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February 6, 2014

Dear Fellow Writing Teacher, Homeschool Mom or Parent,

At first glance, I wasn't sure about Janice Campbell's new book, Excellence in Literature. But when I began reading the introduction and all the material available for high school students to use in literature studies, I was sold on the program.

Mrs. Campbell has done an excellent job of creating a college-prep course that high school students can use independently. Let's face it, by the time a student is in high school, teachers should not be spoon-feeding them. Students should assume responsibility for learning and use Excellence in Literature (EIL) as a guide for their study routine. Not only is this my belief, this is Campbell's belief as stated in the Overview.

In this guide, you will find a wide variety of helps for high school literature. Let me share just a few:

  • Specific instructions for each assignment

  • Suggested schedule to follow for each piece of literature

  • References for background & research of each work

  • Time management & organization tips

  • Specific tips on how to read a book (Fiction, Poetry, Tragedy, Comedy, Challenging Literature)

  • Variety of writing topics for each piece

Most of the work in this course is done by the student. Parents & teachers come alongside to guide and evaluate the student's writings and readings. That saves moms & teachers a lot of time!

I wish there was a course like this when my children were in high school. I would definitely had used it because it would make it very easy for me to "teach" literature in high school.

Since the parent/teacher is not actively teaching, the student is responsible for "learning" or discovering what each literature piece is all about.

To summarize, students will:

  • Study the book, following the scheduled assignments

  • Ask their mentor when they don't understand

  • Actively seek to learn from each assignment

  • Complete each assignment

  • Make no excuses! (I really like this one)

  • Enjoy Fine Literature (Of course, I love this!)

Overall, Excellence in Literature is a superb guide for high school students to use with their mentor/parent/teacher. It encourages responsibility of the student as he studies & enjoys literature.

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If you are following the Leadership Education/Thomas Jefferson Education model, Excellence in Literature is a perfect complement for the Scholar stage. Janice provides just enough guidelines for students to get started, but leaves it open-ended enough to allow students to learn on their own. One particular section I think is pertinent to Scholar phase students is the section on discerning worldviews in literature. This helps your Scholar student understand what the worldview of that time period is so he can better study the piece of literature at hand.

If you are following a Classical model of education, you will find literature that is truly classic. Your students will use their independent learning skills to enjoy and study great works of literature. As they read these pieces, they should grown in their love of learning.

I believe Charlotte Mason would endorse this guide, too. Ms. Mason wholeheartedly believed in literature based education. EIL uses literature that are truly "living books". This literature provides opportunities to discuss lessons that pertain to our lives today. Thus, making them living books you will want to read & discuss with your children.

How is Excellence in Literature different from Windows to the World?

Because of the nature of the literature, Excellence in Literature is best for 10th-12th graders, whereas Windows is ideal as a freshman Intro to Literature class. EIL has very little direct teacher instruction in the book. Instead, Janice Campbell provides a wealth of internet articles for the student to read about the topic, plus writing assignments. One of the exciting things in the book is a detailed explanation (with examples) of how to write various literary analysis papers. I think she does a very fine job explaining how to go about writing these. Unlike Windows, EIL is more of a student-directed course, with very little teacher involvement required. Windows has extensive instruction for the teacher as well as extensive instruction for the student. If you've not done either, I'd start with Windows and then move to EIL.

~P. White~
IEW Accomplished Instructor

*Windows to the World is recommended before Excellence in Literature.

For each unit, Mrs. Campbell shares the edition of the text she recommends, as well as additional texts you may use for honor students. The background information she provides includes the literary period, a unit focus, an introduction (short), something to think about, and something to be sure to notice. Context resources cover the readings itself, the author's life, and poetry/poets of that time period. Enrichment resources include music, audio books, videos, visual arts, historical context, places to go, and just for fun.

Finally, your student has the assignment schedule for that unit. The schedule is divided by weeks and includes reading & writing assignments. As the parent or teacher, you should check the progress of your students each week and guide them through their writing projects.

As a bonus, you will receive some fantastic extras in the back of this book.

  • An Honors Program is outlined for those families who want to go over & above this college-prep course.

  • Formats & Models provides sample formats for the different writing projects assigned throughout the year. Not only will you have an outline or model of what your student should consider for each paper, you will receive samples (or models) of each type of writing.

  • Excellence in Literature Evaluation Rubric gives the mentor a specific checklist to use in evaluating the student's writing. If you use IEW now, you can use the additional Evaluation Rubric for IEW students.

  • Student Evaluation Summary is a chart you can use throughout the year to record progress. It specifically records the mentor's evaluation of writing projects.

  • The Glossary defines terms for the students as they study Literature.

  • Selected Resources are additional resources the mentor or student may want to use in their study of British literature.

Overall, Excellence in Literature is a superb guide for high school students to use with their mentor/parent/teacher. It encourages responsibility of the student as he studies & enjoys literature.

If there is a weakness in this program, it would be the idea of not encouraging the mentor to read & discuss the literature pieces with their student. This is easily overcome because Janice gives some great "things to consider" and ideas to think critically about in the writing assignments. I would encourage mentors to use the ideas in each unit as a basis for verbal discussion. If your students struggle with the writing assignment, be sure to verbally discuss the assignment so they can get ideas out of their head.

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As a result of my research, my own children have already done just about everything Janice recommends (so I know it works!).

~Mary Pride~
Publisher of Practical Homeschooling magazine and author of Mary Pride's Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling


What's Special About Excellence in Literature?

  • Carefully-chosen great books provide a foundation for cultural literacy.

  • Self-Directed courses encourage responsibility and independent learning.

  • Guided research helps prepare students for college academic experiences.

  • Week-by-week lesson plans make it easy to know what to do when.

  • Honors Option provides motivated students the opportunity to earn advanced placement or college credit.

  • Evaluation rubric makes grading simple.

  • Carefully designed end-of-semester evaluation reports provide a detailed snapshot of progress.

  • Context readings provide in-depth understanding of literature in its historical and artistic context.

  • Students will be introduced to books they'll never forget.


Classics Studied in American Literature:

Click Here to see a PDF Sample.

  • Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography

  • Rip Van Winkle

  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

  • Selected Works by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

  • The Last of the Mohicans

  • The House of Seven Gables

  • Moby Dick

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • House of Mirth

  • The Great Gatsby

  • The Old Man and the Sea

Excellence In Literature: American Literature is the perfect addition to your literature curriculum.

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Blessings,
Kerry

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