Brave Writer Essay Prep Dynamic Thinking

Are you looking for a writing class for a reluctant writer? Or do you want your child’s writing class to be different/better than the typical writing class? I was!

We have been through a TON of writing programs-IEW, Writeshop, Essentials in Writing…..They are all great and teach the basics of writing a 5 paragraph paper.   The result was….well, a boring five paragraph paper.

My oldest just dreads writing.  DREADS it!! However, he is a pretty creative writer and comes up with good ideas.  Getting those ideas on paper is extremely tough and takes some work (this is the dysgraphic brain kicking in).

For years, I have been reading the Brave Writer blogs and using the book club packets from Brave Writer.  I have the Writer’s Jungle Book and have done several activities through it, but that was about it until this year.  I looked at the online classes and decided to take the plunge.  The classes are pricey in my opinion which was my biggest hesitation.

Thankfully, the class was AMAZING!  We started with an essay prep class even though he can write a five paragraph paper.  I wanted my oldest to be completely independent with getting his thoughts down (I wanted to be out of the picture completely-although, I did keep up with the class on my own).  The class had generally 3 writing assignments per week and reading everyday.  None of the assignments were overwhelming or crazy time consuming.  The best part for my oldest was using a timer to write.  I have suggested this time and time before, but when it was actually part of the assignment, he loved it.

I am looking forward to the next essay prep class on research.  He starts that one next week.


(FYI-I do not receive any compensation or anything for writing this.  It is simply a review of a class that we took)

The Checklist

We are 61 days into the year.  Only 119 days to go (give or take a few).  I aim for 180 days of documented school days.  I recently printed out my blog up through the beginning of October.  One comment I received from Nick was on the update list.  He likes seeing the items that each child has completed in a bullet point form.  So for those business-like readers, below is for you (ok-mainly, this post is for my hubby so that he can have an update, neat and tidy).

Parks (Grade 1):

1.  Grammar work and language: Fairytales and folktales including: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Ant and the Chrysalis, The Ant and the Grasshopper,Belling the Cat, The Milk Woman and her Pail, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Donkey and the Travelor, Once There was a Treee, The Rich Man and the Parrot, The Story of the Jumping Mouse, Zoomer’s Summer Snowsstorm, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose.

2. Reading Program: Dancing Bears A: Section 1.

3. Writing: Spelling sight words, sentence structure, CVC words

4. Math: Number sense, writing numbers, greater than, less than, adding, subtracting, shapes, intro to adding double digits and carrying.

5. Extra research: Whales , birds, air, weather, clouds

6. Art

Sawyer (Grade 3):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: Intro to Judaism, The calendar, the Jewish Calendar, Days of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Israel, the Middle East, Sukkah, Shelters, Continents, Oceans,

2. Reading: Rebecca, An American Girl (Books 1-3 of 6)

3: Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: Chapters 1-6 (Grade 3)

5.  Extra: Bird research, Geocaching

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level B lessons 1-27

7. Art

Sims (Grade 5):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: US geography, African geography and general history and folklore, Atlantis, Australian geography and folklore, Aborigines, India, Hinduism, Buddhism, The Deer, the Turtle and the Magpie, Persia (Good versus Evil)

2. Reading: Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Books 1-3 of 6), and Dancing Bears Fast track

3.Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: He started on TT grade 6 and did the first 2 chapters.  He decided to step back and do grade 5 first so he is trying to work through grade 5. Chapters 1-4 completed

5. Outdoor Leadership class at Latta Plantation: weather, outdoor first aid, map and compass, shelter building

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level A Lessons 20-58 (10 lessons until he is onto the next level!)

Together, we read My Father’s Dragon, My Side of the Mountain, The Biltmore House Mystery, White Fang and we are in the middle of The Horse’s Boy.  Overall, the year is passing quickly.  I am teaching a lot more language than I ever have before.  We are focusing a lot on reading, writing, and spelling this year.  The kids are using Teaching Textbooks for most of their math.  Sims and Sawyer are working with Parks on math as well using Waldorf and Montessori materials.  Overall, the year is going well.  We are in good rhythm with school work, playing and extra-curricular activities.

Making the Curriculum Work for Us..First Grade

As I have stated in several past posts, we do not follow one set curriculum. We are very eclectic with our choices. I also do not follow each curriculum exactly the way the curriculum recommends. I tweak each one to work for each child. We have not gotten into all of our subjects yet with my older two kiddos. We are easing into the year this month.

Last year, my littlest guy worked through Melissa Neilson’s first grade Waldorf program, Waldorf Essentials.  He was only in kindergarten but I felt the material would be good for him.  Now starting first grade, what do I do?  He is not ready for the saints and the second grade curriculum so I had to look for something else.  I decided upon the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language Writing Program as our main lesson book.

I am 90% sure that he has dysgraphia as my oldest son and I do.  He still has a difficult time orienting letters and numbers, spacing letters, and getting his thoughts down on paper (yes, I know he is only  The PAL’s program begins with letter formation using stories to give clues for the letters.  We used Handwriting without Tears for my older kids and it worked fairly well.  However, my little guy could not grasp the concepts for some reason with the HWT’s verbal commands.  I was concerned how the new program would work.  Well, so far he loves it.  He is enjoying the writing portion of his lessons and he is writing his letters beautifully and in the lines!  Small steps make a big difference in later years.

