Open Thread

Who’s out there? I would love to hear from you who read and lurk (I know you’re there because I can see your IP addresses!). Post a note that lets us know what you’d like me to address in this blog. What topics still nag at you, what questions do you have, what struggles or successes can you share?

This is your chance, so let’s here it!


23 Responses to “Open Thread”

  1. Becky says:

    You seem to have followed a very child-led philosophy in educating your children. I have been at this homeschooling thing for about 5 years now, and I am coming to face the fact the my son’s (9) time tables will not be the same as the public school students that he plays with. Mostly he is “behind” in comparison because we don’t push very hard. Did you face this issue? How did you handle it? Also, we live in Washington where we have to test annually, so I am concerned how he will “measure up.”

    I WANT to move him along at his pace, but I also don’t want him to feel like everyone else knows more than him!

    Oh, the dilemmas!

    Becky in WA

  2. Cheryl says:

    Hello. I’m a new subscriber to your blog. I was looking at Brave Writer because two of my children (the 9 and 7 yr olds) are just beginning to write. I don’t feel like the workbooks we are using now for spelling and grammar are that useful, but I’m afraid to let them go. I’d also love to hear your response to Becky’s questions as we are going through the same thing here.

  3. Betty says:

    I’d love to hear how to flesh out the Brave Writer lifestyle on a day to day basis beginning with earlier ages and continuing through high school. I have a 12 yo who LOVES to write. I need to harness this energy and enthusiasm better. Then I have 10 yo twin boys who hate to write.

    I’d love to learn and be encouraged in becoming more engaged with my children and build that relationship that will be the fertile soil for their security and creativity and love of learning.

    How’s that?

    Blessings to you,

  4. Michelle Caldwell says:

    Hi Julie,

    I finally posted some thoughts about the grammar class on the One Thing forum! You probably have given up checking for any other responses there because February was ages ago! But I hope you’ll take a look at it.

    I love your site and find so much encouragment to keep-on-keeping-on! I think the main thing I am trying to not freak out about at the moment is the fact that I have teenagers now (today our twin boys turned 13!!!) and they are talking about wanting to go to school for high school. I worry about how they will make the transition and all the typical going to school concerns. Regarding writing, they can write a good story but they still have some work to do on the mopping up part and I worry that we won’t get enough mopping in during the next year before they go off to school. And here’s the crazy talk in my head – therefore if we don’t do enough mopping they won’t be able to succeed in high school, they will fail all those standardized tests, flunk out of high school, not be able to get a job or go to college if they wanted to, and then – they will live with us for the rest of their, or our lives. Okay, I know that’s crazy talk and yet…

    That’s all to say hearing from folks who have been-there-done-that is so helpful. I love to hear about how you navigated things with you children and the things they are doing now – especially since you are farther along in the process. To hear the honest struggles and bittersweet moments of transitions have really helped to give me a better perspective in the moment.

    I tend to lurk more than post because I often feel crunched for time and I think – Oh I’ll post something later about that, or I want to think about that and then respond. The problem is I generally don’t get back to doing it. Perhaps if I think more about posting just a little something – short and sweet might free me up to actually do the posting.

    This isn’t too short though. Yikes! Thanks for all you do!

    Michelle C
    Caleb, Gabriel 13!!!, Gabriella 10, Charis 5

  5. E. says:


    When I found your website, it resonated with me. I have a masters in Early Childhood Education, and in the past have taught Kindergarten. I have read research articles that support having a lifestyle of encouraging literacy (mostly reading) development. It makes complete and perfect sense to me to have a lifestyle of promoting the development of writing.

    The one-on-one relationships that you promote in your website are wonderful!

    Could you post some good books to start teatime? Although I think teatime is wonderful, I have trouble accomplishing it. Maybe a list of excellent poetry books would help?

    We love your blog!


  6. LoriD says:

    Hi Julie, I read daily, I love your blog!

    I love many things about your blog. 1) it keeps me relaxed, it keeps me focused on lifestyle vs “curriculum”, 2) yet it keeps me on track, it’s easy for me to get ideas from your postings when sometimes I feel uninspired. Especially the Friday freewrites (or course the yahoo group does this as well), 3) I just love hearing about the day to day in your life as well, it’s one of the reasons I read blogs, it’s nice to know we are all on this “journey” together.

