TOS Review: Writing with Sharon Watson

Writing with Sharon Watson

High school literature can be tricky. There are programs that focus strictly on novels, programs that use a textbook-type approach, and a lot of online stuff to choose from. As a former English teacher, I personally prefer more of a hybrid approach, using both novels and some textbook-style teaching for my 11th grade son. So, I was happy to check out Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson, which suits my style perfectly.

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis

This program is a two-semester, one-credit course for students in grades 9-12. It features three main components, a teacher’s manual, textbook, and a quiz and answer manual. All of these are individually priced, so you can choose which components you want to use. There are also a lot of downloadable options like a free downloadable Novel Notebook. You also have the ability to access online quizzes that are graded for you using the information in the textbook, so if you have a child who prefers to work online, you can do that too!

So, how’s the course? Really meaty and well laid out. For starters, the teacher’s guide gives a very thorough introduction to the program, including a list of books you will need with the ISBN numbers. This makes it really easy to find the correct books. The reason this is important is because the activities and questions etc. are geared toward specific pages in those specific books. Could you use copies of some of the novels if you already have them? Sure, but you would need to go through the chapters and match up the pages to make sure your child is in the right spot when they do their work.

The teacher’s guide also includes a suggested schedule, answer keys, and a layout for the lessons. Like anything in homeschool, this is all very tweakable, which I appreciate. I used the suggested schedule as a guide for where we wanted to be each month, but we set our own pace based on my son. If it takes a little longer to complete, or we don’t get to everything, that’s fine. Illuminating Lit is full of so much that I think, even if you skip a little, your child won’t miss out on much.

Your child will read five novels in this program, Silas Marner, Frankenstein, Much Ado About Nothing,  Sense and Sensibility, and The Hobbit. They will also read many different short stories, essays and more. The textbook includes lessons on topics like theme, archetype, antagonists, protagonists, dramatic irony, and much much more. I think that is one thing that impressed me the most about the course. It covers a lot of upper-level topics that other programs I have seen just don’t offer.

The downloadable Novel Notebook is a nice addition to Illuminating Literature. It offer a space for students to gather their thoughts about what they are reading in different ways. They might answer questions or jot down some notes, they might be asked to take on the point of view of a character to answer questions, or complete some type of graphic organizer. The teacher’s guide also gives you a heads up about what questions students are answering and suggested answers if you want to discuss this with them.

My son enjoyed the stories in Illuminating Literature and seemed to enjoy looking at the works through the eyes of the characters and I really like how this program is set up and how in-depth it is. At a cost of less than $100 for all three main components, it’s also a great deal!

To learn more, connect with Sharon Watson on social media here:

Writing with Sharon Watson on Facebook

Writing with Sharon Watson on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program, click here:

 
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer
 

 

Advertisements

TOS Review: Hewitt Homeschooling (American Lit)

Hewitt Homeschooling

I love literature! Reading has always been one of my favorite things, and I love sharing books with my kids. I am always on the lookout for good literature programs for my son, especially now that he is older. For this review, we got to check out the American: Early-Mid 19th Century literature program from Hewitt Homeschooling. This program is aimed at highschool freshman and sophomores. I used it with my 10th grade son.

 Lightning Literature and Composition Pack
American: Early to Mid 19th Century

Early-Mid American Lit is the first part of Hewitt’s American Literature program, with a second book, Mid-Late 19th Century, that follows. You can choose to either use one set each semester, or spread out one book over an entire year. For my son, the slower option is better as reading is not his favorite subject and requires a lot more effort from him. The course consists of a student book and a teacher’s guide.

The teacher’s guide includes suggested schedules for a one-semester and full-year course, which makes it easy for you to set up the course. I will tell you that the one-semester schedule is very heavy on the weekly reading, which is why we opted to go with the full-year course. It ended up being too much for son to do in a week along with his other subjects. The guide also includes rubrics to use for grading, checklists for writing assignments, and answers to the questions in the student book.

The course itself consists of four units, with two lessons per unit. Students read a mix of classic novels (which you can easily find online or at the library) as well as poems and short stories that are included in the student book. Some of the authors covered in the Early-Mid American Lit book are Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Longfellow.

