Archive for the ‘The Writer’s Jungle’ Category

Email: Reports from the front and a question!


I have been reading the Brave Writer Manual (The Writer’s Jungle) and LOVE IT.  I really like the easy approach you give us to teach our kids.  I’m still waiting for the October book to come into my library to start the Arrow program, so I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

The charter requires everything that the state requires but my rep is also a college Language Arts teacher.  She wants Daniel writing long book reports, essays, and paragraphs when completing school work.  My son, up until Brave Writer “hated” anything that required writing.  He would cringe when constantly reminded that he needed to be able to write an essay for the state tests in April.  Even writing the answers to questions in our history book required my writing the answers he dictated to me and then he would copy them.

Yesterday, we went on a nature walk, in between the rain storms, and collected flowers he wanted to put in a vase and do a writing project on.  We started with using the five senses and listing descriptive words.  When he finished that I asked him to write one sentence (no worries about spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.) and to my surprise he wrote two very good sentences.  He was so proud reading them to us when his dad came home from work.  When he was done, I congratulated him and let him know that he could be done for the day.  To my surprise he asked if he could write more.  Of course I said yes.

Julie, thank you for this great easy to understand writing program.  We are very blessed to have found you.


Thanks Ann! It’s always such good news to know that kids discover the power and pride of selecting words to represent their inner experience. You’re doing a great job!


It’s wonderful to see you up and blogging again. You’re blog has encouraged me greatly these past couple years. I started a blog a couple years ago, because of your encouragement. Writing in it occasionally, my essay like entries reflect upon what I am learning on my journey. Rereading my blog, I notice how much of your philosophy on life (not just writing) has helped me flesh out the things I struggled with through my 19years of home educating. You have also made me realize the importance of example in my life to inspire others. The purpose I have for my blog is to impart to my children as they go through their journey of parenting. Your blog is one of two I come back to, continually. I just want to say thank you for inspiring me to inspire others.  : )

May God shower you with many blessings today!

Wonderful to hear from you Diane. I’m thrilled that my blog has encouraged you, but even more thrilled to know that you are writing your own! That’s what it’s all about.

Hi Julie-

Thanks for sharing at PEACH tonight and for signing your “autograph” on Stefanie’s writing book. 🙂 That will be inspiring for her! I have been using your TWJ (The Writer’s Jungle) electronic since Sept. and we ordered various older electronic Arrows to jive with our TOG readings this year,too.  At any rate, as I told you, it has been going really well. Stef is happier and not as reluctant anymore. She likes the freewriting.   Would you recommend our next step to be just keep doing what we are doing? [buy other Arrows as needed]. I wasn’t sure if doing the Kidswrite Basic would be doing more of the same but with a larger audience and seeing the other kids’ writing with the teacher interaction? Since she is 10, do we just keep going until she gets to middle/high school and use your other essay writing classes, etc? Just wondered your thoughts,


Hi Cindy.

You’re doing all the right things. Glad she is growing and relaxing. Your understanding of KWB is accurate. It’s a great place to get feedback, to see other student writing and to ask your in-depth questions about becoming your daughter’s most effective writing coach and ally. If you want an experience that is similar in terms of level, but that uses the tools of TWJ for a different product, I suggest taking a look at the Just So Stories course. It starts on November 2 and gives your daughter a chance to apply her newly found enthusiasm and skills to a specific writing project. This course is not offered again this year and the instructor is our longest-term writing teacher. In other words, she’s fabulous.

In fact, I hope lots of families sign up for JSS as it will close soon. Your kids get to write stories about animals that make use of Rudyard Kipling’s delightful use of language. You’ll love the process and the results.

One Writing Project Per Month

One writing project per month

Brave Writer philosophy suggests that you only tackle one writing project per month, per kid. That’s right. One a month. I figure you’ll get sidetracked by Thanksgiving or surgery or a ski trip during a couple of those months meaning, you may not complete the project slated for that month. Therefore, if you have ten projects slated and get 6-7 of them through the revision process in a school year, be happy! You’ve done good work!

But wait, how does this work? you ask. I understand. It sounds like so little output. So let me give you some guidelines for why writing less equals more value.

Let’s look at the four week process for writing any piece (paragraph, letter, essay, poem, article, story).

Week One: Saturation

During the first week, you aren’t writing. You’re reading, talking, watching videos, looking stuff up on the Internet. You might also be doing the thing you will write about. If the topic is Native American basket weaving, perhaps you will even try to weave a basket! No writing comes forth without saturation in the topic/subject matter. This is why we always recommend that your kids write about what they know well. They’ll have richer vocabulary and a deeper grasp of the topic. If the topic is new-ish to your student, you need more time to absorb the material before becoming saturated. Might take two weeks or three. Don’t rush it. Writing is the result of an overflow of knowledge about a topic. You can’t read a paragraph about Columbus and then require your child write a paragraph about Columbus. The sane response from a child is: But didn’t we just read about Columbus?

