It’s been a couple of weeks since the Brave Writer retreat. The initial “rock concert high” is wearing off a bit, and I’m pondering some of the things I learned. Quite a few friends expressed interest in my experience, so I thought I would try to put my thoughts down on paper. Most were wondering, “What exactly IS Brave Writer?” So, is it a curriculum? Is it a book? Is it a class? Is it a philosophy?”
It’s all of that and less than that and more than that!! Now that I’ve thoroughly confused you, I’ll try to elaborate. Brave Writer is the brain child of Julie Bogart. Julie is a professional writer, a designer of a writing program, a writing teacher, but most of all, a veteran homeschooling mother of 5 grown children! As any home educator will tell you, that last qualification is worth it’s weight in gold, college degrees, and professional accolades. Here is someone who did this Big Thing successfully – not just once but five times!
Whereas the vast majority of curriculum providers will hand you a book and say, “Open to page 6 and do x, y, z,” Julie takes you by the hand, puts her arm around your shoulder and initiates a conversation that opens doors you never thought possible for your homeschool. Yes, she hosts online writing classes. Yes, she has written a comprehensive “how to” guide to teaching writing called “The Writer’s Jungle.” Yes, she sells several literature-based writing products.
BUT she has done and continues to do so much more than this!!
She tells you it will be ok if your child only produces one polished piece of writing a month. She tells you that having Big Conversations with your child might actually be the most integral part of their education. She tells you that children are notoriously bad writers, that your child is a bad writer, and that this is the way it’s supposed to be, as it takes 10 years to gain writing fluency. She tells you how to maintain a semblance of routine within your homeschool without being tied to an impossibly rigid schedule. She tells you how to partner with your child in the writing process in order to produce happy, confident writers instead of reluctant, resentful writers. She tells you about Teatime on Tuesdays and Freewrite Fridays. And she tells it all with a smile on her face and a delightfully witty sense of humor! She’s the homeschooling friend you’ve always wanted – the one with the fantastic ideas and the reassuring presence.
My biggest take-away from the Brave Writer retreat was more than cerebral. It was intensely emotional. And oddly enough, it had very little to do with the actual writing process. Being a wordy sort of gal myself, writing and writing instruction aren’t necessarily my biggest concerns in homeschooling. I’m quite adept at writing, and I feel confident in my ability to convey the gift of words to my children. When I walked into that retreat center, it was math that was weighing heavily on my heart and mind.
You see, my oldest son, he’s not a math person. And neither is his mother! She’s far, far from it, as a matter of fact. Over the years, this unwieldy pair, well, we lost our way with mathematics. As his younger sister surpassed him in math, maintaining or exceeding her grade level, we both panicked. We were “behind” in math! The pressure was on! We had to fix This Thing, or else we were all doomed. To what? I’m not entirely sure – perhaps math purgatory or a life spent collecting garbage? Either way, the odds were stacked against us, and we were in panic mode! Math time meant tears and frustration and a profound sense of failure for both of us.
Enter Brave Writer! When Julie leaned in during that first seminar and told us that the struggling child IS NOT the lazy child or the incompetent child or the undisciplined child but rather The Hurting Child, I felt like I’d been given a new lease on life. I knew that this, THIS was the thing I was missing! And when she described partnership writing for the elementary age child, I realized with a start that partnership was what needed to happen in my math instruction with my oldest son. And when I sat in that Bohemian Art Journaling session with the unfamiliar water color palette in front of me and a blank piece of a paper and the persistent, humiliated feeling that “I’m not good at this! I don’t like this! Art is hard. Everyone else is better than me. This is so embarrassing. I wish I could leave,” for the first time in my homeschooling journey, I finally understood what my son feels like when he tries to do math.
And something inside me broke when the tears began to fall…
It was an incredibly heart-rending, soul-searching, life-changing moment for me. I was not only convinced mentally and emotionally that I needed to change my approach in homeschool and math, but I was also finally equipped with the tools needed to make that change. THAT is what Brave Writer is to me! It is a change of heart and mind about the way you think about homeschool and writing, but it is also the practical, nitty-gritty, everyday habits that make the change a reality.
I can’t recommend Brave Writer highly enough! If you are interested in learning more, please check out the Brave Writer website at http://www.bravewriter.com. They offer curriculum, online classes, a free e-mail group that incorporates the Brave Writer lifestyle into your daily routine, and coming this fall, something called The Homeschool Alliance. Stay tuned to her website for more details on that!