Julie Bogart’s "The Brave Learner" helps parents rekindle an atmosphere of magic at home

Julie Bogart wants parents to know that providing a proper education for their child isn’t about using the right textbooks or school schedules, it’s about enchantment.

Bogart has made a national name for herself with her Brave Writer curriculum and online classes. A veteran homeschool mother of five, she has also mentored thousands of families through her online community, The Homeschool Alliance.

Now with her new book, The Brave Learner, Bogart is reaching deeper into her own personal history and philosophy of education to give parents — and their children — the tools (and permission) to find “everyday magic in homeschool, learning, and life.”


When writing doesn’t come easily

Before she was a mother and home educator, Julie Bogart was the daughter of a professional writer and then a writer herself. A California native, she worked in various writing capacities in Los Angeles — freelancing, ghostwriting, etc. — before she and her family re-located to Cincinnati in 1999 for her (then) husband’s job.

But it was back in California, in the early 90s, when Bogart began to develop her popular Brave Writer program.

She noticed that writing — which came joyfully and naturally to her — was sometimes difficult for other parents to teach their own children. So, when some friends asked her to lend her expertise on the topic, Bogart developed a seven-week course for other homeschooling families and teachers, instructing them on everything she knew about professional writing. This is how the Brave Writer concept started to come together.

While most of the writing curricula available at the time focused on hard skills like sentence structure and formats, Bogart wanted to help parents follow the model her own mother had used with her — a partnership of “optimism and cheerleading, not evaluation and critique.”

She wanted to teach parents how to coach their children toward finding and expressing their writing voice, regardless of the parents’ own writing proficiency.

In this way, the Brave Writer curriculum was always about more than just writing. It introduced a different teaching mindset, more of a creative partnership between parent and child.

By the time she moved to Cincinnati, Bogart had put together a group of 40 moms to test out her program with their children. Then, in 2000, she officially published the Brave Writer curriculum and started an online class. She estimates it has helped tens of thousands of families to date.

Educating yourself; educating your children

Children use "Poetry Teatime" to engage in literature.

Around 2003, with her children transitioning into their later elementary, middle, and high school grades, Bogart decided to make an investment in her own education. She enrolled in graduate school and, in 2007, received a master’s degree in theology from Xavier University.

Bogart took one class at a time while balancing motherhood, teaching, and operating her Brave Writer business. The process was slow and steady but she loved every moment of it. She found that educating her own mind increased her capacity for and interest in educating her children.

“Pursuing my own advanced education enriched my homeschooling in a thousand ways,” she says, recalling the way her deep dive into issues of social justice, for example, affected her children.

During that time they watched documentaries together, read books, and talked about the theological and social implications of justice. One of her sons credits his own decision to become an international human rights lawyer to those influential years of homeschooling.

Graduate school or not, Bogart says this kind of vibrant, inspired education is possible for every family. The “magic” arises from a parent who is engaged in more than their child’s academic success.

“Education in general, whether you homeschool or not,” Bogart explains, “is contingent on the parent’s authentic connection to their own interest in growing as a person.”

She continues, “We tend to act like our children are going to be our project, but the biggest project we have is being interested students ourselves … so that adulthood actually looks like an awesome thing. This is what we want to model for our kids.”

She writes about this in Chapter 11 of The Brave Learner:

“One important part of parenting, then, needs to be your ongoing self-education that maximizes the opportunities and privileges of being an adult. Make adulthood look awesome and watch your children aspire to great things. In fact, your strongest gift to your teens is taking real plea­sure in your skills, hobbies, talents, and opportunities, not theirs.”

The Brave Learner

While Bogart’s Brave Writer curriculum is particular to writing and The Homeschool Alliance is particular to supporting home educators, readers will find The Brave Learner more accessible to all parents and educators.

What it presents is less of a prescription for the materials of education and more of a mindset shift for parenting. The book offers tangible suggestions for how to invite “enchantment” into a child’s home and education, letting the natural inclinations and interests of parent and child direct the atmosphere of the home.

In a lot of ways, Bogart has been preparing for and writing her new book all along. It’s a response to what she has witnessed in her 30 years in the parenting and homeschooling worlds: burn out, exasperation, mixed messages, and anxiety. She knows through firsthand experience and years of mentoring that all parents doubt themselves and all parents make mistakes. But she believes that it’s never too late to find the kind of enchantment and love for learning that brings joy into a home. In fact, part four of the book is dedicated, specifically, to regaining ground after dysfunction or family trauma.

In the same way that Brave Writer was never just about writing, The Brave Learner is not only about learning. And it’s not written only for homeschooling families, though that’s certainly her primary audience.

Bogart feels the book will be a refreshing take on education and home life for any parent: those who feel plagued by feelings of duty rather than joy in parenting; those who feel trapped by an ideology that doesn’t fit their child’s need; those who are struggling through family set-backs or personal limitations.

“Education is an atmosphere — it isn’t a house. It’s not a program,” she writes in The Brave Learner, with a nod to the late 19th-century educator Charlotte Mason.

“Educa­tion is not accredited teaching,” she continues. “What our children learn at home is largely invisible to us — directly connected to their experience of well-being — the atmosphere of family life.”

Even after great mistakes or disappointments, she believes “there is always a path back” and parents need to know it’s okay to experiment with their children without fear.

“An attitude of experimentation is key,” she says.

In The Brave Learner, Bogart gives parents permission to partner with their kids to rekindle the kind of enchantment that will give them all a love for life and learning together.

On February 5, at 7 p.m., Bogart will be celebrating the release of her new book, The Brave Learner, with a reading and signing event at local bookseller Joseph-Beth in Rookwood Pavillion — complete with Busken cookies, she notes. She is excited to share the moment with her local Cincinnati audience and friends. Register online for the event here. The Brave Learner can be pre-ordered here.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Liz McEwan.

Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.