Posts Tagged ‘Brave Writer Lifestyle’

One More Thing about One Thing

One Thing Principle

How can you fit the “new and cool ideas” into an already full life?

A recurring question about the “one-thing” principle is how to fit everything in if we start moving that slowly in homeschool. In other words, if I take time for tea and poetry and it uses up most of my Tuesday, and then if I focus on copywork the next day and make that a joy and a success on Wednesday, and then Thursday, we read four chapters of the novel we are now savoring, and finally on Friday, we have a rousing good time doing a Friday Freewrite where we prepare to write, write and then share the writing with each other… when will we ever get back to math or science or history?

Just as you’ve taken the time to really savor those literary experiences, you will want to do the same with math, science or history. There will possibly be that time when you put your Brave Writer Lifestyle practices on the back burner for a day as you focus on math (for a morning! not just for two pages). You might find that your BW practices bleed over into other subjects.

For instance, what if you decided to really prepare for a morning of math. You look ahead to the concepts and find games that reinforce the concept. You might find a library book that shows how the concept works. You might mosey over to the website Living Math which gives you practical ways to make math relevant.

Then the morning comes and you have a math tea party. Perhaps while you play the game, do the math page, read the living math book, you drink tea and eat some brownies. Maybe you divide the brownies up into 1/16ths and talk about how you did that.

Learning to do One Thing enriches the overall experience.

The point is that as you give yourself to one experience fully, you will discover how the way you prepared, the way you executed, the methods you used for enhancing the experience actually transfer to any of your educational objectives. Additionally, you will learn more in these highly focused moments because your full attention will be directed into that activity (rather than divided).

Learning to give yourself fully to one thing at a time, for a time,
enhances the overall experience.

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You might make copywork about a math principle, you might have your kids narrate about history, you might suggest they write about a science experiment, your children might read poems about the natural world, they might drink tea and light candles to play Sudoku!

You might find that the “one-on-one time” reminder in the Brave Writer Lifestyle means that you spend one-on-one time with the child who needs to learn his multiplication tables. Perhaps you throw a baseball back and forth with just that child to practice them. Or perhaps one-on-one time can be used to read one book with one child.

Take these principles and use them to augment all of your aims for homeschool. Stop doing what makes you and your children miserable. If they are unhappy, rethink the subject/assignment/goal and find a way to change it.

Ask these questions:

  • Would he be more able to handwrite if I did it with him?
  • Would tasty snacks during math help?
  • Would she be more alert if we read the science book outside?
  • Would it help if I rubbed his shoulders first?
  • Is there a game online that demonstrates this principle?
  • Do any of my friends understand X better than I do? How do they teach it?
  • Has anyone written a quality book about this subject (novel or compelling non-fiction)? Can we start there instead of the dry workbook?

Take it “one thing” at a time and slowly modify what you do with your children to create momentum that leads to joy and immersion in the topic/practice. Enter into it yourself.

Taking it one slice at a time….

The One Thing Principle


If you want to keep reading more about One Thing and how the practice can impact your homeschool approach, click on the one piece of cake or read the category by clicking here.

Brave Writer and Classical Education

Classical education and the Brave Writer Lifestyle

Adults can be drawn to the classical education model. We see what we haven’t learned and are in awe of the opportunity to learn it now, with our kids, hoping they will be the intellectual competents that we fear we are not.

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With the rise of The Well-Trained Mind, homeschoolers are now aware of significant gaps in their own educations. Most of us don’t remember learning the Greek myths, haven’t read The Illiad or The Odyssey, remember very little of our western civ coursework from college, and feel that any expository writing we did in college was more of a lick and a prayer than serious argument.

So we’re attracted to classical homeschooling. There’s so much to love about it!

Love the four year history rotation, love the integration of the sciences into history, love reading classical literature, love the classical argument models, love the immersion in myth and legend and tale and epic poem that is classical education.

Kids deserve to be expanded by

  • great literature,
  • myth,
  • epic poetry,
  • legend,
  • artwork,
  • history,
  • scientific discovery,
  • the stars,
  • mathematics as a language (not just as a workbook),
  • Shakespeare,
  • theater,
  • music,
  • dance,
  • and languages.

