The Writer's Jungle
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The Writer’s Jungle
The Writer’s Jungle comes in digital form (download to your computer or iPad or tablet and/or print yourself) and in a binder form (a hard copy). Photos of the product are on our product page (click on the “Buy Now” button).
Targets families with kids between ages of 8-18.
Additionally, families with younger children find The Writer’s Jungle valuable to establish healthy writing practices from the start. Conversely, some families with competent high schoolers may go on to Help for High School without using The Writer’s Jungle first.
Description of The Writer’s Jungle
A Survivor’s Guide to Writing with Kids
12 years and thousands of copies later, The Writer’s Jungle continues to be a hugely popular resource for homeschooling parents. See what our happy Brave Writer parents are saying about The Writer’s Jungle in the side bar.
If you’re impatient to get to some of the manual itself, click on these links for content examples. You can come back when finished to read the fuller description of the rest of the manual.
- The Introduction
- The Table of Contents
- An assignment from Chapter 3: Keen Observation: a Writing Workout
- An assignment from Chapter 4: Freewriting
The Writer’s Jungle is the centerpiece to the Brave Writer lifestyle. In it, homeschooling parents find the insight, support and tools that help them become the most effective writing coaches their children will ever have.
The missing ingredient in writing curricula isn’t how to structure a paragraph (information that can be readily found on the Internet). You don’t need more facts about topic sentences or how to use libraries. Grammar and spelling are not the key components in writing, either, much to the chagrin some English teachers.
Writing is first and foremost about writers—people with ideas, thoughts and insights they want to share. Readers are cultivated by risky writing—writing that hooks, fascinates, speaks, surprises, enlivens, and tells the truth. How do you help your kids reach inside and find those kinds of words? That’s what Brave Writer is all about and that’s what The Writer’s Jungle is designed to do.
The Writer’s Jungle comes in a sleek three-ring binder, includes tab dividers for the 20 chapters and margin space for your copious notes.
The Writer’s Jungle in a nutshell
The Writer’s Jungle is much more than daily lesson plans or writing ideas. It takes you inside the writer’s world. The first nine chapters explain the necessary steps to brave writing, such as, how to read quality literature and discover the principles that make it work, what writer’s voice is and how to cultivate your child’s writing voice, freewriting and the power of unlocking a child’s mind life, your role in the revision and editing process, what to do about writer’s block (especially in resistant writers), how to keenly observe not only physical detail but ideas as well, and more.
It will help you become effective in determining how to use curricula you already own or help you become brave enough to create tailor-made writing projects for your children that go with your studies. Other chapters include how to identify dumb writing assignments and what to do about them, discerning the natural stages of growth in your young writer and creating writing projects suited to that stage of development, playing word games, sample yearly schedules for each stage of development and journal writing.
When I speak, I usually start by asking the audience how many writing manuals they already own. The most on record is eleven. Many own more than five. The reason homeschoolers keep searching for a new program is that most mothers don’t understand writing itself! Learning how to construct a descriptive paragraph or write a business letter is not the same thing as understanding the process of up-chucking words from your guts onto paper—which is what writing is and should be.
When we reduce writing to forms and formats, workbooks and formulas, we rob it of its essence—the expression of a person in written form. Instead, we settle for words that fit style and structure sheets, editing guides and exercise goals. At that point, writing becomes a game to play (trying to meet the expectations of the guidelines rather than investigating one’s inner life). Powerful writing means translating the internal thought life of a real person into written language that sounds like that person. Certainly there are skills to be learned along the way to support the communication value of that expression, but without the fundamental understanding of writing as an art, as a living, personalized, expression of each child, we risk robbing our kids of the joy and freedom that ought to be a part of every writer’s life.
By taking the time to learn about the nature of writing together with your child, you ensure yourself years of successful writing projects that will free you to leave behind the “hunt for the perfect curriculum” syndrome. What makes Brave Writer truly unique, is that we offer free online support through email correspondence, the Brave Writer blog and on the public forums for those who purchase the course and need help along the way.
