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The Writer's Jungle: A Survivor's Guide to Writing with Kids Review by Dawn King

Julie Bogart

Freedom! That's what I thought as I read this book. Freedom from stress over my daughter's horrible (so I thought) writing!

The Writer's Jungle is completely different than any other writing curriculum out there (and I've seen a lot!) Written for homeschoolers by a writer and homeschooling mom, Julie Bogart, the book teaches you how to teach your elementary and junior high students how to write.

Julie's philosophy of teaching writing is to teach it like writers honing their craft. Students are taught to focus on the ideas, the voice, and choosing the right words to convey their thoughts more so than the mechanics. That comes later. Too many times moms look at a paper full of spelling and punctuation errors and feel that our children will never learn how to write. We totally miss the great ideas our children are trying to convey; therefore discouraging them and making them feel like they cannot succeed in writing.

The Writer's Jungle has no set lesson plans. Instead, you learn how to incorporate various language arts and writing activities into your schedule. The method starts with narration, reading aloud, copywork, and dictation. You've probably heard of these things before, but wondered how to incorporate these elements into your lifestyle. Julie gives you practical ideas and even sample schedules to help you being using these elements in your homeschool.

The Writer's Jungle includes a whole chapter exploring communication and its importance. There are fun games to play with your students to illustrate the importance of precise communication.

Many other writing curricula emphasize the need for using your five senses in description. Julie takes it a step further with keen observation activities that include a list of questions to ask about the object so your student can accurately describe it in great detail.

"Freewriting" is another central activity of Bogart's method. Julie describes it like this, "Freewriting is the act of keeping your pencil moving on a blank page of paper for a predetermined amount of time. The results or contents are unimportant to success. The most important part of the process is allowing for chaos, musings, incomplete thoughts and ideas to bubble up from within - uninhibited by a torturous assignment" (p. 46). There is an entire chapter on the idea of freewriting with instructions for your freewrites.

The rest of the book (17 chapters total, plus two appendices) builds on these foundational elements and uses Julie's unique methods to help your student to narrow topics, overcome writer's block, and revise, edit and publish his work. Basically anything your upper elementary to junior high student needs to learn about the art of writing is in here. Basic mechanics such as grammar and spelling are not covered. You will need separate programs for them or a reference to use while helping your student edit his work.

The Writer's Jungle busts writing myths, has fun games to play with your children, and distresses teaching writing. What more could you want? Let me say it another way: if writing is a dreaded subject in your homeschool, go immediately to and order the book!

-Product Review by Dawn King, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July, 2006