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C.S. Lewis Best Writing Advice

His advice? Write by ear not by eye.

My son, Forrest, shot me this quote which affirms what I’ve been teaching for years:

You are too fond of long adverbs like “dignifiedly”, which are not nice to pronounce. I hope, by the way, you always write by ear not by eye. Every sentence shd be tested on the tongue, to make sure that the sound of it has the hardness or softness, the swiftness or languor, which the meaning of it calls for.
 -C.S. Lewis, from his ‘Letters’

I didn’t know Lewis had pointed this out, but having grappled through the decades (especially as an English Literature major), I came to the conclusion before I found the evidence. I think the reason is that

(1) It’s obvious, and 

(2) It’s impossible to find one’s voice with ‘rules’Please, have your kids read their works aloud to you and make corrections based on how they want it to sound when read. I’m not saying speaking is writing, but I am saying language is musical and instinctive. Your child can make a wonderful writing life if you will insist that they follow Lewis’s instruction to WRITE BY EAR.

Our course has helped 1,000s learn this approach if you want to go deeper and save time with your children. Just click below

A Better Writer in 10 Minutes a Day

Learn to play music without learning music theory, but can’t learn to write without learning grammar?

 Learn to play music without learning music theory, but can’t learn to write without learning grammar?

The answer is OF COURSE YOU CAN! Every great writer or musician began loving their art before someone taught them 'the right way' to do it.

You can learn to write and you can help your kids learn to write...without studying grammar. How can that be? It's simple: Like music, grammar is a hardwiring -gift in the brain. You've been duped, tricked, and mislead by the most sincere group of people on the planet 😉

Think about music and the story of great musicians:

  • They start out (often young) having a natural bent to like songs and beats
  • Somewhere along the way they pick up an old instrument and start making it sound new
  • A kind soul encourages them by providing lessons...or...they connect with friends and start teaching each other
  • They log their 10,000 hours and then, BAM!--- they are really really good​

Maybe you've heard it a different way, but it's still the same. They have an aptitude and they start developing it before they are formally trained. But that's not the important part. The important part is that they some how, some way, musicians FALL IN LOVE with music.


Writing is identical because language is also 'hardwired' into our brains. Stephen Pinker does a great job explaining this view in his book, The Language Instinct:​

Dr. Pinker Harvard

“Humans are so innately hardwired for language that they can no more suppress their ability to learn and use language than they can suppress the instinct to pull a hand back from a hot surface.”― Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

We are natural language and music learners. Almost everyone can instantly tell the difference between a melody and noise. And too, we can tell the difference between a sentence that makes sense and gibberish. In fact, we all learn to talk just fine way before taking a communication class.


1. Get your child listening to, and playing, music--- before getting them a curriculum that teaches all the 'rules and theory' of how music really SHOULD be played.

2. Get your child listening to, and writing, books--- before getting them a curriculum that teaches all the 'rules and theory' of how writing really SHOULD sound.​

It's both simple and profound. The more your kids play music and sing, the better they'll get at it. The more your kids read and write, they better they'll get at it.

Grammar and music theory are both useful at some point, but they are not necessary to create great writers or musicians. You want your kids to first fall in love with writing so they can tolerate (and learn from) studying grammar later on!

Here are a couple of resources to help and clarify:

  • The Writing Course - A genuine like-no-other training for the whole family based on the insight that language is an instinct

At the very least, watch how a little writing every day can transform your budding learner. Have them read their writing out loud to you and tell them one thing you liked. Writing + Feedback will win the day because the grammar book is already in their head. They just need a little help learning to read it.

Off to learn,

Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Why I Figured Out a Better Way to Teach Writing


But what I really want to told you is why I am so interested in it. I mean today – I guess I’m a successful author of eight of my books published and many of them done quite well. I’ve got five kids who are homeschooled. Three of them collectively have written eight books – I written and published eight books collectively but the two haven’t written eight books curiously both have their essays used as models for other classes in college. That is today. BUT IT WASN’T ALWAYS LIKE THAT…

If you’re finding what I’m sharing to be helpful won’t you please share at facebook, twitter and other places to let others know? Thank you so much! 

63% of High School Seniors Aren’t College Ready

Only 37 percent of students are prepared for college-level math and reading, according to newly released data.

If you know me, then you know that one of my convictions is that "Simplicity Solves." I could go further and say that Complexity Clogs / Simplicity Solves...which is the best and easiest explanation for what is up with high school students.

The article is from US News and says (among other things) that...

Only about a third of U.S. high school seniors are prepared for college-level coursework in math and reading. And while the performance of the country’s highest achievers is increasing in reading, the lowest-achieving students are performing worse than ever.


Hmm... we know that virtually everyone can learn to ready AND that almost everyone can learn plenty of math. Honestly, there really aren't many 'moving parts' here. We have students and the school and the teaching process.

  • Students
  • School
  • Process (teaching approach)


1. Something is wrong with the students (home-life, culture, disease, diet, etc.)

2. Something is wrong with the school (poor lighting, supplies, distractions, etc.)

3. Something is wrong with the process of teaching

While all of them can be related, what we are looking for is the simplest explanation (this is known as Ockham's Razor...and yes, I have been called "Sir Fredrick of Ockham"). Actually, beyond a simple explanation, we are looking for the one dial we can turn that will change it all (how simple is that?)!

1. The students can be a mess, but it needs to be enough to override the other two elements. Now, since we know many students who live in this culture and come from equally bad homes and eat poorly still do well, we can rule this out as the point of leverage.

2. The school can be a mess and poorly disciplined and underfunded, but for the most part that's not what we see. We also see students who prevail in EVERY school, so this isn't a good candidate either.

3. Process, how we teach, now there IS something! If you teach kids wrong, then they'll all learn wrong. Hey, I know, I'm from Alabama!

Face it, the current process is about ‘knowledge’ (if not trivia). The preparation is for a competency test and it is not skills focused.

It’s another reason Jody and I were attracted to homeschooling. We wanted to focus on developing our kids’ ability to learn how to learn. Specifically, we wanted to give them the following:

  1. The SKILLS of Reading, Writing, and Math
  2. The CHARACTER that is morally sane and impactful in a crazy world
  3. The COMMUNITY of family and relationships (our choice was a good Christian Church in addition to our home.

If they aren’t focused on skills, how will they teach them? No wonder they aren’t ready.

If you homeschool (or other), then PLEASE get your kids effective at Reading, Writing, and Math…that’s the crux of College Readiness!


Dr. Fred Ray Lybrand

Check Out the Writing Course (Click)


The 3 Easiest Ways to Learn Vocabulary


The jury is in…Vocabulary matters. Whether it’s just reading, doing well on the SAT, or advancing one’s career, knowing more words makes a significant difference. The Romans even asserted that words where the way we mentally indexed and ordered our thoughts.

All of this is true, and clearly, reading a lot or memorizing words can help. There are, however, three shortcuts you might find even more helpful and much easier.

1) Learn Latin Roots to Improve Vocabulary

When you learn a single root of a word it can mean basically learning a dozen or more additional words just by association. Con = With/Together… so ‘confidence’ (with faith), ‘conduct’ (draw with / lead with…like conduct electricity), ‘conflict’ (strike together), etc.

So, In = Not…hence, ‘infidel’ (see confidence) means ‘not faith’ or ‘not a believer / faithful’.

2) Learn Synonyms to Improve Vocabulary

Synonyms allow you (or your student) to quickly connect the basic word meanings together in a single moment. In a way, it’s like learning one definitions, but then learning multiple words; that is multiplying your efforts! Here’s what I it looks like—

Ask– — question, inquire of, seek information from, put a question to, demand, request, expect, inquire, query, interrogate, examine, quiz

Awful — dreadful, terrible, abominable, bad, poor, unpleasant

Bad — evil, immoral, wicked, corrupt, sinful, depraved, rotten, contaminated, spoiled, tainted, harmful, injurious, unfavorable, defective, inferior, imperfect, substandard, faulty, improper, inappropriate, unsuitable, disagreeable, unpleasant, cross, nasty, unfriendly, irascible, horrible, atrocious, outrageous, scandalous, infamous, wrong, noxious, sinister, putrid, snide, deplorable, dismal, gross, heinous, nefarious, base, obnoxious, detestable, despicable, contemptible, foul, rank, ghastly, execrable

Beautiful — pretty, lovely, handsome, attractive, gorgeous, dazzling, splendid, magnificent, comely, fair, ravishing, graceful, elegant, fine, exquisite, aesthetic, pleasing, shapely, delicate, stunning, glorious, heavenly, resplendent, radiant, glowing, blooming, sparkling

Begin — start, open, launch, initiate, commence, inaugurate, originate

Big — enormous, huge, immense, gigantic, vast, colossal, gargantuan, large, sizable, grand, great, tall, substantial, mammoth, astronomical, ample, broad, expansive, spacious, stout, tremendous, titanic, mountainous

Brave — courageous, fearless, dauntless, intrepid, plucky, daring, heroic, valorous, audacious, bold, gallant, valiant, doughty, mettlesome

Break — fracture, rupture, shatter, smash, wreck, crash, demolish, atomize

Really that’s all there is to it. Just a few of these a day will multiply exponentially, rather than the slow path of word-by-word labor.

Of course, almost all words only have their ‘real meaning’ in the context in which they are used, so #3 is still the easiest of all.

3) Read to Improve Vocabulary

It almost occurs naturally! Keep reading and checking the words you don’t know…you’ll be smarter in no time!

That’s it, enjoy!

Off to learn,


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 (

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
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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


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