At the homeschool conference, I was able to attend a writing and language arts panel. Three moms shared their various favorite language arts curriculum ideas, and a few were discussed in depth. One of these is a program which I always wanted to use, but never took the big jump. Years ago, when my girls were attending a local homeschool PPP through the school district, their writing teacher used Excellence in Writing. I remember loving how they were able to take those keywords and turn them into coherent paragraphs. I was an IEW wanna-be.
I have been on the IEW newsletter mailing list for years. I am notified when ever they come to town or offer trainings or Student Writing Intensives in my state, yet I do not use the program. I did use their spelling curriculum with the girls when they were in 3rd-7th grades, and loved it. It was the fear of all the different odd parts to teaching or learning the writing program that has always intimidated me.
During the writing panel I listened intently to what they had to say about IEW. They make it sound so easy! I even asked them a question, which I now pose to any of you who use IEW and know what you’re doing with it:
How would teaching and using this program look with a child who cannot write? I don’t mean handwriting; his penmanship is very nice. My 9 year old cannot so much as copy a paragraph. It takes hours…. and hours… and hours… Getting it from his brain or eyes, to the pencil and to the paper is just something he’s not able to do easily. If I ask him to tell me a story, or tell me about something, this he can do without hesitation.
Just the process of coming up with keywords from even one short paragraph I think will give me gray hair. We don’t think about what we have to go through to do things like this! For D1 it is a multi-step process:
- Read the paragraph.
- Read the first sentence.
- Find 1-2 key words that hold meaning to the sentence.
- Write the words down.
- Repeat with second sentence.
Sure, it sounds pretty quick doesn’t it? Not with a child with a developmental delay due to brain damage! Reading is fine. Choosing a word or two? From a pile of words? I shudder to think. Maybe I should just try it and see what he can do. Maybe he will surprise me. Writing the words down, since it is only one or two, may be okay although he would still need to be prompted.
Then they put away the source material, take their key words, and make up their own sentences. This could go one of two ways: he may make up sentences that have NOTHING to do with the source text, or he may repeat the original sentences word for word. He has a fantastic memory.
The whole thing just really intimidates me!! I don’t understand how they can get from keyword outlines and paragraphs written from those, to writing on their own. The different pieces and parts of the program just seem rather disjointed to me, even though I know it works! I need to get my hands on the DVDs, watch them, and just try it. Hopefully I can find a friend who owns them. I think I know someone who does. When I do finally try this I’ll be sure to post an update on how he did. For now, I’m still an IEW Wanna-Be.