Archive for the ‘Students’ Category

Brave Writer and the College Admission Essay

College Admission Essay
Brave Writer Instructor and Minister of Magic, Nancy Graham writes:

I’ve been teaching Brave Writer’s College Admission Essay class for three years now and I love watching the essays come into focus. Students often start with no ideas or a vague sense of the story they want to tell about themselves, and they leave with a piece that traces a time in their life when they were transformed in some way. What seems at first like a purely functional piece of prose—“Let me into your college!”—becomes a moving document of insight and self-reflection. Whether the writer has undertaken her education at home or in a school, this essay is an opportunity to reflect on her life so far—what she values and what she has learned.

Every couple of months we’ll feature an essay, beginning with Cassie’s meditation on how a county fair became a family heirloom. Cassie took our Fall 2014 College Admissions Essay class.

County Fair Heirlooms

By Cassie W.
Knox College, class of 2019

Stepping into the cinder block clubhouse near the first gate of the Prince William County Fair, I’m greeted with both a wave of nostalgia and friendly hellos. The old ladies—dressed in sweatpants and gingham aprons—step out from behind plastic folding tables heavy with aluminum warming dishes full of mashed potatoes, gravy, chicken, and lima beans. They smile at me and squeeze my arm and tell me how much I’ve grown up since last year, and I smile and say that it’s good to see them and I’m glad to be back. It’s been like this for as long as I can remember.

This year, my green volunteer t-shirt is sticking to my back, and my bangs are plastered to my forehead. I’ve been working in the Home Arts building for the past five hours—a tin-roofed barn where the exhibitions are held. I fill out paperwork, help with judging, and hang the exhibits—amateur photos of babies and animals, now decorated with blue, red, and white ribbons that flutter in the breeze of electric fans. Although it’s hard, hot, and tedious, I take more pride in my job than in any other work.

I grab a paper plate from the stack on the table and pile it with the creamy mashed potatoes, dousing the miniature potato mountain with gravy, and dipping the spoon into the mess of soft lima beans and melted butter for an extra helping.

Sure, I love the cotton candy, soft-serve ice cream and funnel cake of the carnival as much as anyone, but it’s the homemade food cooked up by the remaining members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary Fair Club that I love best. It’s the same sort of food my grandmother would make for me as a kid, which makes sense, seeing as she used to cook in the clubhouse kitchens. She worked hard for the fair for most of her life, like my grandfather, who helped found the fair over sixty years ago when he came back from World War II. I never knew my grandfather, but I have childhood memories of my grandma walking me around the fairground, smiling and waving at me while I rode the merry-go-round or the bumper cars, scolding me when I got lost in the crowd.

Grandma died the spring I turned fourteen, but for this week in August, when I spend every day at the fair, her legacy—and that of my grandfather—is palpable. The fair has always been deeply woven into the history of my mother’s side of the family, and we joke that the clubhouse is like more like Thanksgiving in August.

Every day, I walk the midway. I’m usually alone. There’s no one to scold me when I get lost in the crowd, so I let myself get lost: I ride the rides, the bare backs of my legs sticking to the vinyl seats. I scratch the oily heads of sheep and let cows lick my hands, pose proudly for pictures by my award-winning cookies or decorated potatoes, eat ice cream, and watch acrobats perform in the little circus ring behind the chicken barn. I strut at the fair, and my personality shifts: I am proud of every aspect of the place. A deep pride in my family, yes, but also a personal pride. I feel like the fair is mine, and I always have. It is something that has been handed down to me, like a gift.

I don’t have many heirlooms from my my maternal grandparents—my grandmother’s hand-stitched quilt, a set of china plates. I will treasure these things. But I also have the fair, the community, and the memories of humid summers, oily sunscreen, and my grandmother’s wrinkled hands that come with it.

Brave Writer’s 10 Tips for Writing Your College Essay

Student Spotlight: McKenna

The Sound of Swimming by McKenna Rooney

One of our students in our The Writer’s Jungle Online class (taught by the fabulous Sarah Holden) and had her final piece published on a swimming website! Congratulations, McKenna! Here’s the intro to her essay:

The Sound of Swimming

by McKenna Rooney

It’s Regionals, the last big meet before State. Three grueling days of racing. It’s Friday night, day one.

The normally packed Rec Plex, (one of the biggest aquatic sports complexes in all of America) is pretty empty – there must be very few crazy people like me who want to start their weekend off with a distance race.

