Email: A slew of questions I thought you’d

all like answers to. 🙂 (It’s long so take your time. Read a question and answer, then go mow your lawn. Then come back for another. Also recommended: glass of sangria to get through it all! :))

I have been torn between two writing curriculum for my 5th grade avid writer next year, I.E.W. and Classical Writing. I have been leaning toward I.E.W. or Susan Wise Bauer’s new writing curriculum for my 3rd grader.

Now, I found out about Brave Writer and have THREE choices! Oh no, two was anxiety producing enough. I am attracted to your curriculum because you are interested in producing writers, not on producing a piece of writing to fulfill a required need in the curriculum that year, be it a book report or a personal narrative. My 5th grade daughter dreams of becoming an author, so writing curriculums mean a great deal to me. I thank you in advance for answering my questions. This year she did a co-op which didn’t use a specific curriculum, and a sundry of little assignments from mom.

Hi Melissa!

Welcome to Brave Writer. Things are a little upside down here in our neck of the homeschool curricula world. We approach writing (as you rightly noted!) through the lens of personhood: writer. We start with kids and their quirky, lovable, infectious, sometimes grating, undeveloped and truncated voices. We get as much of who they are to paper and then toy with all those words until the shape up, sparkle and entertain. That means that what we offer is unlike anything else you’ll find in the homeschool writing instruction world. I’m happy to answer your questions and do so here to help others who ask the same ones. This got very long! But you know? Sometimes long is better than short so here goes.

Question #1:
Would you recommend The Writer’s Jungle AND the online classes, or would that be redundant?

The Writer’s Jungle is designed to support you (the homeshcooling parent) in becoming the most effective writing partner and ally your children can have for the length of their educations. It covers similar material to the Kidswrite Basic course (the first half of the WJ is duplicated in KWB). However, the KWB course offers you supportive feedback, deadlines for assignments and dialog to help you with your specific children as they embark on the writing process. Many moms have purchased the WJ and worked independently of Kidswrite Basic. However, there are probably just as many who have done both! And it is also possible to take the online course and not purchase the WJ.

I usually make the following suggestion. If you can get into an online course, do it! They make the most impact on your homeschool. You will discover that you can get your questions answered instantly, you will observe other families and children writers who will help you get an accurate idea of how your family is doing and you’ll receive the energy, enthusiasm and expertise of a trained Brave Writer instructor to establish you as an equally capable writing coach for your kids. The feedback from families who’ve taken the courses nearly always includes comments like, “Now that I’ve taken your course, I get it!” and “It took being in your class for me to finally put the Brave Writer philosophy into practice.”

If you are the kind of mother who enjoys working at your own pace, who likes to hold a manual in her hands, who wants more information than just the online class content (the WJ includes additional information on writer’s voice, report writing, setting up a tailor-made language arts and writing program for each child, the natural developmental phases of writing, journaling, literary elements, how to indentify and transform dumb writing assignments, and more not found in the online course), then purchase The Writer’s Jungle.

Many moms like starting with The Writer’s Jungle so that they can adopt the philosophy, can try a few things on their own and then they join a class. So there is no right way to do this. Whatever hooks your jaw – do that! The other stuff will still be here.

Both are effective in getting you on an entirely different path toward writing than the usual homeschool writing materials on the market.

I know your website says other writing curriculum bog you down in topic sentences, paragraph development, etc.. However, how do children learn these important elements of expository writing? Is this well described in The Writer’s Jungle, in a step-by-step fashion? Also, does your course teach how to outline and take notes?

I have lots (and I do mean lots) of thoughts about expository writing. First and foremost: If your child has not become comfortable with self-expression, word play, insight generation, thoughtful analysis, his or her own voice, or the basic mechanics of writing, expository writing will be an exquisite torture ranking up there with pureed spinach and vinegar for dinner.

Topic sentences, paragraph development, structure: all of this finds its place most easily when a child has become immersed in reading, has over time developed an internal intuitive sense of what makes a paragraph compelling to read, and has become a thinker who develops a line of reasoning through discussion and freewriting rather than through obeying the strictures of a model for writing that chokes the life out of any original thought!

For the record, I am a huge fan of expository writing. It’s my favorite kind to teach and to practice. And I’m damned good at it. Our high school manual focuses on the necessary formats that enable kids to translate their more freewheeling younger years’ writing into the streamlined, well-argued demands of the essay. So we get there. But we avoid that kind of rigidity while your kids are toddling through freewriting, story telling, journaling, comic strips, dialog and descriptions. Format writing is best saved for high school.

When are sign-ups for your fall on-line classes?

We have online registration at the end of July/beginning of August. I’m again attempting to work on the website this summer (redesign) and so that will impact the date of registration. We do have Summer Courses open for registration right now and we will have our usual full slate of fall classes up for perusal in July. Start dates for classes: mid August. Registration for fall is always insane (read: competitive) so pay attention to when the registration date is released so you can be ready to enroll right away. Sign up on the home page of the website for our email newsletter that gives you breaking registration news.

