Archive for the ‘BW and classical writing’ Category

Brave Writing, Classical Writing, and 21st Century Kids

Raising classically fluent 21st century kids

Learning in the 21st Century: our natural environment

Sometimes when I read discussions related to a classical education or Charlotte Mason or any other form of educating that relies heavily on reading and writing, I find myself inwardly qualifying the advice. We live in the 21st century. We have the Internet. We have DVDs and DVRs, radio and cable, telephones and podcasts, digital cameras and video games, computers and ipods.

When we read the classics, we inform our minds of other modes of speech and writing that went before our time. We round out our contemporary linguistic habits with a wider vocabulary, we develop a palette of images and metaphors, myths and legends from which to draw when we write. We honor and discover people of the past and learn the ways in which we are who we are because of their contributions to literature, philosophy, history, religion and science.

These are all good and I encourage all of us to visit the library, or alternately, to buy books and strew them throughout the house, to go to Shakespeare’s plays and visit art museums, to test out Archimedes’s lever and to see the stars through a telescope for yourself. Study history chronologically if that works best for you.

The ability to write well will always be a relevant skill.

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In addition to all of these wonderful ways of learning, though, please don’t forget that today’s world has all kinds of resources open to you that will enhance the learning experience.

Technology can enhance the learning experience:

We purchased iLife for our Mac computers. The program includes a variety of ways to manage digital photos, to create blogs and DVDs, to set up slide shows and to create pod casts.

My 14 year old was enthralled with all the technological possibilities. Immediately, he made several slide shows to music from our trip to Italy last summer. Then he set up a blog to organize our photos and to post them for family. After that, he started playing with the pod cast software. He and Caitrin became enraptured with the idea of being radio personalities—broadcasting to family on the west coast. They developed a little show that they call “Intelligent Conversations with Caitrin and Jake.” They added music and voila! A way to communicate that was less formal than a speech, but more formal than a phone call.

The possibilities suddenly poured in. Jacob saw that he could make a weekly podcast that would tell something about a book or movie he had read that week. We made a list of ideas: history, science, literature, movies, music, and business. These are all subjects he enjoys. His older sister got home later that day and they set up a long interview with her. I listened as they attempted to imitate radio show hosts they’d “heard over the years” intuitively, with style and panache.

We aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the 21st century tools at our disposal. Today’s colleges expect that kids will arrive equipped to use PowerPoint (I’ve used it in half of my graduate courses), to do Internet research, and to know how to publish in Word or PDF formats, to participate in online forum discussions, to use online library reserves, and more.

Technologically advanced Brave Writer students are also using:

Online Journals or blogs 
These can be used for writing about topics of interest, such as favorite movies, WWII tanks, baseball records, book reviews, history narrations, biographies and more. Invite family members to read what is posted. Instant audience.

One Brave Writer family uses PowerPoint to create interesting lectures related to historical topics. The child chooses an area to research and then creates a powerpoint lecture that includes visual aids (pictures, illustrations, graphs, screen captures, movie clips). PowerPoint encourages organization, fact selection and communication skills.

Podcasts provide the ideal setting for oral narration. There is something about a microphone that induces even the most reluctant narrator to speak. Short of podcasting, the old fashioned tape recorder and microphone work just as well.

Make use of the Internet to supplement what you read. Look up the bio on the author, locate the country on Google Earth, and really see it in real time from a satellite over the globe. Look up the artists you enjoy and see more of their works in museums too far away to visit. Read reviews and critiques of the writers you read to get a wider perspective of the impact of their work.

Additionally, they become comfortable with a modern writing sensibility. Though classic writers endure the test of time and we continue to appreciate them because of their competence, we write for a modern audience. Though we may admire Descartes and Plato, it is unlikely that their writing style in our hands is the one that will connect with today’s audience. As we groom our kids to be effective writers, we want them just as versed in modern writing as we do in classic writing. Today’s effective (read: paid) writers have mastered the kind of writing that appeals to this generation.

The ability to write well will always be a relevant skill.

Don’t make the mistake of disdainful snobbery about the past versus today’s writers either. The ability to write well is important in every era. Each age demands a different kind of writing style to best communicate with its audience. Today, there is a wider range of writing styles to explore than ever. So don’t feel that one is better and another inferior. Rather, learn to write to suit your audience.

Today’s popular writing has become more punchy, more visceral than yester-year’s. Popular writers have to compete with the world of the visual. Images are everywhere demanding our attention, invading our mental space. Dickens’s purple patches of prose are no longer necessary in the world of cable television and big screen movies.

To hold the attention of their easily distracted audiences, today’s writers reach readers through meter (the pacing of the piece – sentence variety), through surprise (the ability to wake up the reader with novelty and humor), through power (the argument must be sophisticated and cogent, not just polemical), through analogy (drawing on the huge resevoir of cultural concepts and news events, legends and histories, myths and religious icons, sports and celebrity, to relate the new to the familiar or vice versa).

