A Review of the Brave Writer Arrow Guides

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I felt like Tarzan.  Or Jane.  Swinging all day from tree to tree and never knowing if it was going to be enough.

Spelling.  Vocabulary.  Comprehension questions.  Grammar.  Writing.  Would my kids ever connect all of these branches?

I was leaping from workbook to workbook to cover these skills, but what was I achieving?

Language arts felt so jumpy and disconnected in our homeschool.   And I felt so tired.  I didn’t want to swing like Tarzan from topic to topic anymore, but I wasn’t sure what else to do.

So I did what any homeschool mom does.  I googled.  And I googled.  And I googled.  I knew I could find a program that would help me teach Language Arts as a cohesive set of skills for communication.  I knew I could find a guide to take us into the world language and communication.

And I was ready to drop my Tarzan rope.

A review of how the Brave Writer Arrow Guides and how they transformed our approach to Language Arts.


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The Language Arts Forest

For a moment, let’s picture the subject of language arts skills as a lush forest of trees.   Let’s call it the Language Arts Forest.

Workbooks made me feel like I was leaping around the Language Arts forest all day, swinging from tree to tree to tree.

To make it even more complicated, I have four children who are each in a different grade. This translates into four different workbooks for each topic so I felt like I was swinging around the forest all day long.  I could not joyfully sustain a day that felts so jumpy and checklist-y.

Things needed to change, so in a moment of inspiration and a little bit of desperation in 2013, I bought a subscription to the Brave Writer Arrow Guides.  Each monthly guide promised to walk us through a forest of language arts using a literature title appropriate for grades 3-6.

Using the Brave Writer Arrow Guides to find your way through the Language Arts Forest.

We began our first guide in September of that year.  Slowly, a path began to appear in the forest and I was walking on it with all of my kids.  Together.  Hand in hand.  No longer was I swinging from tree to tree with each individual child.  Every kid was in the same place as me and we were learning together.

And while I lost my status as Tarzan of the Language Arts Jungle, I regained my sanity as a homeschool mom.

The literature book we were reading became our trail through the trees. The Brave Writer Arrow Guide became our trail guide, directing us to the various “trees of Language Arts” along the way.

Could this really work?  Could we use literature as the backbone for all Language Arts skills?

After four years of an annual Arrow Guide subscription, I am here to tell you that it does work and you can do it.

Brave Writer Arrow Guide Review

What content is in a Brave Writer Arrow Guide?

The most current Arrow Guides contain four sections:

1.  Weekly Copywork and Discussion (including grammar)

Each of the four weekly sections includes a passage from the book to be used as copywork.  In addition, each passage is accompanied by teacher notes. The teacher notes contain tips and details for parents so they can effectively use the passage as a teaching tool for grammar, punctuation, spelling, and literary style.

2.  A Literary Element focus for the book

A literary element is selected for each guide based upon the content of the book.   An explanation of the element as well as suggestions for discussion, writing, and teaching activities are included.

3.  A Writing Activity

There is a writing activity each month to enhance your child’s understanding of the literary element.  Some are short and simple while others are a bit more involved.  The best part is that you can elaborate and dive deeper into any of the projects if your kids are really enjoying it.

4. Big, Juicy Questions

The Big, Juicy, Questions were a new addition to the Arrow Guides this year. They are a list of nine questions parents and educators can use to facilitate a discussion with your children throughout the book or at the end.  These questions work well in a book club setting which I have explained how I organized in the past.

NOTE: The Big, Juicy questions are only included in guides published in the 2016-2017 school year and beyond.

5. Book Club Party School 

Book Club party ideas were added to the Arrow Guides in the fall of 2017. Guides published after September of 2018 will include party school book club ideas.

How does your family use the guides?

I have written about the guides and how we use them on this blog.  As my kids have grown, we have changed our use here and there, including using the Quiver of Arrows one year.  I have written a typical break down of our week for using the Arrow Guides.

I also shared a very detailed walk-thru the guide to “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” on my YouTube channel.

Here is a look at week one:

Those videos, as well as several others, can be found on my Brave Writer Lifestyle Video Guide Page.

How does the Annual Subscription Work?

Our Annual Arrow subscription includes a link to a downloadable Arrow Guide that arrives in my email on the first of the month.  There are 10 titles included in a school year, which are all announced in May before the year kicks off in September.

I typically complete 7-8 guides in a year, working at the pace of one a month.  This allows for a bit of flexibility in our schedule and gives us the freedom to skip 2-3 titles.  We typically use December to play catch-up or relax without a new guide.  Sometimes we spend a month reading and enjoying Shakespeare instead of an Arrow Guide.

The titles we chose each year:

2016-2017 School Year

2015-2016 School Year

Do you have to buy the entire year?

No. You can purchase the Arrow guides individually.

If you want to know where to start, you can download a free guide for James and the Giant Peach or check out my Top Ten Brave Writer Arrow Guides.

Do you still use Language Arts workbooks?

I do. But I use them as tools to support our journey.

TUsing the Brave Writer Arrow Guides in like having a trail guide through the woods of Language Arts.he workbooks no longer direct the path. We don’t work through them in sequential order and we don’t feel the need to finish them.

Instead, I pull from various resources that support our discussions in the Arrow Guide.

If we are studying adjectives in the Arrow Guide, then I might pull a few adjective worksheets from a workbook or website to support our discussion. Everyone is studying the same grammar concept so it doesn’t feel jumpy.

Spelling is another area where I still use workbooks for some of my kids. Copywork has built a solid foundation but two of my children, one with a learning disability, definitely need more guided instruction. Those who need extra help are using All About Spelling for continued support.

Finally, you know I love Marie’s Words for vocabulary development.  We use them for fun in addition to reading quality literature.  We have such a good time with them that they don’t feel like work.  In fact, my kids remind me to hang up new ones.  Best of all, we are all learning and using the same plethora of SAT words.  That never happened with our vocabulary workbooks.

Do the Arrow Guides really work to teach Language Arts?

Yes. Yes. 1000 times. Yes.

I have seen enormous growth in my kids’ understanding of literature and their ability to discuss it in a thoughtful manner.  They continue to make progress in spelling and grammar. This is all happening through a planned exposure to a variety of literary genres.

Best of all, our family has created bonds through reading about memorable characters, hysterical situations, and heart-breaking stories because we were all walking on the same path and using the same trail guide!

NOTE: Things changed when my oldest entered 7th grade and began using the Brave Writer Boomerang Book Guides. While we still have an occasional family read aloud for all of us, we are now divided between two guides.  Before that, the Arrow was our Language Arts guide for all four of my children.

Have you tried the Brave Writer Arrow Guides?  Are they helping you follow a path through the Language Arts Forest?


A review of the Brave Writer Arrow Guides and how they transformed language arts in our homeschool.

After three years of a Brave Writer Lifestyle, these are my picks for the top ten Arrow Guides.


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4 thoughts on “A Review of the Brave Writer Arrow Guides”

  1. Hi, I have enjoyed reading your review. I have been eyeballing Brave Writer for over a year now and am getting ready to just make a purchase. I have a 9 year old and 7 year old and am wondering if you could recommend an Arrow guide that would be a good one to begin with. Do you also use the Partnership Writing as well?


    1. I have really loved all of the Arrow Guides. The new site now includes more information about literary content, so you might peek around. I own all of the writing programs and we dabble in and out of them. We have also taken some online classes.

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