In June of 1997, I was sitting in a classroom, lights dimmed against the blazing summer sun, one link in a circle of fellow English teachers studying for our master’s degrees. The professor was condemning the use of the formulaic essay. It stifled creativity, he claimed. We weren’t trusting our students’ innate intelligence when we forced their writing into prescribed patterns. In the ensuing discussion, my fellow teachers enthusiastically agreed with him. I, on the other hand, having been taught and mentored by a pioneer of the step-by-step approach, held back, unsure how far I wished to wade in against the rising tide.
“Just because we ask a student to write a certain type of sentence, it doesn’t automatically follow that the sentence will be a poor one,” I forced myself to add eventually. The professor paused. It was a logical comment. He had to agree, albeit reluctantly. That remained my only contribution.“Just because we ask a student to write a certain type of sentence, it doesn’t automatically follow that the sentence will be a poor one.” ~Amy Craven Click To Tweet
Later that summer, the same professor was reviewing my capstone project proposal and remarked on my strong writing skills. He wanted to know who had taught me. When I named the woman whose formulaic approach to the multi-paragraph essay was dominating our county, his consternation was evident. I admit to feeling a twinge of smug satisfaction.
Style and Structure
When I became a homeschooling mom, I knew I’d teach my kids to write the same way I had been taught. No curriculum needed. This was my field. But then the catalogs arrived. And the forum posts filled my screen. And the comments from other moms rang in my ears. Soon doubt followed.
Over the years I’ve used copywork and dictation, dabbled in the progymnasta, offered up freestyle creative writing times, and even employed story starter dice, all with accompanying curricula. The path that was so clear at the outset had instead meandered all over the English landscape.
When I joined the Academy at Bright Ideas Press and found many teachers using the Style and Structure method from the Institute for Excellence in Writing, I hesitated. I knew some homeschool parents frowned upon IEW’s strict requirements. In an ironic twist, I too was uncertain about teaching the patterns IEW dictated. Nevertheless, I bought my first history-themed writing book and knew immediately my wandering was over.
The Incremental Approach
Students in my Middle School English classes learn to take notes from texts and recreate those ideas on their own. They understand how stories work and how to improve their own storytelling. The incremental approach offers profound depth in a deceptively simple package. It wasn’t a formula; it was structure. It wasn’t a prescription; it was instruction. That’s why I became an IEW-accredited teacher: solid, systematic writing instruction that turns a blank page into a waiting canvas.
It’s good to be home.
Join The Academy Family
The Academy at Bright Ideas Press is a virtual school, offering both live and self-paced classes for middle school and high school students, taught from a Christian perspective. With an array of course offerings and 30 plus teachers. The Academy is perfect for homeschoolers as part of their regular course load or for others who wish to supplement their learning with our vast array of course offerings.