    What would I like to see? I loved hearing from others what Bravewriter “looks like” in their families (like the Tea Time photos – that was fun).

    I’d like to hear more about Partnership Writing (like the freewrite suggestions you make). I think that’s the next “stage” for me and I don’t recall seeing many blog entries on that. Yes I have the Writers Jungle but sometimes I forget to read it.

    What still nags at me …..research/study skills preparing middle school kids for high school/college. I know you address it, but reassurances and suggestions on how to keep the “relaxed lifestyle” and keep the “panic” at bay.

    Also I had an idea about using “A Question Box” for next year – I thought it might fit in well with “research” type skills. Make an interesting decorated box maybe with lots of question marks all over it and the child pulls out a research question that needs to be answered, a very specific question. I don’t have all (or very many) of the details but was just wondering what you thought of that idea and could it “fit” in somewhere. OK I’m just blabbering here. I’ll close and just say thanks for all you do!

  7. Sandra says:

    I’m from New Zealand so I’d love to know if you are planning a holiday down here anytime soon so I could convince you to run a weekend similar to the one in Grand Rapids that I heard some great things about!!

    More realistically though, I’d love reassurance that reluctant and resistant writers will get it eventually. And any guidelines on when/how to nudge (it sounds gentler than push!) them in their writing. I have a 10yo son who hates to write but loves WWII. He has basically read the library system out of WWII- certainly the junior section and much of the adult stuff too. I was hoping to encourage more description in his writing so was trying to get him to imagine being in the desert or in a fighter plane etc and describe what it was like. All I got was “I don’t know!” If I suggested something he would say “Oh yeah” but claimed he didn’t have any ideas of his own. Maybe trying to link something he likes with something he doesn’t actually works in reverse – removes the pleasure from WWII rather than decreases the dislike of writing!

    Whenever I try and encourage stronger word choices etc he also resists. After lots of praise for what I liked, I’ll says something like “You’ve used said a lot in here and for me as the reader it got a bit boring. What about we look up the thesaurus and try and find some words we can use instead.” He looks up the thesaurus reluctantly, comes up with some options but then says he likes said better! Arrgh! It is his writing so I feel I should let the choice be his but…

    I have a shelf full of writing programs (mostly from before I found Bravewriter) and new ones always seem to jump out at me from catalogues etc! I find we use and (mostly!) enjoy them for a term or so, then tire of them. At first I thought I was picking bad progammes , wasting money etc but now I’m not so sure. I think we get some good stuff out of them but then since I don’t want my kids to sound like the author of any of those programmes (and since – maybe this is just me- they are often just more of the same at subsequent levels) it is time to move on. I find different progammes have different things to say and by utilising a variety we are in a better position to pick and choose what works for us, or what works for each piece of writing. I’d be interested in your comments on this.

  8. Lorri Martin says:

    Hi Julie,
    I love all your stuff! Thanks! I have a question about tea time. My kids love to do this (and so do I). We do it pretty regularly, but usually not quite weekly. But inevitably, when it is time for tea, they simply get out our set of Shel Silverstein and pick several poems from there. Usually this is at the last minute. How do I encourage them to broaden their horizons and give a little more thought to their selections?

  9. Julie Bogart says:

    Hi everyone!

    Thanks for this terrific feedback. I can see that there are plenty of questions to keep me going for awhile.

    Now about that invitation to New Zealand…. 🙂 Actually, I’d love to come to NZ and AU. My husband and I have talked quite a bit about it so it’s not completely out of the question.

    Short of that, I will tackle some of these issues starting next week. Thanks for giving me feedback and please always comment on this blog. Talk to me, to each other. Feel free to challenge the content or to share what isn’t working. This is not an advertising space. It is meant to be a workspace where we hash things out.

    And never, ever worry about your punctuation, spelling or grammar when you write to me in any context. I am blind to mistakes when we are discussing the important content of your homeschooling lives. 🙂

    Julie, aka typo queen (btw)

  10. Marcy says:

    Morning Julie,

    I too have many of the same desires as those who previously posted – moving from emementary to middle school. We’ve enjoyed the Tuesday Teatimes as well as the Friday Freewrites. My daugher and I took the Copywork One Thing at a Time course and that was worthwhile.

