Identify the Storytellers

Brave Writer

Human beings are determined to wrestle information into a worldview that tells the story they love to hear. Let’s help our kids identify the storytellers.

Have you ever thought about the viewpoint of a fairytale?

Fairytales are repeated to us from the time we are tiny people in a wide variety of formats. So much so, we accept the narrator’s version as the truest one!

For instance, when I think about the Three Little Pigs, I think I know the true story of what happened. I know the role each character plays, their motives, and who deserves support or scorn.

But do I?

In the first chapter of Raising Critical Thinkers, I wrote about Jon Sciezka’s book “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” told from the perspective of the wolf. His book is thrilling to children—in part because it has never occurred to them (or us!) that there may even BE another viewpoint to consider in this tale. What happens when we listen to additional voices? How do we determine which ones are reliable? Why do we trust the pigs and distrust the wolf?

If we spool this idea further, we can ask the same question about historical events, literature, culture, and media. On what grounds do we automatically trust one version of events or facts and equally distrust another?

Human beings crave storytellers and we are adept at finding ones who tell the stories we love to hear. Part of a robust education is helping our children learn to “name those storytellers” and then to vet them against our own biases and expectations!

That’s one of the chief goals of my book and why I was so enthusiastic about writing it. I love this stuff! I hope you do too.

Go to the book website for details!

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

The Brave Learner

Friday Freewrite: Leaf Ride

Friday Freewrite

An ant is out scouting when the leaf it’s walking on suddenly detaches from the tree branch and starts falling to the ground! Does the ant try to pilot the leaf? Or does it simply hold on for dear life? Describe the ant’s wild leaf ride!

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Find the Magic

Brave Writer

Every subject in the universe has magic in it. It’s up to us to find it.

Magic. Enchantment. Delight.

Pick the word you like best.

  • I know the delight of puns, the music of alliteration when terms trip off the tongue, the value of vivacious verbs, the goodness of the precise word, the emphatic power of an exclamation point.
  • I know the intimacy of a character as best friend, the window into another world I’ve never known, the lingering over a book after it’s finished savoring the end.
  • I know the shock of card tricks, the satisfaction of getting the right answer, the seduction of writing in code, the maddening nature of fractions, and the joy of their precision and practicality in quilting.
  • I know the anticipation of our backyard nuthatch descending the tree trunk head first, the startling volcanic overflow of baking soda and vinegar, the graphing of leaves falling off our front yard maple.
  • I know the surprise of familiar yearnings and dreams in people who lived long ago and far away, the abject terror of war, the digging up of fossils in a creek bed so old we can’t count the years, the tantalizing invitation to revisit old documents to ask them our new questions.

I know these experiences because I learned with my kids. They got up close and put their bodies in the way of learning. They pushed me to find the connective tissue between “academic objective” and “personal value.”

That intersection is boldly marked: “Magic.”

When I talk about magic, I’m saying that children relate better to surprise and mystery, risk and adventure than they do to rote memorization or testing. The joy and amazement that drive their participation in sports, games, and play CAN and SHOULD animate their school subjects.

This post is originally from Instagram and @juliebravewriter is my account there so come follow along for more conversations like this one!

Brave Learner Home

Friday Freewrite: Robot Friend

Friday Freewrite

Imagine that your best friend is a robot. What would that be like?

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide.

Podcast: Raising Happy Humans

Brave Writer Podcast

For homeschooling parents, happiness feels like the lowest level of ambition. When other parents would say “I only want my kids to be happy,” we’d scoff. We wanted our kids to be virtuous, to make a difference, to be leaders in their generation.

But we parents have very little control—over our own lives, let alone the lives of our kids. The struggle to become an adult means entering a world of complexity and ambiguity, no matter how much we want to protect our kids from it.

In today’s Brave Writer podcast, I’m going to share a story of when I came to realize that, hey, this happiness thing may not be so bad.

Show Notes

A moment comes for all parents. The cold ring of the phone too late at night that means something. A car crash, drunk driving, the police. Some moments paralyze: childhood cancer, learning disabilities, mental illness. Others overthrow hopes and dreams: “I’m pregnant,” “I just got kicked out of college,” “I’m struggling with an addiction.”

I didn’t want any of these moments. Neither did my group. We’re homeschoolers. We hope to control shape our kids’ values enough to keep our Xanax consumption to a minimum.

My group, the ever-resourceful, energetic crowd who orchestrates Medieval feasts (complete with costumes for the whole family), who’ve read thousands of pages aloud to little kids while nursing babies, who bake bread from scratch, use pies to teach fractions, cook an extra meal for the friend who is sick, who study history late at night to stay ahead of their kids the next day…. this group has strong ideals of family and how it all ought to look by the time their young ones turn twenty.

I love these mothers. We’re all neurotic and nutty in similar ways. We obsess over things like completing math problems. After all, no self-respecting home-educated child is allowed to give a wrong answer. At home, all problems can be reworked, can’t they? Yet at the same time, a week can go by where no math problems are worked at all due to life’s crazy interruptions and the went-missing-again math book.

We worry about everything and yet believe we have the power to protect, educate, and control outcomes bar none.

We’re a contradictory movement. Our core membership wants to roll back the clock to an earlier time when family values were “conventional” and unambiguous (at least in perception) yet we are strongly anti-convention in today’s world. Homeschooling is the bold hippie choice for education!

A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a bridal shower for the future daughter-in-law of one of my good friends. This shower was filled with homeschooling mothers, many of whom hadn’t been together in years. As we looked at each other and knew bits and pieces of our children’s stories, emerging adulthood didn’t look as pristine as we’d imagined when our kids were little.

This bride, for instance, was “knocked up.” Not the game plan of most homeschool families. Yet what struck me about the extraordinary event was the cheerful goodwill in that room—the earnest desire to celebrate this marriage, this baby, this family in the making. In fact, she’s not “knocked up” but pregnant with a baby by a man she loves. Where’s the tragedy again? What’s the disaster? 

As a forty-something adult at the time, I realized (as I thought of all the various families represented in that room) that I had sunk to the lowest level of ambition for each of our children: I hoped that they’d all simply be happy. 

The surprise of shot-gun weddings, depression, secret lives of sex or smoking, loss of ambition, failing in college or getting kicked out, dabbling in drugs, questioning parental values, losing faith, lost scholarships, changing majors, and even the endless treadmill of “proving oneself” with good grades and high achievement… this is young adult life in all its messy fullness.

What I loved that day when we gathered to celebrate a young woman’s pregnancy was the calm care that inhabited all the conversations I witnessed. Maternal anxiety to “have it together” or to “be a testimony” had been replaced by genuine affection and hope that all would be well, and a love for one another born out of shared understanding—life is what happens while you make other plans.

To have friends to turn to when things don’t go as planned is what constitutes a rich life. That morning, I felt wealthy. Today, I know I am.


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