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if you make up your own literature course/list

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If you make up your own list for Literature what do you use to create your list.

What do you have your child do after they have finished a book? How many books do you require the child to read? Do you try to find unit studies for that book? I would prefer not to tie in the literature to our history.

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I think there's several ways you could go about teaching your own. For us, I mapped out 4yrs of what I wanted to teach for high school and that helped me to decide. Here's what my 4 yrs look like:

Ancient Great Books

Books of the Middle Ages-includes Shakespeare

An AP LAnguage and Comp type course

An AP Lit type course.


You could do classes that fouces on Contemporary Lit, Rhetoric, British Lit, World Lit, Sci Fi, the choices are endless.


I always read the books 1st to see what strikes me as important. I use the WEM for discussion (I use the genre ?'s if it's not a book that's included in the WEM), spark notes, cliff notes and guides from The Center for Learning.


For tests I often use the quizzes from cliff notes or spark notes. I've also found quizzes by googling online.


I get ideas from what books to teach by looking at the Great Books List, local high school reading lists, College Board recommended reading list and top 100 nonfiction/fiction of the yr.

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I can't offer specific help since we use TOG lit along with their history. However, many moms here do amazing things with literature all on their own. Specifically, one of the Loris - either Lori D or Lori M (sorry, I can't remember which) has posted extensive lit lists in the past. You may be able to find them by searching, or some more technologically advanced person than myself may be able to link a few for you! Happy hunting!



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I didn't map out all 4 years, I did this year and am doing next with my ds, a junior. First I decided to do American Lit this year (still undecided for next), then I looked at all the various recommended books list such as Invitation to the Classics, and others such as Michelle mentioned. I read along with my son and every day we come together to discuss what we've read. I've used Progeny Press a lot as I like that it minimizes the work for me and I think most of the questions are of the critical thinking variety as opposed to simple recall. Having the guide also keeps us on schedule. For each book read, my son writes a 2-3 page literary analysis. It's worked very well for us and I've enjoyed it tremendously. I must admit, I included books I had always wanted to read such as Last of the Mohicans. Turns out, he really like it!

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I really like creating my own literature and history studies. In creating a reading list for my kids I choose titles based on their interests, my whims, and some kind of broad but unifying theme whether it be American literature or world history or science fiction. The number of titles varies on the reading strengths of my two kids, and the length of individual titles. I always have a mix of classic and fun titles and a mix of genres and I have more books picked out than we get to within a year. For my younger ds it averages out to 2 books a month, though he doesn't write about all those titles.


I try to use the questions in the Well Educated Mind as a guide to our discussions, and I have relied on Spark Notes, too. I also love googling for lesson plans for books even though only 10% of the hits are useful to me. But I've found some fun things that way -- a "Where's Waldo" type find it cartoon on the Iliad, for instance, and found some excellent lessons such as a collection of different translations of a passage of Beowulf to compare the choices of translators.


You were wondering about finding unit studies for books. I seem to find enough material on-line when I google book titles such as photos of the author or of the setting, or some extra information that gives more context to the work. Sometimes we watch the movie version or a movie that is inspired by the work. For instance, did you know Forbidden Planet is loosely based on Shakespeare's Tempest?


You should download the talks SWB made on high school writing and on literary analysis to help you focus on what kind of writing to assign. They are available atPeach Hill Press.

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I use Sonlight & Lightning Lit selections, and google High school reading lists (also try classical high school reading lists) to get ideas for what kids are reading in schools - I like to put some modern books in too. I subscribe to enotes, which someone on this site recommended, which has lots of info on many books, many of the classical books have lots of questions, as well as historical background, and lots of other suggestions. Usually my kids will write a paper after each book, using either an enotes or sparknotes essay question, but sometimes I get more creative. For instance, right now, my kids are reading Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown, Hercules Poirot & Nero Wolfe and then writing a comparison paper on the 4 detectives. (This is a light unit after a 1/2 year Shakespeare course - we used Lightning Lit).


We probably average about 15 books a year, plus some short stories and poetry unitsand a play or two, but we aren't into overanalyzing, I realize that you can spend a lot more time and dig deeper, but my kids all like to read, and I find it easier to analyse a specific thing per book and move on to get as much lit exposire into them as possible, as I want them to be understand literary references that they come across.

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A super easy way to do your own lit. is to just go with some pre-made literature programs and pick and choose your way through them.


Below is how I create our own lit. While it looks daunting, I only spent a few days over the summer spending time online as time permitted to pull together my master list, and once I whittled down my list to the handful of works we would do the following school year, I tend to go to a few favorite resources first, but take a few minutes to see if anyone on the WTM board liked something else better.


