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A Case for IEW Structure & Style {curriculum review}

girl working on homeschool lesson

Written by Krista Smith.

Last year during my summer-long quest to find the best curriculums for my family for the 2022-2023 school year, I needed to assess and address something I had (possibly purposefully) ignored. Writing. I had eclectically sewed together what I prayed was a stellar Language Arts experience for them, but I had to admit I hadn’t done my children justice in the writing department.

The problem of finding a curriculum was further exacerbated by the fact that I have a daughter who lives and breathes story writing (She has been composing her own short stories since she was 3.), but a son who has had a lifelong aversion to all things writing…or holding pencils. By the grace of Christ, as he hit his tween years, he remembered his long-lost love of reading, however. So I reasoned, “If the time was ever right to get this boy writing in earnest, it’s now, while he’s soaking deeply in great books.”

After hours of research, YouTube reviews, and interviewing mom friends, I took the leap and purchased a curriculum that I prayed would be something my daughter would tolerate and would help my son gain the courage and ability that he previously lacked.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.) 

A Case for IEW Structure & Style

Institute for Excellence In Writing Structure & Style


The curriculum I landed on was Andrew Pudewa’s, Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) Structure & Style. We’re now halfway through the school year and I am so glad the Lord led me to choose this curriculum over the others I was considering. It has been such a blessing to my two very different writers. Truly, I have been gobsmacked by the growth in their writing abilities.

Top Four Things I Love About IEW Structure & Style


Andrew Pudewa

My kids love this man. He is brilliant, hilarious (but not in an “I pander to middle school boys” kind of way), and a wizard with words. Am I convinced my kids could still get a lot of the general information contained in this program from some other instructor? Yes, they could. But would I catch them both laughing until tears run down their faces on a weekly basis, running into each other’s rooms and saying, “You gotta come to listen to what Mr. Pudewa just said!” and then rewinding the DVD to share the hilarity and teachable moments with their siblings? Probably not.

Audio Visuals

I am fine teaching my kids from a book, especially when it’s a subject I love. However, I can’t teach all-the-things with all-the-passion. And that is why, whenever possible, I like to find curriculums taught by real-life human beings who are not me. The concentration and engagement of students often go through the roof when the subject is masterfully taught and beautifully filmed. (This program can be purchased in two formats, DVD or digital log-in).

IEW seat work

Classroom Setting

Mr. Pudewa teaches Style & Structure on a lovely classroom set in front of a live student audience. Unlike a lot of lecture videos where the students are there but are off-set and can scarcely be heard when they speak, the students in each level of Style & Structure have desk microphones and are invited to interact freely during each lecture session. Another of the finer points of this curriculum is that Mr. Pudewa frequently reads one of the student’s works as an example. My kids have gotten a kick out of hearing what another student came up with for the writing assignment and how it varied or was similar to their own composition.

Handrails

As I mentioned previously, my daughter is a wonderful and prolific writer in her free time, but to be able to write a term paper or an excellent essay someday, she needed some handrails. She needed to learn how to assemble data effectively and then put that information into her own lovely words in a way that is engaging and winsome. 

From the outset, I knew that the rigidity of formal writing was likely to make her feel that her creative writing wings were being perpetually clipped. However, once she understood the method and could see how expository writing was different from creative writing, she put away the picket sign. She has not just learned to tolerate this curriculum, she's learned to earnestly love it. She has seen how so much of the material can also be applied to her creative efforts.

Likewise, my son needed handrails to help him gain confidence in putting words together in a way that makes sense and is readable to his audience. Style & Structure certainly delivered. Each lesson is laid out in detail for both the mom and the student and is broken down into manageable steps that can be checked off once completed. The video teaches the information for the week but also guides the student in selecting and using the appropriate papers, charts, and source texts. In other words, never has a child come to me confused about what to do next. And to that, this mama says, “Hallelujah!”

girl working on IEW

What’s in the Box?


