Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Author Archives: Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

18 Reasons to Add a Writing Course to Your Education

As a writer, the creator of The Writing Course, and the father of 5 children who write quite well, I can tell you that there are some really good reasons to work on writing. In fact, I can tell you that my own ability to write as been greatly enhance by courses and books.

And too…nothing quite helps like writing itself. Here are my 18 reasons you (or your kids) should add a writing course to your life-learning:​

  1. If you can write well you are ahead of most of the people you’ll ever meet
  2. The ability to write-on-demand (at will) can catapult a college or business career
  3. Once reluctance to write is gone the skill can be learned…which turns out to be true as a great lesson for many areas in life.
  4. Learning to write well usually means readiness for school and job applications, SAT, essay competitions, college applications, etc.
  5. Once a student knows how to write, conflict leaves in this area so schooling and relationships can get a little better. I’d say it this way, “A child feels closer to a mother who isn’t seen as the source of his tears.”
  6. Closeness and family friendship increases with the sharing of written stories
  7. People often can share more honest, and intimate, thoughts in writing than in person
  8. Writing is rightly known as thinking on paper…learning the skill of writing is also training in the skill of clear thought
  9. Writing well tends to improve the ability to read well
  10. Entire career choices (and college majors) can be considered as legitimate options by the one who can write effectively and easily
  11. The skill of writing is actually essential to learning most subjects
  12. Overcoming the fear of writing translates into how to overcome almost any fear
  13. If you think about it, every year thousands of students flunk out of (or quit) school because of the lack of writing skill alone. In other words, if they could write well, they’d still be in school…
  14. Winning your appeal of grades, insurance claims, tax issues, legal matters, etc., are very often dependent on the ability to write clearly and effectively
  15. Writing for oneself (journaling-type activities) have been proved to be incredibly helpful in personal growth…which is what learning by writing is all about
  16. The pen IS mightier than the sword…more power and more protection than learning a martial art
  17. Writing is a great way to ‘good company’ when you are alone
  18. Writers can impact the world by daring to write

Finally, practicing writing is the key. Of course, FEAR is the biggest reason we don’t write (or practice). The Writing Course is a powerful study and how we conquered fear as a family in this area…including such things as others’ opinions, grammar, spelling, punctuation, how to get ideas, and how to guarantee interestingness, etc.

​Check it out and tell me what you think.

Off to learn,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Click to Learn About the Writing Course

The Lazy Man’s Rules of Capitalization

lazy hammock hill OK I admit it, I’m lazy.

I don’t get using 5 steps when 2 will get me the result I want. I want every system I touch to produce a perfect result, have just one step, and make sure that step doesn’t involve me! Of course, lazy can mean creative and smart too. For example, I always take my keys out of the car when I am stopped at a gas station. I only need the car stolen one time in my life for it to mean a lot more work for me. A lazy person wouldn’t dare leave keys in the car 😉

But, it’s the same with capitalization rules (and comma rules…like 31 or more they tell me!). We suffer from OVERCOMPLEXIFICATION. We are making things just too hard because we are not bringing things down to their simple components. As Einstein is referenced,

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Of course, if it is simpler than possible, then it’s just wrong. Nonetheless, capitalization rules can run the same path. For example Your Dictionary gives a good list of the rules (http://grammar.yourdictionary.com/capitalization/10-rules-of-capitalization.html):

1. Names of people

2. Names of mountains, mountain ranges, hills, and volcanoes

3. Names of bodies of water (rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, streams, and creeks)

4. Names of buildings, monuments, bridges and tunnels

5. Street names

6. Schools, colleges, and universities

7. Political divisions (continents, regions, countries, states, counties, cities, and towns)

8. Titles of books, movies, magazines, newspapers, articles, songs, plays, and works of art

9. The first letter in a sentence

10. The pronoun I

However, it frankly adds a burden to the mind to list this tedium, especially if it simply isn’t necessary. Here are the basic rules I offer young children. Don’t these cover almost every situation?:

1– Use a capitalized word at the beginning of every sentence (notice, they are mostly after a period).

