Another Writer Praises The Writer’s Jungle
I just had to share with you this vision I had not too long ago. It began when I could not find a writing curriculum for my intermediate-grade daughters that satisfied me. Everything I looked at either looked dry as dust or else was very intense or else looked overwhelming to use. I found several methods and curriculums that excited me, but none of them put me at ease deep down. I agonized for nearly three years, which is truly pathetic, because, you see, I am like you in that I am a writing teacher, homeschooling mother, and writer (when I can fit it in these days). I am trained to teaching writing and literature to secondary students, and so I’ve felt all this time like something was wrong with me.
It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out how to teach elementary students how to write! But, you see, it is a very difficult decision, because it seems like there are a hundred different ways to tame the writing monster; plus, I don’t know much about elementary-level learning (at least I didn’t when I started–I’ve learned a lot since then). I could see the value in all of them, and they also all disagreed with each other in some way philosophically. On top of that, I could sense that all of them lacked Something. I didn’t know what. Needless to say, I’ve been basically paralyzed, and thus, for the past three years, I’ve pretended to teach my kids writing. We’ve done a little of this, a smattering of that, but all in all relatively little has been accomplished. Now I am so glad I waited, so that I didn’t ruin them. It isn’t too late! Oh, sorry, I digress…
Anyway, then my vision came to me, when I started to look for a program on creative writing. I couldn’t find any that took the kids out of a workbook or canned exercises, which I detest. What I wanted, I realized, was a creative writing curriculum that taught kids to write like a writer does–like I do when I sit down to create a new story. I don’t use a workbook or textbook. I use a writing notebook and my computer with some good books by real writers for support (I, too, like Writing Down the Bones!). I brainstorm notes and start to imagine characters. I start to write and wonder where it’s going to take me. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to write until I actually write it. In short, I would put all workbook curriculums to shame, because the way I create cannot be confined to a workbook or to “step-by-step” lessons.
Since I know that this is how many writers incubate their work, I knew I wasn’t crazy. So, I thought, “Well, I’m going to create my own creative writing program for my kids, and then I’m going to sell it to other moms, so that they can teach THEIR kids how to write like a writer, too. It will make the writing experience much more authentic and meaningful for kids than following those canned curricula will.” After that, I began playing with the idea in the back of my mind, waiting for a chance to really think it through and plan how I would do it. In the meantime, I kept looking for a writing curriculum for “non-creative writing”–you know, the kind you have to learn in school so that you can succeed in college. As if it is a wholly different process somehow from creative writing. As if it isn’t even creative. Can you see how confused I’ve been, how brainwashed I was by my own education?
I already knew about Brave Writer, but I had not bought the program because something on the website deterred me–I’m not exactly sure what, now. Finally, I was desperate. I had looked at everything. I had found a program I thought was “it,” so I bought that. Then I found another program that seemed to be more “it,” so I bought that. Then I found ANOTHER program I thought was even MORE “it,” so I bought that. And something inside of me was still desperate, so I decided to look at Brave Writer for real and found a used copy of The Writer’s Jungle to purchase.
YEAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!! You canNOT imagine my relief. I had only gotten through the first chapter before I realized that you just saved me MONTHS of work in creating my own program–and you did it a hundred times better than I could. This is just what I have been looking for! I was so excited about the first chapter that I read the entire book (1st edition) in just a few days. I just finished it last night (in the bathtub!) and shut it with an even bigger sigh of relief. I have a couple of my own ideas here and there, but you have written it in such a way that I can bring in my own ideas without doing injustice to the big picture of the program.
I do Latin-classical education with my kids, and so eventually I may do the progymnasmata (the classical model of writing instruction) with my kids–but now, after reading your program, I feel at ease to wait until high school. But who knows–maybe I’ll buy your high school program and use it instead. For now, I am simply basking in the fact that I don’t have to look anymore. Besides, I didn’t really want to write my own program. I want to write novels and articles and other things like that. So, thank you for writing this program. I will tell everyone I can about it. How strange it is that we think we must learn everything from educators before we launch into the world. It does make so much more sense to learn a subject by a professional in that subject–art from artists, history from historians, and–wonder of wonders–writing from writers.
Cheri Blomquist, your new fan
Thanks so much Cheri for sending your enthusiasm to all of our Brave Writer moms! The Writer’s Jungle is a great summer read as you take it one chapter at a time and slowly absorb the philosophy in preparation for fall. We still offer the special price package for a complete year of the Boomerang and Arrow (our language arts subscription programs) with the WJ if you’d like a jump on next year.
I have to echo Cheri’s thoughts. I too have the background in writing and teaching writing, and I had planned on writing something too. There just isn’t anything else like this out there!
I’ve devoured my Writer’s Jungle and have finally started structuring some lessons for my kids, who just turned 7 and 9. I’m glad I waited until I found something that felt right, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to write a program myself.
That mission has weighed on me, and I’m glad that I am out from under it. Your knowledge of teaching kids to write far surpasses my own. I have passed Brave Writer info along to all the families I work with, you’re getting a fan base here in Greensboro, NC Julie!