Julie Pep Talks: Keep All Options on the Table

Brave Writer Podcast

There is a difference between having a joyful vision of family life that includes opportunities for growth and learning and love versus a specific vision you feel you must protect in order to think you are successful.

In our last Brave Writer podcast episode, I explored the difference between setting boundaries and setting rules. I want to continue that conversation because there is so much to tease apart between the two.

Show Notes

Part of what makes setting boundaries so difficult is the sense of responsibility parents or caregivers have over their children: responsibility to create a healthy environment, to ensure a solid education – whether at home or at school, and to provide food and a safe place to live. But, in the midst of all of those responsibilities, we can sometimes substitute a personal agenda or dream in its place.

The only way to have a beautiful outcome in your family is to keep all options on the table at all times.

You can make a philosophical choice, but you need to back up that choice by understanding that if that choice no longer serves you or that child, you can look at the other options on the table.


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Movie Wednesday: Hidden Figures

Movie Wednesday: Hidden Figures

Take three brilliant minds, add vision, humor, determination, and extraordinary math skills and what do you get? Katherine G. Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan’s inspiring true story, Hidden Figures! This uplifting film depicts these women’s lives and their mathematical contributions to NASA that helped launch John Glenn into orbit and revolutionize the Space Race.

In 1961, unique, sought-after skills and exceptional intelligence couldn’t protect Black mathematicians from racism, segregation, and sexism faced both at work and in their daily lives. When the system fails to recognize the merits of their work, Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy create opportunities for themselves and go on to exceed the expectations of their peers.

The 2016 film was directed by Theodore Melfi and based loosely on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book by the same name.

The movie was well-received, and the National Board of Review marked it as one of the top ten films of 2016. Hidden Figures received three nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.

Despite multiple honors, the film’s reception wasn’t all positive. Concern that the movie featured a White savior narrative that deflated the women’s accomplishments was voiced. You can discuss this point with your kids. Find out what they think.

Bill Barry, NASA’s chief historian, worked with Melfi, the film’s director, to ensure the film was as accurate as possible. As is often the case in film adaptations, not every detail is historically accurate. Moments are added to drive home specific points, ramp up tension and drama, and move the plot forward. Before or after you watch the film, look up these fictional flourishes by searching online for Hidden Figures’ historical inaccuracies. Reflect on the ways they enhance or compromise the power of the story.

Sometimes a title says it all! Hidden Figures has a double meaning referring both to the women themselves, who went unknown for many years, and to the numbers they worked with. Taraji P. Henson (Katherine) drives home the title’s merit in a comment to a reporter in which she notes that prior to making the film, she had never heard of Katherine, Mary, or Dorothy. “And I went to an historically black university, where Ron McNair—who died in the launch to space—had attended. I actually studied electrical engineering. I failed, but I was there. And this man has a building named after him. If it wasn’t for Katherine Johnson, there would have been no Ron. But hey, who am I? Never heard of her. I was annoyed. I was mad. And this became my passion project. I was like, ‘I have to do this movie.’”

This highly discussable film provides a bounty of material for you and your teen to ponder together. So have at it! Get out the popcorn, put up your feet, and enjoy the show!

A note to parents

In one good-natured scene, Mary drinks alcohol and gets a little silly with friends. There is mild kissing and flirtatious language. This film is rated PG.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe the NASA workplace and the racial tension depicted in the film. How did the women navigate this discrimination? How do you think such obstacles might have impacted their work?

2. Ultimately, why do you think Al Harrison gave Katherine access to the information she needed to work on trajectory analysis for Alan Shepard’s mission? Beyond her talents as a mathematician, what other qualities convinced Harrison she was the right person for this important job?

3. After a heartbreaking scene in which she and her sons are escorted out of the library, Dorothy notes that “separate but equal are two different things. Just because it’s the way don’t make it right.” What did she mean?

4. What do Kennedy’s words “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard” mean to you? Have you ever taken on a challenge, perhaps in sports or the arts, that felt all the more worthwhile because it was difficult? Describe that experience and what it felt like to take on that challenge.

5. At the end of the film, Katherine is gifted with a pearl necklace. What was the significance of this act? What did the pearl necklace symbolize? 

Take Flight with this Extension Activity

Invite your kids to experiment! Search the internet for DIY paper airplanes. Try out a variety of designs and conduct a series of flight tests. Observe the distance, speed, and flight trajectory of each plane. Experiment with design elements such as flaps, tails, and extra weight. 

Book Club Class
Give your teen the chance to discuss the Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition in the Brave Writer virtual coffee house we call the Boomerang Book Club! Registration is open now!

Learn language arts naturally with the Hidden Figures: Young Readers Edition Boomerang (available February 1, 2022)

The Boomerang is a digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward teens ages 13–14) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Wednesday Master List

Brave Writer

Raising Critical Thinkers FREE Webinar

Raising Critical Thinkers

I miss you! No conferences, no travel. Blerg!

