Sunday, September 19, 2010

Learning to Like Writing

It's no secret that our twins are quite different.  One of them is tall; the other not so much.  One likes his hair long and shaggy; the other insists on having his closely cropped. One twin can usually be found with his nose buried in a large book.  The other twin would rather spend his free time constructing things from Legos.  So it's no surprise that they each enjoy different aspects of our school day here at home.

Ryan (our Lego Engineer) absolutely loves doing science experiments and any kind of hands-on activity.  Except for writing.  He's never been much of a fan of writing.  Writing, in this case, refers to anything involving gripping a pen or pencil and making marks on paper.  Unless it's art class, he would rather not have to make use of a pencil.  Ever. 

Which kind of made it difficult, as his mom/teacher, to draw much enthusiasm from him when it came to composition, creative writing, journaling, poetry, essays, or well...pretty much any of that required kind of thing.  Last year, as a new homeschool mom, I wracked my brains for ideas to get him more interested in writing...without much success.  Oh, he did his assignments.  He just didn't want to.  And believe me, his work reflected that.

So this year, we joined a local co-op.  And that co-op offered a writing course.  Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity, and signed the boys up!  I knew that Zach would LOVE taking part in it.  And I forced gently encouraged his twin to participate as well...because at least it wouldn't be solely up to me to get him involved and make him learn a little more about the writing process!  Maybe...just maybe...there was a chance that another teacher would be able to get him excited about it.

Can I just say this now:  We love IEW!  The Institute for Excellence in Writing Ancient History Based Writing Lessons seem like their were made for our reluctant writer.  In the beginning, students are guided through writing with style.  They're taught to use strong verbs and lots of descriptive adjectives and adverbs. They're shown how to add flair to their compositions using alliteration and really short sentences here and there.  They're guided through making keyword outlines and writing strong essays.  And it's all done as painlessly as possible!

IEW Ancient History Based Writing Lessons comes with a student workbook and an eBook (Student Resource Notebook) that is downloaded and printed out.  The eBook contains grammar lessons and vocabulary words for each unit, along with a list of "banned" words that the student should refrain from using in their work.  (They're given list after list of words they could use in place of the few "banned" words.)  The eBook has information on citing sources, dramatic openers, similes and metaphors...you name it, it's in here...and it's all right there at the student's fingertips while they're writing. 

I can honestly say that this writing course is worth our time.  By the second lesson, our pencil-phobe was putting more effort into his work.  He still doesn't pick writing as his favorite subject, but he does try harder.  He spends time on his lessons and actually pulls out the thesaurus to try and find more interesting words for his papers! 

I'm pretty certain the reason for the big turn around is the way this course is designed.  It takes writing from a "pull words out of your head and arrange them somehow" to more of a formatted, structured thing, which is right up his alley!  He CAN put thoughts on paper if there's some kind of rhyme or reason to the process.  And IEW does that for him.  It sort of breaks writing down into a formula...like the math he's so good at!  Only, instead of looking for the volume of a cone or solving for "x" he's injecting words into a sentence or a poem.  It definitely works for Ryan!

Check out IEW's website.  They offer all kinds of spelling, phonics and writing courses that could be useful to your homeschool student OR your public schooled child who needs something to boost or broaden their skills.  Our daughter (a high school senior who's taken 5 years of advanced English classes) is even learning something from the boys' books! 

Oh, and just to clarify: IEW did not donate these books to my family.  We weren't asked to review anything and I'm not gaining anything financially by writing about it.  I had never heard of this program until we signed up with our co-op and I'm giving my opinion simply because we're so thrilled with it. 

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