The Institute for Excellence in Writing has been a mainstay in my homeschooling curricula for the past six years for good reason: IEW products are empowering! When I first started homeschooling, I didn't know if I could do it. I pulled my son out of public school in the 4th grade, and then we went to war. I called it the stare down. Nearly every day we would battle over one of the writing assignments that was a part of the curriculum we were using (not IEW). After a few of these melt downs, I sought out a friend who recommended IEW's Teaching Writing with Structure and Style, and in my desperate state, I purchased the Teaching Writing/Student Writing Value Package. Not only did it end the war, but it empowered both me and my son to love writing.
A quick disclaimer: I have purchased all of the IEW Products myself that I have used over the years, because I absolutely LOVE their materials. The only things I have recieved for free are the items that were given to me as a part of their IEW 12 Days of Christmas giveaway. You can get free products from them too by clicking on the link and signing up for free! It's amazing. You should do it! I have not been compensated in any way for what I'm about to write in this blog, except from the priceless wisdom that I have gleaned from Andrew Pudewa and his team over the years. So really, this is a blog of gratitude.
IEW Products I Love:
This is a very misleading title, because it assumes I will follow with a second title listing out "IEW Products I Hate." That list doesn't exist. Consider this the list of products that have blessed my family the most by including them in our studies.
My first child learned to read in school, and my second read without even trying. When I started working on teaching my third child to read, we hit some snags. The PAL program is an amazing treasure box of fun and games for teaching students to read. One of my favorite features of PAL is the Phonetic Games kit that made 35 games utilizing file folders. I loved that she could play on her own or with her siblings. When you're playing games, you tend to forget your troubles and have a longer attention span for tasks that are hard. We also loved the Phonetic Farm with all of the adorable stickers!
We didn't purchase the Primary Arts of Writing sister curriculum because by the time my daughter reached this stage, I was well trained in Teaching Writing with Structure and Style and felt very confident in training my young writer. We chose to use Geography Based Writing Lessons and then Bible Heroes.
I'd also recommend a couple of Andrew's other resources that have been so encouraging for this stage:
As a part of a Classical Conversations community, we start using IEW's History Based writing lessons in our Essentials program which begins in the 4th grade. If you're only going to buy one IEW product in your life, I'd strongly recommend the core product: Teaching Writing with Structure and Style. All of the learning stems from this product, and it covers writing for all ages. It's newly updated and incredible. I've watched these videos every year for the last six years, and I learn something new every time.
Other resources that we use frequently:
- Portable Walls - comes out every time we write a paper
- Writing App - the free version includes everything from the portable walls, and the paid version is expanded to include even more word helps from the "A Word Write Now" resource.
- Student Resource Notebook - which comes as a free download with your writing curriculum purchase, but can be purchased as a spiral bound notebook.
For Middle School
The learning does not end with the younger students, it just expands and gets more amazing. In middle school I like to start Fix It! Grammar. Introducing concepts one at a time, this editing curriculum helps the student learn punctuation and grammar rules while working their way through a classic tale. We've completed Frog Prince, Or Just Deserts, and loved how the simple daily exercises strengthened both our understanding of grammar as well as our editing skills. Yes, I completed it with my student. I learned so much!
One of my favorite IEW products that I have introduced more formally in our studies are the Teaching the Classics seminars. Although I go through these concepts in the younger years, it isn't until middle school that I formally introduce Adam Andrews' Socratic method for literary education. Simple questions guide the student through a process of outlining the plot, climax, and theme of a story. We've also enjoyed The Worldview Detective, which is a follow up seminar adding deeper questions to ask of any story to help reveal the worldview of the author and how those ideas stand up to the Truth of scripture.
For High School and Beyond:
The Advanced Communication Series is excellent. In this series, Andrew delves deeper into how to expand the five paragraph essay into any size paper you need to write. My husband utilized this method in his graduate studies where writing papers is a majority of the course work, and he saw marked improvement in his grades because he was communicating his ideas in a much clearer and more elegant way.
Additionally, this series goes into Andrew's unique note taking method. When I'm taking notes at church, I use the method I learned from this series. I'm always amazed at how much I recall when I take notes this way.
There are so many wonderful IEW products developed to nurture your growing writer as they approach college and beyond. Some other great products I love are:
- Succeeding on the AP Literature exam (workbook and teacher guide)
- A Thomas Jefferson Education (book)
- SAT Essay Secrets (audio file)
12 Days of Christmas Giveaways
Andrew Pudewa is so generous with his time and knowledge. If you run into him at a home school conference, talk to him. You will be blessed. Last February, my son went with me to the Great Homeschool Convention. When we met Andrew, my son chose chatting with Mr. Pudewa over eating! My teenager!
Starting on December 26th, there will be a free item to download every day from the IEW products. It is well worth paying attention to! Sign up to be notified of these great giveaways here, and watch the video below to learn more about the giveaway.
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.