‘Brave Learner’: A Conversation With Homeschool Expert Julie Bogart

By Barbara Danza, Epoch Times
April 16, 2019 Updated: April 16, 2019

While perusing the shelves of the Education section of Barnes & Noble, as I often do, a new title jumped out at me: “The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life” by Julie Bogart.

“Yes!” I thought. “Everyday magic. That’s just what I’m aiming for and what I know enhances learning for my children—for everyone.”

I scooped up the book and raced through its pages as one does when each page leads to inspiring insights, encouragement, and delight. And, you know what, I can’t wait to read it again. It’s a book that is both inspiring and reassuring, while offering specific ideas that can be applied immediately. “The Brave Learner” will be a permanent resource in my family’s homeschool.

In “The Brave Learner,” Bogart talks about ideas like “enchantment” and “magic” and “pixie dust,” tying them with practical application and examples of lived experience. Bogart homeschooled her five now-grown children over 17 years. She is the founder of the Homeschool Alliance, which provides coaching to homeschool parents and the creator of the Brave Writer program, a writing and language arts homeschool curriculum.

I asked Bogart about “The Brave Learner” and her experience as a homeschool mom, in general. Here’s what she shared.

The Epoch Times: When did you decide homeschool was the best choice for your family? What brought you to that decision?

Julie Bogart: When I was 22 years old, not engaged, not married, a friend of my soon-to-be-fiancé put a question to me, to see if I’d pass his test. “Julie, will you homeschool your kids?” I replied: “Home … School?” I had never heard of the term. He went on to explain the new concept to me: that we had the right to raise our children the way we wanted to, educating them according to our values, growing a close relationship at the same time. His passion was contagious. By the end of his speech, I agreed: “Yes! I will homeschool my children.”

Over the next several years, I watched his family’s example and that of my sister-in-law. I read books about education and homeschooling. I became completely converted to this radical educational choice in the late 1980s. By the time my oldest child turned 6, there was no decision. I had been destined to homeschool from before the time Noah was even conceived.

The Epoch Times: “The Brave Learner” encourages parents to incorporate “enchantment” in their homeschool and family lives. It introduces the “four forces of enchantment: surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure.” What’s your fondest memory of this manifesting in your family’s homeschool?

Ms. Bogart: Poetry Teatime is a weekly practice I stumbled upon early in my children’s lives. I had this love for poetry that most other adults didn’t share. I wondered how I could protect my children from dismissing poetry or hating it. One day I was reading a homeschool email on an email list by a mom who had created this cozy environment to study geography terms with her kids. She had served tea. That sparked an idea in my mind. I was a daily British tea drinker! My children loved tea parties. I could pair the tea party experience with poetry. And so we did. We gathered candles and teacups, special plates, and a centerpiece made of nature items. I stacked the table with poetry books. We made tea and muffins.

Then we sat together paging through the books, each one of us looking for a poem to share with the gathered family. The surprise of a party in the middle of the school day, the mystery of what we might find in our books that would delight us, the risk to share a poem and see the reaction of each one’s face, and the adventure of setting the party into motion from baking to decorating to clearing up—all of this created a slam dunk educational experience. We continued this practice weekly (sometimes more) throughout their childhoods. My adult kids still love poetry … and tea parties.

The Epoch Times: Throughout “The Brave Learner,” you talk about the importance of flexibility, appreciation for different seasons of life, and letting go of perfectionism. You explain how you utilized various educational philosophies and resources throughout your journey. Did you ever have a year when you felt that you had completely nailed it and it couldn’t have been better?

Ms. Bogart: Ha! What an amazing question. I could only ever feel that way in hindsight. I would say that when all five of my children were under 13, we had our best homeschooling year. We found a rhythm together. We had recently moved to Ohio so we had a fresh environment, new friends, and I had become experienced enough to relax into my homeschool—toggling between our sturdy routine and days led by inspiration. That year we [lit] candles [when working on] copywork, we went on amazing field trips, my older three kids wrote delightful pieces of writing (original Greek myths, a screenplay based on Gilgamesh, a mail-order catalog featuring Ancient Egyptian embalming materials, poetry, freewriting, nature journals, and more), we joined a co-op, and everyone had a turn playing sports in a local league.

The Epoch Times: Are there any mentors or experts who particularly influenced or inspired you along your homeschool journey?

Ms. Bogart: Yes. Charlotte Mason’s work was deeply formative for me. Her vision of how to care for the whole child while educating that child gave me the foundation for how to move away from traditional school structure to one that felt more like a lifestyle. I love her emphasis on children being whole persons now, not adults in training. I also found the work of Ruth Beechick to be quite helpful in the early years (toddler through kindergarten). 

The Epoch Times: What advice would you give a parent today who thinks homeschool may be a good choice for his or her child(ren) but doesn’t know where to start?

Ms. Bogart: It’s important to know that you don’t need to know everything about education, your children, or homeschooling in order to start. We all learn as we go. My book, “The Brave Learner,” was written with the intention of casting a vision for what learning at home can be especially for homeschoolers but also for any parent interested in participating in their child’s education—so it’s a good place to start. It’s also important to find a local community (in addition to online resources). Having in-person friends will be supportive and helpful. Check your state organization or attend a conference and meet people!

The Epoch Times: If you were beginning homeschool today and somehow had the benefit of the wisdom you have now, would you do anything differently?

Ms. Bogart: The main thing I’d do differently is I’d trust my children more—trust that they want to learn, trust their feedback when they tell me a program is boring or too difficult, trust that they are on track even when they look “behind” compared to peers. I think I was pretty good at listening to my kids, but sometimes I would allow doubt and pressure from the outside (or the crushing realization I had spent a lot of money for a failed program) to derail me from taking my children and their feedback seriously. I also know now that they benefit from help—that independence isn’t the goal. The goal is education through collaboration.

The Epoch Times: What projects are next on the horizon for you?

Ms. Bogart: Brave Writer, my online writing company that supports parents in teaching writing, is ever-expanding! We have so many amazing online classes in development and already available. I’m speaking in Alaska and New Zealand this year, which is fun! But mostly, I’m already working on my next book proposal. I love to write! Can’t wait to dig into the research for my next (shh!) book!

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza