Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Podcast: Five Surprising Reasons to Homeschool

Brave Writer Five Surprising Reasons to Homeschool

Today, we’re going back to the root of it all to ask – and answer – one incredibly vital question:

Why homeschool in the first place?

Everyone has their own personal reasons, but I thought we could explore the origins of why we began homeschooling in the first place, as well as five reasons we think homeschooling could benefit any child.

This episode will resonate with those already in the homeschooling trenches or those contemplating the idea. Whether you’re a seasoned homeschooler considering changes or someone contemplating this path for the first time, we hope our stories inspire you.

Remember, you don’t need to know everything to get started. All you need is the desire to be home with your kids and learn as you go.

Show Notes

Our Homeschooling Beginnings

Both of us embarked on our homeschooling adventures back in the 1990s, and our motivations were unique yet similar in many ways. I was drawn to the appealing lifestyle homeschooling offered – the relaxed pace, flexibility, and the chance to cultivate a joyful childhood for my kids. Melissa was introduced to the idea of a tailor-made education before she even tied the knot. She was inspired by the homeschooling families around her and the prospect of being actively involved in her future children’s educational journey.

Influencers and Resources That Shaped Our Journey

Several resources shaped our initial understanding of homeschooling. We were greatly influenced by the ‘Growing Without Schooling’ magazine, and books by Dorothy and Raymond Moore, John Holt, and John Taylor Gatto. These provided us with a paradigm of what education could look like beyond the conventional school system. We were also inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Men” and Jim Trelease’s “The Read Aloud Handbook” to create a rich, immersive learning environment in our homes.

Diving Deep into the Reasons to Homeschool

We’ve identified five major reasons to homeschool. They are as follows:

  • Flexibility: Homeschooling gives us the freedom to adapt our schedules, learning styles, and methods according to our children’s needs and different seasons in life.
  • Connection: We shared personal experiences of the profound relationships formed in a homeschooling environment, particularly the strong bonds between siblings and between children and adults.
  • Kinesthetic Benefits: We emphasized the importance of integrating physical movement into learning, sharing how homeschooling creates ample opportunities for this.
  • Joyfulness: We asserted the importance of creating a joyful and comfortable learning environment, likening it to the Danish concept of hygge.
  • Academic Success: We posited that academic success should be a natural byproduct of a positive learning environment, rather than the primary goal. The focus should be on meaningful learning, not merely achieving high grades.

Learning Through Life Experiences

A significant part of our discussion centered on the spontaneous, real-world application of concepts. We shared personal anecdotes about how our children’s interests led to unplanned, immersive learning experiences. This joy of discovery and exploration is one of the reasons we love homeschooling.

Finding the Desire to Homeschool

In conclusion, we emphasized that the desire to homeschool is the most important requirement to start this journey. You don’t need to have everything figured out from day one; learning and adapting along the way is part of the process. After all, the opportunity of homeschooling lies in creating a rich context filled with connection, flexibility, joy, and active learning.

Whether you’re a seasoned homeschooler considering changes or someone contemplating this path for the first time, we hope our stories inspire you. Remember, you don’t need to know everything to get started. All you need is the desire to be home with your kids and learn as you go.

Until next time, keep learning and exploring!


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: The Brave Writer Worldview (our not so secret agenda)

Brave Writer Podcast

One of the most popular questions we get as a company is to define (or identify) our underlying worldview. Parents who sift through the Internet looking for homeschool programs want to find companies that align enough with their values that they can trust them as tools to educate their children.

There are lots of ways curriculum companies operate. Some align explicitly with a particular religious faith. Some align with a political agenda or perspective—either to the left or right. Others adamantly identify as purely secular—no mention of anything that could be construed as religious. Still others claim to align with common core or public school standards.

There are some programs that opt out of ideology all together—particularly math companies, for instance.

So where on this spectrum does Brave Writer fall?

Listen to today’s podcast and find out!

