I don’t know about you, but writing has been a bit of a mystery subject for me as a homeschool mom. Teaching preschoolers how to write the alphabet is one thing…but I felt lost where to take it from there. Insert Jot It Down! Hopefully this Jot It Down Review will show you what it is, how we use it for 1st and 2nd grade, and how to adjust it for older kids who can do more of the pencil work.
There are also parts I don’t like, and I’ll share that too! I don’t have experience using other writing curriculums, but have enjoyed the style of this one so far.
Keep reading to see how we use it in our 1st and 2nd grade curriculum, and how it looks a little bit different for both my kids based on their abilities.
What is Jot It Down?
Jot it Down is a creative writing program by Julie Bogart with 10 projects for 5-8 year olds.
It’s made for kids that are not quite writing much (if anything) on their own. They don’t even have to know how to read.
It helps you get your kids’ thoughts onto paper! It’s largely an ORAL program, but can be easily adapted if your child wants to physically write more.
The whole idea is that your littler ones have a lot to say, but don’t have the skills to write down all the creative things in their heads yet. So you as the parent you “Jot It Down” for them!
We are using it this year in addition to our Dart literature guides by Brave Writer. This combo makes up our language arts.
We use Jot It Down about once a week. It will leave you with a few really special childhood keepsakes to file away! I can’t wait to show you a few we have done.
How much does it cost?
The PDF download costs $50, and you then have to print it if you want a physical copy.
Oral skills you’ll use
- Story Telling
- Reciting what they know
- Some memorization
- Playing with Words
- Exposure to music and art as languages of their own
What you won’t get from Jot It Down
- It’s NOT a language arts program.
- There are no worksheets.
- This isn’t a phonics program.
- You won’t talk about grammar here or correct sentence formation.
- It’s also not a handwriting program at all.
It’s a creative writing program that gets kids to find their voice. To see the purpose of their own words before doing any sort of critiquing of them.
You do the heavy pencil lifting and they tell you what to write.
What if my kid CAN write but doesn’t like to?
Since both my 6.5 and 8 year old are writing at a similar level, I often have them do some (not all) of the writing if it’s short.
Once kids are ready, Julie recommends writing down their words and ideas quickly on paper, and letting them copy that onto their project. Essentially you are giving them copywork THEY created.
I forced writing way too early before my son was developmentally ready to write much
When my reluctant writer (then 6 years old) started homeschool kindergarten, he would have really benefited from Jot It Down had I known about it.
He had already learned how to read but struggled to write his letters neatly, especially on lined paper. So making up a story took a long time and was frustrating for him.
I bought one of those notebooks where you draw a picture and write a sentence…but had NO idea how to help him use it!
Sadly I thought he had to physically write all his own stories! Nope nope nope.
It took WAY too long to write a handful of words, and we’d miss a bunch of details because he couldn’t back track enough to write down the story he’d just told me. I didn’t know I could write for him at this point (that’s the secret sauce of Jot It Down).
I stopped all writing and let him play with Legos, Play Doh, and anything that strengthens the hands. We did an occasional tracing worksheet.
Not pushing writing was 100% a good idea for us then! He wasn’t developmentally ready!
When he was 7 and in 1st grade, he could write write a SHORT sentence on his own, without trying as hard. But more than one sentence was pushing it…let alone a story.
How my reluctant writer has responded to Jot It Down
As I write this he’s 8, the upper age for Jot It Down. He actually asks to do more of the physical writing in shorter projects, and I write the longer ones!
But Jot It Down has GIVEN ME FREEDOM to know I can write for him if something is long and I’m not ruining his education.
Ok, that’s dramatic but tell me you haven’t felt that way before!
This has helped him not dread writing. WIN!
We’ll try out the next level up (called Partnership in Writing) in 3rd grade around age 9.
Is Jot It Down a physical product or digital?
It comes as a PDF file with 10 creative writing projects in it.
I’d recommend printing and binding it. We used our Proclick binder and spines. Or, take it to Office Depot or the Homeschool Printing Company if you want to get it shipped to you for cheap (although it’s usually a couple week’s wait).
What are some of the projects in Jot It Down?
I know with 100% certainty I won’t get to all of these.
Not worried! 3 years in, I realize over stuffing homeschool activities NEVER benefits us.
If we get through half the projects and see my kids go from avoiding writing to…well willing, I’ll be happy! If they learn to make short stories longer (even if I write most of them down)…I’ll be happy!
My hope is that they’ll find a reason to write.
So what are some of the projects?
One of her projects is list writing. We used this one right around Christmas for making those good ol’ Christmas wish lists. And grocery lists full of treats. Boy were they motivated to write those!
Lists are one way kids can organize words. And they are short enough they’ll often be able to write some on their own.
Fairy Tale Project
Some families take several months with this…Julie recommends a month minimum. I wanted to do MORE of the stories than we did…but my kids kinda got bored with this after about 4 different stories so we moved on.
I was also inconsistent (at best) as we had just started homeschooling after a couple months off after having baby #4.
The main thing here is you’ll try to read at least 2 different versions of a story…and your kids will narrate their own version that you’ll write down for them. Sometimes we’d find just one version, while others like Cinderella had so many variations at our library!
I didn’t even get to them all because well…life.
This helps them see variations in storytelling. It forces them to be a storyteller because they have to pick if Little Red Riding Hood gets eaten or not in their story…see what I mean?
Little Red Riding Hood did get eaten in my kids’ stories, FYI!
Making mini books
I remember doing this in kindergarten. You take a bunch of small papers, staple them, and tada! A mini book. Each page has something on it, and Julie recommends an animal book.
My 1st grade daughter is doing that and my 2nd grade son wanted to his on bugs.
Small is less overwhelming, so we cut printer pages into fourths. There are NO rules here! I *usually* write for my 6.5 year old 1st grader, but my 8 year old 2nd grader wants to write his own. Sometimes he asks for spelling help.
Kids can write down animal facts, draw the animal, cut out pictures from magazines, write a short poem of that animal, whatever!
It gets them gathering information and sorting it, which is the point of the mini book.
What a practical way to share pictures and words with a friend or grandparent! You can write it for them, they can try and copy down those words if they are able, or they can just draw pictures with labels.
Make a poster
This has you pick a topic your kid likes, and slap it all together on a poster and label everything. Ideas could be seasonal things like a Fall poster. Or favorite things poster. Or a poster about bugs.
They’ll learn to gather information, and label things.
Tracing their body on paper
We’ve done this before, but I never thought to turn it into a writing project.
Julie suggests making lists of things your child may want to label like shoe size, hair color, height, personality, etc. She has you brainstorm a list with your kid and they get to choose what to put down.
Kids love “All about me” projects and this is a goodie!
This project has you print out photos of your kids. We all have a bajillion on our phone, so the challenge will likely be just getting a few printed!
It lets you practice helping them sequence the photos into some kind of order/story form. Basically a mini scrapbook with 10-20 photos. And then writing captions for each photo.
Going to an art museum
One trip to a museum counts for a project! How? Writing is expression with words…and art is expression with the eyes! We just did this a few weeks ago with my 4 kids. I’m glad we went, but it was also a little stressful to me.
I felt like it was more training them how to act in a museum and less about the art. Although I think my oldest was in awe that these things were so old and REAL pieces of history.
Keep it short, like an hour. Enough said.
Find and seek checklist. Our museum had this and it was awesome! We were looking for materials things were made of. For example: something gold, silver, bronze, paper, canvas, ceramic, etc. And also things like finding a feather, painting of kids, grapes, a hat, tea set, bow and arrow, etc.
If you have lots of littles…go with your spouse or your mom.
I think we ’bout gave the staff a heart attack with my 4 under 8…and they didn’t ever touch anything. We did get asked to stand back a few times… o well.
