Saturday, July 6, 2013

Review of IEW's Student Writing Intensive Level C

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I love writing. I love teaching writing. What I have found, though, is that with some kids, there really isn't much writing to teach. Specifically, if you have avid readers, you will (barring learning disabilities) likely have great writers. Because of this, I have not done much formal writing instruction with Therese (12 in one month!). We have always hit grammar hard, but we've not done much actual "this is how you write an essay." Whenever we've been blessed with writing-oriented review products, she's just always done really well with them.

Like all other sentient homeschoolers, though, I have always had Andrew Pudewa and Institute for Excellence in Writing on my radar. *Everyone* knows that he is the writing guru and that if you need someone to teach your kids to write, he is the guy to do it. I was very excited, then, to have the opportunity to review Student Writing Intensive Level C and Teaching Writing with Structure and Style.
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Teaching Writing with Structure and Style is Andrew Pudewa's writing seminar for parents.  At $169.00 it may seem a bit steep, but if you have no idea how to go about turning your children into competent, even superior, writers, the price truly is a small one to pay. Over the course of six DVDs, ten hours total viewing time,  Mr. Pudewa will teach you how to teach your children to write.  He will take you all the way from a paragraph through an essay. In other words, this course coordinates with all three levels of Student Writing Intensive (A-C). One investment will enable you to teach all of your children at all levels of writing. Also included with the set are a supplemental DVD you can use as a refresher to the full course and three DVDs of sample student workshops so that you are able to get a sense of the program at all three levels, which is a huge help when diving in to the first lesson. Finally, you get a workbook to use along with the DVDs. It will tell you what to watch, when (much like the student workbook), and when to complete each practicum in the workbook.

Student Writing Intensive Level C is the final level in the Student Writing Intensive series. It is recommended for grades 9-12, but as with all things homeschool, every student is different, so check out the sample to determine where your student should be placed. SWI-C comes with four DVDs, a binder, teacher's notes, and a 100-page student note pack. It retails for $109. An extra student binder/note pack only costs $19.00, so this is a great investment if you plan to use it with multiple students, either concurrently or concomitantly.

IEW and Me

I need to preface our personal experience with the strong caution that IEW deserves all of its kudos. This is a great program. It takes all of the guesswork out of teaching kids writing. Within the first week, I had watched all of the DVDs from Teaching Writing with Structure and Style and had done all of the practicums. I didn't really like doing the practicums because, I think, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I am very set in my ways. I have been writing for a long time, and I have written *a lot* (mutli-volume dissertation, anyone?). HOWEVER, when I put myself in the place of many of the moms I know who never really had formal writing classes, who never went to college, and who are flat-out scared of teaching their kids to write (most of whom have just sent their kids to our local junior college to take a writing class), it was clear that Mr. Pudewa was doing an amazing job. For how brilliant he is, he is not intimidating. He is not condescending. He conveys information in a clear way that instills confidence. Being able to do that humbly is a skill unto itself (one I have yet to master even though I *feel* humble - when you're passionate about a subject, it's not as easy as it looks). While I don't feel that I benefited as much as I could have from this course (old dog), I can think of five people I want to gift it to right now. This is a worthwhile investment that not enough homeschool moms know about.

IEW and Therese

Unfortunately, I think Therese didn't get as much out of this course as she might have, either, precisely because she is already a very accomplished writer. As I said at the beginning, if you're an avid reader (of good books, classics, mind you), you can't help but be a good writer. The syntax, the structure, the style - it just penetrates your consciousness. I was amazed to see that Therese was setting appositives off with commas before I had taught her what appositives were. She's that kind of kid. 

One of the first things Therese did in SWI-C was learn how to outline IEW-style. Unfortunately, she already learned how to outline a different way several years ago, and, while she tried the new way, she kept going back to the old way because she found it more efficient. The next thing in the course focused on retelling a story (an idea Therese was certainly familiar with through both narration and early work we did with the progymnasmata, the only formal (if you can call it that) writing program we have ever used) and then "dressing it up" with adverbs. Again, perhaps because grammar is my baby and is something I do with my children very formally from a very young age, Therese did not like the idea of artificially making an effort to inject adverbs into a story to make it interesting. She already writes using adverbs and adjectives, but has been cautioned by me to avoid "purple prose." Although she has continued to use SWI-C throughout the review period, she has not relished doing so.

Concluding Thoughts

I wholeheartedly recommend IEW. I consider myself privileged to have been able to review it. I think that if I had used a different level with one of my younger children, we might have had a different experience (but none of my other children was really ready or IEW for various reasons). I never know how much to say about Therese without sounding boastful. She is highly gifted. She has tested post-high school level in every subject. She is not the average rising 7th grader; she is not the average 9th grader (the target for this program). To be honest, I'm probably not the average homeschooling mom. I cut my teeth writing from a young age, I collected degrees like candy, and I talked non-stop to Therese from the time she was conceived until my dissertation was finally safely at UMI. I'd be surprised if she *wasn't* ridiculously verbal. Heck, she probably knows statistics and I just haven't found it out yet!

My point is - this is one review where our experience should not be taken as a reflection on the program. Everything you have heard about IEW is true. I love this program. I'm going to look at it again when my 8 year-old twins are a little older. Read all the other Crew reviews to see how it worked in different kinds of homeschools!


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