Archive for the ‘Language Arts’ Category

Brave Writer Interview!

September 11, 2012 @ 8:27 am | Filed under: ,

My Brave Writer podcast interview with Julie Bogart is up! We gabbed about my new books, our writing lives, encouraging our kids’ writing, homeschooling, blogging, and all kinds of things. Something there for everyone, not just homeschoolers. I loved getting to talk about the writing process with someone as on fire for the subject as Julie and could have gone on chatting all day.

If you have any questions about the topics Julie, her son Noah, and I discussed, please fire away!

Monday Links & Language

September 10, 2012 @ 8:53 am | Filed under: , , ,

New Thicklebit: Tats for Tots.

New interview: Writing on the Sidewalk.

Foreign language app we are finding irresistible, with a deliciously mockable edge: Earworms. (I learned about it at GeekMom. Rose and Beanie are using the German; Jane, the Japanese. Rose likes it so much she ponied up her own funds for the Arabic.)

Other resources Jane is using to learn Japanese (answering Ellie‘s question from my learning notes blog): Pimsleur Approach audio program (check your library for these); Free Japanese Lessons; Learn Japanese Adventure (another free site).

I had such a fun time yesterday recording a Brave Writer podcast with Julie Bogart and her son. I’ll let you know when it goes live! The Prairie Thief is the October selection for Brave Writer’s Arrow program—a monthly digital language arts curriculum featuring a different work of fiction in each installment. Brave Writer is one of the first resources I ever gushed about on this blog, way back in 2005. 🙂 And as you’ll discover in the podcast, Julie Bogart was the blogger who inspired me to start Bonny Glen in the first place!


Brave Writer Announces New Arrow Lineup—And Guess Whose Book Is on the List?

June 7, 2012 @ 10:54 am | Filed under: , , ,

I’m a longtime fan of the Brave Writer writing program for homeschoolers—as this gushing review from (gasp) 2005 will attest. I’ve borrowed many an idea from Julie Bogart’s The Writer’s Jungle and I’ve ordered a number of issues of The Arrow and The Boomerang over the years. These monthly newsletters, which you can purchase individually or by subscription, are focused around a particular novel that you read aloud to your kids. For each book, there are copywork and dictation passages, a discussion of a literary element that appears in the reading, and writing prompts for your students. For my kids, I’ve found these downloads to be great discussion starters—and for me, they’ve been an easy way to introduce my kids to the tools of literary analysis.

So it’s a tremendous honor to see one of my own books on the list of Arrow titles for 2012-2013. The Prairie Thief, which comes out in late August, will be the October selection. Thanks, Brave Writer!

Julie Bogart has some fun plans in mind for October, such as a podcast interview with me…I’ll keep you posted!

P.S. Here’s next year’s Boomerang list (aimed at ages 12-15), if you’re interested. The Arrow is for kids ages 8-12. And this year Brave Writer is adding a new tool for early readers: The Wand.

Immediately, Immediately, Immediate-ly

January 23, 2009 @ 12:26 pm | Filed under: ,

As my husband is wont to say, God bless YouTube. One of the girls was confused about whether or not to drop the silent e in “unfortunately.” I know how I resolved that question at her age, and I went a-googling to see if I could find a certain video clip.

And sure enough, faster than a rolling O, there it was.

Of course you know we spent the next hour watching more Electric Company clips, with the girls cracking up at my terrier-like 70s-child excitement. The lolly song! And that other lollipop song, the creepy one. Hey, you guys! Silent E! The uberfunky TION song, which I now realize may have been the genesis of my environmentalist streak. (Rewatching it, I’m rather shocked by the garmentlessness of the crowd at the end of the song. I guess the Age of Aquarius touched kiddie TV too.)

Look, there’s Morgan Freeman with a broken leg singing “There’s a Hole at the Bottom of the Sea.” Frankly, I always thought the gang was a little hard on the gorilla.

Rose and Bean liked Letterman best, and who can blame them?

