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My IEW Wishlist

This is our first year using the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I have to admit that I have always been skeptical of IEW. Many of the parents I have talked to in my circles who use the program seemed stressed out and overwhelmed. To listen to them tell about their homeschool day, describing the subjects they were teaching and curriculum they were using was stressful to my delight directed ears. I made an assumption that IEW was busy work, time consuming, and stressful.

Thankfully, that assumption was dispelled when I was able to hear the founder, Andrew Pudewa, speak at our state conference, NCHE Thrive, last Spring. I really did not even want to go hear him speak… my goodness… how judgy of me! However, he was one of the keynote speakers so I decided to go. I was so pleasantly surprised and humbled as I listened to him speak. He articulated so well the hopes that I have for my own homeschool. He so eloquently described what I have come to know as interest led learning and delight directed homeschooling.

But what I was most impressed with was all the young students, middle and high school age, who lined up to shake his hand and tell him thank you. These children were so excited to meet Mr. Pudewa. Seeing how motivated and excited these kids were about the program sealed the deal for me… I had totally misjudged IEW and was ready to eat my humble pie, visit the booth, and ask some questions.

As I mentioned in the post about our high school plans, my oldest had expressed interest in diving deeper into the elements of literature. He has always been an avid reader and wants to learn more of what it would take to write his own novel. When I expressed this to my new friends at IEW, they suggested we start him on The Student Writing Intensive Level C. Noting what I said about his apptitude for grammar and mechanics, she said he could likely do level C during the fall and move into a novel writing focus in the Spring.

I am loving Level C. We sit and watch the videos together. Sometimes I feel like we are back in preschool watching Dora the Explorer… you know how she would ask questions and then pause for the answer? I was totally answering Andrew Pudewa during one of the lessons.

We also have Level A for my girls. We will probably start after Christmas.


While looking on the IEW website, I started putting together a list of things I would love to use in our homeschool. Here are a few that piqued my interest:

Fables, Myths, and Fairy Tales

“This theme-based writing curriculum offers a full year of instruction for students in grades 3–5 and is perfect for homeschoolers, homeschool co-ops, tutors, and hybrid schools. Your students will work through IEW Units 1–7 as they learn to take notes, retell narrative stories, summarize references, write from pictures, and compose their own fables, myths, and fairy tales. Includes vocabulary cards, literature suggestions, and access to helpful PDF downloads.”

Following Narnia Volume 1: The Lion’s Song

“Using the first three novels of The Chronicles of Narnia® (The Magician’s Nephew, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and The Horse and His Boy), this series of 30 lessons (with two bonus lessons) beckons students to experience the enchanted land of Narnia through the Structure and Style® writing method.

The Student Book gives reading assignments from the novels, source texts on related topics, checklists, assignments, wordlists, and more! The Teacher’s Manual is a necessary component of the course, as it will guide the teacher/parent through each lesson with in-depth explanations, tips for teaching, checklists, and other notes that will ensure that you and your students are successful with Following Narnia.”

A Guide to Writing Your Novel

  • “Designed especially for teenagers and older hopeful writers, instruction is based on 30 years of proven, practical methods of developing an idea into a complete story.
  • This guide covers the common elements of all category novels as well as the special requirements of the key genres: suspense, mystery, romance, juvenile and others.
  • Checklists and helpful workshop suggestions can be found periodically throughout the book providing a distinctive and valuable feature.
  • This is the answer book to questions beginning writers have on all aspects of novel writing.”

Lemonade to Leadership

“This unique 12–25 hour curriculum involves students in grades 6–8 in real-world business practices: recognizing opportunities, record keeping, marketing, merchandising, and writing your very own business plan and implementing it!”


I realize that my biggest goals for my children as far as education is concerned are :

1. Develop a life long love of learning.

2. Learn to read. Love to read.

3. Be proficient writers.

We are 99% there on the learning to read. As far as I can tell, I have a crew of bookworms who appreciate and enjoy reading. We are moving into more of a focus on writing now.

Have you used products from the Institute for Excellence in Writing? Comment below and share your favorite.

homeschool helpsProduct Review

Film School 4 Teens- Intro To Filmmaking

Last year when I attended the NCHE Thrive Conference, I shared in one of my talks about my son’s new found love of filmmaking. A good friend had been taking time to teach him the basics of film editing. This friend had also given my son a camera and a tripod to get him started. I shared in the talk about how my son had become so involved in film making that he was “doing school” and didn’t even realize it. He was learning the basics of good story telling, computer skills, editing skills, how to handle a camera, how to handle a cast and crew, and so much more.

I encouraged him over and over to NOT let his littlest sister be in his movies. She is fickle. One day she would be excited about a starring role. The next day, she would no longer care and refuse to help. He had to learn to woo her and work with her to convince her to be part of his project. He seemed to refuse to learn his lesson and kept letting her into his movies.

While at the conference, I met Damon Evans. He is the creator of Film School 4 Teens. We started talking about my son’s love of making movies. The more he described his course to me, the more I realized what a great fit it would be to take my son to the next level of film making. The course we landed on is Introduction to Filmmaking.

I work with middle and high schoolers. Making movies is something that appeals to many of them. Even if it is not an actual movie, many of them have YouTube channels. They want to learn to edit and present their content on their channels.