And remember, in the end, doing the Great Books is about QUALITY, not QUANTITY -- about engaging in the "Great Conversation". And that the books you do in high school are (hopefully) just your first steps in a lifelong enjoyable popping in and out of that Great Conversation as you can. Enjoy making your own lit. course and charting you own journey into the Great Books! Warmest regards, Lori D.



1. Glean/Make a Master List

I glean from lists of classics, and include any other ideas of book titles and make a giant "master list" roughly chronologically.


Ideas for lists of The Great Books:

- The Well Trained Mind book

- The Well Educated Mind book

- Invitation to the Classics book

- Ambleside Online curriculum website =

- 1000 Good Books website =

- Veritas curriculum catalog (Omnibus) =

- Sonlight curriculum catalog =

- table of contents of various high school literature programs

- google search what the "top" classics for high school are

- lists and ideas from threads on this board

- works I've read in the past that profoundly moved me and I want to share with my children


Since you aren't looking to match up your lit. with history, you could arrange your "master list" in another way:

- in order of most important to you to cover

- in order of most commonly covered by most high school students

- in order of your students' interest

- by genre (romantic works; gothic works; realistic; adventure; epic; fantasy/sci-fi; plays; biographies; humor; horror; etc.)

- by "continent" or culture (American Lit., British, European Lit., Asian Lit., Middle Eastern, Latin American/South American, etc.)



2. Whittle Down the Master List

- cut the works that make ME cringe and shudder at the very thought

- cut works that make the children cringe and shudder

- cut works that are too mature in content/theme for the age student

- cut works that are so long that it would prevent us from getting to other works

Sometimes a work makes it or gets cut because I can/can't find resources to help us.



3. Make a General Guideline

I create a very general guideline of what we're trying to accomplish with the literature that year and then pick works that fit in with that overall guideline. Examples:

- ancients = a gentle first exposure to the The Great Books with works I thought they would find engaging

- 20th Century = created our own lit. program with the theme "Worldviews in Classic Sci-Fi Lit."

- American lit. = Colonial to modern times; compare ideas and writing styles; wide variety of authors and formats (novels, novellas, short stories, essay, poetry, biography). (In an effort to cover as many authors as possible for Amer. lit and to avoid doing so many works with a "hopeless theme", we've done fewer novels and far more short stories, and have also just read excerpts of some works.)


An extremely generalized guideline of what we count as a full credit of literature or Great Books (i.e., what *our family* can do in a year):

- 4 novels (1 per quarter; average 6 weeks per work)

- 4 novellas or plays (1 per quarter; average 2 weeks per work)

- 8 short stories (2 per quarter; average 1 week for 2 short stories)

- 2 "units" poetry, essays, misc. (average 1 week per "unit")



4. Other Considerations

- I count source documents (speeches, essays -- things like the "Federalist papers" -- as history, not literature)

- To squeeze in more literature, our liberal arts-oriented family does a full literature portion for the English credit, but also does anywhere from 1/2 to a full credit as a "Great Books" elective



5. Resources

When it comes time to DO the lit., we:

- often read aloud/discuss analyze together (allows us to also learn vocabulary in context)

- we don't tend to spend much time on comprehension questions or vocabulary (since much of the lit. was done aloud together)

- use a literature guide for: background info; analysis and themes; discussion questions; writing assignment ideas

- write some some sort of response to the work (sometimes it's just a paragraph; other times a 5-paragraph essay; once in awhile, a longer paper)


Literature Resources (we use a variety):

- Invitation to the Classics book(background info)

- Sparknotes (free online lit. guides)

- Cliffs Notes (free online lit. guides)

- Glencoe (free online lit. guides)

- google search for free online guides/articles on specific works/author

- Wikipedia articles on authors/specific works (free online encyclopedia)

- Brightest Heaven of Invention book (Christian guide to 6 Shakespeare plays)

- Parallel Shakespeare books/workbooks/teacher guides

- Progeny Press lit. guides

- The Great Books lit. guides

- Discovering Literature series lit. guides (Garlic Press Publishers)

- Portals to Literature series lit. guides (Perfection Learning Publishers)

- Windows to the World (IEW 1 semester course teaching annotation and how to write a literary essay by covering 6 short stories)

- Learning Language Arts Through Literature: Gold: American Lit. (1 semester lit. course, covering 10 short stories, 3 novellas, and 10 poets)

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In case it helps, here's what I pulled together as a list for most often covered works in high school:



(listed in order of most frequently used in schools)


1. To Kill A Mockingbird

2. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

3. a play by Shakespeare

4. something by Dickens

5. Farenheit 451

6. Lord of the Flies

7. The Odyssey

8. 1984

9. The Scarlet Letter

10. (toss up between a number of works listed below)





(listed roughly in order of when they were WRITTEN -- NOT by popularity)


- The Iliad (Homer)

- The Odyssey (Homer)

- Beowulf (translation by Heaney)

