Author Archive

[Podcast] Building a Family Heritage through Homeschool with Amber O’Neal Johnston – Part One

Brave Writer Podcast

The heart and soul behind and a proud contributor to the Wild + Free homeschooling community, Amber O’Neal Johnston has woven her experiences into a beautiful narrative in her book, A Place to Belong.

Amber Johnston
Amber O’Neal Johnston

Amber’s book serves as a rich resource for families across the spectrum, exploring homes that are:

  • inclusive,
  • culturally rich,
  • and socially conscious.

Today on the Brave Writer podcast, we’re diving deep into this narrative with Amber, talking author to author and homeschooling mom to homeschooling mom about the essence of A Place to Belong.

Show Notes

Inspiration for “A Place to Belong”

A heart-wrenching personal awakening around her eldest child’s struggles with self-worth and identity spurred Amber to pen this literary gem. Recognizing the gaps and unintentional omissions in her child’s education about race and identity, Amber addresses the need to move beyond extreme colorblindness, emphasizing the importance of embracing our unique roots, culture, and identity. As Toni Morrison beautifully put, “If there’s a book that you want to read and it hasn’t been written, then you should write it.” And so, Amber did.

What the Book is About

In A Place to Belong, Amber delves into the significance of introspection and awareness for parents. It’s not merely about understanding our children but also diving deep into our emotions, biases, and beliefs. She underscores that confronting and navigating through the emotional discomfort of parent-child conversations, especially those revolving around race, identity, and culture, is paramount. Amber also takes us on a journey through the tapestry of family culture. She emphasizes that it’s not just about annual traditions or favorite family pastimes but delving deeper into the realms of cultural heritage and background. What messages are we unconsciously sending our children through our chosen way of life? Importantly, she reminds us that these discussions and introspections about cultural heritage aren’t exclusive to any particular racial or ethnic group. White families, black families, brown families – every household has a story, a history, and a culture worth exploring and celebrating.

Evaluating Family Culture

Every family is unique, and every child should feel at home in their family culture. To truly embrace inclusivity, parents should:

  • Reflect on their social circles and children’s friends.
  • Ask if these circles reflect diversity or are they insular?
  • Evaluate their stance on race, stereotypes, and biases.

Inclusivity isn’t just about certain months dedicated to specific histories. It’s about making inclusivity a way of life, not just a topic of discussion. It’s about moving from compartmentalization to integration.

Being an “Askable” Parent

Coined by Dr. Gordon, the term “askable parent” is a badge of honor. It signifies a parent’s commitment to be available, open, and honest with their child. From answering unexpected questions to addressing bold or “inappropriate” topics, being an askable parent means creating a safe space for your child to grow and learn. And sometimes, it means saving those pressing public questions for a private chat in the car.

3 Types of Books

Every book holds a lesson, but not all books represent every reader. Amber classifies books into:

  • Mirrors: These reflect a reader’s life.
  • Windows: These give insights into others’ lives.
  • Sliding Glass Doors: These are so relatable that readers envision themselves in the narrative.

While many families have ample mirror books, the challenge lies in balancing these with window books, enabling kids to see the vibrant tapestry of our world. For Amber, this realization came when she noticed her child’s library was lacking diversity. It’s not about blame but about continuous learning and updating our bookshelves.

The crux of our journey with Amber is simple yet profound: To promote joyful inquiry and introduce our children to a diverse literary realm. Let’s embrace this vibrant world, hand in hand with our kids, leading them towards a brighter, more inclusive tomorrow.


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Produced by NOVA Media

Brave Writer Podcast

When to Change Course

Brave Writer

ALL that matters is that you not persist in a program that deadens the life and learning capacity of your child. If either of you aren’t happy and energized…it’s over.

Remember: you are cultivating a LIFE. Your child’s experience of learning is the key to a healthy, valuable education.

Try all the tricks:

  • candles,
  • tea,
  • cookies,
  • back rubs,
  • blanket forts,
  • twinkle lights,
  • moving the lesson outside,
  • music,
  • petting the dog.