From the Wayback Machine: Parts of Speech Car Game

August 11, 2008 @ 6:25 am | Filed under: , , ,

Originally published in November, 2005 as “The Purple Cow Hula-Hooped Boisterously.”

This is a game we played in the car yesterday, all the way to town and back. I assigned each of the girls a part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb (one girl had to take two parts in each round). From there it went something like this:

Me: Miss Noun, what is it?

Beanie: A giraffe!

Me: Miss Adjective, what kind of giraffe?

Jane: A hungry giraffe.

Me: Miss Verb, what did the hungry giraffe do?

Rose: It bounced!

Me: Miss Adverb, how did the hungry giraffe bounce?

Jane: Enthusiastically!


Wonderboy: Huh?

How I (Don’t) Teach My Kids to Read

September 13, 2007 @ 8:46 pm | Filed under:

One of the homeschooling questions I am asked most frequently is “What do you use to teach your kids to read?”

I usually explain that I haven’t yet had to do any formal reading instruction with any of my kids. I have three fluent, eager readers now, and every one of them learned pretty much the same way:

1) (And so very important, it should be numbers 1-50.) Lots and lots and lots of read-alouds from the time they are teeny tiny. Poetry, picture books, novels, magazine articles, fairy tales, biographies, all sorts of very good, high-quality, literary writing. We read and read and read and read.

51) When at some point I notice the child is beginning to recognize her name and other simple, common words, I pull out our trusty Bob Books.

Read-alouds and Bob, that’s how we’ve done it three times in a row.

The Bob Books, if you don’t know them, come in sets of twelve: a dozen small paperback booklings (I just made that up; it means more than a booklet but smaller than a regular book), each focusing on a phonetic sound. Each book in the series builds on the sounds mastered in the one before. But “mastered” makes it sound so formal. We haven’t used them in a formal “now you will learn to read” manner at all. We’ve just read the books together, and it’s like the kids can’t help but start decoding the text. The format makes sense.

Jane was reading at a crazy-early age, but you have to remember that she spent her toddler years in a hospital bed. We read all day long, for weeks and months on end. Couldn’t take her to the playground, not with her low platelet and white cell counts. Couldn’t go much of anywhere. But by golly, we could read. Scott would come home from work to find a stack of picture books as high as the sofa we were curled up on: the evidence of what we’d done that day. Lucky for Jane I had connections in the children’s publishing world…I don’t know how we’d have fed our habit otherwise.

Rose took off at around 4 1/2. Same process: a bajillion read-alouds, and then, in a casual, relaxed manner, the Bob Books. She loved Bob and his pals: that wacky Mac who sometimes sat on Sam for reasons impossible to explain in one-syllable words. And later, the cat and the dog, and that pig! What was her name? Jig? Man, we giggled over that pig.

My mom bought Beanie a whole new set of Bob Books when her turn came around, because Rose had scattered the others. They’re such a nice comfy size for tucking into little purses, you know.

Beanie was, I think, about the same age when she got into Bob: four going on five. She was reading quite well by last summer (whew, just in time for the cross-country trip), so that would have been age 5 1/2.

That really is all I’ve done: read-alouds and Bob. The Bob Books have been the bridge for all three of my girls, an easy, friendly bridge with funny, quaint pictures and silly storylines. They didn’t know they were learning phonics. We didn’t do any writing or spelling or workbooks at all. We just read the Bob Books together. First I read them to the child, then she read them to me.

It’s been so exciting, every time! The thinking behind the concept is that a child builds confidence by being able to read a “real book” all by himself. This has absolutely been the case for my three girls. “Daddy, I read a book all by myself!” Beanie said, I recall, sounding like a commercial. I probably sound like a commercial myself, but I’m being sincere. The amount of text on a page, the number of pages in a book—they were the perfect stepping stones for my kids.

So there you go, that’s my answer. We read, read, read, read: read really good books. Beautifully written books, books you’d think were over their heads. As long as there was good story in those noble words, the kids have gulped them down.

And then, when the time felt right—which is to say, when it felt fun, not stressful to the child in any way, with no sense of expectation to make them feel anxious or pressured—I introduced them to Bob.

