With its unique lifestyle-oriented activities, highly adaptable and engaging teaching and student-centric approach, Brave Writer occupies a fairly interesting space in the world of writing programs – a full language program that emphasizes creativity and freedom in the student writing process.
If you’re a parent who finds writing formal frameworks and methodologies a little too stuffy and confining, and you’re willing to adjust your thinking about writing and teaching, Brave Writer might be the solution for you.
What We Like
But watch out for…
What is Brave Writer
Started in 2000 by former editor and writing coach and homeschool of five Julie Bogart, Brave Writer is a method of teaching parents how to teach their kids to write in a way that encourages their creativity and fluency.
The program’s approach is detailed in its core book, The Writer’s Jungle, and has a variety of workbooks and guides that can be purchased to round out the program.
Covering writing, literary analysis and grammar, Brave Writer can be used as a full language arts curriculum as well as a writing program.
As with some other homeschool programs, where the focus of learning is on the individual and their ability, Brave Writer doesn’t really focus on age or grade level.
Instead, it divides its programs into a variety of stages that correspond to various developmental stages of writing and writing independence.
These go from a child being fluid in their speech but unable to write and needing transcription (Jot it Down) to emerging writers with stronger ideas and critical thinking skills (Eavesdropping on the Great Conversation).
|Jot It Down||Student can speak fluently, is still learning to spell, read and write.|
|Partnership Writing||Student is beginning to write their ideas down, but struggles to do so for long periods. Speaks far more fluidly than writes. Needs help from parent to keep things organized and correct.|
|Faltering Ownership||Student begins to write longer pieces, still struggles with mechanics, begins to show independence from parent.|
|Transition to Ownership||Student begins to write drafts on their own, is polishing their grammar and spelling, can take responsibility for assignments, begin to use rhetorical and critical thinking.|
|Eavesdropping on the Great Conversation||Students begin to write and think more critically about what they read, use more complex texts, begin academic writing, begin to source.|
Overall, we do think it makes sense for a program that places the student and their thinking at the forefront to use developmental stages in order to structure its program.
That said, as with other programs that steer away from traditional leveling methods, it can be a little trickier to know where students stand.
However, Brave Writer does offer a good deal of information for parents on their website and in podcasts to figure it out.
They also offer a rough sketch of how their corresponds to age, although obviously this isn’t a hard and fast rule, as kids tend to develop differently.
|Jot It Down||5-8|
|Transition to Ownership||13-14|
|Eavesdropping on the Great Conversation||15-18|
Brave Writer’s Philosophy of Teaching Writing
How Brave Writer Views Writing and Teaching Writing
Brave Writer sees itself as something of a paradigm shift in teaching writing.
How precisely true that is is really beyond this article to establish, but it is true that Brave Writer does take a rather unique approach that is quite different from other homeschool writing programs out there.
Writing as a method of communicating thoughts, feelings and ideas is really at the forefront of what Brave Writer is all about.
Particularly, it focuses mostly on helping the student to more easily and fluidly use writing as a method of expressing themselves, finding and developing their own voice and intuition and using their creativity to its maximum.
Consequently, in Brave Writer, the mechanics of how to write are of secondary importance.
Finally, unlike many other programs, Brave Writer believes in more natural writing development. As such, while it does cover a variety of writing styles, both creative and academic, it does not provide students a strict framework or directive approach to writing.
Focus on the Student: Valuing the Student’s Thoughts and Encouraging their Voice
Like many other homeschooling programs, the child or student takes a central role in Brave Writer.
Unlike other programs, however, Brave Writer places the child and their thoughts at the forefront of the approach.
Rather than take a standards-based or technical approach to writing, teaching students how to write a certain way to fit schooling needs, Brave Writer encourages parents to help their kids learn to express themselves as naturally and easily as possible, working with the way that their child naturally writes rather than restructuring it to fit a norm.
Broadly speaking, the overall idea is to treat writing skill development like speech development.
By putting aside constraints and leaning into a child’s passions, experiences and interests, kids will feel more free to write creatively and eventually more fluidly, and parents can help guide them into more technical accuracy with gentle encouragement and modeling.
The Role Of The Parent: Coach Not Teacher
In Brave Writer the role of the parent, too, is a little different than many program’s we’ve seen.
Instead of instructing techniques, style and mechanics in a top-down fashion, parents instead are given techniques and tools to play the role of guide or coach.
Instead of correction, their role is to encourage the student to write and embrace their unique voice and style.
That’s not to say that this is a laissez-faire, anything goes, approach.
Brave Writer gives parents a variety of techniques and suggested methods to help them encourage, offer effective feedback, help revise, practice and even model writing to students to help them improve gradually.
The Parent-Child Relationship As Core of Learning
The parent-child relationship is central to the learning process in Brave Writer.
With the child’s mind at the center of the process and the parent acting as partner-facilitator, both work together to explore language and writing through discussions, exploration, activities, bonding exercises, writing activities, gentle revision and projects.
This relationship acts as a sort of safety net, helping create a supportive environment to allow students to feel comfortable and begin writing out their thoughts and express themselves without fear of judgement.
Discovery Learning, Not Directive Learning
As we mentioned, the child and their own way of thinking places a central role in Brave Writer.
