Friday Freewrite: Obstacle Course

Friday Freewrite

Design an obstacle course. Make it as hard or easy as you’d like!

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Podcast: Bingo! Planned Spontaneity in Homeschooling

Brave Writer Podcast

I am recording some of my Tea with Julie emails for the podcast for those of you who prefer to listen. These are brief messages of support for parents and educators. If you’d like to receive the weekly emails, they are free. Sign up at

Do you wish you were more spontaneous? Or do you think you should “stick to a schedule”?

On today’s Brave Writer podcast, I share an experience I had learning the hard way that planning works best when our kids are included in the process, as well as a novel solution for bridging the gap between planning and spontaneity.

Show Notes

The original Tea with Julie notes can be found HERE.

Including Your Kids in the Plan

A lot of times we assume that our kids don’t think they need math, science, history, writing or reading. But deep down, they do know that they need those things. They also know that their lives are happier when they can look forward to something on the schedule. When every day isn’t just drudgery created by a parent.

When we include our kids then, we’re not only asking them what they want to do. We can also ask them what they feel they need to work on, what aspects of education are lacking for them. What would they like to improve? That’s one way to frame it. Because if you just ask them what are the things you want to do, you may only end up with a list of their passions. And of course, we do feel responsible to help them grow in mathematics in an understanding of history, fluency in reading and writing. These matter.

The Bingo Card Method

One way to help you get used to this idea of flexibility — if you’re not quite ready to let go of the schedule — is to introduce something I call the bingo card. Now, we have a template for this available inside our membership community called the Brave Learner Home. But I’m going to include a link to it here in the show notes so that you can use it right now.

This bingo card looks something like a calendar month template, but it doesn’t have days of the week and it doesn’t have any calendar dates. It is just a set of empty boxes. And what you can do with your kids is sit down and collaborate on all the things they’d like to do over the next month or two, and all the things they feel they need to work on.

Items you might see on this bingo card that your kids might contribute would be:

  • having a poetry tea time,
  • gaming on the computer,
  • playing with dolls,
  • learning to sew,
  • taking nature walks,
  • watching birds at the bird feeder and tracking them,
  • learning how to do computer programming or coding.

But it could also include things like:

  • mastering the multiplication tables,
  • learning cursive,
  • reading aloud to a parent twice a week.

In other words, whatever you feel and your kids feel should go on this bingo card, just stick it on there.

Hang the bingo card where it can be looked at every day, a bulletin board, a magnet on the refrigerator, and on those days where you’re bored or you need a change in routine. Or your kids simply have a desire, look at the card and pick something to do. Maybe it’s a visit to the zoo, maybe it is dissecting a flower, maybe it’s finally breaking out the microscope you purchased six months ago and learning how to use it.

The bingo card acts as both a planning tool and a tool for spontaneity. It ensures what Liam was worried about that the things he loves wouldn’t get overlooked because we forget about them. And it also helps your kids notice and visibly see that you are doing a lot of activities that they enjoy as well as activities related to education.

As your kids check off these activities, if you get a bingo, that’s a time for a celebration. Maybe you all make smoothies to celebrate. Maybe that afternoon you play a board game. Maybe that’s a day you decide to just watch your favorite Disney movie instead of doing your usual routine.

Give yourself permission to both plan and honor spontaneity. The Bingo card is a way to plan for spontaneity if you need that little support in learning how to do both.


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast

Learning How to Think

Raising Critical Thinkers

Knowing what to think is not the same as knowing how to think.

What parent doesn’t want to give their kids a shortcut to a safe, meaningful, values-driven life?

I do!

The biggest temptation we face is what I call the “Parental Propaganda Program.” We have the belief that we’ve figured out how to live correctly. All we have to do is teach our kids what to think.

We tell them “sleeping eight hours makes you less cranky” and “eating vegetables matters” and “standing for this belief is essential.”

Teaching kids what to think short-circuits their ability to think well for themselves. They learn that someone else has the answers for them and to trust an authority figure more than their own research.

You may feel good about being that source of authority in your child’s life. After all, you’re that figure…for now. What about when they’re teens? Who will they select to tell them the one right path/answer? I’m here to tell you—many of them choose a slightly older teenager!

Learning How to Think

What happens if we put learning “how to think” first? It means taking a child’s dissent (or challenges) seriously. It means setting aside your preconceptions.

“I hate vegetables” becomes an opportunity. You support your child doing their own research, to honor their experiences.

Kids discover that their experiences drive meaningful questions that deserve to be asked (not automatically answered).

The choice to hold back our “better answers” is challenging for us!

And yet, parents often parrot information they’ve learned from an authority without thinking it through themselves.

I might ask myself:

  • Why do I assume vegetables are important?
  • What ways did people get nourished before supermarkets and year-round produce?
  • What else can I learn with my child about this subject?

Learning how to think protects a child from cults, peer pressure, and bullying others.

Raising Critical Thinkers

Friday Freewrite: Brightened Your Day

Friday Freewrite

Remember the last time something or someone brightened a gloomy day. Now write about it!

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Brave Writer Boot Camp! 

Brave Writer

Learn the Brave Writer method by doing it. 

Yes! Our writing coach plus YOU and your child (ages 9-14) work together in Brave Writer 101: Guided Writing Process.

Curious what this online course entails? The whole writing process, start to finish!

Week One: Communication

Share the needs and challenges that you and your child have over writing and get individualized help from your coach. Next, you and your kids play a game to learn about how writers communicate. 

“[My son] loves this. He said it really helped him see how important details are.” —Parent Laura

Week Two: Observation

Wish your kids would generate deeper insights? More vivid descriptions? Feel like they have no fuel for writing? We practice finding things to say and putting them into words on the page.

“I am seeing some happiness around observing, and selecting words which is great!” —Parent Fabienne

Week Three: Freewriting

We introduce a magical process that liberates so many kids. Freewriting puts your kids in the driver’s seat. This week shocks so many parents: wow, my kid is WRITING

“We’d agreed that he’d write for five minutes – but I didn’t see him again for over twenty.” —Parent Sonja

Week Four: Freewriting and Feedback for Revision

The writing process gets tense for parents when feedback is warranted. Watch our writing coach approach your child’s writing with constructive advice and gentle encouragement.

“By the end of Week Four… it became the first thing she wanted to do every day…” —Parent Jennifer

Week Five: Revision

Learn how to revise by doing it—with our help. We cover different ways you and your child can improve a piece of writing of their choice. Without any tears!

“Our instructor was a terrific model to me on how to lavish my writer with feedback and how to ask excellent questions to help draw my writer out.” —Parent Allison

Week Six: Editing

The final polish-up! We started with raw communication (the essence of writing!) and we’ll finish with making that priceless jewel shine! 

“I didn’t get resistance on this exercise at all… [He] seemed to enjoy this type of editing.” —Parent Amanda

That’s it—the writing process! Don’t wait for the next writing opportunity. It’s time to get started with Brave Writer.

Brave Writer Online Classes