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Winning at Literature Unit Study: The Chronicles of Narnia Review by Wendy Jung

Melanie Hexter
Lemiloe Publishing
81 McIntosh Court, Suite 100
Howard, OH 43028

The Chronicles of Narnia is a 127-page, downloadable study covering all of the titles in C.S. Lewis's famed Chronicles of Narnia series. The study can be purchased online as a complete set for $29.70 or you may purchase a study for each title in the Narnia series ($4.95). Besides the study guide itself, the other necessary resources are few and can probably found in your home or obtained in a quick trip to the library; these include items like blank notebooks and books to be used in research on various topics. The guides are keyed to page numbers in a specific printing of the Narnia books. Even though I didn't have the exact copy, we were able to use the guides just fine. The scope and sequence of this study is wide ranging and includes a large variety of topics in history, geography, science, personal character and development (Bible study and reflection), and language arts. These guides, easily used in a home, co-op or classroom setting, are written from a decidedly Christian view. You could use them in a non-Christian setting by simply not assigning the activities with a Christian element or Bible reading.

There are two different suggested schedules given for using the guides--either as a semester or year-long study. To cover all seven books in one semester, you would need to read two chapters of a book each day. The one-year plan requires just one. By adjusting the number of Learning Opportunities required of your student each day, you could easily adapt these schedules to fit your homeschool.

The guide suggests that students keep two notebooks: a nature notebook to record and illustrate the large variety of real and imaginary creatures encountered in these books and a writing notebook for recording vocabulary, research, and writing assignments. For each chapter of reading, there are suggested vocabulary words as well as at least three Learning Opportunities. These Learning Opportunities are the core of the study and range from researching mothballs to studying the origins of the sandwich to thinking about the consequences of sin in the world. Most activities require at least some writing, usually a paragraph or two. In addition to the study of various literary and grammatical topics in the Learning Opportunities, the guide for each book has a Literary Half-Time, which introduces a literary tool such as setting or mood and asks the student to think about that element within the story. The Literary Half-Time tools are further reviewed in subsequent guides in the form of Learning Opportunities so that students have the opportunity to master their skills in literary analysis.

The author states that this study is for children ages 8-15 and was written with active learners (like boys) who may be somewhat reluctant readers in mind. I think she was right on target in this. The reading assignments are not too long, and the activities are varied enough that most students can find something to interest them each day (if you are allowing them to choose). The suggested age range is large, but it is realistic because of the flexibility built into these studies. Parents simply need to either guide their students in choosing appropriate activities or assign them to the student. These guides could be a valuable reinforcement to your current language arts program. They could also be a fun break from your usual schoolwork. However, I don't think they could be a stand-alone language curriculum, especially for older students.

To be honest, I have never been a big unit study fan (no flaming arrows please). Unit studies always seemed a bit "light" on the academic side, and they also seemed like so much work for Mom. The Chronicles of Narnia has changed my thinking a bit. I could envision using these guides with a wide age range of my children, and I know that they would enjoy their learning and gain valuable skills and knowledge. We would have some great discussions on a wide range of topics. Most of all, one of the best worlds, Narnia, would be opened up to them in the light of Scripture.

Product review by Wendy Jung, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2010