    I’m going to purchase the Writer’s Jungle – will that help me know if my children are on the right track – my concern is that I’ll not know if their writing is up to par, if that makes any sense. Was wondering if I could send over a couple of my daughter’s freewrites and have feedback from you. She enjoys them and seems to do them with ease – the blank piece of paper doesn’t seem to rattle her like it does me.

    As for the teatime pictures, we’ve taken some and wanted to share – do I just email them to you? Wasn’t sure which email to use.

    Your blog has offered encouragement and challenges me to want to take a leap and see where brave writing may take us.

    Thank you for sharing your passion.

  11. Sharon Jantzen says:

    Hi Julie, You have inspired me as a fellow home schooling mom. My oldest boy, now 10, was a very reluctant writer as he is also a perfectionist and does not deal well with failure. When I introduced the Freewrite Friday time, last school year, his writing was set free. Spelling is bad but content and sentence structure has a lot of quality. He has gained much confidence and recently finished his first report.

    My second son, now 8, is creative and gifted in the language arts and finds writing and drawing a release as he has many ideas rattling around in his head. He recently came up with a description of his relationship with his 6 year old cousin Joe, who lives in NE (we’re in CA). He said, “Joe and me go together like a buckle.”

    My daughter, 5, is my most enthusiastic student and is working on her handwriting diligently. She often writes notes that say, “I love you mom and dad from Leah.”

    The post you did called, “Love is spelled: Listen, empathize and flex” has been printed out and highlighted and is on my desk as a reference tool for the days I just need to re-catch the vision of our calling to home school.

    We have had a few Tea time Tuesdays (Soccer practices and AWANA and my horseback riding pursuits – Dressage- make it difficult). The first one we invited two girls over to join us. Their fellow home schooling mom has five little ones at home all 8 and under in age (!), so I wanted to bless her by taking the older two girls. The girls stayed and did some of their school with us after tea time. The next one was with my in-laws who were visiting us from NE. They had tea and listened to the poetry and our kids were so excited to share the experience with them. The All-star soccer season is now over so Teatime Tuesday can become more prominent.

    Thank you for your encouragement both in your blog and through the Brave Writer notebook. I especially enjoy the nuggets on dealing with the daily joys and frustrations of home schooling our children.


  12. Angele says:

    Hi Julie,

    I love your blog, the Writer’s Jungle, and the daily emails.The reminders are so practical and concrete. I try to glean all I can about helping my children become competent writers while preserving relationship with the ones who resist writing (my teenager in particular). I am trying to prevent that resistance in my younger ones, and have already observed the wonders freewriting and completely ignoring spelling and errors have had on their writing. My 6 and 9 year olds bring me notes all the time now, and I know it is because I have gushed over all of their attempts. I know it is because my eyes have lit up as much reading them as when they bring me a dandelion bouquet.

    I have some of the same concerns as others including teaching research skills, and reluctant writer teenagers. Also,do you have any suggestions for reluctant writer moms? I have come to realize since I began freewriting with my boys, that I don’t write unless I have a specific reason to, kind of like my 13 year old son. Is there a way to foster competence as well as joy in something I don’t exactly find joy in myself?


  13. Anne says:

    I love it when you talk about real life dilemmas–like what to do when you are locked in a power struggle with your child. I remember a post from a few months ago when you talked about going out for a walk and talk to change the mood. I also struggle with getting off track easily. Any insights you have for the easily distracted mother would be welcome.
    In response to the query above about good poetry books to use for Tuesday Teatime, I would like to recommend “Whisper and Shout, Poems to Memorize” edited by Patrice Vecchione. It is an anthology and includes poets from Shakespeare to Silverstein.

  14. Patricia says:

    Hi Julie,

    Thanks for calling us lurkers out into the open–I’ve been meaning to write for awhile, and now you’ve helped me stop putting it off!

    I’ve wanted to write a note of thanks for your series of posts on what teenagers need. I enjoyed them very much, and even forwarded the link to my support group because many of us have teens.

    I didn’t realize how helpful your words would be, though, until the morning in November when my son came to me, clearly uncomfortable, and said he wanted to talk to me. He’s 15, and what a school would consider a sophomore. It was hard for him to say, but he stumbled over the words and told me he wanted to go to high school.

    This hit me like a punch in the stomach that I didn’t see coming. My son has always been very independent, and never wanted anything to do with school. But when he started explaining his reasons to me–that he wants to be around more kids his age, that he wants to do more away from his family, that he wants some school experience before college–I heard your posts echoed in what he was saying.

    Having read your words just a few months before prepared me, I think. I didn’t see my son’s decision coming–but I could accept it better, remembering what you’d written. His reasons were well-thought out and heartfelt. I went through a bit of mourning, I think, for the few years of homeschooling I thought we had left–but in the end I knew I needed to support his decision. I’m actually very proud that he knows himself so well, and knows what he needs. None of his homeschooling friends are taking this route, but he’s brave enough to do what is right for him.

    So thank you for those posts–and all your posts. You have a wisdom about kids that I admire. I have two younger kids too, but I especially enjoy your posts about teens because it seems there is less being written about homeschooling and teens specifically. It’s a bittersweet time because we’re preparing them to be independent of us; it’s comforting to hear from others who have been through it.

    Oh, and beyond the content, I appreciate your writing. I write too, and it’s a treat to read well-turned words on homeschooling. Thank you!

  15. Karen Lane says:

    I think I’m finally getting it.
    I spent so much time worrying that I wasn’t giving my kids enough structure in school: how would they survive in the real world if and when they were forced to leave the homeschool nest? Well, I got some answers to those questions this year.

    My oldest decided to go to public school this year. 10th grade. What a brave thing to do. His motivation – to reach out to other kids. He’s a bright guy, but not very disciplined. It’s all I can do to get him out of bed. I worried. Know what? He’s doing great. Making A’s and B’s in honors classes. Know what else? My one time reluctant writer voluntarily took Creative Writing! Creative Writing! I just know that is in part a credit to you, Julie Bogart.

    I worried about my second child, too. She’s always had some learning differences and finally last year I thought, “You know, someone out there has got to be able to help her better than I can”. So I put her in public school. Ha. The school was great, everyone was helpful and she held her own, but I took her out after one month because I learned something. Something encouraging. It turns out we were doing just as well at home! Yes, I’m disorganized. Yes, public school had some advantages over our home school. But as it happens, we do some things better at home. We chew on things. We soak things in. We read good books. We talk about things and go see them in person if we can work it in. Sure they cover a lot of ground in ps, but it is at such a frantic pace that there isn’t TIMe to ponder anything, to look it up and do a little research if you’re curious. And you know what? I think that I can say that not only am I not doing my daughter a disservice by keeping her home, I think it’s the BeST way of learning for her.

    I think I’m getting it.

    So, my$.02, keep up what you’re doing, Julie. I’ve taken in your encouragement and exhortation and I’ve gotten to see for my self that you weren’t pulling our legs all this time.

    And by the way, your post a couple of days back was so timely as I found myself in the position of needing to add to the family income and just launched my photography business a couple of weeks ago. Your article kind of summed up the homeschool and life experience. We sometimes focus on writing and leave geography collecting ust in the closet. Sometimes I focus on getting the business off the ground and my kids are fending for themselves, but despite my lack of structure and organization were doing okay. Maybe more than okay.
    Thanks Julie

  16. KristenS says:

    I mostly read the blog but occasionally post something over on your forum. My children are only 6 and 3 so aren’t writing a lot … but they don’t know that. 🙂 Storytelling has really taken off in our house.

    I enjoy your blog because it reminds me of the ‘little’ things that can add up to a reading and writing lifestyle. We don’t do a lot of it yet, but just reading about it all the time helps me get into the mindset, so as the kids get older we’ll add Teatimes and Freewrites and all the rest. And when they’re a little older I’ll get The Writer’s Jungle … I’m dying to get it now, but I know if I wait till it’s more age-appropriate, we’ll get more out of it. (So many things end up just sitting on the shelf, forgotten when the right time rolls around.)

    I especially love your blog because it’s given me the courage to do my own writing once again, and watching Mommy write is making an incredible impression on my kids. Add to that a Dad who runs D&D games regularly (which takes plenty of writing and planning) and, well, storytelling is just what this family does. And it’s great!