A key component of the program is therefore in teaching kids that what they have to say is important enough to be written down. Linked to this concept, kids will also have to develop enough experience to generate ideas that they write about with some kind of passion.
Consequently, Brave Writer emphasizes meaningful discovery learning.
Rather than provide long texts of literature for kids to read and then write about, it encourages parents and kids to go out and discover new topics that kids will want to write about.
The program is really quite open but offers suggestions such as encouraging homeschool families to explore their surrounding world, explore the great works of literature together, have conversations about meaningful topics (big juicy conversations), discuss poetry in a comfortable and enjoyable manner (poetry teatime) and more.
High Program Flexibility and Openness
Unlike other homeschool writing programs, with Brave Writer parents won’t receive binders full of worksheets, structured lesson plans prompts, checklists and editing guides.
It is not what they refer to as “open and go” – a scripted, step by step lesson plan.
While there are a lot of tips, techniques and suggested exercises, as well as books with copy work and dictation exercises, Brave Writer is more of a conceptual way of thinking about writing and teaching writing to kids that can be used either with brave writer books or with other homeschool writing materials. .
This makes it quite modular and flexible.
That said, it’s approach relies heavily on parents to customize the program around their child and their homeschool requirements, which can take a good deal of time.
This requires parents to be able to derive accurate insights about their child and their thinking, and therefore can be a little tricky at times for new homeschooling parents.
The Brave Writer Lifestyle
Brave Writer likes to say that is a lifestyle, not a program.
The idea, much like Charlotte Mason’s atmosphere approach, is to create a language rich lifestyle that will let parents integrate language arts and the Brave Writer philosophy into their homeschool and even into their daily lives.
To help do so, Brave Writer offers a variety of suggestions and activities that parents can look at and integrate into their schedule to create a learning rich environment in their daily life.
And there are a lot of suggested activities here to choose from.
Many of these activities are designed to provide kids with sufficient experience and inspiration to write with, filling their proverbial well with literature ideas and experiences that will get them inspired to write. A few that we liked include:
|Reading Aloud||A relatively well known activity, parents are encouraged to read stories to their child, which not only helps bonding and encourages literacy, but can help develop cadence and rhythm, develop vocabulary and pronunciation and so on as well.|
|Poetry Teatime||One of the more well-known and beloved activities that Brave Writer suggests, parents create a warm and comfortable space and a set time where they and their child can recite and discuss poetry, discussing their ideas, construction and themes.|
|Big Juicy Conversations||Based on the concept of narration, Brave Writer encourages parents to set aside time to have in-depth, open and informal two-way conversations with their kids about what they’re learning, reading or experiencing to encourage critical thinking and deeper examination of ideas.|
|Nature Journaling||Inspired by Charlotte Mason, parents and students are encouraged to go out and explore the natural world and then write or draw about it later. |
This activity can help students with their observation and attention to and description of detail, as well as give them an appreciation of the world around them.
|Movies and Television||A little more controversial with some homeschooling households, Brave Writer encourages parents to integrate the media their kids are watching into their learning.|
The idea is that specific TV and movies, being replete with easily dissected themes, styles, characters and narratives, can be an interesting topic of discussion and analysis for parents and students.
Other lifestyle activities are actually designed to more directly work with specific writing goals. They explore concepts in literature, work on improving mechanical skills (vocabulary, spelling, grammar, etc), or just get kids practicing their writing in general. These include:
|Freewriting||Brave Writer is a big believer in independent writing, where kids can simply put thoughts to paper as they come to them. |
The idea is to set aside limited time each week to allow kids to get in the habit of writing naturally, taking risks to write however and about whatever they would like, with lots of positive feedback provided by parents (if they are shown the work).
|Copywork and Dictation||Being inspired by Charlotte Mason, it shouldn’t be surprising that Brave Writer uses Copywork and Dictation to help teach grammar and mechanics of writing. |
With copywork the idea is to set aside time to use specific text passages with which kids can work on penmanship, their accuracy and spelling, discover turns of phrases and even model their writing.
Dictation is usually an exercise where a parent either reads or provides a text and the student transcribes what they hear. This can help with spelling, auditory-written connection, orthography and even grammar.
|Writing Projects||From time to time (or woven throughout their schedule) students and parents can embark on writing projects, which can serve to put the Brave Writing process all together (the writing and the mechanics of writing). |
These projects are usually long term affairs and involve numerous activities such as finding topics, narrowing scope, freewriting, revising, editing and so on.
All these activities are discussed in detail in the core book of the program, The Writer’s Jungle, with suggestions on how to implement them.
Obviously, in weaving them into a homeschool life there is no hard and fast rule of which to include, how often to do them and even how exactly they will be done.
It is ultimately left up to the parent to decide all this, and parents have a lot of freedom in deciding if they want to include all or some of these activities.
Overall these have become extremely popular with many parents finding them to be a boon for their teaching, and finding them to be a great way of gently guiding kids towards better and more enjoyable writing.
That said there are a lot of them, which can be a little intimidating and even confusing for new homeschoolers, requiring them to do a lot of thinking and sometimes configuring them to suit student interests and needs.
After all, modifying your homeschool daily life isn’t always all that easy for even the most experienced of us.
How it Works
Brave Writer: Proficiency as a Process
Many popular writing programs, such as IEW or the classically-inspired Writing & Rhetoric, are designed to help students view writing as a structured process.
