Ready for Essentials? Here’s Some Help!

Guess what? Julie’s back! I know y’all love her posts, because she shares in such a gracious, honest way.  Now you know just one of the reasons we’re friends.  Anyhoo, today, Julie is back to share her experience with Essentials.  She’s been an Essentials parent for three years and an Essentials tutor for one year.  So you’re getting the scoop from both sides of the desk, if you will.  Enjoy and please feel free to ask any questions in the comments! Julie will check in periodically to answer them. 


I genuinely love the Essentials class! The Essentials class and presentations in Foundations were my very favorite things after our first year of CC. Presentations, because we were training up children with the hopes of them being able to eloquently, intelligently and passionately share the gospel with a lost and dying world and Essentials because I saw my then 4th grade daughter doing things I didn’t do until high school or college or never learned at all! I was an Essentials parent for three years and last year was my first year to tutor it. I’m still learning things!


First, be patient! It is meant to take three years to ‘master’ the information. The first three weeks are similar to putting your mouth around a fire hydrant with someone turning it on full blast! Leigh Bortins describes it as if we are starting by showing you a massive puzzle and talking about the entire picture on the puzzle. Then we take it apart and slowly put it together piece by piece. Many times I saw the deer in the headlights look from my first year moms. I would gently remind them it pays off. Jump in with both feet and the three year journey will be wonderful for the mom and the student!


Read pages 3-23 in the EEL guide (Essentials of the English Language). Leigh has written beautifully about this program and I would not begin to do it the same justice. This reading will give you a wonderful foundation to begin the year. I would even encourage second and third year moms to reread it. It’s a wonderful refresher and it’s the classical way to learn, right?


Your tutor will go over specifics about what your day should look like and how to organize your time. There are many resources for that included in the EEL guide, as well as in the IEW guide. All of this is helpful and useful and a blessing, but I just want to offer a gentle reminder. As with everything in CC, you (and I) are the parent. Know your child. Know their strengths and weaknesses. If they loathe or struggle with writing, have them dictate their EEL charts or IEW (Institute of Excellence in Writing) paper to you at the beginning of the year or for as long as it takes. Use a timer and set it for 15 minutes and copy until the timer goes off and then stop. You can pick up right where you left off the day before and continue for another 15 minutes. Help them write their KWO (Key Word Outline). Walk alongside them and encourage them. They WILL get to a point of doing many of these things independently.


In the EEL guide on p. 23, it talks about scaling the work to accommodate your student’s abilities. Leigh gives a great example using the game of Monopoly. Take time to read this, especially if you will have more than one student in the class. Having said this, also know we begin the dialectic stage in Essentials. Stretching your student will be part of their learning and growing process. You will be amazed at what they accomplish. Where they will not master everything, don’t limit them in what they are capable of. Last year I had several moms of 4th grade boys who were on the fence of even putting them in the Essentials class for their 4th grade year. I can excitedly say those boys soared!! They blew me away each week and their confidence grew week to week. So exciting to watch!


Remember that class is primarily for the parents. I found it worked well for the mom to sit directly next to their student(s) each week and follow along. The tutor only has the students for about forty-five minutes for EEL and forty-five minutes for IEW. You have them all day every day the rest of the week. Where the tutor introduces the material, you go more in depth at home. Sometimes I even had the moms come to the board and do an exercise. No pressure!


It wouldn’t surprise me if you learned brand new information through EEL, but the IEW was a breath of fresh air! I so wish I had had a program like this in high school.  As Andrew Pudewa says it can work for everyone from the young boy who would rather stab himself in his eye with his pencil to the young girl who can creatively and effortlessly write five pages without every really saying anything. The skills they learn are invaluable. They learn how to write key word outlines from multiple sources and then fuse them together. Then write a five paragraph paper using all the dress ups and sentence openers that almost make it seem like a puzzle where you just put the pieces in. To me, it takes away the fear of a blank piece of paper sitting in front of them because it gives formulas.


Your tutor may host a “Popcorn and Pudewa” night during the school year. During this time you will watch the DVDs from the TWSS (Teaching Writing Structure and Style) which will be of great benefit! I encourage you to make every effort to attend whether you are a first, second or third year mom. I promise, you’ll learn something new.


My encouragement is to trust the process and tell your student you will walk this journey with them. For me, this was definitely part of reclaiming my education and I’ve loved it! It has helped in my walk with Jesus as well. As I am reading passages I’ve read many times before, I’m noticing the structure and purpose and pattern of the sentence. I notice the imperative sentences Jesus gives. They are not suggestions, but commands and promises. Do not fear. Do not worry. Be patient in affliction. I notice the power of the short sentence of, “I am.” Yes!!! He is!! As you pray over your year and your student, ask the Lord to reveal Himself through the Living Word as you both study the grammar of the English language.


This post doesn’t begin to touch on many important details of this class, but I trust your tutor will meet with you prior to class beginning. Some of the things you will learn as you go and you will find what works best for your student. Be patient. Be committed. Be faithful.


Looking for more about information about Essentials? Check out this link to FAQ’s on CC’s website, including the list of recommended supplies for your Essentials year and this file from the Guest portion of CC Connected for using the EEL guide


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