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We did something crazy in our language arts a couple of years ago. Basically we ditched all the things. The workbooks were nixed and replaced with our read alouds and Brave Writer Arrow and Boomerang guides. Now, just to clarify, we have added back in our favorite grammar workbooks, Easy Grammar, to use once a week or so. And my kids also do a spelling list from a workbook about every three weeks or so. See our curriculum details on the Learning Well Community Curriculum Directory.

But wait. You ditched all the language arts workbooks for a whole school year? 

Don’t we need grammar books, spelling lists, and workbooks to do all these things?

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Well, maybe. But we skipped them all.

And it worked amazingly! Here’s all the details, plus a video of exactly how we use the guides in our house

Get the 6 Secrets to a Simpler Mom Life

 A full review and how this Brave Writer family uses the Arrow and Boomerang guides.

Ditching the workbooks for living books

I’ve long been in love with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. Over the years of homeschooling though, we’ve reverted to much more workbook-y people than I’d like to admit.

So much paper.

So many blanks to fill in.

We had workbooks for grammar, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, and whatever else I’d pick up when I had a freak-out moment.

For a while now, I’ve thought about how we could use our read aloud books in a more encompassing way.

We’ve used Cindy West’s Living Literature Grammar and love the concept.

But for a year, we exclusively used Brave Writer’s Arrow and Boomerang guides.

Just our read aloud, the guide, and a composition notebook for each kid.


How we use Brave Writer’s Arrow + Boomerang guides

Arrow guides are for approximately 3rd to 6th grades.

Boomerang guides are for approximately 7th-10th grades.

Each year, Brave Writer chooses 10 new books for Arrow and Boomerang and releases one per month.

You can purchase the whole year’s bundle of guides or choose to purchase individual titles.

We choose individual guides rather than the whole bundle because, even though I love BW’s book choices and we read many of the current picks, I also have a list a mile long of books I want to read with my kids.

Nobody puts baby in a bundle. 

UPDATE: Although I’ve never purchased the full bundle of Arrow + Boomerang guides before, the line-up for 2018-19 is SO stellar, I will be purchasing the bundles. The titles are almost ALL on our TBR list already…it’s just too good to pass up! See the Boomerang line-up HERE and the Arrow line-up HERE! 

I’ve found that there are so many of these guides I almost never pick a book that there isn’t a guide provided.

Breaking down the guides

When you purchase the older guides you will notice they are a little different from the current guides.

In the current guides–both Arrow and Boomerang, they look like the following:

  • The lessons are broken down into four weeks.
  • Each week begins with an excerpt from the book to use as copywork.
  • There’s a grammar lesson each week that is pulled from the copywork passage.
  • The guides end with discussion questions.
  • The Arrow guides also include a writing project that goes along with the writing style of the completed books. (These have been SO much fun!!)

Older guides look a bit different that there are not discussion questions in the Arrow guides.

Older guides are also shorter in length. But the lessons are still just as great.

Our week with these guides

Language arts this year takes a lot less time. Read more about our Brave Writer Lifestyle Routine. 

On Monday, we grab our composition notebooks.

These notebooks are split into three chunks. (Next year I think I will buy special subject notebooks for this.)

  1. Copywork
  2. Spelling
  3. Writing (freewrites, writing projects)

The kids copy their passage for the week.

Tuesday we look over what they copied. We check for neatness, spelling, punctuation, and any missed grammar.

Then we dive into to the grammar lesson.

Sometimes we will take notes on the pages following the copy work.

For instance, the other day we learned about conjunctions and we learned an acronym for remembering them: FANBOYS








Things like this we write down in their notebook to remember them.

Wednesday, we’ll do freewrites, which isn’t technically part of the guides.

Thursday we tie up any loose ends from the week’s lesson.

Sometimes there’s a few spelling or vocabulary words pulled from the passage and we’ll work on those too.

At the end of the month, we will go over the discussion questions and do the writing project. These projects sometimes take a few days to complete.

I love the simplicity.

This way of doing language arts might not be for everyone. I’ll be honest, it was sort of a leap of faith to toss our normal regime. But I see the fruits of using read alouds for language arts.

It’s simple.

I love simple.

If you want to try it out, you can download a sample guide for free. I’d be willing to bet you’ll be downloading more though. 🙂

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  1. Very helpful, Alicia! I’m trying to decide what to order, and I desperately want to keep it simple! Can you advise me on the following plan? My third grader is in Chinese school (we live in China and want her to be bilingual), so I only get one and a half afternoons a week during the day to work through material with her aside from weekends, and I want the focus to be on READING and WRITING. I’m looking for about 2-3 hours per week of work since she has a heavy load with Chinese school. She has recently finished Sing Spell Read and Write program and is reading beginner chapter books independently (Nate the Great, Flat Stanley) so probably is at more of a second grade level and we have not done ANY writing/spelling instruction. I’ve just started asking her to do some copying of quotations and she gets plenty of Chinese writing practice so I’m not concerned about her fine motor skills of using a pen. I read aloud at bedtime. (And her younger sister isn’t far behind her, so I either want to reuse materials with her, or let them work on the same thing at the same time).
    Here are the resources I’m considering:
    Handwriting Without Tears (will this be too juvenile? Is it necessary if using Writing With Ease?)
    All About Spelling (but I worry this is a lot of work… is it necessary?)
    Writing With Ease Level 1 Workbook (I like the sounds of this)
    After some time (how long?) possibly moving to Writing&Rhetoric and/or Arrow Guides – do these overlap? Would it make sense to do Writing&Rhetoric book 1, then an Arrow Guide, then W&R bk 2, and so on, alternating as we complete books?
    I want something that’s open and go, requiring little prep and is about 50/50 teacher-led vs. independent work.

    I appreciate any thoughts you have for me!

  2. This is so helpful!!! Thanks so much for taking time to respond! I want to reiterate that I just love that you’re blogging every so often about your family’s BW experience, and I enjoyed the podcast interview you did with Julie Bogart too!

  3. Hi Julie, thanks for your comment and I’m so glad you’re interested because we love every BW product we’ve tried. To clarify, I received The Writer’s Jungle and Jot it Down to try out and review. Everything else I have purchased. So, Partnership Writing, Help for the High School and a whole slew of Arrow and Boomerang guides.

    I would absolutely tell out if I didn’t think it was worth the cost, but in this case, I believe it totally is.

    1) As far as writing curriculum goes, BW products are either less or right in line with others. And they’re fun! I’ve wasted SO much money on writing curriculum. We started and my kids and I both were burned out within weeks. With this, we are looking forward to the next project and the next.

    2) The Arrow and Boomerang guides basically replace the cost of workbooks for spelling, grammar, vocab and more.

    3) Everything can be printed over and over and used over and over with all the kids. Workbooks for multiple kids over the years gets spendy. All these products are reusable.

    I hope that helps!

  4. Hi Alicia! I’m so glad to see you practically explain how you use Bravewriter, these posts are very helpful. Can you tell me what you think of the cost? I know you mentioned the materials were given to you, and as someone on a budget I wonder if you feel they are worth it. Would you be purchasing them for yourself in order to continue using them? I’d love for my children to embrace a writing lifestyle, which is why I’m drawn to Bravewriter, so I’m willing to make this investment if you think it’s worth it. Thank you!

  5. Love the Dirty Dancing reference. Just stumbled upon your blog (thanks Pam Barnhill) and love your perspective on homeschooling, living the Bravewriter lifestyle, and building relationships with your kids. Keep up the wonderful work!

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