Such programs usually immediately provide a very particular, sequential framework that parents teach kids to use (brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing, final draft) and fall back on when approaching any type of writing.
While these frameworks can be highly effective for many homeschoolers, others find the approach fairly mechanical and argue that their rigid methodology, while organized, forces kids into writing a certain way and can extinguish the spark of creativity, so to speak.
In contrast, Brave Writer is not a program that will allow parents to immediately get kids started working through a process or framework to develop more sophisticated writing.
Instead, Brave Writer views developing writing proficiency as a longer term process.
The first step in this process is to get the child opening up and writing fluidly and comfortably, a process it calls Original Writing.
The program provides many tips, techniques and ideas to help this along and develop material for them to write about, but in general the most important thing for Brave Writer homeschoolers is simply to get kids comfortable and experienced at using writing as means of communicating and expressing themselves naturally.
At the same time, although distinctly given secondary importance in this program, works of literature and various techniques (e.g. copywork, dictation, discussion, literary study) are used to improve the child’s understanding and ability to develop their understanding of structure, grammar, spelling, style and vocabulary.
This the program refers to as Mechanics.
The final part of this process, Writing Projects, is where kids put it all together. Working with the parent, they work to select a topic, and go through the process of writing, revising and editing and publishing/producing a final copy.
Throughout this process, the parent works as a facilitator or coach, guiding the student gently, giving them lots of opportunity to write freely, the tools to do so effectively and the help to understand and implement the mechanics of writing in their works over time.
Over time, and with practice (especially in the form of writing projects), Brave Writer students should begin to improve their writing skills while learning to enjoy writing as a means of expressing themselves or their ideas.
Overall, it is an interesting approach to writing and stands in particular contrast to more formal and structure-oriented writing programs.
It works very naturally, working with the way a child intuitively writes and gently guiding them into developing proper spelling, structure and grammar over time.
In this way it is often a highly comfortable approach for kids, working with them as opposed to imposing something on them.
On the other hand, parents need to consider that it is a slower process. This is not a program that gives them a framework they can immediately apply and see results.
Similarly, while it might be natural and comfortable for students, it can take time for parents to get used to their role as coach or facilitator, especially as they will need to fight the urge to edit or direct or critique their child’s writing and style.
What Can the Writing Process Look Like With Brave Writer?
As we’ve mentioned, Brave Writer is a very individualized program that is really tailored around the student. As such, there are many different ways that parents can go about helping guide their kids through creating written work.
The core guide of the program, The Writer’s Jungle, goes deeply into this, outlining various concepts, methodologies, suggestions, and exercises to help teach writing and guide students’ writing.
But there are four major steps that popped out at us and that we feel can help provide a good understanding of what a more guided writing project might look like with Brave Writer.
Topic Selection, Research and Narrowing
First, students and parents work together to find a topic of interest to write about.
Brave Writer and The Writer’s Jungle offers a good deal of tips and suggestions for how to do so naturally, from exploring the child’s interests, to having discussions about ideas and literature to observing the world around them.
Students and parents then begin to research the topic, finding and generating ideas to talk about and generally brainstorming.
Generally speaking, at this stage students will discover that they have a lot of ideas to write about and, more often than not, not a lot to say about most of them. The parent then helps guide the student through a process of narrowing their focus and helping them come up with fewer but more interesting key ideas and topics.
Topic and ideas in hand, students begin to write their rough draft, and they are encouraged to do so as freely as possible.
Brave Writer encourages the use of independent writing or freewriting as its main writing tool.
Freewriting is a technique that allows kids to put pen to paper and simply write as it comes to them.
It is meant to help get kids writing as automatically as possible, without worrying about details and minutiae, and is intended to eventually help them be able to simply write without thinking, much like speaking or reading.
Freewriting plays an important role in Brave Writer.
In many ways its use sets the program apart from other programs that focus on more controlled writing, where kids follow a model, particular structure or strict prompts.
Once the student has finished freewriting, the process of revision can begin.
Brave Writer takes a rather different approach to revision and editing than most other writing programs.
It views revision and editing as distinct processes. Revision here involves the many different ways in which a parent can help the child improve the overall writing, such as the clarity of writing, the impact of language, how detailed it is, how vivid and even how strong the arguments are.
It is also a gentler approach than other programs.
Where most programs would have the student hand in their rough draft and waiting to receive comments, here the parent helps guide the student, getting them involved in the process of improving their own writing and thinking about what they’ve written in a new way.
Overall, the process is very conservational, rather than instructive.
Again, there are a wide variety of techniques and tips offered to do so, but generally the process involves a careful use of encouraging words and praise, asking leading questions, giving kids tips, exploring and discussion sections together and so on.
Following revision, students may begin freewriting again, incorporating and expanding upon their revision.
Editing is far more limited in scope than in many other programs.
Whereas oftentimes editing includes things like assessing structure, style, voice and theme, sometimes even assessing how the student got there, with Brave Writer it is more of a final step before a final draft can be created.
The program deliberately keeps editing very technically-oriented, working on things like typos and punctuation, formatting, any grammar errors and so on.
Publishing a Final Draft
With editing and revision complete, students can then work on creating a neat, orderly and nice final draft.
