Lost Tools of Writing vs. IEW

Teaching students to write clearly and logically can be a challenging, and sometimes intimidating, task for homeschooling parents. 

Lost Tools of Writing and the Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW’s) Structure and Style are two systematic, proven and incremental writing programs that have helped students develop and hone their writing skills.

These classically-inspired programs share quite a few similarities that can sometimes make it hard for parents to choose between them.

To help, we decided to compare Lost Tools of Writing with IEW so that parents can decide for themselves which best suits their needs and preferences. 

What Is The Lost Tools Of Writing?

Created by Andrew Kern and Leah Lutz, The Lost Tools of Writing is a classical homeschool writing curriculum designed for students in middle through high school and is designed to help students write more clearly, effectively and logically. 

The program teaches through a combination of guided discussions, incremental and structured lessons, various practice materials and video instruction. 

What Is the Institute For Excellence in Writing (IEW)?

Created by former educator Andrew Pudewa, the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is an ELA curriculum provider that offers numerous products for both homeschools and traditional schools. 

IEW’s Structure and Style program, likely their most popular, is a writing program aimed at students across the elementary, middle and high school range and helps students develop and hone their writing skills through a highly structured approach, various teaching and practice materials and helpful video lessons. 

Ages and Grades: How Do They Compare?

Lost Tools of Writing and IEW’s Structure and Style differ a fair bit when it comes to their intended ages and grades. 

For the most part, Lost Tools of Writing is intended for an older audience, aiming primarily at grades 7-12 (middle and high school), with the program assuming a basic level of reading, writing and argumentation from its students, as well as a decent understanding of grammar and mechanics. 

The program is divided into three levels (1,2 and 3), with each level building on the material presented before it. 

In contrast, IEW’s Structure and Style is aimed at students in grades 3-12, that is when students would typically begin working on their writing (once more firm in reading and spelling) and continuing through the high school level. 

The series is also divided into three levels (A, B and C), with each level intended to cover a range of grades (3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, respectively) and split across two years of learning (Level A 1 and 2, Level B 1 & 2, Level C 1 & 2). 

Overall, then, IEW’s Structure and Style can be said to be a more expansive program, as far as grade coverage goes, covering writing at lower grade levels and with fewer general prerequisites in terms of student knowledge and skill. 


Note: Prices correct as of writing, all prices in USD. 

Broadly speaking, a level of Lost Tools of Writing is a little less expensive than a level of IEW, with Level 1’s complete set around $147 (Level 2 $131, Level 3 $67) or so compared to Structure and Style’s $169-189 or so per year (with another $189 or so as a one time cost for its Teaching seminars). 

Subject Coverage

While it is focused on writing, IEW’s Structure and Style also touches on the essentials of English language arts, including vocabulary, spelling and basic grammar, through its exercises and video instruction. 

In addition, the company offers specific resources to go along with Structure and Style, such as Fix it! Grammar and the Phonetic Zoo, which provide more intensive instruction and practice in grammar, spelling, respectively. 

In contrast, while it may touch on grammar and spelling rules here and, Lost Tools of Writing is really much more focused on writing at the middle and high school level. 

Its teaching assumes an existing level of skill at grammar, spelling and vocabulary and is more specifically aimed at helping students brainstorm, organise their thoughts and express them logically and clearly. 

Approach to Writing

Both Lost Tools of Writing and IEW view writing as a structured and teachable process.

In particular, both programs incrementally teach students explicit rules and frameworks for writing and are systematically taught methods that carry them through the entire writing process in a more orderly fashion, from brainstorming to editing. 

They are also given, and are expected to use, a number of organizational tools, such as worksheets, charts and guides, that can help structure their thinking and prevent chaotic and disorganized writing or “brain dumping.”

picture of iew guide showing highly structured approach to writing

As a result, students using either program are taught to approach written work in a more organized and logical manner and are given a robust framework for writing that they can fall back on when faced with just about any writing assignment they may face in the future, which can be of great help to reluctant writers and those who tend to go blank when faced with a writing prompt. 

Classical Approach

Both Lost Tools of Writing and IEW are classically inspired writing programs. 

Lost Tools of Writing breaks writing down into a process and its methods are centered around the three written Canons of Rhetoric (Invention, Arrangement, Elocution), which form the basis of its lesson progression and carry students through the process of ideation, research and organization and expression, in an orderly and logical manner. 

Its exercises, too, are drawn heavily from classical methods, providing students at later levels with the opportunity to work on judicial and deliberative rhetoric through formal addresses. 

Similarly, IEW is also heavily inspired by Classical approaches to teaching writing.

Throughout the program students learn a structured approach to writing in Structure and Style, as well as elocution through writing “decorations,” and learn to model their writing on classical works, in addition to doing retelling, rhetoric and memory-work. 