So what’s in it? (A chapter by chapter description)
Most homeschoolers already have shelves of writing curricula. What they don’t have is a cheat sheet for themselves that trains them how to teach this beast called writing. Curricula can devote dozens of pages to the writing forms and how to construct narrative essays, but if a mother can’t get her child to move the pencil across the page, all that information will be useless!
This home study course follows the process I teach in the Kidswrite Basic Online Course with nine more chapters that investigate the nitty gritty of writing with kids. The Writer’s Jungle aims to develop brave writers–kids who aren’t intimidated by the blank page and brave mothers–moms who feel that they have what it takes to teach writing. The Writer’s Jungle takes mothers through a step-by-step investigation of the writing process using exercises and writing assignments. First, the chapter teaches a writing principle to the homeschooling parent and then the parent, in turn, teaches the principle to her children using games and exercises. These exercises build on each other until the student completes a satisfying writing project. Once mom and child have walked through the process together, this approach to writing will be used for any writing project they choose.
For instance, the first chapter focuses on language arts practices that create a language rich environment in your home. The processes of copywork and dictation are laid out in detail including new tactics for dictation not seen elsewhere (what we call French dictation and Reverse dictation). Additionally, The Writer’s Jungle explores literary elements that are readily found in quality literature but are often overlooked by parents who are not used to noticing them and pointing them out to their children.
The second chapter begins with the principles of communication. Rather than leading your child directly to the page, we begin with a white board, marker and conversation. Kids discover how important the selection of apt words are to the power of their communication in speaking, let alone in writing.
The third chapter explores the importance of keenly observing the subject or object for writing. Probing questions helps the student explore a concrete object using all five senses, yielding rich language, metaphor and insight that is not as easily discovered through those “descriptive paragraph” assignments. Students are free to directly interact with the object, using spoken language to access their observations before jotting them down.
The fourth chapter introduces a key practice in the Brave Writer lifestyle: freewriting. This is the chapter where parents learn how to set up their children for success in developing their writing voices.
In the fifth chapter, parents are relieved to discover tools to help them help their children overcome writer’s block. It’s not enough to ask them to write or to tell them how. We must also know how to identify and remove the barriers to writing. Chapter five gives parents more than information. It offers practical tips and tools for getting to the heart of the writing anxiety that your child experiences.
Chapter six introduces a method for narrowing the scope of those overwhelming writing assignments that expect kids to “write a paragraph on the Civil War.”
Chapters seven, eight and nine take you step-by step through the revision and editing phases of writing. They help you to know how to identify specific strengths, what to do with weaknesses, and how to create realistic expectations for your child’s writing. The power of delivering the final writing to an audience is also explored.
In addition to all of this practical help which includes both supportive, entertaining writing directed to you, the homeschooling parent, there are exercises, student samples and teacher feedback included in the manual.
The second half of The Writer’s Jungle is filled with information about writer’s voice, the dreaded elementary school report, journaling, what to do with dumb writing assignments and samples of language arts and writing schedules for all ages.
Probably the most frequently cited chapter as revolutionizing how mothers think about their children’s writing education is chapter fourteen. In it, I detail the natural stages of growth in the life of a writer from pre-writing all the way to adult level competence. This continuum is not a scope and sequence of skills to be mastered, but a guide to determining the level of your child’s fluency in writing at this stage in his or her life. This information will literally transform how you direct your child’s writing life.
Comment on the second edition: In addition to all the great stuff in the original material found in The Writer’s Jungle, the second edition (which came out in 2005) contains a new preface which includes a profile of all the Brave Writer services and how they work together, previously unpublished revision tactics that will make revising a breeze, and a short teaching about the powerful literary element of surprise. I’ve also included two playful writing exercises as well for those days when fresh words won’t come.