Friday, May 13, 2011

TOS Review: IEW


From the IEW website:
Our Goal
”In order to succeed in every area of life, children must hone the skills needed to communicate confidently and effectively. Through the process of learning to write well, students learn how to think clearly and to express themselves eloquently and persuasively. Our goal is to equip you to assist your child in this process.”

Institute for Excellence in Writing: Student Writing Intensive A Pictures, Images and PhotosOf all the products we’ve used and reviewed this year, IEW has had the greatest impact on our schooling. Going into the year I considered myself a Charlotte Mason/eclectic homeschooler.  Finishing the year, I am seeing the many benefits of a Classical method of schooling. I will never be able to put myself in a box and say I am a ____, but I am pleased to have had the opportunity to learn more about the Classical style and look forward to giving my Charlotte Mason school a nice splash of Classical education next year.
This is a rather lengthy review and I just want to add, here in the beginning, a link to help you get started with IEW. This page will help you tremendously if you are new to IEW. It can be overwhelming at first, so take it in small doses. Also, I highly recommend downloading or requesting a copy of their magalog (it’s a catalog but it’s filled with enough information to be an actual magazine).

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)

IEW stands for Institute for Excellence in Writing and for the most part I believe excellence in writing is their main objective.  But their vision doesn’t stop with writing, it reaches far beyond just offering the tools to be a great writer. IEW also has programs to help young children learn to read and all ages learn to spell. They offer an endless supply of support on their website as well as their Yahoo group. There are webinars, seminars, DVD’s, MP3’s, articles, and much much more to help you with homeschooling, active boys, writing, language arts, music and more. The list seems to be endless, and every time I visit their website I see something else I need to listen to, download, or explore more in-depth.
To get a better idea about the history of IEW and the mission, you can visit this page of their site and be sure to download “What Are We Really Doing Here?” at the bottom of the page. Andrew Pudewa is the director of IEW and he explains it better than I’ll ever be able to, plus he’s just so darn fun to listen to. My kids and I really enjoy his video’s so much, it’s not like doing school when we get to watch an IEW video.

My first impression of IEW

In my local homeschool group we have certain people that we consider the math “expert”, science “expert”, and Language Arts “expert.”  We call these people this because they either taught the subject in school or majored in it during college.  Last year as we were finishing up our school year and looking forward into this year, I began to question which Language Arts path to take with my soon to be 5th grade son.  We had been using a Charlotte Mason “light” program. He loved this program (and that’s always a plus) but I worried that perhaps it wasn’t strong enough.
So what did I do, I went to the “expert.” She informed me that she was actually planning to use that same Charlotte Mason program (surprise!) but she highly recommended I use it in conjunction with a program I had never heard of. It was called IEW.
I looked into IEW and considered using it but decided it wasn’t possible at that time but perhaps we could add it in before the school year got too far underway. At that point I had already spent my homeschool budget and I was a little overwhelmed with all I was going to be doing for Josiah so I didn’t know if I would have the time and energy to do an intensive writing program (read on to discover how easy IEW is to use).
As it turned out the TOS crew was given an opportunity to review this exact same program. It seems the Lord really wanted us to use this program. What a blessing! When I first received the package I was a bit overwhelmed and a little thankful that I didn’t get the combo pack that included the Teaching Writing Structure and Style (TWSS $169) video seminar with 9 DVD’s and a workbook. Now, after using it for 6 months, I’m very sad that I didn’t receive the TWSS and, in fact, hope to obtain it in the very near future.

We Received

What we did receive was the Student Writing Intensive (SWI) Group A ($99), Structure and Style Overview DVD ($10), and the Portable Wall ($7)
The SWI includes four DVD’s of Andrew Pudewa teaching the children how to complete every part of the structure and style that he is well known for and that is included on the TWSS DVD’s. The SWI comes in three levels/groups. Group A (grades 3-5) Group B (grades 6-8) and Group C (grades 9-12). It is possible to do this program using the SWI and the workbook (we’re doing it) but it is much better if you’re able to be trained with the complete TWSS seminar.
With SWI, there are 15 lessons included and it takes 1-2 weeks to complete a lesson. You could easily make it last the entire school year, especially if you don’t plan to teach writing 5 days a week.
The workbook that is provided with SWI is a three ring binder with dividers to help organize the child’s writing (current and finished work) as well as the different techniques that are used while teaching the writing. Also included is about 100 pages of teacher notes, checklists, and student handouts. It is very easy to purchase one product and make duplicates for additional students because the pages are 3 hole punched and loose, ready to be added to the binder. Just purchase another binder and make copies as you need them and you’re ready for an additional student. This is what I did for my boys.
The Structure and Style Overview DVD includes a brief explanation of the nine units of structure and an introduction to some of the stylistic techniques. The DVD is almost 2 1/2 hours in length.
The Portable Wall is a tri-fold folder that includes the techniques and styles that are taught in SWI, as well as word lists to give the student easy access to the information they have learned so they can concentrate on writing.

Our Experience

When we first received the package I spent an evening watching the Structure and Style video, taking notes, and looking through the manual. It all seemed a bit overwhelming at first and I do believe that is the one downfall of this program. You really have to pay attention to take it all in. The manual offers a Scope and Sequence, an overview of each daily lesson, a DVD scene breakdown to tell you exactly where to start/stop the DVD, as well as Teacher’s Notes to tell you what you need for each lesson. It took me a little while to make heads or tails of it all and to determine which of these I would use (I didn’t need to use them all because they were somewhat repetitious.)
After feeling that I understood the jest of it, I called the boys together and we watched the first lesson on the SWI DVD. The lesson was supposed to last 45 minutes but I forgot to stop it and the boys never even realized we were doing too much. Andrew Pudewa is such an engaging instructor and we were enjoying the lesson so well that the time just slipped by and before I even knew it we had been watching the video for about an hour and a half! Since then I’ve been more careful about starting and stopping at the right part, I really have to look carefully at my book because it’s not always easy to tell when you should stop the video. As I stated above, this is something I think could definitely be improved upon, but that’s probably my only complaint with the program.
Basically Andrew teaches the kids step by step how to write a paper. He uses the following steps, teaching one step at a time:
  • Unit 1-2 Notes and Outlines
  • Unit 3 Story Sequence model
  • Unit 4 Summarizing References
  • Unit 5 Writing from Pictures
  • Unit 6 Library Research
  • Unit 7 Creative Writing
  • Unit 8 Essay Model
  • Unit 9 Critique Writing
This list may seem a bit boring or typical but when you start breaking it down you really see how wonderful this program really is. There is too much to try to explain in this blog post, but I will give you an example. As part of the program you are given certain banned words. These words are banned because they are boring and Andrew wants the child to learn to pick more interesting words. So instead of using words like ‘go’ or ‘went’ your child would learn to use something more lively like ‘meander’ or ‘ambled.’ He calls these “strong verbs.” Talk about building your vocabulary!! And to make it even easier, he gives you word lists to choose from! That’s just one small little example, there are so many others.
As we learned little by little what we were going to be doing, the boys became more comfortable with it and began to loosen up a bit. I am going to share one example of my 8 year olds writing. This was one of the first papers he wrote and I was very impressed with the words he choose and his ability to quickly catch on to the idea’s presented in IEW. I would like for you to keep in mind that he is dyslexic and struggles with reading and spelling. I am his editor so any mistakes are mine. I am very impressed with his writing ability considering the difficulty he has with language skills and I know it’s because IEW makes it so easy to succeed in writing.
The Raccoon and the Cookies
                    By: Josiah 
    The ferociously hungry raccoon reached into a pitcher which had chocolate chip cookies. He grabbed a handful of cookies and tried to pull his hand out. His fist was bulging with cookies and he tried to pull his hand out again and again, but his hand had too many cookies. He was unwilling to drop any cookies. He ravenously tried to break the pitcher but could not break it. An older raccoon saw the hungry raccoon through the window, came in and said, “If you would take less you could get some more later. Sometimes if you are satisfied with less, you will get what you want.”

Final Thoughts on IEW

As a homeschool mom I really want my children to have a good quality education without the extra “busy work” that comes along with a lot of popular curriculum. Grammar and writing are two subjects that I really wanted them to fully grasp, yet I didn’t feel I was properly trained to do this job without some major help. Although the online/DVD programs look nice I certainly didn’t want to purchase rent the expensive DVD’s that needed to be returned at the end of the year. I wanted something I could use with multiple children and that was reasonably price, and also that was ‘meaty,’ not just an endless amount of work.
I found what I was looking for, and more, with IEW. Andrew Pudewa is an excellent teacher for my children (and me Smile.) There is no “busy work” involved because this was written with the homeschooler in mind. Best of all, the DVD’s are not only affordable, they’re ours to keep and use with the younger kids when they get older. IEW offers a great writing program and I would advise anyone and everyone to give them a try. You may be very pleasantly surprised at how easy and affordable it really is.
If you would like to see what other homeschoolers thought of IEW, click here.

**Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received this product free of charge, in exchange for my honest opinion/review. For more honest reviews from real homeschoolers, visit the TOS Crew website.


Heather said...

Great review! You explained the SWI so well. I liked your detail and now I want cookies:) Hope you and the boys enjoy this one--I am glad to be able to do it again with my youngest, now that I have a clue:)I agree about the addition of a more classical approach, also. i love the CM but sometimes I feel that need to do classical, it just seems solid.

Jennifer said...

Great review! I loved reading Josiah's writing assignment. In answer to your question on my post, we use Singapore Math. The negative reviews I read before purchasing said it didn't offer enough review and practice, but for my boys that's what I was looking for. They're quick in math and the programs that spiral would drive them nuts. This was what I meant by the negative reviews really helping me to separate out the one program that would work well for us from all of the programs that people raved about. We've used Singapore starting with the K4 program right on through 4B, and it continues to serve us well. As I said on the forum, a well-written negative review can be more helpful than a host of rave reviews as it can help one to determine if the negatives would truly be negatives for her family. Of course, a well-written positive review with a lovely example, like your IEW review with Josiah's writing, can also prove useful.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...