courage to try!

Maybe you decide to do a group writing project where one kid does the artwork and another does the writing and a third edits it and lays it out on the computer. That counts! For everyone!

Freewriting weekly is a great practice and never requires revision, unless you and the child want to.

Reading books, playing with words, watching TV, language games, poetry tea times, listening to books on CD, memorizing song lyrics, telling jokes, leaving Post-it Notes with love messages on the doors of bedrooms, having Big Juicy Conversations, going to the movies…

This ALL counts as writing program.

You can certainly work through a writing project or two from start to finish with your kids this year (with each one)—and it will be enough if you actually do it and trust that it IS enough. Too often in our defeat, we give up completely or do a half job and then entertain ourselves with guilt.

Give up the guilt. Plan to get through the process with your kids 1-2 times a year (more is a wonderful bonus—and I promise, as you get better at supporting the complete writing process, it will be easier to do and more enticing). Not only that, as your kids understand the writing process, they will need you less!

So let’s get realistic about the coming year.

Lots of writing and reading and word play and conversations.

Some fantasizing, starting and stopping, trying and abandoning of writing projects.

A few start-to-finish supported writing project completions.


You got this.

Image by Anssi Koskinen (cc cropped)

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Friday Freewrite: Space Station

space station

If you are in charge of a brand new space station where 10 people will live and work, how do you decide who is accepted if you have over 100 applications?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by NASA (cc cropped)

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Blog Roundup: June 10th Edition

Brave Writer Blog Roundup June 2015

Welcome to the latest blog roundup! See how other homeschooling families practice the Brave Writer Lifestyle.

Implementation of Brave Writer

Brave Writer is a writing philosophy designed to inspire kids to share their ideas. My favorite Brave Writer product The Writer’s Jungle teaches educators how to teach writing while keeping motivation high.

It’s full of tips for reviewing written works and offering suggestions for improvement. In addition, the activity ideas increase vocabulary and creativity with words. Teaching writing becomes more fun after implementing the program.

The part I struggled with was how long to spend revising works. My son and I wrote a paper together, but it seemed to take way to long to complete. There were numerous issues with his writing such as organization, and complete sentences. To me it was important to address them all. My 13 year old daughter could easily freewrite stories that were many pages long. In fact, she wrote ten chapters. The volume of output from her was impressive, but tackling a ten chapter book for revision was a daunting task. We pushed through it, but it was too big for her level of writing.

Enter my friend April. I recommend Brave Writer to April, and she loved it. A few months after using it, she described her implementation of the philosophy. Well it was brilliant, so now I use her implementation too. Here’s how it works…read more. ~Highhill Education

Homeschool wanderings: writing and grammar edition

I’m finding here at the end of six years of doing this thing called home-based education that I’m a little burned out on the way we’ve been doing things. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe boredom/burnout/stress is inevitable. I don’t know. All I know is that long about the time of the February Slump I found myself just pushing my girls through some of their work. Much of it felt disconnected, too–we had separate writing curricula and separate grammar curricula, and we were always reading aloud a lot, especially just good literature and history, so it seemed like surely some of that could be combined somehow. Additionally, the curriculum I was using with Lulu is excellent, and she was doing okay with it, but she was not engaged with it much at all. Besides that, I truly feel like it was enough above her head that she would benefit from it more when she’s a little older. I felt like they were jumping through my hoops on most days with very little investment on their part, and that’s not what I want for their educations at all. Enter Brave Writer…read more. ~Amy, Hope is the Word

112 Days of Bravewriter

I recently bought and read The Writer’s Jungle…I told myself I would just read it on the computer, but I can’t stand reading on-screen for very long. So I printed it. Wow. I loved many of the ideas in it and was pretty excited to get started-but TWJ doesn’t contain a whole lot of nitty gritty how-to-get-it-done type info. Last year, we tried out several ideas from Julie’s Brave Writer Lifestyle, which were a big hit with the kids. I wanted to continue our favorites from BWL and try out some new things from TWJ.

I came up with a list of 112 Brave Writer activities to do this school year, which works out to about three per week. I will add “Bravewriter” to my loop plan and we will work our way through the list as time permits…read more. ~Kim, Our Enchanted Place

We hope to share more roundups in the future! If you write about an aspect of the Brave Writer Lifestyle, let us know! Email your post’s url to Jeannette, our Social Media admin (blog@bravewriter.com). Thanks!

