Archive for the ‘Podcasts’ Category

Podcast: Writing in the Age of ChatGPT

Brave Writer Podcast

Today Melissa and I nerd out about writing. We’re passionate about writing. We’re professional writers! Ergo: we LOVE it!

The unique aspect of Brave Writer is that our approach to teaching writing is different from what’s typically taught in education or seen in other writing resources. It’s a process that is reflective of the stages a writer goes through when writing and publishing a novel. And when we were designing that program, we felt that the missing element in writing education was love.

On this episode of the Brave Writer podcast, we discuss the history of the written word that led us to this conclusion, as well as new technologies that may have the potential to disrupt what it means to be a writer.

Show Notes

Have you ever found yourself reading a sample paragraph out of a teaching program and thought to yourself, “What happens next? I want a second paragraph!” If the answer is no, let me ask you this: Why would you want to use a lifeless piece of writing as an example for your children?

We know good writing when we see it — that’s love. We should be teaching the writing that lights us up, and that wants us to keep reading.

Why do humans write?

What drives us to create art, hieroglyphs, and alphabets? It’s the desire to preserve and share valuable information. The excitement of capturing something in a lasting way is contagious — it taps into our awareness of our own mortality. To teach a five-year-old the value of writing, they must see the purpose behind it. Why do we read and write? To preserve and share information. This is seen in how parents record their baby’s first words and share them with others. There is a strong desire to preserve original information in a written form.

When you start from a foundation of valuing the human being and the writing voice that lives inside, it makes the work more meaningful and you can take it at a pace the child can handle. We’ve designed all of our programs with that pace in mind for the sake of the child. Kids have to understand that there is something of value at the end of it.

But what about ChatGPT?

If you haven’t heard of it yet, ChatGPT is a sophisticated AI technology built to understand natural language. You can ask it a question and it will answer with what is often eerily human-sounding responses.

  • What about this brave new world of AI writing technology?
  • Will Melissa and Julie (and other professional writers) be out of a job? 
  • Do your kids even need to learn how to write?
  • What role should ChatGPT play in our culture and education systems, like college? 

ChatGPT can be, at first glance, surprisingly impressive. But as you see more examples of it, you begin to realize the limitations of what it can create or how reliable it is in its accuracy.

Beyond that, there are many unsettling questions about what this means for creators and writers. Where is it getting its information? Who could you unknowingly be plagiarizing by using it? As a structure, it’s appropriative.

If you want to incorporate ChatGPT and other AI tools into your child’s writing and education, start by treating it as an adventure that you can go on together. Explore and see if you can arrive at an understanding of where it’s useful and where it’s lifeless.

There are no easy answers when it comes to adopting and adapting to new technologies. We’ve seen it before with the rise of the internet, smartphones, and ever-present screens — it takes time to find a balance that works for your family, and you’re going to have questions along the way. We’re all still figuring it out. We hope that you’ll be along for the ride with us as we continue to see what direction this may unfold.


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Technology and Kids with Devorah Heitner

Brave Writer Podcast

Wondering how to juggle technology and kids? Today’s Brave Writer podcast episode is dedicated to addressing the number one requested topic: screen time and our children.

With the rise of technology and the numerous devices available, it’s natural for us to feel overwhelmed and concerned about the impact screens are having on our kids. Do you ever feel guilty about letting your children watch television or use their devices, even though you don’t feel the same way about listening to a podcast or audiobook?

Devorah Heitner
Devorah Heitner

Our guest today, Devorah Heitner, is here to help us answer our most pressing questions and ease the nervousness we feel around screen time. Devorah is a Ph.D. who studied media, technology, and society at Northwestern University and works with communities, schools, and companies to raise tech-savvy children. She is the author of the best-selling book, Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive and Survive in Their Digital World, and is here to offer practical advice, not add more shame or guilt to our already complex relationship with screens.

So sit back, relax, and get ready to learn about managing screen time for our children.

Show Notes

Should parents be concerned about tech?

It can be a significant challenge to manage technology in homeschooling environments. With constant access to tech devices like iPads and laptops, it’s difficult for parents to set boundaries. The devices are always present and the temptation to use them is high. This can be especially difficult for parents juggling multiple responsibilities, who sometimes use technology as a distraction. The tension between the availability of technology and the need to manage it is one of the biggest challenges faced by families.

Devorah is optimistic about the experiences kids can have — but has to admit her concern that tech companies don’t have their best interests in mind. However, communities like homeschoolers are showing great innovation. We want kids to know that technology is there to support them, not the other way around. It should enhance learning and connections, not control them.

Parents’ concerns are real, but how we react to those concerns is what is most important: We don’t want to be overly controlling and limiting, and at the same time we don’t want to just throw up our hands and give in freely. We have to focus on what technology can make better, and mentor our children in ways to use it that enhance their lives.

