The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Tess Hamre and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Implications of Literature: Trailblazer Level Review by Heather Jackowitz

TextWord Press, Inc.
222 44th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11232

TextWord Press created the Implications of Literature series in response to a need expressed by private and parochial schools for a superior high school literature series that would not conflict with their traditional values. According to General Editor Deborah Schechter, "We had to pass several litmus tests along the way. In addition to reinforcing inherently high moral standards, we had to satisfy rigorous NYSTL (New York State Textbook Law) requirements in order to obtain textbook funding. Furthermore, these 900-page volumes had to be attractively designed and prove engaging to teachers and students alike. Finally, they had to prepare students at an Advanced Placement performance level to compete for entry into the best colleges and universities in the country. I'm happy to announce that principals across the country are declaring the series a success! Language teachers will also find the series very effective in preparing students for the new writing requirements of the SAT and Regents examinations."

I reviewed Implications of Literature: Trailblazer Level for 12th grade. With over 90 literary selections, this challenging British literature textbook traces the development of the English literary tradition from AD 449 to modern times. The hardback Annotated Teacher's Edition contains reduced student pages with answers to every question in the student book. Abundant notes help you to present each selection and to focus discussion about the material. Your student will read, discuss, and write about novellas, short stories, novels (including excerpts from The Canterbury Tales, Robinson Crusoe, Sense and Sensibility, and Hard Times), two full-length dramas (one of which is Shakespeare's Macbeth), essays, epic poetry, ballads, sonnets, elegies, odes, and lyrical poetry.

The hardcover student book opens with a ten-page overview of the "History and World of English Literature." Each unit begins with a short historical focus essay and a literary focus essay. The following is an outline of the book's eight units, along with their historical and literary emphases:

I. Anglo-Saxon Period
A. Historical Focus: The Anglo-Saxons
B. Literary Focus: Epics and Elegiac Poetry
II. Medieval Period
A.Historical Focus: The Medieval Period
B.Literary Focus: From the Oral Tradition to the Written Word
III. Renaissance and Elizabethan Age
A.Historical Focus: The Renaissance and Elizabethan Age
B.Literary Focus: The Rise of Drama and Poetic Forms
IV. Cavaliers, Puritans, Augustans
A. Historical Focus: Cromwell, the Restoration, and the Hanovers
B. Literary Focus: The Age of Reason
V. Romantic Era
A. Historical Focus: The Age of Revolution
B. Literary Focus: The World of Emotion
VI. Victorian Era
A.Historical Focus: The Industrial Revolution
B.Literary Focus: The Changing World
VII. Twentieth Century
A.The Modern World
B.The Changing Literary Perspective
VIII. Applying Language Skills

In units one through seven, each selection begins with a "Before You Read…" essay, with information about the author and the selected work (and, if necessary, some historical background). "Helpful Definitions" at the bottom of each selected reading give definitions of archaic or unfamiliar words. Sidebars are full of questions to help students learn to identify motives, literary techniques, literary devices, and literary imagery as they read. Answers to all these questions are in the margins of the teacher's edition directly next to the question on the reduced student page.

At the end of each selection are a variety of reading response options, including Literary Critique questions, Writing Workshops, Journal Workshops, and Vocabulary Workshops. The Handbook of Writing Techniques in Unit Eight provides guidelines and requirements for the Writing Workshop essays. Students will write the following essays based on their readings: narrative, literary analysis, personal or reflective, persuasive, compare/contrast, cause and effect, descriptive, critical-lens, definition, and expository. The Journal Workshops are what I would call "creative" writing; for example, students are asked to write a journal entry describing Arthur's coronation after reading an excerpt from Le Morte D'Arthur. Sample essay answers are provided in the teacher's edition, but they are abbreviated due to space limitations; however, they should be sufficient for evaluating student essay answers.

Vocabulary exercises for each selection are included in the Unit Eight Handbook of Vocabulary. Exercises include multiple choice, true/false, sentence completion, matching, synonyms and antonyms, roots and prefixes, definitions, etymology, and analogies. These exercises are similar to what you would find in a Wordly Wise vocabulary book, but the words come directly from the literature selections your student is reading.

Unit eight, "Applying Language Skills," contains various language handbooks (vocabulary, writing techniques, literary terms), a basic manual of style, a Regents exam review, a glossary, and several indexes. TextWord's own Regents Review Handbook helps students prepare for New York State's English Regents Examination by presenting two complete sample examinations created especially for this textbook.

A CD Test Bank provides four tests for every literature selection in the textbook. Check Quizzes test factual recall; Literary Critiques require deeper, more analytical thinking; Reading Comprehension asks students to extract information from a given passage; and Vocabulary Review tests your student on every word in the Vocabulary Workshop section of the student textbook. In addition to the four tests for each selection, a longer, more comprehensive exam is provided for Shakespeare's Macbeth. Answers to all tests are supplied in the teacher's edition folder of the CD. The Test Bank CD is quite expensive, and I do not think most homeschoolers will find it necessary given all the resources available in the textbook itself.

TextWord's Trailblazer Level is well-organized and provides plenty of teacher support. The student book is mostly text with few illustrations, which might not appeal to some visual learners. Academically, it appears extremely rigorous, much harder than my high school AP British Literature class! I hesitate to wholeheartedly recommend this book for a couple of reasons. One criticism--which is really a criticism of literature textbooks in general--is the superficial study of excerpts. It makes me angry to see one chapter ripped out of Sense and Sensibility and dissected before readers have had the chance to read and enjoy the whole story! Of course, you are free to use the textbook any way you like, and I would prefer to read a few whole novels rather than many excerpts. Then, perhaps, I might return to the excerpts after reading the whole novel for training in literary analysis. In any case, the book does use plenty of complete short stories, essays, plays, and poems.

Another concern is the sheer number of selections. I cannot believe any school—public, private, or homeschool—could cover this entire book, writing assignments and all, in a school year, and I wouldn't even want to try. If you are the type who feels compelled to do everything a teacher's book suggests, do not buy this program. If you are comfortable using what you like and disregarding the rest, then this book could save you time and money.

To see the Table of Contents, which lists all the titles used in this level, as well as samples from the Teacher's Edition, visit

Product review by Heather Jackowitz, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2008