Posts Tagged ‘developing young writers’

Avoiding Tangles and Tears: The Writer’s Jungle is Here to Help

writers jungle

The Writer’s Jungle is designed to teach
the homeschooling parent how to teach writing.

The Writer’s Jungle is the foundation to all things Brave Writer. It’s designed to help you activate your child’s writing voice and to nurture a tear-free relationship between writer and coach (you, the parent). The new preface includes discussion of how the whole Brave Writer Lifestyle works from classes to subscriptions to email lists and public forums. I included a teaching on the most powerful literary element of all (which is a surprise), two revision techniques that I usually reserve for online courses and two of our most popular writing exercises: Jabberwocky and Scrounged Poetry.

The Writer’s Jungle is a one-time purchase that will sustain your family’s language arts and writing program for the entirety of your homeschool career. It covers kindergarten through 12th grade giving you the philosophy and tools to make writing a natural, nurtured experience for your children.

When I first wrote The Writer’s Jungle, I worried that I would not have the close contact with mothers that I felt necessary to help them really change their thinking. Thanks to the blog, email and my public forums, I’m able to make myself available on a daily basis to answer your questions and to help you implement the Brave Writer philosophy. Please take advantage of this offer! I know of no other curricula that gives you access to its creator every day. When you purchase The Writer’s Jungle, you make it possible for me to give my time to the Brave Writer blog and forums that supply ongoing support for your writing and language arts needs. Let me help you.

Here’s what several Brave Writer moms have said about The Writer’s Jungle:

From Joanne:

I cannot begin to tell you what a God-send your book has been for me in helping me teach my 10 yr old. When I read your book, I catch myself laughing because I love how you think, and if I had to write a book on writing, I’d want to do it just like you have done. Sometimes it’s scary how you seem to have gotten in my head!

Thank you for teaching me how to narrow a subject, how to not give stupid advice, how to make the experience rewarding and not about spelling and grammar. I could go on and on. This was the first writing assignment I have done after reading your book, and to me, I couldn’t be happier. 

From Jane:

I would like to take this opportunity of telling you that I think The Writer’s Jungle is one of the best items of curriculum that I have ever bought. I regularly read your blog also and find it very inspiring. You have revolutionised the teaching of writing in the homeschool community and given my own homeschool a new lease of life. I only wish “Brave Writer” had been around when my ds (18) was younger.

From Alana:

The biggest change in our homeschool is in my expectations. It is still amazing to me how easy it was to zoom in and focus on all the mistakes and the bad points of their writing, thereby missing all the quirky, funny thoughts they have that are so full of life.

The change in my daughter was and continues to be tremendous. She has always had a hard time expressing herself; words just do not come easy for her. You can imagine the fear when it came time to express herself on paper. She froze and agonized and I, being the compassionate and tender mother that I am, said, “Oh, stop being so dramatic!”

After reading The Writer’s Jungle, we began freewriting once a week; no pressure, no criticizing. We wrote about silly things and laughed. I praised everything good I could find. What a difference it made. Suddenly I had a confident girl who does have something to say, loves to say it with a quirky sense of humor, and doesn’t fear a blank piece of paper. She chooses to write and I love to listen. We are on a journey and this is only the first year. I am wholeheartedly looking forward to the rest of the trip. Thanks Julie, I hope to be with you for many more years to come. 

The Writer’s Jungle is the one-time writing program purchase that covers kindergarten through 12th grade.

Our online class, The Writer’s Jungle Online, covers the first 9 chapters of The Writer’s Jungle. It is a supported environment for completing those exercises and experiencing models of quality feedback (the type and content) from an instructor.

The Writer's Jungle Online

Avoiding Damage to Young Writers

Avoiding Damage to Young Writers

The premise of Brave Writer is that writing grows naturally in writers as they are allowed to develop a relationship to the page that represents their original thoughts, language, and ideas. This development will be as meandering as the development of speech, but it will show growth and development nonetheless.

What happens when natural development is
controlled through regulated programs, instead?

What happens when a parent believes that a child doesn’t yet have anything valuable to say and will only have something worth writing when he or she is much older and has absorbed the forms and thoughts of classical writers or those who are mature adult authors?