2– Use a capitalized word for every proper noun (something that has a special name… Fred vs. a man…Prius vs. car…Mt. Everest vs. the mountain).

3– Use a capitalized word when using the personal pronoun “I” for oneself.

4– [Optional] Use a capitalized word stylistically for emphasis (when you want to bring attention to something in a special way). “Mom, please get me a Big Bag of potato chips.” [this could also be BIG BAG…]. Or, my use of OVERCOMPLEXIFICATION above.

Well, that’s it. No need to teach mountains, rivers, streets, or days of the week…all those are ‘proper/special’ nouns (names). Students don’t need much more for the sake of good writing.

Don’t overcomplexificate!

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
Get the Writing Course

Writing: The Secret Way to Calm Your Argumentative Kid

Everyone likes to argue, especially when they get to be about 12 years old.

“No, Dr. Lybrand, I have a quiet 12-year-old.” Well, maybe you have the exception, but something is wrong. Quiet people just argue in their heads, while other-than-quiet-people argue out in the ether.

Plain Fact #1

Arguing is thinking. It is natural for humans to think, and debating an issue or question through is a keen way to think. You really don’t want to crush the talent for thinking in anyone…especially because learning how to think means they’ll have very little competition at work someday 😉

Plain Fact #2

Arguing is a developmental stage for humans which matches the design of the brain. In classical educational understanding (Trivium), the game works roughly like this—

1. Grammar/Data Stage (ages 1-10)
2. Logic/Thinking Stage (ages 11 -15)
3. Rhetoric/Communication Stage (ages 16-21)

It works out that every subject you learn in life follows this form. You must understand the parts (Data), then understand how the parts fit together (Logic), before you can then use your understanding with others (Rhetoric/Communication).

So, having a child who likes to argue (or an employee who does the same) isn’t bad, but it needs some direction. This energy easily moves into writing, because WRITING IS THINKING. Here’s the simple thing you can do when a child gets animated about a subject or issue [our kids often preceded their argument with “They’re idiots…” We never consistently conquered this ungracious expression of frustration ;-( ].

Here’s what I recommend when you get your child to write about the issue that is frustrating them (the issue they are trying to think through):

1. Ask them to answer this question, “Why are you so sure that _________?

Asking for them to explain why they are sure means they’ll need to generate evidence (proof in data or proof in logic, or both). When we express the basis of our conviction in terms of evidence, we often see the flaws ourselves. It is SO FUN to watch a child figure out their own bad thinking!

2. Ask them to explain exactly why the other side thinks the way they do.

Frankly, if you can’t argue both sides, then you don’t understand the issue. This is, in part, what the court system was intended to do…give the best argument both ways for a judge/jury to impartially decide (comment: sadly in court, ‘winning’ became more important than ‘truth’).

So, have your debater write using these two essentials. Even better, have the paper read and discussed together at supper or over ice cream. Everyone will benefit! Also, as a final thought, when your child is arguing with you about what he/she does/doesn’t want to do, these points will work well for you. Just ask (for example):

1. Why are you so sure that I’m wrong to (require you to clean your room before you go out)?
2. What are the reasons you think (I want you to clean your room before you go out)?

It’s not a cure-all, but it will be a big deal as they grow that you direct their unction for arguing! Also, you’ll at least help them become a GOOD lawyer!

Off to learn,


Fred Ray Lybrand
The Writing Course Works



How About Waiting for Essay Writing Until Around 14 Years Old?

I get this question a lot about our Essay Course: When should they start?

Well, it really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to rush ahead and demonstrate how great you are doing in schooling your child…or…you want to rush ahead and show how naturally gifted your child is, then I’d start in about 3rd grade!

However, there is another way to think about it. Why not grow a child who has two attributes in life (?):

1. Skills

2. Confidence

It is really tough to get a child to be confident at something before he/she is ready. Just imagine insisting that a child should be able to dunk a basketball before puberty. No matter the effort, the ability ‘ain’t there’ to really compete at that level.

Well, essay writing is much the same. THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS, but basically most kids don’t have a fully developed cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is kind of necessary for more abstract thought. Frankly, Einstein figured out his basic theories at around age 16. Could he have pulled it off at 14? I’m guessing, “NO.” It’s just necessary to have the brain to do certain kinds of brain-work.

