Author Archive

Love and Trying

Love and Trying

There’s no tactic that ensures a child will match a parent’s fantasy. There’s only love and trying, over and over—until the child knows they are loved, and the parent knows the child is a unique, wholly separate person. Give up notions of perfection.

I’m not a perfectionist. I mean, my house was two parts loose shoes down the hallway and one part missing math books while I raised my five kids.

I explained this passionately to my therapist who had just accused me of “perfectionism.”

I even pulled out my phone and showed him photographic evidence of the chaos that proved I was a relaxed, mess-loving mom who indulged her kids’ flights of creativity despite the empty pretzel bags.

He paused and looked at me: “Julie, you’re a perfectionist in your relationships.”

[A moment of silence as that shocking fact sinks in.]

A perfectionist in my relationships.

Um: guilty!

That meant I wasn’t ever okay if my people were unhappy or moody or tired or angry. My out of order relationship felt to me like a cluttered counter to a tidy mother. I got busy organizing feelings, responding with hugs, thinking about how to be a better mother to this child right now.

I had this unrealistic (invisible) belief that I could achieve a relationship utopia—a mutually affirming, kind, harmonious day-to-day peace—forever—with all the people I love—never uttering the stray, wrong word.

Turns out: exhausting and impossible. Each day is fresh, each experience is original. A responsive parent is one who can handle the clutter of sadness or frustration, who isn’t undone by a moment where the connection to a child falters. It’s like getting comfortable with the messy art table. Relationships are messy.

All we really have IS love and trying.

Loving the person, the messy feelings and home, trying to be aware enough to grow and recover when we forget. That’s it.

And it turns out? It’s enough.

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

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2022 Fall Class Registration is OPEN

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Registration is OPEN for Brave Writer Fall Writing Classes!

No long messages here! I know you’ve got mouse-clicking to do! Sign up now to secure your spot in the classes of your choice.

Learn more: All About Online Writing Classes


If you still have questions about which class is right for your child, we invite you to send an email to our Help Desk. Our friendly, knowledgeable staff will be glad to give you suggestions that are just right for your family!

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Podcast: Reading for Our Lives with Maya Payne Smart

Brave Writer Podcast

Maya Payne Smart is a writer, parent educator, and literacy advocate who has served on the boards of numerous library and literacy organizations. She and her family live in Milwaukie, Wisconsin where she serves as affiliated faculty in Educational Policy and Leadership in the College of Education at Marquette University. At her website,, she provides tips and tools for parents to nurture, teach, and advocate for kids on the road to reading.

Maya’s new book, Reading for Our Lives, provides a powerful action plan to encourage and foster literacy skills in children from birth through six years of age. One of the beautiful things about this book is how well her philosophy dovetails with those of Brave Writer.

Show Notes

For many homeschooling parents, teaching kids to read is one of the biggest and scariest challenges in early education. We may hope that our kids will learn through immersion—and in fact, that is how some learn—but it’s not a guarantee, and parents have to be prepared to provide their own guidance.

In her book, Maya offers six levels that parents can pull to facilitate a language-rich pre-reading context:

1. Conversation

We grow our kids’ vocabulary through conversation. As we talk with them, they are learning the meaning of words, the context in which to use them and labeling things in their environment. Through exchanges in dialogue, our kids’ brain function and structure grows—even before they are verbal themselves.

2. Reading

The first thing we often think about when it comes to literacy is, of course, reading. There is a certain magic to reading that can create incredible memories for our kids, expand their vocabulary, and stretch their imagination. Reading is also incredibly accessible, whether it’s books from the library or labels and signs around the house or neighborhood.

3. Explicit teaching

While kids can learn a lot simply through exposure, there are some things that may just have to be outright taught. Letter names, shapes, and sounds for instance are harder to get naturally and can often be streamlined with the hard-won insights we adults may have. For instance, many kids may not realize that all letters are made up of just three elements: Lines, dots, and curves. Once they realize this, the act of building shapes and letters becomes so much simpler.

4. Connecting

We all have connections in everyday life that can be used as teaching resources: Friends, family, librarians, and parents of other children can all help aid in the development of your kid’s literacy. These people can also often provide information on other resources within your community.

5. Budgeting

People are beginning to doubt the public school system to teach their kids reading skills, and more and more parents and guardians are paying tutors or private educators to aid their children. There are also other investments, such as going to museums, that can aid in our children’s learning. While this may not be for everyone, it is a common lever people are using to get reading outcomes for their kids.

6. Advocacy

Each child walks their own path, and each school is going to approach teaching differently. Parents can advocate both for their community and support good schools, but it also means advocating for your kids’ own needs.

Teaching kids literacy is about the long game. It’s about taking small actions regularly that are going to support learning, but it’s not going to happen overnight. The important thing is to realize that the things you do contribute to your child’s learning and how to support that every day.


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast

Engage the Brain

Engage the Brain

Your task, as a home educator, isn’t to cram a bunch of information into your kids’ heads. The goal is to create space for exploration of the mind’s capacities. Engage the brain.

The mind is more than a storage bin for facts. It’s marvelously adept at processing that information and responding, not merely agreeing. As I wrote in my upcoming book, no one is content to merely know a fact. We want to interpret them!

Kids learn all kinds of skills as you instruct them—whether in academics or household maintenance or personal care. We want to give our kids as many chances to expand how they use their minds as possible in each of those arenas.

One of the dangers of the “obedience” model of parenting is that the requirement to do what a child is told thwarts their mind’s capacity to interpret the meaning of the command and make judgment calls about it.

  • Is the request one that should be resisted (in the case of abuse or exploitation, absolutely)?
  • Is the request one that needs a modification? To make it easier or more difficult?
  • Is the request one where your child hears the requirement (finish the math page) and can say back after allowing the mind to process the request: “I will but I need to go to the bathroom first” or “I’m tired. I need a break” or “I don’t get how the problems work”?

The ability to respond with self awareness to any request is an extraordinary skill to cultivate in your child and bodes well for an independent adult and thinker.

Other mind capacities?

Creativity, analysis, correlation, imagining the impact, empathy, breaking down a complex process into manageable steps, finding humor, expanding vocabulary, asking for help, using tools, making the abstract practical, using what you’ve learned, managing resources, identifying the value of a skill or piece of information…

Less is more here. Fewer items to memorize and more relationship building with the subject area.

Less compliance and more honesty.

Less repeating for the sake of repetition and more comprehension of what the fact/skill/concept contributes to the child’s life and well being.

Engage the brain! Don’t just stuff it with information.

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

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It’s Here: Growing Brave Writers!

It’s here! Growing Brave Writers is ready for purchase and immediate download.

I’ll be giving a webinar to train you how to use Growing Brave Writers today (July 15) at 4:00 PM ET. It’s not too late to register and attend live if you have lingering questions or want to hear tips and tricks for use!

Growing Brave Writers changes everything.

No more blank stares and blank pages.

Kids discover they have stuff worth saying AND writing!

Parents stop obsessing over the parts of writing that don’t matter and tune into the parts that do!

EVERYONE discovers that writing can be as natural and pleasurable as speaking.

What’s inside?

  1. Clear instructions
  2. Fantastic easy-to-understand activities that can be done again and again
  3. Checklists for self esteem
  4. Word banks of skills that your kids are learning
  5. Sample narrative sketches to use with charter schools or/and any sources of accountability
  6. Models and guidance for expectations across age groups

It works. I promise.

Growing Brave Writers

Growing Brave Writers