Another day of middle school writing assignments. Another day of frustration, long hours at the desk, and very little accomplished. And, unfortunately this was not a new struggle. We had battled over writing on and off since he first held a pencil.
Sound familiar? My oldest child has really struggled with putting pen to paper. He is the math and science guy. He can pull apart an engine, put it back together and tell you how it works. But ask him to write down more than a paragraph, especially one that involves creative thought and you will think you just asked a snail to fly you to the moon.
Enter IEW. It gives concrete, practical tools for writing and writing well. My husband was home one day when they were watching their lesson for the day and he said, “I wish someone had told me how to write a story like that. That’s easy!” That sums it up pretty well. Andrew Pudewa takes what is nearly impossible for so many students, what is a source of major frustration and energy drain to teachers and students alike, and makes it easy.
Product: Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Teaching writing/student writing intensive combo pack level C
Details: A combo pack that brings information for both parent and student. The two components can be purchased separately as well and include the 10 hour teaching writing workshop (Andrew Pudewa in front of an audience of parents) for the teacher and the student program (Mr. Pudewa teaching a writing workshop for high school students) designed for use over 15 to 30 weeks depending on how much time you put into it each week.
Price: $239 for the whole combo pack
Because there are two distinct components to this combo pack I will separate my review of these items. I don’t want the value of either of these parts to get lost in a lengthy list of pros and cons. To start with, I want to share my thoughts on the level C teaching writing intensive for students.
What we loved . . .
- Great for the non-writer and the non-writing teacher or non writing-teacher. I love to write. It’s part of the reason that I got into blogging. Taking fingers to the keyboard is a natural outlet for who I am. Unfortunately, most of my children do not take after me in this way and they really needed a teacher that understood and didn’t just keep telling them to write something — or else. They really enjoyed watching the videos, my daughter even said she had a new favorite teacher (I tried not to be hurt by that, as she assured me she was just expressing how much she enjoyed the videos. Um, okay). We really needed a fresh face to lighten the mood surrounding writing.
- Good for older students, but still a little flexibility in the age. IEW encourages you to pick a level based on your student’s age, not on their writing ability. Older kids, even beginning writers, can progress more quickly and handle reading passages with more difficult wording. The exercises in each level are designed with a certain age grouping in mind. Level C is geared specifically toward high schoolers. I did use this for my son (entering high school) and my daughter (entering 7th grade). They were both able to work at the level required. It was a challenge for them, but a good one. They both have strong reading and vocabulary skills, just not great writing skills. I have really seen them grow through the specific methods they now have in their tool belt for writing assignments.
- Witty teacher. Andrew Pudewa has a dynamic teaching style. I found myself watching along just because it was an enjoyable lecture. He interacts naturally with the kids in the video’s classroom, and teaches with professionalism, a sense of humor, and a thorough understanding of his subject and writing method.
- A full year curriculum. They say you can use this for 30 weeks or go up to twice as fast and finish in 15 weeks. I can easily see this taking a good chunk of next year to finish as well as we have just used it about half of this school year. There are plenty of supplementary exercises if you want to go slower and activities that you can easily skip if your child is picking up the steps more quickly. I know IEW is often taught in co-ops around here, but I really like the flexibility of doing this at home where they can work at their own pace and go more quickly through some weekly lessons and take their time to fully master others.
- Gives kids concrete steps. Without stifling their individuality, IEW gives the student specific steps to take to complete a writing assignment. These steps will look different depending on the type of writing, but with this teaching they can write and follow the rules and know they will come out with a great product. My son likes things concrete, specific, clear expectations, obvious write and wrong in an assignment. IEW makes writing a more concrete subject for students like him, and he thrives under it. My daughter likes the freedom of writing, but never knew how to get started. IEW has helped her to get that boost to get the assignment started and then her writing ability takes over from there. IEW has helped them both in their own unique ways and helped them both to become better writers.
- You can do it! Even if you are not a writing teacher you can easily use this curriculum at home. You buy the level, you can make copies of the notebook pages for each of your kids, and let the video do the teaching once a week, roughly, and you follow up the rest of the week. They break it down into very manageable size lessons that fit easily into our full homeschooling days. I was very pleased with the schedule that they set up for us to follow. Of course we did tweak it here and there, but it gave us a mostly useable starting point.
- Covers all areas of writing. We still have some of the curriculum yet to finish, and when we are done my kids will be very comfortable with writing in many forms — lecture note taking, summarizing, research papers, essays, creative writing, and taking notes from references. They need to be able to do way more than write a story or narrate a lesson back to me. Writing will be one of the first impressions that they give to people throughout life and I definitely want them to be comfortable with it so they can present themselves well.
Some considerations . . .
- Video doesn’t have clear breaks. I don’ t know why this bothers me so much, it is really a little thing. But, I just wish that the videos stopped or had a break when a lesson was done. When I first watched I had not paid enough attention to the timing and kept watching for almost three hours because I thought the end should be coming soon. Well, it had come and gone and come and gone and come and gone. After learning my lesson I would write down on a little sticky note what time the DVD player should say when we were done for the day. My kids did enjoy the reading lesson, but they don’t want to do more school than necessary on any given day, so they made sure it stopped where it was supposed to after that.
- Still requires writing. To learn to write, they will need to write. My son definitely did less groaning with IEW than with other programs or assignments we had tried. However, he it is not a magic pill that made him love writing. It did, however, enable him to do it. Now I can give him a writing assignment or tell him to write a summary of what we learned and he doesn’t first spend a half hour staring at a blank sheet of paper. Now he has the assignment done and turned in by then. That is a step in the right direction.
And, then about the teaching conference on DVD:
What we loved . . .
- Comprehensive workshop for teacher/parent. Even though I am comfortable writing and teaching writing, IEW has a little bit of a different approach to writing and in order to best teach the approach to my kids and supervise their learning of it, I needed a little extra instruction as well.These videos helped me have a more thorough understanding of the what and why behind their methodology. This really helped build my enthusiasm for the program and I think that then rubbed off on my kids as they started into their own video series. I could tell them without hesitation that they would enjoy Mr. Pudewa’s teaching style and I was right on.
- Can be watched a little at a time. I rarely have 10 spare hours at one time, probably not even in one month could I muster that kind of extra time. So, these videos can be watched a little at a time as your kids progress through the material themselves. If you have a chunk of time over the summer to watch them in a couple sittings that works as well, or you can choose to watch it in segments that apply to the lesson the kids are learning as well.
- Suggested schedule. If you do want to use this all at once as a workshop (invite other moms over, too, and they can even order their own notebook to go along with it!), they give you a suggested schedule and some tips on making the most of it. I did watch some of this with a friend that was also getting started in it and it was a great motivator to walk the path with another real live person while we enjoyed the DVD presentation as well.
- Anticipates questions and prepares you well. Obviously, no one knows that program like the creator. Sitting under the teaching of the person who put it all together was priceless. He knows why it includes certain components. He knows how to best utilize the resources included in each pack. He knows how to schedule the material into your homeschooling experience. He answered my questions and more and helped me feel confident and comfortable about teaching my kids at home using IEW.
Some considerations . . .
- Video doesn’t have clear breaks. Again, this is the same as the kids’ videos, so I won’t repeat myself, but I found it distracting to have to watch the counter rather than being free to focus on the speaker as a session got close to an end.
- Need to focus. It is really best to watch this without distraction. This was not a DVD that I could put on in the background while I cooked dinner or played a board game on the floor with the kids. I had to be sitting, facing the TV, notebook in hand, listening and taking notes to really absorb it. The material is practical and specific and you won’t want to miss it. Be sure to set aside a time when you can really listen and make the most of this great resource.
After having tried this program and having it so willingly received by my kids I am excited to check out more of their products. They have writing courses geared toward specific time periods in history (they run just $29 for the student book), and continuation courses for those ready to build on what they have learned in these courses (these can take up to two years to complete). I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of Mr. Pudewa in our living room.
For more TOS Crew reviews on this product, check out the TOS Crew blog.
Disclaimer: This product was provided to me free of charge through IEW as part of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew. I received no additional compensation and the opinions expressed here come from my personal experiences and sincere thoughts.