Let’s use the analogy to speech. If we required children to speak correctly, to use proper manners, to form complete sentences, to only speak once they were able to reproduce what they heard adults say, how much joy would that child take in speaking? Speech would become a source of anxiety and potential failure rather than a vehicle for communication.

When teaching writing, we need to be attentive to the messages we send based on the program we use. Imitation of classic writers is a noble goal. I like that Charlotte Mason suggests reading these writers each day, over time, with confidence that children can understand them and learn from them. E. B. White, the great American stylist, says that we would do well to sit in a parlor with the great writers of history in order to learn their syntax and usage, their style and wit. Since they are mostly dead, reading their writing will have to suffice.

Reading great writers is key to growth in writing.

Can we then go the next step and require or suggest imitation? And at what ages?

Avoiding Damage

Brave Writer offers a course called Just So Stories that uses the principles of imitation for the writing product that results. We read four of the stories, examine them for their literary elements and techniques and then each student writes her own “Just So Story” based on the model by Rudyard Kipling. The results are delightful. So I am not at all opposed to imitation per se.

What I want to emphasize, however, is that imitation is most fruitful in a child who has already experienced freedom in writing. It is more difficult to inject voice into a regimen of imitating than it is to inject imitation of specific literary techniques into a well-developed writer’s voice.

Brave Writer starts with the child and what he or she wants to say…

…but we have no problem offering tantalizing exercises that use classic writers for models. What I want to avoid is drudgery:

  • models that don’t inspire imitation,
  • models that are too advanced for a child’s particular developmental stage,
  • or the idea that models take precedence over the individual child’s developing writing voice.

Reading great writers is key to growth in writing.

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In other words, imitation ought to be a cheerful, natural time of word play – a chance to show off skills, to toy with language, to control the act of writing to approximate someone else’s style and wit. It ought not to be a time of drudgery where the student’s original writing voice is discredited, overridden, or judged as inferior to the model. It shouldn’t be a time of technical accuracy as much as joyful appropriation.

I like to call this kind of writing “stealing.” Steal the good stuff from those who are better at writing than you are. Hi-jack their literary elements and manipulate those elements so that they dress up your writing, not so that you relinquish control over your voice for the sake of sounding like someone else.

Let me give you an example of how this works:

Lots of kids know advertising syntax backwards and forwards. Give them a product, they’ll give you a jingle. If asked to write ad copy for a bicycle or a teddy bear, they can do it with alarming competence (no need to teach the elements of advertising – they know them from repeated exposure). What they express sounds like the ads you hear on radio or TV.

So if we want our kids to learn argument, we need to read, read, read argument. We explain how argument works, we deconstruct argument in the writings of great writers and we allow our kids to play with argument – perhaps starting with silly arguments they care about (why kids should not have to do chores, or why a child deserves to his own bedroom). The forms of expository writing (such as persuasive, compare and contrast, informative and so on) take time to absorb and are not appropriate for kids under 13 (in my humble opinion). Rhetorical thinking is developed in the teen years. Children under 13 can be expected to cite reasons for what they believe or feel, but that is not the same as argument (which requires an ability to nuance positions by evaluating sources and so forth).

Writing programs that marshal a child’s writing efforts into preconceived writing formats at a young age stifle the important development of writer’s voice and can ironically strip a child of joy in the process.

The ownership of the writing product is inadvertently stolen from the writer and is instead assigned to the model. Children learn then that writing is not about what they want to say, but guessing and working hard to figure out what they are supposed to say.

Over time, this experience can become tedious and even painful. Some children lose heart completely. I’ve taught many students who have come to me as teens who have never known that writing is related to them and their ideas in any way. It is a shock to their systems to realize that I am interested in their thoughts in their own words. And that moment is usually the beginning of recovery of voice.

Click to read more about Brave Writer and Classical Writing and the development process towards Academic Writing.

Brave Writer Online Writing Class Just So Stories

Just So Stories is an excellent class to take after The Writer’s Jungle Online or once you’ve worked through The Writer’s Jungle (though neither is required).

Brave Writer techniques such as list-making, freewriting, revision strategies and editing are all used in this new context of story-writing.