From the Files: Auto Mad Libs

August 30, 2007 @ 7:15 am | Filed under:

I was visiting Becca’s lovely blog, And Together We Learn, and saw there a mention of a game I wrote about at Bonny Glen almost two years ago. I’d totally forgotten about the post, but the game is alive and well—it’s still one of the girls’ favorite car pastimes. Thanks, Becca! (And I sure do hope your gang is enjoying the read-aloud! Hee.)

The Purple Cow Hula-Hooped Boisterously

is a game we played in the car yesterday, all the way to town and back.
I assigned each of the girls a part of speech: noun, verb, adjective,
adverb (one girl had to take two parts in each round). From there it
went something like this:

Me:  Miss Noun, what is it?

Beanie: A giraffe!

Me:  Miss Adjective, what kind of giraffe?

Jane: A hungry giraffe.

Me:  Miss Verb, what did the hungry giraffe do?

Rose: It bounced!

Me:  Miss Adverb, how did the hungry giraffe bounce?

Jane: Enthusiastically!


Wonderboy:  Huh?

In Becca’s post, she shares her own car game, which sounds like fun.

While driving we played an animal classification game where they had
to tell me if something was a mammal, bird, reptile or amphibian. We
talked about the qualities of each class, and did a little with some of
the different orders—mostly primate and marsupial. The girls loved
this one. We’ll have to make this a car time staple.


A New Season of Brave Writing

July 28, 2007 @ 1:05 pm | Filed under:

I’m passing along the latest Bravewriter newsletter for anyone who may be interested in some fun writing and book discussion opportunities:


The Arrow and the Boomerang are now enabled for automatic monthly deductions.

Brave Writer language arts programs are for busy moms who want to execute
their best intentions, but don’t have time to craft lessons that tie
together dictation, copywork, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, literary
style and literature into a neat bow. We use passages from classic
novels to teach things like dialog punctuation, spelling rules (and
exceptions), the power of an opening hook, the beauty of a well-crafted
description, new vocabulary words and grammar conventions.

arts shouldn’t require a slog through artificially created sentences to
"teach a point." Rather, there should be some way to maximize the
novels you enjoy to do that teaching for you. An editor I admire once
said that the only way to grow in writing syntax (how we put words
together) is to sit in a parlor chatting with great writers. I like to
picture E.B. White, Ernest Hemingway, Sandra Cisneros, Jane Austen,
Laura Ingalls Wilder, William Shakespeare, Bette Bao Lord, Lois Lowry
and Charles Dickens all sipping tea together, with me in the center of
the group. Unfortunately, most of them are dead. The next best thing is
to hang out with their writing… consistently pondering it, copying
it, reading it, discussing it.

That’s what the Brave Writer Language Arts Subscription programs aim to do!

The Arrow (4th – 6th grade) book list is brand new this year. A sample issue can be viewed here. It’s yours to print and use, if you like.

The Boomerang
automatically subscribes you to both a forum for the book
discussions and the monthly issue, as most of you have indicated that
you prefer. (However, for those who wish to receive the digital monthly issue
only, you may order these for a reduced rate without participating in
the book discussions.)

The Boomerang
offers dictation passages, notes and "think piece" questions to help
your kids explore the novels in greater depth. Once they’ve read the
books, students come to a specially created forum for kids just like
themselves to discuss the "think piece" questions. That discussion is
led by me, Julie.

A sample issue of the Boomerang can be viewed here.

The Boomerang’s first book for August is The House on Mango Street. We begin discussion on August 13. If you subscribe to the monthly payment plan between now and the 13th, we’ll rebate $9.95 of your first month’s $24.95 subscription price!

Live honestly, write bravely,


P.S. The Arrow and Boomerang are now open for registration and subscription. Check out the Arrow (4th-6th) and Boomerang (7th-9th) for more details on year-long enrollment. For monthly subscription information, go to our order page.

The Platinum Package offers The Writer’s Jungle and your choice of the Arrow or the Boomerang for a savings of $27.00! Check it out.

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