Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing With Sharon Watson - a Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com #literature

For this school year, I will have a high schooler who actually loves books and enjoys reading, which is pretty exciting for me. I'm looking forward to studying literature with her, so the opportunity to review the new literature curriculum from Writing With Sharon Watson came at the perfect time. We've been privileged to receive the curriculum set Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide to use over the past several weeks.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

The name Writing With Sharon Watson is familiar to homeschoolers already, with the popular and practical writing courses Jump In!, The Power in Your Hands, and Writing Fiction [In High School] to their credit. Sharon Watson is an experienced homeschool mom and teacher of literature and composition who also writes for many homeschool publications. Now she has brought her relaxed and conversational style to the study of literature in high school through this new curriculum, Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide.

We received the entire set, which includes:
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (Student Book)
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide - Quiz and Answer Manual
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide - Novel Notebook (PDF download)
She was also kind enough to send us the first two novels studied in the curriculum, Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain, and The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Illuminating Literature is designed to teach literature in a relaxed atmosphere that will appeal to both eager and reluctant readers. The course guides students through seven novels and one memoir, teaching literary terms and elements, and helping them become familiar with the hero's journey and gain an appreciation for fine literature. The curriculum is written from a Christian worldview perspective for use in Christian high schools, homeschools, and co-ops. (But not all the novels studied are written from this same perspective, and some may contain words or events that may be offensive. However, the curriculum also strives to teach students how to analyze stories to separate wheat from chaff, and to be discerning readers.) There are 70 lessons in the two-semester course,  so students would earn one full credit for Language Arts or English. The guide is written to the student, with clear lessons and reading schedules, so the student can work on their own, while the Teacher's Guide provides answer keys and grading grids to make the instructor's job easy! There's even tips for how to use the course in a book discussion group or co-op class.

The novels studied in the course are:

  • Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  • Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
  • Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Quiz and Answer Manual is optional, and is available for those who prefer their students take the quizzes and opinion surveys on paper instead of online. There are three kinds of quizzes - "Yes, I read it", literary terms quizzes, and opinion surveys. If you choose to take the quizzes online, you would use the password provided in the textbook or Teacher's Guide - and the online quizzes are graded for you!
The Novel Notebook goes along with the textbook, and it IS a required element of the course. It is available as a free PDF download from the website. Students use the notebook to record favorite passages and quotes from the books they read, collect examples of the literary devices and themes they see in the literature, and jot down some of their own opinions and conclusions about the books.

How did we use it? Since the course is written to the student, I pretty much turned Kennady loose to "do what the student book tells you to do". After we went over the Introduction together, that is.
Writing with Sharon Watson Review
I studied the "About This Course: Welcome, Teacher!" section in the Teacher's Guide, which gave me an overview of the course and explained that each book was selected because it was an example of the overall theme of colliding worlds, as well as its literary value. The grading system is explained, with suggestions for evaluating the student's participation in discussions and completion of assignments.Course objectives are clearly laid out. In the rest of the Teacher's Guide, each lesson has notes for the teacher, as well as the answers for questions and suggested reading and assignment schedules.

"Chapter 0: Start Here" is the first lesson in the Student Book, and explains to the student what they will be studying in the course, especially the theme of colliding worlds and how conflict is essential to a good story. Literary terms are introduced and the different types of conflict are explained using Tolkien's The Hobbit as an example. (Kennady was hooked at this point, because she loves all things Middle Earth. And she was completely familiar with every example of the conflicts Bilbo faced.) Then she got a chance to try and identify the different conflicts in another book that she had recently read, applying what she'd just learned about conflict to the book of her choice.
Writing with Sharon Watson Review
After going over the discussion questions from Chapter 0 together, I allowed Kennady to work completely on her own, reading the Lesson material about Pudd'nhead Wilson and then following the suggested reading plan. This worked out well, except that Kennady found it difficult to get into a good rhythm with reading the book because of vacations and what-not, so it all went a bit slower than we'd anticipated. However, she did finish the book and worked on the lessons and quizzes. This first novel wasn't one she loved, but rather had mixed feelings about it. I can say that it opened up quite a few interesting discussions between us about prejudice and about story-telling styles.
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing With Sharon Watson - a Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com #literatureIlluminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing With Sharon Watson - a Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com #literature
Kennady especially liked collecting quotes from the book in her Novel Notebook, and could probably have filled several pages! And I think she definitely appreciated that she wasn't expected to love every book, but to anticipate learning something from every book even if the setting or style isn't her favorite. She likes to write her own stories, so learning about conflict and resolution, and about using literary devices effectively is very valuable to her.

What we liked best:

  • I really appreciated the fact that, right from the start, Sharon acknowledges that not every kid is coming into this course excited about reading. There are plenty of kids that think old books are boring or irrelevant, or that don't read for pleasure; and this is addressed in an honest and non-judgmental way. 
  • The tone of the student guide is conversational and not too formal. In fact, it's humorous in many places! We liked that it wasn't a dry textbook lecture, but more of a friendly discussion that invited questions and opinions.
  • The choice of activities for each book is varied and includes things that students who are reluctant to do more reading or more writing can enjoy. In other words, hands-on. Things like watching the movie version of the book and reviewing it; creating art inspired by the story; performing music; researching and preparing recipes mentioned in a story; doing related research; or... of course, creative writing assignments.
What I need to mention:

  • It is strongly recommended that students use the suggested version of the book, especially when in a group setting. The student book and teacher's guide often refer to specific pages in the books, and it's a big time-saver (not to mention so much easier!) to just turn to the page instead of needing to hunt down that sentence or paragraph in a different edition.
Our bottom line: We had hoped to be able to put together a book discussion group for homeschooled high schoolers for this year, and although it doesn't look like it will work out right away, I think the timing of this review was perfect. Because the literature studied is not all from the same country or time-frame in history, I think it would be great for a diverse group of students getting together in a book-of-the-month club setting. Whether Kennady finishes the entire study on her own, or whether we get our book group together and use it there, I think it's a wonderful resource for high school literature study, because it can be used by book-lovers and book-toleraters alike; and because it's so easy for a parent to teach. 

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
Would you like to try Illuminating Literature in your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
For all the details of this course, see: Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide.
More information and a free sample download are available here: Illuminating Literature FREE Download.

Pricing: See the website for full purchase and pricing information.
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Student Book  - $39.49
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Teacher's Guide - $16.49
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Quiz and Answer Manual - $8.49
  • Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Novel Notebook - FREE
  • The novels may be purchased in a bundle at a discount price - see the website for details.

Age Recommendations: Teens in 9th through 12th grades

You can follow Writing With Sharon Watson on Facebook, and on Pinterest.

To celebrate the release of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide, we are joining with Writing with Sharon Watson to bring you this incredible giveaway - an iPad Mini plus a full Illuminating Literature curriculum set. See my previous post for more information and to enter: Illuminating Literature iPad Giveaway from Writing With Sharon Watson.
Writing with Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature iPad Mini Giveaway

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews.
Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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    Sharon Watson said...

    Kym, I love your review! Thank you! I'm curious--which book did Kennady use when she identified different conflicts after reading about The Hobbit?

    Kym said...

    She used The Hunger Games, another current favorite of hers. :-)

    Sharon Watson said...

    That's a good one for lots of different conflicts! I've read all those books except the last one; I don't want to spoil the ending for myself before the last movie comes out.

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