Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing

As a member of the TOS Crew my children and I were given the opportunity to review the Student Writing Intensive, Level C from the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

I had heard about IEW many times over our nine years of homeschooling, but I had assumed it was simply too intensive for our style of learning as well as being too expensive.  Granted, I never took the time to thoroughly research it.  I simply passed it off as 'not for us'.  Boy was I wrong!  Having a freshman in high school with no thorough, formal writing instruction up to this point, the opportunity to review this curriculum was most definitely a blessing.

First of all, the creator of the Institute for Excellence in Writing, Andrew Pudewa, is a homeschooling father of seven, a grandfather of three, and a teacher.  His primary profession is teaching music.  However, he was put into the position of being a history and an english teacher without any previous experience at either.  He was encouraged by another teacher to attend a teacher-training course on 'structure and style in composition' by a gentleman named Dr. James Webster.  Mr Pudewa was so impressed and learned so much and saw such amazing results in his students that he returned to the training course for the next two years!  Mr. Pudewa continued teaching what he learned to children which led to the opportunity to do some seminars and classes.  The interest from parents and other teachers was so great that those seminars and classes eventually evolved into writing the curriculum and doing the videos that became the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

IEW has products for every age level, beginning with the Primary Arts of Language for K-2 and continuing on with their Student Writing Intensives, Level A for grades 3-5, Level B for grades 6-8, and Level C (which is what we reviewed) for grades 9-12.  Each of these 'Intensives' cost $99.00 and come with a binder with dividers, a packet with teacher's notes, student handouts, and checklists, as well as the writing sessions recorded live on four DVDs.  Extra binders can also be purchased for $18.00 if you're working with more than one student on the same level.  However, when that becomes the case for me I plan on simply making multiple copies of the handouts that come with the Intensive and putting them in a binder myself.  One more thing that's important to know is that once your student has completed all the lessons in their Intensive it is possible to continue on through the rest of the writing units with an additional 32 lessons if you so choose, however, this is optional.  By using the Continuation Course you can use this writing curriculum for 1-2 years of writing instruction per Intensive.

Another IEW product I plan on using next year is Fix It! Grmmar and Editing Made Easy With the Classics.  While learning how to write is of upmost importance I also don't want to let my daughter's grammar fall by the way-side while she's learning to write and this looks like just the right fit for us.  Not too much, not too little.  Hopefully it will help her learn to critique her own writing even better!

Oh, and that teacher-training I mentioned above that Mr. Pudewa learned so much from?  Well he has kindly put together our own teacher-training seminar!  Now, I only have experience with the Structure and Style Overview DVD so I can't speak on the other teaching DVD's but I was very impressed with what I watched on the S&SO DVD.  Mr. Pudewa's voice is very enjoyable to listen to and he's very easy to understand as well as being funny.  I felt like I was right there in the room with him.  Here's what the website has to say about this DVD:

"In this 2 hour and 20 minute DVD and accompanying handouts, Andrew Pudewa introduces you to the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style method of teaching writing. Briefly covering the nine units of structure and introducing several stylistic techniques, Andrew gives the audience insight into why this method is so effective in teaching even the most reluctant writer."

Of course, if you'd simply like to purchase the whole kit and kaboodle for a certain level you can do so in one easy click here.

We were also sent a portable wall which is "a single-pocket folder with an extra page, creating a tri-fold wall packed with all the Unit Models, several word lists including prepositions, substitutes for "said," and more."  I really appreciate whoever came up with this idea as we are one family that has absolutely no room to hang posters, at least not anywhere where my daughter could actually see it easily in order to help her.  With the portable wall she can simply keep it in her binder and pull it out any time she needs to.  Two big mom thumbs up for this one! 

As I've said before, writing is one of the most dificult things to evaluate.  You want to teach and encourage the student in their writing yet receiving a paper back full of red marks is not going to help your child want to write very much.  But when they have complete, thorough, easy-to-understand instructions it is so much easier, on the student as well as the mom/teacher!

Overall I am VERY pleased with the products we reviewed and plan on continuing to use them throughout our homeschooling years.  To watch your child go from not understanding that there is a right and a wrong way to write to someone who is developing into a wonderful writer of beautiful papers is such a thrill!  And it's all thanks to IEW and Mr. Pudewa's teaching that our daughter now enjoys writing and actually looks forward to it each day!  All this mom can say is thank you, thank you, thank you.  We are now life-long IEW users!

*As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received this product free of charge in exchange for my review and honest opinion of it. As a believer and follower of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I promise you that all my reviews contain only my own honest opinions...'cause He told me to not lie!

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