At a time when many home school families are looking for student-directed programs that allow parents to hand kids a text and let them complete it on their own, Andrew Pudewa’s Institute for Excellence in Writing takes a different approach. IEW makes products directed primarily at parents, who are taught how to present the material to their students.
Most of the products consist of DVD lectures and a syllabus for the teacher, along with worktexts or workpages for students. Some are only worktexts, but are based on information presented in one of the seminar/DVD lectures. Used together, these programs form a solid foundation in language arts and literature study for students grades K-12.
The most basic element of the IEW family of curricula is Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, a course designed to guide parents through the essentials of writing instruction. If you plan to use any of IEW’s other products, you should start here. Even if you’re not interested in their other offerings you should look into this one to help you teach writing (arguably the most difficult but most important subject). The approach is rooted in student imitation of exemplary writing to learn the essentials of the craft as well as clear thinking and formatting to produce their own quality work.
After Structure and Style are the Student Writing Intensives, which supplement the former course and apply it more directly to specific grade ranges. This time, the student watches the DVD lectures and works through an accompanying workbook. These are short courses easily completed in a few weeks, working from and assuming knowledge of the Structure and Style course.
A variety of guides and worktexts are available offering pre-made lesson plans and assignments to help students implement the writing theory they’ve learned in Structure and Style and the Writing Intensives. The "source texts" are mostly for elementary and middle school kids, while the Theme-Based Writing Lessons are for older and younger students; these guide kids through writing assignments based on the Structure and Style methods, while teaching them about a variety of subjects from science to history through interaction with important texts.
Excellence in Spelling uses Andrew Pudewa’s unique philosophy of education and phonics acquisition to teach spelling. This isn’t a reading course (though the phonics rules are so thoroughly covered you could probably use it as one), but your kids’ reading and spelling skills will be greatly improved and should stay with them for the rest of their lives if you follow Pudewa’s detailed guidelines.
While it isn’t an IEW product, Adam and Missy Andrews’s Teaching the Classics literature instruction program uses the same teacher-intensive methods and is highly recommended by Pudewa as a prelude to IEW’s literature study products. Teaching the Classics is based on Socratic study methods in which teachers rigorously question students and lead them in discussion to illuminate the meaning and importance of literature; the course can be used with basically any age-level, and any genre or type of literary work. IEW’s offerings include Windows to the World (a literary analysis course), and British and American literature studies for high schoolers. They also recommend using The Grammar of Poetry, an introduction to poetry analysis and appreciation from Logos Press.
IEW has suggestions for grammar texts to supplement their writing courses, as well as a number of other courses and resources. Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization is designed to help your students’ communication skills and learning/information retention abilities. A number of advanced level texts help kids perfect their essay-writing skills and even guide them through the basics of writing a fictional story.
These are by no means the simplest language arts courses available. That’s not to say they aren’t easy to implement once you’ve watched the DVDs and read the syllabi, and you’d be hard pressed to find any better. Not only will your kids receive a fuller understanding than most other programs offer, you will be given the tools necessary to actually instruct and guide them, making the task of teaching writing and literary analysis ultimately much less daunting.