Show Notes

Brave Writer began in January of 2000—23 years ago. At the time, I was a homeschooling mom with five children. My mission for my family was to expose my kids to the wide wonderful world through literature. I wanted my kids to see themselves to scale on planet earth. I wanted them to be exposed to the variety of cultures and experiences that make up our globe. My husband and I had both traveled the world and lived abroad. These were values we wanted our kids to have. I also hoped they’d get to care about history through historical fiction—novels set in the time periods we studied. So far, two of my kids live abroad, four of them studied abroad and one of them married a non-US citizen! I often say to Jon, their dad, “I think we overachieved.” I never thought I’d be longing for them to move home to Ohio. To them, planet earth is their home.

Brave Writer has a similar agenda: helping parents give their children a rich literary diet that showcases the wonderful world we share. What’s exciting is that more and more of the books we recommend today are written by members of the communities represented in the stories (that was less true when I was homeschooling). Our books also include the astonishing variety of people who live inside the United States, in particular, since that is where my company lives.

One of the principles that matters to us a lot is to make sure that Brave Writer honors the variety of people that make up the broad homeschooling community today. Homeschooling is not a monolith. When we hire, when we pick books, when we conduct research, our goal is to offer our community a sense of being seen and belonging.

That means when we select literature for the Brave Writer programs, we try to pick books that include as many different viewpoints as possible. We know those choices won’t always match each family’s experience or perspective. For instance, last year we heard feedback from families who don’t prefer the genre of fantasy for read alouds. We’ve also heard from families who have suffered tragic losses that wish we didn’t have parents or beloved pets die in our selections.

One way we think about our book choices is to consider them as mirrors and windows (Author Emily Style came up with this helpful way to talk about books). Books either mirror your experience (help you feel seen and known, help you look more deeply at your community) or they are windows into the experience of someone else. What’s one person’s mirror may be someone else’s window.

The goal of reading aloud is not to confirm our place in the world to the exclusion of knowing about other people and their place in the world. We read to know. We read to understand a bit better. We don’t read for agreement or bias confirmation. We’re allowed to hold our own reactions, opinions, and even judgments. We’re allowed to destabilize a viewpoint or challenge a perspective in the privacy of our own minds and homes.

Part of what we want to do with children is to give them a chance to right-size their place in the world—as one, among many. Even when we disagree with a value system, we want to understand the way other people construct meaning for their lives.

We live in a world that is made up of a variety of lived experiences. Reading a book that includes characters who have different beliefs around sexuality, different ideas about the afterlife, different attitudes toward parenting and marriage, different opinions about science and religion, different habits with regard to clothing or cooking or holidays or family celebrations gives us a chance to know one another. We do it at this removed distance that books allow us. We give our children the best chance to become acquainted with differences. And then we also read the comforting familiar tales in books that mirror our lives, too.

Sometimes a parent will say to me: “We don’t agree with the inclusion of this character in this book. We see them as living immorally.” 

My response to that is this: Even when we hold a different viewpoint than someone else, it can still be valuable to read about them. Reading provides a way to get to know someone with whom you disagree, before you run into them at co-op or on the soccer field. It’s a way to acknowledge that each person has inherent value, regardless of whether or not you agree with how they conduct their lives. Knowing how life is for someone with whom you disagree—acknowledging that they live among us—is necessary for the healthy development of all children, particularly those who are homeschooled and not in a classroom with lots of families. It’s up to us to prepare them. Reading aloud is one way we can have those conversations with our kids.

As homeschoolers, we know how much we want the wider population to stop caricaturing and stereotyping us. We want books and media representations that help people see homeschoolers as worthy of respect and rights. In fact, that’s what every population wants.

That said: each family makes choices about what they want to share with their children and when, particularly homeschoolers. Brave Writer offers a wide variety of literature choices so that if you don’t like one book we picked, there are surely others we’re confident you’ll love!

