Sheltered by a home-made teepee, Heather and Giselle Bradley weave baskets, during the From Sea to Shining Sea: American History through the eyes of eight American Girls year.
Brains on Fire!
Brains on Fire! Hearts on Fire!
That is what I observed the first day I taught my children in the exciting, brain-firing way. I have taught my children this way in our homeschool since 1990, and it not only provides for enthusiastic younger children and incredibly dedicated scholars, but most importantly helps reveal great souls or courageous beings, as we like to call them -- ones who are passionate about life and have the courage to fulfill their purpose in life.
Jasmyn, Amber, Anna Sinclair and Hal Bradley perform a reinactment of the Battle of Lexington during the Colonial Escapade year.
Susan Kovalik, an internationally-renowned educator, inspired Karen Kindrick, who then inspired me to put together brain-firing homeschool curriculum. Brain research reveals how children learn, and from that, certain principles are then translated into the classroom to create exciting learning environments, where children become enthusiastic, self directed seekers-of- truth. I enjoyed the first year of our home school, but I only remember a few particulars about our studies. The second year I prepared a year-long EPIC Adventure for my children using brain-firing elements. Our year centered on the founding of America.
I still remember the first magical day -- as I watched my children's excitement about the things they were learning and discovering, I cried. I could hardly believe that children could be so motivated to learn with such enthusiasm so quickly.
Jasmyn, Hal and Amber Bradley pose with revolutionary characters in Colonial Williamsburg during their "Being There" trip at the end of the Colonial Escapade year.
That year was the most exciting time of my children's lives to that point. My two oldest children were so inspired to learn, that at 6 and 8 years of age they were writing plays, researching and presenting living history presentations, writing papers on the founding fathers from encyclopedic sources, staying up late and getting up early so they could learn and experience and live the things they learned. This was total immersion into the life of a colonial revolutionary. That world became real for them. Their own genuine enthusiasm led them to this -- nothing was forced, and most of their projects sprang from their own ideas. I would never have asked a 6-year-old to write a ten page report complete with drawings! But my daughters did this and much more.
Chase Bradley, Sam Loveland, and Amber and Jeanne Bradley, perform a string quartet during the Unfinished Symphony year.
A Path to Greatness
What we do can hardly be called school -- it truly is an adventure that our children live. It is a path to greatness. The things we study every year have many levels that include spiritual depth. For instance, during the "Pirates of the Courageous Bein's" year we studied three great souls from history.
Although our adventure encompassed all the regular school subjects like history and geography, that year we also studied the character of these courageous beings, that we might learn to emulate them. My purpose is not just to educate my children, but also to nurture great souls who seek to fulfill their purpose in life. I have never found a better way to do that than the path I am on.
My grown children talk passionately about the education they acquired as children. They want to duplicate for their future children the magical learning adventures they experienced in our homeschool. It wasn't just school, it was truly an adventure.
"Johann Sebastian Bach" came to visit the Bradley, Kindrick, Royer and Loveland families and friends during the Unfinished Symphony year.
Each year we set out on another EPIC Adventure, and one great side effect is the education I receive while researching the material I plan to present to my children. Throughout the school year I continue to study and learn with my children. This creates a mutually-inspiring learning atmosphere because we are all learning on various levels and according to our various interests, yet all related to our yearly adventure.
Our home also reflects our studies -- the drawings of Shakespeare's plays on the dining room wall; the Indian incense and music filling the air; and dinner table conversations which relate to our study are some of the evidences of our joint learning adventures.
The Bradleys and several other families enjoy a visit from "Scheherazade," at the Opening Day of A Magic Carpet Ride to Lands of Enchantment year.
My education is continual and passionate because it's part of our year adventure. I'm right there with my children. This isn't half-hearted study, but a genuine enthusiasm, because nothing I study is arbitrary. It all has great importance because I will be sharing much of it with my children - I'm actually studying in order to teach them. I don't know a better way to inspire a parent to want to gain his or her own education.
My husband Hal made a comment to me years ago, that the reason I loved to teach our children at home was because I was getting a great education! And that is definitely part of my enthusiasm.
Jeanne Bradley, Deena Ortiz and Karen Kindrick take a break from the exciting pursuit of preparing an EPIC Adventure.
One duty, as my children's teacher is to present a smorgasbord for them to intellectually feast upon. They will love the things to which they are exposed. How could they learn to love Shakespeare, Vivaldi or Dumas if I don't expose them in some way?
Hal Bradley and Will Kindrick perform chemistry experiments during the Knights of the Periodic Table year.
The year we studied music history I learned about music modes. After taking private and college piano lessons for about 10 years I was amazed that I had missed something as basic as music modes. That year my children learned about music modes! Clearly, my continued education is a must if I am to be a rich resource for my children.
Jeanne and Hal, appear here as Abigail and John Adams. Jasmyn, Hal and Amber Bradley are dressed for the closing day of the Colonial Escapade year.
Putting Together the EPIC Adventure
We live about a nine-month school year with a break in the summer. I begin research for the next school year before summer, and continue throughout the summer. My children usually continue learning and living the things they learned the previous year. A common remark heard throughout the year is, "Can we please study this again next year?" They become so passionate about a subject that they continue and study in depth on their own. It's wonderful to see them finding an interest from the year and continuing their own education on the subject.
Each school year beings with the unveiling. We always have an "Opening Day of School" where we present to the children the entire year theme so that they can see what the year will entail. The anticipation for the first day of school is thick -- the children anxiously await the new year adventure. I choose, through much contemplation and prayer, our main direction for the year. (I continue to collaborate with other like-minded parents, which also broadens my knowledge of the subjects.)