I’m waiting to swim the 500 free – 20 long laps of music going through my head over and over again. Ugh.

As I get up to approach the blocks my coach, Scott, said to me “I want you to break seven minutes.”

I gulped and said “Okay? Sure?” My seed time was 7.11.96, meaning I had to drop almost 12 seconds off my best time to achieve this new goal. I nod my head, but in my mind I’m thinking, “You’re insane!”…Read the rest on Swim Swam.

The Writer's Jungle Online

“I am writing!”

I am writing

Dear Julie and Brave Writer Gang,

I just found this note on the dry erase board in our school room. Thought you might enjoy it.

Golly gee – doesn’t she know it’s summer break??? Tee hee hee. 😉

Thank you for helping to restore my daughter’s love of writing!


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How Home Education Has Made Me The Person I Am

How Home Education Made Me the Person I Am

How Home Ed Has Made Me The Person I Am Now

by Finlay Worrallo

Six months ago, the rain and wind washed a family of ducklings into a drain and trapped them. Their mother couldn’t rescue them and they had no chance. Luckily, my mother could rescue them—with the aid of a fishing net and a hessian bag. Unfortunately, the mother duck had vanished, so the ducklings simply came back to our house to live. After recovering from their traumatic experience, they spent the next month or so in a dog pen in the garden, swimming in a washing-up bowl full of weedy water and making peep-peep noises.

That incident sums up home education for me—not only because a schooled child doesn’t get to study in the garden with ducklings, but also because of how it represented being raised in a completely different way to the majority. I daresay our ducklings’ lives would have looked extremely odd to ducklings who grew up on the river, but they survived and were perfectly healthy ducks by the time they moved to a nearby pond. Home education isn’t quite like being washed into a drain and then swimming in a washing-up bowl, but it’s certainly unconventional and certainly works.

First and foremost, it’s allowed me to find my own identity through trial and error. For example, four years ago, I loved wearing a cricket jumper the whole time, and for several years before that, my hair was so long people mistook me for a girl. I’d probably have been mercilessly teased for this at school, but as it was I simply grew out of it and discovered the joys of cardigans!

Another thing I love about home education is that you don’t have to fit into a huge education system that does the same thing for everyone—it’s all about what’s best for you and you alone. I haven’t wasted years studying subjects I hate; I’ve focused on the ones which I need and want, instead of just collecting GCSEs pointlessly. This last term, I’ve only studied three subjects (English Literature, Spanish, and German), but I’m passionate about languages and reading, and I want to be a polyglot and published writer one day, so each of these subjects will help me fly.

But the best thing about home education for me has been the deep relationships I’ve forged with my family. In a world with far too many family feuds and estranged siblings, it comforts me that mine will still be at my side until death. We’ve been nothing short of a team during the decade or so we’ve home educated. We’ve been on countless trips into London, visited stately homes, national monuments, the Globe Theatre, and many more. We’ve completed projects together, learned different subjects, and conducted scientific experiments. We’ve read books and poetry and fallen in love with the English language. We’ve gone out sledging on snowy days instead of studying; we’ve gone walking in the countryside through sun and rain; and we once cycled twenty-two miles in a day for an animal charity. Even something as boring as moving to new house was quicker and easier because we didn’t have to find new schools for us children.

I don’t know what school could have done for me, but I can’t imagine having a more stable home, a happier childhood, a stronger family, a better outlook on life, or more plans for the future.

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Playing What They are Learning

"Dutch Masters" in the studio

Brave Writer mom Lise (Free to Be a Child) writes:

Yesterday “Vermeer” and “Rembrandt” were at work in the studio, taking turns sitting for portraits by the other. L has been listening to a series of books about artists (Art for Children), and is particularly interested in Dutch artists, as she is part Dutch. So those names stuck with her.

She spent the day in her Dutch-inspired costume, and when S arrived, he joined her for some klompen (Dutch clogging) dancing.

Naturally, when they later decided to paint, they took on the names of Dutch artists.

"Dutch Masters" in the studio

Playing what we’re learning is common here, a Reggio-inspired early childhood program in my home (where I also unschool my daughter). But becoming artists who paint portraits of each other is clearly influenced by some of Julie’s scopes, which inspired me to incorporate a morning basket, including lots of art appreciation.

🙂 Lise

Learn more about art appreciation in your homeschool:

Check out Brave Writer’s Art Appreciation Workshop!