This year, due to the constraints of, well, every single thing, I decided it would be wonderful and cool to celebrate the publication date of RAISING CRITICAL THINKERS with EVERYONE via Zoom.

I’m excited to read to you, to talk about the contents of the book, to share some big news about how I am celebrating the book with you, and more.

DATE: Tuesday, February 1, 2022
TIME: 4:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (+5 GMT)
PLACE: Zoom webinar

The first 500 people can attend live when you register here.

Last time I held a book launch, there was a legit snow storm which meant everyone was late and stressed and cold. This time, you can be in the comfort of your own home, with slippers and hot tea and the glow of a lamp. 

New York Times Best-selling author, Adam Grant, wrote a wonderful review: “This is the guide parents need to become thoughtful consumers of information.” 

Feel free to pass the registration link along to your friends too!

(I do have an in-person event the following week, so keep reading if you’re local to Cincinnati.)



Cincinnati, Ohio

For those of you who live local to me, I’m doing a LIVE in-person reading the following week!

You can read more details here.

I’ll be signing your books for you, too.

DATE: Monday, February 7, 2022
TIME: 7:00 PM Eastern
PLACE: Jospeh-Beth Booksellers, Rookwood*
2692 Madison Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45208

All are welcome, including your kids!

*If you haven’t purchased a book yet, we do ask that you buy one at the book store to support this event. Not required, but a nice courtesy!


Excited for you to be a part of the growing number of parents who are putting quality thinkers out into the world. We need them!

Learn more about the book here (includes pre-order links): RAISING CRITICAL THINKERS

Raising Critical Thinkers

Keep Going

Brave Writer

If it’s working, keep going.

Maybe print this one on a Post-it and stick it to your refrigerator or your mirror or wherever you spend the most time.

  • No need to buy a new curriculum if the one you have works.
  • No reason to adopt the new-fangled philosophy if you like the one you have.
  • No need to get rigid about boundaries or freedom, if the balance you’ve struck works for your family.
  • No reason to spend more time away from the house if being home is what makes everyone happy.

You do you.

If it works, it’s okay to keep going, no matter how others understand your choices.

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

Brave Learner Home

Julie Pep Talks: Setting Boundaries, Not Setting Rules

Brave Writer Podcast

Welcome to the first episode of a new segment I’m calling “Julie Pep Talks,” where I narrow in on one particular topic and give you my thoughts about it and suggestions you can quickly put into practice. Today’s topic is all about setting boundaries, not setting rules.

At the start of a new year, we’re often coming from the combined high of family gatherings, as well as the residual resentment that can come when your closest relatives push your buttons in all the wrong ways. Couple that with the cultural expectation to reform our lives in the form of new year’s resolutions of the year and it makes sense that we’d look at our mental welfare and engage in some relationship hygiene. That means setting the boundaries necessary to have a good relationship with the people in your life.

Let’s explore what it actually means to set boundaries, and why, sometimes, what you think is a boundary is actually a rule. The distinction matters.

Show Notes

There is a famous quote from the book Codependent No More by Melody Beattie that says, “You cannot set a boundary and take care of someone’s feelings at the same time.” What I’ve seen happen in the name of boundaries is often just more sophisticated, codependent behavior and manipulation. There’s a temptation to pretend we’re setting a boundary when we’re actually setting a rule. A rule is meant to enforce the behavior of others, while a boundary is meant to protect your own emotional energy.

When dealing with behavior you don’t approve of in others, you have a few options available:

  • pretend there isn’t a problem and cooperate,
  • set personal boundaries,
  • or set rules.

Rules are about what other people do, but we have no control over the behavior of others.

Imagine dealing with an alcoholic. You can set the rule that you do not allow alcohol in your house, but that relies on the other person to follow that rule and adhere to it. Instead, you could set the boundary that you will not buy alcohol for them. That’s something that you have complete control over.

It’s hard to set boundaries because we often feel as if we are losing something: a relationship, control, revenue, respect, or something else. How does this apply to homeschooling? Think about the child who doesn’t want to learn math. You can set a boundary that, if you’re going to help with schoolwork, then they need to have a good attitude, follow through, and do the work. But that’s actually a rule – and it’s one that you’ll have to enforce because the child is really the one in control. 

So what do you do instead? Your boundary could be that, when you show up positive and motivated to give your child a good learning experience, and they show up without a good attitude, you can get up from that table and walk away. It’s not about their performance but the kind of life you want to live.

A boundary is not about the other person. It is about what you need to ensure your emotional wellbeing. Think about how you are being codependent in your relationship with your child, and how you can set boundaries that protect your own mental health.


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Brave Writer Podcast