Think like a . . . Writing Coach! (Julie Bogart)

When it comes to thinking like a writing coach, the key concept to keep in mind is: 

Writing is the record of the mind life, of the thinking that is already going on inside. 

How do we help our kids access their mind life? So glad you asked!

Jot it Down

When we understand that our goal with writing is to help our children share their thoughts and ideas, we realize that handwriting and typing aren’t the only ways to externalize the mind life; a person can also speak what is going on in the mind. A transcriptionist can get it down on paper. 

In Brave Writer, we call this “jotting it down.” It enables young kids to experience “the power and pleasure of their own words in writing if you take the time to jot them down and then read them back.” (The Brave Learner, page 135).

  1. Listen when your child starts talking. Stop what you’re doing. Tune in.
  2. Grab paper and pencil - any paper!
  3. Jot down what child says. Just write!
  4. Read the writing to the family.
  5. Put the writing in the library book basket and read it again with the read alouds.
  6. Lather, rinse, repeat.


Once a child can use a pencil, using his own handwriting to get original thoughts down is the next step. It’s called freewriting. 

Peter Elbow popularized this idea for college students, and he was an academic himself, drawing from techniques professional writers use. He discovered, “/when students are provided space to transcribe their thoughts as they occur (no matter what those thoughts are—even words like 'I’m stuck!'), they become competent, comfortable, fluent writers. Freewriting unlocks the words and gets them out where they can be seen, revised, and edited.” (The Brave Learner, page 138)

Here's what you do:

  1. Make a list of all the things your kids love and know well.
  2. Rub shoulders; crack knuckles.
  3. Use scratch paper.
  4. Set the timer for 5 minutes.
  5. Writer the entire time, no self-editing.
  6. When stuck, write "I'm stuck."
  7. Allow for fragments and spelling mistakes.
  8. Keep writing until the bell dings. 

Add Hygge

Don't forget to pay attention to the atmosphere of how and where your kids write! The more options and choice there are, the increased sense of freedom with writing they will experience. Think different writing implements, different surfaces, different venues!

As Julie points out: "Freedom in writing means freeing the writer to write—whatever it takes!" (The Brave Learner, page 140)

Forms and Formats

The idea of tackling academic writing forms and formats can feel daunting, even to a seasoned homeschool parent. Let's make the process feel more accessible by looking at them through the lens of the Superpowers. If we aren't personally familiar with the various forms and formats, we can get curious and explore them along with our kids!

  1. Read the form. Don’t ask a child to write a format they’ve never read (such as an essay.)
  2. Talk about the format conversationally.
  3. Interrogate the format. Why is this form powerful and worthwhile? What are its limits?
  4. Play with the format like a toy. Reimagine the format. Could a book report be a review? Could you create a dust jacket for a book instead?
  5. Practice, practice, practice!

Brave Writer's Approach to Writing

Listen to Julie explain how all these elements work together to create a complete writing program, one that will fully prepare your kids for a rich writing life, whatever that may look like for them. Creative, academic, or utilitarian, we've got it covered.

Download The Brave Learner: Think Like a Writer - Julie Bogart

Posted August 1st, 2019
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