Remind them how to act in a museum before you enter. This was a HUGE learning experience for mine. Quiet voices like the library…staying right by me…not touching anything…why we can’t pull out snacks…
Now that I say that, it sounds like a horrible spot to take kids, haha! But if you think your kids are able to have enough self control and are pretty good listeners, you can do this.
Do you have to do all the projects in Jot It Down?
Take what sounds fun and leave the rest. Or change things if you need so your kids like it more. I wish I would have adapted more.
For instance…my son didn’t love the fairy tale project…and I kind of pushed him to do it so both kids were doing the same thing.
But I should have let him switch that to Lego stories or Greek mythology or something he likes.
Remember, the point is to get your kids writing and creating. If it becomes a bore, move on.
How is Jot It Down adjustable for multiple ages?
I was overwhelmed how I’d make this work for a 6.5 year old girl who loves to write, and an 8 year old boy who doesn’t. Both kids are about at the same level for handwriting.
Realistically it looks a bit like this:
My crafty project loving 6.5 year old who loves to write (and pretty much taught herself letters early on) will work on a project for hours. She LOVES Jot It Down.
Sometimes she wants to physically write parts so I write her words on paper and she copies it to her project. For longer pieces like the fairy tale project, I wrote it all since it was a full page each story.
My 8 year old is less excited about writing, creating, or drawing (not a crafty one). He’d rather go read a book. And while he’s at the upper end of the age range for this…Jot It Down is SO good for him.
I can do the part that he doesn’t like and it helps him to create without worrying about the work it will take to handwrite it all.
Is 4 years too young for Jot It Down?
I don’t do any of this with my 4.5 year old boy. It’s work for me, and at this age I focus on PLAY! We love Playing Preschool by Busy Toddler at this age.
However I took Julie’s advice (free on her podcast, in her book Brave Learner, and in her Instagram highlights), and started jotting down some of the CUTEST things my 4.5 year old says. Exactly as he says it, wrong grammar and all. It will be a treasure for a long time.
My husband calls it his stream of consciousness.
That is the spirit behind this program! He knows when I get out a pencil to write his words down that his story is worthwhile, and he loves when I read it back to him.
Downsides of Jot It Down
I have a few things I don’t love about Jot It Down.
- For me, projects are tricky to manage. I forget to do them consistently. I get bored easily if it takes weeks or tired of semi forcing my kids to come up with something when they resist. You know?
- It’s craft heavy. You’ll be making things with each project, often using scissors, paper, markers, and more. I found this was no big deal so long as I take ME out of it and let them make something they’re proud of.
- The book format was confusing…initially. The first HALF of Jot It Down is about creating a language rich home called the Brave Writer Lifestyle. Read alouds, poetry teatime, adding music to your home, how to begin copywork, etc. The second half contains the creative writing projects.
- It’s somewhat open ended. I actually love this and find it flexible and easy to adapt with 2 big kids! But if you like to be told what to do each day or each week, you’ll have to pace yourself.
Can you use Jot It Down with a different language arts program?
Definitely! We came from using Masterbooks level 1 and part of level
2, and I think if we had stuck with that for language arts, I could have ditched their creative writing prompt each week for Jot It Down.
It would have helped my son to be creative without the pressure that he make a “story” in 2 sentences. Which is hard.
Overall I’m very happy with this and have already purchased the next level for next year called Partnership in Writing.
If you are still on the fence and want to hear from more families who have used Jot It Down or any Brave Writer programs, I’ve found the Facebook Brave Writer Fan Group to be very helpful! Lots of honest reviews and helpful folks there.
Don’t rush writing…they will learn.
There’s no shame in helping them write words down for a while…it’s encouraged and it won’t be forever!
They’ll come to realize that their words have meaning and value. And they will want to write more on their own as their hand strength develops, and spelling improves.
At this stage it’s not about correcting punctuation or making sure a sentence has a subject and bla bla bla. It’s about getting them to find their voice without being worried about following all the rules.