Encouraging Reluctant Writers: An IEW® Review

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

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I have... well, a whole host of reluctant writers in our house. Why is it that it's so difficult for them to put a pen to paper? Some of them sit around drawing all day long, but ask them to write a single sentence and it's mutiny!! I had heard nothing but wonderful things about the Institute for Excellence in Writing®, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to try out their course, Structure and Style® Year 1 Level A for Students. With a 3rd grader and a 5th grader (as of the end of this past school year), I knew that Year 1 Level A would be best for us (though there are two higher levels for older students as well), and it definitely worked for both my experienced writer and my (much, much) more reluctant writer.

With as many moving parts as we have around here, I'm always happy to have something that is not teacher-intensive in our arsenal, and this absolutely fits the bill! With streaming digital lessons and a hard copy binder full of materials to use, I was able to get the kids set up and then just sit back and reap the benefits of Mr. Pudewa's teaching. His lecture style is incredible engaging, and I often found other children peeking at the video lessons and giggling at his jokes!

Both children worked on outline style, note taking, taking their outline from its original form to a longer composition, proofreading and editing one another's compositions, and taking editing notes graciously (sometimes) from Mom. After a few lessons, my younger learner was getting frustrated because of her lack of writing stamina (and her easily frustrated personality), so I ended up letting her narrate her composition to me while I wrote it down in order to take the frustration level down a notch. Ultimately, I think it didn't work out for me to lump both children together, because my older student had an easy time taking notes quickly, and my younger student needed things slowed down enough that she got upset that her level of ease wasn't the same as for her brothers. I think it might work better for me to try this again with her and her 2nd grade sisters near the end of next school year. And since the streaming lessons are available for us in perpetuity, this will be easy to revisit.

We found that this was a helpful structured way to get the kids writing, but it mimicked what we naturally do through our oral and written narrations on a regular school day, so I'm not sure that we benefited from this program as much as a homeschooler who is not following the Charlotte Mason model of homeschooling would. If you are new to Charlotte Mason and not familiar with narration, this would actually make a really nice primer for older students, at least the first three units, which focus on note taking, outlines, and retelling narrative stories.

Both the teacher manual and the student binder are sturdy and well-constructed, with easy organization amidst the many tabs. My type-A oldest child really enjoyed organizing all the loose papers that came with the course! I plan on continuing the course with him, especially the lessons that focus on references and inventive writing. He writes pretty well on his own, but as he gets older I know it will be helpful for him to understand how to write a composition using multiple sources, and how to cite those sources within a longer composition.

Despite her reluctance and frustration, you can see below that my younger learner was still able to complete some passable compositions using the skills she developed. I think the process may have been frustrating for her because she is used to reading or hearing a story only once, and then narrating it in its entirety, instead of taking the extra steps within the program. These did increase her accuracy greatly! But since it was at the expense of her emotions, it's probably best for her to take a step back for a bit.

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