Those raised with classical literature, with art and music, with mythology and history have a much wider base to draw from when they write and think. But all of that wonderful exposure must be updated to relate to a world that has gone utterly technological and multinational. So make use of these powerful tools. If you don’t know how to use them yourself, not to worry. Buy the software and turn your kids loose. They’ll be happy to teach you. After all, they are native sons of this age while we are the immigrants who still speak the old language and the new one with an accent.

ETA: Facebook and Twitter are today’s online publishing tools that teens love to use to discover whether what they write triggers response from an audience.

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Shakespeare Family Workshop


Shakespeare Online! There’s no better example of how we can use today’s technology to saturate ourselves in classical, enduring content. Click on the Bard’s image to check it out!


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Brave Writer and Classical Education

Classical education and the Brave Writer Lifestyle

Adults can be drawn to the classical education model. We see what we haven’t learned and are in awe of the opportunity to learn it now, with our kids, hoping they will be the intellectual competents that we fear we are not.

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With the rise of The Well-Trained Mind, homeschoolers are now aware of significant gaps in their own educations. Most of us don’t remember learning the Greek myths, haven’t read The Illiad or The Odyssey, remember very little of our western civ coursework from college, and feel that any expository writing we did in college was more of a lick and a prayer than serious argument.

So we’re attracted to classical homeschooling. There’s so much to love about it!

Love the four year history rotation, love the integration of the sciences into history, love reading classical literature, love the classical argument models, love the immersion in myth and legend and tale and epic poem that is classical education.

Kids deserve to be expanded by

  • great literature,
  • myth,
  • epic poetry,
  • legend,
  • artwork,
  • history,
  • scientific discovery,
  • the stars,
  • mathematics as a language (not just as a workbook),
  • Shakespeare,
  • theater,
  • music,
  • dance,
  • and languages.

These sources provide rich material for imagination, vocabulary, and inner life. Such inner lives naturally spill over into writing with content and texture.

Each stage of development (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) offers new levels of personal expression and connection to these living source materials. Conversations, drawings, written narrations, transcription of great writing, mini dramas acted out, imitation, and metaphorical thinking (where one connects the past to present experience in a meaningful way) all give the ideas dimension and relevance to the student.

Brave Writer and Classical Homeschooling

Can classical methods and Brave Writer mix? Yes!

So how does Brave Writer fit into this style of education? I love to say that joy is the best teacher. A happy mother makes a better home educator. The happiness must come from within, not from compliant children. So we begin with you. Begin the adventure of a classical education because you want one, not because your children should have one. You’ll need staying power to carry this course through. Your enjoyment of the lifestyle of classical education must be the fuel in your homeschool engine.

If a classical education model is what excites you, live it first, in front of your children. Read the classics (alone first, or a children’s version aloud). Get some commentaries to help you. You might start with Greek myths (they are so captivating and prevalent, and you will find lots of reinforcement in art and literature).

If you are new to epic poetry, pick out something like Beowulf, narrated by Seamus Heaney on CD and play it over breakfast, a little bit each day. Listen to the story and draw pictures of Grendel. Keep a little lexicon of terms that you define as you discover them. Play with them in sentences over breakfast when your listening is done.

If your kids are writers (9-10 or older), you can use a Friday Freewrite to write what you think will happen next, or to write a new ending, or to think about what Grendel may have felt in those last moments. (For those who don’t know, there is a book called Grendel that was written just for that purpose. You might check that out and compare it to your own speculations.)

You might write a new myth or create a Greek god (what god do you think the Greeks lacked and why?). Reinforce what you are learning not just through rote repetition, but using your imagination to make connections to our time, to our understandings.

Certainly any child who plays online games will make scores of connections since these games are rife with references to the ancient world in particular. Look up the names of characters and discover a pantheon of Egyptian and Phoenician gods that are hidden within the games.

Narration is key to a classical education because the ideas are unfamiliar and the vocabulary is often challenging. So talk over tea and in the car and over dinner. Take your time and keep the experience relevant to kids (don’t rely only on your sense that the material is important to “get them” to do their work). Our family spent two years solid on Ancient Greece, with our major concentration on Greek mythology. My kids know their myths backwards and forwards because they love them, not because they had to learn them.

Eventually this immersion in myths led to a fascination with epic poems, such as Gilgamesh. The results in our home: My daughter wrote her own Greek myth modeled after the ones she loved and my son wrote a screenplay for the story of Gilgamesh. These were not assignments, but spilled out of long term incubation and saturation with the material.

Want more on this theme? Our Writing a Greek Myth class is one of our most popular!

Brave Writer online class: Writing a Greek Myth
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