Friday, May 13, 2011

For the Love of Writing

Writing can be a difficult and overwhelming task for many children and young adults. Our kids have kept journals since we began homeschooling and I encourage them to write in them daily. Journaling has been a great way to record exciting or memorable events in the kids’ lives and they love looking back at the way they wrote or what they wrote about. It helps them develop sentence structure, grammar usage, penmanship, and punctuation skills.

The kids' journals.  Well worth the fifty-cents they cost at the beginning of the school year!

Along with journaling, they’ve all followed an English curriculum that assigns writing projects. In these they learn about topic sentences, introductions, the body of the work, and conclusions. From there they’ve written a few stories, biographies, how-to papers, etc.

Some homeschool families opt to not do English.  We implement it throughout the year. 

There have been times I’ve asked our kids to write freely or expand on a topic after I ask an open-ended question. Such a question might be, “Write about the most interesting event you experienced last summer.” If I ask our children that question only requiring a verbal response each one would probably give great details and descriptions of the summer event. But, if I asked them to write a one page summary of their summer vacation, their response may be, “I don’t know what to write.” Following their response, may be the ensuing stress, frustration, and discouragement from the sudden onset of writer’s block.

This past year we decided to enroll our oldest son in a writing class at a local homeschool education program. I thought this might be a good idea to have someone else besides me require writing assignments with set deadlines and standards. His teacher used a book called Jump-In: A workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers by Sharon Watson. It is published by Apologia Press. This book was great for our son! The assignments were broken down in easily completed skill segments. Most importantly, he actually enjoyed doing his work and writing the papers. He wrote a number of papers this year including a biography, book report, opinion paper, a newspaper article a how-to paper and a compare and contrast paper to name a few. Through this writing program, he built confidence as a writer. I think he even began to develop a fondness for writing.

Jump In by Apologia

Next year the same homeschool program will potentially offer a class based on the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). After reading the following review I think we’ll definitely consider taking this class or possibly purchase the curriculum for home use.

I found a post on homeschool explaining the IEW program.

Here’s the post by Catherine:
When I first began homeschooling, I tried to learn as much as could as quickly as I could. I joined groups, message boards, and Facebook pages. One thing that I noted early on was that a lot of people raved about the Institute for Excellence in Writing. (usually called IEW) Any time the subject of writing programs came up, there would be glowing reports of IEW, and how much the children enjoyed Andrew Pudewa. When I was given the opportunity to use and review this program, I was thrilled!
When the box from IEW arrived, I opened it right away. Inside I found a DVD, Structure and Style Overview. This is a recorded lecture by Mr. Pudewa. Anxious to see this highly recommended program explained, I played the DVD. For 2 hours and 20 minutes, he described the method of teaching, how he learned it, and the ways we can best support our kids as they go through the courses. It’s very well done. Available for $10.00, it is a priceless introduction.
I saw immediately why the children enjoy these classes. Andrew Pudewa is encouraging, engaging, funny, and moves at a good pace. He also gives wonderful advice about editing vs lecturing, subject matter, and much more.
After I watched the Overview, I looked more closely at the Student Writing Intensive Course. I found 4 DVDS, student binders with worksheets, and teacher’s pages.

If you like organization, you will adore the teacher’s syllabus. Each lesson is written in perfect detail. Each DVD is outlined by time stamp. Each lesson is also shown in several different ways. There is a chart, a day by day schedule, and then the actual lessons; these have teacher’s notes, student writing checklists, the reading sources, and pages for reinforcement of the recorded lesson. There is also a page that has helpful suggestions for lesson planning, how to teach the course, and even a paragraph that walked me through setting up the student binders. Everything was in order. I lined up my first lesson supplies and we were ready.
I am happy to report that the outline follows Mr. Pudewa perfectly, all of the source material was correctly sequenced, and it was very easy to follow along as he taught. If notes are to be taken, there is either a pre-made sheet to fill in, or he very carefully describes what he wants the children to write on their pages. The sheets that are included are color coded, so that there is no mistaking what he wants when he says “the yellow sheet” or “the pink sheet”.

Although the DVD portion of the course originally took place over 4 days, this is ideally taught over 15 or 30 weeks. The teacher notes correlate which parts of the recorded session go with each lesson, because you will be watching the DVDs in smaller parcels of time. If you need to go back and find a specific thing (such as how you were first taught to write a conclusion) you can easily look to see that on Disc One, at 9:04, that subject is covered.

Even reluctant or disorganized writers can turn in beautiful papers if they apply this method. The biggest stumbling block, (what to write about) is removed for the children. Then they are given some tricks, like how to outline ideas, remove boring (banned) words, and “dress up” their writing. They are also taught how to write strong conclusions and great titles. All the while, they are laughing. (Yes, laughing!)

I thought this was a wonderful program. I’m grateful that it is available on DVD. My boys (who could never be still for a class like this) were able to sit in our living room, on our comfortable couch, and glean all of this wonderful information. Their fidgets didn’t disrupt anyone, and we could take breaks whenever we needed.

Student Writing Intensive is available in three levels. Level A is for elementary students, B for middle school, and C for High School. As I mentioned, we did Level B. The course is $99.00 which includes:

• Four DVDs

• A binder with dividers

• A packet with the teacher’s notes, handouts, and checklists (about 100 pages in all)

Additional Student Binders may be purchased for $18.00. (or $10.00 if buying the e-book version) Student pages may be reproduced within families, but not for co-ops.

All programs come with a 100% Money Back Guarantee if you are unsatisfied for any reason.

You’ll also find that each course description includes sample pages and some video clips like this one for SWI-B.
The last item included in our package was the Portable Wall. I love this. It’s a trifold laminated folder with a pocket so a report in progress can be stored in it. It has the “dress ups”, word lists, and the hints that are taught in class printed on the inside and back. The student doesn’t have to take copious notes and then marinate in them. Everything is a glance away. I found this to be a great tool for reinforcement. It is available for $7.00 .
I realize that most people are not like me. I get curriculum and I dive into it. If you tend to open the box and cringe, you’ll find help with these Yahoo groups. They are populated with plenty of experienced IEW families and moderated by IEW staff members. There are also several other help options such as Where to start?, FAQ, and contact us located on the Help Page.

If you visit the website,, you’ll find a wealth of information available. Contact information for homeschooling families, schools, and international orders will be found on this page. General Inquires and Homeschoolers will use this information:

• Call toll free: 800.856.5815 (local 918.894.5802)


• Fax: 603.925.5123

• Write: 8799 N. 387 Rd., Locust Grove, OK 74352
The Institute for Excellence in Writing offers several other writing course options and an in depth seminar for parents about teaching the IEW courses.

IEW also offers music, grammar, literature and poetry, spelling, theme based studies, eBooks, Pre-k items and more. You’ll also find lists of upcoming events and webinars, suggestions for which courses to take and in what order, past conferences and seminars, and information about the instructors.

Some of my TOS crew mates have reviewed a variety of the writing courses at all levels. Stop by the Crew Blog and read some more of the reviewsHERE.

**In order to write an informed review, I was given the materials mentioned. I was not compensated for this blog post, and my opinions are genuine.

Copyright © Our Village is a Little Different ~ Product Reviews and Homeschool Things Powered

I'm grateful for reviews like the preceding.  It helps making the decision what curriculum to purchase next year.

No comments: