When someone asks me what curriculum we use in our homeschool, I hesitate because we’re an eclectic mix of Charlotte Mason and classical. But if asked what we do all day, I would say READ. Aside from math and handwriting, the majority of our day is spent reading our subjects from a variety of sources. As a former doctoral candidate in English literature, I value good living books and look for any opportunity to insert them into our day. Recently, I was given the opportunity to review a study guide for literature from Progeny Press and chose a favorite book, Sarah, Plain & Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan.
Progeny Press creates study guides for literature from a Christian perspective. You will find titles for all ages from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Books are divided into 4 categories by grade:
- Lower Elementary, K-3
- Upper Elementary, 3-5
- Middle School, 5-8
- High School, 8-12
Study guides are available in 3 formats:
- Printed Workbook
- Downloadable PDF
- Novel synopsis
- Information about the author
- Background information
- Maps (if applicable)
- Ideas for Prereading Activities
- As-You-Read Assignments
- Ideas for Essays & Projects
- Additional Resources
- Answer Key
Also, for each chapter of the novel, there are sections for the student to complete on Vocabulary, Comprehension Questions, Analysis (or Thinking About the Story Questions), and questions to Dig Deeper. With these last questions, the student uses the Bible to see what God’s Word says and how it pertains to specific scenes in the novel.
Additionally, some study guides are interactive, meaning that the student can enter his or her answers on the computer, and the teacher can make comments and grade work there.
How We Are Using the Curriculum
Despite the 3rd-5th grade recommendation, I chose Sarah, Plain & Tall for us, even though my oldest is only 6 1/2. We read novels regularly, and my daughter needs a good challenge 🙂 I also included my younger children (ages 5 and 3) in the reading and activities.
We started our unit by doing some of the recommended “Before You Read” activities. I read the Background Information to my children to give them an overview of the novel’s setting. We looked at a globe and found Maine and the Prairie states on it. We discussed the geography of both states and what constitutes a prairie state. We also looked at some videos on Youtube and read some books on prairie life.
Then we began to read Sarah, Plain & Tall, one chapter a day. Progeny Press recommends reading the novel straight through before going through the study guide, but the study guide for this particular novel breaks it down into 3 chapter chunks. So we are reading 3 chapters at a time, then going through the guide together.
On the first day using the guide, I showed my daughter how to look up words using the dictionary. Research is a very useful skill, and Kate actually enjoyed searching for the words and finding and writing down their meanings.
On another day, I asked the comprehension questions to my children and had them orally dictate their answers instead of writing them down. My daughter isn’t computer literate enough to type her answers although this guide offers that option.
Then on another day, we went through the Digging Deeper questions with our Bibles. Because my children are younger, we don’t do all of the *many* activities included in the guide, but in the future, when we re-read this book, we very likely will.
Here’s a peek into the Sarah, Plain & Tall study guide. Other books follow a similar format.
We are 4 weeks into using Progeny Press‘s guide for Sarah, Plain & Tall, and I have been very pleased. I really like the suggested activities and recommended resources to extend beyond our reading of the novel. I also greatly appreciate the Christian emphasis, which fits perfectly with our homeschool. The Digging Deeper questions have really helped us grow a greater appreciation of God’s Word in the context of the novel.
The Vocabulary section is also a favorite because my daughter has started using the dictionary to look up words she doesn’t know in other books she’s reading.
The Comprehension Questions and Thinking Deeper Questions are well-written and present a good overview of the novel. I also appreciate the Answer Key in case I get stuck 🙂
If you want to go deeper into a novel but aren’t sure how, then I would highly recommend Progeny Press’s study guides. Choose from one of many literary classics to read together, imagine, learn, and think more analytically about. You will be so glad you did!