When we think of language arts, the subjects that often come to mind are reading and phonics, grammar, and spelling. Many of us tend to shy away a bit from formal writing and literature analysis, since those are skills that were often not emphasized in our own school years.
Because of this, it’s easy to think that maybe they’re not subjects that we need to focus much on, either…especially if there’s not a co op class offered nearby.
And don’t get me wrong – I think co op classes are a great option for these subjects! I’ve taught several in the past, and I probably will again. But that’s not always a feasible option, for one reason or another.
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Apologia’s New Offerings
Over the past decade or so, Apologia has set itself apart as a publisher of high-quality, easy-to-use science curriculum. Its conversational tone, depth of content, and huge array of activities make it an easy favorite.
Over the past couple of years, though, this company has really ramped up its game in other subject areas. Literature and writing are two of them!
Today I’m going to highlight three different programs: Writers in Residence and Readers in Residence by Debra Bell (upper elementary to junior high levels) and the new American Literature program by Whit Jones, a long-time professor at Bryan College (high school level).
Having taught these subjects myself (and having a son in college), I am seriously impressed with each of these programs.
Writers in Residence
Do you find your child staring at a blank piece of paper, willing words to appear? Do you want to teach your child to write well, but feel intimidated by the process? Writers in Residence may be the answer you’re looking for.
Debra Bell puts her decades of teaching experience, both in the classroom and in homeschooling her own children, to work for you in this curriculum. She guides your student, step by step, through each step of the process of writing in several different genres.
Along the way, she shows them why all of the other skills they are learning (such as grammar and spelling) matter in becoming a skilled writer. The first volume, Apprentice, is designed for students in 4th grade and up, while the second volume, Journeyman, is designed for students in 5th through 8th grades and will be released soon.
Charts, rubrics, and clear instruction are given at each step, allowing you to bring Debra’s expertise into your homeschool – even if you are intimidated at the thought of teaching writing to your students. Easy-to-follow lesson plans are provided, and the set comes as a bundle or separately as a student book and answer key.
As a former writing teacher myself, I strongly recommend this curriculum!
Readers in Residence
This new series is, in a word, fantastic. Debra Bell (author of The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling and The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens) has taught language arts for over 30 years, and her experience as both a classroom teacher and homeschool mom comes into play in this book.
In Readers in Residence, she teaches students to go from being “readers” to being “expert readers.” Essentially, kids are taken from a level of basic comprehension to building the habits that lead to analysis, or being able to understand and work with the ideas and deeper stories within a piece of literature.
his is something that is often lacking in many elementary and middle school literature curriculums, and it’s good to see that Debra Bell is rectifying that.
It’s also great to see that Apologia is publishing it!
In Volume 1, kids get the chance to explore Historical Fiction (with Sarah, Plain and Tall), Animal Fantasy (with Charlotte’s Web), and Contemporary Realistic Fiction (with Because of Winn-Dixie). In between each assigned book, students get to pick their own titles with which to further develop their skills.
Skills such as research, spotting details, grammar, and study skills are all included in this study as they coincide with studying the different genres and books.
All I can say is, I wish this curriculum had been around when my son was in that grade…it would have been near the top of our list!
When I first opened a copy of American Literature by Whit Jones, I was enthralled. Dr. Jones has taught high school and college English classes for several years; he is also a homeschool dad to four children. This background has given him a unique view toward teaching literature and analysis to homeschooled high school students.
I would recommend this book for 10th grade and above; it is excellent and comprehensive, but it is fairly in-depth. It is totally possible to complete this book in a school year, but it is also a course that could be combined with a history study and stretched into three or four semesters.
This course is incredibly well-suited to prepare students for college-level literature and composition classes, and the worldview and history background will serve them well in these and other subject areas.
Dr. Jones approaches each unit (historical era) by first discussing what was happening in history. He explains the major schools of thought and how they affected society, who was in power and how that effected daily life, and how everything worked together to impact how people saw the world around them (as well as the world to come).
Basically, he helps the student to understand that literature is not written in a vacuum. Authors and poets do not simply come up with an idea, write it down, and sell millions of copies. (Well, some do today, but those aren’t generally the titles we assign to our students!)
Literature arises from and reacts to thoughts and ideas. It is impacted by and impacts society and history. In order to gain a full understanding and appreciation of it, it is important to view it through that lens.
I cannot recommend this set highly enough for high school students. Honestly, I was very tempted to offer an American Lit class locally just so I could work with it! (I may do so next year…) The set comes with a beautiful hardcover volume and a sturdy, spiral-bound student notebook, in a bundled set or separately. I encourage you to check it out!
Wrapping It Up
Have you had a chance to see these curriculum sets yet? If so, what do you think? Let me know below!