  17. Lizzy says:

    I love your philosophy. I love The Writer’s Jungle. I have no wish to purchase a bunch of ‘language arts’ guides or writing-structure type curricula. I’m willing to go without a formal spelling program. I wish to (as you put it) “guard my child’s love of writing.” But…. I think I need a bit more structure. I’m floundering. I have a second grader, so I don’t feel the need to do anything too formal, but I’m floundering nonetheless.

    I think structure/schedule/plan is somewhere in that big binder, but I sure wish you’d just lay it out for me so I don’t have to re-read it all and figure it out. I don’t mean anything as drastic as daily assignments or specific topics. Maybe just a reminder/summary of the practical use of The Writer’s Jungle? Some tips for developing my own schedule to meet my sons’ needs?
    Maybe a checklist of possibilities to include on a weekly or monthly basis?

    (Or, how about a conference out here in Seattle? We’re very nice people up here in the NW, and I know you’d have a full house.)

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


  18. Julie Bogart says:

    Lizzy do you know about the Brave Writer Moms list on yahoo? I developed it as a daily reminder email list to give you a sense of the structure of a “lifestyle” schedule. You can check it out here:

    Brave Writer Mom’s List.

    Also, I will take this question as a suggestion for breaking down the practices for you on the blog. Good comments.

    And as a further note: I’m willing to travel to other places to do my Nurturing Brave Writers workshop. I need an invitation and a host (someone who will do the leg work in that city to ensure we have enough participants and a place to meet). So if you’re that person….. 🙂


  19. Galen Roll says:

    Responding to Becky, I’d like to recommend a GREAT book which teaches short-cut strategies for SOLVING multiplications. It is called “The Best of Times” by Greg Tang. (It is also playfully rhymed and illustrated!)
    How does this idea work? Well, If you know 3 X 7, for example, then you can double that to get 6 X 7. (because looking at your fingers it is clear that 3+3=6)
    My son, 12, memorized the multiplications through repeatedly solving them. Best yet, this book unlocks the mathematical relationships behind the facts.
    Galen in CA

  20. Galen Roll says:

    Hi again, Julie!
    I love Bravewriter for your concrete writing ideas and for the ways in which you encourage us to develop authentic relationships with each other and with our interests and voices.
    Like other Moms who’ve commented, have a son reaching age 13 and I resonate with your discussions about teens and their needs. You encourage us to listen and open up to our kids’ interests–interests that may not be part of our own parent-sphere. I dispell a lot of parent fear through listening! Often I find there is no need for the fear!
    My son started playing a game called Warhammer, which appeared to me violent and fantastic–yikes!! But through listening to his excited explanations of it and inviting over neighborhood kids who share this interest, I’ve met some very thoughtful, communicative, respectful and fun-loving kids! Then we went to the library and checked out books about medieval Europe (the time-period/setting of this game.) It also turns out that strategy and story-development are a big part of this game, as well as model-building and making lists of the characters and their mathematical worth.
    In short, I’ve been able to swivel 180 degrees from a position of anxiety to one of widening-out, honoring, and building on this one thing!! He has also written about characters and specific aspects of this game.
    Julie, your blog has had everything to do with this. THANK YOU!!! I like to think that I would get to this place by myself, but your encouragement saves me some potentially rocky struggles!
    I actually have a nine year old girl, too, who reaps the benefits of my finding great resources like yours first with my son!
    So thank you for supporting our family in our home-school journey. You are part of why we can keep choosing it as we gaze ahead to teen years….

  21. Bobbi-Lynne says:

    I am a lurker but a regular reader (mostly because I have an infant in my arms most moments which makes it tough to use the keyboard and a toddler to chase). I love your website and am considering your course for my children aged 9 and 7. Thank-you for all your encouragement.

