Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excellence in Literature (TOS Review)


When I have thought about homeschooling through high school, the subject that has concerned me most is English/Literature. I’m fairly confident that, with a good textbook and some lab supplies, I could teach science—the fearsome subject for many parents. But I have not been so confident about teaching literature and writing. Although I took AP English in high school, earned credit for a year of college English, and took a year of college literature, that was a long time ago! I enjoy reading, but just don’t feel confident about my ability to analyze literature or to teach my children to write about literature.

I was excited to have the opportunity to review the Excellence in Literature program. When I first looked at the Excellence in Literature website, I was impressed by the great books that were included. Many are favorites of mine—Jane Eyre, Around the World in Eighty Days,  Treasure Island, and Animal Farm are some of the selections in the first year program, which is intended for use in the eighth or ninth grade. (Much better selections than some of the books my older kids had to read in public school!)

Excellence in Literature is written to the student and is intended to be largely self-directed, with the teacher/parent serving as an advisor and grader of papers.

Since Emily is only in 6th grade, I knew the program would be a stretch for her, but we gave it a try. I thought she would enjoy the literature, but knew that her ability to write or to analyze it are far from high school level.  I was pleasantly surprised by her ability to do the work. The first unit consists of short stories, which the student reads before writing an approach paper or literary summary about. Instructions and models for writing each type of paper are included in the text. Emily enjoyed all the stories, although “The Purloined Letter,” by Edgar Allan Poe, was quite difficult for her to understand. She enjoyed writing the papers and did a nice job for her age, with only minimal help from me. We plan to continue through the next unit (Around the World in Eighty Days). Then we will probably save the rest of the program for next year, when I expect her writing skills to be stronger.

The only thing I would like to see added to Excellence in Literature would be more resources and helps for writing and more thorough directions for essay-writing. The curriculum requires Writer’s Inc., or another writer’s handbook. I understand that, but, for example, when my student was assigned a compare/contrast essay, I would have liked to see more complete instructions and examples than “look in your writer’s handbook to learn how to write this…”  Other supplements or prerequisites are also suggested, such as the Teaching the Classics DVD course.

I think that Excellence in Literature is an excellent program, especially for college-bound high school students and am thankful that I had the opportunity to review it.

I recommend this program and give it 4/5 stars.


Excellence in Literature:: English I: Introduction to Literature sells for $27 (ebook) or $29 (printed book).

I received this program free for review purposes as a member of the TOS Crew. Please visit the Crew Blog to read more reviews!


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