***Scroll down page for my updated opinion of Writer's Jungle.***
I wanted our return to home school to be successful. So I had to do some deep thinking about what was it (other than total sleep deprivation from new baby and the fact that we never got a summer break) that was causing friction in our home school.
I think there was some stress over the grammar/writing/lang. arts part of our curriculum. So during our down time, I did a lot of research on writing curriculum and I asked myself, "What do I really want her to get out of a writing curriculum this year?" Well, the answer surprised me: I don't want her to hate it. That's it. If we could just get beyond hating the task of writing and balking at every little word that is requested to be put on paper, I'd be a much happier mama.
I ordered the Writer's Jungle from Brave Writer.com and I have to say that I'm really pleased with it. The author, Julie B., seems to think the same way I do. But she does such a better job of actually channeling those thoughts into actual writing instruction. It helps that she really is a writer too!
We also subscribed to The Arrow, which is an age appropriate monthly newsletter with copy work and dictation material, as well as some tips for teaching the grammar and literature points in the selection. I'm not sure it's worth the money. She talks quite a bit about copy work and dictation in the manual. I think it's enough information to go on without paying for The Arrow. But if you are looking for a more prepared system for copy work/dictation/grammar/lit then it would be with your while to subscribe.
I would recommend Julie's work to anyone. The only "drawback" (if you can call it that) is the fact that this manual is only written for the parent who will teach writing. It's not actual writing assignments or instruction for the student. So the parent needs to be able to digest the information and apply it to your student's age and circumstance. Some of her recommendations are very concrete and easy to implement. Some of them are just concepts and general attitudes or approaches that may seem vague or difficult to implement. Still, I'm very glad I got it.
Her site/blog has a ton of free information that I LOVE, and I have been slowly working on adding her tips and tricks into our writing curriculum.
UPDATE: FEB 22, 2013
This happens to be one of my most popular posts, which leads me to believe that many people are taking a look at Writer's Jungle and trying to decide if they should give it a go. So I feel like I need to give you my updated opinion of it.
I never use it anymore.
Enough said, right? Why you ask? Well, because it isn't convenient to use. It's too vague and wishy washy. As the kids grow and their academic needs become more complicated, I find myself trying to balance between PLUG-N-GO curriculum, and organic-interest led curriculum. More often than not, despite all my good intentions, I need to revert to plug-n-go. Turns out the Arrow subscription wasn't nearly as useful as I had hoped
it would be. And it didn't keep me supplied with enough copy work
Writer's Jungle is NOT plug-n-go. In my mind, there's not even a plug. It's just some ideas (GOOD ONES!) put together to guide your path to creating your own writing lesson plans. Too much work for this busy mama right now. SO it sits on my shelf. And I still kick myself for paying that much money for it.
There were good things I picked up from reading the manual, like the importance of copy work, and letting children write about what they know a lot about instead of forcing them into a topic. We also enjoyed the poetry tea party idea and the co-operative story writing idea. There, by writing those 2 sentences I saved you $200. There are lots of great currics. that incorporate copy work and free writing, however. My favorite one that I've been using for 2 years now is Trail Guide to Learning. It's a great balance between ready to go lessons and flexibility for creative lesson planning.
Writers Jungle might be right for you. But it wasn't for me, as much as I wanted it to be.