I love the classics; the kind of book that you can read over and over again and still appreciate the lessons within. More than anything else, classic literature teaches you about humanity and all of the strengths and weaknesses of human character and that is why these books withstand the test of time. Each time we read them we learn more about ourselves and what makes us tick. Shakespeare can tell us far more about human character than Freud ever could and reading his works and other classics can teach us how to improve that character.
This is why I use a literature based education. With the “curriculum” firmly in place my task as a teacher has shifted from teaching my children facts and figures to teaching them how to glean the priceless lessons found within the pages. Progeny Press is an excellent tool to that end.
Progeny Press offers study guides for classic literature for ages 5 and up.
We chose the Treasure Island Study Guide which is a middle grade book aimed at grades 7-10. This particular study guide is broken up in to sections that correspond with the book (part 1, part 2, etc) and also includes pre-reading activities, an overview, and essay questions. After a little bit of historical research in order to put the story in to context your child will have vocabulary exercises and your basic question and answer sections about events that happen in the book. That is all expected in a study guide but what sets Progeny Press apart for me are the next two sections. After “Questions” is “Thinking About the Story” and “Dig Deeper”.
“Thinking About the Story” is a place where we discuss literary techniques such as foreshadowing, point of view, and pace as well as terms like stereotype, dialect, hubris, irony, and poetic justice. Examples of these are given and questions are asked that will make the child think about them. For example, after explaining dialect Lucy was able to take a sentence from Treasure Island and translate it in to standard grammar and spelling. The study guide also asks questions regarding the motives of the characters and other things that really make the reader question “why?”.
In “Dig Deeper” you find the real thing that makes Progeny Press stand out. This is where we explain the things that we learn about humanity. By comparing story lines and specific scripture references we really are able to “dig deeper”. How do we apply the lessons in the scriptures with what we learn in the book and how might have things turned out differently? With these types of questions we are forced to let the lessons of the story seep in to our bones. We turn inward and ponder the things that make us who we are and how to be better.
Following the exercises for each section of the book there is an Overview which is very similar to “Thinking About the Story” but is able to use the entire book as a reference rather than just the section that is being discussed at the time. Essays are the final section which has several different options for additional projects for your child. Everything from researching historical events related to the story (in this case they could study real life pirates), digging deeply in to a specific character of the book, comparing sections of different books on the same topic, comparing related poetry and even creating their own art/geography project based on the book.
Lucy really enjoyed the interactive nature of the files. She was able to write her answers directly on to the pdf file and save it. When I asked her how she liked it she said “I love the vocabulary words and I am getting really good at using a dictionary” :)
She’s also getting really good at working with those ear-muffs on (with as loud as my house is, ear-muffs are a must!).
On a side note, I would suggest that you take the recommended grade levels to heart. While Lucy did quite well with the Treasure Island Study Guide, it was on the advanced side for her (age 10). Progeny Press study guides ask deep questions and if your child isn’t used to looking beyond the storyline then you might want to start off a little bit easier just so they can get used to what is being asked of them.
I have been very impressed with Progeny Press. Clearly a lot of work goes in to the creation of these study guides. The Treasure Island Study Guide is $16.99 for the CD or instant download and $18.99 for the printed booklet. I see myself taking advantage of Progeny Press’s study guides in the future as I can see they are an excellent resource for teaching children how to learn from the classics.
Prices are accurate as of the publication of this review and are subject to changeClick to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew