Archive for the ‘Help for High School’ Category

The Original Chat Room

Teens write every day. On their phones! In texts, social media, and chat rooms, they freely express their opinions and ideas.

Time to level up: academic writing is the original chat room! 

Higher education is all about making those opinions precise and well supported. Just with a more narrow set of rules.

We want to show students how to

  • navigate difficult topics 
  • avoid ranting, emotional language 
  • use research and logic to make their points
  • understand someone else’s opinion
  • disagree respectfully, without resorting to personal attacks

These skills are essential to the academic enterprise and to all communication!

Need more help?

Brave Writer’s Essay Prep: Research and Citation teaches your kids how to find reliable, essay-worthy information on the Internet. We also tackle the nitty-gritty when it comes to current expectations on how to format an essay and cite sources.

Students will:

  • keenly observe and examine an idea 
  • use inquiry as the basis for writing
  • research with search engines and local library databases
  • evaluate the credibility of a source
  • take efficient notes
  • summarize, quote, and paraphrase 
  • plan and write a research project
  • cite sources using MLA format

Rescue your kids from hours of fruitless Internet research and let us teach them tools to find reliable information quickly. Register for Essay Prep: Research and Citation today!

Essay Prep: Research and Citation

Transitioning from Homeschool to Public High School

Transitioning from Homeschool to High School

We’ve decided to send our homeschooled teen to public high school. Help!

Enjoy the transition if you can. Buy football tickets and go to games this fall. Meet the teachers. Make sure you attend back to school night. Test the lockers and make sure your teen knows how to open and close them, lock and unlock them before school starts. Get new clothes or shoes. Focus on the adventure of school, not on what wasn’t learned at home.

Don’t feel you have to cram. Freshman English will teach the essay again to everyone. Let your child look forward to school and be confident that he or she has been well educated at home. If there are struggles, get help then.

My daughter struggled mightily with algebra at the local high school. I met with the instructor and he gave me a plan to help her and she implemented the plan and wound up catching up in a semester and sailed through math the rest of the year.

Jacob was behind in band (saxophone) and same thing: once he was in that environment, he caught up because he was in that environment and wanted to.

School exerts a kind of pressure that can be healthy when your kids aren’t burned out and have not been in the system.

On the flip side, I thought Jacob was not a strong writer like his sister and brother had been. I put him in regular English and was called into the school to move him into Honor’s English. I was floored. They told me he was advanced. I didn’t know.

So try not to pre-judge the experience.

Good luck and enjoy!

Memories from a Good Public School

Keeping Enchantment Alive in High School

Keeping Enchantment Alive in High School

by Stephanie Elms

Homeschooling high school has been one of my favorite parts of our homeschool journey. It has been such a fascinating (albeit nerve-wracking!) process to watch each of my boys come into their own.

So how do you keep enchantment alive in high school?

You do your best to get curious and excited about seeing how this will all unfold for your kids, rather than feeling like it is test you are going to pass or fail.

The trick is trusting yourself and what you know about how your kids learn best, resisting the urge to make high school focused too narrowly on checking off boxes on a transcript (which is where enchantment goes to die!) Yes, all those traditional high school requirements get thrown into the mix, but remind yourself that you have a lot more flexibility than you might think.

What is going to stand out on your teen’s transcript is not all the things that they did in high school that look exactly like what every other high school kid has done, but rather their deep dives into their interests. And it is those deep dives which will be what reveals the best path forward for them as well.

When Jason, my oldest, was applying to liberal arts universities as a history major, they were much more interested in the variety of history (many of them independent study credits) and other humanities credits he had than whether he had completed three high school lab sciences (he only had completed one.)

My youngest son, Kyle, is less traditionally academic. It has been his deep exploration in and excitement about photography that is guiding us to a clearer picture of what he wants to do after graduation which, in turn, is providing the motivation for him to work on his weaker academic areas.

I made a conscious decision early on to do what made the most sense for my kids at that moment, rather than worrying too much about some nebulous “they might need this later” worry (or at least tried to do my best to balance the two, often opposing, pressures.) My approach was to take the “next right step” and trust that we always had a path forward, even if we had not completely figured it out yet.

