Friday Freewrite: Decision

Friday Freewrite: Closing Arguments

Think of a tough decision you’ve made. Now turn that dilemma into a court scene and have two lawyers give closing arguments for the pros and cons of your choice.

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The Key to Academic Achievement: Talking with Your Kids

Big Juicy Conversations

The key to academic achievement, to education, to scholastic growth is: talking with your kids. (And it’s FREE!)

The majority of your children’s education comes via talking—not just any old talking—a specific kind of talking.

These conversations look like:

  • eye contact,
  • focused attention,
  • an exchange lasting more than “Hey, get your shoes, we’re leaving in five minutes.”

Because we marshal so much activity for so many little ones, it’s easy to reduce contact with children to “parenting by command” as opposed to “relating to our children as people.” We issue orders and look over their heads (literally!) to the next item on the agenda.

The joy of conversation is lost in the expediency of moment-by-moment demands: jumping in the car, clearing the breakfast dishes, locating the math book, changing a load of laundry, and answering a text message. We might even start down the road of a real conversation, only to be interrupted in our minds by a sudden urgent thought related to the child in front of us:

“Yes, I do think the Beast seems verbally abusive… wait! Remind me. Did we reschedule your violin lesson? I just remembered we are going to see the dentist on Tuesday and…”

The commitment to staying present and focused on a rambling discussion about a movie or Minecraft or musings on the meaning of life by a 9 year old can easily be sidetracked when an urgent task pops to mind. It’s so difficult to resist the temptation to skip ahead to an urgent matter, rather than drilling down to the slow meandering of conversation.

We expect workbooks, explicit teaching, or reading will accomplish all we want in our children’s lives. Yet even the reading of books benefits from what I call a “big juicy conversation.” When we read in isolation from conversation, good things happen. When we read and discuss, even better things happen! Now we’re hearing the same story refracted through someone else’s experience, which expands how we understand the same story or information!

You may not be able to read every book all five of your children read (I mean, who could?!), but you can certainly contribute to the conversation about the book by

  • asking questions,
  • showing curiosity,
  • making comparisons to books you’ve read,
  • and allowing your child to bounce thoughts and ideas off of you (not that stale narration task of regurgitating information, but the true joy of sharing).

Conversation is an exchange of energy (not just an exchange of words). Conversation brings two or more people together to explore their ideas in community—to benefit from a wider set of insights and experiences than can be had alone.

Why is this important? In a homeschool, we do not naturally facilitate the kind of classroom learning that attempts to engage a variety of perspectives from a variety of students. The temptation in home education is to drive for independence where a student learns “by herself” or where the books are doing all the teaching.

Yet that independence comes at a price—no one to talk to!

What you can do, instead, is to give your kids both an audience and a sounding board. You can involve them in conversation with you, and you get to count that as having accomplished something important that day. Talking with you about their ideas, questions, thoughts, and insights IS the number one way your children get a valuable education. You are such a light of learning! Trust it! Be it! Live it! Value it!

  • Make a note on your calendar each time you get to spend more than 2 minutes talking with one of your kids. Pay attention to who is getting missed (who never surfaces for a big juicy conversation) and then intentionally seek opportunities to connect with the child falling through the cracks.
  • Permit yourself to waste time talking at length when the energy moves in that direction.
  • Set aside the books or the movie or the math pages in favor of an extended discussion about the merits of a sitcom or why every animal poops.

These are (truly) golden moments in your children’s education.

Over time, what you will discover is that your family has curated a kind of educational culture in your home. Some of you will have created natural writers. Others will be great at mechanical exploits. Still others will be naturally inclined to work with numbers or computers. As your family talks, so your areas of expertise surface and your children learn as if by osmosis through conversations—both those they overhear and the ones in which they participate.

Go forth and waste time talking! It’s the best part of your homeschool already.


Listen to the Big Juicy Conversations Podcast


How Movies Made Me a Reader and Writer

why you should let your kids watch adaptations

By Brave Writer Alum Amy Frantz

I would often hear, either in the homes of family members or in the aisles of stores, a parent telling their child, “You have to read the book first,” when the child asked for a movie. I heard this all through my childhood outside of our home and it never made sense to me.

Movies made me a reader and a writer.

Allow me to explain:

I am severely dyslexic. By the age of eleven, I still could not read well. In fact, I didn’t start reading well until my teens. Reading is physically painful for me, but I did it and do it for long chunks of time a day anyway. Reading is vitally important to me, but for a large part of my childhood and adolescence I couldn’t read or couldn’t read well.