So, what about essay writing? Well, most kids aren’t ready to write formal 5-paragraph essays when they are 11, 12, and even, 13 years old. So, if you try to ‘make’ them write formal essays when their brain isn’t ready, what chance do they have of BUILDING CONFIDENCE? I say, “None, zero, zippo.”

Why not wait for The Essay Course (with The Writing Course www.advanced-writing-resources.com ) until they are more ‘ready’ for it?

Instead, try this—

Start writing informal opinion papers. Have them write a paper on WHAT and WHY?

What – Do you believe about _________?
Why – Do you believe it?

Don’t worry about the exact 5-paragraph form, topic sentences, perfect review of the points…blah, blah, blah.

Just get them growing in their confidence! Your young child is probably not going to be a great essayist just yet (defending their opinion on profound matters). Why not just get them ready until the brain kicks in? If you’ll wait a bit, then they will be ready to write essays and excel in the process. Start too soon, take your chances.

You’ll be happier, they’ll be happier, and in some indirect cosmic sense, I’ll be happier too! 🙂

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Your Copy of the Writing Course is waiting!


The 6 Rules of Writing Practice (+ The Ugly Truth)

One of the big challenges I face in teaching kids to write is getting mom and dad to chill out about writing well. Most of us lock up when too much is on the line! The Ugly Truth is that no one can learn much of anything without practice (especially writing)…AND…when there is too much of an emphasis on writing well during practice, then almost no learning can ever helpfully happen.

Writing needs practice in order for a student to tap into her own language instinct talent. My suggestion for homeschoolers (and others) is to allow your child a day of writing WITHOUT ANY CORRECTIONS by following Natalie Goldberg’s Rules—


The Six Basic Rules of Writing Practice


1. Keep your hand moving

Don’t take your fingers from your keyboard or put down your pen because you want to check email, attend to a chore or get something.

Instead, much like during meditation, you must stay present with whatever you are writing.

2. Don’t cross out

If you cross out while you write, you are editing your work. There’s a time for self-censorship and for removing what you didn’t mean; it’s after your writing practice is done.

3. Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar

Natalie adds that writers who use pen and paper should write between the lines and on the margins of their notepads.

Again, there’s a time for proof-reading and it’s not during first drafts.

4. Lose control

The purpose of writing practice is to free yourself, write on “waves of emotion”, and say things you hadn’t thought possible.

This loss of control is difficult to achieve, and I’ve found it only comes deep into a writing practice session.

5. Don’t think. Don’t get logical

Natalie practices Zen (a topic she relates to writing practice in her book), and she cautions against over-thinking the words that appear on the blank page.

6. Go for the jugular

Natalie says writers in the middle of writing practice shouldn’t back down from an idea that’s scary or an idea that makes us feel naked.

We should “dive in” because these ideas have “lots of energy”. In other words, if you feel uncomfortable writing about a topic, you need to write about it.

From: becomeawritertoday.com/writing-practice-can-help/


What a powerful gift if your child begins to practice outside of ‘class time’ because he learned to see the power of learning. Practice is like running everyday, rather than making every run like a race. Daily writing doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be done.

Like running, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Some days you don’t want to run and you resist every step of the three miles, but you do it anyway. You practice whether you want to or not. You don’t wait around for inspiration and a deep desire to run

Hope this helps.

Off to learn,


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

10 Minutes a Day – We Can Teach Your Kid to Write



A Million Reasons It’s Hard to Teach Kids to Write

It’s always nice to find out you are not alone 🙂 I ran across this article recently and felt like I wasn’t alone for a moment. Of course, you are not alone either!

Writing requires a million different skills all at once

We underestimate or are unaware of the mental demands that writing places on young learners. In my first grade class I had six-year-olds for whom writing required them to think about a million different things all at once. Imagine your teacher tells you to write a story about your trip to the park. That’s a piece of cake, right? Wrong! We Teach Children to Hate Writing | Barbershop Books

It is exactly this very problem that hurts all kids in writing…but especially those with learning disabilities (LD). If we can get the million things out of a child’s head by encouraging her to write

[Next Get Help] [Next Make it Great]

she tends to change dramatically.

