El’s Rabbit Trails: Soliciting IEW Review

If you’re a homeschooler, you probably recognize IEW as the curriculum offered by the Institute for Excellence in Writing.

A few years ago my husband and I attended a talk at the Florida Parent Educators convention. It was presented by Andrew Pudewa, the creator of the IEW writing curriculum. At the time our youngest two children were very young and although we thoroughly enjoyed the presentation, we balked at the price of the curriculum.

Fast forward 4 years, and we have decided to make the investment. We think. I’ve talked to a lot of other moms and the consensus is that it could be worth the money. It depends on the child.

Because I am already tutoring one homeschooled young woman in writing with pretty good results, not to mention helping out our young adult daughters whose writing education suffered in the public system more than I even realized, it’s been suggested that we forgo the $250 expense. I still think I need the extra help with out 4th and 2nd grade homeschoolers.

The point of this post is to solicit reviews from any of my readers who are familiar with it or have used it.

Have you any experience with IEW, and if so, what do you think of it?


Book review coming on Friday. Els’ honor.

12 thoughts on “El’s Rabbit Trails: Soliciting IEW Review

  1. Booky McBookerson says:

    Just for interest’s sake, I don’t know anything about this particular curriculum, but we have one girl who struggles with writing and spelling. The spelling improved after doing a few of the spelling lessons from Logic of English on YouTube (this was when she was still at school and she went from getting something like 2/20 on a test before then maybe 15/20 after only 3 or 4 lessons).


    As I said, I don’t know about IEW. I tend to glaze over and have no idea when trying to evaluate curricula based on what their websites say. However, when I see an app there that promises to “instantly improve your writing”, well, color me a little skeptical, lol. There is no magic bullet.

    What do you do when you tutor? If it’s working, I’d be inclined to keep doing what you’re doing. But then, I’m really bad at sticking to a program so, take that for what it’s worth.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    I hadn’t even noticed that bit about “instantly” improving your writing. I had to go back and look at it.

    I find that funny because most of the moms I spoke to said that although it works well, it’s pretty intensive. The opposite of “instantly”.

    The student I tutor is 15, and her mother has done a pretty good job with teaching her conventions. Her problem area is organizing her thoughts.

    Sidebar: I know you’ve been reading me for a while so try not to guffaw at the idea of me teaching someone how to organize their thoughts when writing.

    Even though the 5-sentence paragraph, 5-paragraph essay model of writing generally drives me nuts, I started there because it gave her a rough outline for keeping her thoughts on track. From there, we moved away from that model to finding better ways to transition between paragraphs and watch verb tense agreement, etc.

    Because of the age of the student, it has been easier to teach her by simply having her write about topics she expresses an interest in.

    With our 4th grader, a major issue has been focus along with consistency using conventions.


  3. Eavan says:

    My 30-year-old son was in one of the original focus groups when IEW was developing their program and I used IEW for years. It’s an excellent program to get a student to college-level writing (in other words, fluent with the 5 paragraph essay), but you don’t need to buy the whole program. You could get one of the Student Writing Intensives (probably level A) and work through it with your girls over the course of a year. It doesn’t have to be intense, especially with such young children. Homeschoolers do have a tendency to make everything intense instead of being restful in their teaching. IEW says you need the whole program because some parents cannot write and you can’t teach what you can’t do, so their full program teaches parents to teach their children, but you know how to write already so I think you’d be fine forgoing the parent teaching part of it.

    The best writing program hands down is The Lost Tools of Writing. I taught writing classes for years with both IEW and LTW and they fuse together very nicely. However, LTW is only appropriate for junior high and above since it uses schemes and tropes, which are too abstract for young children. IEW teaches structure and style, which is appropriate for younger children because it’s concrete. LTW, on the other hand, is hard to describe. It’s not just about writing; it’s about thinking. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s definitely worth the money and once they get fluent in it your children will have the tools of thinking to use for every school subject and every area of their lives.

    However, if your budget is limited, I would suggest you forego IEW and practice writing with copying, dictation, narration, and imitation of classical writings, especially memorization of poetry, for their younger years and then start LTW when they get to 6th or 7th grade. For younger children the important thing is that you furnish their heads with a rich vocabulary, not that they write things out of their heads. There’s not much in their heads when they’re so young. Beginning formal writing in the middle years is appropriate because the student is starting to move into the abstract phase and can form his thoughts into understandable ideas and it’s when they begin to desperately need to communicate all of these ideas.

    About “instantly improving your writing” – IEW will improve a student’s writing with the very first essay, but there’s no magic bullet when it comes to writing. It’s one of the harder skills and it takes years of practice to become fluent in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. hearthie says:

    It’s been three years, but 15yo used this in 6th grade at his charter school.

    They strongly emphasize writing prompts, and learn several different styles of writing, and do a lot of discussion about the writing. As I recall, vocabulary and thesaurus work were prominent.

    You are meant to do a few year cycle of this, which he did not, but overall I thought it was a good thing, particularly for middle school aged kids. I think it’s well worth the 250 for the use you’ll get out of it.

    I *like* five paragraph essays…. thank you millions of essay tests…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elspeth says:

    Thanks, Eavan for the thorough review. Our 4th grader is heading into 5th grade (technically I suppose) and because writing was such a huge deal for 4th graders during standardized testing time when our older kids were little, I have a preconceived idea about where her writing level should be. She’s not there.

    I have heard great things about The Lost Tools of Writing, but we’re a long way from there.

    I was wondering if we could get by on just the Student Writing Intensives, so thanks for the suggestion on that as well.


  6. Eavan says:

    On second thought, SWI-B is likely the best set for a child entering 5th grade. All the levels have the same basic idea, but each level adds more skills.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jenny says:

    sounds good! My SIL is doing it this year also, she has a 7th grader, so I’ll be watching her too. Many people at my coop recommend it.


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