In their way, both programs can therefore be excellent resources for those interested in following a more classically-inspired ELA program.

One difference, however, is that Lost Tools of Writing tends to include far more than IEW as a good portion of its lessons are centered around a classical back-and-forth Socratic dialogue style. 

picture of lost tools of writing showing dialogue suggestions in parental text

While IEW does include a decent amount of discussion between parents and students, students will also spend a good deal of time watching instructional videos, analyzing and modeling texts, generally working with their student packets. 

Video Learning Style

Interestingly, both Lost Tools of Writing and IEW make use of videos for teaching writing. 

There is, however, a fair difference in how these videos are used, their length, and their style.

Lost Tools of Writing’s streaming videos are hosted by the curriculum’s creators and are really aimed at parents, complimenting the program’s teacher’s guides with helpful tips, ELA instructional help and the teaching process in general.  

The videos tend to match the lessons included in each level, are fairly short (usually well under 30 minutes) and generally involve the presenters standing at a whiteboard and explaining/discussing concepts. 

In contrast, IEW offers two sets of videos, one aimed at parents and students and one aimed at parents. 

The student videos have the program’s founder, Mr. Pudwea, standing in front of a recorded classroom and introducing concepts while, at times, interacting with an audience of students. 

These videos are around 30-60 minutes in duration and, while a bit long, are generally pretty dynamic and even entertaining at times to sit through.

The parent’s videos, meanwhile, have Mr. Pudwea lecturing in front of an audience of parents, demonstrating IEW concepts, tools and methods of teaching, and even including mock teaching sessions between a parent and student, which can be pretty helpful. 

There is quite a substantial amount of teaching instruction, as well, about 20 hours in total (14 for training and around 5 ½ hours for demonstration and analysis at different levels). 

In our opinion, IEW videos can be quite a bit longer to sit through than Lost Tools of Writing, both for parents and students, although they can be a bit more dynamic and Mr. Pudwea tends to have a more charismatic approach when lecturing, which some will appreciate. 

Online Classes

Finally, both Lost Tools of Writing and IEW offer live online classes of their programs, which can be of great help to busier homeschools and parents who are uncertain about their own ability to teach English writing. 

In both cases, classes are taught in a one-to-many style on zoom and go through the program with students submitting work online for assessment and feedback.

With IEW, courses are offered as semester (15 week) and year long (2 sessions of 15 weeks) options.

Lost Tools of Writing, however, tends to have a little more flexibility, offering 8 week intensives alongside its 15 and 30 week options. 

On the other hand, IEW’s online courses tend to be slightly less expensive, with full year courses running from around $478 to $598 per year, compared to around $647 with Lost Tools. 

Summary Table

Both IEW and Lost Tools tend to use a good deal of video instructionLost Tools videos are shorter, aimed at parents.
IEW offers videos for parents and students, tend to be more dynamic.

Both programs cover middle and high school writing.IEW also extends down to grade 3, making it an elementary age writing program as well. 
IEW also offers additional resources in grammar, spelling and even phonics. 
Both programs are classically-inspired and parent-ledLost Tools uses more Socratic dialogue and discussion in its lessons.
Both programs teach writing incrementally and systematically Lost Tools of Writing can be a bit less expensive per year for its resources
Both programs use a good number of tools and resources to teach writing as an organized skillIEW’s online courses tend to be a little less expensive per year.
Lost Tools of Writing offers shorter intensives in addition to full and half year online classes
Both programs offer live online courses taught on zoom

Bottom Line: Deciding Which is Right for You

Both Lost Tools of Writing and IEW are popular and respected classically-inspired writing programs that have helped thousands of students develop and improve their writing skills over the years.

As both programs are effective and pretty high-quality, it can sometimes be hard for parents to figure out which of the two best suits their student’s needs.

To help out, we’ve created the chart below.

I’m a parent and I want…Consider
A writing program that provides plenty of structure and systematic instructionEither
A program that uses lots of short videos as a parental resourceLost Tools of Writing
A program that uses in-depth video instruction but is a bit more dynamic and humorousIEW
A program with videos for studentsIEW
A program for students in elementary schoolIEW
A program with possible instruction in handwriting, grammar, spelling and moreIEW 
A program with the most interaction, discussion and dialogue between parents and students possibleLost Tools of Writing
A program that will fit a tighter budgetLost Tools of Writing
An online class that will fit a tighter budgetIEW
A systematic and incremental approach to learning to writeEither
A program with lots of charts and tools to make writing easier for studentsEither

For More Information

For more information about these programs:

Check out our in-depth review of IEW


Check out our in-depth review of Lost Tools of Writing


Check out IEW


Check out Lost Tools of Writing

Picture of our author and editor Anne Miller

About the Author

Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.