I had my son start with the introduction, which gives background on literature in general, writing tips, and information about how to use the guide. Since the course is pretty student oriented, I wanted to really go over this part since I knew he would mostly be using it on his own. The first unit begins with the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. This section does use a very specific edition of the book which I was able to find online. We broke the reading into weekly assignments, based on how the guide set up the questions, and my son would read each day, then complete the questions in his notebook. In general, we got to about 3 sets of questions per week.

I felt the questions themselves were a good mix of direct recall and questions that caused students to think and synthesize things in the text, and were appropriate for high schoolers. After completing all of the reading there was a lesson about autobiographical writing. We read through and discussed this section together, then I had my son choose one of the writing assignments at the end of the unit. I liked the variety of options students had for their writing assignments, with choices that range from simple to more complex and serious to humorous. I feel like my son is much more motivated when he gets to choose an assignment, and it leads to less conflict between us.

 

The second lesson in Unit 1 moves onto Washington Irving. It included a fun short story written by Irving that my son read in the text with a series of short comprehension questions after. I felt like this was a good way to break things up so they don’t feel monotonous. Students get to read full novels, but also get breaks and are able to read shorter works as well.

All in all, the Early-Mid American Lit course is a solid program. It offers a a wide variety of classic literature to your children in an easy-to-use design. You can literally just read the introduction to the course and get started! Also, this program comes as either a student book and teacher’s guide or a full set that includes all the necessary novels, which allows you to choose what fits your budget.

To learn more, connect with Hewitt on social media here:

Hewitt Homeschooling on Facebook

Hewitt Homeschooling on Twitter

Hewitt Homeschooling on Pinterest

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this program and the others we got to check out, click here:

Hewitt Homeschooling {Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Memoria Press

Memoria Press Literature Guides ReviewI believe literature study is a very important part of any homeschool. Through reading really good books our kids learn so much about vocabulary, spelling, writing, and more. I love reading the classics with my children, but I’ll admit, while I enjoy them, they can be difficult for my boys to digest. So, I am always on the lookout for study guides and other aides that make them a little easier for them to understand. For this review, we got to check out the Ninth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. It contains four student and teacher guides for the books The Canterbury Tales, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Beowulf, and Henry V.

Memoria Press Literature Guides ReviewWe decided to dive into the story of Sir Gawain, because my son loves the stories of King Arthur. Now, the study guide goes with a classic translation of the book, which, for my son, is a little difficult to understand. So, I decided to check out two books from the library. One was a classic translation of the original, and another was a more modern translation. We read the classic translation together, because some of the questions in the study guide referred to specific lines and verses in the poem. However, I allowed him to read the more modern translation on his own because I felt it would help him to understand the story better.

 

The study guides are built around the classical idea of the Trivium, with questions aimed at the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. There is a basic introduction as well as information about how to mark a book as you are reading. Since we got our books at the library I had my son take notes as he read. There is also an intro to each book where you get info about each book, how it is set up, and the major characters. The teachers guide includes a full replication of all student pages with complete answers which is really, really helpful.

For Sir Gawain, the study guide started with some basic vocabulary, which was really helpful since the story is written in old English. I had to help my son with some of these words because they were so unfamiliar. From there, we read the first section (Fit) of the book and answered some basic comprehension questions. After reading the classic version with me, and the modern version on his own, my son was able to answer most of these without help.

From there, the study guide moved into Logic (dialectic) and Expression (rhetoric) questions. These challenged students to think a little deeper about the story, and encouraged conversation, because many of the questions were open-ended. As a parent, you could decide whether you wanted your child to answer all of these questions, or just do one section. We mainly focused on the Dialectic questions as far as written work, but I chose some of the Rhetoric questions to discuss orally. I also think if you wanted to do some essay type assignments, you could use the Rhetoric part for that.

