Curriculum Review: Brave Writer –and Give Away!

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From the first time that I heard the founder of Brave Writer, Julie Bogart, speak, I knew that this was not your average language arts curriculum.

I could not absorb Julie’s ideas fast enough at that homeschooling conference last Spring. I rushed home and immediately implemented Tuesday Tea Time.  It was an instant hit with my kids and we’ve been doing it every week since.

I was eager to find out more about Brave Writer.  I have a daughter who is learning how to read and a son who is a”reluctant writer”.  My 8-year-old son has absolutely hated to write anything other than his name. This is a struggle that has been going on for nearly 3 years. I had heard from some other homeschooling parents that the Brave Writer program had effective tools for those “reluctant writers”.

So, when I wrote to Julie and asked her if I could review the entire Brave Writer program, and she said yes, I was thrilled. I was at our neighborhood pool and checked my email on my phone. When I got her answer, I did a little happy dance right there on the pool deck.  Oh, yes, I did.

Julie Bogart, creator of the Brave Writer program.

So, let me tell you how Brave Writer started. It’s the creation of Julie Bogart, a homeschooling mom of five, who began writing this curriculum 12 years ago at her kitchen table.  Since then, she has grown her company to include on-line classes and at-home curriculum for elementary through high school students, all centered around what she calls The Brave Writer Lifestyle.

In this review, I’m going to tell you about the highlights of Brave Writer,  then I’ll detail the  components of the  program.  Finally, I will show you how we are using it in action with my 6 and 8 year olds thus far.  I’ll come back from time to time to show you how things are progressing as we delve into using Brave Writer this coming school year. And, you’ll have a chance  to enter to win a free Brave Writer product in this post.

I just finished reading The Writer’s Jungle, which is the cornerstone of the Brave Writer program. It’s a lot to absorb, and I mean that in a good way.   I felt the same way after hearing Julie Bogart speak.  There are so many useful tools and nuggets of information.  Let me give you some examples:

  • Creating a language-rich home with good read-aloud books, discussion after viewing movies, regular reading of poetry, keeping of nature journals, making of lists, descriptions of art, and so on is more important than grammar lessons in the development of good writers. (Italics mine; not that grammar is not needed, more on that later.)
  • Giving your children the language rich experiences mentioned above will give them the words to “populate their writing”.
  • Create an environment with writing routines, not schedules, but if your child gets a better idea, go with that. It’s okay if they write something and don’t finish it. All writers do that.
  • Model the writing process for your child. If they are keeping a nature journal, you keep one too.  If they are freewriting for 10 minutes, you do it as well.
  • Approach your child’s process of learning to write with comfort and compassion.  Believe that your child will be a self-reliant writer by adulthood. Good writing doesn’t take off until around age 16 to 18.
  • Put your relationship with your child first. Your child, is after all, more important than any product they produce.

Good stuff, isn’t it?

What does the Brave Writer program consist of?

The Writer’s Jungle is the main resource to the Brave Writer program, the manual of this curriculum. It is full of ideas on how to make your home language-rich, how to partner with your child to develop their writing voice, how to minimize power struggles, how to work with a child who is a “reluctant writer”, and so much more.
It also details the six stages of writing.  Briefly, those stages include Jot It Down, Partnership Writing, Faltering Ownership, Transition to Ownership, Eavesdropping on “The Great Conversation”, and Fluency and Ownership.  There are ages associated with each of these stages and ideas for writing assignments and projects.

Jot It Down is a year-long Language Arts plan for students ages 5 to 8.  It includes ten monthly writing projects.  There are many great ideas detailed here, including ideas for recitation, word play, narration, poetry teatimes, weekly movies, art and music appreciation and more.

The Wand, The Arrow, The Boomerang, and more.  These are the Brave Writer Language Arts Programs.  Each one of these programs has 3 different levels and are in a magazine format with several issues per level.   The Wand is geared towards 5-8 year olds, The Arrow for ages 8-11 and so on.  All the way up to high school.

Here’s an example of what you will find in The Wand, which is the program I am using with my 6 and 8 year olds. Each issue is based on a popular childrens’ book.  So for Level 1 in Issue 1, the lessons are based around the book Hop On Pop by Dr. Seuss.  There are specific instructions for teaching reading (which I am using with my 6 year old daughter), doing copywork (both kids) and spelling (both kids).

Brave Writer projects from top left: Story my daughter dictated about a day at the park with friends; letter tiles for spelling (you can use post-its instead), copywork; a story my son dictated to me about Italy; Making lists: awesome verbs to be used for Mad Libs; my daughter’s Hop on Pop drawing from a Wand assignment.

So what about grammar?  The Brave Writer program’s primary focus is on inspiring a love of writing and helping kids to find their writing voice and develop it as they grow.  Grammar is recommended three times: once in elementary, once in junior high and once in high school. More grammar instruction is received via any foreign language study.

This is certainly not the way I was taught grammar in public school, so it’s a different way of thinking.  In fact, the Writer’s Jungle acknowledges this by saying, “Most of us were not taught to write for pleasure, self-experession and discovery.  Instead we were handed inane topics that neither inspired us nor related to topics we knew or cared about and then were told, write.”  Brave Writer asserts that it strives to be different.  This appeals to me, so we are giving it a go. And enjoying it immensely thus far.

How’s it going for my “reluctant writer”? Well, we are keeping the copywork short and sweet. Our focus is on getting his creative ideas down on paper. I’m “jotting it down” for him and he’s reading his work back to me. We’re putting together spelling words and making up nonsense words for fun. We’re stopping to notice colorful descriptions that we really like in our read-aloud books. We are doing all of this together, the power struggles are few and far between and we are both enjoying this relaxed approach. Relaxed, but actually getting more accomplished. It is feeling like a good fit so far.

So, in addition to the samples the program offers on their website, Brave Writer is offering one of their products for free to my readers: Brave Writer Goes To The Movies, for ages 8 to 18.  Where do movies fit into a language arts curriculum? Brave Writer asserts that we should treat high quality films as an essential part of our childrens’ education. The advantages listed include the ability to tell a full plot in approximately two hours and the ability to travel to other places in the world and in history. Watch movies with your kids and discuss them during and afterwards. Write down what your kids say about them or have them write their thoughts.

Brave Writer Goes to the Movies is an e-document that provides several pages of writing prompts and ideas to analyze the setting, characters, message,  plot development and more, of films.

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I received a copy of The Writer’s Jungle, Jot It Down, and The Wand from Brave Writer for the purpose of review. I did not receive any other compensation. The opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.