Is the Arrow a FULL language arts curriculum which will address subject/verb agreement, adj., adv., prepostions, etc., etc.? Or, should we supplement this with a more structured LA program?

Another very tricky question. 🙂 The Arrow is designed to help moms execute their best intentions related to copywork and dictation. I provide a novel per month and include four passages from that novel for copywork and/or dictation with notes about why I chose the passage, what to note in it (interesting grammatical content, spelling, literary elements) and how to teach it (that’s where you’ll find information such as how the grammar or mechanics work). The Arrow also includes a featured literary element every month with examples taken from literature and a writing exercise related to that element.

I do not take a systematic approach to grammar in the Arrow or Boomerang. We explore it within its context of real writing. I do recommend hitting grammar three times in your child’s life: one year in elementary school, once in junior high and one more time in high school (though a foreign language is just as effective at that point). You can use just about any grammar program. Just be sure your children don’t hate it.

You should know (full disclosure) that my older kids (21, 18 and 16) believe that the programs they used taught them nothing (I may disagree, but this is their subjective experience and they are in college and high school now). We used Winston Grammar and Winston Grammar Advanced. They credit reading, dictation, Shakespeare camp, foreign language and personal interest in linguistics with their grammar skills today. They’re all beasts at it now. Very good writers.

New books lists for the Arrow and the Boomerang will be posted by the end of June.

If I purchase The Writer’s Jungle, does this then teach me how to teach to various age levels? I have a 5th and 3rd grader. My 5th grader is obsessed with writing stories, but also needs help in writing various genres, especially report writing. My 3rd grader has written summaries all year, but we’re still tackling run-ons. He doesn’t really appreciate the overly creative projects; he enjoyed doing an I.E.W. sample exercise I picked up at a homeschool conference.

Great question! The Writer’s Jungle doesn’t give you assignments like these. It gives you the tools to dredge words from the guts of your children. Then it shows you how to upgrade that content of messy wordage spilled all over paper into a cogent little piece of writing that is a bit more quirky and sophisticated than when you started. You discover how to revise (in the real sense, not in the copy editing sense) with your kids so that they aren’t cringing while you give feedback, but are instead exercising their own judgment as authors who care about expanding and enhancing their work. In other words, revision is a process woefully under-taught in most writing curricula, yet is the critical piece to becoming an accomplished writer.

As a result, the WJ works for every level of writing (including adults!). Pros use the same methods as kids. The trick is to understand that process from the inside out – how it feels, how it looks, how to expand and enhance it. That’s what Brave Writer is all about!

Your website mentions lesson plans in The Writer’s Jungle. Could you elaborate on this? Are they daily lessons plans, and if so how would you tailor them to different ability levels?

Nope! No daily lessons. The Writer’s Jungle helps you to create writing assignments that suit both the temperament and skill levels of your kids as well as accommodate their interests and studies.

Any extra words of wisdom I’d appreciate…I’m all ears. And, thank you, thank you, thank you for your time! I thank God for talented homeschool moms such as yourself.

Thanks Melissa! Great questions and hopefully, these answers give you what you need. Any follow up questions (from anyone) welcome in the comments section.


3 Responses to “Email: A slew of questions I thought you’d”

  1. Diane says:


    I and a couple seasoned mothers have a speech/debate group that we organize every year. Yesterday we had our first meeting for the coming fall. One of the questions we had to deal with was “Should we teach our children how to write?” My response was no. For me, speech is “tell me what you know”. With my students, I put alot of emphasis on fun ways to observe and use words according to Bravewriter, eventually we put something on paper, cut it up and organize. People’s perception of teach me writing is a “writing curriculum”, IEW is usually the preference.

    Because we have worked with some of these moms and students for years, we’ve noticed that some children are more academically inclined then others and their language skills show it. Some moms want to force their children to look and think like something they were not intended to be. Bravewriter philosophy allows for ALL student’s voices to be heard. Julie you are right on target!

    Thanks for being Brave,

  2. susan says:

    Julie, don’t forget the daily/weekly emails… those would suffice for question #6 concerning lesson plans… at least, that’ how I view them!

  3. Anita says:

    Dear Julie,
    HI, We just worked on our “report cards” for the year.
    We think about how we did in each subject. I ask the children to evaluate themselves.
    My eleven year old said, for the first quarter he got a D in Writing.
    {this is because he would not write} We started KWB in the spring, he gave himself an A for that semester, and told me I hit a GOLD MINE, because I discoverd the class.
    He now loves Writing, I can’t think of a better testament, and thank you with all of my heart for putting these classes and your knowledge out there.
    For all of us who also don’t believe contrived writing assignments, and endless study of grammar, will develope a writer…