Building Bigger Forts

Jan 22, 2016 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


What was your first thought when you heard the title of Andrew Pudewa’s talk, Teaching Boys and Other Children Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day? If you’re anything like me, you began naming your own kids who fit this profile all too well. When I first read this title at a convention, I was homeschooling five boys and two girls. I was hooked. During this weekend convention, I devoured Mr. Pudewa’s every word. Armed with the incredible Teaching Writing: Structure and Style program, I began strategizing how to teach IEW to my children and my co-op students the coming year. Although my kids learned incredible skills, they somehow never appreciated writing like I did, especially my oldest son, James. This discouraged me. What I didn’t understand at the time was that I was equipping my children with skills that would last a lifetime, even if unappreciated or dormant for a time.

I spent the next several years delighting in IEW materials both at home and with co-op groups. Faithfully, my children and students could be seen writing their dress-ups and decorations while fusing outlines and such. In my mind, the brilliance behind IEW is how the lists of quality adjectives, strong verbs, -ly words, and other stylistic techniques help my students create dazzling sentences and paragraphs. Our writing sessions became complete language arts lessons as they learned rich vocabulary words, spelling, and grammar in addition to the writing lesson.

Although my oldest son James improved his writing skills over time, his motivation was still to finish his work and get outside. He struggled academically. As he grew older, his forts became sports, motorcycles, and Explorer training and competitions with the local Sheriff’s department. This frustrated me. As homeschooling moms, sometimes we expect the fruits of our labors to be visible immediately, forgetting that our task is to lay the foundations of skill and understanding for the future. Don’t get me wrong, there were immediate results. Their skills improved, their papers were great, but my children were not nearly as passionate about writing as I had hoped they would be.

Fast forward several years. James managed to graduate high school. He may not have been strong academically, but he was, and still is, a young man of character—honest, hardworking, and faithful. For this I am truly thankful. Although he rarely wrote papers after high school, as a leader of his volunteer Explorer post, he was required to write training scenarios and briefs. Imagine my surprise when he showed me a few of his briefs and pointed out his stylistic techniques. So he had been listening! He chose not to attend college, but having volunteered for the Sheriff’s department for over five years, he is anxiously awaiting to be old enough to pursue a career in law enforcement. He also works full-time building exclusive parts for racing motorcycles.

But recently, this non-academically-inspired son, James became inspired. He began taking theology and Biblical Counseling classes at our church. With his busy schedule, he now spends every waking moment studying and—wait for it—writing papers! I nearly fell to the floor when he asked me to proofread his ten-page paper on the difference between remorse and repentance! This paper was not for a class. He was burning to write it after studying the material. I am still amazed!

Why should I be amazed? After all, as homeschooling parents we are equipping our children to work hard, work independently, tackle challenges, and produce great things. We are building foundations of skill and character. Why do we doubt our work when the tasks seem too much or unappreciated? The skills may lie dormant, like the tulip bulbs in the winter. However, they are sure to share their beauty with the world in due time. Remember that even if our children would rather play, build forts, or work on motorcycles all day, whether we see it immediately or not, we are equipping them with skills which will last a lifetime.


Donna Seidman, a veteran homeschool mom of seven children, enjoys sharing the tools of IEW which equipped her children with the skill of writing. She has taught Classical Conversations challenge levels for several years and is currently helping to design a classical program for a charter school independent study program. She continues to teach middle school students multiple classical subjects using IEW as a springboard to integrate history, science, Latin, literature, and logic.

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