Brave Writer is interested in promoting a context where anyone who wants to participate, can. We provide mirrors and windows through our literature selections. We honor and value each student who attends an online class and allow them to be who they are when they write. The staff restrains themselves from sharing their personal politics or spiritual beliefs (or the absence of them). We hold space in our online community to welcome everyone—even when people differ dramatically in how they assemble their worldviews.

It’s not easy. I heard a speaker say one time: “When you’re a bridge, you get walked on from both sides.” Someone else told me that I am like Switzerland to them—neutral in the homeschool wars. I thought to myself: “Yeah, and Switzerland has a vast network of escape tunnels and stockpiles of munitions to protect themselves!”

It can feel pretty tricky to maintain this posture, but I’m committed to it. We are better thinkers when we expand to include more experiences than our own. We don’t have to give up our own committed beliefs or ideals, but we can also honor the similar feelings of our other homeschool colleagues and families. We are our most democratic selves when we realize that to safeguard our own rights, we must ensure the protection of others as well. We can only do that if we know who those others are. 

In conclusion, I suppose I can say that Brave Writer does have an agenda—and it’s not a secret. We want to support you in raising global citizens who think, read, and write well.


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Awesome Adulting with Meg Maloney on the Camino de Santiago

Brave Writer Podcast

Meet my college friend in this Brave Writer podcast episode!

Meg Maloney is the author of an intriguing memoir, “Slow Your Roll,” where she chronicles her transformative journey across Spain on the Camino de Santiago, a renowned network of pilgrimages culminating at the shrine of apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostola. With its spiritual aura, this trail has attracted millions over the years, becoming a beloved route for spiritual seekers, hikers, and tourists alike.

Meg Maloney
Meg Maloney

Beyond her role as an author, Meg is a seasoned marriage and family therapist, a loving mother of three grown-up children, and a devoted wife of more than 30 years.

In our conversations, we shared a recurring theme—the importance of nurturing one’s individual identity and aspirations beyond motherhood, a concept I’ve coined as “awesome adulting.” You’ll hear:

  • what she discovered about herself on her pilgrimage,
  • how she reacclimated to the fast pace of modern life,
  • and how she’s been changed through the process.

And for writers: she gives us a treat—she shares about her journey to writing and self-publishing her first book!

I loved her memoir and I hope you will too!

Show Notes

The life-affirming benefits of pilgrimage

Indeed, embarking on this pilgrimage allowed Meg to temporarily shed her familial roles and reconnect with her younger, more individualistic self. This is a woman who delights in connecting with people and their stories – a penchant that was fed abundantly on the Camino. Meg’s affinity with Spain began during her junior year of college when she studied abroad. That experience was a stepping stone for her pilgrimage years later.

Everyday on the Camino was a unique experience – covering approximately 15 miles on foot, sleeping in a different locale each night. The physical and mental rigor of this journey is testament to the resilience of the human spirit, irrespective of age or fitness level. It’s a challenge, but one that Meg feels keeps life interesting, setting a great example for the younger generation.

Yet, after the Camino, adapting back to the fast-paced, constantly connected, societal pressure-filled life was challenging for Meg. The slower pace and mutual care of the Camino felt more real, more human. Today, she spends half the year in a slower-paced Southern Californian community, cherishing the connections she made during her pilgrimage, a vital part of her transformative journey.

Writing as an integral part of the journey

Throughout her journey, Meg found solace and deeper connection through writing. As she trekked across Spain, she kept a daily blog. The act of penning down her feelings and observations was therapeutic and meditative, connecting her more profoundly with her experiences. Her conscious commitment to reflect on her day and her encounters elevated her awareness, anchoring her deeper into each moment.

Even though Meg hasn’t been able to maintain the same level of discipline in her writing since returning home, she values its importance. Aspiring writers often hear the advice to simply sit down every day and let creativity flow. Meg embodies this, proving that the chair, the blank page, and the open mind are often all you need.

Interestingly, Meg hadn’t initially planned to pen down her Camino experience in a book. It was a friend and fellow Camino walker, Bob Mackler, who suggested the idea after following her blog. Despite some publishing challenges, Meg successfully launched “Slow Your Roll” as a paperback through Amazon. A detail that warms my heart is that her family contributed to the book’s design.