Image by Brave Writer mom, Megan

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2015-16 Arrow and Boomerang Titles–ON SALE!

2015-16 Arrow Titles

2015-2016 Arrow Book List (books not included):

August: The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
September: Flora and Ulysses (Kate DiCamillo)
October: How to Eat Fried Worms (Thomas Rockwell)
November: Wonder (R. J. Palacio)
December: Poppy (Avi)
January: Love That Dog (Sharon Creech)
February: Courage Has No Color (Tanya Lee Stone – Non-fiction)
March: Understood Betsy (Dorothy Canfield Fisher)
April: Cracker: The Best Dog in Vietnam (Cynthia Kadohata)
May: Love Ruby Lavender (Deborah Wiles)

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

On Sale June 1 – 30, 2015!

All ten issues, ten dollars off! Enter this code: ARR1516

Get your Arrow discount here

2015-16 Boomerang Titles

2015-2016 Boomerang Book List (books not included):

August: The Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan #2)
September: I am Malala (Malala Yousafzai)
October: Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
November: Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)
December: The Pearl (John Steinbeck)
January: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)
February: Brown Girl Dreaming (Jacqueline Woodson)
March: Paper Towns (John Green)
April: Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
May: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)

The Boomerang is the monthly digital product that features a classic work of fiction each month. These novels are used to teach teens the mechanics of writing (grammar, spelling, punctuation, and literary elements). In addition to the weekly passages used for copywork and dictation, The Boomerang includes ten “think piece” questions which are used to enhance a student’s comprehension of the novel’s themes and construction.

On Sale June 1 – 30, 2015!

All ten issues, ten dollars off! Enter this code: BMG1516

Get your Boomerang discount here

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Take Learning Rests

Take Learning Rests

Sometimes in our efforts to instruct our kids, we push, push, push them to complete books, to go to the next level as soon as the previous one is mastered, to move from easy-readers to chapter books as soon as the child is comfortably reading the easy-to-read book. Sometimes we cram a lot in a day just because the morning felt productive and we think we need to “capitalize” on all this good learning energy before it dissipates.

Other times, we push for different reasons. The end of the year is nigh and we worry we didn’t do “enough” of whatever subject. We see a child struggling with times tables or spelling and we worry that that child hasn’t gone up a grade level so we double our efforts to make that child work harder, to compensate for our worry that the child isn’t making the kind of progress we expected.

Some kids quit working on a difficult-for-them skill—they refuse, won’t budge, complain. We turn the screw and require them to keep trying—to reassure ourselves that the child isn’t going to give up on this subject forever.

Deep breath. You have time for all of it—and you will have more success if you simply let go once in a while.

Skills sometimes magically solidify when you let time go by. Truly. A child who is breaking down in tears over handwriting or reading is not learning. A month or two off strangely allows what was taught to simmer quietly (invisibly). When you return, maturity and rest often lead to a breakthrough (or at minimum, renewed energy to try again).

Rest also looks like time off of everything—not just the difficult subject. Some days deserve to be “wasted”—days where climbing a tree or running around with the dog or watching television are considered “on task.” Concentration is not only given during an individual task. Concentration for the routine of homeschool is a months long commitment of mind and attention. It’s one reason I did enjoy taking summers off with my kids. It felt good to let go of the schedule and to wake up any old time each day with nothing on the agenda but swimming at the YMCA and taking walks and baking cookies and sharing the home space with no particular direction from me.

By August, we were always ready for the return of the routine because by then, we had exhausted the aimless freedom of summer.

Learning rests allow you and your kids to grow, to rest, to mature, and to flourish. It is absolutely on task to take them. You can even say to a struggling child, “Thanks for that painful effort you just put in. I think we all deserve a rest. Let’s put this subject aside for X amount of time and allow your very smart brain to make connections for you while we eat popsicles and run through the sprinklers.”

It’s a great model for kids, too, to learn to pay attention to their need for breaks and a rest. In fact, most adults need to learn how to let themselves off the hook more often—to allow the mind to go fallow, to stop performing, to pause the endless drive to improve self.

Take your shoes off and sip some lemonade. And grow without doing anything.

Image by Leah-Anne Thompson/Fotolia

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Friday Freewrite: Baseball


Describe a baseball game from the baseball’s point of view.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Image by Michael (cc cropped)

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