Introduction to Filmmaking is designed from a Christian worldview. While the content is not exclusively Christian, it does not shy away from films such as the “Jesus” film. There are also movies assigned that deal with issues of faith like Mel Gibson’s character in the movie, “Signs.”

The course consists of streamed videos, a textbook, photo and video assignments, and movies to watch. Most of the movies were available either through Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hoopla for free. I think we might have had to rent one or two.

The course consists of 18 sections. Each section has four parts: The Lesson, The Assignment, The Film Report, and The Fun Film Fact. You can purchase the text book or download the free PDF. We chose the download because I had borrowed a comb binder from our homeschool library and I went comb binding crazy last year.

The lesson portion of the section consists of the video lesson that my son watched and a worksheet that he filled in as he went. The classes are not live, which was nice so he could work at his own pace.

The assignment part of the section varies from section to section. There is typically a video to watch and an assignement to complete. In section 1, the assignment was to compare and contrast the “Two Nerf Gun War Shorts.” However, the assignment for section 5 was to generate ideas for a movie. The link to the videos and all the content is easily accessible from the student dashboard on Film School 4 Teens.

The third part of each section is a Film Report. Movies are assigned based on the elements being taught in the different sections. Admittedly, we did not watch all of the movies. For being as interested as he is in making movies, watching movies is another story. My son has always been sensitive to images and prefers to stick to books. I do believe the movies selected for the course are appropriate and speak to a general audience. You can see the list of films HERE. For our family, however, there were some that we opted out of. He did watch several movies including “The Wizard of Oz,” “Life of Pi,” and “The Princess Bride.” There is a film report to fill out during or after watching the movie. I do not think my son missed out terribly on the experience of the course by skipping the movie watching.

The fourth part of each section is the Fun Film Fact. This can include such things as “The Invention of the Film Camera and Projector” or a spotlight on a certain person like Orson Welles or a spotlight on a certain era like “the Golden Age of Hollywood.”

There is a brief quiz at the end of each section with information important for students to remember. This is a great tool for reinforcing the information given in each section.

Through the course, my son learned different editing techniques. I believe the course is user friendly for simple editing tools like the ones found on a smart phone on up to a more sophisticated program like Adobe Premier. We started off using a free editing download called Hit Film Express and eventually transitioned to Adobe Premier.

Even though some tools and equipment are needed for the course, it is not a heavily technical course. The essentials are taught in a way that is not overwhelming. Students who are minimally interested in film making as well as students who are intensely interested will find this course engaging.

The first few lessons do not require much time to complete. Watching the movie will take up the most time. However, as the course goes on, the assignments become more time intensive. For example, there is a section where students will be asked to film from ten different angles to learn about perspective.

My son did the majority of this course independently. I received a progress report once a week. I honestly did not look at it often because I could check his workbook and chat directly with him to see where he was in his assigments. The course did require him to engage other people in that he needed to have subjects to help him with various assignments. Those subjects were, more often than not, his sisters. Each student does work towards creating their own short film over the course of Introduction to Filmmaking.

The Introduction to Filmmaking course is designed for middle and high school. You can earn a high school elective credit! It is perfect for individuals and groups. My son was inspired to possibly teach the course as an Enrichment Class in our local homeschool group. You have access to the workbook and answers. My son spread it out over four days per week. It could take more or less. You can work at your own pace. Once we signed up, we had access to the course and lessons for one year.

My son took it upon himself, with inspiration from this course, to recruit about fifteen other middle schoolers to participate in his movie project. He selected cast members as well as crew members. He wrote a script which he sent to the actors. He storyboarded each filming day. He wrote a list of filming locations and who would be needed at each one. I was able to create a group message with the moms while he created one with his friends to keep everyone informed. He had 6 or 7 filming days and then worked to edit and complete his project. It took about six months over all. We had to work around schedules, sicknesses, weather issues, etc. We are planning to have a showing of his final product in a couple of weeks. It was kind of fun (and extremely tiring) to tote all these children all over the mountains of Western North Carolina… following in the footsteps of other great films like Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans, also filmed in them thar hills.

His experiences in this film making course and his individual work have taught him so much more about story telling and working with others than I would have been able to just by giving him writing assignments at home. When I asked my son what he would say in a review of Intro to Filmmaking, he said, “I really like the guy who teaches it. He is very engaging… like he actually wants to be teaching us!”

You can check out my son’s YouTube channel HERE. You’ll find a few of the fun videos he has done with his sisters. Currently, however, he is all about computer animation and most of what he does makes no sense to me… but to those who it does make sense, they love it!

I am thankful to have met Damon Evans last year at the Thrive conference. I would definitely recommend using Film School 4 Teens in you have a middle or high schooler even remotely interested filmmaking. The course is $280 and includes all I have mentioned before as well as support from the creators. Film School 4 Teens also offers a course called “Essenstial Media Training” and one called, “YouTube for Teens.”

You can find Film School 4 Teens on Facebook and Instagram.

We were given free access to the Intro to Filmmaking Course with the promise that I would use my big mouth (my words, not theirs) to share with those around me about how great it is. So… hear me when I say… it is really great!