This post has been sponsored by Apologia Educational Ministries for the purpose of reviewing the American Literature course. As you will see, this is the very real story of what happened when we used American Literature in our homeschool.
Once my kids are ready for high school level work, my husband takes over the teaching. He writes up assignments on the weekends and goes over new lessons with the kids on evenings and weekends.
We just graduated our first child from high school in May and sent her off to college this fall. We also have a junior in high school. Last year, as he began searching for high school level literature programs for the two of them to use together (as a sophomore and a senior), he was drawn to the brand new American Literature program from Apologia.
We have consistently used Apologia materials for all of our science curriculum from grade school through high school, so we were already familiar with the quality of the materials from this Christian company, we just weren’t aware that they had branched out into literature. So once we found the American Literature course, we placed our order without getting a chance to peruse the material beyond online samples.
When the books arrived, we were impressed by the organization and depth of the material but concerned that it would be too tough for our kids who, to that point, did not have a strong background in writing or literature. But, it was also designed to do exactly what we were looking for — get our kids to look critically at literature and think hard about what they were reading and then write authentic and engaging responses.
So we began first semester hopeful that it would be challenging, but manageable. We raised the challenge up to our teens like a gauntlet.
At first, weekly assignments were a struggle. Because we had not focused as much on writing and literature as we probably should have to that point, our teens were getting the reading done quickly and then spending hours and hours and hours pondering and pontificating with great sweat and tears and lamentations to complete a one paragraph answer for each question posed in the American Literature text. They would complete all of their math and history and science and electives for the week and then sit in front of their computers for hours trying to formulate words that made sense.
My husband slowed down the recommended pace, but we stuck to our guns, and I helped by providing feedback on what they had written. I also encouraged them that writing gets easier the more you practice. It will not always take you this much time. Keep practicing. Stick with it. You can do this. And statements like “Oh, that’s a cool point you started in paragraph three. How could you develop that more?”
My husband helped by giving them negative feedback. “This does not even make sense. What are you trying to say here?” And we kept on plodding along with steady progress and gradual improvements that encouraged us but still battling a fear that this was too much, that our kids could not or would not overcome the deficit caused by our lack of attention in this area.
At this point I feel I must explain. Our kids have always been readers. We’ve given them tons and tons of reading material and audiobook material over the years.
I had always been of the opinion that when it was time to teach them a formal study of literature and writing, they would be ready because of all the great living books they have read. My husband has always been of the opinion that they should start writing formally in the third grade and study literature formally way before high school.
So this year of American Literature was kind of like a collision between our two points of view. In my opinion, it was time and they were ready, but in his opinion they were way behind. And neither one of us was fully sure what the outcome would be when they were suddenly faced with an A.P. level of work.
And then one day, my son (a sophomore) emailed me with an essay assignment for feedback and grammar checks. And as I read it, I noticed that it was well-organized and well-articulated. What I was reading actually made sense and was a valid response to the assigned literature for that week.
We were getting somewhere. This progress probably wasn’t as sudden as it seemed to be, but for me it was like watching a lightbulb switch on in the brain of my teen.
Assignments started getting done more quickly. We had fewer tears, less sweat, and faster typing noises coming from the school room.
We had complete essays with strong thesis statements. They were looking critically at the stories and opinions of others and analyzing what they read — holding it up to the light of Jesus and responding in words, but also in their hearts, to the reading material covered by this American Literature course.
And that is exactly what a formal study of literature should induce. We were winning.
And then my husband started saying, “You know, you should write a review of American Literature on your blog. It’s really well done. We’ve accomplished a lot this year with the kids. It’s making them think, and their writing skills are improving. It’s a lot of work but it has been totally worth it, don’t you think?”
He pestered me, quite honestly, because when he really, really likes a curriculum, he thinks I should write about it on my blog.
So I contacted my friends at Apologia and said, “I’d like to write a review.” And they emailed me back and said “Great, let’s do a giveaway too!” So make sure you read to the end, check out the curriculum, and enter the giveaway. Your high school homeschool will thank you.
So far, I’ve shared a whole lot about our experience with Apologia’s American Literature program, but I haven’t shared much of the nitty gritty of what it entails. I’m guessing you’d like to know details.
American Literature by Dr. Whit Jones, published by Apologia, includes a student textbook and a student notebook. The cost for this program is $129. If you have more than one student who will use the program, you can purchase additional student notebooks for $39. The purpose of the program is to teach students to analyze major works of American literature from a biblical perspective.
The course uses the Socratic method to ask probing questions and get students thinking. It covers a vast selection of American literature from fiction to poetry, from Thoreau to Mark Twain, and from the beginning of American history. The material your child needs to read is almost entirely included in the student text with questions for each.
The notebook has each question from the textbook with plenty or room to write a response. The full essay assignments will need to be done on the computer. You can see a sample of what we think is the best American Literature curriculum for homeschooling high school here.
This course will give your student a full high school credit in literature AND a full high school credit in writing. If you are wondering if the course will prepare your child for college writing assignments, the answer is a resounding yes, as evidenced by our daughter’s essay grades (all A’s so far) in her first college semester.
“The American Literature curriculum was really challenging and made me think a lot, more than any school work or subject that I have done before. I really loved the stories we were reading and how I had to break them down. Often I didn’t really understood what I had read until after I finished doing all of the work. I’m a lot more confident now about reading some wordier and more complex books.” (Jonathan, age 15)
Want to know what my husband is pestering me about now? “Have you asked your friends at Apologia if they will be coming out with British Literature in time for Jonathan to use it next year? I need to know.”
Are you ready to enter the giveaway yet? If you’ve never commented on the site before – I’ll have to approve that first comment BUT go ahead and click “enter” anyway so you can do all the extra entry options! Your comment will count – you just won’t see it right away!