Friday, August 28, 2015

Schoolhouse Review: Illuminating Literature #hsreviews

I mentioned to you a few weeks ago that I have been a huge fan of Sharon Watson ever since we had the privilege of reviewing Writing Fiction [in High School] way back in 2013.  It was a game-changer in our family and Sharon's passion carried over to all of us as we learned together.  Even more, we were able to share that passion with others in our homeschooling group through a writing club that I facilitated based off of her book.  The students enjoyed the writing prompts and ideas and were delighted to share the words they penned with one another.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
I was so impressed with Writing with Sharon Watson that I couldn't wait to review her newest curriculum with my youngest two children.  As wonderful as Sharon's writing courses are, I just knew that her literature course would be a great fit for my family.   I had absolutely no idea HOW perfect it would be though.  Illuminating Literature:  When Worlds Collide is exciting for both the Princess and the Eagle Scout -- and that makes life easy for this homeschooling momma.  A CHRISTIAN curriculum for high schools and homeschools, we are enjoying reading and discussing our thoughts together and are challenged to look at new literary options with fresh eyes.  It is important to me that my children cultivate the ability to read contemporary works of literature through the standard of a biblical worldview.  I do not want them to merely walk around with blinders on the world -- I prefer that they see it through the eyes of JESUS.  As a result, they are developing a passion for reading that is unbridled -- and they are able to separate lies from TRUTH.  I LOVE that.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

Illuminating Literature:  When Worlds Collide is a complete set of literary genius that speaks directly to high school students as they tackle some really phenomenal reads.  This set includes a Student Textbook, Teacher's Guide, Quiz and Answer Manual, and a free downloadable PDF of the Novel Notebook.  [Confession time:  I'm that mom who immediately prints out the entire PDF for both kids, 3-hole punches it, and places it in a binder.  I like the easy delivery of download, but I sure do like paper for everyday work.  My kids are enjoying creating literary keepsakes as they read and answer questions.]  For purposes of this review, we also received physical copies of both Pudd'nhead Wilson  by Mark Twain and The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells.  All other novels studied are available to purchase.  Although it is not required that you purchase the 8 novels directly from Sharon Watson (any copy will do), it certainly will make your life easier as page numbers are often included for students to quickly find the next passage for discussion.

The Teacher's Guide (182-pages) makes easy work of planning as all of the "work" is done for me.  There are suggestions for how to use Illuminating Literature in a book club setting, plans for breaking each lesson (or book) down into a month-long study, additional activity suggestions, and Facebook prompts for a Facebook study group.  The Quiz and Answer Manual (101-pages) offers a paper-and-pen alternative for students who prefer not to take online quizzes.  Permission is given to copy these pages for personal use, but teachers will have to grade these and students do not receive a follow-up email explaining their grades.  These are nice resources to have, but the real jewels for me are the Student Textbook and Novel Notebook.

The Novel Notebook (102-pages) makes it real for students.  My kids will tell you, they are having FUN as they explore great works by Mark Twain and H.G. Wells -- and they are looking forward to further exploration of authors James Barrie, Charles Dickens, Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, and more.  I like that they are being encouraged to think and challenge societal norms as they examine prejudice, reaction, conflict, and resolution -- all while learning literary terms like alliteration, allusion, simile, metaphor, and foreshadowing.  Being given permission to share what they like and don't like about what they read and then having the opportunity to explain how they would change it in a "perfect world" is offering "Ah-Ha!" revelations that excite passion and fuel learning.  My kids truly feel like their opinions matter -- and it has them reading with a brand new passion.  True story.

And I even color-coded the binders so my kids could easily grab them off of the bookshelf.

Illuminating Literature is a field-tested, mother-approved curriculum, but even more important than that, it is kid-tested and kid-approved.  My 9th and 11th graders will testify to that.  In order to make it most successful, each student needs their very own Student Textbook (285-pages).  I ordered an extra one anticipating that we would be using this curriculum FAR past our review period.  I am thankful that I did.  The Student Textbook is highly interactive and enjoyable to use.  Students begin by reading an overview of the novel choices for the year and an explanation of what exactly literature IS and why it is important to them.  This eases the groans that typically accompany required reading at my house and welcomes the students as partners in learning.  Sharon has students anticipating what they are going to read BEFORE they ever open the book.  She previews what is to come and prepares them for what they will see and feel and learn in such a way that they can't wait to begin.  She shares fun facts and stuff they might want to know and THEN has them read and explore the pages of the novels assigned.  Quizzes help students determine what they currently understand and feeds their desire to understand more at the completion of their reading.  All of this.  THIS is why we LOVE Illuminating Literature and will complete this entire course this school year.

So, what is it about Illuminating Literature that makes it different from all the other literature studies out there?  Honestly, the entire approach is completely unique.  I've been homeschooling for 17 years and this one is by far the best I've seen.  I like the conversational tone used by Sharon to speak directly to students.  I like that my kids don't need me to get started -- they can simply sit down, open the book, and begin.  I like that when they do that, they aren't easily distracted or prone to rush through to "finish" (surely mine aren't the only ones that do that?), but that instead they are drawn in and choose to visit a while.  I like that although they are at different places in their education they can coordinate their studies and talk and laugh and discuss together.  Just like the novels have been chosen because the worlds in each book collide together, my children can use this opportunity to allow their worlds to collide -- and they can reconnect with one another through the pages of books in a way that strengthens the bonds of friendship. These things matter to me more now than I ever realized before.

Sharon makes is super easy for you to determine just how beneficial this literature course will be for your high schoolers by offering you a free download of the first two chapters.  Please check this out -- your kids will thank you.  For even more information about Sharon Watson's WONDERFUL writing and literary options, please visit the following Social Media pages:

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review Illuminating Literature:  When Worlds Collide as a member of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Schoolhouse ReviewCrew thought of this and other products as well (or just click on the banner below.)

Writing with Sharon Watson Review
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1 comment:

  1. Wow, Lynn--just wow! What a super review of Illuminating Literature! I'm sitting here smiling as I read how your teens reacted to the course and the novels because that's exactly what I had hoped for: that they and I would be partners in this course, that they would love discussing, and that they would feel that their opinions matter.

    I love it that their Novel Notebooks will be literary keepsakes. What a great idea!

    Have a super school year!


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