Brave Writer Books and Supplements
As we mentioned, Brave Writer is more of a philosophy and way of teaching writing and language arts than a specific, by-the-numbers program.
Originally the program began with its core book, The Writer’s Jungle, which provided parents with detailed suggestions, tips and ideas of how to apply its approach to actually teaching writing and acting as a resource for parents.
The idea then was for parents to work with their child to cultivate interesting topics to write about for Original Writing, to find literature and texts to use for copywriting, dictation and grammar development for Mechanics, and to work together to find interesting writing projects to put it all together.
With time, in addition to the Writer’s Jungle, Brave Writer began to offer pre-packaged books that would offer things like selected texts, writing prompts, structured projects and even online classes and seminars.
In doing so, Brave Writer is now more of a complete language arts solution, covering literary exploration and analysis, various writing and grammar and spelling.
We’ll look at some of these offered solutions below.
The Writer’s Jungle
The core of Brave Writer and sort of its philosophical guide, the Writer’s Jungle outlines and explains Julie Bogart’s general philosophy and reasoning for creating Brave Writer and outlines how it believes parents should approach teaching writing.
In particular, the book details in practical terms how parents can shift from a traditional top-down homeschool teaching approach to Brave Writer’s coaching and encouragement method of teaching writing.
It also covers a variety of ways in which parents can create a learning environment that is more conducive to allowing students to express themselves fully, such as creating a language-rich environment, learning how to encourage and guide writing without criticising, techniques for facilitating dialogue and more.
The book itself is aimed at parents 8-18 (although its principles can be applied to any reasonable age group) and is available only in PDF form, meaning you’ll have to print it all out if you’re not someone who enjoys reading on a tablet.
At well over 200 pages and 17 chapters, plus appendices, the Writer’s Jungle is somewhat long and isn’t really a book you can skim since there is a lot of information contained in each chapter.
To get the most out of it parents will probably have to read it a couple times and even take notes.
Despite its length, the book is fairly approachable.
It’s written in a casual, almost conversational, tone and provides a great deal of reassurance (and inspirational quotes in the margins) that parents can, in fact, do this.
Its writing style includes lots of stories and colorful flourishes to its main points, which we think can help reduce some of the anxiety parents may feel when approaching teaching their kids to write.
While we enjoyed reading it, we can see how some homeschooling parents may get frustrated by its circuitous nature, preferring a more to-the-point writing style.
That said, the Writer’s Jungle’s casual tone belies the amount of information that is contained within the book.
The book is filled with practical suggestions, exercises, ideas, and even evaluation exercises for parents to help them actually apply Brave Writer principles to their language arts studies. For example, it provides parents with a wide variety of helpful teaching tools such as freewriting exercises, topic narrowing and focusing techniques, communications exercises and games, techniques for refining observation skills and more.
Finally, the Writer’s Jungle also offers very practical help for parents in applying Brave Writer principles for “real world” writing, such as creating reports, journals, structuring essays and other, more formal, writing that students often have to do, especially at the middle and high school levels.
As it serves as the center of the Brave Writer approach, some prospective parents might be surprised by what the Writer’s Jungle does not include.
As per its philosophy it acts as a general and flexible guideline for parents and does not, for example, include a definitive scope and sequence for learning or detailed lesson plans.
There are sample schedules located in the appendices, but these aren’t all that detailed as some others we’ve seen and seem more designed to give parents a general idea on how they could apply the program.
Overall, the idea of the Writer’s Jungle is to change how parents view teaching writing, providing them with a guiding philosophy and some tools and tips that they can apply either to Brave Writer’s courseware or other homeschool writing products.
Although not a quick read by any means, we think it does accomplish this goal pretty well.
After reading this book, and perhaps doing a little introspection, parents interested in the Brave Writer approach should have a strong sense of how they should go about doing so, as well as a variety of tools, tips and techniques to practically apply what they’ve learned in a way that suits them best.
Help For High School
Help for High School is a guide created by Brave Writer for teens approaching (or in) high school.
Unlike the Writer’s Jungle, which is aimed squarely at parents, Help For High School is written to teens and is designed to allow them to work independently through the material.
Like the Writer’s Jungle, Help for High School is available as a PDF and is decently weighty at 166 pages.
The language is also accessible and conversational and aims to take a lot of the anxiety out of writing formal compositions by using humor, pop culture references and generally trying to write in a way that will appeal to teens.
The book largely concerns essay writing and it is split into two parts – Preparation for Essay Writing and Essay Writing.
The first part of the book, Preparation for Essay Writing, largely gets kids in the mindset of essay writing. This section contains exercises and tips for getting started writing, as well as more foundational essay-related topics such as clearness and precision, using powerful words and associations, creating associations between topics and their own beliefs, creating word lists. arguments and more.
The second part of the book deals more directly with essay writing itself. It includes help on essay structure, how to write a thesis statement, different types of essays (expository, explanatory, compare and contrast, etc), open vs closed essays, making essays compelling with strong intros, conclusions and by using tension, and more.
Overall, Help for High School does a good job at drilling down into the essay format without being too by-the-numbers. The book does a good job at explaining sometimes confusing concepts for kids (topic vs thesis, paraphrasing vs quotation, formality vs writing for interest).
As the approach taken by Writer’s Jungle would have you expect, Help for High School does spend a good deal of time connecting essays to the students’ own experiences and interests, with lots of creative exercises and freewriting, ultimately guiding students gently enough from associations to thought to essay.