  22. Mary Grzywinski says:

    HI Julie! Thank you for all your energy, attention and passion you put into Brave Writer. I have been following you and your method for a couple of years. I love the copywork/dictation piece especially. I saw your one-thing workshop too. Everytime I read about the benefits of copywork/dicatation I think, ‘Great!, but how?? through osmosis??” I have 3 boys (12,10,8) and they would rather be doing anything but schoolwork or anything that remotely looks like schoolwork. We have gotten into a nice routine and do C/D at least 3 times per week- they don’t like it but do it. Also, we’ve been sharing more poetry about 1x per week (no tea involved, sometime popcorn or the local bookstore) and again, they ‘just don’t like poetry, sorry mom”.
    I feel good about that consistency and just hope that it all pays off in the end. In my more positive moments I look at them blissfully and think what a wonderful life they have; but then in the next moment I am in a panic that I am ruining their chances of happiness and earning a sustainable, independent living.
    I felt compelled to write to you and know you understand. Through your blogs you seem so much more confident in the process, I just wish I didn’t fall into the abyss so often.
    Would welcome anymore words of wisdom…..
    thank you again!
    Mary Grzywinski

  23. Dawn says:

    Oh my! I didn’t realize this had gotten so far back here without my getting my post in. Hope it’s not too late.

    My question is, what can one do who has already “blown it” with a child. My oldest ds (8.5 – still young, yes – I know) once said, ’bout two years ago, that he loved to “boss the words” as he called it then – tell me what to write and have me type it out. But . . . because of a combination of my lack of understanding of children and development and the LA curriculum I was using and/or my misunderstanding of it, he no longer feels that way. I talked and interrupted and tried to teach too much, rather than just letting him express himself. The curriculum said to write down what the child said, then edit it together. So I/we edited! It did not go well, and now he says “Oh no!” even when I want to write down what he’s telling me on his own – not something I’ve asked him to generate. When I’m writing the words down, much of the time he becomes stiff and stilted and formal, giving rigid, unimaginative answers to my questions.

    Combined with the above, I have followed the pattern of my parents (which I did not want to do!) and, in my desire to help them improve, I tend to criticize and point out all the weak spots and do not praise enough. Partly, I think, I need to train myself to see the praiseworthy aspects of their work – need to know what IS praiseworthy at their level. I’m making progress, but not fast enough for my taste.

    So . . . what do I do now? I think I did the right thing this morning – Ds was telling me he knew how to make a tent, so I had him share, only half listening at first (bad mommy!), then the light went on. I had him back up and explain himself more clearly and with more detail, thinking in my own mind what would need to be included if he were writing the instructions out for someone else. Then, when he was done (without losing his enthusiasm for the subject), I told him that what he just did was writing, only we didn’t put the words down on paper. All that writing is, is putting the words that he would say on paper so that they can be mailed or read 20 years from now so that other people can know what JM thought/said when he was 8. He grinned and laughed a little, then commented that he still didn’t like making the pencil move across the paper. (This same child also struggles with handwriting – that’s a whole other issue!)

    Another thing I’ve done right, though it’s been difficult for me to relax and not worry about it, is back off the writing assignments for him. I haven’t required much writing. A few thank you notes, a few little, simple exercises that we do orally without my writing things down, science narration which does get written down for a notebook, and once in a while some other little thing. I tried working with him on a persuasion piece on why we should get a dog, which I know he wants. I asked him questions, trying to get him to think it through, taking notes on what he said, but he resisted and pouted so I temporarily let it go. Good or bad, I told him that I was trying to give him an opportunity to convince Daddy and me that we should get a dog, but if he wasn’t going to cooperate, it wasn’t worth my time and effort. He through a fit. I kept the notes and hope to get back to it, but the time hasn’t been right.

    So . . . Is there hope? I have Jungle Writer, but have had little time (none since August!) to read and digest and apply. With this oldest, I always feel like I’m playing catch-up and keep thinking “If only I’d known/learned this three, four, or five years ago!” What can I do to ease him back into a love of writing? He enjoys our poetry tea times – all of the children always want to share at least two poems (incidentally, he doesn’t see that as “school!”). He loves good books. I have him do a minimum of copy work (6 minutes, timed rather than “copy all this,” except when he/we forget to use the timer!). And I try to do things like I did this morning, though I’m not very good at it yet. Can you give me a definite plan to follow, or other ideas of things to do in the meantime? Direction on how to know when he’s ready to move back into doing more? He expresses himself well verbally – always has. His preschool teacher commented that he was very “well spoken.”

    I’d like to ask for guidance on the handwriting thing, too, as you’ve been through it, but this is long enough as it is, and that’s a whole story in itself. Thank you for your support! I may do a KWB class next year, because while I’m a good writer myself, I don’t teach it very well at all!