Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Brave Writer Podcast: Learning How to Learn with Barbara Oakley, PhD

Brave Writer Podcast Barbara Oakley

Do you ever wonder if your kids are retaining anything they learn? Yeah, me too. I wondered about it all the time. Thank goodness you have a resource I didn’t discover until years after I finished homeschooling my kids.

Enter: Barbara Oakley, PhD—the mastermind behind the wildly popular Coursera course “Learning How to Learn.”

Barbara Oakley is a force to be reckoned with. She went from having a math phobia to getting her PhD in Mechanical Engineering (after mastering Russian, by the way). She learned how to learn anything!


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


Barbara’s work focuses on the complex relationships between neuroscience and social behavior, and we think that any Brave Writer fan is also going to be a fan of Barbara’s newest book – Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens – which teaches kids and teens simple tricks for learning difficult subjects, even if they don’t feel like they’re “good students.”

Although learning is quite complex and the most important aspects of it can’t be distilled into a simple list of “three things you can do to learn better,” there are a few vitally important ideas that we’d like to highlight:

  1. You want to create neural links that your short-term memory can call to mind instantly.
  2. You need to have both focused and diffused modes, meaning you sometimes need to give your mind a break and let it wander! If you feel are banging your head against an idea, you are probably overusing the focused mode. Doing something else allows the diffused network to work through the idea.
  3. You need to develop effective tools for dealing with procrastination.

There’s a lot more, of course, but this is a great starting point for learning how to learn!

In the book, these principles are then broken down into practices that children and young adults can do to reinforce the concepts.

And especially for young children, the practice is really important – they need the practice to develop these neural structures in the first place! Unfortunately, it’s pretty clear that the U.S. public education system often does not provide enough practice for these neural patterns to develop.


If you want to learn more about Learning How to Learn, you can join us in The Homeschool Alliance later in August for an in-depth discussion on how you can bring this learning experience alive in your families!

Brave Writer Podcast: Unschool Undefined, and Other Home Ed Philosophies

Podcast Unschool Undefined

In the raging debate about which philosophies of education are best, many of us feel batted around and inadequate to live up to the expectations of those ideals. There’s a reason why homeschooling parents live under a cloud of inadequacy. I address that head-on in this podcast. Tune in and feel relief!

The Seduction of Ideology

When we adopt a particular style of homeschool, we tend to be seduced by ideological purity – we hear the principles, we hear the ideals, and then we believe that the only way to get the benefit is to adopt it perfectly.

But here’s the thing… true ideological purity is impossible, or at least ineffective.

When you believe in a system first, you forget about the human beings in that system and you end up favoring the system over the human beings.

So to protect that radical ideology, whatever it is, you have to get rid of the people who can’t live up to it fully and we start to believe that the principles are perfect.

Find Safe Communities

If you’re ever in a homeschooling context that shames you for your personal experience, it is not a safe space. It is okay to have ideas challenged – but it should be done in a way that takes into account your emotional well-being!

Your kids won’t grow if you threaten them, right? Well you can’t grow if you feel threatened, either.

The Problem with Purity: We’re Complex!

No human being – and no family – can live up to any system perfectly because human beings and families are complex systems.

And there are three important aspects to being a complex system, as it pertains to homeschooling:

  1. Learning doesn’t happen without safety, without the ability to take risks – and that needs to be in partnership with supportive people.
  2. Social science shows us that each person is socially located, meaning you have a culture, age, race, region, native language, and economic framework. That has a real impact on how you perceive the world, so what might work for one family may work completely differently for yours.
  3. We are in process at all times; we are not static. We are constantly changing, growing, and adapting.

If we don’t have self-knowledge about our own complex system, the way we interpret the principles of these philosophies may not be practical.

3 Principles for a Healthy Education

These are principles that you can adopt that don’t have anything to do with a home education philosophy:

  1. Look for sources of inspiration!
  2. You need handholds. It’s almost impossible to follow inspiration and then not know what to do. If you’re suddenly inspired to learn about art, is the best way to learn just to go to the museum? It might be a starting point, but at some point it’s helpful to be taught about art appreciation so that you know more about what you’re looking at and why you’re there – and some of those handholds are pieces of curriculum!
  3. We need tools and models of implementation. In addition to a philosophy, you need someone showing what you’re learning about and tools to practice it.

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Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!

Brave Writer Podcast: Top 10 Things to Have Done by the End of High School

Brave Writer Podcast Top 10 Things to Have Done by the End of High School

One of the most persistent questions I get in my inbox is: “But what about high school? I love all that magical enchanted lifestyle stuff for kids under 12. Don’t we HAVE to do some things they don’t want to in high school?”

And so a podcast was born. My thoughts on that topic!

