Have you taken a road trip by yourself as a Mama? I always cry. I’ve gone away by myself almost every year or every other since my oldest two were maybe 3 and 4 – so that’s 20 years of leaving my family at home and venturing off by myself! Even if just for a day or two, even if it’s to a homeschooling workshop, it always helps me to gain some perspective.

And it’s amazing to me the emotions that live just under the surface that are there waiting for me once everything else is stripped away. I’ll be driving along listening to my music, and suddenly the tears will come. Sometimes, it’s tears of sheer joy and happiness at how fortunate I am. Some years have been tears of feeling lost – how did I get here and how can I get back to finding me? Mostly, they are tears of WOW, I am a long way from being twenty and driving to or from college, or to visit a friend in another state! So many years have passed. Pictures of all that has happened in my life since those years of youth flash through my mind. And these three children in my care, no one ever told me what a journey to the depths of my soul that would be!

This year, I had a four hour drive, to the Brave Writer retreat at a beautiful spirituality center in southern Ohio. (More on that in a minute.) After listening in the car to a talk on tape about designing high school classes for homeschoolers, I put on the Indigo Girls. I know, I’m dating myself here. So if you aren’t familiar with the Indigo Girls, imagine intelligent lyrics, skilled guitar playing, and crystal clear harmonies.

These words rang through my car:

Up on the watershed,
Standing at the fork in the road,
You stand there and agonize
‘Till your agony’s your heaviest load…

When you’re learning to face
The path at your pace,
Every choice is worth your while.

And the tears fell like a rainstorm. Every choice. Everything that has happened over the years has been worth my while. Everything. The good and the bad. And so often it’s my own agonizing that is the heaviest load! A relief in a way…if I can just stop fretting so much!

And then I arrived at the Nurturing Brave Writer Families Retreat. The weekend was all about being brave (really, recognizing that we already are!), and that writing helps our kids (and ourselves) explore their/our thinking. And guess what else? Primary message number one: we can just stop fretting so much, relax and enjoy our kids because it’s all going to work out!

Brave Writer RetreatThe retreat took place at the beautiful Transfiguration Spirituality Center; homeshoolers from all over the country gathered to explore teaching writing to our kids. I felt so cared for and was able to fully relax for the weekend. I texted a friend on Friday: “the grounds are gorgeous and the nuns pray for us while we’re here!” The retreat center is open to any groups, religion aside, and hospitality is their top priority.

One of the things I loved about this retreat was how Julie Bogart, the founder of Brave Writer, applied her advice not only to writing but also to homeschooling and parenting, as well.

Here are some nuggets of wisdom that I came away with:

  • There are developmental stages to writing (just like in child development) and we often expect too much too soon.
  • This becoming an independent learner takes time!
  • First we do it for them, then we partner with them, and finally they try it on their own with lots of mistakes.
  • Be gentle with yourself and your kids.
  • The relationship is the most important.
  • This is home, not school.
  • Love what isn’t perfect.
  • Don’t start with formats, start with creating a safe space!

I have used a variety of the Brave Writer materials over the years, starting with The Arrow and The Boomerang which are mini-magazines each focusing on one book title that help you to teach literary elements and writing mechanics through copywork. They are simple and practical, fun and effective; I recommend them often along with The Writer’s Jungle which explains the philosophy. I will be teaching with Help for High School in the fall. I encourage you to check out the writing materials and classes from Brave Writer.

RetreatAnd consider attending the Brave Writer retreat next year! You’ll have a weekend to relax and practice letting go of agonizing so much over all the details. I’ve returned a renewed Mama, remembering that my foremost intention is connection with my family.


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  1. Wow Jean. Good for you! This sounds fantastic! Love the nuggets of wisdom. And the Indigo Girls! Thank you for sharing your inspiration.

    1. Lots of nuggets and inspiration! Lots of tears and laughter, too! We are all in this together and it does take courage, doesn’t it?! Hope you’re having a great summer and happy 4th!

      1. I was just with family in the Canton Ohio area last weekend. :>)Can’t wait to hang out at Taproot. Maybe someday we can get our peeps together for a Brave Write retreat. I agree with Sheila

    1. Yes, navigating that fine line of support but not hovering! So great to be reminded that it’s all about child development and how our responses need to change and adjust and grow with our children.