  • IEW Structure & Style comes with either a code for Digital Access to instruction videos or DVDs, a teacher’s manual, and consumable student text which includes: a 3-ring binder with pre-labeled dividers
  • Source Texts for each writing assignment
  • The Weekly Overview (the schedule of what’s going on that week, what’s expected, and appropriate due dates for assignments)
  • Key Word Outline Sheets, Banned Words Lists, Punctuation/Usage and Documentation Sheets, and Model Charts and Outlines
  • Sheets with Stylistic Techniques for easy reference (These techniques will be used frequently. Having them handy is a must.)
boy working on IEW

How I Tweaked the Program to Meet Our Needs


Our family has used the curriculum pretty much as it was designed to be used with the following small changes:

First, the video portion of the lesson typically spans the first two of the five-day lesson schedule. But my children tend to like to watch the video portion all in one day, giving them a day of wiggle room for other aspects of the assignment later in the week. 

And second, the curriculum has enough writing assignments for 24 weeks' worth of schooling. While we could've barreled through them all that quickly, we opted for a hybrid schedule that found us (from the months of September through November) doing one lesson per week just to get our bearings with the curriculum. In the new year, however, we will be pairing back to every other week to make the assignments stretch until May.

girl working on IEW structure and style

Final Thoughts


IEW Structure & Style has surpassed my greatest hopes for our writing endeavors this year. So much so that I have already purchased the next level for our next school year for both of my older children. If, like me, you’re wondering how to help your kids become effective communicators and writers without a lot of stress, and with a healthy dose of hilarity, do some looking into Style & Structure. For our family, it has been a dream come true.

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Krista Smith is blessed to be the mother of three beautiful children and is privileged to homeschool them using an eclectic variety of methods. She has a deep and abiding love for tan-colored coffee, spending time with her family, and seeing children find their forever homes through adoption. But above all of these things, Krista is, first and foremost, a lover and follower of Jesus Christ. So, may the Lord and His Gospel get every ounce of honor, glory, and credit for anything she writes, says, or does.


11 comments:

  1. Two questions. 1. How does it compare to the writing sections in LLATL and/or BJU?
    2. I have a 7th grader and we've used BJU for a while because it's straightforward and comprehensive. But there's no love for it anymore and is turning into drill-and-kill, but I hesitate to switch to something totally different right before high school. But I have been drawn to LLATL for cost and the not-as-drill-and-kill. Do how does this join in the comparison?

    Thank you!!

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    1. Hey, Sarah! I don't actually have a ton of experience with LLATL but I know Jamie does! Maybe she'd have some insight on how the two compare!

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  2. I've avoided IEW because I know some of their programs require the parent to take a class on how to teach their curriculum and I didn't feel like I had the time. Does this one have that? Also, does it give guidelines to help parents with grading the kids work? Thanks!

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    1. Hi! There are no parental classes needed for Structure & Style (Hallelujah!), and there is a very simple to use parental checklist for each paper that walks you through what to look for in each paragraph and you simply check off that your student met these criteria in their writing! This doesn't equate to a letter grade, per se, but it can give you the framework you need to assign a grade. I assign a point value to each item on the list and add up the points at the end vs. how many points possible. Hope that helps!

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    2. It does thank you!

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    3. You're most welcome! There are also some great videos out there both on Youtube and IEW's website that show you what the teaching videos are like as well as the materials included. I delved pretty deeply into these before I pulled the trigger and made the purchase! Best of luck!!!

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  3. I also would LOVE opinions on IEW vs. LLATL. I'm finding our current writing curriculum to be just ok and needing grammar and spelling supplements. I'd love to make a switch (hopefully just one switch) before my young kiddos get too much older.

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  4. Hello, what age kids would you recommend for this curriculum?

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    1. There are Structure & Style sets for differing age groups! Their Level A caters to kids in 3rd-5th, Level B for kids 6th-8th, and Level C for kids 9th grade+. My son is doing Level B Year 1, and my Daughter is doing Level C Year one. Next year they will be doing Year 2. Hope that helps!

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  6. We are using this with my 4th grader for the first time this year too and loving it. We went pretty slowly in the fall and are now doing about a lesson a week to finish in May. My son still struggles with wanting to do it, but once the video starts his attitude is usually much better because he loves Mr. Pudewa.

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