Off to learn,

Fred Ray Lybrand
Check Out the Writing Course





How to Grow a Good Reader in 7 Steps

How Do You Grow A Good Reader?

As one who spends lots of my time promoting writing (see The Writing Course), you might wonder about the connection. Well, there isn’t much of a mystery; the more we read, the more possibilities flow toward our writing! I realize that there are plenty of readers who never write, but it is rare to find a writer who never reads.

Really, it’s all about learning to love words and ideas, and how these two transform thoughts, touch emotions, and tutor actions. Reading is awesome, true?

So, if your kids are reluctant readers, here’s what I’d suggest:

  1. Make sure they can read

*Review or Retake a good phonics course. No time to explain it here, but this is often the issue. For a variety of reasons some kids just don’t quickly crack the code on reading. Phonics is the code.

*At least for a few weeks, have your child read out loud for 10 minutes a day and then explain or recount what they just read. This exercise alone will show you what’s up with your reader, AND LIKELY it will connect the reading brain to your child’s soul.

*Read interesting books to your children and stop every 10 to 15 minutes to have them explain what you read (see above). Getting fascinated with good books often starts here.

*Get them tested. I’m not really that big on testing, but there are times you might need a baseline to measure improvement and target weaknesses.

  1. Make sure (for a while) that every other book they read is fun enough to read

This will not be your ‘always’ pattern, but early on in independent reading it is vital that children enjoy WHAT they are reading in order to enjoy THE ACT of reading. Usually books don’t start out interesting or ‘fun’ because it takes a bit to ‘get into’ the book. Once a child is a reader, almost every book will be interesting enough to read.

Though there are different interests, there is a bit of wisdom in public/historical opinion. The books that have been tried-and-true are the ones we often call classics. Have your child read those especially.

Every now and again I’d go to the bookstore and let every child pick out a book for themselves to own for their own library (there was a price limit!). They loved this and learned to look for books they REALLY WANTED to read. If that’s too costly just now, go to the library and borrow a book they pick out because it sounds fun or interesting.

  1. Read yourself

‘Do as I say and not as I do’ just simply won’t work. Find something you’d enjoy and read it alongside the kids (or some other way which is noticeable).

  1. Set both a time and page number limit for ‘school’ reading

Most of you won’t do this, but I honestly don’t know of anything that improves skill and confidence in reading like this approach.

Here’s Why: A large part of the problem children have in reading is that they simply aren’t reading fast enough with the focus real reading requires. They read a word or two and look around…then they read another word or two and look at the clock…all the while thinking the book is boring. The cure is FOCUS…and…the major cause of focus is LIMITS.

Here’s What: Create the number of pages AND a time limit for what the child will read for school. Obviously this is easier for homeschoolers, but everyone can set up a 30 minute reading session. Our kids had two 1 hour reading sessions a day for school, but that was us.

So, it sounds like this, “Laura Anne, you need to read to page 75 in the next 30 minutes. If you finish early, then you can do what you want with that time. If you aren’t finished, then you’ll have to keep reading until you are finished.”

Having a reading goal of the number of pages AND the time limit generates motivation and focus. It also gets the child ‘into’ the book. Haven’t you looked at your watch and also noticed that you could end a chapter in a few more pages? Did you then focus and read to get to that stopping place?

Here’s How: You simply need to calculate the reading speed of your child for that book. Often you’ll adjust as you see what they can do, but close enough is close enough.

A. Have your child read for one minute and mark how far he made it.

B. Count the words in the first three lines of a page in the book and divide by three (this gives you the average number of words per line).

C. Multiply the number of lines your child reads in 1 minute by the average number of words in a line (#2 above). This is how many words your child can read in a minute in that book.

D. Finally, count the number of lines on an average page and multiply by the number of words in a line (#2 above). Now you know the Words Per Page and how many words your child can read in a minute…which should give you a good idea of how far she can read in 30 minutes.