At times this approach has meant that we made choices which “closed doors” for them. Interestingly, it has often been these choices that pointed us to alternative paths that worked extremely well. Jason never took the SAT because at the time it just did not make sense for him. This decision meant that he started at community college before transferring to a four year university as a sophomore. This path turned out to be a perfect transition in many ways from our more relaxed homeschool to a more formal traditional classroom.

I also focused on finding schools that would value and appreciate my teen’s less traditional high school experiences rather than trying to change them to fit a particular college’s requirements. It is okay, and indeed preferable, to honor who your child is instead of trying to mold them into who you think college admissions people want them to be.

If you can hang onto your curiosity and excitement about watching your teen come into their own and approach high school as a journey you get to share with them as you both figure it out, the high school years can indeed be full of enchantment and discovery.

Stephanie Elms has homeschooled her two boys for ten+ years and is a coach for Brave Writer’s The Homeschool Alliance. She blogs at Throwing Marshmallows.

A Winning College Admissions Essay

A Winning College Admissions Essay

Below is the essay Brave Writer alum Ben Whipker wrote in our 2014 College Admissions Essay online class. Ben was accepted to and is studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology, with an intended major in manufacturing engineering technology. Way to go, Ben!

It’s the middle of the night. Most houses in my neighborhood are quiet with sleeping inhabitants, but not mine. From my room comes a mechanical whirring, like the combination of a fax machine and a dial tone. It comes from my 3D printers.

I started my journey through 3D printing when my mom showed me an article about them. She thought it would be cool if I built one. I agreed. We decided on the terms: she would pay for my parts if I could build one without a kit. That worked for me because all the kits were poorly designed and overpriced.

Over the next few weeks, I spent all my free time searching different open-source printer designs. I wanted to find one that balanced print size, affordability, print quality, and building documentation. The 3D printers I looked at weren’t comparable to the paper printers sold at an office-supply store. There was no fancy plastic shell to cover the mechanical parts, and no technical help line. I created parts lists by looking at other makers’ pictures of different designs. I finally settled on a printer design called a Prusa because it had some documentation, and because most of the sites I visited recommended it for a beginner. I started ordering parts right away!

It was as if Christmas had taken over the month of March. I was receiving packages from China, Germany, the Czech Republic, Canada, France, and the UK. Each one contained another component for my printer. As I opened each package, I tried to guess where each part might fit. Instructions aren’t always easily available with emerging technology, and 3D printing is no different. After all my pieces arrived, I laid my pieces across the kitchen table and started building.

I encountered problem after problem. I found that many of my parts were designed for other printers or for modifications incompatible with my other parts. Some screws were in metric, whereas others were imperial. For weeks, my nights consisted of hours of scouring hidden forum posts, hoping to find someone else with a problem remotely similar to mine. I would read their solutions and form my own ideas customized for my printer’s problems. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

Finally, I was ready to heat the printer up and try printing. It was about midnight on a Saturday. I’d spent the whole day fixing small problems here and there on the printer. This bolt was too loose or that piece was upside down. They were minor problems, but they were still important. Months of problem solving had taught me more than just the specific answers I searched for at the time. I had many pieces of knowledge. I knew how to connect the printer, set up the software, and set the optimal temperature. As the nozzle warmed up, a string of plastic started to slowly emerge from the tip. I felt a rush of excitement as the first sign of my working printer flowed before my eyes.

I have printed phone cases, vases, robot parts and lots of sea turtles. What fascinates me is that to create the perfect print requires solving a giant puzzle. The smallest detail can affect print quality. If the print bed is a fraction of a millimeter higher on one side the print will lift off of the bed while printing. Red and blue filament require low melting temperatures compared to green and black filament. Motors mounted near the power supply do not work as expected. Even having the air conditioner fan turn on at the wrong time impacts the print. These details absorb my mind day in and day out. I know that even if my first fifty ideas don’t work, I just need to think of the fifty-first, because that might be the answer that changes everything. And, if I get all the components just right, the print will be beautiful.

Brave Writer's College Admission Essay Online Class

The Rhetorical Imagination

The Rhetorical Imagination

I was in 6th grade, living in southern California. One November evening, I crossed the street to my daily playmate’s home for dinner. Melinda’s mother served hamburgers. I asked for a glass of milk. Mr. Thaler said I could not have one. I asked why. He replied that their family “kept kosher” and could not mix meat and dairy products during a meal.