Her book title, inspired by the song “Slow Your Roll” by Brothers Osborne, encapsulates the essence of her journey and the central theme of slowing down, being present, and embracing the moment. Meg highlights the importance of disconnecting from technology, immersing oneself in nature, and allowing the creative process to flourish.

The memoir is a detailed, personal account of the Camino journey, a testament to simplicity and introspection. It strikes a chord in those in their later stages of life, where self-reflection becomes paramount, and where the hustle and bustle of daily life often overshadows inner peace and understanding.

Inspiring your own personal journey

After our reminiscences and shared wisdom, Meg left me with a profound hope. She hoped that her story might inspire others to consider a journey like the Camino. Such an experience is more than just a physical trek; it’s a mental and emotional exploration, one that alters the course of life, providing insights, clarity, and an understanding of oneself that is hard to come by in our routine lives.

We’re not just mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, or children. We’re individuals with unique identities and aspirations. I’ve learned this from my conversations with Meg, and her memoir is a testament to this belief. After all, we are more than the roles we play, the tasks we perform, and the responsibilities we bear. Like Meg, we can all learn to slow our roll, take a deep breath, and reconnect with our individual selves amidst the daily grind.

Our experiences shape us. They change us in ways we cannot foresee. They make us self-aware, compelling us to look within, to understand our feelings, needs, and thoughts, and to take care of ourselves. Like a child needing to pause and refuel with a cup of Cheez-its, or like an adult needing a moment to step away from a stressful situation, we all have moments when we need to tend to our emotional health.

So, I encourage you all to consider embarking on your journey. It doesn’t have to be a physical one like Meg’s. It could be a new hobby, a change in routine, or an act of self-reflection. Regardless, take that leap, dive into the unknown, and I guarantee, you’ll come out stronger, happier, and more self-aware on the other side. That’s the magic of embracing the journey, the magic of awesome adulting!


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Book Wandering with Anna James

Brave Writer Podcast

In the realm of children’s literature, certain authors create captivating worlds that inspire young readers to explore, imagine, and grow. One such author is Anna James, the British writer and journalist based in North London, known for her middle-grade novels series, “Pages and Co.”

Anna James
Anna James

Today on the Brave Writer podcast, we’re discussing:

  • her writing process,
  • the inspiration behind her series,
  • and the value of getting lost in the worlds of books.

Also, don’t forget to hop over to the Brave Writer store to pick up the Arrow that goes with her book “Pages & Co.: The Book Wanderers” (the Arrow is our literature handbook that teaches grammar and literature to your 11-12 year olds!).

Show Notes

The Journey into Fiction

Anna’s journey into fiction was as magical as the worlds she weaves. Her love for books and reading stemmed from her childhood adventures, often featuring her and her sister as characters in Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” adventures. This idea of being part of a story was the seed that blossomed into the concept of “book wandering” in her “Pages & Co.” series.

Despite her passion for literature, Anna chose to study history at university to preserve her pure love for reading. Initially, she aspired to be a librarian, even planning to do a master’s in archives. However, fate led her to switch her path at the last moment.

The Magic of Book Wandering

The “Pages & Co.” series, expected to have its sixth installment later in the year in the UK and next year in the US, introduces readers to Tilly, a young girl living in a bookshop who discovers her ability to travel inside books and stories. This concept of “book wandering” is a testament to Anna’s belief in the magic of imagination, especially for young people imagining their own lives and those of others.

The series, which was envisioned as a standalone book, focused on characters entering the pages of books. The story eventually expanded into six books, introducing new characters and story arcs along the way.

An Instinctive Writing Process

Anna describes herself as a “pantser,” writing by the seat of her pants without an outline. Her first drafts flow from start to finish without looking back, and she trusts her instincts as a writer, thanks to her exposure to a multitude of stories. Despite significant plot shifts and character changes, her first drafts always end up around the same word count due to her innate sense of pacing.

