Breaking the Rules

Breaking the Rules

Let go! Declare this week as “getting it wrong on purpose” week. Push boundaries. Break rules. Make messes. Play. Open the space for creativity, not just accuracy. All the teaching you want to do is possible when children know the space is safe for risk-taking.

You can make the mess outside on the deck, if you get the heebie jeebies thinking about glitter embedded in your carpet and velvet chairs. But not all messes are artistic or physical.

For instance, what would happen if you added fractions without finding common denominators first? Can you compare the “wrong” answer to the “right” one using measuring cups and flour? What did you discover? What happens if you bake muffins where you double some ingredients but not others?

Try making a mess of reading. Pick a picture book and start by reading a page in the middle. Or read the last page first. What do you think you know about the story? What can’t you know? Read it straight through now. Now read a picture book backwards—start with the last page and read each page before it until you get to the first page. What was that like?

What other messes can you make? How about a kids’ “Declaration of Independence”? What would your kids put in a declaration like that? What demands would they want to make of you? Can they follow the model of the US Declaration or will they come up with a new model?

How can you turn a beloved fairytale hero into a villain and vice-versa? What storyline changes would need to be made?

What else can they get “wrong”?

How about reinventing punctuation—all their own marks that signify whatever they want to indicate.

  • Maybe they make a squiggle mark that when read means raise an eyebrow.
  • Maybe they put triangles at the end of sentences when they want you to slow down and reread a sentence.
  • Maybe they use a loop to indicate that this word should be shouted.

Breaking the rules means violating the habits of thought we take for granted. One way to promote critical thinking is to violate all your expectations and make a big mess and see how that breaks open new ways of thinking and knowing.


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


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Friday Freewrite: Best Friends?

Friday Freewrite

How would you describe a best friend? And since the word “best” as an adjective means “excelling all others,” is it possible then to have more than one “best” friend? Explain why or why not.

New to freewriting? Check out our online guide


Podcast: The Complete Season Seven

Brave Writer Podcast

Did you miss an episode from the seventh season of the Brave Writer Podcast? Did you want to listen to an episode again?

Not to worry!

Here are the episodes from season seven of the podcast in one convenient place so that you can listen (or re-listen) to them whenever you want.


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


Season Seven Podcasts

S7E1: Practicing Psychological Flexibility and ACT with Dr. Diana Hill

S7E2: The Educational Value of Video Games with Ash Brandin

S7E3: Homeschool Unrefined with Maren Goerss & Angela Sizer

S7E4: How Enneagram Types Think Critically with Leslie Hershberger

S7E5: Preparing Your Homeschooled Kids for College with Dr. Adam Clark

S7E6: Thinking Critically, Aging Gracefully & Being a True Influencer with Lyn Slater, Accidental Icon

S7E7: Critical Thinking for Toddlers with Susie Allison of Busy Toddler

S7E8: How to Face the Facts When Discussing Politics with Sharon McMahon


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


Mechanics & Literature: September 2021

Brave Writer

Are you ready for adventure?

This month’s Dart, Arrow, Boomerang, and Slingshot circle the globe to bring you dynamic characters, poignant plot twists, famous stories, and settings you’re not likely to forget, all as a means of exploring:

  • writing,
  • mechanics,
  • and literary devices.

[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!]


Brave Writer Dart

Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins

In this award-winning novel for readers in grades 2-5 illustrated by Jamie Hogan, Naima must find a way to save her mother’s golden bangle — and fix her father’s rickshaw. Booklist said this “lively, moving book has surprises that continue to the end,” Kirkus promised that “Naima’s story will be relished by students and teachers alike,” and the Cooperative Center for Children’s Books picked it as a must-read global title for children. ~mitaliperkins.com

Purchase the book.

Get the Dart.


Brave Writer Arrow

Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield

**NOTE: We’ll read these stories from the book: Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and Julius Caesar.

How to introduce children to Shakespeare, not just to the stories behind the plays but to the richness of Shakespeare’s language and the depth of his characters: That’s the challenge that Leon Garfield, no slouch as a wordsmith himself, sets out to meet in his monumental and utterly absorbing Shakespeare Stories. Here twenty-one of the Bard’s plays are refashioned into stories that are true to the wit, the humor, the wisdom, the sublime heights, the terrifying depths, and above all the poetry of their great originals. Throughout, Garfield skillfully weaves in Shakespeare’s own words, accustoming young readers to language and lines that might at first seem forbiddingly unfamiliar. Leon Garfield’s Shakespeare Stories is an essential distillation—a truly Shakespearean tribute to Shakespeare’s genius and a delight for children and parents alike.

Purchase the book.

Get the Arrow.


Brave Writer Boomerang

The Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi (Translated by Cathy Hirano)

Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So when some of the creatures mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath, she manages to send her daughter to safety.

Alone and far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can communicate with both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great power, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no escaping the terrible battles to come?

Purchase the book.

Get the Boomerang.


Brave Writer Slingshot

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities is an 1859 historical novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The novel tells the story of the French Doctor Manette, his 18-year-long imprisonment in the Bastille in Paris and his release to live in London with his daughter Lucie, whom he had never met. The story is set against the conditions that led up to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. ~Amazon

Purchase the book.

Get the Slingshot.


Brave Writer

Grading Ruins Everything

Grading Ruins Everything

As home educators, we give our children the gift of valuing their growth—without grades, without measurements. We do this because we believe their success as people doesn’t depend on being better than others, but being the best people they can be.

When I sat with Peter Elbow, my writing mentor, in his Seattle apartment downtown, I told him about how we apply his writing philosophy to our methods. There was a moment where he put up his hand to slow me down.

“Wait—do homeschoolers give grades?”

I replied: “Not usually. We don’t have to.”

Peter looked away for a moment and then said, “That’s brilliant. That means you can apply my methods in the way they were intended. Grading ruins everything.”

Grading ruins everything.

I got a kick out of that conversation because I knew he was right—but people who are in traditional education don’t have that option to just get rid of grading. Peter had tried unsuccessfully to remove as much grading pressure as possible from his classes. Yet in the end, was still expected to assign grades.

We at home? We’ve got none of that pressure. Grading is meaningless. Our goal isn’t to measure our kids against the phantom student, but to help this child right here make meaningful progress.

When my youngest daughter went off to public high school, she made me make one promise to her: that I’d never look at her grades. Her reasoning? I had never graded her or evaluated her before based on grades. Why should I start now?

And so, for all eight years of high school and college, I never logged in, had no idea what GPA she had or how she was doing. In her final semester of college, she sent me a text reporting a comment her writing teacher made on her paper: “You have such a strong writing voice. It’s a pleasure to read your work.” She wanted me to know: the goal we had all along had been achieved.

The grade never mattered.


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


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