When offered the opportunity to review the Institute for Excellence in Writing as part of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s Review Crew, I was thrilled. I reviewed Fix It! Grammar: Frog Prince or Just Deserts (Book 3) and received both the Student Book and the Teacher’s Manual.I chose Eden to work on this. Eden is 9 years old, in the fifth grade, and has been doing a language program since first grade. She’s great at grammar, but not the most meticulous is checking for her mistakes. She seemed the perfect choice to see what IEW could do!
Fix It! Grammar is a spiral bound book containing 130 pages of a story… with grammatical errors. Each day Eden had a simple task: to read that day’s section of the story, to check for mistakes, to fix them, and to rewrite the story so, when she finishes the book, she’ll have a completed, corrected version of the story. Eden’s an avid reader who can’t bear to put any story down for long, so this is a great premise to begin upon; guess who wants to do IEW, since she’s been given the command that she may not read ahead further than that day’s assignment?
Eden spent 10-15 minutes each day, learning new grammar rules, applying them, looking for mistakes, and copying things down. The book is clear that she’d not get 100% of the errors – and she didn’t. I was happily surprised, though, that she did find most of them routinely. Many of the grammar rules were things she’d heard before, but many were new. Funny enough, she didn’t catch the “joke” of the title, and referred to her book “Frog Prince or Just Desserts” before I corrected her. And… we were off! Written for grades 3 and up, this is the third book in the series of six. It is intended to correct and teach Grammar in fifteen minutes a day, in a no-pressure setting and a story that’s fun to pick through.
On Mondays, I went through the week’s lesson with her and showed her the marks she’d be using. (The marks was a bit of an issue. Despite being the same ones I’ve used all my life to correct my papers, and then hers, she still, apparently, didn’t know what many of them meant. We had to repeat explanations of these often… and still do. But there’s a handy sheet in her book that explained them that she could refer to.) Wednesday,Thursday, and Friday she worked on her own unless she had a question, correcting a sentence or two each day and applying the lessons she’d learned so far. (We do our homeschool co-op on Tuesdays, but no schoolwork at home. This fit perfectly into our schedule, with 4-day week requirements.) There are grammar cards that explained everything she’d learned so she could reference them instead of asking me… bonus in my busy world. The idea is that she looks at those first, but it was often a “ask mom, get reminded to check my cards” scenario. Funny how that always goes.
This book rather made me think of my student as the proofreader – the teacher. She had to look for the mistakes, and correct them. I recently set this same child to teaching a younger sibling to read because of her strong desire to teach. This played into that, to some extent – instead of merely practicing concepts, she had to correct other’s “mistakes”. If Eden sees herself as a teacher more than a student, she’s far more motivated. She’s proud of her chunk of corrected story!
This is the first book ever that has me looking at another curriculum that isn’t the one we’ve used for the last six years and wondered if it better suited me, my children, and their learning styles. I like that I could do several children together in one level, and the student book is reproducible to be used among multiple children in one family – a big deal in my many-children world. I really liked how concepts were introduced, worked on, and continue to be reinforced as she goes. Eden, despite a few frustrating hiccups along the way as she learned a new process and a new curriculum, learned much and will continue on – because she has to find out how the story ends!
This is written for a 33 week school year. To help you decide on which book is best suited for your student, a placement test is available here.
Frog Princes or Just Deserts is $19 for the teacher’s manual and $15 for the student text.
To read the rest of the Crew’s thoughts on IEW’s offerings, both this level and several others, check out the Review Crew Blog.