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Literature Recommendations: Secular & Rigorous


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Hi,

I have a rising 8th grader. We are Orthodox Jews but politically lean left (I don't know if that's unusual compared to other religious groups), and cannot use Christian curriculum. We do, however, love the IEW curriculum and are using their SSS program, which is a high-school level course. I tell everyone to use it -- our daughter LOVES it and is writing at a very advanced level! For next year, we are looking for a rigorous literary analysis curriculum that will work with our "worldview" (I imagine that the best option is secular, and although I'm a fan of reading the classics, I'd love to see modern important authors included, such as Chinua Achebe, etc). I want breadth (she's a bookworm; she can read a lot) and depth (real analysis, something rigorous, with challenging and interesting assignments).

Is Lightning Literature a good choice?

Excellence in Literature/Windows to the World/Teaching the Classics - I've already read all the threads on this forum about trying to bypass the worldview aspects or "secularize" it (I actually thought the Biblical and Classical references thing is a great idea). I have thought about trying to use EiL/WttW/TtC, but its reading list has a lot of CS Lewis and GK Chesterton, both of whom I do not think are priorities, literature-wise and lacks important modern literature (I do understand about Lewis' and Chesterton's inclusion based on the worldview of the author of the curriculum).

Calvert School? Is it rigorous? Not a huge fan of having to do more stuff online, but if it's awesome, I'll consider it.

Does BuildYourLibrary.com have rigorous assignments?

Oak Meadow?

Are there Pearson/Prentice Hall/McMillan/Insert Other Big School Publishers that have high school literature texts that are worth using?

Thanks so much!

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Thought I'd throw this out there, although maybe you already know about it....  Have you considered Mosdos Press Gold, which is (gifted) Grade 8?  I happen to own Gold to read myself, because I like Mosdos (I hunt around and pick things up used....).  The program is considered to be "gifted" so, say, the Grade 3 level maps to typical Grade 4 student.  I can vouch for that, my son is going to start reading it soon -- He's in Grade 5 and his reading for fun is a strong Grade 4.

Mosdos has changed it's "About Us" page but as I understand/remember it, the program was written by a rabbi to be secular (non-religious) for an private Orthodox Jewish girls school.  Repeat: It's doesn't have any religion or scripture, just stories with morally provocative contents to drive interesting discussion.  It has a full teacher's version, and workbooks, but I don't own those for Gold, only for Opal (Grade 3), and Ruby (Grade 4).  If you're interested you could look at Rainbow Resource or Timberdoodle for the components of the program.

https://mosdospress.com/reading-programs/8th-grade-gold/gold-student-edition/

 

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You may want to look into Mosdos Press. I picked up a couple of levels, just the student books, and perused them, but I haven't done deep research in the company and don't plan to use the teacher's books or workbooks. They are actually printed in Israel, and when a work has certain phrases like "the Lord" it has "the L--d." 

My impression: the chosen texts are interesting, varied, and fairly challenging for the grade level they are intended for, but not ridiculously so. There is good information for the reader, so a student should gain a good understanding of literary techniques and improve their vocabulary. The questions can provoke thoughtful responses, and there are a variety of interesting assignments to choose from. I saw nothing religious, but I would assume that the selections made were likely influenced by perspective of the editors and publisher.

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32 minutes ago, Enigma6 said:

Mosdos is what sprung to my mind, too. You may have to call to see aboutt heir high school offerings. I have seen the books used at my local store but never run across them online. I would NOT use Calvert School unless I had no other option. Super terrible.

I got mine from AbeBooks.com at a good price. 

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Since you said you were ok with the Biblical/classical allusions in WttW, I would go ahead and start with that and then develop your own literature list and use the lit analysis techniques it teaches and apply them to whatever it is you want them to read. WttW really is an amazing resource for step by step teaching of the lit analysis process, and it only takes a semester, so you could read/analyze/write using full length works the 2nd semester.

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2 hours ago, Momto6inIN said:

Since you said you were ok with the Biblical/classical allusions in WttW, I would go ahead and start with that and then develop your own literature list and use the lit analysis techniques it teaches and apply them to whatever it is you want them to read. WttW really is an amazing resource for step by step teaching of the lit analysis process, and it only takes a semester, so you could read/analyze/write using full length works the 2nd semester.

Agree entirely. The first half of the program is about annotation, and then how to write a literary analysis essay using some of your annotations as supporting examples from the literature. That is very traditional literary analysis, and no worldview involved. 😉 

The second half of WttW includes a short chapter on worldview to help explain the literary device of theme, and then goes on to use Christian worldview as the specific example. You can easily skip the Christian example. The rest of the second half of WttW is about understanding how the 8-10 most frequently used literary devices work, and is traditional literary analysis with no worldview attached.

The only other place I remember there being overtly Christian worldview is in the discussion on allusion, the exercise has you practicing finding Biblical allusions in 2 poems. But I would argue that because Christian themes, images, and ideas run so strongly throughout Western literature (and yes, in literature by secular authors, too), that it really is worthwhile to at least understand the half dozen or so of the most frequently-used Biblical allusions in literature.

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Perhaps Annotating Literary Elements by Rooted in Language? They are a non-sectarian company. You can view samples here:

https://www.rootedinlanguage.com/instructional-materials/annotating-literary-elements?fbclid=IwAR39pMU7J6wUVEbEYixu-sVHTDLzLGXf_h8Et7sLdd9SLn6wasYPGvtQock

ETA: For a learning-by-doing approach, she could participate in NaNoWriMo using their free Young Writer’s Program. It really digs into the elements of character-building, plot, foreshadowing, writing quality dialogue, etc. 

Edited by Shoes+Ships+SealingWax
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I'll just jump into Build Your Library since others have covered the rest well. 

Build Your Library level 8 has a fabulous and rigorous reading load, but mostly expects you do have regular conversations with the readings. There are basic comprehension questions for just the literature books, a list of vocab words pulled from the books, and some dictation pieces pulled from the books. It's very Charlotte Mason flavored and does not have any of the typical modern assignments that would go with a literature study.

I'm currently wrapping up level 8 for the second time through with my 13yo so it's fresh if you have specific questions. She's read every single book on the schedule and we discuss them regularly. She's had an amazing year. I haven't once glanced at the comprehension questions or vocab but just go off my knowledge of the books and experience with the older kids. If a kid were 9th grade doing this course I'd confidently give them the lit portion of their English 9 credit (as well as a world history and non-lab general science). Midsummer Night's Dream, Fahrenheit 451, How to Kill a Mockingbird, Frankenstein, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and more are easily high school level if you do more than just read. 

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