So, I watched movies and TV shows instead. I first travelled to Narnia through the television and the BBC’s excellent Chronicles of Narnia adaptations. I met Harry Potter and journeyed to Hogwarts through the cinema, not through the written word. I had adventures with Peter Rabbit through animation. Film and television ignited my love of stories, a love which has lasted my entire life.

I was quite lucky to be raised outside the school system by a homeschooling mother who was calmly undismayed by my difficulty reading. My mom steadfastly believed that I would get there in my own time, in my own way. And I did.

I was raised in a language rich environment. My mom read to my brothers and me daily. For long car rides, we had audio books. Mom would take us to the library and I would go to the kid’s section and take a seat beside the Beatrix Potter books. I couldn’t read them, but I liked to be near her words. I would flip through the books, looking at the illustrations, and running my fingers over her words. I checked out books I couldn’t really read ‘cause I wanted to take the words with me and I was allowed to do that.

But more than all this, my parents allowed me to have access to adaptations of books. No one insisted that I “read the book first.” I was allowed to check out the BBC Chronicles of Narnia from the library as many times as I wanted. I’m sure I watched the first Harry Potter movie until my entire family was sick of it.

I loved these stories so much and I loved words even if their written form was a tricky foreign country with unreadable road signs. Because I loved stories so much, I wanted access to their source material.

Movies and television not only made me want to read books,
but they made the reading easier.

When I begged my mom to let me have the first Harry Potter novel, it was a struggle for me to read it at the age of eleven. But because I already knew the basic story, because I knew how most of the pieces fit, if I had to skip sections or couldn’t understand large swaths of paragraphs, that was okay because I wouldn’t get lost.

Adaptations gave me a road map for this strange land of written words that can still be difficult for me to navigate even today. If I don’t concentrate, the words will fracture and all their meaning will run right off the page. Movies and television helped me to put the meaning back when I was still struggling so hard to read.

I honestly don’t know how my development would have gone if I had been raised in an environment that limited my access to stories. I might not enjoy reading now and I probably wouldn’t be a writer.

When I was young, my parents gave me a bulky red tape recorder that I could carry around with me, and I told my stories into that because I couldn’t yet write. It was counted as writing even though there wasn’t a pen in my hand.

My mom accommodated my learning disability. While she still diligently worked with me at handwriting and phonics, undeterred by my seeming lack of much progress, she also gave me access to the forms of language and expression that were easiest for me, instead of insisting I restrict myself to the forms which were painful, difficult, and limiting.

Developing reading and writing skills in children don’t always look like a child sitting with a book open in their hands or physically putting a pen to paper. Sometimes a child developing reading and writing skills looks like watching Harry Potter for the thousandth time or speaking into a recording device. I think it’s important to give kids access to stories and language in the ways that are easiest for them. While still teaching the ‘hard’ stuff, sure, but not letting the hard stuff dominate the child’s linguistic landscape.

I grew up with fantastical stories and words, so many words, running through my head. I grew up with Narnia and Hogwarts and Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh and Shakespeare, and so many more. I had a childhood rich in language, but it oftentimes might have looked to an outsider like a kid “just watching television.”

I put forth for your consideration that a child who wants to watch the same Disney film for the third time this week is a child who wants to actively engage with a story and with words spoken and sung. That’s a child loving a story just as much as the child curled up on the couch with a book. And sometimes kids need to come at stories through a screen before they can pick up the book. If a child loves stories, they will probably want to pick up the book when it’s right for them, and that’s the most important thing.

Movie Discussion Club


#Braveschoolers are the Best Schoolers -with Chantelle Grubbs

Brave Writer Podcast: Chantelle Grubbs

We’re nearing the end of season 2 of the podcast. Hasn’t it been great? Only a couple more weeks! (Shhh: We’re prepping Season 3.)

Today I offer you Episode 8 which is with the lovely Chantelle Grubbs of of Play 4 Life Moms! She’s a mom who’s truly incorporated the Brave Writer Lifestyle into her large family—and she tells it like it is: the real, the wonderful, and the challenging! We had a great conversation (and she’s got an adorable southern accent).

Listen to the Podcast

You can also download show notes.

Brave Writer Podcast Show Notes
Download Show Notes

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Tune in to the Brave Writer podcast on iTunes, Stitcher (or your app of choice), and here on the Brave Writer blog.


Would you please post a review on iTunes for us? You’ll help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey when you do. Thanks in advance!


Friday Freewrite: Road Trip

Friday Freewrite

Do you enjoy road trips? What might your family’s vehicle think of them? Write a conversation between one of the tires and the steering wheel.

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