I am on an Andrew Pudewa kick.  I first discovered his Institute for Excellence in Writing through an online forum for early childhood education, and—as usual—once I'd heard of him, his name started coming to my attention in other ways.  A friend of ours is the principal of a private Christian school which emphasizes academic excellence as well as a solid Christian worldview, and she and her teachers waxed so enthusiastic about his program for teaching writing that she even sent me a sample videotape of one of his lectures.  It didn't take me long to get hooked.  For the first three minutes, I found Pudewa's voice to be annoying; after that I was so intrigued by what he was saying and how he was presenting it that it didn't matter.

Now I'm not averse to spending money on educational materials for our grandkids, but they're not yet old enough for the writing materials, which are a bit pricey to buy on speculation, especially since there might well be a subsequent edition or two by the time they would be used.  Fortunately for my curiosity, one of our favorite homeschooling families was impressed enough to try it out, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their experiences.

Some of Pudewa's other materials are financially more accessible, and since I couldn't interest anyone else in his poetry memorization program, I bought it for myself!  I think I'm going to enjoy it.  It came with a bonus DVD of his lecture entitled Nurturing Competent Communicators, which I highly recommend.  As a writing teacher, he has been appalled by the lack of writing ability very much evident today, and has come to the conclusion that you can't get out of a mind something that's not there in the first place.  Today's children (and those from a generation or two before, as well) simply have not had sufficient input of good language vocabulary, structure, and style; this hinders not only their ability to write, but also their ability to think.  Rather than spend much time berating the negative influences on language (peers, media, lack of reading, stress and fast pace of life), Pudewa suggest two positive solutions.

Read good books (especially poetry) aloud.  This is still critical well after children are competent readers.  One can read aloud books at a much higher level of sophistication than a child can (or will) read for himself.  Moreover, even very good readers will often mispronounce words they've only encountered in print, and will often read so quickly as to get the meaning of the words while missing their music; hearing them read aloud corrects both these errors.  A cosy family situation is best for such reading, but Pudewa acknowledges the time crunch many families suffer and the value of books on tape.  He also suggests enlisting grandparents in the project, suggesting we create heirloom recordings of our own.  Reading aloud is more critical to language development, says Pudewa, than much of what we give higher precedence.  I'm grateful that Porter knew this instinctively and for many years ended each meal by reading aloud to us.  He even began with poetry—and no, it wasn't just a way of getting out of helping with the dishes, though I must say it did make doing the dishes much more interesting.

Memorize poetry and other examples of good language.  Memorization itself promotes brain growth, and memorization of good language provides the brain with a stock of good language patterns.  Pudewa tells a story close to my own heart for reasons most of you will recognize.  As a Suzuki violin teacher, he had lived in Japan for three years, studying under Shinichi Suzuki himself.  Naturally he wanted to learn the language, and had reached the point where he could communicate reasonably well, and yet was frustrated by knowing that he wasn't really getting things right.  Drawing on his Suzuki training, he devised a plan:  He asked his sensei to record himself reading a Japanese children's book version of Jack and the Beanstalk.  This Pudewa practiced and practiced, phrase upon phrase, until he had it completely memorized.  As a result, his ability to speak Japanese took a significant leap forward; through a simple children's story he had given his brain many of the patterns and cadences of the Japanese language.  Plus he became a great hit with the little Japanese children he met.  He would have loved the HIPPO Family Clubs!  No wonder my dad was so smart:  when he was young, he walked a lot, and when he walked, he memorized poems.

At the same time that I purchased the poetry program, I couldn't resist getting a couple of CDs containing his lecture, The Profound Effects of Music on Life.  I'm anxious to hear my favorite musician's take on this lecture (if she ever has time to listen to it).  I know he has greatly oversimplified things for his lay audience, but much of what he says rings true to my ears and I'd love to have an expert's opinion.

And I wonder why everthing takes me so long!  It was to clean my office that I set out to do, but I couldn't just put the CDs on the shelf, I had to enter them into my library software, and I had to rip them to mp3s so I could listen to them when I go out walking.  In the process of ripping I discovered that one was a DVD, and since I couldn't rip it I listened to it then and there.  And that inspired me to install another piece of software that I was going to install "sometime," and then of course I couldn't stop but had to write about it all.  Now I'm done and can finally put the materials away.  But there's still the rest of the room to work on, and where did the day go???

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Edit
Permalink | Read 5417 times
Category Reviews: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Education: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Children & Family Issues: [first] [previous] [next] [newest] Everyday Life: [first] [previous] [next] [newest]

We have been using the Student Writing Intensive for over a month now. I won't say the boys are thrilled with it, but that is not a reflection on Mr. Pudewa. They find him very funny. They just know that when they hear that music at the beginning of the DVD, it means they have to do some writing and they dread that. (His description of the 18 page girl vs. the boy who would rather scrub bathrooms than write pretty much hits the nail on the head in our house).

So far we have gone through outlining both fiction and non-fiction paragraphs and we have just covered up to the fifth "dress-up". I have the boys do their outlines and then "read back" the paragraph to me based upon their outline. They may then use the computer to write their first draft. I review and make corrections and then they fix it and print their final copy. This is a good way for Billy, especially, to practice his typing skills (although he spends WAY too long on changing the font, the color, the formatting, etc.)

One of the most difficult things for me is to not change what they have written to make it sound better. Based upon reading and watching the DVD, it appears I should only correct those things that have been taught. I should not correct the flow of the paper. I really struggle with that. I can see the importance of what he says and that with practice and exposure to good literature, the kid's writing will begin to have a better flow, but it is hard.

There are free lesson plans available on-line and those have really helped me get organized. I usually start with the paragraphs they provide and then on subsequent days have the boys do paragraphs based upon a topic we are covering.

In addition to the writing from IEW, I am also looking at the spelling program. I had great intentions of doing spelling to go along with our areas of study. I think I did it twice. I like the idea of them being able to do a self-paced study for what appears to be maybe 10 minutes a day.

I also looked at the Teaching the Classics. Probably not something I will get this year, but it looks interesting.

FYI- Mr. Pudewa will be in FL in May at the FPEA Convention.

Posted by dstb on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 6:27 pm

Oh, and it's in Orlando, too! I'd love to visit the Exhibit Hall and see what the vendors have to offer -- but apparently only registered attendees are allowed in, and $80 is too steep a price tag just for looking around.

We were FPEA members for a while, and I almost went to one of their conventions. It was further away than Orlando, but I would have made the drive but for one thing: Children were explicitly excluded! That attitude seemed so inimical to the spirit of homeschooling that I stayed home -- and told them why.

Apparently the organization has matured along with the whole movement. I quote from this year's registration materials: It is FPEA policy to let children accompany parents....

Posted by SursumCorda on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 6:50 pm