With our newest review items from IEW, we feel just the same way. (Maybe even more so!) These might really be the most useful homeschoolers’ resources I have found during my homeschooling experience! Institute for Excellence In Writing and the Schoolhouse Review Crew provided us with IEW‘s new Resource Set, containing four materials to review: Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games Set, and A Word Write Now. Each of the three books is an 8 1/2″ x 11″ comb-bound and laminated softcover; plus there is a Teaching with Games DVD/CD.
What is Institute for Excellence in Writing?
As you can imagine from its name, IEW creates and produces curricula that homeschoolers and teachers can use to teach and train students to effectively communicate. Writing, reading, grammar, and language arts are all used to achieve this goal. Many of their products are for students to use themselves, while others are for equipping instructors and homeschoolers to teach their children well. We’ve used their excellent Fix-It! Grammar curriculum (you can click on the link to see our review of it) and were impressed and appreciative of it.
This time, however, we were very fortunate to be selected to review a Resource Set for parents and teachers. This set contains some absolutely incredible products: Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games Set, and A Word Write Now. I’d love to tell you about our experiences with them!
Timeline of Classics
You know how we homeschool moms are always looking for great books for our children? I search the Internet, websites, and curriculum companies for the best book lists for my child. While I don’t mind these searches terribly, they CAN become a time-consuming process. And then sometimes, I lose the lists entirely. This does not make me happy.
However, thanks to IEW and its spectacular Timeline of Classics, I now have an incredible and comprehensive book list all in one place. Subtitled “Historical Context for the Good and Great Books,” Gail Ledbetter’s booklist is the most detailed and extensive I’ve ever seen. It is an 87-page (printed both front and back) listing of old and new classics in fiction and nonfiction, organized in a timeline which will aid you as you study world or American history. Timeline of Classics includes a chart for the following eras’ literature and written works:
- Ancients (5000 BC-AD 400)
- The Middle Ages (AD 400-1450)
- Renaissance and Reformation (1450-1850)
- The Modern World (1850-present)
Each page has a four-column chart which presents the literature chronologically. The charts provide further description of each book, film, or work:
- Description or Time Period: tells the time frame the book is set in, plus describes the contents of the publication itself
- Level: is this for elementary, middle school or high school students?
I used this as a way to find books connected to other books we’re studying, and the history we’re looking at currently. I found a poetry book to add to our homeschooling (we are working on a poetry unit several times per week, and this book of children’s poetry seemed like a lovely complement). In addition, I found a great nonfiction book about the importance and methods of adding classical books to a course of study.
I absolutely LOVE this resource. It has a most unique and unusual book list. I had heard of some of the books, but many were completely new to me! In addition, a plethora of the books are not necessarily for the students to read, but teaching helps for the parent. Plus, Gail Ledbetter organized all these works into chronological order. That makes it so simple for the homeschooling mom; all she has to do is turn to the page that lists books about or from the era. This is a very bountiful resource!
A Word Write Now
This book is the most interesting and well-designed thesaurus I’ve seen for students! However, it’s not just a thesaurus. It is a writing resource designed to help students understand the process of selecting the best words for a sentence or description. In the table of contents, you’ll find segments divided into:
- Character Traits
- Descriptive Words
- Words for Movement and the Senses
- an Appendix, which includes teaching tips and resources
Then, within each category, there are many words that fall into that description. For example, under Character Traits, you’ll find words like anger, compassion, exuberance, gossip, and many others; words describing both positive and negative traits and emotions. When you select one of these words and turn to its pages (which are always two pages facing each other), you’ll find these subheadings:
- A definition
- Thoughts on that trait
- Short readings (excerpts) from classical literature exhibiting that trait
- And then, lists (which can be quite lengthy) of nouns, nouns/characters, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs that are synonyms of that selected word/trait.
- Also, there’s a section called Additional Words where the student can jot down even more synonyms that he finds
This was an exciting product to use, that was an excellent tool. My son, Jackson, is an eighth grader. At the moment, he’s working on creative writing. So, I gave him assignments in which he’d select a character and write a descriptive paragraph about him or her, using one of the traits in A Word Write Now.
I loved this. It was so helpful to Jackson! It really perked up his writing, having such fabulous lists of words to work with. It truly made his descriptions shine. We will continue to use this writing thesaurus in years to come…and also on a regular basis!
Teaching with Games
Teaching with Games, our third product in the resource set, was actually two items: a DVD/CD set (which can be used on a DVD player or a computer) and a softcover book. And if you’ve been looking for new activities to add to your learning time to both increase knowledge acquisition and make lessons more enjoyable, then this is what you need!
Author (and presenter, in the DVD) Lori Verstegen has collected and created a huge variety of learning games, in many different categories and themes, such as:
- “No-Prep” Games: These are games that require no preparation from you. You just play!
- Matching Card Games: These require flashcards that you’ll make ahead of time. They can utilize vocabulary, math facts, geography–anything your child needs to learn that can go on a card! This book contains many that you can print on stock card and cut out, as well as blank master cards.
- Question Games: These are, of course, games where you ask the question! Many game shows use this format, and it’s easily adaptable for homeschool use.
- Math Facts Games: These include adding games, “board” games with dice, multiplication, and number lines.
- “Make As You Teach” Games: This is an exciting section. Here, students actually make the games while the parent is teaching. Lori Verstegen has made fantastic clue cards for geology, geography, bingo, math and more!
The CD/DVD set contains excellent video presentations of Lori Verstegen’s learning games. It is a 3-disc set; the first two have Lori demonstrating the games and the third has a PDF e-book of Teaching with Games along with some bonus material. She is a great teacher and very enjoyable to watch.
We found these games very fun as well as useful. They were super-easy to integrate into our homeschool day. For example, I mentioned above that we’re studying a poetry course, and a recent chapter taught about the use of alliteration and assonance in poems. So, I used the “No-Noose Hangman” game along with some tongue twisters to reinforce those two elements of poetry. Very fun–but also a very clear way to teach what alliteration and assonance look and sound like!
There is a lot to love about this Resource Set. I found each book, and the DVD/CD set, so useful in many different ways. For example, A Word Write Now was an excellent tool to enable Jackson to improve his writing skills…as well as a fascinating one to work with. Teaching with Games included lots of ways to make learning fun. And the accompanying DVD/CD set was almost like a continuing education course for moms. Timeline of Classics provided a complete and beautiful book list for all homeschool students, regardless of age. I always find that whatever IEW produces, it is of outstanding quality and excellence. And, their curricula are just a pleasure to use…while effectively teaching necessary concepts.
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