Ultimately, if you have a student in or approaching high school, Help for High School can act as an excellent supplement and extension of the Writer’s Jungle, and an effective way of helping guide them from creative and personal writing to the more academically appropriate, formal writing they’ll need in the future.
Writing Mechanics: Dart, Arrow, Boomerang and Slingshot
It’s true that Brave Writer de-emphasizes the importance of spelling, grammar and general writing mechanics when compared to the act of writing.
In fact Bogart tends to recommend offering an intensive grammar and spelling year just three times, once in elementary, once in middle school and once in high school.
That said, Brave Writer does recognize the importance to a child’s overall education and teaches and provides parents with practice for them in their workbook, which are oddly all named after various projectiles – Dart, Arrow, Boomerang and Slingshot.
In general these books are meant to provide a ready source of practice for the mechanics teaching outlined in The Writer’s Jungle. They are intended to help cover things like grammar, punctuation, spelling, as well as examining literary devices and even analysis at the older levels.
Each book is aimed at a different age or developmental stage and generally works to increase student independence over time, as well as adding complexity in terms of reading, topics and discussion.
How they work
Despite the age and stages differences of the books, they do take a similar approach in how they teach and are meant to be used, which gives those progressing through it a sense of continuity that is helpful for kids and something we always appreciate.
Like The Writer’s Jungle and Help for High School, the mechanics workbooks are all digital and available for download as PDFs from a cloud based storage system after purchase.
Essentially, users log into a cloud server and are given access to a special folder where monthly files are added each month.
There are 10 guides produced each year, roughly one for each month from August to May, making these year-long programs.
This is basically a subscription program, albeit a rather modern, high tech take on the system.
The general idea behind this being that doing so adds an element of surprise, like a monthly gift, and that dividing up the program work into smaller segments is ultimately less overwhelming to kids.
Some of these books can also be purchased individually as part of a back catalogue.
Literary-Based Learning Method
Somewhat similar to Charlotte Mason, with Brave Writer the mechanics of writing is taught through a literature-based learning approach.
Each month’s theme and its learning activities and discussions revolve around a specific piece of literature that is provided to parents and students to work with.
For each text, the books provide a pretty thorough explanation, as well as pointing out different things parents can teach from it.
Each book works on specific grammar, spelling, punctuation and literacy concepts through a variety of exercises, as well as an assortment of tips and information for parents to help them use these passages as teaching tools.
They also may explore various literary themes, styles or ideas, and incorporate them into writing activities, free writing or in-depth discussions.
Unfortunately, while each month’s guide is based upon a certain book and draws texts therefrom, these aren’t included in the price.
Adding to the cost, parents will have to purchase these books themselves separately. With 5-10 books per year per child, it can add up.
Copywork and Dictation
Similarly, based on selections from these texts, students begin to do copywork.
Copywork is a model that we particularly appreciate as his tends to have two effects for kids.
Most obviously, copywork helps with penmanship, allowing kids to practice their letters and neatness.
In addition, with carefully selecting passages (as provided by these books) kids have a ready model that not only gives them the look and feel of a properly constructed and grammatically sentence or paragraph to integrate into their memories, but that can also serve as a more professional model for writing, demonstrating clever nuance, sophistication, clever turns of phrase and so on.
Brave Writer also uses these passages for dictation.
This not only helps students connect the written words to sound and practice things like homophone distinctions, but also helps with spelling and writing, particularly from verbal cues.
The program supports several kinds of dictation exercises, notably French dictation (where some words are omitted and the student has to write them in) and reverse dictation (where passages are retyped with errors that students have to correct, practicing their grammar editing skills).
At the end of each book, each guide includes suggested activities and discussions.
Usually there is some kind of writing activity that allows students to put into practice what they’ve learned, particularly using various literary devices or ideas from the passage.
They also integrate some Brave Writer activities, offering ideas for Big Juicy Questions or Think Pieces (at the older levels), which are designed to get kids thinking more deeply, investigating and even freewriting about some of the ideas of the text and, later, doing more literary analysis of things like themes, styles, plots and characters.
Brave Writer Dart
Age range: 8-10
The first program in the guide book series, Dart is aimed at the youngest age range for literary arts, those who are still developing as readers (as well as writers).
As such, the literary pieces that Dart sends out are developmentally appropriate and the parents are expected to read them aloud, rather than have the students read them independently.
Dart includes four passages to be used for dictation and copywork, designed to be worked on over the course of a month.
The guide also includes a lot of detailed help and tips for parents, clearly outlining what can be taught and derived from the text, highlighting essential literary devices to be used for exploration (assonances, powerful writing, alliteration, etc).
The activities included are Big Juicy Questions, various freewriting exercises and even Book Club Party ideas, in case you want to throw one.
Brave Writer Arrow
Arrow is aimed at the next group up from Dart.
Despite the older age range it is also designed to be read aloud (although we would probably argue that books like The Front Desk can be read by 11 and 12 year olds on their own as well).
Arrow provides four passages for dictation and copywork and, like Dart, provides excellent detail and tips for parents on how to use the text to teach and each book highlights focuses learning on a literary device.
Like Dart, the activities include Big Juicy Questions, various freewriting exercises and Book Club Party ideas.
