Friday, May 13, 2011

TOS Crew Review: Institute for Excellence in Writing


I have heard the words “Institute for Excellence in Writing” or IEW bandied about the web now for a few years. In just about every single case it was another homeschool mom singing the praises of this program. I was intrigued. Very intrigued.

See, I have three boys. My youngest is only seven and just beginning to read and write well but my older two are ages ten and fourteen. Neither of them are good writers. They are passable writers. But not good or great.

I love the written word. I love to write. I love to read. While my boys love to read, they are both poor spellers and poor writers. I’ve been searching for a quality program to help me teach them how to become better writers for a very long time. Teaching writing is vastly different than other subjects. For example, teaching math…there are certain steps to follow. If you learn step A and step B and step C than you can succeed at math. Writing is a harder formula to teach. Or so I thought.

IEW breaks writing down in to manageable steps. By following the steps as they are taught and mastering them (just like mastering your math facts helps you succeed at math) your child can become a successful writer.

See why I was intrigued?

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Seminar Plus Seminar Workbook ($169). This is designed for the teacher. I am very much a visual learner – as are most of my boys – and I loved having this broken down for me.

Andrew Pudewa, the director of IEW, shares how to teach in the IEW style and why this works as each step is shown and explained. This makes it super simple to translate it to your children. The DVD set includes six DVD’s of Mr. Pudewa teaching each unit of the IEW structure. This is a recording of a two day seminar and practicum. There is also a DVD entitled “Tips & Tricks for Teaching through the Nine Units of Structure & Style” which is exactly what this DVD contains. Finally there are three additional DVDs in which Mr. Pudewa is shown teaching various levels of students. Disc one is the elementary grades (2-4), disc two is the intermediate grades (grades 5-7) and finally disc three is the high school grades (8-10+). It is a wealth of wonderful information.

Let me just pause here to say you do not have to watch all 10 DVDs or even one DVD before you begin teaching your child. As long as you stay ahead of where you need to be, you can begin teaching as soon as you get the hang of it. However, if it has you nervous to teach this method of writing then keep reading.

I was also given a copy of the Student Writing Intensive Level A ($99). This kit includes a set of four DVDs in which Mr. Pudewa teaches your student. Can you tell I loved this? Not only could I learn along with my boys, but I could enjoy just being the teacher’s aide for the class since Mr. Pudewa taught them for me. A binder was also included along with a set of dividers and a packet of teacher notes, handouts, and checklists. It even includes lesson plans. My absolute favorite part of the whole thing!


In actuality, I was not given these as separate pieces, but as part of the combo pack that IEW offers. The Teaching Writing/Student Writing Intensive Combo Pack Level A sells for $239 which includes all that I have already mentioned above. This is a savings of $30 when purchased together.

There is a lot of different information taught in each unit. To make it easier for a student to remember, IEW also offers portable walls ($7). These are basically tri-fold folders that are 8-1/2x11 in size that contain all the necessary information. One of these was also included with my packet of materials from IEW.

For me to break down all of what IEW contains would take far more space than I should use. However, the bottom line is this… IEW is an excellent company (um, no pun intended actually) that breaks down the elements of good writing into manageable pieces. It takes the guess-work out of writing and gives a student concrete skills to become an exemplary writer. In fact, I would normally mention the cost of the program as a deterrent to purchasing. However, this time I simply must state it is worth every single penny.

I have been homeschooling now for eight years. One thing that I have heard said time and again is to invest your money in your weakness. I have found it extremely difficult to teach writing. My oldest son found IEW to be very easy to use. He did a very good job with it. However, we did have Level A and he would normally be more at a Level B or even a Level C given his age. My ten year old struggled a bit with it but it really is the perfect level for him. I do plan to continue using IEW and to continue investing my money in it. To me it will be well worth it to have sons who grow up not only to enjoy reading but also writing. To me that is priceless.

I highly recommend heading over to the IEW website and exploring. There are a number of free downloads that would be beneficial to listen to. IEW also offers other types of products as well. You can check it all out at their products tab.

Be sure to head over to the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to see what others had to say about IEW.

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review.  All opinions shared are my own. TOS Crew Members are given the product free of charge in exchange for our unbiased opinion of the product.


  1. I've been considering this, but the price! Something to ponder!


  2. I had the chance to see Andrew Pudewa speak at our homeschooling conference in April. He was an amazing speaker. My friend and I also had the chance to talk to him about other topics like his knowledge in the Suzuki Method and the Glenn Doman method. When my son is a tad older I would love to look into this product.


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