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General Literature for High School Review by Laura Delgado

Beth Hempton and Dana S. Wilson
Train Up a Child Publishing, LLC
1342 Oak Mill Court
Mount Pleasant, CT 29466

There is a plethora of literature choices for homeschooling high school, and sorting through all of them can be rather daunting. Fortunately, once you find a company that hits a homerun, you’ve likely found a (curriculum) friend for life. Train Up a Child, LLC’s (formerly known as Epi Kardia) General Literature for High School is an excellent choice for a freshman English Literature course, but it can also serve nicely for advanced 8th graders. Available as a coil-bound 110-page book, General Literature is available for $43.97 and has eight units, with additional recommended reading for Honors.

The course covers the following works: The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Earnest Gaines, The Chosen by Chaim Potok, A Morbid Taste for Bones, by Ellis Peters, Short Stories: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County,” by Mark Twain, and “The Three Questions,” by Leo Tolstoy, The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells, The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, Poetry: “Caged Bird,” by Maya Angelou and “The People Upstairs,” by Ogden Nash, and The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy. There are also eight appendices, providing things like graphic organizers, a glossary of literary terms, grading rubrics, keys, and teacher’s evaluation tips. The authors strongly suggest that before (or concomitantly with) tackling General Literature for High School, students take Train Up a Child’s Essays Styles course, or another high school level essay writing course so that they are not overwhelmed by the essay requirements of this course.

The course begins with a thorough eight-page introduction. This introduction explains the authors’ goals for students taking the course, notes on choosing assignments, an explanation of the Honors credit, details on the process of writing and essay presentation, a breakdown on understanding the units, and more. It is essential that you read the introduction before moving forward, even though it is tempting to jump right into reading the first book and doling out assignments, as there are some assignments that are ongoing as the student reads the book (designated as AR – As you Read).

For each unit, you will first see the Setting Time Period of the work, followed by the Reading Level and the Time Frame for Completion. Obviously, the latter is a suggestion – you know your child best. Some children will need more time and some less, depending on their ability and maturity level. This introductory material is followed by Objectives, both Literary and Language/Other Subject Connections (Train Up a Child is an interdisciplinary program – you can use it for all of your subjects in high school if you so choose). Finally, the program authors present a Literature Summary explaining what type of literature is being presented (i.e., fictionalized autobiography, historical adventure, murder mystery) and the Literature Assignments. Example assignments include researching the work’s author, creating a timeline of historical events, keeping a character T-chart, and writing about literary devices present in the work. Obviously, the assignments vary based on the work begin considered.

This is an excellent introductory literature program. It covers a nice variety of literary genres and has enough variety in the assignments to keep a student from getting bored. It also provides a good deal of support for the parent-teacher. The appendices are comprehensive and explain exactly how to grade the student’s work. Further, the author urges the parent-teacher to email with any questions she may have, which is a nice touch.

My 8th grade son is a very capable, if not very avid, student, and he is quite enjoying his experience with this program. He would have never chosen to read The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman on his own, but it is now a book that he has requested live in his room, rather than in the schoolroom. He likes the assignments that accompany the book, although he does not find them to be as user-friendly as they could be. He would much prefer a program with daily-style lesson plans that told him exactly what to read and when, and which writing assignments to do on what day. This curriculum is written much more generally. It gives you the book selection and the assignments in just a few pages. It tells you which assignments are to be done before you read, which are to be done as you read, and which are to be done after you read. It leaves the micromanaging of time up to the student, which is appropriate to a high schooler.

My son’s critique of this program is my only mild criticism of it as well. I am trying to launch my son away from the group schoolroom table to his own area as he starts high school next year, and to do that, he needs some fairly specific direction to his homeschool day. If we continue with Train Up a Child Publishing LLC’s materials, which I am strongly tempted to do, I will need to create some lesson plans. I really wish they provided these for me! That is a small criticism, though, for a program that provides such a well-rounded general literature curriculum. It covers all of the basics: historical fiction, poetry, short stories, fantasy fiction, and more. I really have been very pleased with it and know that we will be investigating more options from this company.

-Product review by Laura Delgado, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2017