Chase Bradley works on a chart of the Periodic Table of the Elements during the Knights of the Periodic Table year.
Study Brings Passion
On the contrary, study brings passion.
Naturally my enthusiasm spills over to the children. I once asked my oldest daughter what she thought about me choosing the direction of her learning. She responded that she always trusted that would present an engaging educational year.
Chase Bradley, as Johnny Appleseed, gives a report on seeds during the Buried Treasure and the Voyage of the Frugal Frigate year.
Though the year is planned, we never know exactly the direction our study will take us. I set the direction for the year, and my children explore it through their own interests and talents. During our Frugal Frigate year, (we used Emily
Dickinson's poem about books as frigates, which can take us lands away), each child chose a research project to do during our study of The Secret Garden. Amber 11, put together a presentation on how to plant and care for roses. While Jasmyn, 9, studied lady bugs she learned that the black bugs on the roses, which we had been killing, were really lady bug larva! Hal, 6, put together a chart on photosynthesis. Chase, 3, collected seeds for his project. He gathered seeds from all the fruits we ate, and from the plants outside, and taped one of each seed to cardstock which I labeled for him. He was so diligent in seed-collecting that we planted the bell pepper seeds from the pepper we bought at the store, and they were some of our best home-grown bell peppers! Our learning was fueled by our passion for the individual subjects we chose to study.
Heather and Giselle Bradley and Haley Manutai, meet Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee at a Civil War reenactment during the From Sea to Shining Sea - American History through the eyes of eight American Girls, year.
There is a wonderful synergy when everyone's learning is connected. My study at the time centered on the difference between dirt and soil. On the day of our "SecretGarden" presentations, I came to school as the visitor, "Dirt." I gave a presentation to the children about the difference between dirt and soil, which is important to know if you're trying to grow a garden. Though we all studied distinct subjects at various levels, our learning was connected and enhanced. Each person's individual study contributed to the synergy of our shared adventure.
The Bradley, Hartvigson and Manutai families at an English Feast during the Once Upon a Time - Sons and Daughters of a King (Shakespeare)year.
The connections the children make throughout the year are prodigious. (Renaissance brains are ones that can make connections between the seemingly unconnected.) My children are so accustomed to seeing connections in everything, that they more easily see metaphor, symbols, and other layers of meaning. This is something that some people today have a difficult time doing -- like reading depth in a poem for example. My friend told me that when her children took college entrance exams, one of the skills the college tested for was the ability to see metaphor in stories and other writing. If your children read scriptures this is a crucial ability. We incorporate layers of meaning and depth into the year plan, and the year-long pattern frees their brains to go deeper into a subject, instead of using brain power to try to catalogue bits of information.
Hal Bradley gives a presentation on the kings and queens of Britain during the Pirates of the CourageousBein's year.
When we finished our second year of home schooling, my 6-year-old daughter made a point to tell me that she didn't remember the things she learned during her first home school year -- just a hodgepodge of subjects -- but she remembered everything she learned during our brain-firing year, and she felt that she would always remember it. I wrote down her words. I believed what we had done was powerful, but my little daughter could sense the power too.
Giselle Bradley gives a demonstration on papermaking during the A Magic Carpet Ride to Lands of Enchantment year.
Now Jasmyn's brain had a place to put all the bits of information we had studied all year. This is so powerful. Her brain naturally seeks patterns to place bits of information it receives. But when I gave her the pattern at the beginning of the year, her brain didn't have to work to put the information in the right spot. All who learn in this way can therefore go deeper into subjects and make greater connections throughout their studies.
My children mark time in their lives by saying things like, "Remember during the pioneer year when we...?" ("the music year...," "the knight year...," "the art year...," or in other words -- "Blazing the Trail to Zion," "The Unfinished Symphony," "Knights of the Periodic Table," "Academie de Beaux Arts"). They remember so much of their lives because the brain wants and seeks patterns like this to catalog, retrieve, understand, and find depth in information.
Jasmyn and Amber Bradley are sewing costumes during the Unfinished Symphony year.
Hearts on Fire!
Our hearts are on fire when we live the things we're learning. We have a school year song, which brings the spirit of the year to life, costumes, poems, immersion activities, visitors from other times and places, and field trips. All these little things create hearts on fire -- hearts that are passionate for learning. This is the best things about our year to me -- our hearts, not just our brains, are connected to our studies. This combination really cements learning and welds our hearts together in our quest for knowledge.
Giselle and Heather Bradley paint timeline pieces during the Once Upon a Time, Sons and Daughters of a King (Shakespeare) year.
In the last few years I have only taught my two youngest daughters, but in 2006 my son Chase -- 16, saw my passion for the Shakespeare year I was putting together for his sisters, and he decided to join us for part of our studies.
Each year continues to be another magical year for us.
Chase Bradley and his castle during the L'Academie des Beaux Arts year.
The EPIC Adventure is so much more than "school." It is a path to greatness. It is a pattern for learning that becomes ingrained as a way of life. Individuals with brains on fire and hearts on fire are passionate about life, love learning, and make connections that inspire them to live as Courageous Beings. In the fall of 2004 my husband planned to take our family to a Southern California theme park. It was a weekday and his day off. All of our children said they would rather stay home. They were so involved in their studies and projects that they wanted to continue rather than go "have fun!" That's the kind of enthusiasm for learning that my children have developed by learning in this brain-firing, heart-firing way.
Heather Bradley is all ready for the Pirates of the CourageousBein's year.
The EPIC Adventure truly ignites passionate learners and Courageous Beings!
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