I believe the next study we will move onto is Beowulf, as it seems to fall in kind of the same line as Sir Gawain. On the whole, all of the study guides in the Ninth Grade set cover classic English literature with a sense of adventure. They follow the game general pattern with an introduction and different levels of activities for the various levels. After completing all four study guides students will have a very thorough understanding of British Literature. I think this set is really good for boys in particular, because if you can get past the language, the stories themselves are really exciting. Also, a few of the stories have modern movie adaptations you can watch when you finish the books!

I like the fact that these study guides are challenging, because I think high school students should be challenged. The key here is to find a balance. I would encourage you to find both a classic and modern adaptation for each book so your child can get a whole picture of the story. The study guides themselves cost less than $100 and you can find the books at the library, so I feel like this is a really good deal! To find our more, connect with Memoria Press on social media here:

Memoria Press on Facebook

Memoria Press on Twitter

Memoria Press on Instagram

Memoria Press on LinkedIn

Memoria Press on Pinterest

Memoria Press on Google+

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this and the other programs we got to check out, click here:

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Progeny Press

Progeny Press Review Reading good literature has so many benefits for kids, and I incorporate it regularly into our homeschool curriculum. While I love to discuss the books my kids read with them, I also like to have them answer questions about them and do some writing activities related to the book (I can’t help it, it’s the English teacher in me!). While I can certainly come up with these types of activities myself, that takes time, and it’s much more convenient if I don’t have to do it. So, I was more than willing to review the To Kill a Mockingbird study guide from Progeny Press. The guide is an interactive downloadable study guide aimed at high school students.

Progeny Press Review

I was really excited to get this particular guide as I remember loving this book in high school. In fact, I am friends with my A.P. English teacher on Facebook, and we chat regularly about books in general, and I was recalling the work we did on Mockingbird in class with her recently. I used this guide with my oldest son (12th grade), as the content of the book is more suited to an older student (in my opinion).

The guide begins with a brief synopsis of the book, information about the author, Harper Lee, and background information about the history of slavery in America and the beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. It then moves into some suggested pre-reading activities. I let my son choose which of the activities he wanted to complete, and he decided to research specific amendments to the Constitution. The information he learned came in handy as he read the rest of the book. You could certainly do more than one of the pre-reading activities, in fact, I think I might spend a week or more with my younger son in preparation for the book and actually do two or three of them before he reads the book.

From there, my son set a pace for his own reading, and moved into the chapter activities. Each section of the study guide includes vocabulary activities and questions related to the story. Some of the vocabulary ask students to read the word in context and type in their own definition, then type in the dictionary definition, while others are matching type activities. Questions include basic recall and more in-depth response style questions. Some questions ask students to refer to specific Bible passages and apply them to parts of the story.

In addition to these activities, the study guide also addresses topics like synonyms, similes, metaphors, irony, foils, and other literary devices. At the end of the guide, the students get into an in-depth study of the characters and theme, before choosing from ten possible essay topics.

One of the things my son really liked about this study is that he could do it all on the computer. Being able to type all of his answers in made it really easy for him. I would love it if the guide included automatic grading, but since many of the answers are subjective, that would be impossible. However, the included answer key makes it really easy for parents to check their child’s work quickly. I found the vocabulary and questions to be very thorough, and I loved the upper-level thinking they encouraged. The amount of time this study takes really depends on how fast your child reads, we spread this particular book over a six week time period. I was very satisfied with this study guide.

The To Kill a Mockingbird e-Guide costs $21.99. To learn more, connect with Progeny Press on social media here:
Progeny Press on Facebook

Progeny Press on YouTube
Progeny Press on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew thought of this and the other study guides we got to sample, click here:
Progeny Press Review

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design Review

Good creation resources are a benefit to any homeschool. I am always on the lookout resources that will attract my kids attention and explain things in a way they understand. For this review, we got to check out the book Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from author Jay Schabacker at Purposeful Design.

This book is suitable for all ages and features seven chapters, each one devoted to a particular day of creation. With over 90 pages, it is chock full of information, plenty to start a unit study if you wanted. What struck me first about the book is the beautiful photographs that accompany the text. From landscapes, to people, to animals, Schabacker brings you the world in vivid color. The book provides easy to understand explanations for scientific topics like the water cycle and the seasons, which make this a perfect resource for moms with littles. However, it also provides a great jumping off point for further study for older children, making it great for use with multiple ages.

