Prepare to have fun with fact and fiction!

An 1817 Boston newspaper reported the arrest of three apple thieves caught red-handed in an orchard at midnight. The culprits were described as "a man named Peter Twist and two well-dressed women." Just who were those women, and why were they wearing their best clothes on a fruit heist? These questions have intrigued Melissa Wiley, a historical fiction writer and your Penning the Past instructor, ever since she first came across this 100-year-old article while researching a book about Laura Ingalls Wilder's grandmother.  

Old newspapers, magazines, diaries, recipe books, and photos are bursting with long-lost stories waiting for someone to rediscover them. Story ideas spring off the pages of these primary source materials, right into our creative brains. As the author of ten historical novels, Melissa Wiley has learned how to mine these rich resources for raw material and sculpt it into captivating historical fiction. After all, nothing brings the past to life like a good, juicy story!

In this class, junior high students will discover how to to blend fact and fiction to create fresh, lively, historically accurate stories. Melissa will share her favorite "historical treasure hunt" techniques and will guide students through the process of creating believable characters and realistic settings. Activities include:

  • Treasure Hunt: Mining primary source material for story ideas and historical details
  • Character Freewrite: Creating a main character based on a figure from the past
  • Set-Building: Bringing that character's world to life with historically accurate detail   
  • Putting It All Together: You've got the who, what, where, and when—now let's polish up these treasures into your very own work of historical fiction!        

Students will need access to primary source material of some kind. Many local libraries will have old magazines and newspapers on microfilm, or diaries and letters written long ago. Museums and historical buildings are also good resources for firsthand accounts of the past. Even old family photos can be a fabulous resource for sparking story ideas! Melissa will provide access to some of her own favorite historical finds as well.

If travel through time is your child's fascination, this is the right class for your student!

Class Structure Description #

Brave Writer online classes are specially designed with the busy homeschooling parent in mind. Classes last anywhere from four to six weeks. We offer courses that address a specific writing need so that you can take the ones that suit your family throughout the school year. Short class sessions enable you to work around family vacations, out-of-town swim meets, recovering from wisdom teeth removal, and visits from grandparents. We operate on the quarter system, including a summer session. Our most popular classes repeat each quarter, while others are seasonal.

Our classes meet in a customized online classroom, designed specifically to meet the needs of Brave Writer. Only registered students and the instructor have access to the classroom to ensure your privacy. Assignments and reading materials are posted by Brave Writer instructors each week (no additional supply fees necessary, unless otherwise indicated). Either you (homeschooling parent) or your child (homeschooling student) will visit the classroom daily at your convenience to read helpful information about the current topic or to find the writing assignment. We operate "asynchronously" (which means that the discussion is not live, but that posted information remains available to you in your time zone at your convenience). Instructors check the classroom throughout the day to answer questions and give feedback on writing.

Writing is done at home and then typed into the classroom, and shared with both the instructor and other classmates. You're not required to be online at any specific time of the day. We have students from all over the world participating in our classes so "live" discussion is impossible. Instead, the online classroom enables the instructor to post information and assignments when it is convenient to the instructor. Then, when it is convenient for you, you come to the classroom and read the latest postings.

Instructor feedback to student writing is offered for all participants to read. Writing questions are welcomed and encouraged! That's the point of class. We aim to give you immediate support as you face writing obstacles.

Brave Writer takes seriously the need for encouragement and emotional safety in writing. No student is ever at risk of being humiliated or mistreated. All online dialog is respectful and supportive of your child's process. This is the core of Brave Writer philosophy. You can read about Brave Writer values here.

What makes our program especially unique in the world of online education is that we value a corporate experience. Rather than teaching your child in a tutorial format, we prefer students to have the opportunity to both publish their work for an audience (other students) and also to have the chance to read other student writing. In no other setting is this possible. Schools-in-buildings rarely have students read each other's work. Homeschooled children are rarely in a classroom environment to begin with, so the opportunity to read peer-writing is nil.

Our classes provide an utterly unique experience in the world of writing instruction. Since most writers grow through emulation of good writing, it is a real advantage to Brave Writer kids to get the chance to read the writing of their fellow home-educated peers. They love it! They get to examine and internalize other ways of writing, analyzing and expressing ideas similar to their own. They have the chance to validate and cheer on their peers. And of course, the best part of all is that they receive the praise and affirmation of kids just like them.

Not only that, all instructor feedback is posted to the classroom for all students to read. That means your kids get the benefit of instructor comments on many papers, not just their own. We've noted that this style of instruction is especially effective and hope you'll test it and agree!

Click here to login to a sample classroom.