The 2016 Brave Writer Retreat

“Hello Beautiful”  was colorfully written in sidewalk chalk as we approached the entrance to The Barn in Sharonville, OH. The interior was charmingly decorated with strings of softly glowing bulbs. Beautiful gift bags waited for each of us. Encouraging signs were placed throughout the space. This was the scene of the 2016 Brave Writer Retreat.

The women who attended this retreat have interacted through various forms of media but very few of us had met in person prior to the retreat. Our online groups had expectations of support and encouragement and these expectations were carried throughout the retreat. It felt as if  I attended this retreat with 150 of my very best friends. I have never experienced this belonging, love and respect before. I found my tribe.

Each retreat presentation is worthy of its’ very own blog post so I will recap the biggest ideas that spoke to me.

The opening evening started off with a bang. Julie’s talk was called, “Updating Charlotte Mason to the 21st Century.” Julie’s humor and wisdom shined through with her comment regarding Charlotte letting down her bun. I walked away knowing that theories may speak to me but when there is struggle those theories may need to be adjusted to fit our current, unique situation. In our family, when we become very rigid and tied to a theory or a schedule, stress increases and our home life suffers which in turn affects learning. I now will give myself permission to take what speaks to me and leave the rest.

Melissa Wiley was our speaker Thursday morning. Her honesty and humor captivated me. She introduced “Tidal Homeschooling.” It was such a relief to find a name for what was naturally occurring in our homeschool. The low tide had always set me on edge because I would feel like we were “falling behind” the public school expectations. Light bulb moment here-for my family it is more important to love learning than keep up with some randomly chosen expectations that may no longer be relevant.

High tide is the more structured learning, where my role is the leader. Low tide is the time where kids pursue their interests and I become the cheerleader. Each tide lasts until interests wane and kids become restless. During the low tide I will be thinking about the next high tide. The other biggie I walked away with was how can we make this day awesome? We can make it awesome by connecting with our children.

After a short break we really started to have fun with “Comics Make You Smart!” Melissa shared a list of SAT words pulled from  Calvin and Hobbes comics. Wow! Mic drop, mind blown! Then she shared a whole genre of comic books I wasn’t aware of. Did you know there is a comic book about the U.S. Constitution? I recalled my love of  comics, especially their humor and wit. In fact, when I was ten, comics helped keep me entertained during a month long hospital stay. Why wouldn’t I share this joy with my own children?

After lunch I joined Stephanie Elms for “The Re-Upping Moment: Tackling the Teen Years at Home.” She had us start by identifying our fears. My fears regarding homeschooling high school boiled down to: did I teach him everything he needs to know because we are quickly approaching the no “redo” zone and how can we deep dive to pursue interests  and still manage the “requirements?” After I wrote my first fear I realized how irrational it sounds. Of course there will be things I didn’t teach him. His learning won’t suddenly stop at the end of high school. Our relationship won’t suddenly end. The most important thing I can do is to teach him to be a lifelong learner. Again, Steph reiterated the importance of maintaining a relationship with your teenager to help make sure the path fits your child’s needs rather than making your child fit to the path. The other really big idea that struck me is “there is no educational emergency.” Say what-why am I wasting all this energy worrying?!!?! Community colleges can help shore up any deficient academics areas. Finally, and most importantly, I need to help my teenager stretch and grow without affecting his relationship with learning.

Friday we discovered what home means to us. We participated in a free write. Benevolently reframing has changed my life. It allows me to tell the truth but reframe it in a positive light. This speaks to my optimistic nature. Time was set aside in the afternoon so we could begin to process the retreat and look towards the future. I realized when I don’t take care of myself I become more and more negative. This isn’t healthy for anybody. It is imperative I take time to do some #awesomeadulting so I can have our best version of home.

I  returned with a sense of peace and acceptance for my journey and our homeschool. In the time following the retreat our home has become more relaxed and fun. My teenager was eager to tell me the things he would like to learn. I have had fun cooking with my daughter and discussing the reasons behind her dislike of copy work. I have even managed to pursue my own passion and attend a tap class and go on a date with my husband. Life is good.  There are still gems from the retreat to process and apply and those will come in time. This retreat is what my soul needed.

Have you ever attended a retreat that rocked your world and allowed you to make significant personal growth? I would love to hear about it.

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