Friday, May 13, 2011

Institute for Excellence in Writing

Blue Pen 1
All Your Writing Woes Will End If You Will Just Use a Pen*
 I. hippie, free
    1. instruction, creative
    2. drafts, novels, storytelling
    3. love, write, freedom
    4. rules, create
    5. excited, IEW, brush off
    6. fine, thanks

In some ways, I'm a bit of a hippie: live free, love free, write free.  My writing instruction has reflected this and we are quite creative in our house.  Most of my children have written first drafts of novels during National Novel Writing Month and storytelling is a well-loved pastime.  I love to write and I love to write in freedom.  Don't give me rules and regulations; just allow me to create.  So whenever a homeschooling friend would tell me how excited they were about Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), I'd brush it off as something great for them.  We were just fine on our own, thank you.

Once again, I've been proven wrong.  Happens frequently; you'd think I'd be used to it by now.  And no, it's not because I suddenly discovered the "One and Only Way of Writing" and it transformed my life.  I've taken enough writing courses (and would love to take more) that I embrace the freedom to break all the rules. So don't be judging my post by any of your man-made rules.  I aim to misbehave. ;-)

What I discovered was that the quirkiness I enjoy was not working well for my middle child.  He was intimidated by the blank page or the blank screen - this was not freedom for him, but fear. The thought of creating everything from his imagination and learning his writing skills through reading and writing was not one that suited him well.  When the opportunity arose to review IEW through the TOS Crew, I decided to try it for his sake.  And we all fell in love with the program.

Crazy, I know.

We received the Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack, Level B.  This includes Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS), Tips and Tricks DVD and the Student Writing Intensive (SWI). Each program consists of a set of DVDs and a 3-ring binder full of worksheets and information.  The TWSS teaches you, the parent, how to teach writing using the IEW method.  The SWI teaches directly to the student and contains assignments utilizing the method. Level B is designed for the 6th-8th grade student but we adapted it for 3rd-8th.

Did you notice that funky hippie outline at the top of the post?  That's the first step in IEW- building key word outlines.  Your student will take a paragraph (in this case, the first one of this post) and pull out two to three key words to use in an outline. Then they will tell someone the paragraph in their own words, using the outline.  From there they will write a paragraph, retelling the information using only their key words.

Each lesson builds from that very first, very easy to follow lesson.  No child was left behind, we all understood what to do, and we all felt immediately successful in our writing.  From there we moved on to introducing "-ly" adverbs, using strong verbs, choosing a title, quality adjectives, "dress-ups" (adding various clauses, verbs or adjectives to our writing), report writing, sentence openers, and more.

See that guy right there in the photo?  That's Andrew Pudewa, and he's the one in the DVDs teaching you and your kids everything you've ever wanted to know (and more) about key words and adverbs.  The first day we started the program, my oldest son walked into the room and asked, "Is that the Virtual Nerd guy?" (a math program I also reviewed).  We laughingly protested but I must admit that Mr. Pudewa's lovable nerdiness** is a lot of the reason we fell in love with the program.  We especially love the Student Intensive program, as he works really well with kids and has a genuine affection for his students, which comes across clearly on the DVDs.  He gives us hints of silliness, and this silly family appreciates the humor.  Although the DVD sessions are quite long (from 30 minutes to an hour), his likability makes them enjoyable. 

There is so much more I could tell you about this program, but my review would be novel length and you'd never read it.  My goal here is to encourage those who may think they don't need this type of structured program in their homeschools to give it a second glance.  Not only have we enjoyed using the skills to apply (or ignore) in our creative writing, we've also learned great note-taking and report-writing tips.  I am pleasantly surprised at my love for IEW and will finish the program in the fall (we're about halfway through at this point).  I'm joining the ranks of homeschool moms who gush about IEW: who woulda thunk? (Somehow, I'm thinking that would be an unapproved sentence.)

The Combo is available for $239 or you can purchase Teaching Writing: Structure and Style for $169 and the Student Writing Intensive for $99.  Both are great, but if you can only afford one, I'd suggest the Student Writing Intensive.  Just be sure to watch along with the kids so that you understand a little bit of the reasoning behind Pudewa's methods, like using pen.  (Yeah, pen. Toss out those pencils; it's time for pen mutiny!)

What about you?  Do you tend toward structured instruction or prefer creative free writing? Do you think there's room for both?

*This is not an IEW phrase; it's a NotSoSuperwoman original. All rights reserved.  SNORT.
**I am not being rude and disrespectful to Andrew Pudewa.  This is a high compliment in the home of the geeks.

*Disclosure:  I received the Combo Pack at no cost for review purposes.  A positive review was not required, merely an honest one, which is what you're always going to get with me anyway.  To see what others thought of this product and more, visit the TOS Crew.*


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