As a classical educator (sort of), I value the study of classic literature. I want my children (and myself) to have an understanding of the themes and messages found in classic books.
I have a problem though. I do not really “get” a lot of literature myself. While other homeschoolers quake at the thought of teaching advanced math and science courses, my biggest fear is literature. In my “former life”, I was an engineer. And engineers don’t have to take a lot of English courses in college. So I had 1 semester of freshman English. I had a reasonably decent high school education, but it always took the class discussions for me to see the themes and draw conclusions from my reading.
My 13 year old son is a very literal kid. So just asking leading questions about a book isn’t going to be enough. Plus, I don’t know what kind of leading questions to even ask. Studying literature with him is not going to be easy. I fear that it’s going to be a painful experience. Yet, we do want him to have at least had the experience of reading the books and making some attempt of analyzing them.
I admit I didn’t have a plan. It was one of those things that I worried about in my spare time. But I think I have found what we need. It’s a literature program called Excellence in Literature. I received Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell to review. Excellence in Literature is published by Everyday Education. This initial course is divided into 9 units. Each unit covers one book with the exception of the first unit, which teaches several short stories. The books include classics such as Around the World in Eighty Days, Animal Farm, and Gulliver’s Travels. In each unit are links to background information about the time period, biographical information about the author, and other works by the author. There are specific writing assignments included, as well as instructions to the student and teacher about what should be included in each type of writing. The program is written to the student and puts the responsibility for scheduling on the student. However, it does require parental involvement (or someone else knowledgeable to read the student’s assignments.)
This is not an easy course. It will require thought and a lot of time to complete the assignments. And that is just for the regular assignments. The author gives extra selections to read to increase the difficulty to an honors course. (I frankly can’t imagine that our local high school students are getting anything remotely like this course in a regular English class. But my goal is not to mimic the public high school anyway!) Excellence in Literature is not a fill-in-the-blank literature course. It is too advanced for my 8th grader, who is extremely smart, just not in this area, to complete at the pace that the course is designed to be completed. I am planning on holding onto the course for next year. Before then, I’d like to obtain a copy of Teaching the Classics which the author recommends if you need help with literary analysis. (which we do!)
If you’re looking for a challenging course for high school literature, I recommend that you look at Excellence in Literature. You can download an overview of the entire program and the complete book list on the Everyday Education website. Each course is available in print for $29 plus shipping, or as an e-book for $27.
Disclosure: I received a free copy of this product to review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions expressed are my own.