Week Two: Freewriting

The second week is when you put pen to page. This is the time to get words from the guts upchucked onto paper. We do this in any way we can. We use freewriting to help catalyze that process. You can do several freewrites over a period of days. There’s no law in the writing world that says the first draft is the only draft. You can select parts of the topic to write about and do those over two or three days with breaks in between. During the freewriting (or drafting) week, the goal is to get as much raw writing to work with as possible. Think of a specific aspect of the topic (gathering materials for basket weaving) and write about it. Then on another day focus on another aspect (patterns in basket weaving). Break it up! Makes life so much happier.

Week Three: Revision

Revision is not the same thing as editing (when I use the term). Revision is injecting new vision into the raw writing. It’s re-imagining the piece so that it springs to life. During revision, you want to focus on content, not mechanics. That means you’ll read the freewrites and look at places you can narrow the focus and expand the writing. Perhaps your child wrote, “Basket weaving is hard work.” You can look at that sentence and ask for more! What does he mean by “hard work”? Can he describe the process? And so on. You might want to rewrite the opening line (I always recommend that). Make it pop, surprise, sizzle. Draw the reader right in. Revision can take many days or short bursts of energy tackling a little bit at a time. Don’t do it all in one day. Don’t fatigue your young writer. Revise two or three important content related items and leave the rest alone. (Psst. I promise anything you don’t correct in this piece will magically reappear in another for you to address at a later date.)

Week Four: Mechanics Mop-up

Now you edit. Editing is simply cleaning up all the stuff that makes the paper hard to read: misspellings, missing punctuation, grammar errors, typos, indentations. Have your child look over his or her work first. Let the student find as many errors as possible. You only make the additional changes once the child has taken a whack at it. Never complain about something he or she missed. Make a mental note that you need to address the semi-colon in copywork or dictation. Let what they miss be information to guide you in teaching; don’t use it as a way to shame your child. Print and share with readers.

Once you work through this process, you’ll have had a rich experience of how writing is supposed to work. Believe me, doing this 5-6 times in a year is a huge amount of teaching! Far superior to cranking out contrived paragraphs based on tedious writing prompts in a workbook. Give your kids the chance to experience what writers actually do. They saturate and incubate. They mess around with words, getting their ideas onto the page or computer screen however they might. They revise those words once they get a little distance to make them more compelling and interesting. Then they mop up the mistakes and share it with readers! Your kids get to do that too. For more information on how to do this process, see The Writer’s Jungle.

Freewriting Prompts

The Arrow and the Boomerang start August 1

You can sign up any time and unsubscribe any time too. However, if you’re wanting the full year of issues, now’s the time to get that going! The Arrow and the Boomerang are our language arts products designed to make copywork and dictation spring to life. We give you four passages per month from a living book with detailed notes about grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as noting literary style. Read more by clicking on the Arrow and the Boomerang.

We have several options for subscription or year long payment possibilities. You can purchase either of these as part of the Platinum package with The Writer’s Jungle as well.

Email: Fans of The Writer’s Jungle

Hi everyone.

I wrote The Writer’s Jungle in 1999, published it in 2000. Since then, we’ve sold several thousand copies and I revised it once (adding a lengthy preface in 2005 which is what we call the “second edition”). This morning, I received two emails that enthused about the content. I wanted to share those with you.

The Writer’s Jungle is still your best writing resource and will last you the longest time. Save your money. Don’t buy dozens of writing programs. Learn how to be your child’s best writing ally and coach now so that you can support your kids all the way through homeschool and beyond. Enjoy.


I just wanted to drop a note to say, after waiting several years for my kids to be ‘old enough’ and reading your emails and blog for ages, for my birthday this past weekend I received my very own copy of The Writer’s Jungle and I am loving it! Even my husband is enjoying listening to me go on and on about all the cool (sorry, you banned that adjective … how about incredible?) information in it.

It’s such an affirming book. You’re so right, ‘real’ writers don’t do it the way so many textbooks teach, they do it the way you’re describing in your book. It’s a lesson I’ve been trying to learn myself these past four years (since your blog got me hooked on NaNoWriMo, thanks!), and I really enjoy reading a guide that will help me translate this into something I can teach my children. (Who, at 7 and 4, are also hooked on NaNo. LOL.)

My husband is also laughing because he’s never seen me read anything so slowly before (I devour most books), but I keep telling him I can’t read it when the kids are up because I might miss something, and I have to read it slowly because it’s got so many wise bits in it.

Anyway, I’m sure you get lots of raves about the book, but I just wanted to add my Thanks to everyone else’s. I am so excited to get this, this year, because it had been on my curriculum list but our budget ended up taking some hits and I had to take it off. So I am very excited about this birthday gift from my dear dh!

Thank you for being such a patient mentor to so many moms!

(P.S. I did take one of your Writing for Fun adult classes one summer, and also enjoyed that one … still have fun memories of the activities!)

I am reading The Writer’s Jungle now and I am very inspired by your method.  Find myself laughing along the way as the experience and struggles you have seems so similar to mine.  Excellent job and thanks for sharing so many wonderful experiences and “cure” with us homeschoolers.

God bless and shalom,

If you’re trying to think about how to make the most of your writing year, start now, start here. The Writer’s Jungle has been helping moms for nearly ten years now. Use this summer to revamp how you understand writing so that come fall, you’ll be excited and primed for making writing a meaningful and satisfying (even fun!) part of your kids’ lives.


Scheduling The Writer’s Jungle

Scheduling the Writer's Jungle

Some of you wonder how to use The Writer’s Jungle once you’ve got it. You wonder how to make a schedule that will help you execute your intentions yet also allow you to realize that you have in fact covered material that benefits language arts and writing. I’ve given the following advice when emailed or asked these questions.

The Writer’s Jungle is set up so that you can do one chapter per week (particularly the first 9 chapters). The first chapter focuses on language arts. I usually suggest reading the chapter and then actually doing the suggested practices (just one or two to get started).

So often we homeschool parents are in such a hurry to “get through” stuff, we miss the chance to really take our time and learn how to do things, to really enjoy them and make them successful one thing at a time.

From chapters 2-9, you will want to schedule (to your heart’s delight!) a week for each one. You can read the material and then execute the task, exercise, or writing idea that goes with each one. These chapters focus on the writing process and they are the ones you will return to again and again as you repeat writing tasks (like forever…).

The rest of the manual can also be used one chapter at a time. Read it over the weekend, think about how it would be useful to you in the coming week and then *actually do* what it suggests.

  • Word games
  • Poetry
  • Reports
  • Turning an assignment into a high quality writing topic

…these are all worth doing and can be scheduled.

For parents and kids who struggle with writing and the teaching of it, I suggest in the intro to the second edition a practice that has helped lots of Brave Writer parents: the eight-week freewrite.

Here’s how it works

  • You and your kids freewrite once per week (a Friday works well).
  • On the Thursday before that first Friday, have everyone freewrite a list of topics he or she knows really well.
  • Then on the next day and the seven Fridays that follow, select from the list a topic for writing (or use a freewriting prompt from the blog posted every week) or the writer may choose a totally different topic that means something to the writer that day.
  • Set the timer for a length of time that is reasonable (younger kids – 5-6 minutes, older kids 10-15 minutes). When it dings, stop writing.
  • Offer to share your writing (as modeling) and invite the kids to share theirs. *They don’t have to.*
  • When sharing is done (with or without full participation), thank the kids for writing and have each of you (parent included) put the freewrite into a manila envelope.
  • Do this for a total of eight weeks worth of freewrites.
  • On the ninth week, have each writer open the envelope and take out the eight pieces of writing.
  • Ask the writer to select the freewrite he or she would like to work on for the revision stage of writing. That’s the only one that will go through the revision process.
  • You can then spend the next three weeks revising that one piece.

Effectively you could do this process all year and wind up with four or five high quality writing products that have gone through the revision process while having promoted writing every week of the school year.

One more “check list-y” idea

Sometimes the science and math types are used to measuring school in terms of quantifiable work (grammar, pages, spelling tests, paragraphs written, punctuation taught). I like to recommend making a different kind of check list.


  • I had a long conversation today with one child about a topic that really interested her.
  • I laughed at something in a magazine article and shared what I thought was funny and why with my kids.
  • I watched TV with my kids and we talked about what we watched (including new vocabulary, the campy dialog – isn’t it always? – and stereotypes).
  • I complimented one child for a great use of a new word, an insight, his sense of humor or the clarity with which he expressed himself.
  • I let one child teach me how to do something I didn’t know how to do.
  • I read aloud to my children.
  • I read one poem with my kids.
  • I paid one child a quarter for identifying a typo in published material. (We’ve been doing this since my kids were little and my 20 year old still calls me to tell me the typos he finds in books! Still wants the quarters too.)
  • I provided stimulation for new ideas, beauty or experiences (cool new book, artwork, nature…).

Sometimes if we just put the intangibles in a list, we’ll be more likely to execute them and believe we’ve actually done something worthwhile.

Brave Writer Online Classes