As a former English teacher, I love writing! My youngest son, not so much. In my old school, we used the Institute for Excellence in Writing for our classes, and I loved it. It was a program I missed when we started homeschooling. Therefore, I was very excited to get a chance to review the program as part of the crew! We got to check out both the teacher and student program.
The Teaching Writing Structure and Style set is for parents. Basically, this section of the program is a seminar for parents about how to teach writing. Led by Andrew Pudewa, the founder of IEW and a fellow homeschooler, his unique brand of humor makes the videos easy to watch. The nine DVD’s include lessons about each portion of the program. You also get a binder with handouts for each section. I had watched the first few DVDs when I was teaching, but watching the whole set was so much more in depth than I imagined. IEW is a very detailed program, which can seem intimidating at first, but having the DVDs really makes it much easier than you would think.
There is an outline and suggested schedule for watching the DVDs included with the program. This was helpful because it allowed me to decide good stopping points for each section. Each session is about 1 to 2 hours, so you do need to allocate some time for this portion of the program, but if you do, you will find it is well worth it. Once you have an understanding of how IEW works, you can easily use it with all of your students. Practice exercises are available in the handouts, and three student workshops are also included, so you can see how the program actually works with kids. Of course, this is a lot of information to take in at once, so if you do find yourself feeling overwhelmed, consider watching one DVD at a time and implementing the program in stages until you get comfortable.
The second part of the program that we got to use is the Student Writing Intensive program. We used level B, for grades 6-8, but they also have programs for lower elementary and high school students. Student Writing Intensive is another series of DVDs, but these are aimed mainly at the students. They get to watch Mr. Pudewa teach a class using the techniques from the teacher program. If you do not feel comfortable in fully implementing the program, you may want to watch these with your child and do the activities together. The Overview DVD is for parents, although if you have watched the DVDs from the teacher program, it may not be necessary. This course also comes with a binder with handouts.
The included syllabus outlines how to use the program, including instructions on when to stop the DVD and work. Each DVD contains about 2 1/2 hours of material, so you will definitely want to break it up. The suggested schedule plans the program out over a course of 30 weeks, completing about one lesson each week. Of course, you can adjust the pace to suit yourself and your child. In my classes with advanced writers, we easily progressed through this program at the suggested pace. At home, with my son who is a reluctant writer, I find I am having to slow the pace down a bit to keep him from being overwhelmed. Make no mistake, at this level IEW is an intense and thorough program, but the level of writing skills it will produce in your child is amazing.
I have found that as kids get familiar, and comfortable with, the program, things do get easier. I really think the major obstacle is you getting comfortable. If you are not used to a lot of structure, this method may seem very uncomfortable at first. However, if you stick with it, especially at the upper levels, I believe you will be very pleased with what your kids learn. For my son, I have seen a big improvement in parts of his writing since we started. First, the note-taking method he has learned is really really effective for ALL subjects, and he does use it for science and history. Second, his expressive writing has grown a lot. I’m talking his word choice and sentence structure specifically. I think that as we continue to progress through the Student Intensive seminars, he will only get better.
Teaching Writing and the Student Intensive programs are not cheap. The teacher portion costs $169.00 while the student portion is $109.00. Do I recommend this if you have the money?? Yes! If you can afford it and you want a top notch writing program, get this one. However, for most of us (me included) spending that much money on just the writing portion of your schooling just isn’t realistic. Are there other options? Sure. What about using this program as part of a co-op or homeschool group? I can vouch for the fact that this program from IEW works really well in a group setting. If you split the cost up between a group of parents, it won’t be so bad, and once you know how to use the program, you can do it again and again.