I did not relent. His comment made no sense to me. After all, I didn’t keep kosher. My family expected us to drink milk every night for healthy teeth. “But I’m not Jewish. I can have milk with my hamburger.”

Mrs. Thaler joined in, “Dairy and meat can’t even be on the same table, Julie. It’s not about what you can eat or not eat. It’s about our home. Our home is a kosher home and so milk and meat cannot be at the same meal.”

I sat stunned—momentarily ejected from the room. My mind raced.

Wait—that means the Thalers never have cheeseburgers. Will Melinda be able to eat at my house? What is “kosher” and why is it so important to them? This is unfair! This rule makes no sense! I want milk!

I was used to having what I wanted when I wanted it. This whole idea that I had to adjust my meal habits to theirs for a reason I didn’t even hold felt wrong and annoying. I stuck with the one value from home that did apply: politeness. I finished my meal and thanked them.

But what else happened that day? My world tilted. An invitation to expand had been extended to me.

At age 11, the world I knew was defined by my parents, care givers, teachers, and religious leaders.

All children learn without instruction what constitutes “normal” for them—what can be taken for granted, what we deserve, how we’ve been wronged, who is out to get us, and who is on our side.

As we grow up—our circle widens and we encounter for the first time: “the other.” We determine whether or not we will include or vilify this alternative way of living and seeing the world.

The experience of expansion has a name and it is valuable to becoming an educated person. I call it “The rhetorical imagination.”

The rhetorical imagination is the experience of
encountering, examining, and holding multiple viewpoints
simultaneously, dispassionately.

The rhetorical imagination is a tool we use to grow academically. We open ourselves to the perspective presenting itself and begin with the assumption that there is an internal coherence and logic to a viewpoint, even if that coherence and logic make us uncomfortable. Even if inconvenient.

This capacity requires us to suspend our own judgments and to momentarily shift into the seat of the other to see the world through different eyes. Those eyes may be more or less religious, more or less tolerant, more or less educated, more or less political, more or less financially secure, more or less experienced, more or less skilled…

Even “objectively” wrong views (the belief that the world is flat, for instance) believed by individuals are rooted in some kind of interior logic (after all, in our own heads, what we think is true makes sense to us or we couldn’t think the thoughts!). The task of an academic is to wade into those views (our own and those of others), to suspend judgment in order to identify how that person has arrived at that conclusion and what that conclusion offers the one who holds the viewpoint.

Famously, centuries of misinformation have been sustained by a lack of tools to measure what we did not know, or by political and/or religious empires that stood to gain from an uneducated constituency. It was stunning, for instance, to visit Prague last spring to see the Astronomical Clock which measured the time by putting the earth in the center of the clock face. Each day, citizens would walk by this clock to tell time. How could a person in the 1400s have any hope of understanding the true nature of the universe with that out-sized misinformation mounted and gilded (measuring the minutes and hours every day with planet earth dead center in the solar system) towering over them? Of course the earth was the center of the universe! There it was, on display, all day every day!

What a blow it would be to imagine that the earth was not in the center! For that new interpretation to gain footing, the challengers of the status quo had to be willing to unseat the power of centuries old beliefs.

The capacity to inquire, to be curious, to willingly suspend one’s own point of view in favor of opening to someone else’s is at the heart of the academic enterprise. It’s the discipline of higher education in particular! The research conducted in any field must begin with inquiry and suspending one’s own preconceived ideas in order to be open to new and different conclusions and solutions.

The development of a rhetorical imagination is critical to good academic writing: the essay, research paper, and beyond. So often parents and teacher obsess about formatting and citations. They are worried the student won’t know how to look up books with a card catalog and the Dewey decimal system, or how to write a “Works Cited.”

Those are easily taught. What is far more difficult is deliberately opening to a wide variety of viewpoints. It takes courage and curiosity. It requires a willingness to overturn assumptions, to be changed by what is read.

In fact, I’d say that the heart of the academic enterprise is the drive to be startled into insight!

The rhetorical imagination—the capacity to consider a wide variety of perspectives and possibilities—is the vehicle to take us there.

Pushing ourselves and our kids
out of our cozy comfort zones of thought
is our educational obligation and opportunity.

Brave Writer Online Classes