Tuesday, August 25, 2015

{Review} Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide

Reading is a huge part of our lives and as an extension, our homeschool. I firmly believe children of all ages should read classic literature along with the fun, popular books. Amber had very specific requests for her eighth grade literature lessons, but when the opportunity came to review the fantastic Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing with Sharon Watson, we made the joint decision to alter our literature plans. We have been nothing but pleased with this choice.

Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. High School level literature program.

For the purpose of the review we received the following components of the program:
We also received the recommended editions of the first two novels scheduled in Illuminating Literature:
  • Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain
  • The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide is designed as a two semester course for high school aged children and earns the students a full credit of either English or Language Arts. It can be used for a class of students or a single learner with equal ease. Although there is a useful teacher's guide in this set, the Student Book is the heart of the curriculum. The lessons are written to the student in an almost conversational tone. The students are even given a lesson and reading schedule for each novel to help keep them on track without having to check back with their instructor constantly. Of course, the curriculum reminds the students to verify this schedule with their teacher.

Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. High School level literature program.

The literature course itself is written from a Christian perspective, but the authors of the novels may not all be Christians themselves.  The books scheduled for this course are:
  1. Pudd'nhead Wilson by Mark Twain
  2. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  3. The Friendly Persuasion by Jessamyn West
  4. Peter Pan  by Sir James Barrie
  5. Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  8. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
Each book in this list has components of colliding worlds in keeping with the theme for the entire year. The theme was chosen to allow readers to gain a better understanding of conflict in their own worlds. The curriculum is designed to do much more than request the students to regurgitate specific reading details. Literary devices, story elements, literature interpretation, increased vocabulary, and a love of literature are all goals of this course.

The Teacher's Guide provides the instructor with an overview of the student lessons and gently guides the teacher through the topical discussions. Even those of us who enjoy good literature may have difficulties leading a group or even single student through the themes of a book. Illuminating Literature takes the stress and worry out of this process for the teacher. While not scripting every part of the discussion, it does lead the teacher through the process and provide some possible answers.

Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. High School level literature program.
Working on Pudd'nhead Wilson lessons, reading the novel, and samples from her Novel Notebook.

How We Are Using It: 
Although Amber is in eighth grade this year, she is working at a high school level with high school curriculum in all subjects. The online samples of Illuminating Literature were all I needed to know it would be an appropriate and wonderful fit for Amber. She was eager to start her literature when the package arrived. Thankfully, I had already printed and prepared her downloadable Novel Notebook ahead of time.

The student book is actually consumable, but could possibly be used for multiple students if you chose to have them write on additional paper. Amber prefers to write in her consumable books so all the work is right there with the questions. Prior to reading each book there are a few preparatory lessons which introduce the author, theme, setting, literary devices, and any other topics which may be necessary. In just a few days Amber completed the curriculum introductory lessons, and the early lessons for Pudd'nhead Wilson.

While reading each novel, the student is asked to keep various questions or thoughts in mind and jot down responses either in a blank notebook or in the downloadable Novel Notebook. Amber said this was a huge benefit for her when it came time to discuss and analyze parts of the books. I can confidently say we had our most meaningful literature discussion ever after reading Pudd'nhead Wilson. There was a different quality to Amber's input and I felt more confident in structuring the questions.

Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. High School level literature program.
Taking the online quizzes, the vocabulary quiz in her student book, and a sample of an online quiz.
This literature curriculum also includes activity options for each novel in the form of additional topic research, creative writing, movie watching, and artistic projects. It is suggested the students only select one activity to complete per book. We chose not to work on an activity for the first novel, yet by the time we had finished our discussion we had essentially orally completed  the Pudd'nhead Wilson timeline project.

For those who need or want to verify their students have read and understood the details of the book and lessons, the curriculum provides a "Yes, I read it" quiz, Literary Terms quiz, and Opinion Survey for each novel. These quizzes are available online as automatically graded quizzes, or through the physical Quiz and Answer Manual. We chose to use the online quizzes, which sent us a copy of Amber's answers and scores via email as well as displaying them on the screen. Amber loathes quizzes and tests, but these were not at all stressful and if the student has done their work they will easily pass the quizzes.

Amber had read other works by Mark Twain prior to Pudd'nhead Wilson, so knew what to expect in respect to style and vocabulary. While she wasn't dreading the book, she did not anticipate enjoying the book nearly as she did. This was another case of a classic novel exceeding the expectations of a modern child.

Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide. High School level literature program.
Reports from Amber's quizzes.
Amber has moved forward into her study of War of the Worlds, but we have not yet had our discussion or finished the post-reading lessons for the novel. This was Amber's first experience with a science fiction book, as opposed to the hordes of fantasy books she has enjoyed. She was enthralled with War of the Worlds, reading the entire novel in only two sessions, and now plans to read as many H.G. Wells novels as she can in her spare time. I love the exposure she is receiving through this literature curriculum.

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide has been the best possible introduction we could have imagined to high school level literature. It provides all the aspects desired in a quality literature course, while making it easy to enjoy and understand well written novels. Now I'm off to acquire the recommended editions of the remaining novels.


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Visit other members of the Review Crew to see how they enjoyed this comprehensive literature program!

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  1. Thank you, Christy, for your wonderful review! Your photos and remarks make it so easy to understand the course. I love it that Amber is enjoying it, and I love the saying she wrote on the "Maxims" page of the Novel Notebook: "Just because I like to learn doesn't mean I am a nerd." So true!

    1. Thanks for such a great literature course. We honestly can't imagine a better fit for us.

  2. Thank you for this review! I cannot wait to start this with my daughter soon! :)