Her writing process also reflects her love for immersive theater, where the audience becomes part of the story. Anna started writing about it after her book series began coming out, seeing a connection between immersive theater and book wandering.

The Enchanting Setting

The setting of the “Pages & Co.” series was inspired by Anna’s experiences at Waterstones, a British bookstore in Newcastle, where she discovered many of her favorite books as a child. The visual impact of seeing many books together symbolizes the richness of human thought and ideas, a sentiment lost in the digital age.

The Journey of Identity

Anna emphasizes the importance of young people finding their identity and standing up for their beliefs. Through her character, Tilly, she explores the process of self-discovery and self-definition, even when it means going against the expectations of loved ones. Anna believes in the importance of young people asserting themselves, learning from their mistakes, and navigating their own paths.

Upcoming Adventures

Anna is currently working on a new series called the “Weather-Wide Chronicles,” set to be published in the UK in the upcoming autumn. She is also planning an “Alice in Wonderland” re-imagining, following Alice’s granddaughter, Alyce.

Anna James’ work is a testament to the power of imagination and the beauty of discovering oneself through the pages of a book. Her series not only provides young readers with a captivating journey but also encourages them to chart their own paths, just like Tilly, setting their own compass in the world.


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Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: An Honest Conversation about Unschooling

Brave Writer Podcast

Are you a homeschooling parent who has heard about unschooling but isn’t quite sure what it means, or whether it’s right for your family?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Unschooling is a flexible and learner-centered approach to education that encourages:

  • curiosity,
  • self-direction,
  • and personal growth.

In this Brave Writer podcast, we’ll dive into the world of unschooling and share some valuable insights, experiences, and advice to help you navigate this alternative approach to learning.

Show Notes

Understanding the Principles of Unschooling

First, let’s start by understanding the principles of unschooling. Unschooling is not anti-education but rather an alternative approach to learning that follows a child’s interests and allows them to learn at their own pace.

The philosophy, coined by educator John Holt, supports a learner-centered approach that encourages curiosity and personal growth. It’s important to differentiate between unschooling and radical unschooling, with the latter involving complete relinquishment of control and structure in a child’s life, including non-academic aspects like bedtimes and mealtimes.

Utilizing Resources and Methods in an Unschooling Environment

Unschooling doesn’t mean you need to shut the door on traditional educational resources. Instead, you can make use of tutors, classes, field trips, workbooks, and textbooks, alongside allowing your child to pursue their interests and passions. The key is to create a rich and flexible learning environment that:

  • encourages exploration
  • and supports your child’s unique learning style.

Embracing Change and Trusting the Process

One of the challenges of unschooling is letting go of expectations and recognizing that children’s interests and passions may change over time. It’s essential to remember that the skills and experiences your child gains through unschooling contribute to the “compost” of their personal development, rather than defining them by specific roles or accomplishments. Embrace the uncertainty and trust in the process, as this will ultimately help your child grow into a well-rounded and adaptable individual.

Unschooling offers a unique and flexible approach to education that can be tailored to suit the needs and interests of each child. It’s important to be open to change and not be bound by a specific educational philosophy or label.

Whether you decide to fully embrace unschooling or simply incorporate some of its principles into your homeschooling journey, remember that the ultimate goal is to support your child’s curiosity, growth, and individuality. Don’t be afraid to explore and adapt because, after all, learning is a lifelong adventure.


  • It’s that time of year: We’re announcing the new book list for the coming school year! Save the dates, June 1st and 2nd, and sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop at
  • Visit to help your young writer finish the school year strong!
  • Sign up for our Text Message Pod Ring to get podcast updates and more!
  • Send us podcast topic ideas by texting us: +1 (833) 947-3684
  • Want help getting started with Brave Writer? Go to
  • Sign up for the Brave Writer newsletter to learn about all of the special offers we’re doing in 2022 and you’ll get a free seven-day Writing Blitz guide just for signing up:

Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast