A Worthwhile Investment

Aug 03, 2023 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

One of the most frequent questions IEW’s customer service receives is “How much parent involvement does this program require?” This is understandable. Homeschool parents juggle multiple students at multiple levels, run a household, and sometimes hold a job outside the home. Like other subjects, IEW methodology requires varying levels of involvement from parents.

By enrolling their students in an IEW Online class, a co-op class, or working through a video-based course at home, parents are not responsible for the direct writing instruction of their students. However, there are still two key roles that they play: editor and coach.

The first essential role of parents is that of editor, someone who reviews and corrects written material. This is where we parents often go wrong. When editing students’ writing, we turn each error into a mini lecture on the finer points of English grammar. This often leads to weeping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth on the part of students. If we remember our role as editor, however, we will simply make corrections and hand it back to the student with a smile and without the lecture. In the process of fixing the errors, students will internalize them. We also want to avoid overcorrecting, which is one of the Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing. There is nothing more discouraging to a student than receiving back a composition covered with red marks. Rather, as editors we should make only the minimal corrections needed to make the sentences grammatically legal, not perfect. Finally, we should serve as our students’ dictionary while they are writing. For further guidance in editing your student’s writing, check out this blog post.

The other essential role of parents is that of coach, someone who provides structure, directs practice, and offers guidance. A coach does not say, “Figure it out for yourself” when someone asks for help. In fact, withholding help is another one of the Four Deadly Errors of Teaching Writing. When we withhold help from our students, they grow frustrated and lose the motivation to try. Instead, when our students get stuck, we should provide the boost they need to be successful. This can be as simple as suggesting a couple of -ly words or scribing for them, giving them a feeling of accomplishment and making them more willing to try again the next time. Rest assured: they will let you know when they no longer need help! Acting as their coach also gives us an opportunity to use what Andrew calls a secret weapon in his talk Principles of Motivation and Skills Development. This secret weapon is filling their emotional bank accounts. We do this by encouraging them with positive feedback (“What a great quality adjective you chose here!”), limiting corrections when they are discouraged (“Let’s add a title and be done for today.”), and just loving them (“I love you. I am so glad we get to spend this time together.”). When our students are full emotionally, they learn better and can weather challenges better. Coaching our children is one of the most important ways we can be involved.

Students of different ages and abilities require different levels of parent involvement. Obviously, younger students need their parents to be more involved, sitting next to them while they work, prompting them when their attention wanders, and encouraging them as discussed above. As students move into middle school and high school, they are more independent in terms of the actual work. However, they continue to need parents in more of a supportive role, helping them to structure their time, holding them accountable, and editing their writing.

At some point, parents may decide to use one of the theme-based courses, which requires the additional involvement of being their instructor. Teaching Writing: Structure and Style (TWSS) prepares parents for this by teaching IEW methodology. Although completing the course takes time, parents just need to be one step ahead of students. The theme-based teacher’s manuals tell what section of TWSS to watch to prepare for each lesson. Theme-based courses are more flexible and allow families with multiple students to work together. If you have never used a theme-based course with your students, I highly recommend that you try it!

IEW curriculum requires varying levels of involvement from parents. At the most basic level, parents take the role of editor and coach. With a theme-based curriculum, parents take on the additional role of instructor. Most importantly, students need their parents to be involved. According to Dr. Lisa Dunne, author of Outsourced, “A number one predictor of socioeconomic success is an involved parent . . . [You’re] going to increase your child’s skill in every arena just by being more involved.” Time with children is short. The investment in them is worth it.

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