Monday, October 31, 2011

Excellence in Literature



Excellence in Literature is a five year course which introduces "great literature in its historical context".  It consists of five self directed books that can be used independently or as a cohesive whole: Introduction to Literature - Literature & Composition American Literature - British Literature - World Literature.

My favorite subjects when I was in school (eons ago) were always literature or writing based.  As a homeschool teacher, this hasn't changed! If I had my choice, I'd skip everything else (except history) and read and write all day long. I want to pass on my love of books and writing to my children but I also need to teach them the skills.  Sometimes I fear the drudgery of the latter will ruin the love for the former and I tend to focus too much on the creative and not enough on the practical. Excellence in Literature is a good way to combine classical literature with practical skills.  

We received the first in the series, Introduction to Literature, in the e-book format.  As the first in a five year course, it may be used as young as 8th grade. I am currently working through it with both my 9th and 11th grade sons and feel it is a good fit for the high school level.  An advanced 8th grader would be ready for it, but I'm not sure my current 7th grade daughter will find it doable by next year. We'll see. 

The Intro is a college prep style composition and lit course and comes with an honors option, if desired. It is written directly to the student and teaches them to analyze their reading and then to share via essays and other papers. This is the perfect course to begin with because too many assume that the student already knows how to do these things.  With sample papers in the back and each type of paper broken down by section, this course makes it much easier to wrap your mind around the hows of writing an essay. 

The first paper my boys were assigned is called an "Approach Paper".  This is not something I am familiar with, and frankly questioned the need for, but they were able to follow the instructions for it and it did help them to break down and understand the short story. I'm sure they will be able to continue in this vein and have their writing skills stretched through this course.

The literature used is familiar and well loved, for the most part.  It includes short stories from Poe, Thurber and O.Henry, as well as portions from books such as Around the World in Eighty Days, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Jayne Eyre, Pygmalion, and more.  One aspect I love that is not always included in this type of study is the historical background.  By understanding what the world was like when and where the author lived, we can understand so much more of the mindset and worldview behind the story. This makes a book even richer and more alive.  It's fascinating!    

Introduction to Literature is available from Everyday Education for $29 in print or $27 as an e-book. This is a course I plan to use in our homeschool with all of my remaining students. I don't say that about too many products, but this one's a keeper.





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