- a play by Shakespeare

(usually a choice from: Macbeth, Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Henry V, or Julius Caesar)

- The Last of the Mohicans (Cooper)

- The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorne)

- Pride and Prejudice -- OR -- Emma (Austen)

- Frankenstein (Shelley)

- Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)

- Great Expectations (Dickens)

- a short story by Edgar Allen Poe (usually a choice from: Tell Tale Heart, Cask of Amontillado, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Gold Bug, or The Rue Morgue)

- Adventures of Tom Sawyer -- OR -- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Twain)

- Moby Dick (Melville)

- Treasure Island (Stevenson)

- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Stevenson) -- novella

- a Sherlock Holmes short story (usually a choice from: The Blue Carbuncle, The Red Headed League, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Adventure of the Dancing Men, or The Problem of Thor Bridge)

- The Red Badge of Courage (Crane)

- a short story by O. Henry (usually The Gift of the Magi; or perhaps The Ransom of Red Chief)

- Call of the Wild (London)

- The Open Window (Saki) -- short story

- All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque)

- The Most Dangerous Game (Connell) -- short story

- The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)

- Animal Farm (Orwell) -- novella

- 1984 (Orwell)

- Anne Frank: The Diary of Young Girl (Frank)

- Lord of the Flies (Goldman)

- The Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck)

- Things Fall Apart (Achebe)

- Death of a Salesman (Miller) -- play

- Farenheit 451 (Bradbury)

- Catcher in the Rye (Salinger)

- A Farewell to Arms -- OR -- The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)

- To Kill A Mockingbird (Lee)

- The Lottery (Jackson) -- short story

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I googled honor and ap class lesson plans and syllabus' as well as "books for the college bound student". I came up with some great resources and then I chose the books that I felt were important and then let her choose which ones she wanted to read. Some of them are history related and some are not.


I got SparkNotes for the books and for the most part will do lit ala WTM. I'll try to find interesting projects for her to do with the books, but will also require an essay or literary response paper when she's done.


My goal is to have her read 6 books from now until June (dd was in ps until last month, so that's why not so many books). Also, because dd has had some comprehension issues in the past, I get the books on audio so she can listen to them while she reads.

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"If you make up your own list for Literature what do you use to create your list."


When I first started homeschooling, I used the very excellent computerized card catalog that my library had in place. They've since changed it to a worthless "update", but enough about that..... When I discovered all the great homeschool book catalogs, such as Sonlight, Veritas, Rainbow Resource, etc. I began poring over those and reading reviews of books to get more ideas. As I compiled those, I began saving them on my computer and adding to them, editing, etc. from year to year (and I still continue to do that).


"What do you have your child do after they have finished a book?"


We generally talk about it while they are reading it. They may write a book report about it or use it as a jumping off point to write other types of research reports, etc., depending on the type of book. I very occasionally will do some lit study associated with a book being read, but I don't do that too often, as I simply don't want to spoil the fun of the reading.


"How many books do you require the child to read?"


I don't "require" a certain number, per se, but we read as many per year as possible. I keep my son stocked with multiple books for reading at all times, and we generally have 2-6 read alouds going, too. I think that at least one longer chapter book per month can certainly be accomplished, so that would be about 9 per school year. I don't just assign my son longer chapter books, however. To mix things up and keep it fun, I mix in shorter books with great illustrations, too. Those, of course, can often be accomplished in one short reading period.


"Do you try to find unit studies for that book?"


No, I've never done that. This year, I have used some portions of lapbooking, notebooking, and unit study guides I found online for my lit studies associated with some of the books he's read. I like them better than any pre-printed lit study guides I've found. I was also given a link for a reading club (through Sylvan, I think), that has a number of comprehension tests for books he's read and I let him take those.


"I would prefer not to tie in the literature to our history."


I think that's fine; you certainly don't have to do that. I didn't really do much of that for modern history studies, myself. I have found, however, that reading historical fiction along with the time period we're studying seems to make our history studies much richer and also seems to help that knowledge stick better.....

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I had my son listen to lectures or read some introductory material, read the book, write a short summary, discuss the book, and with some write papers. He was my reluctant writer so I didn't push the writing as much earlier but had him write more later in high school.


My second did structured courses for the first two years of high school and wrote for those as per the course. THis year, she is doing British LIt and not writing at all. She discusses. SHe has a separate writing class where she is writing a lot plus she is writing for history and tons for debate. Next year, she will most likely have a World Lit class and I have several online syllabi and several books which will give me writing topics.


My third will be having a structured writing class with a tutor most likely next year. After that, I will see. WIth her, I will most likely do minimal literature writing and concentrate on report writing and technical writing. SHe needs to write well but not about literature. That is sort of the same idea I have with number two who actually does write well. I don't need to concentrate on literature writing but rather what she is doing is perfect for her planned future career.

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