Friday, July 12, 2013

The Homeschool Chronicles {Brave Writer}

We interrupt our regular programing to bring you.... The Homeschool Chronicles!  Taaaa da daw, da daw da duh da....Taaaa da daw, da daw....

Homeschool  Chronicles Can someone turn on the School Switch in my brain please?  We're supposed to have 3 weeks left of summer vacation before our new school year starts, but I don't think my kids are going to last that long.  Ok, I know they aren't. 

I've been callously deflecting hints-then-requests-then-pleads to start school with good old-fashioned logic, but that's definitely wearing thin.  This morning I conceded that we would start bits of school next week and kind of work up to the full thing.  So, yeah, time to flip the switch.  How does this thing work again?

Ok, to get myself in the mood, I'm going to share with you today about a cool new resource we're using this year.  Enter Brave Writer.  

First of all, inspiring name, right? I want to be a brave writer. I want my kids to be brave writers. Apparently writing can be useful (hello, blogging!), so I absolutely want writing in our homeschool to be about authentic communication, to be so much more than essay outlining, to have a liveliness not found in diagramming sentences.

Observe the mother...

Speaking of grammar, remember how excited I was last year to introduce grammar to my then 2nd grader? And remember how Aria wasn't so jazzed? She was so not a fan of two resources I tried: Easy Grammar (worksheets like you did at school) or English for the Thoughtful Child (hey, look at this picture and make up a story!). But she looooooves words. She's full of stories. When she's inspired, her creative writing blows me away.

Woe is me...

Brave Writer is the brain child of Julia Bogart, a real-life professional writer and mother of 5, homeschooler of 17 years. She's an online writing coach who eventually developed digital language arts curriculum by popular demand. I'm drawn to Brave Writer for Julia's focus on nurturing the writer, beginning with an emphases on individual voice, and teaching within the context of interesting kids' books, instead of through dry sentences or exercises conjured in abstraction for the sake of a textbook.

From the website:

Brave Writer focuses on establishing writing voice and the writing process in children and teens first, by helping parents know how to foster the right environment for writing risks. We give parents instruction in how to nurture and draw out the writing voices of their children without causing damage (making writing a chore or treating it like a subject to be drummed out for school or causing resentment, tears and writer’s block)....

The core difference between Brave Writer and other programs is that we teach writing much the way professional writers teach writing. Educators tend to start with a format. They deconstruct a kind of writing (like an essay), create an assignment that will reproduce the structure of the model or the form (five paragraphs, has these components, takes up this much paper), and then expect the student to produce writing that matches that set of expectations without necessarily taking into account what the student wants to express. When this kind of mode is used for teaching writing to young children not yet in touch with their writing voices, kids train themselves to think of how to solve the “puzzle” of the assignment (meeting the expectations of the rubric), rather than tapping into their writing voice and really determining what it is they want to say, and how they want to say it.

Can anyone resonate with that?  I can.  I was ace in school at churning out writing assignments that met all the criteria in a dry, uber-grammar-conscious state of "academic" precision.  As a blogger, I'm still trying to shake loose.  I'm not saying rules aren't important (hey, I dig rules!), but I am saying that content suffers when format reigns supreme.  Really effective bits of communication can actually be fragments! One of my favorite writers has a delightful rambling style that endears.

If she won't let us...

So, when I was in next-year-planning-mode, I contacted Brave Writer to ask if we could trade language art resources in exchange for my review here on the blog.  I had already decided to use The Arrow for Aria (3rd grade) and The Wand for Liam (1st grade), so as my mama says, it never hurts to ask...  Happily, Julia agreed!  This is my first homeschooling trade, and I feel very fortunate indeed.  I will share my thoughts sometime during the next school year after we've had some real life experience, in my usual occasional Homeschool Chronicles. 

But first, before August roles around, I'll post a sketch of our grand plans for the entire school year.  Oh, look, I'm already in the mood!  Thanks for listening, friends.

p.s.  To learn more about Brave Writer, listen to Julia's podcasts, read about the Brave Writer lifestyle or check out her writing manuals, language arts programs or online classes.  Have fun, mamas!


  1. very cute post rachel - i love the photos! i am on the fence with bravewriter. i was going to do it - per your recommendation. but grammer island is pretty intense - great but intense, so i am considering alternating with some free reading time. i'd love to hear how it works for you... for both third grade and first! xx

  2. Aria's scarf is really pretty! Did she make it up or use a pattern? ('Cause I want to make one now. XD)

    I want to do school over the summer, too. The good thing about being a teenager is that Mom can hand me a book (or lecture series or stack of books) and say, "If you work through this book, you get a credit." Mom used to also deflect hints about doing school in the summer. :P I'm really glad that your kids want to do summer school.

    1. The scarf is a pattern in Kids Knitting by Melanie Falick. It's a nice book for new knitters!

  3. So excited to hear how it goes. I home school as well, and I am always researching for ways to improve myself as a teacher, and my children's learning environment.

  4. I love all of the side comments on the photos - they cracked me up! I'm looking forward to reading more about your upcoming school year. We may not be home schoolers, but I love reading about your home school experience. :)

  5. Congratulations on your first homeschool trade! How exciting! It's so fun reading the great resources you come across, and I'm so thankful you can review them for us, for as you know, my homeschooling friends have either faithfully stuck with one resource, or with none. :)
    Brave Writer sounds great! I think I would love learning it with them. The most help I've found structured grammar was when I learned other languages (and I was very thankful for it then, but mostly because I found learning new grammar so interesting). Here, the curriculum constantly swings between a focus on expression and one on grammar, depending on the gov't in power. I love that homeschooling will give us a chance to learn both as desire and need arises!

  6. Awesome post! We are blessed to be in an amazing school district. Thaya's teacher would say over and over this year, "We are ALL readers" and "We are ALL writers!" She would come home with tape across her shirt that would have positive words like, "I am an AUTHOR!!" - they instill a love of reading and writing first, grammar second. Not that it isn't important - so so so important, but I agree. Get hung up on what is correct, and you suck the passion right out of it.

    I feel like we can apply that across many different art forms. In school, we start by playing with art materials, and then slowly learn the rules after our passions have bloomed!

    1. Great analogy, Meg. It's so obvious in art - good point. And, as you point out, writing is an art form!

  7. Lol! Love the photo captions! I've been meaning to give Bravewriter a closer look. I'm guessing that their emphasis is on creative writing?

    1. Well, I don't know if I would say that actually. It seems to be a very well-rounded program. But I would say that Brave Writer is more interested in the child's creative ideas in the younger grades than is typical in most U.S. programs for sure.


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