I discovered a lot of amazing things in my first two years of homeschooling: blogs I binge-read until late in the night, libraries bursting with resources like a Christmas stocking, free workshops held at state parks and open spaces almost weekly, and some of the most beautiful books I’d ever laid my hands on (Nature Anatomy comes to mind!) But when I stumbled across Brave Writer, it was a whole new world in the best possible way.
Brave Writer is the kind of program I wish I had been part of as a child. Being the kind of little girl who was prone to exiting the library with a stack of books taller than herself, and spending entire afternoons (days, weekends, summers) with Pippi and Matilda and Anne-with-an-E, I would have found myself right at home in Julie Bogart’s world. Everything about Brave Writer makes me radiate with that glow you get when your inner child becomes excited about something. So, naturally, I immediately set to work piecing it into our homeschool life. Our homeschool style is a kind of mix between Charlotte Mason and wild-hearted, nature-based unschooling, so most of the Brave Writer philosophy plugged in very easily. Poetry tea parties while the afternoon rains of Haiku whipped the window like drum beats? Check! Nature study and big, juicy conversations about what we discovered beneath mossy logs in the misty Makawao forests? Check! Reading books together, then watching the movie version, and throwing impromptu parties to celebrate them? Check! A relaxed, joy-filled, language-rich approach to homeschool, rooted firmly in shared experiences around words, stories, art, and adventures? Yes, please, check!
This year, we will be continuing to incorporate the “Brave Writer lifestyle” into our days together. My babies are small–just 3 and 5 as of this post–so much of the Brave Writer curriculum is still waiting to be discovered. But the philosophy, and the lifestyle, resonates beautifully at this age. Here are the elements we will be including this year:
By far, the most treasured part of our Brave Writer lifestyle is poetry teatime. We’ve been doing it regularly since May of 2016. We’ve had so many beautiful, hilarious, and peaceful afternoons together over poetry teatime. (One of my very favorite moments was featured on the Poetry Teatime Blog. You can read it by clicking right here!)
We have been taking our teatime outside lately, turning it into a kind of “poetry tea-picnic.” Combining our two greatest loves–books and nature–make the experience even more memorable and special. Sometimes I choose the poetry books and sometimes I let the girls choose. We usually tie our weekly “kitchen classroom” into the experience, baking delicious treats in the morning to enjoy with our tea.
Poetry teatime isn’t going anywhere. My hope is that my girls will carry the memory of these afternoons throughout their lives, recalling the beautiful words, the birdsong, our laughter, with a smile on their faces.
Nature, Nature, and More Nature
This was the easiest part of the Brave Writer lifestyle for us to incorporate, as it’s basically the foundation of our entire philosophy. We were already squeezing it, in some form, into every nook and cranny of our day. From planned-out, intentional field trips to impromptu hikes followed by furious searches through our myriad field guides to find the bug we’d seen, to literature-inspired adventures, nature study is the platform upon which our little homeschool stands. What Brave Writer did for me was to help me find ways to turn these experiences into words and stories together. Now, when Blake excitedly describes the ducks she saw floating down the creek, I write her words on a notebook page and later read it to the family (with her permission, of course.) I leave blank paper, art supplies, and field guides where the girls can reach them whenever they want so that they can record their adventures. Brave Writer helped me turn our nature study into an experience of stories, a celebration of the names of things, and an excuse to delve deeply into subjects that catch our attention on the trail.
Like nature study, we were already incorporating art and music appreciation into our homeschool. And, like nature study, Brave Writer came along and made it better. Picture and composer study, art projects, and trips to art exhibits or concerts are opportunities for big, juicy conversations together. We don’t hurry through these experiences, we talk about them, make pictures and stories about them, and tell our family about them. Listening to Julie’s podcasts, reading her blog posts, and pouring over Jot it Down really opened up the idea of what homeschool could be for us. It’s so much more than an academic checklist, a glorified to-do list. It’s a lifestyle, a gift of precious time ripe with opportunity. If we hurry through, we miss the rich connections our children are making to the experiences we are presenting to them. For what? To squeeze in one more worksheet? These are the moments that build love and appreciation for the world around them, that make them want to contribute to it. These are the moments that count. Don’t rush them!
Movie and Game Nights
In Jot it Down, Julie Bogart recommends having movie nights and playing games together. These suggestions lit my heart up! We’ve tried to incorporate both on a regular basis, though we’re slowly rebuilding our game collection after moving back to the mainland. Recently, we’ve been on a bit of a Roald Dahl kick, having read and watched Matilda, The BFG, and James and the Giant Peach all in one summer. We like to talk about the differences we noticed between the book and the movie adaptations. So far, Blake favors Matilda and Brice favors James. Both prefer the book (we learn that early, don’t we?) Movies and games are both great opportunities to connect as a family, and both provide abundant learning opportunities!
“Good Enough” Parties
One thing we only did once or twice last year, that I would like to do monthly this year, are “good enough” parties. These are addressed in Jot it Down, and they sound like such fun! I think we’ll leave the themes open for now, and make our choices about a month in advance. I have an itch to do a James and the Giant Peach party soon, while the Palisades peaches are in season!
Last year, my oldest completed a couple of “animal book” and “fairy tale” writing projects from Jot it Down, and we had such a good time working on them. This year, we are starting out with two more fairy tales before moving on to the photo journal projects in the curriculum. We take our time with these, letting them stretch on for weeks or months if we want. Blake’s interest in sharks carried one particular project for nearly three months, and the book she created is such a treasure! If you’ve got kids around age 5 to 8, I highly recommend adding Jot it Down to your homeschool program. It’s a great introduction to Brave Writer, and the memories you make together are so worth it.
Most importantly, Julie stresses the need for a language-rich environment. Language shouldn’t be a “stand alone subject” to be called upon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30am. Language is life, and vice-versa. I work hard to build a language-rich environment at home, stocking the shelves in every room with books, making time for weekly visits to the library, listening to the girls when they share their stories with me and recording them on paper to be read and shared, providing materials for writing and drawing, and planning experiences together that provide opportunities for those big, juicy conversations. My littlest is really starting to open up and share her voice, which has been such a joy.
Some parts of the Brave Writer lifestyle are included daily, and others we do on a loop schedule. Here’s a quick look at how we fit all of it in:
- Nature Study, Outdoor Free Play, or Literature-Inspired Adventures
- Language-rich environment (books, writing materials, big juicy conversations while we get ready, cook dinner, etc.)
- Poetry Teatime
- Picture and Composer Study, Art Projects
- Writing Project
- Movie or Game Night
- “Good Enough” Party
- Special Field Trips
To learn more about Brave Writer, visit www.bravewriter.com