These sources provide rich material for imagination, vocabulary, and inner life. Such inner lives naturally spill over into writing with content and texture.

Each stage of development (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) offers new levels of personal expression and connection to these living source materials. Conversations, drawings, written narrations, transcription of great writing, mini dramas acted out, imitation, and metaphorical thinking (where one connects the past to present experience in a meaningful way) all give the ideas dimension and relevance to the student.

Brave Writer and Classical Homeschooling

Can classical methods and Brave Writer mix? Yes!

So how does Brave Writer fit into this style of education? I love to say that joy is the best teacher. A happy mother makes a better home educator. The happiness must come from within, not from compliant children. So we begin with you. Begin the adventure of a classical education because you want one, not because your children should have one. You’ll need staying power to carry this course through. Your enjoyment of the lifestyle of classical education must be the fuel in your homeschool engine.

If a classical education model is what excites you, live it first, in front of your children. Read the classics (alone first, or a children’s version aloud). Get some commentaries to help you. You might start with Greek myths (they are so captivating and prevalent, and you will find lots of reinforcement in art and literature).

If you are new to epic poetry, pick out something like Beowulf, narrated by Seamus Heaney on CD and play it over breakfast, a little bit each day. Listen to the story and draw pictures of Grendel. Keep a little lexicon of terms that you define as you discover them. Play with them in sentences over breakfast when your listening is done.

If your kids are writers (9-10 or older), you can use a Friday Freewrite to write what you think will happen next, or to write a new ending, or to think about what Grendel may have felt in those last moments. (For those who don’t know, there is a book called Grendel that was written just for that purpose. You might check that out and compare it to your own speculations.)

You might write a new myth or create a Greek god (what god do you think the Greeks lacked and why?). Reinforce what you are learning not just through rote repetition, but using your imagination to make connections to our time, to our understandings.

Certainly any child who plays online games will make scores of connections since these games are rife with references to the ancient world in particular. Look up the names of characters and discover a pantheon of Egyptian and Phoenician gods that are hidden within the games.

Narration is key to a classical education because the ideas are unfamiliar and the vocabulary is often challenging. So talk over tea and in the car and over dinner. Take your time and keep the experience relevant to kids (don’t rely only on your sense that the material is important to “get them” to do their work). Our family spent two years solid on Ancient Greece, with our major concentration on Greek mythology. My kids know their myths backwards and forwards because they love them, not because they had to learn them.

Eventually this immersion in myths led to a fascination with epic poems, such as Gilgamesh. The results in our home: My daughter wrote her own Greek myth modeled after the ones she loved and my son wrote a screenplay for the story of Gilgamesh. These were not assignments, but spilled out of long term incubation and saturation with the material.

Want more on this theme? Our Writing a Greek Myth class is one of our most popular!

Brave Writer online class: Writing a Greek Myth
Image by Studios (cc Modified to add text.)

Planning Your Own Brave Writer Lifestyle

Develop your own Brave Writer Lifestyle in your Homeschool

Every summer I get a few emails essentially asking the same thing…

How do you plan your school year? Do you require your kids to accomplish and certain amount of work daily or weekly?

I’ve been at this home education thing for seventeen years. I don’t like to set up a schedule that focuses on specific subjects. What I try to do is to make sure that the things we say we want to do, get done. So if a child wants to go to the zoo, I make sure it’s on the calendar somewhere or we’ll never go. If someone wants to be sure not to miss a Discovery channel program or a movie, we get the DVR set to record it. If a child expresses an interest in cake decorating, we find a class. I see my primary role as that of facilitator. I make things happen for my kids (the things they can’t do because they don’t drive, don’t have money or don’t have the awareness of the opportunities).

Do I schedule copywork or dictation? Are my kids required to work through a math text? Do we follow a history program? Are we setting academic goals?

My simple answer. No.

Now for my more complicated answer.

Live your joy in the presence of your children.

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The Brave Writer Lifestyle is a snapshot of the way we live. Copywork and dictation are done by those kids that enjoy them or see benefit in them. Those who don’t like them, don’t do them. Simple as that. I see these tools the way someone might look at a drawing program. You can learn to draw using a course and following the steps that the instructor suggests so that you draw a face with accuracy, for instance. But that isn’t the only way to learn to draw a face. It’s just that those exercises, measurements and techniques are effective, so why not use them? Artists have cultivated habits that help non-artists learn to draw.

