Brave Writer || Review of The Writer’s Jungle & Jot It Down

Homeschooling is a lot. It’s a lot of pressure, taking your kids’ educations into your own hands. It’s a lot of vulnerability, doing something outside the norm. And it’s A LOT of information: books, magazines, blogs, podcasts, fellow parents, curriculums—there’s just so much to process and sift through in deciding where our priorities and preferences are going to lie. 

My Favorite Homeschool Resource for Writing

So when, very early on in my search for home education materials, I found a program that inspires confidence, that prioritizes relationships and low-pressure learning, that sounded fun and natural and easy to implement, I went head over heels.

What magical program is this, you ask? It’s called Brave Writer—and I’m convinced every parent needs it in their lives, whether they’re homeschooling or not (because isn’t every parent educating at home, when it comes down to it? And don’t we all want more ideas for helping our kids love learning?)

The brainchild of homeschool veteran Julie Bogart, Brave Writer is often described in its various materials (website, podcast, books) as a lifestyle; it’s a variety of ideas and practices to implement that help make the home a language-rich place where story-telling, and its attendant skills, become a natural part of family life. 

The Writer’s Jungle and Jot It Down

After soaking up all the information on Brave Writer that I could find, the BW team sent me a free copy of The Writer’s Jungle and Jot It Down to read and review.

The Writer’s Jungle is a book that explains the theory behind the BW lifestyle and Julie’s methods for teaching writing. It doesn’t have schedules or assignments, but instead is full of ideas; use it as a way to change your understanding of how to teach writing and to give you loads of ideas on how to make the environment in your home more language-rich.

Jot It Down is Brave Writer’s curriculum for 5 to 8 year olds. It’s based on the practice of having a grown-up write down stories and ideas that young kids narrate so they can learn to tell stories without having to worry about mechanics and handwriting. Jot It Down has 10 writing projects that you can incorporate into your teaching any way you want. I know a lot of people who do one project a month and cover the book in a school year. We’ve been going more slowly and plan to use the book and the projects for the next few years for Graham (who is currently 5.)

5 Things I’ve Loved about Brave Writer:

1. Brave Writer works with you, no matter what else you’re doing.

The ideas in The Writer’s Jungle are relevant to anybody who teaches children, whether you’re homeschooling or not, whether you’ve already got a writing curriculum or not. Brave Writer will help you enhance your understanding of how kids learn to write—and how they learn to love writing. Whether you adopt the Brave Writer curriculums that actually involve assignments and schedules—like Jot it Down or the Arrow and Boomerang guides—can come later, but reading The Writer’s Jungle is a simple and inspiring way to make your home a place where you and your kids learn to love language and stories.

2. Brave Writer teaches kids that they have something important to say.

I taught beginning writing in a university for several years, and my students’ number one problem was an inability to express what they really wanted to say, often because they didn’t understand that they actually did have something to say. They could crank out an essay on any assigned topic, but few of them enjoyed the process or the resulting piece of writing. This is the main reason I’m so excited about Julie’s approach in all the Brave Writer materials: she understands that in order to want to write, a person must understand that they have thoughts in their heads to express. They must know they have something to say and that writing is a terrific and useful way to say it. Everything else about Brave Writer starts from this premise of gathering information and inspiration in a way that makes you want to write the resulting thoughts down on paper.

3. Brave Writer separates the teaching of mechanical skills from teaching narrative and imaginative skills.

Having a story to tell and having the ability to get that story onto paper in an intelligible way are two very different skills. Brave Writer does a great job of separating mechanical skills from narrative skills and implementing separate strategies to work on each one before combining them.

4. Brave Writer helps you ask smart questions.

The Writer’s Jungle and Jot It Down both give great ideas for questions to ask to enhance the language arts power of everyday activities, from movie nights to nature study. More and more I’m discovering that most of teaching is just asking the right questions, but they can be hard to come up with on your own. Brave Writer has got you covered.

5. Brave Writer is fun!

The projects are so fun. I’ve been working through the projects in Jot It Down with Graham and they’re perfect for his creative and excited brain. He loves all the chances to narrate his thoughts, have me write them down, and turn the whole thing into a tangible piece he can point to and say, “I wrote that.” Graham is 5, but the projects would work for a wide age range (ages 5 to 8 are the recommended ages for Jot It Down, but 3-year-old Margie has gotten involved, too, and had a great time with it.) 

Want to know more about Brave Writer or start adopting Julie’s awesome approach to teaching writing, but not quite ready to commit to buying materials? 

This is where I started too! And luckily, you can get a ton of info on the BW lifestyle without buying a thing. The Brave Writer podcast is a great place to start; it’s one of my very favorite homeschooling podcasts and I listen all the time. Julie is a delight and I love her fun approach to home education. Her blog is also a great resource.

Do you have a child between ages 5 and 8 who could benefit from parent-led writing projects? Are you just starting out in home education and want to set good language arts habits early on? 

Start with Jot It Down, which will give you a jump start on implementing the BW lifestyle along with 10 writing projects that will help kids better understand story-telling and their natural power to create stories of their own.

Are you a parent who wants to be more involved in your kids’ educations, whether they’re in home or traditional school, and you need ideas for how to do so, especially when it comes to writing and loving language?

Read The Writer’s Jungle! It is so well-thought-out, inspiring and immediately implementable. You can use its ideas to create your own writing schedule or curriculum, or you can use it as a foundation to approaching other BW materials.

Although I was provided The Writer’s Jungle and Jot It Down in exchange for a review, my opinions are all completely my own. If you start diving into more info. about Brave Writer, I really hope you find as much inspiration in it as I do! Please let me know if you have any questions I can help with :).

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