Mentors vs Monitors

When it comes to parenting and technology, it’s important to understand the difference between mentoring and monitoring. Mentoring focuses on setting your children up for success and helping them make their own decisions, while monitoring is more about catching them when they do something wrong. It’s important to prioritize teaching your children to do the right thing, rather than just catching them when they make mistakes. Mentoring is an ongoing conversation that involves sharing personal experiences, such as tech mishaps, and helping your children build their character and decision-making skills.

Entering into consensual monitoring is the key.

In terms of technology and parenting, filters and child locks can be helpful, but they are not a complete solution. It’s crucial to have open and honest conversations with your children about topics such as pornography and other potentially harmful content they may encounter online. Even with filters in place, your children may still come across these things, so it’s important to create an environment where they feel comfortable talking to you if they encounter something concerning.

Tips for regulating screen usage

In order to help children raised in the streaming era to have a balanced relationship with television, it’s important to create attractive unplugged zones in the home. This can be done by:

  • Visiting libraries, and bookstores, and restocking art supplies to keep things new and exciting.
  • It’s not always necessary to buy new items, but rotating the supplies and making them accessible helps kids engage in activities that don’t involve screens.
  • Making other spaces in the home attractive, such as a cozy spot around the piano or a game area, can help shift the focus away from screens.

When kids are drawn to technology-based activities, such as gaming or YouTube how-to tutorials, it’s important to encourage them to use that knowledge to create something in real life. This can be done by asking them to make dinner or to use the knowledge from the tutorials to make something. The goal is to have them create rather than just consume, as too much screen time can have negative impacts on their development.

Our kids are ultimately going to have to live with technology their whole lives. Keeping it inaccessible to them for most of their lives is only going to hold them back. But if we can set boundaries around what matters most and educate them on responsible usage of technology, their relationship with it may be better than our own.


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: The Complete List for 2023

Brave Writer Podcast

Did you miss a 2023 episode of the Brave Writer Podcast? Did you want to listen to an episode again?

Not to worry!

Here are the episodes of the podcast aired in 2023 in one convenient place so that you can listen (or re-listen) to them whenever you want. Show Notes are included!

Note: We switched to a new numbering system February 1st so the January episodes can be found here (starting with S8E48).

2023 Podcasts

Bookmark this page! New episodes will be added as they air.

Tune in to the Brave Writer podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher (or your app of choice),
and also here on the Brave Writer blog.

NEW on the Podcast: Introducing Co-Host Melissa Wiley!

Brave Writer Podcast

I can’t wait for you to listen to today’s podcast episode!

Today’s show marks a new beginning in the Brave Writer podcast. I’m introducing a co-host to the show:

Meet Melissa Wiley, a long-time homeschooler, children’s book writer, and valued friend and colleague. Melissa has written two highly-regarded novels which we share in the Brave Writer world, The Prairie Thief and The Nerviest Girl in the World, and also works for Brave Writer, writing our Quills (writing program for 5-7) and Darts (writing program for 8-10) and teaching a number of our online classes.

Today’s show highlights Melissa’s unique approach to homeschooling, known as “tidal schooling,” a metaphor for the ocean tides. We’ll talk about the ebb and flow of learning using Melissa’s model!

  • How do you capitalize on a child’s interests while continuing to keep homeschool lessons rolling?
  • What’s the difference between unschooling and tidal schooling? 
  • Why do we tend to associate learning with effort?

You do not have to homeschool to benefit from the podcast, as much of what we will share are just great parenting ideas. So join in on the conversation and enjoy the new journey into the future as we get to know Melissa!

Show Notes

What is “tidal schooling”?

In her homeschooling philosophy, Melissa Wiley coined the term “tidal schooling” to describe the ebb and flow of structure and autonomy in her approach to education. She explains that in 2006, she was having conversations about labeling oneself as a certain type of homeschooler, such as a Charlotte Mason homeschooler or unschooler, but found that her own approach was a combination of both. She recognized that there were times when a more structured approach, where she planned and mapped out their journey, worked well for her family, while other times they needed a more unstructured approach, where they were free to explore their interests at their own pace. She compares this to the metaphor of the ocean tides, where high tide represents the more structured times and low tide represents the more unstructured times. During low tide, she acts as a facilitator, providing resources and experiences to feed their interests, and ensuring their safety, similar to how a parent would at the beach.

This philosophy was more of a description of what Melissa was already doing with her homeschooling that had been working — allowing her to ebb and flow, enjoying ideological variety without being locked into a specific mindset.