Brave Writer Boomerang
Moving up to the teens, Boomerang takes things up a notch in terms of complexity and student independence.
Unlike Dart and Arrow, the books provided by Boomerang are designed to be read independently by teens. Similarly, students at this stage begin to receive their own notes for working through grammar and analysis.
While they continue to work on their mechanics with copywork and dictation, students begin to dive deeper into literary analysis through Think Pieces, where they examine things like plot, character development, themes, styles and more through discussion and writing exercises.
They are also encouraged to begin selecting and keeping particularly interesting excerpts from the text to keep as a model, as material for writing or for later quotation.
Interestingly there is also a variation of Boomerang that includes more classic pieces from English literature, rather than the more modern titles typically available in the Brave Writer guides.
Including titles that span from the Middle Ages to the Victorian era, these can include Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Robinson Crusoe and more, and can be a particularly interesting option for those pursuing a classic homeschool curriculum.
Brave Writer Slingshot
Taking Brave Writer to high school (and preparing for the beyond), Slingshot is a little different than the previous guides.
For one thing, there are fewer books (5 rather than 10) owing to the greater complexity and length of the titles (i.e. a Tale of Two Cities, Lord of the Rings, etc).
Like Boomerang, as well as continuing with mechanics (although more independently at this point) Slingshot dives deeply into the analysis of these books, examining their themes, devices, characters and plots in a deeper and more analytical method.
Writing Projects: Putting it all to use
In the Brave Writer approach, Writing Projects serve to develop student proficiency at writing by putting what they’ve learned together in a more practical way while still maintaining student creativity.
Each Writing Project is aimed and designed around the appropriate developmental stage that is preferred by Brave Writer.
|Jot it Down||Ages 5-8|
|Partnership Writing||Ages 9-10|
|Faltering Ownership||Ages 11-12|
As such, they are designed to slowly promote more writing independence and responsibility, with students gradually taking the reins on these projects and requiring increasingly less handholding.
Similarly, the projects take on increasing complexity, offering more advanced and academically appropriate writing forms.
These projects, while related to writing, aren’t always simply writing.
In addition to including freewriting, they may also involve a great deal of other Brave Writer skills, such as researching, discussion, storytelling and narrowing.
Interestingly, especially at the younger levels there are a lot of multisensory, hands-on activities for parents and students to work on, which we enjoy and appreciate.
For example, students might create a lapbook, keep a record or journal, create a powerpoint presentation and more.
The overall effect is that while students may be working on their writing skills and grammar, they may not realize they are doing so, which can make these projects particularly helpful for reluctant writers and those who claim to hate writing.
Helpful Project Tools Included
As with Mechanics, Brave Writer put together Writing Project packages to help make planning, organizing and going through these projects a little easier for homeschoolers.
Each project pack helpfully includes weekly planners, which help parents integrate project components and steps into their schedule and keeps things more organized, as well as a skills tracker (yes, a checklist), which helps parents and students keep track of the writing skills they’re developing.
In addition to their written books and supplements, Brave Writer also offers a lot of online classes.
These are multi week affairs, taught by specifically trained instructors and cover a variety of topics in writing. There are core classes that teach the BraveWriter methodology, the mechanics of writing, and effective revision, as well as special interest writing classes such as in:
- Fan Fiction
- Creative Writing
- College Admission Essay Writing
- Song Writing
- and more
These classes aren’t live but are asynchronous and accessed through a digital classroom, so students can access them anywhere and at their own convenience.
This is a good thing since they can be open to kids of different age groups and in different time zones, which can be disruptive to learning. Instead kids watch the recordings, receive assignments and over a period of several weeks post their writing to the classroom and to the instructor.
Some classes are aimed more at parents (although students can sometimes be involved as well), helping them dive deeper into the concepts of Brave Writer and get help implementing specific teaching techniques, such as guided writing, implementing more positive and effective revision and so on.
Other classes are aimed at students, providing more detailed and formal instruction in things like essay writing, literary analysis techniques, scriptwriting and other specific forms of writing, and even grammar workshops and college application essay help.
These classes can act as an in-depth and specific supplement to a parent’s teaching, offering topics that perhaps aren’t as accessible, familiar to parents or easily taught at home. They also are a good way to give kids the opportunity to use Brave Writing concepts in a social (digital) setting.
In general, these are medium sized online classrooms of about 25 students. The instruction is very professional and the instructors are both trained in Brave Writer methods and are pretty charismatic.
Unlike other online writing classes, the learning in Brave Writer is fairly collaborative. Student work and associated comments are posted for the class, with the idea that student can and will learn from each other, and from the comments provided by teachers, if provided the opportunity.
Although some more shy students may hesitate at first, by being exposed to other student’s work (and constructive critiques thereof) students have the opportunity to look at and become inspired by other perspectives and writing styles, as well as broaden their overall learning through the instructor’s comments.
On the downside they can be kind of expensive, about $1-300 per course, and do require parents to keep kids on track.
Do I Really Need To Buy All These Components?
The answer is, surprisingly, no.
When taken together, Original Thought, Mechanics and Writing Projects make up a pretty complete language arts course for kids.
However, that means there are a lot of components to deal with.
That said, because Brave Writer is an approach and philosophy more than a specific method and framework,its principles can be used whether you use all their books, some of their books or combine the program with another.
In fact, because the Mechanics guides tend to spend much of the first half of the book going over the Brave Writer approach and techniques, some parents have even claimed to get by without The Writer’s Jungle.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend this approach, as the book provides excellent detail, insight and applicable methods to implementing Brave Writer in a homeschool.
This stands in particular contrast to more rigid programs that teach incrementally and require a specific adherence to lesson order, curricula and activities.
The supplements that Brave Writer offers (Writing Projects and the Mechanical guides like Arrow) are primarily designed for convenience.
Sometimes parents simply don’t have the time or ability to find and evaluate texts or prompts, create their own teaching material or even come up with ideas for writing projects.
As such, Brave Writer’s supplements offer pre-selected texts, guides, organizational tools, instructions and teaching tips that can make implementing and integrating Brave Writer simply a lot easier and more efficient.
How Easy Is It To Get Started Teaching/Teach With Brave Writer
Brave Writer is a fairly flexible and open program that easily integrates with other homeschool material.
Once you are used to it it is quite easy to follow and seems fairly natural to implement as part of a curriculum or even into your daily life.
It does, in our opinion, take a little getting used to.
Brave Writer is not an open and go program that will carry parents through the process of getting their kids to write.
While it does offer suggested schedules and plans, it is a lot less scripted than other programs and requires parents to deeply consider their child’s needs and mindset, their own schedules and how these will relate to the various activities and tools that the program provides.
The real trick, however, is really getting into the mindset of Brave Writer.
It is a very different program and requires a change in the way parents view teaching, let alone writing. It also forces parents to reconsider their relationship in their homeschool and sometimes even how they homeschool altogether.
Interestingly, for some more experienced homeschoolers this can actually be more challenging than for newbies due to their reliance on pre-existing ideas and methods.
Is Brave Writer a Secular or Religious Curriculum?
Brave Writer is a religiously neutral curriculum. While it can be used as part of a faith-based curriculum, it does not promote any particular religion or religious point of view.
Pros and Cons of Brave Writer
Unique Approach That Maintains Student Creativity And Passion In Writing
Unlike other programs that impose a framework on kids, Brave Writer is designed with the child and their thoughts at the forefront of writing.
In this way it lets them express themselves more naturally and helps develop their unique voice.
Its use of freewriting exercises can take a lot of the pressure to conform off, which may help even more reluctant writers to put words on paper, often the most difficult task of all.
Can Help Develop And Nurture A Strong Relationship Between Parent And Child
Critical to Brave Writer is the interaction and relationship between parent and child.
Over the course of the program kids and parents will spend a great deal of time discussing and interacting in a positive and enriching way, working and exploring together rather than acting as teacher and student.
As a result, the program can encourage bonding and help parents really get to know their child’s thinking.
Extremely Flexible And Adaptable
Because Brave Writer is more of an approach to teaching, its methods can be applied to and in conjunction with a variety of other homeschool language programs.
Similarly, while it does provide suggestions, practical exercises and tips for teaching, Brave Writer gives parents enough room to implement it according to their own needs and beliefs, as well as adapt it to their student, making it highly usable with many different homeschooling philosophies and approaches.
Can Be A Complete Language Arts Program
Brave Writer does offer enough material in terms of information, practical exercises and detail to be used to help teach writing, grammar and literary analysis.
With its ready supply of open-and-use books and guides, as a whole it can be considered more of a complete language arts program than just a writing program.
This makes it fairly unique among writing programs, that generally just focus on writing technique.
Interesting And Unique Activities And Techniques To Draw Out Writing
To help give students material to write with and develop a literature rich life and environment, Brave Writer offers parents a number of activities that they can integrate into their schedules.
While they do have the usual writing exercises, copywriting and dictation, Brave Writer also offers a wide variety of unique and creative activities that have found fair acclaim by parents and students online.
Can Be A Little Too Unscripted Some Homeschooling Parents
Being highly open, flexible and configurable can sometimes be a double edged sword.
Some parents (and students) may prefer an “open and go” scripted approach that they can easily slide into their schedule and use to start teaching.
Some new homeschoolers may feel overwhelmed trying to figure out their student needs and fit Brave Writer and its activities into their lives, while those with very busy homeschool lives, may find it easier to work with preprinted worksheets, more detailed lesson plans, and more A-Z direction in how to teach,
It’s Approach To Writing Is Not For Everyone
While many parents have found that the Brave Writer approach to writing works well for them, letting their kids find their voice and discover their passion for writing, some students (and their parents) can find they do better and may even prefer a more structured approach to writing.
In some students a more systematic approach can help reign in their thinking and write more concisely.
In others, a stronger framework for approaching writing can give them something to rely on when confronted with a blank page, a step by step and ordered approach getting them started writing something and get them past the freeze of panic.
Who is Brave Writer Best For?
Those Who Value Freedom in Homeschooling
A big problem that some parents have with many other writing programs is that they often are very rigid and require parents to follow them in a certain way or things get very confusing very quickly.
Many parents get into homeschooling because they want to have a good deal of input and control over how and what their student is learning.
While Brave Writer does have a definite idea of the parent’s role in the learning process, it really leaves the execution to the parent.
With The Writer’s Jungle as a general guide, parents can pick and choose various activities, devise their own activities and projects, pick source material on their own, and even integrate Brave Writer’s approach with other programs and books.
