“It was a dark and stormy night…”

Actually, it probably wasn’t stormy, but it was dark and night, or, more accurately, it was about 2 AM one day in early May, 2001. My eyes had popped open and I had lain in bed for a while. Realizing I wasn’t going back to sleep, I had wearily dragged myself out of bed and onto the living room couch.

It was that horrid time of the school year, the time when my brain began to demand an accounting of how I had spent my year as a homeschool mother. What had I accomplished with my 6th grade twins that year? I didn’t have much of a math mind myself, so it was no wonder they didn’t do well in math. But I was a language arts person! Surely they should be great spellers, writers, and lovers of literature.

The writing was the worst part. I couldn’t seem to teach them how to write worth a toot, and none of the many curriculums that I had tried had worked. When I read their writing, the only thing I could think to say was, “Can’t you use…better…words?” I felt like a failure. And even worse, what would become of them? My blood pounded in my ears as my anxiety soared.

Oh, well, I’m definitely not going back to sleep tonight, I thought. I decided to put in the first video tape of yet ANOTHER writing curriculum I had ordered, which had just arrived the day before. Like all of the programs described in the homeschool catalogs, this one sounded like “the greatest thing since sliced bread.” It had a long name: The Institute for Excellence in Writing.

“So It Begins…”

I was immediately transported into the wonderful world of IEW by Andrew Pudewa. He verbalized empathy with all of my frustration and disappointment about our lack of progress. He promised help. Within 30 minutes I knew I had found what I had been searching for: a way to build writing skills with my children.

Entranced, I took notes and worked the exercises along with Andrew. Devouring the first of the six videotapes, I went right on to tape #2, where I learned the first style techniques, called dress-ups, and the story model. The two tapes together were a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes.

By the time I finished watching them, I was burning with zeal. I awakened my twins. “Get up! Get up! We’re going to learn how to write!” I’m sure they thought, “Ok, Mom’s on one of her kicks. Just go along quietly. She’ll get over it.”

“And They Lived Happily Ever After…”

It has been twenty years this month since that fateful early morning encounter with IEW and I never have “gotten over it.” Twenty years, and I am still captivated by the simplicity, beauty, and effectiveness of IEW. I never tire of teaching it, because I delight in witnessing the marvelous transformation of my students’ writing.

My children, hundreds of my students, and hundreds of thousands of other students across the country have learned to write well because of the wonder of IEW. They will use their mighty pens to accomplish important work. And it is a NeverEnding Story, because many of those students will surely carry and pass the pen to the next generation.

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