Saturday, January 13, 2018

Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet)

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Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet) on Homeschool Coffee Break @

After so many years of homeschooling, I've had plenty of opportunities to try curriculum and explore all kinds of resources, so during this Blogging Through the Alphabet tour, I'm highlighting some of the many homeschooling resources that have been stand-outs. Sometimes it will be a walk down memory lane as I share something we enjoyed many years ago, and sometimes it will be something we're using currently. Sometimes I'll focus on a specific curriculum, and sometimes on a subject area. And I imagine I'll have to be a bit creative with a couple letters of the alphabet! This week it's time to have a look at our reading lists and talk about literature.

When I was still very new to homeschooling and my kids were little, I had a naive idea that my kids would all enjoy reading and would love to read books and discuss them. Okay, that didn't exactly turn out like I'd hoped. My boys were never huge fans of reading, and wanted to get away with reading only the minimum required. My daughter does like to read, but she tends to take her time with books, especially if it's not something that grabs her attention immediately. So no Lit majors in our family. But I believe that being familiar with good literature is important, and some literature is required as a component of high school English credit in our state. Here's how we have tried to strike the balance.

In the middle school grades, the boys did all-in-one Language Arts curriculum that included grammar, composition, and literature. At this point I don't even remember exactly which novels they read and at what grade, but I do know that it was only one full-length novel per year. Kennady was a lot more willing to read and we also got the chance to review a new-to-us Literature curriculum, Lightning Lit & Comp for Grade 7, which was a great fit for her. She enjoyed some great stories and was excited about diving into the accompanying composition and grammar study. The writing exercises - several to choose from! - in each unit challenge the student to try their hand at writing short stories, poetry, and other compositions using the techniques they are learning about. She basically begged me for Lightning Lit & Comp for Grade 8, so I was happy to comply!  We enjoyed the following middle school reading lists over those years:

Seventh Grade Lightning Lit
(See our review here: Lightning Lit & Comp {Schoolhouse Review Crew}!)
Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky by Stephen Crane
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller
All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Eighth Grade Lightning Lit

(See my description of this course in a Virtual Curriculum Fair post from three years ago: Middle School Monday - Lightning Literature and Compositon!)
A Crazy Tale by G.K. Chesterton
Treasure Island by Robert L Stevenson (also studied when we reviewed Progeny Press study guides)
A Day of Pleasure by Isaac B. Singer
Wakefield by Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (also studied when we reviewed Moving Beyond the Page)
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet) on Homeschool Coffee Break @  Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet) on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Other favorite middle school reads . . .

Thick as Thieves by Susan K. Marlow
A Cry From Egypt by Hope Auer (See our review of this book!)
A Stand at Sinai by Hope Auer
The Hunger Games (series) by Suzanne Collins
The Mysterious Benedict Society (series) by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis
Diary of a Real Payne - Book 1: True Story by Annie Tipton (See our review of this book!)
Heidi by Johanna Spyri
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Lydia Barnes series by Heather Gemmen Wilson
. . . and classics like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series.

However, as much as we loved Lightning Lit & Comp in middle school, we found their high school level courses too much to complete alongside everything else we've had going. We reviewed a couple of them, and did a little pick-and-choose method of making use of the study materials for a couple of the novels. I do continue to recommend Lightning Lit for middle and high school students, with the caveat that the high school courses are in-depth and best for students with a genuine interest in detailed literary analysis and the time to get into it.

We reviewed and used some of Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets. See our review here: Lightning Lit & Comp Shakespeare Comedies and Sonnets. Earlier we reviewed and used some of Lightning Lit and Comp: American Mid-Late 19th Century. See our review here: Lightning Lit for High School. We purchased and used some of Lightning Lit and Comp: British Early-Mid 19th Century.

As you can see in the middle school reading lists, we also used a Progeny Press study guide one year. We found the same situation - the high school level guides were more involved than what we could handle. We reviewed The Scarlet Pimpernel E-Guide for high school level from Progeny Press, and enjoyed the parts of it we used. If I remember correctly, each high school level guide from Progeny Press would be about a quarter credit worth of study time. They are great guides, and a good choice if you want to pick and choose which books you study rather than get a full curriculum that has a reading list of perhaps a dozen books. Read our review here: Progeny Press - The Scarlet Pimpernel Study Guide.