Eclectic, Unschooling and Student-centric Homeschool Approaches
Brave Writer’s most central tenet is the centrality of the student and integrating their thoughts and ideas into writing.
Brave Writer is a student-led program and the activities tend to revolve around their thoughts, experiences and feelings and how these can be used to get them comfortable writing and expressing themselves.
While perhaps not the best for traditional top-down homeschooling philosophies, it does fit nicely in other individualized, student-first educational methods.
Those Who Want To Encourage Creativity And Passion In Writing
Brave Writer places a strong importance on getting kids to write and giving them the freedom to use their own voice and creativity in doing so.
Parents are taught to act as a coach of sorts, encouraging kids and keeping writing as positive, natural and enjoyable as possible.
Fans Of Literature-based Learning
Brave Writer takes a literature-based approach to learning, incorporating a lot of books and texts and poetry into most aspects of the program, and as such makes a natural fit for homeschools that strongly believe in teaching from literature.
Books and works of literature are used as the basis of conversation, modeling writing, in-depth discussion, projects, idea gathering, grammar studies and more.
Who is Brave Writer Not Best For?
Those Who Believe In Systematic, Structured Writing Frameworks
Some parents believe strongly in a more structured, organized approach to writing.
They believe that it is important that their students should learn an easy to use and repeatable framework for writing that they can use more or less for any piece of writing that they may come across in school.
With its use of freewriting and a natural, guided but gentle long term approach to writing improvement, Brave Writer is probably not the right program for them and they should probably look for a more structured writing program, such as IEW or WriteShop.
Those Looking for a Self-Study Program
Brave Writer requires parents and students to work together as a team to develop writing. Parent-student interaction can actually be quite intense (in a good way), and it is definitely not a program that students can use on their own to teach themselves to write more effectively.
Parents who are more interested in self-study writing might be more interested in Night Zookeeper or similar programs.
Those Looking for a Step by Step Program
Some writing programs are extremely simple to follow and implement. They offer explicit frameworks for writing and direct instructions for each lesson, with exact exercises, details and even scripted dialogue to use in order to convey information to the student.
These programs hold a parent’s hand from first to last step, requiring very little thought beyond making sure the work gets done.
While it offers lots of support, practical teaching advice and even some suggested weekly lesson plans in its books, Brave Writer is not an open and go program that will micromanage and direct parents through teaching their kids to write.
In fact, Brave Writer requires a good deal of thought and work on the part of a parent to fit it into their schedules and tailor it around their student’s interests and needs.
Note: all prices in USD and are current as of writing.
|Beginning Writers Bundle||Growing Writers Bundle||Middle School Bundle|
|Ages: 5-10||Ages: 8-10||Ages: 11-12|
|The Writer’s Jungle||The Writer’s Jungle||The Writer’s Jungle|
|Dart||Dart or Arrow||Arrow or Boomerang|
|Jot it Down||Partnership Writing||Faltering Ownership|
|High School Bundle||College Prep||The Writer’s Jungle + Help for High School|
|Ages: High School||Ages: High School||Ages: 11-12|
|Help for High School||Help for High School||The Writer’s Jungle|
|Boomerang||Slingshot||Help for High School|
Core Original Thought Books
|The Writer’s Jungle||Help for High School|
Mechanics and Literature
Note: Novels not included
Dart – $129
Arrow – $129
Early English Boomerang – $59
Slingshot – $79
Literature Singles – $9.95-$14.95
Jot it Down! – $49.95
Partnership Writing – $59.95
Faltering Ownership – $89.95
Price varies, but in general they range from $100 – $249
Is Brave Writer Worth the Price?
As can be seen from the prices above, Brave Writer isn’t exactly a cheap program- bundled packages will run parents well over $200.
However, we do think that Brave Writer is worth the cost.
The Writer’s Jungle is packed full of useful and applicable teaching help for parents, including tips, tricks and useful exercises.
The information is detailed and carefully explained, making it very easy to use and most importantly contains very helpful information on how to apply the programs principles to reluctant writers.
Similarly, the guides and projects are well put together. They make implementing Brave Writer’s approach very easy, with texts and excerpts that are interesting and high quality and projects that are well-thought out and fun.
And while $80+ is a fair amount of money to pay for digital PDFs in an absolute sense, it is important to keep in mind that (in addition to their detailed content) these can be reprinted and reused, and with The Writer’s Jungle and Help for High School, can be used for several years or even the entirety of the child’s schooling.
Most of all, while it’s not for everyone, Brave Writer is a program that stands apart from most other writing programs out there in that it is highly student centric and designed to improve their writing while maintaining maximum creativity and freedom.
For many parents, the by-the-numbers frameworks offered by many writing other programs can feel stifling both to them and their students.
To these parents a program that both works on writing proficiency and encourages their child’s creativity and love of writing can be well worth the price.
With its unique lifestyle-oriented activities, highly adaptable and engaging teaching and student-centric approach, Brave Writer occupies a fairly interesting space in the world of writing programs – a full language program that emphasizes creativity and freedom in the student writing process.
If you’re a parent who finds writing formal frameworks and methodologies a little too stuffy and confining, and you’re willing to adjust your thinking about writing and teaching, Brave Writer might be the solution for you.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.
Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.