I ate up Julie Bogart’s recent book, The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning and Life, but ten years ago, I would have inhaled it and allowed the gems of oxygen to seep into my respiratory cells, so I could breathe, really breathe in my homeschool world.
So many gems of wisdom I had to learn the hard way, still learning. Anyone that can write these words is welcome to teach and guide me: “The key feature of our homeschools must be connection—connection never fails. Your children deserve parents who are well and able to give the gifts of presence and love.”
Julie Bogart’s company is Brave Writer, and she wants us to focus on the big picture. She says, “Once kids realize that paper is a safe place for thought exploration, they learn how to craft their writing into satisfying finished products. Writing becomes a safe playground instead of an intimidating foreign country. Brave Writer products and classes lead you through all the steps from thought–origination to published writing.”
That’s why her writing company is geared for homeschool families that are willing to step outside the box, or the textbook, or the workbooks, and be Brave Writers.
Each November, my kids have participated in NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. Grammar, vocabulary, spelling, and writing lessons are on hold, while they write, write, write. (And some of my kids even write after studies are completed each day.) At nine, our youngest child, was less interested in producing a daily 500 word count. Though he daily wrote three to five sentences in a kids writing journal that got him considering varied subjects. He routinely free wrote a couple pages for his Minecraft writing prompts. He wrote thank you cards for his birthday gifts, corresponded with his Compassion International sponsor child, practiced cursive, built Bananagrams from his spelling words and played on-line games with word lists on Spelling City. And he sits with me to do grammar lessons from the Simply Grammar book that I have used since I began homeschooling in 2009. (Though I still ponder the purpose in knowing the definition of a transitive verb.)
I’ve enjoyed Essentials in Writing and First Language Lessons and dabbled in oodles of programs. I’ve encouraged research papers and comparative essays and narratives and poetry. I am, at core, a writer, so I have dabbled in everything.
I have always encouraged personal journaling every morning as my kids begin their day. I never check grammar, punctuation, or spelling as I almost rarely come across their journal entries and since this is their spirit on paper, it is confidentially theirs. I know how journaling has benefited me: I understand myself better and have learned to own my feelings and process my thoughts.’
In high school, I was an adjective wielding, profuse adverb using, fluffy sentence writer. I thought saying something pretty had more oomph than saying something meaningful. I was told I should write with less flourish. I was told I should first attempt to identify my topic. Instead I wrote pretty, lovely, gargantuan words like loquacious, profundity, and ironically. I hid behind pretty and still overuse the word ironically, ironically.
Language arts implies there is an art to learning language. It is colourful, varied, sometimes off-beat. Sometimes it’s formal, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s reporting, sometimes it’s playing. But always, always, one must have something meaningful to say.
BraveWriter, the on-line classes that each of our three youngest have used, has affirmed my inner intuition about teaching writing. First and foremost, I have been validated in my notion that the writer needs to determine what it is she wants to say first, or at least write until you figure out what it is you want to say. Then use the five senses for description, choose the appropriate structure for conveying the message with cleverly constructed sentences and choice words that cleverly communicate those thoughts.
Chekhov wisely advised (don’t I sound clever quoting Chekhov?), “…be very brief and relevant…one ought to seize upon the little particulars, group them in such a way that, in reading, when you shut your eyes, you get a picture.“
When professionals teach writing, they repeat: delete, delete, delete adverbs. They declare: say what you mean, mean what you say. They proclaim: write crap, or just write, because you’ll likely release some clever stuff eventually. But it is later that you cut the junk or the cliché, and only keep what is good.
Why learn adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases in grammar class? I do not know. Sentence diagramming, cursive practice, grammar & spelling lessons all have their place. Should I be using fancy words that no one understands? Probably not. Hard to paint a picture with indecipherable extraneous word collaborations. Julie would say “freedom in writing means freeing the writer to write—whatever it takes!”
I’ve had three kids take four Brave Writer courses: a photography and writing class, SAT Essay writing, and two middle school projects class. This is exactly what Brave Writer has accomplished: freeing my writers to write, whatever it takes!
PS Recently each of my kids had articles published on The Old Schoolhouse Canada magazine: