We are mostly unschoolers around our house. You know, we let the kids follow their own passions, be it Minecraft or gymnastics, and let them learn through their life experiences. Unschooling can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different homeschoolers. It's easy to find hot debates over whether someone is really an unschooler or not.
For us, sometimes unschooling means using structure or a curriculum, especially when my child comes to me and says that he wants a writing class. You'd think as a writer, I'd be all over that, but I was a little daunted and wanted some guidance.
So, as we all seem to do, I searched the Internet far and wide and finally came back to a site I had touched upon many times over the years but never committed to. Brave Writer. A hefty discount from the Homeschooler Buyers Co-Op helped out, too. I purchased The Writer's Jungle and a couple of the "magazines" that amount to guides that correspond to a certain book and help guide you in writing "assignments" that go with the book.
I admit that although I started it back in March, I still haven't finished The Writer's Jungle. It is a hefty volume that has given me a lot to think about. I enjoy Julie Bogart's philosophy, which is why I picked Brave Writer. It uses some traditional methods, such as copywork and dictation but still leans heavily on the child's own interests and wishes and finding ways to make writing useful for them. After all, who is going to be inspired to do something that they consider useless?
Although I'm still working my way through The Writer's Jungle, I've spent a bit of time listening to Julie's podcasts and reading through the Brave Writer Lifestyle discussion group on Facebook. It was there that I found my seeds for actually getting started and doing something concrete with this program. It had been months since my son's request, and I buckled down and promised him that we would start by June 1.
A file in that Facebook group suggested that you start with just one element of the "Brave Writer Lifestyle"—this is more than just a writing curriculum, folks—and get that established first before incorporating more elements into your life and routine.
For my son, I decided a read aloud with copywork would fit the best, and he agreed. So, on May 31, we started reading The Hobbit. It felt a little funny reading aloud to my 14-year-old for the first time in a long time, but after a while, it was very enjoyable. Because my voice was still recovering from a throat infection, we didn't even get through the whole of Chapter 1, but even that was enough to have me relishing the experience and remembering why Tolkien is so revered. His use of language is far from traditional and sometimes not even "correct." My editor's brain tried to switch on so I could add commas and separate all those run-on sentences. Then, I laughed at myself, thinking about how brash I must be to think I could edit one of the masters! It actually is more than just fine the way it is. My son listened quietly, never complaining of boredom, even though he generally prefers nonfiction.
Next came the copywork. This is where the issue of Arrow we had purchased came in handy because it includes prepicked quotes for dictation and/or copywork. We copied the opening passage of the book (both of us in our separate notebooks). Being a bit of a word nerd, I enjoyed it myself, savoring the writing and the passage itself. My son wrote his passage a little more slowly. Handwriting has never been his strong suit, but he chose to write it instead of type it, at least this time. I realized that he was even having a little fun when for one line, he switched to his nondominant hand to see how well he could write with it (not very!).
For my girls, being 6 and 8, I have chosen to start with poetry teatimes. This includes every little girl's fantasy tea party with real treats and drinks plus poetry! But it's not just for girls! My 6-year-old is kind of antireading (she prefers watching videos on her tablet or listening to audiobooks instead), so with her I try to be gentle and find ways to make reading fun. The poetry teatimes should help. We will have our first this Monday, even though we will be at their grandfather's house. Then, next week, we'll go all out with china, tea or lemonade, and a treat or two to enjoy while we pick poems to read. While they eat, I'll also read a bit more of Harriet the Spy, which we started this week.
I've started and quit many a curriculum. I hope that this one, especially with our slow approach in getting to know it, will be different. Why? Because when I read The Writer's Jungle, I find myself wishing that I'd been taught that way. Bogart encourages mindfulness, observation, and a host of other techniques that can improve a child's writing (and probably just their way of learning in general).
I'll definitely post some updates when I can and let you know how things are going with Brave Writer.
In the meantime, what inspires you in your homeschooling journey? Let's start a discussion in the comments!