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

I do want to explain why I said we didn't have the time to use these literature studies. We use Notgrass for high school history, and both Exploring America and Exploring World History include a full accompanying English and Literature study. All four of my kids have used these courses, and we love the approach of choosing literature from or about the time periods we're studying in history. Still, with reluctant readers or students with an already very full schedule, we found that it was better to do only about half of the novels from each course. We chose the books that we felt were most important and relevant, and the most likely to appeal on some level. So the choices weren't exactly the same for each student. I also limited how much related writing and analysis they had to do. I thought it was better to read and enjoy the story as a whole, so I asked them to do the general comprehension questions and be able to summarize the story and describe the characters. This way we were able to focus on reading for enjoyment and understanding of the story and historical setting. Here are the high school reading lists we've chosen from, between Notgrass and other courses.

Brit or World Lit
Mere Christianity - C.S. Lewis
The Cat of Bubastes - G.A. Henty
The Art of War - Sun Tzu
Julius Caesar - William Shakespeare
The Imitation of Christ - Thomas a Kempis
Here I Stand - a biography of Martin Luther - Roland Bainton
Pilgrim's Progress - John Bunyan
A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
North and South - Elizabeth Gaskell
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
The Hiding Place - Corrie ten Boom
Bridge to the Sun - Gwen Terasaki
Cry, the Beloved Country - Alan Paton
Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
Eric Liddell: Pure Gold - David McCasland
Animal Farm - George Orwell
1984 - George Orwell
The Abolition of Man - C.S. Lewis
Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
The Lord of the Rings trilogy - J.R.R. Tolkien
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
The High House - James Stoddard
Dracula - Bram Stoker
Around the World in Eighty Days - Jules Verne

Lots of Literature (Blogging Through the Alphabet) on Homeschool Coffee Break @

American Lit
The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
Narrative of the Life of David Crockett - David Crockett
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Frederick Douglass
Uncle Tom's Cabin - Harriet Beecher Stowe
Company Aytch - Sam Watkins
Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
Humorous Stories and Sketches - Mark Twain
Up From Slavery - Booker T. Washington
In His Steps - Charles Sheldon
Mama's Bank Account - Kathryn Forbes
Christy - Catherine Marshall
Miracle in the Hills - Mary T. Martin Sloop and LeGette Blythe
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Giver - Lois Lowry
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane
The Call of the Wild - Jack London
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Last of the Mohicans - James Fennimore Cooper
The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald

One other curriculum I have to mention is Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide by Sharon Watson.  We reviewed it and thought it was wonderful, and honestly I'm still bummed that we haven't been able to fit the entire study into a school year! I'd love to be able to use it for a co-op class. That way I could do it next year, even if Kennady doesn't have the time in her schedule! See our review here: Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide

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

Do you have some favorite literature studies you've used in your homeschool? Do you follow a curriculum or just read what you like? Leave a comment and let me know!

Blogging Through the Alphabet again? Yes, I'm taking the challenge, along with several other Crew members, including our co-hosts for this round - Amanda at Hopkins Homeschool and Kirsten at DoodleMom's Homeschooling Life. The link is open from Thursday to Wednesday each week, so join in if you'd like!

This post is linked at Blogging Through the Alphabet for Week 12, Letter L.

This post is also linked at Homeschool Blog & Tell at The Homeschool Post; at the Homeschool Linky Party on the Homeschool Review Crew blog, and at the Encouraging Hearts & Home Blog Hop hosted by Apron Strings & Other Things

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Lori said...

This post is right up my alley - lots of literature. I always look forward to what you have to say and appreciate your honesty. We are working through a Sharon Watson Illuminating Literature: Characters In Crisis from a review. Not speeding through it but then my daughter using it is only 8th grade, so we aren't in a hurry. I sure would like to get When Worlds Collide at some point, as well. - Lori

MaryAnne said...

I love your book recommendations! This post is going to be super helpful for my 6th grader. Thank you!

Charlotte said...

Love your book list! Thank you for sharing!

Unknown said...

Very impressive book list!

Kirsten West said...

We love Lightning Literature here in our homeschool too! I was lucky that my kids really love reading, but I know exactly what you are talking about. We have kids and expect that they will love the things that we love and. . . they don't always. That is a hard one to come to terms with sometimes! Thanks for linking up with us!

Chris and Dawn said...

Some of my favorites listed here and a few books I need to look into more because I hadn't heard of them. Thanks

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