  2. Wow Jean. I had goose bumps from the first sentence.

    When you texted that about the nuns, I wanted to text back, “So like a cross between Taproot and the Sound of Music?!”

    Sounds magical. Can’t wait to hear more about it in person. I am loving “The Writer’s Jungle” – LOVING. and I was saying to someone – maybe Alison – that I love that it is called BRAVE Writer – because writing does take courage – and no one ever tells you that.

    Yippee for you. And yippee for us who are blessed to know you.

    You are a gift because of all that you are.

    Can’t wait to “hug your neck” as my neighbors would say.


    1. It sure does take courage, writing and parenting and homeschooling all do! And it’s crazy that no one ever tells you that!!! Thank you so much for your kind words, they bring tears to my eyes. Taproot is only four weeks away – and I’ll get to “hug your neck!” Have a great weekend.

  3. Oh Jean, what a beautiful post! You painted such vivid pictures of your emotions and inspirations–I LOVE how the nuns prayed for you each day…

    Hooray for Mama’s road trip and how fortunate we ALL are that you take time away to challenge, nurture, and replenish yourself–and then come back and share your inspirations.


    1. Thank you so much, Lori. Replenishing is so important and it’s easy to get too busy and forget. Maybe someday my road trip will take me to Hawaii!

  4. Sounds like a wonderful experience. I have Help for High School right here on my desk – I would love to hear how you use that in your homeschool, especially in regards to formal papers such as research writing, which doesn’t seem all that well covered (although I admit I need to read it again more carefully).

    Welcome home!

    1. Thanks, Penny. I’m re-reading this, too! And this coming fall will be my first effort at a research paper in a group. For my own kids, I’ve used a variety of tools such as the concept of keyword outlines from IEW and rubrics for being able to assess what a quality paper is. I’ll be posting more about my high school experiences in the coming months. My plans for the fall are to read biographies and have my teens choose an historical figure to write a research paper on and do a presentation. I’ll be sure to share and I’d love to hear your ideas, too. One of the strongest messages I got from the retreat in regards to high school students is that it’s still important to play with words and do all kinds of writing; I had the insight that I was falling into the trap of thinking, “ok, this is high school; now it’s time to get serious” and losing some of the joy as a result!

      1. We actually have a pretty good time writing, My daughter is a good, interesting writer (although she does not really like writing, which is my fault as I pushed too much too soon). The only thing I’m concerned about at this point is writing longer papers with a deadline attached, which I think is a pretty common homeschool issue. It will be fun to see how it all shakes out with all of us working on it!

  5. Jean, your POST made me cry! What a smart woman you are to make time for yourself, because after all, before we were wives, mothers, and homeschool teachers, there was a person there! For me, the song that put me into tears today was Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide. It gets me every time. I think Indigo Girls might be timeless. I love them and that song. (Off to find my CD now…) While not a road trip, I did choose to have my kids attend a small, safe, loved summer camp this week and am getting the break I need to plan, relax, and take care of myself. Thank you for sharing the highlights of your workshop. A new, but like-minded friend just bought and is recommending the Brave Writer series.

    1. Oh, Nicola, thank you. Take that time! For years, I would go to a park to write and contemplate and plan while my kids were at lessons or theater camp or some fun summertime activity. And even now, I’ll be doing some planning while my 15-year old is taking drawing class at the art museum. But some of the days I plan to wander the art museum, too! We need to stay full with what inspires US. Love Landslide…good songs are really poetry set to music and can really tap into our emotional selves like nothing else! Enjoy your summer and thanks for being here.

  6. Hello my friend,
    I wanted to chime here – obviously this post communicated something many of us experience. You put it into words so beautifully. I remember the same realization when Sam left for Berkeley. I even sobbed to Rob, “I don’t regret one second I spent with that kid.” These sorts of backward glances can really make us realize that home schooling can be about so much more than choosing the right curriculum (though I sure doLOVE the Brave Writer) … it gives the family so much time to learn and grow together ,,. time that you will never regret:) It is a beautiful life… embrace it:)

    1. Alison, You and Jean are like “big sisters” and I can’t wait to tap into your wisdom on how it all comes together with older children!

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