Same with learning to play the piano. You can try to learn on your own (my son has done this), but it’s often easier if you have a book and an instructor who gives you exercises (my daughter is doing this).

I see writing the same way. There are methods and techniques, habits and practices that encourage and foster writing skills. Kids (and parents!) who want to write well will do them because they want to write well.

Kids who haven’t yet discovered the power of writing or the desire to write or the value of written communication may not get the point of copying a poem or quote the way E.M. Forster did every day. If a child slogs through the practice that is meant to enliven his writing, will it still work? It may (or may not) but he won’t be a happier, more enthusiastic writer at the end of it. Likely, he’ll be grumpy and become a resistant writer.

The first step, then, has to be that writing comes to life for the child! (And I’ve devoted a lot of space to that concept so I won’t do that again here.)

When I looked, really looked, at history, math, science and so on, I applied a similar principle. What tools get the job done for kids who’ve discovered that these are subjects they’d like to know more about?

I bring into the home that which the kids wouldn’t think to study or enjoy on their own (Sister Wendy Art videos, rock examination kits complete with cool magnifying glasses, books about the Civil Rights Movement, strategy games, math puzzles, Shakespeare films and plays, painting supplies, binoculars and bird feeders…). I offer these with genuine enthusiasm because even if not a single kid in the family cares about them, I do!

Planning Your Own Brave Writer Lifestyle

I live my joy in the presence of my children.

And then we talk… we talk lots.

I share what I know that they don’t – for instance, how to get into college, what kinds of skills will help them succeed as adults, how we can tackle the subject they don’t like so well but that seems important to their futures (and I wait for the child to “catch” the vision… I don’t impose) and so on. My 11 year old discovered recently that handwriting mattered to him… for the first time in his life. He is now handwriting each day on his own to improve. I supply tools: notebook, pencil, poetry book, stand to hold book open, clean table, and so on.

My daughter wants to read fluently so we read together every other day. She sets the pace and we spend the time it takes. I check out books from the library that she can read.

I have two teens (16 and 13) who are preparing for college. They follow math programs because that works best for them. My daughter (16) said to me once that when I stopped requiring math, she suddenly realized she needed it. She woke up one day and realized that if she didn’t keep up with her program, she would limit her options for her future. So she stopped trying to “get out of it” each day and started working hard. She took off an entire year from doing math in 9th grade and is now in 11th and is almost done with Algebra II on her own with a tutor. She made up for her “lost time” with motivation.

My oldest (18) has not finished enough science to get into college. Last night, he shared with me that he wishes he’d gone ahead and completed the science last year, but that he didn’t have the vision yet. Did he blame me? No. I had laid out for him a possible plan that would work, but he didn’t choose my plan. So he is now evaluating the choices still open to him. In the meantime, we have a great relationship because it hasn’t been about my pushing him to see what he didn’t see himself.

And he’s taking a college course anyway, of his own choosing, on his own path.

So when I plan the school year, I do think about where they are and where their skills could go. I imagine writing we can do together (similar to what I shared in the June and July issues of the Arrow and Slingshot) and pencil those ideas in. The ideas I shared in those issues come from my own experience of sorting out how I can work with my kids intentionally, but without coercion. Then I offer and suggest and create as inviting an environment as I can and see what clicks. I help kids who want help and I back off of kids who are engaged elsewhere.

Then I trust. I trust the process and I stay involved. Those two principles under gird everything we do.

So do I plan?

Yes. I spend time planning games, outings, outside lessons for playing piano or painting, tutorials for math or science that they want but I can’t teach, writing ideas that will stimulate them, movies to watch, field trips to take, nature hikes to go on, and all the fun snacks we can bake for our poetry tea times. Those take a lot of planning.


P.S. This philosophy of home education has taken years to evolve. Don’t worry if you are living a different reality currently. This is how we do it. It fits us. I offer it as a window of insight into our home. You will develop a lifestyle that is your own.

Top image by Liz West (cc Modified to Add Graphics)

Decluttering the Mind

Becoming Minimalist quote to craft the life you want

I spent an afternoon reordering the basement. We threw away huge black bags of accumulated junk, stored loose toys in large bins, hauled white bags of give aways to the back of my van, and moved furniture around to make more space.