If the program continues to oppress, however, and deaden the atmosphere of the home, there is NO price you paid for it worth ruining your daily lives. See the cost as R&D (research and development).

Change course.

Notice what energizes and move toward THAT.

You have plenty of time to learn. That said, don’t waste your precious days harming your children’s feelings about learning.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

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

Flash Sale: Updated Arrows!

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[Podcast] Make It Stick—How to know if your kids are retaining what they learn!

Brave Writer Podcast

Today on the Brave Writer podcast we’re diving deep into the book, “Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning,” by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Rodiger III, and Mark A. McDaniel.

Both Melissa and I were quite enthralled by this read, and for many solid reasons.

Let’s explore why this book has made such an impact—and why we can’t stop bringing it up in conversations!

Show Notes

Why we loved “Make It Stick”

Firstly, this book throws quite a curveball: It boldly challenges the widely accepted learning methods like reviewing texts or highlighting, arguing that they don’t necessarily guarantee long-term memory retention. Instead, it brings to light the importance of retrieval and recall as hallmarks of effective learning.

Learners can fall into the trap of “passing familiarity” where they believe they know the content, yet when put to the test, they realize they can’t recall it. It perfectly captures the illusion of mastery—a false belief that you understand something when, in reality, you might not. Language learners, for instance, might resonate with this. Understanding a language when it’s spoken is different from producing it effectively, and that’s the challenge many face. This book prompts us to ask: “Did the knowledge really stick?”

Techniques for effective learning

Alright, so if highlighting your textbook until it glows in the dark isn’t effective, what then? “Make It Stick” lays down some well-researched techniques:

  • Low-stakes quizzing and the importance of spaced repetition. It reminded us of Charlotte Mason’s approach that emphasized short lessons and paraphrasing knowledge into one’s own words.
  • The distinction between massed practice and interleaving. Though interleaving might make learning feel slower at the outset, it has proven to enhance long-term retention.
  • Desirable difficulty. Learning techniques that render the content just challenging enough aid in long-term retention. Remember, if it’s too easy, it’s like writing in sand; it just doesn’t last.
  • Oral exams in aiding retrieval mechanisms. The art of picking a topic and narrating it to a professor can be adapted beautifully with children through storytelling or creative exercises.
  • Reflection and narration. Another technique popular with Charlotte Mason, emphasizing on understanding what is known over what isn’t.
  • Free writing. Introduced by Peter Elbow in the 90s, this is one of our favorite techniques. Whether unguided or with set prompts, it provides an excellent channel for reflection on readings.

Think outside the box

Breaking out of the conventional, Make It Stick encourages us to think creatively. Instead of always turning to ready-made resources, it asks us to explore innovative learning methods. Imagine children creating their own versions of classic board games. Or the interactive use of non-traditional methods like role-playing or even the innovative use of Minecraft biomes to teach biology!

The benefits of homeschooling

One thing that stood out as we read the book was this: All of these techniques exemplify the strengths of a homeschooling education. It embraces a unique approach that utilizes deep understandings of how learning truly takes place. Homeschooling allows for continuous problem-solving, reflection, spaced repetition, and low stakes quizzing.

A little food for thought for homeschooling parents: let’s not find ourselves confined to just one teaching style. It’s a challenge, but as educators, we should stretch beyond methods we’re most comfortable with.


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Produced by NOVA Media

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Make Learning Stick: Middle School Writers

Brave Writer Middle School Writers

Middlers are my favorite! They’re more competent than ever but still have a great sense of humor and playfulness in their approach to learning. 

I bet you want to ensure they are well prepared for high school.

I bet they want to ensure they get to pursue what interests them.

Good news!

Our Middle School Writers bundle does all of that!

  • Includes both oral and written activities for language skill growth
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  • Provides monthly high-quality novels for you and your student to read together and analyze 
  • Offers soup to nuts writing instruction that teaches how to go from idea to finished draft
  • Teaches tear-free revision strategies!

This program is so meaty, it may last you two years!

You can be confident that your middlers will be both stimulated and well prepared!

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