One of the areas of concern I hear from homeschooling parents as they approach the high school years is how to teach literature well. My husband is a literature teacher, so perhaps that is why we are often the recipients of literature-related questions. Concerns range from, "What literature is appropriate for Christian young people to study?" to "How can we bring a Christian worldview to the literature we study?" and even, "Help! I never read any of the recommended literature books when I was in high school. How can I even begin to teach what I have never learned?" These are important questions to ask. Even with a literature teacher for a husband, if I am to do the literature discussions in our home, I will need some help. I need someone to guide me through questions, teach me terminology that is used in literary analysis, and help me evaluate literature pieces with a biblical worldview.
Smarr Publishers has several different literature programs to choose from, including A Survey of World Literature and An Introduction to Literature. Each of these series provides a 36-week, complete program. There is a comprehensive student companion for each text; A Guide to Critical Writing, Grammar and Style; a set of twenty-eight vocabulary quizzes; a set of eight writing assignments; a suggested schedule of daily work and information about evaluating written work.
In Survey of World Literature, the students work through Studies in Poetry, The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Book of Job, Greek and Roman Mythology, he Odyssey, Oedipus Rex, Antigone, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Ivanhoe, The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Kreutzer Sonata. Most weeks include vocabulary quizzes, and papers are written seven times in the year. Writing lessons come every three or four weeks and go for five days in a row.
The philosophy of SMARR Literature guides is well-explained in the guide. It says, "This course was created because the publisher believes a need exists for a high school English curriculum centered on learning ideas - rather than the memorization of facts, - building vocabulary, and practicing critical writing. Many high school curricula center on grammar exercises and offer literature anthologies that emphasize the lives of authors and not their works. The publisher believes that this approach to literature is of little value to developing the student mentally and emotionallyâ€¦.As for writing, students need to know how to write critically before they enter college. This curriculum will have the student writing argumentative papers."
The student companions for each novel are organized as follows: Vocabulary words are introduced, along with vocabulary exercises. The reading is assigned, and recall questions are provided. For example, sample questions from Ivanhoe, Lesson One, include: Who is King of England during the time in which the story is set? What event put the power of England in Norman hands? Describe the two men in the woods, and give their names. The notes at the end of Lesson One include discussion on "Who are the Normans?", "Who are the Saxons?" and information on William of Normandy. At the end of the book is a glossary of the vocabulary words with their definitions.
The writing component of the program includes A Guide to Critical Writing, Grammar and Style by Robert Watson. This is where you will find the assigned writing lessons that are listed in the course schedule. Lessons include an introduction and the specific parts of the argumentative paper, subject-verb agreement, active and passive voice, misplaced modifiers and parallelism within sentences. The other writing component provides the writing assignments. The initial writing is a diagnostic piece, and then papers will be written on The Importance of Being Earnest/The Merchant of Venice, The Call of the Wild/White Fang, Treasure Island/Silas Marner, An Introduction to Poetry, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Great Expectations, Robinson Crusoe, with several opportunities included for impromptu essay assignments.
In An Introduction to Literature the students study An Introduction to the Short Story, The Importance of Being Earnest, The Merchant of Venice, Treasure Island, The Call of the Wild, White Fang, Silas Marner, An Introduction to Poetry, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Great Expectations and Robinson Crusoe. The plan is much the same, with the guides and assignments following the same general plan as the Survey of World Literature.
These programs assume five, fifty-minute English class periods in a week. You may need to adjust the material to fit your family schedule, or adjust your schedule accordingly. The publisher does encourage families to stick to the schedule as much as possible, resisting the urge to rush.
These two products are the first two years of a four-year conventional program of literature study. The third year is Survey of American Literature, and the fourth year is Survey of British Literature. Other options include a chronological study, divided into the Ancient Period, Medieval and Early Renaissance, Later Renaissance to Romanticism, and Late 19th Century to Modern Period, or a six-year program that also includes the Ancient Period, the Medieval and Early Renaissance, and then breaks the remaining two years into 17th Century Literature, 18th Century Literature, 19th Century Literature, and 20th Century Literature.
For current costs, articles of interest and ordering information, please see the SMARR Publishers website at www.smarrpublishers.com.
SMARR Publishers have excellent resources for homeschooling families. Their materials take away the intimidation of teaching literature, and allow parents and students to learn and grow in reading literature, writing critical essays, and understanding the ideas in the literature of all time periods. Highly recommended.