10 Things to Have Done by the End of High School

  1. Reading! Without reading, you’re just not going to get the same level of education. Now this doesn’t mean your child needs to be able to read by X age. It simply means valuing the communication recorded through history for us to enjoy today.
  2. Critical thinking. If your children don’t know to ask good questions and be curious about a variety of answers, they will simply be students and not learners.
  3. Math and Science. It is important to provide enough opportunities to learn math and science during high school so that they can choose any field in college.
  4. Writing. Let your kids loose on the Internet (while also protecting their safety, of course). In whatever way you can, give them the opportunity to self-express through online communication. Why? The fastest growth in writing comes from an interested audience!
  5. Foreign language. Learning a new language expands the brain; it gives you a way of understanding that the way you think is not the only way to think. And when you have the power of a living language, you can connect with other human beings alive today.
  6. Chase one affinity. Make sure that your homeschool takes a deep dive into at least one thing that each of your children has an affinity for, and chase it for all it’s worth! More learning will come from that experience than anything else in their entire childhood.
  7. Encounter people and places. You want to make sure that, in everything you do, your children are intersecting with people who are not like you. Multiple perspectives matter!
  8. Performance. It’s extremely valuable to learn how to stand in front of people and be self-possessed. Find things that encourage your children to have self-possession in front of an audience, such as being in a stage production or in a band.
  9. Find friends! It is your job to help your kids find friends, and given your choice to homeschool, you might have to go out of your way and be intentional about it..
  10. Advocacy. You are your child’s advocate; you’re going to stand for them and be their biggest fan. They have you, and you’re responsible for teaching them that they’re valuable. This is one of the most important things you will ever do for your child – and then you’re going to teach them how to advocate for themselves!

Please post a review on iTunes for us (here’s a handy guide)?
Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!

Brave Writer Podcast: Exploring Learning Differences

Podcast Exploring Learning Differences

Today’s homeschooling families are often well-versed in their children’s special needs: whether the child is struggling to read due to dyslexia or struggling to handwrite due to dysgraphia or needs to hop on one foot to learn math because of ADHD!

This episode of the podcast explores the ways you can create an environment that supports those differences. I also give you some tips on what to do if you would like expert support.

A disclaimer for this episode: we are not trained experts and our specialty is not special needs, and anything we share today is based on our own experiences and research. So nothing in this episode should be considered clinical diagnosis or expert referral – this is all parent-to-parent sharing.

Tips to Keep in Mind

  • All learning differences and all learning styles deserve a unique parent! If you have five kids, you’ll have five approaches.
  • When we look at a child and think something doesn’t match the preconceptions we have, what we’re doing is comparing that child to traditional education standards.
  • You may notice that when a child has difficulty with one thing, they compensate in other areas. So how are your kids expressing their learning in a way that you can validate?
  • If your child is challenged by speaking or writing, you want to foster an intimate dynamic so that your child has an opportunity to feel emotionally safe and take risks. Julie absolutely recommends supporting them by being a transcriptionist, hired hand, and secretary.
  • Catch your children in the act of thinking!
  • If your child is uncomfortable around other people, consider finding them support in the form of pets.
  • Put your children in environments that show them themselves, show them their strengths! That may be a camp, a sport, or even a game.

Please post a review on iTunes for us (here’s a handy guide)?
Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!

Brave Writer Podcast: Are you one big happy family? Homeschool advice for the frazzled!

Podcast Are you one big happy family?


[This post contains Amazon affiliate links. When you click on those links to make purchases,
Brave Writer receives compensation at no extra cost to you. Thank you!]


This week’s podcast episode is designed to steam the wrinkles out of your crumpled homeschool. Sit back with an ice cold glass of lemonade and exhale.

One Big Happy Family

A family is a collection of individuals and we can’t forget that. The friction of human beings living in a family space together is always going to feel a little bit like controlled chaos – and it’s totally okay if that’s the way that it is!

However, making space for everyone in your family to have some of your focused attention and some alone time or downtime is the challenge, particularly for big families. So how can we leverage the unique benefits of homeschooling to do that – and what should we avoid?

What doesn’t work:

  • Scope and sequence don’t work, no matter how many kids you have.
  • Timed lessons just don’t work in homeschool. If you have children that are a range of ages, especially if some aren’t school age yet, something is going to disrupt that schedule.
  • Forgetting about your middles. It’s easy to overly focus on the oldest and youngest and neglect the ones in the middle, so we recommend keeping track of when you spend focused time with your kids so it’s easier to distribute evenly!
  • Too much routine or too much inspiration. Set up a routine that you can always rely on, but then if inspiration strikes ditch the routine.

What does work:

  • Group projects work incredibly well for science, history, writing, and arts & crafts.
  • If you have a big family, take advantage of it! Let your children talk to each other – and encourage it! One of the most incredible tools we all have now is the ability to easily record each other digitally. It allows your child to narrate in a way that they won’t in a traditional classroom scenario.
  • Doing math as a family can be difficult, but the book Family Math is an incredible tool we recommend to make it easier!
  • Rotate one-on-one time so that everyone gets a share of your focused attention.
  • Co-ops can help or hurt. It’s great to have somewhere you can go that has other kids, especially kids at multiple age levels so that every child has someone to socialize with. However, some co-ops can feel like a ball and chain: they’re so academically oriented that you end up feeling more pressure, instead of getting some relief and time to socialize!
  • Time off for errands, play, and clean up.
  • Hire someone to help you! Someone else’s child would probably love to make a few dollars spending some time with your younger children while you have to give another child focused attention.
  • Take advantage of non-traditional hours to get everything done.
  • Create predictable storage for each kid, for library books, for writing supplies, and for all of your media. This means everyone always knows where everything will be and a lot fewer things go missing.

Please post a review on iTunes for us (here’s a handy guide)?
Help a homeschooler like you find more joy in the journey. Thanks!