The purpose of homeschooling

When homeschooling, a significant part of our effort is to prepare our children for a healthy and fulfilling adult life. This includes teaching them how to assess their own well-being and make choices that align with their values and personal experience. One of the challenges with traditional education is that it often promotes a set of values that contradict our natural experience and can lead us to distrust our personal experience in favor of those values. For example, the belief that learning is only happening when it is difficult, that effort is more valuable than ease, or that learning has to happen in all subjects every day. These are structures that are designed for order and control, to manage large groups of students, but they do not align with the goals of creating a fulfilling life.

In fact, we have clear evidence that our current structure is not beneficial for most people. When I had vocal chord problems, my otolaryngologist told me that most of their clientele are teachers because no one should be expected to speak out loud for seven hours a day. It’s a difficult and demanding lifestyle, and we put our kids through it as if it’s ordinary.

We hope you enjoyed this conversation as just a taste of what’s to come — a whole new adventure for the Brave Writer world!


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast

Podcast: Bonus Episode! Teaching Kids about Their Bodies with Dr. Betty Choi

Brave Writer Podcast

Kids are naturally, wonderfully curious — especially when it comes to their own bodies. It isn’t easy to answer curious kids’ questions about their bodies with accuracy and to their satisfaction.

That’s where the book Human Body Learning Lab by Dr. Betty Choi comes in. The author, a Harvard-educated pediatrician, shares her passion for helping children understand their bodies and satisfy their curiosity.

Dr. Betty Choi
Dr. Betty Choi

Join us on the Brave Writer podcast for a fascinating conversation with Dr. Choi on how to create opportunities for kids to get to know their own bodies.

Show Notes

Dr. Betty Choi wrote Human Body Learning Lab with the goal of providing children with a hands-on, interactive learning experience about the human body. She wanted to create a resource that was not limited to just two-dimensional words on a page but incorporated hands-on activities. Additionally, she wanted to include a diverse range of images in the book, reflective of real-life anatomy, to provide a more accurate representation of people’s physical appearance both on the outside and inside.

Parenting through empowerment

One of the examples Dr. Choi uses in her book is teaching children about the immune system and the benefits that come along with doing so. Imposing a belief about germs on children without providing a deeper understanding can lead to an authoritative parenting style. Instead of just telling a child to wash their hands, it’s much more effective to explain the reasons behind the behavior, such as protection from germs and potential dangers from food allergies. This understanding can motivate children to make informed decisions and develop healthy habits.

Dr. Betty Choi recommends an experiment that she suggests doing with kids to demonstrate the power of soap in fighting germs. The experiment requires water, black pepper, dish soap, and a bowl. The first step is to put water and black pepper in the bowl and then stick your finger in it. Nothing significant happens. Then, the experiment is repeated by putting a tiny bit of dish soap on the fingertip and then sticking the finger just a little bit at the top of the water. The experiment is intended to show the kids how soap can scatter away the black pepper flakes, which are meant to represent germs, and highlight the power of soap. She’s performed this experiment with preschoolers and even older kids and teens and the reaction has been fascinating.

The fine balance in discussing reproductive parts

Human Body Learning Lab contains a chapter on the reproductive system. This chapter may evoke strong emotions for some parents who feel uncomfortable discussing sexuality with their children. However, Dr. Choi’s intent was to normalize this conversation, just as we would talk about other body systems such as the digestive system. These conversations are essential for the health and safety of our children, as it protects them from potential abuse and ensures they receive accurate information.

If children do not receive this information from safe resources, they will find it elsewhere — the internet is just a tap away, after all. So it is important for parents to provide a solid foundation of information to their children.

How to teach kids to talk about their bodies

As a parent, it’s important to teach kids about their bodies and how to take care of them. One approach is to talk about hunger and listen to what the body is telling us. For example, ask your child if their stomach is growling or if they feel full. This helps the child be in touch with their body and its signals.

In addition, there are three different thinking exercises to help kids understand their bodies better:

Physical Body: Teach kids to listen to their body’s cues and to observe what might be getting in the way, such as TV or music in the background. Ask questions like how do you know when you’re cold, tired, or thirsty and let the child observe the physical sensations in their body.

Emotional Health: Discuss emotions and how they affect the body. For example, ask how the child knows they’re nervous or excited, and have them notice physical sensations like heart rate, muscle tension, or sweating. You can also model how you know when you’re upset or stressed.

Actions: Teach kids to think critically about why we do the things we do, like washing our hands. Ask questions like why do you think we wear clothes or why is it important to brush our teeth. Encourage kids to think about their actions and not just do them out of habit.

By engaging kids in these exercises, they can learn to be mindful of their bodies and emotions and make healthy choices.

This is just scratching the surface of the myriad lessons Dr. Betty Choi has in Human Body Learning Lab. If you’re struggling to broach the topic of talking about body parts — especially those tricky, private ones — then this is an invaluable resource to make these discussions fun, engaging, and informative for each of you.


Connect with Julie

Brave Writer Podcast