Thursday, November 16, 2017

Homeschool Review: Characters in Crisis #hsreviews #highschoolwriting #writingcurriculum

You might remember that we were first introduced to Writing with Sharon Watson a few years ago and we have since loved everything of hers that we have used.  From writing to literature courses, Sharon Watson has become one of our very favorite resources for high school study.  Just like Sharon makes writing fun for even the most reluctant writer, she makes jumping into a good book most delightful for readers of all types.  Her literary guides are simply phenomenal -- we absolutely fell in love with the first one, Illuminating Literature:  When Worlds Collide,  -- and I was as pleased as can be to have the opportunity to share the second one, Illuminating Literature:  Characters in Crisis, with my daughter.  The Princess is a Junior now (I know!  I can't believe it either.  It seems like just yesterday that she was struggling to learn to read.) and she's the last student at Long Leaf Academy.  We really have tried a little bit of everything, so when we find a curriculum that she takes outside of the home and into her daily world, I know we have a winner.

I also know we have a winner when my girl is not only looking at literary works, but is heart-filtering them through what she knows and is learning about GOD.  Characters in Crisis is written from a Biblical worldview which means that as she reads and answers questions related to the readings of classics, my daughter is also being reminded what GOD says about how to handle circumstances and crises that come our way.  Sharon offers Scriptural background as a basis for how to tackle life and she challenges students to look through a moral and ethical lens when making all decisions.  For example, in reading Frankenstein, students discuss modern-day scientific advances and whether or not they believe babies born in a lab would be soulless.  Students don't just "read" through a story or play or poem or book.  They "read-to-understand" the characters and the how and why they make the decisions that they do.  Sharon takes it once step further and offers suggestions for further reading at the end of each literary work study -- and these suggested readings include books and articles by Christian authors.  That's what I'm talking about.  Yes and Yes!

Each of the Illuminating Literature courses (When Worlds Collide and Characters in Crisis) are written to 9th - 12th graders and can be used in any order as they are not written sequentially.  (You can even choose to work between the two courses if you would like which makes this extremely friendly.)  Each chapter is designed to take your student about a month to complete and focuses on one major literary work or a collection of smaller works.  They are intended to be used for a year-long literature course and there is ample work provided for one high school credit.

All of the works read and studied in Characters in Crisis include characters who find themselves facing a crisis of some kind.  Students read "A Jury of Her Peers", Frankenstein, Silas Marner, Much Ado About Nothing, "A White Heron", "The Garden of Forking Paths", "Haircut", "The Lady, or the Tiger?", "Of the Passing of the First-Born", "A Child's Christmas in Wales", Sense and Sensibility, The Hobbit, and a biography or autobiography of the student's choosing. These selections can be covered in any order within the course.  My daughter first read "A Jury of Her Peers" (Chapter 1 of the textbook) and then moved to Frankenstein (Chapter 2 of the textbook), but has chosen to skip over to The Hobbit (Chapter 8 of the textbook) in order to be ready for our Christmas holiday-traditional movie marathon of The Lord of the Rings.  This works perfectly -- and gives her ownership of her literature course which makes for a happy student and a happy momma.   

For the smaller titles (poems, articles, essays), the literary work is included right in the textbook.  For others (short stories), links are provided in the textbook so that students can access them online.  For the major literary works, Sharon offers publisher guidelines so that students can study from the specific version of each book that has been coordinated to the textbook.  You can purchase these titles and make life a little easier on your student as the textbook is keyed to the specific page numbers OR you might choose to use books that you already own.  The curriculum is usable with any version of the book being studied -- it may just take a few more minutes for your child to find what they are directed to find.  We have used both the recommended version of books and what we had at home (when my girl was anxious to begin before I could get the recommended version here) successfully.

We are using the entire Characters in Crisis literature curriculum which includes a Student Textbook, Teacher's Guide, Quiz and Answer Manual, and a Novel Notebook.  There is also an online Quiz component that can be used in lieu of the Quiz and Answers Manual.  Both the online and the hard copy manual contain the same information so it is strictly a matter of personal preference.  Students take "yes, I read it" quizzes to make sure that they read and comprehend and "literary term" quizzes that make sure they are learning terms and vocabulary as they read.  "Opinion surveys" are also included that help students go one step further as they are asked to identify with specific characters and really think about the choices made by them.  My girl has been using the online quizzes, but I like having the paper copy so that I can verbally "quiz" her myself on what she is reading.  As you know, high school is a totally different machine and often the work is completed away from mom's watchful eye.  She does receive an emailed report of her grades on the quizzes, but I am able to have a shared knowledge of what she's learning with my copy of the Manual.  The Quiz and Answer Manual helps me keep her accountable.

The Teacher's Guide (173-pages, softcover) is written to the teacher and explains what students will be learning throughout the course.  I know that my daughter is becoming familiar with literature terms and devices as evidenced from the Quiz and Answer Manual, but the Teacher's Guide also tells me that she is being introduced to fine literature in such a way that she will WANT to read more.  She is learning to become a discerning reader and a powerful writer.  It also tells me how long each component of her studies should take and tells me what she is being asked in her textbook and how I can discuss that with her more effectively.  Sharon Watson offers warnings of things that parents might need to know (a nude scene in a Shakespeare movie, for example) and offers helps for creating a "book club" or co-op class with the materials presented.  Even more, she explains how to grade my daughter's writing and tells me special things to look for as I grade.  She's made it easy for me and I appreciate that.  I know you will, too.

Now the meat of the course comes in the Student Textbook (293-pages, softcover) and the Novel Notebook (86-pages, downloadable PDF).  The Student Textbook is written to the student and welcomes them into the exciting world of literature.  It explains literary terms, acts as the course syllabus, offers activities and writing assignments to personalize the learning experience, and really makes reading fun.  GOD's Word is shared throughout and students become captivated by reading along.  Frankenstein and the Bible?  Yep!  Perfection.

You are going to want to print out the Novel Notebook and put it in a 3-ring binder as soon as you are ready for your child to begin.  It is a full-color notebook that acts as a personal journal and adventure manual all in one.  The Novel Notebook contains Venn diagrams and mapping exercises and really brings the literary works to life.  It makes it all personal as students write down their favorite passages from the works they are studying and answer even more questions that are designed as food for thought.  This is a must-have element of the course -- and it's FREE. 

Remember that I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I knew we had a winner when my daughter was not only using the curriculum at home but was taking it into her daily world?  My girl has a standing date with a group of friends every Wednesday night after Bible Study and they head to a local sandwich shop for "quality time" together.  Now you can surely understand my excitement when she came home a few weeks ago and shared with me that she had been discussing the "law vs. mercy" argument from "A Jury of Her Peers" with her friends and that she was going to need to take her book with her the next week so that they could discuss it further.  That's a HUGE WIN in my book, y'all!  She says the discussion questions are just so interesting and they really help you understand the book and look at each character in a special way.  I love it.

For even more information about Sharon Watson's WONDERFUL literary and writing options and how to bring them home to your family, please visit the following Social Media pages:

And as always, I just love, love, love that Sharon helps you decide how you can best put her resources to use in your home by offering free sample chapters, grading grids, and quizzes for you to download and check out for yourself.  Isn't it great when folks go the extra mile to help us succeed?  We really are all in this together.

Crew Disclaimer

I was given the opportunity to review Illuminating Literature:  Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson as a member of the Homeschool Review Crew.   You can check out the Crew Review and see what other members of the Homeschool Review Crew thought of this most excellent literature course (or just click on the banner below.)

Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}
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