Once upon a time, there was a homeschool mother who was searching high and low for a literature program for her soon to be highschool son. She wanted something that would help him to think critically. Something that would help him to learn to analyze what he was reading. Something that would make him stretch. And she definitely wanted it to contain classic literature. The perfect curriculum would also prepare her son for college. While she was searching for something that would offer all of these things, she ran across an offering by Janice Campbell, from Everyday Education. It was called Excellence in Literature. And excellence is just what this program offers.
I purchased the complete 5 year program. When I find something that looks this good, I tend to jump in with both feet. I wanted the whole enchilada, and I am so glad I did. When I found out the crew was going to review this curriculum, I was thrilled. I knew I had some things to say about it. Things I hope you will want to hear.
As I already stated, Excellence in Literature is a 5 year program. It is designed for students in the 8th grade through 12th grade. The crew was invited to review the first year of the program, which is called Introduction to Literature. They received the electronic version in a pdf file. The cost for this single unit is $29.00 plus $4.95 shipping for a printed version, or $27.00 for the digital version. Or you can save and purchase the entire 5 year program for just $139.00 plus shipping for the printed format, or $135.00 for the digital program.
Taken straight from the website: Throughout this course students gain an understanding and development of literature and will practice the skills of close literary analysis through essays, approach papers and other evaluative writing.
- Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
- Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
- Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
- Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
- Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.
Introduction to Literature has 9 units. Each unit has a focus text and then an option for an Honors text. There are also context texts for the student to study. Here is how it is laid out:
The first unit of Introduction to Literature consists of short stories:
• A White Heron, by Sarah Orne Jewett
• The Purloined Letter , by Edgar Allen Poe(This one is not scary, if you’re concerned about that.)
• The Diamond Necklace, by Guy de Maupassant
• The Ransom of Red Chief, by O. Henry
• A Worn Path, by Eudora Welty
• The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, by James Thurber
The rest of the units include:
Unit 2: Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
Honors: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
Unit 3: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. by Mark Twain
Honors: The Prince and the Pauper, by Mark Twain
Unit 4: Jane Eyre. by Charlotte Brontë
Honors: Shirley or Villette, by Charlotte Brontë
Unit 5: Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw
Honors: Murder in the Cathedral, by T.S. Eliot
Unit 6: Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Honors: Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson
Unit 7: Animal Farm, by George Orwell
Honors: 1984, by George Orwell
Unit 8: The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
Honors: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare
Unit 9: Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
Honors: The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The program is meant to be self-directed by the student. Each unit has instructions that the student should be able to follow. These are broken down by week, with each unit taking approximately 4 weeks. However, the student must learn to schedule their work within the week as it is not broken down by day. This teaches them time management and helps them to prepare for the kind of scheduling they will be doing in college.
One of the things I like most about it is that we have learned to do a new type of paper, called an Approach Paper. This is basically a paper where the student practices analysis skills as they write a short summary of the literature piece. Then they must identify the characteristics of the main characters, come up with discussion questions, find a key passage in the book, and then explain it in their own words. Analysis of literature has always been a bit of a struggle for Chandler. He thinks literally. Having to think in a new way is sometimes difficult for him. I was floored by what he was able to accomplish in these approach papers. With minimal instruction, he turned out a paper that was years ahead of where I thought he actually was in his writing capability. The bar has now been raised.
Since we have started this program during Chandler’s 9th grade year, I have tweaked the program just a bit. I want to cover as much of the 5 year program as possible. So we are skipping a couple of selections in the first year, and are actually using and integrating selections from the 2nd year program. It is very easy to do this with Excellence in Literature. By customizing our selections, we are covering just what we need. Some of the selections, Chandler has already read, and I am just not going to have him do them again. But I really didn’t think I could get him to willingly read Jane Eyre. So I will make him watch the film version so he is at least exposed to the story. I’m just that kind of mom.
Another thing I am loving about the program is that Chandler is finding authors that are new to him and they are becoming favorites. He now is stating that his favorite author is Mark Twain. He absolutely loves his writing. He says it inspires him and makes him laugh. I have loaded Twain’s complete collection onto our Kindles, so Chandler can enjoy his works and keep reading them even after we move on to study another author.
I should state that we are doing the honors option. In our home, it wasn’t an option. So Chandler is reading a text every two weeks and writing papers on them. I am finding that I can turn a paper back to him and just say, “Fix it.” I used to have to point out every single thing that was wrong and explain why. Now he just seems to sense what I want. The mistakes I point out are getting fewer and fewer. His work is impressive for 15 years of age. I can definitely see glimmers of what he will be turning in his Sr. year of high school. This is a program that will be enriching our homeschool for the next 4 years.
If you would like to see what the crew had to say about this program, you can read their reviews here.
Disclosure of Materials: Although I was given an electronic copy of Introduction to Literature by Everyday Education, I also have independently purchased this curriculum in its entirety. All opinions are strictly my own and I was not asked to provide a positive review.