As my girls get older, I am more aware of what we don’t read or watch as a family, what they might encounter on their own. Will they just believe anything they read? Not just textbook/factual information, but how much of a writer’s worldview will seep into their own. When our children are younger, it is easier to maintain exposure to a Biblical worldview. While our learners are still at home, it is important to help them to look critically at what they are reading (and watching). Sure, we can easily use literature curriculum that only focuses on comprehension, literary analysis, and the like. I prefer to kill as many birds as I can – figuratively, of course. That is why we have been using curricula from Writing with Sharon Watson. We are thrilled to be using the second volume for high school literature, Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis.
I was so impressed with Sharon’s workshop I attended at our homeschool convention a couple of years ago. I initially chose her workshop because she lives in my homestate. I learned so much from her in that hour (or whatever) that I bought Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. I felt comfortable turning my daughter loose to work through this high school course on her own – not needing me to pre-screen every book, every assignment. When the opportunity to review the latest in the Illuminating Literature series, Characters in Crisis, came up, we jumped at the opportunity. Even though this is the second in this series, using the first (When Worlds Collide) is not necessary.
The high school course is to be used over a full school year for one full credit. There are four books to the curriculum set: Teacher Guide, Student Textbook, Novel Notebook (free download), and Quiz and Answer Manual. The quizzes can also be completed (and graded – yay!!) online. Because our internet can randomly go out, and another daughter does best writing on paper, we find this manual necessary. Thankfully, a family has permission to copy pages as needed. If you are using this in a co-op or classroom setting, the online option or each student having their own book is best. Each student needs their own Student Textbook as well. Not only will they be answering/responding to lessons throughout directly in the book, but checklists for assignments are included. Some of the short story selections are printed in the Student Text also.
The Teacher Guide has come in quite handy. Yes, the Student Text is written to the student and they don’t really need you as they work through it (at least not the way younger learners would). Because I have three of my daughters working through this together, we are combining the Book-Club schedule and suggestions with the week-by-week schedule listed in each chapter. I give my girls their assignments weekly, for all their schoolwork. This lets me keep up with where they are, what they are studying. We can adjust pacing as needed because they are only getting one week at a time (great for a dyslexic and literature – or any of my learners with all of their subjects).
Other than the short story selections, I have read all of the books covered. It may have been a couple of decades, but I am familiar with them. The Teacher Guide is invaluable in filling in any of these gaps as well as equipping you to help your learner should they need it. It points out all that the student covers, both in their text and the Novel Notebook, giving you the answers so you look smart (not really, it’s all about being able to guide your student). It is broken down into the same lessons as the Student Textbook and has the passwords needed for accessing the online quizzes.
It would be easy to skip the Novel Notebook, or not print it all out. I strongly encourage you to download and print it all right away. My daughters journal and take notes on just about everything they learn. The Novel Notebook not only has some additional work related to the story being covered, but also gives them a place to record their thoughts as they are reading through. You can download a sample of the course to see exactly how these individual components fit together.
I’ve asked my girls to give me some feedback of what they think of Characters in Crisis. They can gab and giggle like most teenage girls, but I when I ask something specific, they lose their words. I did manage to pull a sentence from each of them.
“I like how it makes me think about where the author is coming from.”
“I like learning about the background of the story, behind the scenes.”
“Choosing my own activity at the end of lessons for the story is fun.”
They really are enjoying it. I can tell because they have their assignments finished on time and nobody complains about it. For my dyslexic girl, especially, this is huge.
They are really looking forward to the rest of the course. I think they are enjoying Frankenstein more than they thought they would. We’ll also be covering Silas Marner, Much Ado About Nothing, Sense and Sensibility, and The Hobbit. There is also a chapter using short works (included in the text or linked to read for free) and a(n) (auto)biography of their choosing. Who they each choose will be interesting.
As you can tell, we really, really appreciate Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis by Sharon Watson. Read other families experiences by clicking the image below.