Thursday, June 16, 2016

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @

Literature study over the past school year didn't go exactly as Kennady and I had planned, so it was pretty good timing when we were asked to review a Study Guide from Progeny Press. We chose The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide, and it's rounding out the Lit credit nicely.

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @
Progeny Press has been publishing study guides for literature since 1992, and have many guides available covering literature for Kindergarten through high school. The guides approach literature from a Christian perspective, and focus on critical thinking, comprehension, literary analysis, and Christian application. The Interactive Study Guides are available on CD or as downloadable E-Guides, and students can enter answers directly into the interactive .pdf guide if they wish to work on the computer.

We chose one of the high school level guides, The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide, and received the download. Two files are included - the complete Interactive Study Guide in .pdf for the student, and the Study Guide Answer Key for the parent or teacher, also in .pdf. We already owned the book, The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy, so we were all set. (Progeny Press does make the books available for purchase through their Bookstore, but they are not included with the Study Guide, nor did we receive the book for the purpose of this review.)

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

How did we use it? We decided to to read the book together and use the E-Guide as a discussion guide, rather than have Kennady do it as written work on her own. So to make that work, I chose to print the pages we needed from the E-Guide instead of making use of the interactive feature. I did, however, try out the interactive features, just to see how it worked. Very straight-forward - type in the answers for essay style questions, and there's a drop-down menu to choose an answer for any multiple choice or matching type questions. If Kennady had used the interactive guide, she could have saved her work to a USB drive and then I could have graded it by adding my own comments or corrections to her answers and saving that. By the way, because the majority of the questions are essay style, interactive does not mean automatically graded!

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @

We started with the Synopsis and Background Information about the novel before we started reading. There are also suggested pre-reading activities to help the student understand the context before studying the novel. Ideas such as consulting maps for the geography of the setting, and researching some of the historical information about the French Revolution are given. We did some very brief review of Kennady's knowledge of the geographies of France and England, and what she knew about the Reign of Terror before we started. Another helpful pre-reading tip for this novel especially, is to consult a French-English dictionary to help with the pronunciation of the French terms used in the book. Very good idea since I was reading the novel aloud, and my French is rusty at best!

This guide is divided into seven units, each of which covers four or five chapters from the book. Each begins with a section going over some vocabulary from the chapters read, but not always from the same approach. For example, in one section the student is asked to match the words to a set of brief definition given; and in another section, the student is encouraged to come up with their own definition of a word from the context in the story before checking a dictionary. This is followed by a set of questions that check the student's comprehension of what they've read. Some are simple, such as identifying the characters as they are introduced in the first few chapters; while others require the student to make inferences based on how well they understood what they read. An example is a question about whether Marguerite loves Sir Percy, or  how one character is related or connected to another. 

Analysis questions follow. These give some instruction on an element of the writing and style, and ask the student to elaborate. In the first section, we learned about an author's "voice" or "tone" and discussed how it reflected the viewpoint of the author, and why we thought she had chosen to write in a certain way. Later on, we learned about the use of paradox and foreshadowing and other literary devices, and thought about how these were used in the story.

Finally, there is a section of Dig Deeper questions which explore the student's opinions and personal conclusions about what they are reading, and this is where Christian worldview and Biblical teaching are brought into play. In this novel, the marriage relationship between Sir Percy and Marguerite plays an important role in the development of the story; so there are Dig Deeper questions that challenge the student to reflect on what the Bible teaches about how husbands and wives should treat each other compared to what is happening between these characters in the story to that point. 

At the end of the Study Guide, there is an Overview section of questions to do some more literary analysis of the novel as a whole. This Overview can be used as a unit test if you wish. Obviously, we haven't reached the end yet, so we haven't done any of those questions, but they focus on things like the overarching theme of the novel. There are also additional Essays and Projects given as possible unit assignments. Since we'll be finishing this study during the summer, and are focusing on reading and discussion rather than writing assignments, I don't intend to use those, but there are some excellent ideas for students who do need or want to do more writing related to their literature study. I am hoping that once we're finished the novel, Kennady will want to do the suggested art project for this one - a portrait of Marguerite or Sir Percy; or a landscape or drawing of one of the main settings used in the story.  So far, she's worked on a couple of pimpernel illustrations based on some of the artwork on the book covers or movie posters. Well, not the edition of the book we own, but she googled and found out what the pimpernel (which is a flower, in case you're not familiar with it!) actually looks like.

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @

What we liked best:
  • even though we didn't use it this time, I think the interactive format is a great idea. Actually, it's awesome that the study can be printed and done with pen or pencil; or can be used in the interactive format. By the way, I also like their copy policy - you can make copies of the study as needed for us in your own family. 
  • thorough literary analysis from a Christian perspective, but generally easy to understand. Some of the questions are a bit beyond Kennady right now at the end of ninth grade, but the explanations and examples are clear enough to help her understand. 
What I need to mention:
  • the study guide is designed to take between 10 and 12 weeks to complete. It's recommended that students read through the entire novel the first week while doing the pre-reading activities, and re-read in sections while completing the study in the following weeks.
  • for high school credit purposes, each high school level Study Guide would be worth about one-quarter credit.
  • Remember that the novel is not included in the package.
Our bottom line: Because we wound up doing less than we'd originally planned for Kennady's Lit course this year, working on this study from Progeny Press has been an enjoyable way to round out her reading list and help her earn a half-credit for the school year. The study is thorough, but flexible and adaptable enough to allow us to study it at a more leisurely pace and still get so much out of it! For homeschoolers wishing to include thorough literature analysis, I recommend choosing from the wide selection available from Progeny Press and customizing your own quarter-, half-, or full-credit Literature course using the novels that appeal to your student.

Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide - A Homeschool Coffee Break review for the Schoolhouse Review Crew @

Would literature study from Progeny Press be a good fit for your homeschool? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website:
See the FAQ page for more information.

Pricing: The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide is available for $21.99. See the website for all available study guides in other formats, and pricing details.

Recommended Ages: The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide is one of the studies recommended for high school students, Grades 9-12.

You can follow Progeny Press on Facebook and on Twitter @progenypress.

Read our previous reviews of Progeny Press Study Guides for middle school grades: Progeny Press - Treasure Island {Schoolhouse Crew Review} and TOS Review - Progeny Press.

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews. Crew members reviewed several titles for different grade levels from Progeny Press so be sure to check out all the reviews!

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press  Review}

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