Purposeful Design Review

Bible verses are spread out throughout the book and provide an excellent source of memory work. I appreciated how Purposeful Design makes it clear how exact our world is and how radically different it would be if just one thing were out of place. For example, one section talked about how Earth is perfectly tilted on its axis, and discusses the consequences if that tilt were off by even a little bit. To me, that just reaffirms that our world was deliberately created.

In addition to the book, parents can download a free curriculum to go with it at the Purposeful Design website. The PDF file contains questions for each chapter, additional verses to memorize and think about, as well as discussion questions you can use to further make the connection between creation and God. For younger kids, you could do a lot of this orally, but for older children, you could easily print it out and use it as a review for each chapter. I felt like the curriculum was a great addition to the book, especially if you wanted to use it as a starting point for a unit study. When combined with other books about the stars, planets, plants, etc. and maybe a couple of episodes of The Magic School Bus or documentaries, you could definitely create something to last for at least a semester.

Of course, this is also an excellent choice to simply add to your bookshelf. Use it as a read aloud, or put it in your book basket for your kids to explore on their own. It is full of factual information which makes it a great reference. You could also use it to supplement other curriculum you are using if you are studying topics like astronomy, earth science, or life science.

In 2013 Purposeful Design won the Illumination Book Awards bronze medal, and in 2014 it was awarded a bronze medal in the Coffee Table category by the Catholic Press Association. I think it definitely deserves those awards, and is well worth the price of $18.95.

To learn more about Purposeful Design connect with the author here:

Purposeful Design Blog

Jay Schabacker on Facebook

Jay Schabacker on Twitter

To see what other members of the crew thought of this book, click here:
Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Heirloom Audio Productions

Ahoy there Maties! Ever since Pirates of the Caribbean came out when he was just two years old, my youngest boy has had a thing for pirates! Seriously, he dressed up like a pirate for Halloween and then refused to take the costume off. Also, he still dresses up in September to get free Donuts for Dress like a Pirate day at Krispy Kreme. 🙂 My youngest also really likes audio books, so when I got a chance to check out an audio book from Heirloom Audio Productions, I jumped at the chance!

Analytical Grammar Review

And of course, when he found out it was going to be a pirate story, my son was on board too! Under Drake’s Flag is a recording of the book written by GA Henty. Known for writing exciting historical adventure stories in the early 19th century, Henty’s books told tales of courage and daring, with a Christian perspective.

The story in Under Drake’s Flag focuses on teenage boys Ned and Gerald, and their high-seas journey under Sir Francis Drake. As they travel, they face the perils of life at sea, including storms and shipwrecks, and encounter numerous new people and cultures as they visit new lands (some are friendly, some are not so much!) Along the way, the boys begin to grow into men, and into their faith in the Lord.

We listened to this recording on our trip down to the Keys to visit some friends over the summer. First, let me tell you the cast is absolutely phenomenal! Really, they add so much excitement to the storytelling, it’s like you can just picture every scene in your head. The high-quality sound effects also make you feel like you are right there on the ship! In total, the story goes on for about two hours. However, it is neatly divided into sections, with each one being timed, so if you needed to stop and restart the story later, it would be easy to do so.

As if the incredible story wasn’t enough, Under Drake’s Flag also includes quite a bit of history. Aside from learning about the Sir Francis Drake (a major character), part of the story also relates to the Spanish Inquisition. This makes it ideal for a homeschool setting, and I could easily see someone using it as a basis for a unit study. The 2-CD set also comes with a inset study guide that includes some background information and some questions for discussion on each section of the story. I found this very convenient for use in the car. They also have a PDF download of a study that goes more in depth and includes Biblical and historical references.

Under Drake’s Flag is aimed at ages six and up, although it may be slightly intense for very young children. In our case, I knew my youngest son (in 8th grade) would love it, but I wasn’t so sure about how my older son (11th grade) and my hubby were going to feel about it! I needn’t have worried. My husband got into the story right away, and even though my oldest started off the trip with his headphones in his ears, by the time we stopped for our first bathroom break, he was totally engrossed in the story as well. Of course, since we got back my youngest has taken the CDs into his room and I often hear him listening to the story when he is playing with his Legos! (and now he is asking me if there are any more stories just like it!)

