Archive for the ‘Homeschool Advice’ Category

Educators, Not Curriculum Implementers

4th R Relationship

Ah the allure of an “open and go” program. It would be so magical if the materials would teach themselves so we could spend more time scrolling through Instagram or organizing the shoe tree. I jest!

When I signed up to be a homeschool parent, I chose this life because I wanted to be the one who saw the lights go on—the first page read, the wide-eyed questions about history, the laughter over limericks. I really really really wanted that, in the same way I wanted to be the one who saw my kids take a first step or say a first word or score a first goal on the lacrosse field.

The HOURS I put into helping my kids achieve those goals? Uncountable. I must have babbled thousands of words at my baby before he finally blurted “nana” and my whole inner being burst into streamers and fireworks. The first time Liam scored a lacrosse goal, I wept. We had tossed that ball stick to stick bazillions of times. No manual could substitute for my body—thrust smack dab into the relationship with my child—talking, moving, practicing, explaining, supporting, nurturing, feeding, washing, admiring, chiding, trying again…

We know this about parenting. Why don’t we know it about education?

‘Open and go’ is to education what a parenting manual handed to a ten year old is to mothering (or fathering). It’s a myth!

Learning comes through the 4th R: Relationship.

Relationships may be improved through what you learn from manuals (same thing for education and curriculum). But the manual or workbook alone doesn’t get the job done, nor do they do so in a way that leads to that sobbing mess you want to be when the lights in their magical minds flip on!

Find tools that are “open and grow”—that help you be a better parent-educator, that show you how to be the best version of yourself in that subject area for your child.

I mean, truth is: I had never played lacrosse. I learned. For my kid.

You’re an educator, not a curriculum implementer. Get it?

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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Illustrations: 2021-2022 Darts & Arrows

Brave Writer

A Brave Writer parent asked: which 2021-2022 Dart and Arrow books have fantastic illustrations that enhance the story?

Let’s break down the illustrated content book by book!


August: The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
This book has some illustrations. They add character development with visuals, yes, but they are not make or break for understanding the events in the book.

September: Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins
Art is a key aspect of the storyline and is displayed throughout the story, so a physical copy of the book is recommended. By the way, this book is being made into a movie! So exciting!

October: Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
If you purchase one physical copy of a Dart book, make it this one. The illustrations are delightful and add to the storytelling in such touching ways that I would not want families to miss out.

November: Peacemaker by Joseph Bruchac
There are no illustrations, but there is a map of The Land of the Five Nations in the front matter of the book.

December: Heartwood Hotel: A True Home by Kallie George
Much like Skunk and Badger, this is one to consider purchasing for the sweet illustrations.

January: Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
Sketches of leaves and animals populate the pages, which is lovely, but there are only a handful of illustrations that are poignant to the story and add depth to scenes throughout. If you can acquire a physical copy, that would be great, but it will not significantly impact the story to listen to it on audiobook.

February: Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson
Sweet illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book. They are not vital to the storyline, but the ones related to Ryan and her hair can help kids visualize the situations she finds herself in.

March: Julieta and the Diamond Enigma by Luisana Duarte Armendáriz
There are illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, but they are not essential to the story.

April: The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye
The front matter contains a basic map showing a dotted arrow connecting Oman and Detroit. There are small but detailed sketches at the beginning of each chapter and the lists Aref makes in his journals are represented in a handwriting font. None of these features are vital to the story, but they add sweet notes of visual interest.

May: Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr
This book has simple line drawings throughout and the email correspondence is represented in a different font. While engaging, these visual features are not required to understand the story.


August: Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston
Each chapter kicks off with a small illustration and text messages and other correspondences are represented in different fonts throughout the book. None of those features are vital to the following storyline.

September: Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield
Black and white watercolor-style paintings are scattered throughout the text, but they are not essential to understanding the stories.

October: Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
There are no illustrations in this text. The visual appeal of this novel in verse is the layout of the poetry on the page.

November: Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith
There are no illustrations in this text, but the cover art is gorgeous.

December: The Lion of Mars by Jennifer L. Holm
This book has no illustrations but correspondence is represented in a different font. The author’s note has three photos from Jennifer Holm’s life and research.

January: Front Desk by Kelly Yang
The cover is delightful, but there are no illustrations inside the book. The author’s note has two photos of KellyYang as a young child.

February: Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson and Kwame Alexander
While the full-page illustrations in this book are not vital, they add to the setting and character development. The other visual feature that adds depth to this book is the contrasting format of poetry used for Cassius’s first-person perspective and prose employed when the storytelling switches over to his best friend Lucky. It’s a genius story structure that is impactful on the page.