Here’s an Easier Way: Guess

See how far your student reads in a minute and guess how far 30x would take them in the book, then use that stopping point (page number).

  1. Keep a chart.

Have your child keep a simple chart of # of pages and how much time it took. Frankly, if you do nothing but this chart you’ll see reading improve, especially if you put the chart on the refrigerator.

  1. Have them tell you about what they read sometime later in the day (supper works well)

The feedback loop of conversationally sharing crystallizes one’s understanding of what is read. It’s kind of like the old adage, “To really learn a subject, teach it.”

7. Get them writing!

There is a strange power that takes over when we write. Suddenly we start looking at books differently. We see why somethings work and why others things do not. We even begin to say, “I would have written the story this way instead.” Writing has a way of calling us to be good readers. Honestly, just a little writing every day can change your student’s life forever.


Now, if you find a better path, then go for it. Honestly, we know this worked with our 5 children, who are all continuous readers as adults.

I’d love your thoughts (below),



Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand
We Cure Reluctant Writers



The 5 Steps to Great Book Reports

After being challenged on it, I sat down and made up this process for a book report. I wish I had put this together for my kids, but basically we did something similar as we homeschooled.

1. Keep the goal in mind: You want the child intelligently interacting with the book. It really isn’t a synopsis, as most seem to be. Instead, it is a summary with analysis / evaluation.

girl thinking with pencil

2. Try this simple process:

FIRST: Have your student make a written list of “6 Things I Liked About the Book” & “6 Things I Did Not Like About the Book.” [This is THE MOST IMPORTANT step]

SECOND: Use this ‘form’ to sketch out an outline (just use bullet points)

a. Open with “___________ (book title and author) is a ___________(summary adjective: good, bad, well-written, fantastic, engaging, awful, etc.) __________ (category like adventure, science fiction, historical novel, etc.) that is about ______________________ (summary basics).

Example: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum is a delightful children’s fantasy novel that is about a girl who makes her way through the strange world of Oz to finally arrive back home in the loving world of her Kansas family and friends.

b. Give a short (few sentences) summary of the story. This can be done many ways, but the idea is to give someone who hasn’t read the book the basics

c. What I liked about the book and why (2 or 3 is fine).

d. What I didn’t like about the book and why (2 or 3 is fine).

e. Conclusion- Usually this will be a recommendation or warning about reading the book.

THIRD: Write it!

FOURTH: Get Help (somebody reads it and offers corrections / ideas)

FIFTH: Make it GREAT by re-writing the whole thing with the improvements from the 4th Step included.

ADDENDUM: Younger children could go through the steps above as a list to write, or as an oral exercise with mom or dad.


I know there are other approaches…use what works as long as it is helping your child really learn to

1) Think


2) Write 🙂

Hope this helps,

© 2015 Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Does Learning Have to be Fun to be Successful?

Does Learning Have to be Fun to be Successful?
So, clearly fun in-and-of-itself is not the aim of education in most of our minds. And yet, if we can make it fun, good. The problem (in my own way of thinking) is that FUN as too high of a priority works like salt water…it seems to make sense to quench your thirst when lost at sea, but it will eventually kill you.
AMUSEMENT originated with A + MUSE, or NOT + THINK. Good students eventually learn that hard work and study and enduring frustration is worthwhile (though it often isn’t fun).
I think the question of fun likely needs to be re-framed to a discussion about FEELING GOOD. The points people make about kids ‘hating’ math are right. If you learn to hate a subject you just won’t learn it.
Our homeschooling goal in this area was to get the kids to FEEL GOOD about learning in the LONG TERM. The way feeling good comes about is by mastery and benefit. Frankly, I don’t find reading to be a good feeling, but I do find reading a good book to feel good. There are so many different reasons why someone might feel good about something; fun is only one of them.
Even The Blues has this aspect… It’s about feeling good about feeling bad  
“When the only tool you have is a hammer, then you’ll tend to treat every problem as a nail”
If fun is your only (or primary) tool or aim in education, there won’t be much of a way to overcome the ‘It’s not fun’ issue when the kids are older. For me in my own trek through academia, I’d say lots of it wasn’t fun, but it certainly was worth it.
Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand