Thursday, June 11, 2015

Review of IEW's Deluxe Combo Level B

IEW Review

Oh my gosh. There are no other words. Can I just say that sometimes what doesn't work for one kid is for another kid (or three)? I have reviewed Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) before, but had the sad task of reporting that this homeschooling superstar did not work for Therese. I concluded that she was basically just beyond the highest level available (even though, age-wise, she was only in 7th grade). What rubbed her the wrong way about Mr. Pudewa's teaching style (his patience, his humor, his super easygoing style) is what my younger three kids LOVE about him! Isn't it funny how different kids are? Perhaps I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

I had the great good (unbelievable, even) fortune to receive for review the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level B, including Fix-It! Grammar Books 3&4. I also received A Word Write Now and Portable Walls. I know. Let's all take a moment and say a prayer for IEW's success, because, people -- sending this package out for review? *That* is generosity. My children have been blessed beyond measure by this program, and I am grateful.

The Deluxe Combo Student/Teacher Writing Package includes quite a lot, so let's break it down:

  • Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, including the Premium Content Subscription (TWSS) - this is the brand new 2nd edition of Andrew Pudewa's wildly successful seminar for parents of K-12 students that is designed to help parents teach their children to write. If you want to know how to turn your children into successful writers, or if you want to learn how to write yourself, this course is a Godsend. You can view a sample of the intro on the link I provided. The Premium Content allows you to stream the seminar, plus it allows access to monthly webinars, August through May! It's the training course that keeps on training!
  • Seminar and Practicum Workbook (which is included in the above package, but you can get a better idea of what it is at this link)
  • Student Writing Intensive Level B (recommended for 6-8 grade), which includes four instructional DVDs, a three-ring binder, and a student packet
  • Student Notebook with Handouts and Lesson Plans (included in the above package, but you can get a better idea of what is in it with this link. You can also order extra sets for extra students with this link. PDF copies are only $10.)
  • Fix-It! Grammar Books 3 and 4 with Downloadable Student e-books (link is to Book 3)
  • A Word Write Now (A Thematic Thesaurus for Stylized Writing)
  • Portable Walls (a portable version of the kind of writing posters you would love to hang in your school room!) 

With such a large set, of course, you may face the "problem" (oh, to have such problems!) of where to start. The best place to start is on a two-fold track: as a parent, you do yourself a big favor by beginning to watch the TWSS seminar immediately. The more you understand about the IEW approach to teaching writing, the more capable you will be to assist your children in learning. At the same time, pop in the first of the Student Writing Intensive DVDs, and let Mr. Pudewa begin to work his magic. He literally does all of the work for you. The directions in the handouts tell you how to organize the student binder, and Mr. Pudewa tells the student what to use, and when. As for the Fix-It! Grammar books, which I just love, you can use them concomitantly with the Student Writing Intensive. The exercises in these books take only minutes per day, but both the effort and the result are cumulative. Take a look at the sample to see what I mean! The thesaurus and the portable walls, of course, are resources that you will find yourself using on a daily basis. Your kids will probably find them very useful as well!

My Kid(s) and IEW

As I indicated, there is a lot to this program. That's a huge bonus, in my opinion, because writing is the most important subject in school. Why do I say that? Because if you can write well, you can write your own ticket, as my father used to say (he probably still says that). If you can write well, you can write your way into a good college, into a scholarship, into a good job, into anything. I have certainly found that to be true in my own life. Writing well has opened every door I  have ever knocked on - literally. It also gains you the respect of people. Think about the last time you saw someone make a foolish grammar or usage error - how did it impact your opinion of them? Conversely, think about that person you had only ever met in passing, but then received a cogent, well-thought out, nicely structured email from. Didn't your opinion of them go up? Is it just me? In any case, writing is hugely important in my house. Our writing journey begins by reading classic, quality literature. It's amazing how much that can teach a child about good writing. After that, well...I have been able to teach Therese quite well! Nicholas (12 in three weeks!) is my challenge. He actually does write surprisingly well. He loves (he would not agree with that term at all!) grammar - the structure of it appeals to his OCD brain. I am always impressed when I read something of his and see that he has set off an appositive with commas. As far as the structure of formal writing, though, we haven't gotten there yet, and that has concerned me. When we got the opportunity to review IEW again, though, I had the feeling that what didn't work for Therese would be perfect for Nicky. I was right.

The first time I popped in the DVD, Nicholas liked Mr. Pudewa. I'll confess that my kids were all very curious to see him "in person" because they knew that I had had a personal interaction with him at an NCFCA (Christian homeschool speech and debate) tournament. The Pudewa kids compete in our region (Therese has debated them!), and Mr. Pudewa volunteers his time (as do we all). Anyway, because I had a brief meeting with him regarding debate stuff, the kids are fascinated at the intersection of their curriculum world with their debate world. For them, the name "Pudewa" belongs to debate - isn't that funny? Anyway, I was very happy about that, otherwise Nicky would not have been so eager to show up to writing! After the first minute, though, Mr. Pudewa's way with kids took over. In fact, my 10 year-old twins immediately came in to watch and asked if they could do the writing class, too. Because they are 5th/6th grade, and because Level B is the level IEW recommends for mixed age learners, I was hardly going to deny them! They were disappointed that they would not be getting any handouts, but my kids are used to one child getting the good part of the review, with others getting the fringe benefits (i.e., watching the videos). As I indicated above, though, you can get extra copies of the student pages for extra students taking the course. If the twins' interest persists, I will definitely be taking that route. For now, they are just watching the course and copying down what Mr. Pudewa writes on the board. I *love* the fact that when I have them formally do this program, whether this year or next, it will only cost me $20 (for two copies of student pages by .pdf download). The initial investment for IEW may seem kind of steep, but if you have multiple children, it is amazingly inexpensive!

So much digression. Sorry. One of the best things about IEW is its schedule. If you follow the schedule, the program will take you 30 weeks to complete. Perfect for us. You can go slower, and probably should if you have younger children working on it. You can also go faster if, for instance, your child is either older than the recommended age, or is just a serious go-getter. If you follow the schedule, then you will spend the first day watching about a 45 minute segment of the first DVD. It is recommended that you watch with your child, and I think that's a great idea. For one thing, it dovetails well with TWSS, and for another, it's hard to assess your child's work if you don't know what he was supposed to be doing in the first place (oh, Mr. Pudewa is teaching me in increments not to be so harsh/critical/corrective with Nicholas' writing - it's a lesson I need!).

The first two weeks of SWI (Student Writing Intensive) are spent learning to create a keyword outline. It's a skill that all three of my younger children have been using ever since they learned it. They have applied that skill to every aspect of their school work. They are fascinated by it. Honestly, if that's all they learned, I would say this was a successful review product. I have been trying to teach Nicky how to outline for a while and have failed, so kudos to IEW!

Because of the thoroughness of the keyword outline lesson, when it came time to translate that outline back into a paragraph, Nicky's paragraphs was awesome! Better yet, it bore little resemblance to the original paragraph from which the keyword outline had been created. Together we polished his rough draft, and in week four, he wrote his final copy. He was proud of his work, and I was so happy with the process.

As with so many things homeschool, though, it's seeing the impact of the lesson on something else that is the proof, right? In one of those "it all comes around again" moments, the other day Nicholas was writing his Informative speech for next year's NCFCA season. It is on Minecraft. He was reading something about Minecraft and pointed out that he would write a keyword outline of the material and then write up his notes from his keyword outline in order to make sure that he wasn't unintentionally plagiarizing. So, Andrew Pudewa, who Nicky knows from NCFCA, taught Nicky how to make a keyword outline, through his Institute for Excellence in Writing, so that Nicky could write his Informative speech for NCFCA. Let's just enjoy that. At least I will.

The Icing on the Cake - or the other materials

Nicholas has always liked grammar that is of the "you edit it" variety, so Fix-It Grammar! is right up his alley. Knowing that he can get grammar done in five minutes each day by correcting the mistakes in the paragraph, and seeing the story develop daily, is such a neat concept for him. As a side note, Therese really liked Fix-It! Grammar when she did it last year, too.

The Word Write Now thesaurus is so neat. The main use this has gotten thus far is as a "reading for pleasure" book. Mary-Catherine (10) has read the whole thing cover-to-cover. I know that all of the kids will find it a very useful reference book in the years to come, though. I love that it is organized thematically. The organization makes so much sense for a child.

As to the Portable Walls, this is a concept long overdue! I have wanted to hang posters in our schoolroom, but considering we converted our dining room in to a schoolroom, it's not going to happen. Being able to temporarily place posters just for writing/grammar class is genius. Click on the link I provide above to see just how much useful information is provided on the Portable Walls. For $7.00, it's hard to justify *not* getting them. You'll use them for reference everyday. Because I create worksheets for public school teachers, I find that I am using them all the time! These are the hidden gems of this package!

Only Complaint
My only complaint about this program is very minor. I don't understand the need to use words like "-ly dress-up" instead of "adverb." Can we not just call a spade a spade? Again, that is so minor. As a grammar word nerd, though, these parts of speech have names, and they are good names, so they should be called by their names.

I am so happy that I got another chance to review IEW. I felt awful last time concluding that, while it was an excellent program, it didn't work for us. Now I am so excited to say that, once again, Therese is just anomalous! I have such confidence that in less than a year, Nicholas will be churning out amazing papers. Better yet, he has that confidence, too. My kids *ask* to do writing. The twins want to see what corny joke Mr. Pudewa will make, and Nicholas wants to buckle down on his next assignment. What more could you ask than that?

84 other Crew members got to review other IEW materials, so be sure to click the banner below to read all about their experiences!

IEW Review

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