So, would I recommend Under Drake’s Flag to someone else? Definitely! Especially if you have children who love an adventure. We just listened to the story mainly for fun, but it also has tremendous potential for school as well. I feel like the price of $29.99 is pretty reasonable, and you can get a digital download version for $20.00.

To learn more about Heirloom Audio Productions, connect with them on social media:

Under Drake’s Flag on Facebook

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, click here:
Under Drake's Flag Reviews

Crew Disclaimer

TOS Review: Moving Beyond the Page

Moving Beyond the Page ReviewI love teaching with real literature. And I especially love introducing my boys to some of my childhood favorites. So, when we got a chance to review a literature and social studies unit from Moving Beyond the Page, I jumped at the chance. We have used their products once before, and loved them. For this review, we got check out the Language Arts Package–Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and the Social Studies Package–History of Your State.

 

Moving Beyond the Page

 

One of the things I love about Moving Beyond the Page is how easy it is to customize their programs to your child’s needs. All of their individual units are organized by age. For example, my 7th/8th (who is 12 years old) grade boy is not a big reader, so I was able to go a little below his age range for our literature, (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH is for ages 8-10), but I stayed right in his range for the Social Studies (History of Your State is for ages 12-14). This makes it easy to create a custom complete curriculum for your child by just adding one of their science units and then finding a math program.

Now, the literature unit is online, and I have to say, I really wish I had a hard copy. That’s really just a “me” thing, because the online unit is very easy to navigate and use, but I prefer to hold the guide in my hands!! Anyway, we accessed our unit by logging in on the website and basically, you can go to the index page and receive easy access to student activity pages that include activities like plot flowcharts and chapter outlines as well as grammar lessons. The pages are easy to print out and use. In addition, there are chapter questions and a convenient How-to page that gives you a general outline for how to use the program, with a suggestion for a daily schedule.

The lessons for each chapter begin with an introduction with some discussion suggestions for the parent and child, and then moves into having the reading assignment for the child for the day, followed by activities and a conclusion. For us, this meant starting and ending the lesson together with my son doing the reading on his own. If there were chapter questions (some of them cover multiple chapters) I printed those out and had him do them after.

Now, one of the things I love most about these units is their culminating activity. Moving Beyond the Page does a really good job of giving kids a choice of activities to appeal to different learning styles. For this book, the activities were to write another chapter for the story, focusing on what happened to the rats after the move, or to build a “float” for a parade based on the book. When I was teaching, I always offered my students a choice of activities for book reports because I liked to let them use their own strengths to show what they learned. In building a float, or writing a chapter, kids get to tap into their creative sides!

For the social studies unit, I allowed my son to pick the topic, and he really wanted to learn about Florida. The History of Your State unit came with a DVD of the history channel series America The Story of Us, and the book We Were There Too!: Young People in US History.

History of Your State

 

The guide consists of eight sections that focus on topics like: Flora and Fauna, Native Populations, State Leaders and more. Each lesson gives you a suggested amount of time you should spend on it. Lessons are a mix of research and activities, with some lessons directing you to specific websites to gather information. I felt like the unit had a good balance of writing and creative activities with my son answering questions, drawing maps, and making journals. I have to say that my son really learned a LOT (and so did I!) from this unit, and on top of that, he had a LOT of fun doing it!

Just like before, I can honestly tell you I would firmly recommend Moving Beyond the Page for any homeschooler. They have a HUGE range of choices, and their units are fun, economical, and easy to use. The online package for Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIHM costs $19.92, while the hard copy package for History of Your State costs $75.72 (remember it comes with the guide, the book, and the DVD). I think both prices are very reasonable.

To learn more about Moving Beyond the Page, check them out on social media here:
Moving Beyond the Page on Facebook

 

To see what other members of the crew had to say about the products they got to check out, click here;

Click to read Crew Reviews

Crew Disclaimer