Teaching IEW in a Classical Homeschool Cooperative

Mar 11, 2019 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Frederick East Classical, a relatively new homeschool cooperative, is taking central Maryland by storm. In its inaugural year alone, many families flocked to it, filling it to capacity. Structured using a classical approach, this popular cooperative incorporates IEW throughout all levels of its curriculum. Kim Jernigan, one of its original founders, oversees the writing department. We recently had the pleasure of interviewing Kim to learn more about her school and how it uses IEW. Read on to learn more about how and why the school selected IEW to support its written instruction goals for its students.

Can you share a bit of the history of the co-op?

This concept was started in Maryland in 1999 in Howard County by Granite Tutorials and has grown in the eastern part of Maryland. There are several two-day hybrids in Annapolis, several in Carroll County, Baltimore County, and other eastern counties. However, in the central part of the state, the concept never took hold. A bunch of us from Frederick County had attended some of these hybrids, but we had hour-long drives, so a group of moms decided to start one in Frederick County. With recommendations from HSLDA on how we should operate, we incorporated, gained our 501(c)(3) status, developed a founding committee, and drew up by-laws. The interesting thing is that three of the founding families were nearing the end of their homeschool journey but felt such a burden to stay in the homeschool community and mentor younger moms that it has become a ministry. We began the legwork in the winter of 2016 and actually incorporated in February 2017. We initially hoped to open with 60 students and 25 families but quickly exceeded that and opened at capacity with 150 students and 80 families. Many parents love the classical concept but also want MORE than just one day in Socratic discussion, writing, history, etc. On the off days, parents are supposed to monitor, teach, evaluate, test, etc. and follow the teachers' instructions on homework sheets. The co-op is built on three pillars. We are classical, cooperative (all parents must contribute in some way), and Christian.

What are some of the differences in your co-op model versus other homeschool co-ops?

The big difference is that we meet two days each week—Monday and Wednesday. We also have specific educational goals for each of our departments, and students are expected to complete homework and meet benchmarks to move to the next level. Students commit to the whole program and not just individual classes because everything is integrated. For example, as students in seventh grade learn about the various ideas about how Earth came to be, they do a compare/contrast paper on Creation vs. Evolution/Big Bang.

Where is your co-op located, and which grades are represented?

We are located in Walkersville, Maryland (eastern Frederick County) and serve four surrounding counties. We meet for two days because Maryland law mandates that parents must educate their children at least fifty percent of the time. We serve PK through twelfth grade and will have our first graduating class this year. There are currently approximately 150 students enrolled.

How and when were you introduced to IEW’s writing method?

I began teaching IEW at a similar co-op in 2008. I completed the training and eventually became certified/registered with IEW. I proceeded to teach elementary and middle school writing and began offering classes in my home and have taught at all levels. One of the non-negotiables for Frederick East was that IEW would be the writing curriculum. We currently begin in second grade with writing instruction using the Bible Heroes curriculum.

Can you briefly describe your journey as a writing educator?

I have always enjoyed writing and began working with homeschool students in about 2005 with writing. But teaching students how to write was difficult. I could help them create a newspaper or write a story, but I didn't have a structure. When I began to use IEW methodology, things just clicked and I could finally show students how to write. Once I completed the TWSS, I felt that I had the tools to actually teach the how of writing. I love watching students develop their writing skills.

What is your experience with utilizing IEW in the classroom?

I have not had a bad experience with IEW. Students who use the very structured and systematic methodology generally have success. I have found that many students look forward to what their next writing assignment will be. Can we write another story? When can I do another research project? Because students now have the tools to write, they look forward to putting pen to paper.

What IEW materials have you used?

I have used Fix It! Grammar, most of the themed writing books (All Things Fun & Fascinating is one of my favorites!). We also use Speech Boot Camp, and our new students are required to begin with the Student Writing Intensives.* And we love the Portable Walls!

Do you have any advice you would like to share with a co-op that is considering implementing IEW?

I would recommend that not only should teachers complete TWSS, but parents should also view the videos as their children are completing the various units. We also developed a scope and sequence so that with each year, we would add various units of IEW writing so that by middle school, students were proficient in all units of IEW writing. A co-op should invest in several sets of the TWSS videos so that they are readily available to parents and teachers. This is an investment that will pay off later.

What challenges have you experienced transitioning to IEW?

The main challenges we faced were just getting all students up to speed with IEW. The first year was challenging since most teachers, parents, and students were getting IEW for the first time. This year has been much better, and writing proficiency has greatly increased. In addition, we have a mom who really wanted to use BIble Heroes in second grade, and it has been amazing watching the students and parents really grasp the concepts.

How involved are the parents in teaching writing to their children?

One of the co-op’s requirements is that parents must be the primary editors for their children and must sign off on a checklist that we created for Frederick East. All families are required to purchase the manual, and we have a library of the TWSS videos that parents can check out and view at home. I oversee the writing department and meet with parents who are having difficulty. We also encourage parents to access the resources available on the IEW website.

Are you interested in creating a community similar to Frederick East Classical? You might begin by checking out the various pages of their website to gain an overview of how they’ve structured it. And if you have questions about incorporating IEW into your co-op, call us. We have educational consultants who are ready and equipped to help you realize your vision!


*The Student Writing Intensive series was discontinued in November 2019 and replaced with by the Structure and Style for Students program.

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