March: The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser
A map of Harlem and South Bronx—with all of the key locations for the story map out—can be found on the front inside cover. The illustrations within the pages include garden plans, receipts, lists, and signs. While not essential, they add to the storytelling, and since all of the illustrations were created by Karina Yan Glaser herself, they may inspire young writers to add simple illustrations to their own stories.

April: Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
This book contains no illustrations. At the back of the book, there is a wonderful note about the languages represented in the book, so don’t miss that!

May: Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca
There are about a dozen illustrations in this book, a few are full-page spreads, but they are not necessary to understand the events unfolding in the story. Song lyrics, poems, and posters are represented in different fonts. There are recipes at the back of the book.

That’s it! So much goodness!

Brave Writer Arrow and Boomerang Programs

Friday Freewrite: Raining Cats and Dogs

Friday Freewrite

You’ve probably heard the phrase: “It’s raining cats and dogs.” Imagine if multitudes of cats and dogs did float down from the sky. Describe the scene like a weather forecaster!

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

“Mom, I think writing is my best subject.”

Brave Writer 102

Here’s the next installment of our ongoing series where we share testimonies of some who’ve been transformed by their online class experience with Brave Writer. Enjoy!

Brave Writer parent, Carrie, writes:

What class(es) are you giving feedback on today?

Brave Writer 102: Stress-Free Revision

Tell us a bit about your student.

My son Joey is 14. He is the 6th of my 7 children. He is very soft-spoken and struggles with academics. He loves Legoes and building models and figures, playing video games, going fishing, and taking walks in the woods with his mom.

Tell us a bit about you.

I am a mom to 7 and so far have homeschooled 4 of them through high school; I’m still blessed to be awaking a love of learning in my youngest 3 children. I was a former public school teacher who began homeschooling 23 years ago. I love reading, teaching, and taking walks in the woods. I love learning new things and recently started taking painting classes which is helping me overcome a fear of art I developed 40 years ago in the 8th grade when exploring my artistic side challenged my GPA.

When your student entered our class, how would you describe your student as a writer? Were there ongoing writing challenges?

Joey has always struggled with the physical act of writing and didn’t like to write because it was laborious for him. He tended to write simplistically, far below his level of thought or vocabulary. He dutifully worked to “get done.” He didn’t ever want to re-think his writing because he had already put in so much time and energy into having gotten the writing complete. As a former middle school Language Arts teacher unable to help her own son, I felt like I was failing him.

What was your experience with the class?

When we started this class, I hoped to just be able to help Joey get a more positive feeling for the art of revising. What we got was so much more. I saw my son smiling as he was writing and I have NEVER seen that. He was so very proud of working to make his memory into a lie. He put his sense of humor into his piece. He struggles so much academically and is so quiet by nature that I didn’t know he even had this creative, fun sense of humor. His teacher told him she nearly spit out her tea laughing when she read his description his wit shown through. I saw my son, who always struggles, shine. The biggest payoff was when he told me, “Mom, I think writing is my best subject.” Those are words I never thought I’d hear!

Anything else you’d like to share with us?

I loved this class!!!!!!!

Brave Writer Online Writing Classes

Caregivers Need Care Too

Caregivers Need Care Too

Caregivers need care too. It’s how you keep going. In the trying (which is right and noble and good), stand up for you too. You matter as much to the whole system as all the people you love and serve freely every day.

So much talk about self care and whether it’s selfish or not. Some religious communities talk about self care as “rest.” However you want to define it, this is what it means to me.

The only person who will ever go to bat for you, all the way to the mat, is you. No one else has your best interests in mind the way your own biological imperative does—your brain and heart that want to crank out all your minutes together to keep you steady on your feet and able to meet life’s demands.

It’s a betrayal of that trust you’ve established with your biology when you:

  • are over-tired,
  • eat poorly,
  • let someone mistreat you,
  • over-extend for another person at a cost to your health and well-being.

On the flip side, when you have energy, when your heart feels light and alive, when you have realistic expectations, when you treat yourself with loving-kindness, you are a MUCH better parent, friend, and partner.

So here’s what I mean when I say a caregiver needs care too—honor your pact with your heart and your mind. Make sure they have what they need to sustain your life! That’s not selfish. It’s not sinful. It’s not wrong. It’s the deal you made the day you were born. Between 0-12 months, you were so committed to that goal, you wailed like your life depended on it (because it did) to ensure you were cared for properly.

Return to that memory now and be your own best parent—respond to the silent cries with:

  • nourishment,
  • a change of scene,
  • intellectual stimulation,
  • compliments,
  • and a nap.

It will do you a world of good.

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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