The writing program also uses fairy tales and folk tales to teach writing as does the Waldorf first grade curriculum.  PALs uses a new story each day.  This is where my tweaking comes in.  We are reading a story one day and drawing a picture, painting or sculpting.  On the second day, he dictates the story synopsis to me and I write it down.  We are doing a two-day cycle with the story.  The PAL’s writing program also recommends All About Spelling which we have done in the past.  We are trying out Apples and Pears this year.  I have not started it yet, as he is just now getting his letters down.  We plan to start it soon.

He is very motivated to start reading more this year (we used some rivalry with this one and it worked).  He has not been very interested in reading up to this point.  His motivation seems to come in spurts.  Right now, his motivation is high as he has a cousin who is reading fairly well and he want to be able to read like his cousin.      We are using the reading program called Dancing Bears.  So far, it is very straight forward and carrying over into other areas.  Hopefully, he will remain motivated and be reading like crazy by the end of the year.

Let’s hope the excitement of the past two weeks will continue as we move into more structured days.  For now we are getting our creative juices going and trying to find a new rhythm that will work for us during the school year.

End of Quarter Review

End of Quarter Review

Can you believe we have been in school for 9 weeks?  Amazing how quickly the time goes by.  I decided I would give everyone an academic update and a quick recap of the year up to this point.  We started school officially on August 13, 2012 with three students.  I was definitely slightly nervous about adding one but I also knew somehow it would all work out.

As a group we read To Kill A Mocking Bird (one for me), Charlotte’s Web (Parks’ pick), Swiss Family Robinson (Sims’ pick) and Peter Pan (Sawyer’s Pick).  Sawyer and Sims are in a book club at the library.  They started with The Whipping Boy and just finished Because of Winn Dixie.  Now they are reading The Bridge to Terabithia.


  • Reading: He is doing the Primary Phonics program.  He is on the second level which covers vowels digraphs.  He can read most level 1 books and is starting to realize that he can read signs around.
  • Spelling: All About Spelling.  He knows all of his basic sounds and how to spell them.  He is now spelling CVC words and his sight words.
  • Math: He is still doing Montessori Math and he loves IXL.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Through this curriculum he follows a story that integrates folk tales and fairy tales which he then recaps and illustrates.
  • Language: First Language Lessons.  He knows nouns and can distinguish a noun.  He does very well with doing picture studies but his favorite thing to do is to recite poems.  So far his favorites are Caterpillar and The Goops.  He listens to Sims and Sawyer do their poetry and he will memorize theirs too if he can.
  • Art:  This is Parks.  He is art.  If he can build, paint, create or collage something then he is a very happy camper.  I try to make sure there is some kind of art in most of our lessons.

Sawyer and Sims:

  • Reading: Anything Sawyer can get her hands on.  Sims has been into almost anything nonfiction.  He has read about the revolutionary war and animals and is just starting to get into mysteries like the Hardy Boys.
  • Writing: She and Sims are working on a writing program from the Institute in Excellence in Writing.  This week they each did their first independent outline of a folk tale and they did it perfect.  I was very surprised.  They both also journal each day.  This semester they worked on paragraph writing, outlining short stories, writing a poem and journaling.
  • Spelling:  Both kiddos are using All About Spelling.  Sims is amazing me with his spelling.  I love this program, his tutor from last year and Sims’ amazing memory.  Last year, I was worried he would not pick up spelling but now I have no worries.  Sawyer is a natural speller.  She boggles my mind.  She is learning the spelling rules but she generally can just visualize how the word looks.
  • Language: Both are using First Language Lessons (Sims fourth grade and Sawyer third grade).  Thus far, they have learned nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs and how to diagram a simple sentence.  Diagraming-brings back memories of fourth grade for me. 🙂
  • Math: Both kids have been reviewing addition and subtraction and had lessons on Roman numerals.  Sawyer started multiplication, and Sims is starting decimals and fractions.  They both work on each day also.
  • Handwriting:  Both kiddos asked to learn cursive so that is what we are doing.  I think they will do well with writing in cursive once we get through all of the letters.
  • Waldorf curriculum: Sawyer studied the Saints for the first four weeks and is now onto folk tales and fairy tales.  Sims did animal research and compared several different animals.

We do science as a group except for Sims.  Sims also takes ecology at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.  On the days he goes to ecology, we take hikes and do nature study.  In our science at home, we have looked at matter and investigated the three states of matter.  We have all done lots of animal research.

The school room, which was so nice and orderly in my first post of the year, is now messy and lived in.  There is fabric on the floor, paper all over and books on desks.  Our schedule is hectic but on the days that we are home, we are in the schoolroom  by 830.  They work diligently for about 2 hours and then they crash.  They take a short game break and start working again.  Unfortunately for them , school never ends.  They cook (math), clean (practical life), help in the garden (science), discuss the world and play with unbelievable imagination and happiness.  I am sure that sounds cheesy but for the most part it is true.  They are all full of life all the time.

How is your first quarter going?  What do you have planned for the next 9 weeks?