My daughter is moving into our old office (the one Jon and I have shared since we moved here) because there is just not enough space for two females in the same bedroom. Her younger sister is rejoicing since she is the neat freak of the two. Jon will install his computer upstairs for now, and I will work at a table in what we call our “art room” (former dining room hung with all my favorite art prints).

As we threw things away, I noticed that I created more than physical space for things. Even my mind became clearer, freer. I could imagine possibilities for the spaces as they became empty of miscellaneous papers, books, chipped plates, old paint cans, dress up clothes, and puzzle pieces.

Sometimes in our rush to plan for the school year, we work in a cluttered mental space. We have lots of voices telling us what to do that will be more, better, and different with our kids. Those ideas pile up like so many old books. Bits and pieces of good ideas are scattered across the floors of our imaginations. We stand in the middle and feel helpless to pick between them.

Decluttering the Mind

Declutter your mind this week.

Go back to a few principles and then discard the clutter of what other people are doing.

  • Live a writing lifestyle, not a curricula.
  • Listen to your children.
  • Read good books.
  • Don’t give up. Whatever you do counts.
  • Enjoy writing. If it causes pain, stop.
  • Spend more time with your kids and less time online talking about them. (Ouch – I can benefit from this one right about now!)
  • Offer your children beautiful ideas so that they have something to dream about.
  • Joy is the best teacher so foster a joyful home.
  • Drink tea and eat cookies every week.

Keep reading for more encouragement for simplifying and the One Thing Principle.

What is It to be Brave?

What is it to be Brave?

I remember standing in the front of the packed room, explaining the principles of “The Writing Compass” (the first name of my online writing company) to 100 homeschooled moms.

“We don’t want writers who are inhibited. We want free writers. We don’t want writers who are afraid of the blank page. We want brave writers.”

As the words rolled off my tongue, my mind said, “Drat! There’s the name of my business: Brave Writer. Shoot! I just ordered 100 books with on the front cover.”

And so, I went home and changed everything to Brave Writer. Just like that.

I knew in an instant that I didn’t want to churn out good writers, competent writers. I wasn’t interesting in distilling “writing” into its most important principles. I wanted to catalyze bravery in moms, in kids. I wanted to cultivate kids who would stare down those blank pages and offer themselves to their readers. I wanted to inspire moms to trust that process and to revel in it, to enjoy it, to see the quirky, insightful, brilliant minds in their children.

What is it to be Brave?

Here are some of my goals for what Brave Writer might inspire in your families.

Brave Parents

  • Trust that writing is as natural as speech.
  • Write. They use writing in their daily lives and their kids see them writing.
  • Jot down the insightful things their kids share with them.
  • Coo over their children’s interesting word choices, notice specific detail, admire orderly sequence and laugh at all jokes.
  • Believe that a child’s writing voice is more important than proper format.
  • Read. They read to themselves and to their kids. They buy books, check them out from the library and strew them throughout the house.
  • Toss any writing curricula that tells them that writing is primarily a formula, a system, a method to be drilled into children.
  • Stop writing with their children, if it is painful. Seek ways to relieve that pain.
  • Expect writing to be good (enjoyable) to read, not just correctly formatted.
  • Discover the power of the written word… and write more themselves.

Brave Writers

  • Enjoy talking to their moms (and dads and siblings) about everything and anything.
  • See writing as a means to an end – communication. They can talk or write – either one.
  • Have online journals, write on their bedroom walls, keep copy books, pass notes to friends, send letters, use email, freewrite, write stories, keep lists, create websites, design newsletters, publish stories, post flyers…
  • Aren’t afraid to learn new writing forms as they need them.
  • Face the blank page and know what to do to “un-blank” it. 🙂
  • Like and play with words.
  • Read, read, read. (Any and all reading – magazines, email, websites, books, plays, billboards, advertisements, brochures, propaganda, holy books, game instructions, cereal boxes.)
  • Expect, nay, assume (!) that someone will enjoy reading their writing.

Sound good? Then keep taking the steps toward brave writing (and brave living).

Brave Writers assume that someone will enjoy reading their writing.

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