Author Interview: Lori Verstegen—Helping Students Succeed

Dec 01, 2016 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

There are many options available to teach IEW writing to your students. One of the most enjoyable and successful ways to begin is to use Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS2) and the Structure and Style for Students (SSS) program for the first year. for the first year. But for year two, what are the options? Some teachers create their own lessons using the TWSS, finding source texts that correlate to what they are studying in various subjects. Others, who found that their students loved the DVD teaching of Andrew Pudewa, choose a Year 2 SSS course. But for many, IEW’s theme-based books are the perfect solution.

What are your students studying in history this year? Whether you are learning about the ziggurats of ancient times or World War II, you can enhance your history studies by writing about the topics you are studying. Lori Verstegen has masterfully written a variety of theme-based books to help you effectively teach IEW’s Structure and Style™ Writing Method while using source texts from the period of history your students are studying. We recently asked Lori to share her IEW story with us.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your family.

I have a degree in nursing and science, but I've always loved teaching. When I went into nursing, I knew I was going to do some kind of teaching, and I taught CPR and that kind of thing for awhile. Once I had kids and I started homeschooling, I fell in love with teaching kids and never went back to nursing. I homeschooled my own kids for twenty-five years with the support of my husband. We just had our thirty-sixth anniversary and he pastors a small Bible church. I have four boys and they are very active. The youngest is now twenty-two, and the oldest is thirty-four. They are the reason that I had to come up with very active, hands-on, fun ways to teach with lots of games. We had a lot of fun! I also now have one granddaughter who is two and a half years old.

How and when did you first discover IEW's Structure and Style?

When my older boys were in junior high, I remember being very frustrated with teaching writing. I think it was the only subject I didn't enjoy teaching because I felt like the curriculums out there gave me plenty of writing assignments and ideas but none of them showed me how to teach it. It was the last thing we did every day if we even got to it. Then, my friend gave me the six videos of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style. I watched the first few, and I just loved it! I tried it on my kids, and it was an instant success. Writing became the first thing we all wanted to do. We enjoyed it; we had fun brainstorming together and being creative together. It literally transformed my whole homeschool experience because writing touches every other subject. They could now write about what they were learning in anything. I liked it and was so excited about it that I called Andrew Pudewa, and I got his permission to show the video course to my friends in my community. I started teaching the workshops by basically just showing the DVD and then answering questions. Everyone I showed it to just loved it, but I found that there weren't a lot of helps or theme-based lesson plans. People loved the method, but were unable to implement it because they had so many other subjects to teach that they didn't have time to find a source text and make their checklists. I was asked to teach others’ kids, and I started teaching classes, which I've done ever since. The lesson plans for my classes became a lot of the theme-based writing lessons that IEW now offers.

Do you have a favorite unit that you like to teach?

My favorite unit is probably Unit 3, stories. I told you my background is nursing and science, so I am a very analytical, fact-based kind of person. When I was going through high school and even college, I didn't like literature. I didn't like anything fictional. Give me a research paper and I was all over it. I stayed away from trying to be creative in terms of writing because I didn’t know how, but when I learned the Story Sequence Chart and the elements of style that IEW teaches, all of a sudden it clicked. I could do it and it was fun. I think because I was where a lot of kids are, I am able to relate to them, and we have a blast. I think stories are the best place to teach the decorations. We just have a lot of fun being creative with them  You can really see how decorations add a lot of sophistication to their writing and make them feel like they’re successful with their writing. We have a lot of fun with Unit 3. I always laugh at that. Knowing my past, I never would have thought that I would be teaching people how to write stories.

What do you feel is the biggest advantage for students using IEW's methodology?

Well I think the benefit is different for different age groups. I think the biggest advantage with the younger kids, especially—and not that it's not for the older ones as well—but it’s that it really helps them have fun and enjoy the writing process while being creative and playing with words. My number three son to this day loves playing with words. He has an app now that sends him a word a day. It comes from the brainstorming we did together. IEW involves the mom and the kids together, expanding their creativity and vocabulary. Helping them enjoy the writing process and getting mom and kids involved in the process together— that is what I like with the younger kids.

I think for the older kids the biggest thing is that it really builds confidence—both in the mom, that she can actually teach writing, and in the kids, as they feel like they can do whatever is thrown at them. They will know how to attack any writing assignment structurally and how to make it more sophisticated.

What is most rewarding about being an IEW author?

Some of my most rewarding moments are when I get notes from former students, thanking me that they are succeeding in their college writing courses. Also, knowing that I'm helping homeschool moms by taking the frustration out of teaching writing, helping them feel confident and joyful in their teaching, is a wonderful feeling. I just remember my struggling. Knowing that I can now help other people avoid the frustration that I went through by giving them the tools that they need to successfully teach their kids how to write—that is very rewarding!

Your books include vocabulary words. Can you share a bit about that?

The theme-based books have a collection of really great words to help enrich students’ vocabulary. They work on them all year long, and they have to use them as they write. By the end of the year, these words become part of their natural writing vocabulary. At year’s end, we write vocabulary stories where they use as many of the vocabulary words that they can. They can pick any story and then try to use the vocabulary words. A lot of them get all of the words in the story. It shows that they have really mastered the words. Most of the words are from lists that were most recently found on college ACT prep tests, so you know that they are the words that are used throughout great classic literature. When the kids are reading literature, they see the words and they recognize them. I require a few vocabulary words in everything they write, and it makes a big difference.


Easy-to-use and written in a conversational style, Lori Verstegen’s books will guide you through teaching the Structure and Style Writing Method to your students. The Teacher’s Manual refers to the section of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style that should be viewed as each new IEW unit is taught and is full of helps, samples, teaching ideas, and answer keys. We hear continuous reports from parents and teachers that students look forward to writing using Lori’s theme-based writing lessons. Whether you are a homeschool parent, hybrid school teacher, or co-op teacher, one of Lori’s books may just be the ticket to another successful IEW year.


IEW books by Lori Verstegen

Live Chat with IEW