Jump to content

Menu

Literature Recommendations: Secular & Rigorous


Recommended Posts

Hi (posting this both here and in the K-8 forum, for reasons you will see below),

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?

 

I'm fine with either an 8th grade or high school recommendations! Just something that works and is a good challenge for a good reader and writer.

Thanks so much!

 
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We thought Lightning Literature would be a good fit for us for high school English but it wasn't.  The assignments felt like just busywork - read and answer basic comprehension questions.  We abandoned it and moved on to something else.  IIRC, it was American Lit but I'm not sure.  We used Oak Meadow's "The Hero's Journey" for 9th grade English when dd was in 8th grade.  OM was okay, but I don't know if it has the literature you're looking for.  Dd liked it and said it really made her think.  It's been a while and I can't remember much of it - sorry I can't be more help!  

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't consider Build Your Library assignments very rigorous but I LOVE the reading selections. She has sample weeks on her website for each level. She does include discussion questions for the reading but it's more to check reading comprehension than anything. My youngest will be doing both levels 10 & 11 this year. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to cram two years of reading into one. Levels 10 & 11 are world history, 12 is American history.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Welcome to the WTM boards, and to the High School board! 😄 

Just to clarify your research: while Excellence in Literature and Teaching the Classics ARE heavily Christian, Windows to the World has only brief mentions of Christian worldview, and none of the works covered in WttW are Christian. The focus is 6 short stories:
"Gift of the Magi" (Henry)
"The Most Dangerous Game" (Connell)
"The Necklace" (de Maupassant)
"Fight With a Cannon" (Hugo)
"A Jury of Her Peers" (Jewett)
"The Open Window' (Saki)

Oak Meadows is secular. I have heard a number of people say they really like the 9th grade English program of "The Hero's Journey."

I believe Calvert is also secular now. From the catalog, here is the detailed book list/syllabus of their 9th grade English.

One thing you might consider is outsourcing the Writing/Composition to an online course, and doing the Literature at home. At this stage you may wish to create your own literature course, perhaps using individual lit. guides to help you "springboard" into your studies and discussions about specific works. That would allow you to look at the list of works covered in some of the programs you mentioned and select those that would be high interest, or a good fit, or would help towards a "college-bound reading list," or other goal for your literature.

Some secular guides:
- Glencoe Literature Library (free) -- middle school/high school level lit.
- Penguin Teacher Guides (free) -- high school/college level lit.
- Garlic Press: Discovering Literature: Challenger level
(they only have a few guides, but their guides are *meaty*: The Odyssey; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Giver; The Hobbit; Lord of the Flies; The Outsiders; the 3 books of the Hunger Games trilogy)

That would also allow you to include some discussion-able contemporary YA (Young Adult) works, as well as classics through the ages. While it doesn't have to be next year, I would encourage including some poetry, plays, and short stories in each year of your high school Literature for additional variety, as each form of literature is very different and unique.
 

Another idea for part of your Lit. studies next year might be to go through Figuratively Speaking (secular) together, and use many of the poems and short stories suggested in the posts in this past thread "Figuratively Speaking paired with short stories" .

BEST of luck in finding what fits best for your family. Warmest regards, Lori D.


ETA -- PS
For more about how "Christian" WttW is, and if it is possible to discuss other worldviews when using WttW, check out my last post in this fairly recent thread: "9th grade English for a small group".

Edited by Lori D.
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Calvert is secular and always has been, but it's horrible now (it didn't used to be). It's also a secular copy of a Christian program at this point. The name was bought and repurposed from what it was for decades.

Build Your Library is... odd for high school IMHO. I would strongly suggest not doing the 9th grade program if "rigorous" is what you're looking for with literature. The selections are decidedly offbeat.

Strongly seconding Oak Meadow's programs as solid basics.

I really like the old 90's Prentice Hall literature textbooks. They're all really good and include a larger number of whole texts than most others. I'm the author of a combined lit and history program (link's in my sig) and I used the world lit one as part of the program.

I think literature is one of the easier things to DIY. Make a book list. Get some resources for each book. Assign a writing assignment for each one. Discuss them. That's about all there is to it.

Since you're Jewish, I'll mention Edu-Together in case you're not familiar with it. It's online homeschool classes by a Jewish provider (secular friendly, but they're mostly Jewish from what I could tell). I can't comment on the quality as I haven't seen any real reviews.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, ShepCarlin said:

I don't consider Build Your Library assignments very rigorous but I LOVE the reading selections. She has sample weeks on her website for each level. She does include discussion questions for the reading but it's more to check reading comprehension than anything. My youngest will be doing both levels 10 & 11 this year. I'm still trying to figure out how I'm going to cram two years of reading into one. Levels 10 & 11 are world history, 12 is American history.

Yes, I love the selections at BuildYourLibrary -- and may require them for basically "fun" reading over the next couple years! We have read many of the books, anyway! I didn't think it looked like she did a lot with literary analysis or anything, but still. Fun. And if I go with some of the later responders' suggestions, this could fill out a deeper, but slower study of other classics. Thanks!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Lori D. said:

One thing you might consider is outsourcing the Writing/Composition to an online course, and doing the Literature at home. At this stage you may wish to create your own literature course, perhaps using individual lit. guides to help you "springboard" into your studies and discussions about specific works. That would allow you to look at the list of works covered in some of the programs you mentioned and select those that would be high interest, or a good fit, or would help towards a "college-bound reading list," or other goal for your literature.

Some secular guides:
- Glencoe Literature Library (free) -- middle school/high school level lit.
- Penguin Teacher Guides (free) -- high school/college level lit.
- Garlic Press: Discovering Literature: Challenger level
(they only have a few guides, but their guides are *meaty*: The Odyssey; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Giver; The Hobbit; Lord of the Flies; The Outsiders; the 3 books of the Hunger Games trilogy)

That would also allow you to include some discussion-able contemporary YA (Young Adult) works, as well as classics through the ages. While it doesn't have to be next year, I would encourage including some poetry, plays, and short stories in each year of your high school Literature for additional variety, as each form of literature is very different and unique.
 

Another idea for part of your Lit. studies next year might be to go through Figuratively Speaking (secular) together, and use many of the poems and short stories suggested in the posts in this past thread "Figuratively Speaking paired with short stories" .

Thank you so much! I will look at those guides and your other suggestions! Yes, I definitely want to work through poetry, plays, short stories, novels, from a broad time frame and different historical and cultural contexts. In addition, I like how IEW is working for us, and was planning to continue it but supplement with a literature course. I was worried about overburdening with busywork from a "full English" course as she keeps working through IEW which is already accomplishing the grammar/comp/style aspects, and doing that well. Considering that we may need to keep on with IEW for one or two more years, though, your suggestions of cherry-picking some units to work through might really be effective, customizable, and enjoyable. Thank you again!

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

24 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Build Your Library is... odd for high school IMHO. I would strongly suggest not doing the 9th grade program if "rigorous" is what you're looking for with literature. The selections are decidedly offbeat.

Strongly seconding Oak Meadow's programs as solid basics.

I really like the old 90's Prentice Hall literature textbooks. They're all really good and include a larger number of whole texts than most others. I'm the author of a combined lit and history program (link's in my sig) and I used the world lit one as part of the program.

I think literature is one of the easier things to DIY. Make a book list. Get some resources for each book. Assign a writing assignment for each one. Discuss them. That's about all there is to it.

Since you're Jewish, I'll mention Edu-Together in case you're not familiar with it. It's online homeschool classes by a Jewish provider (secular friendly, but they're mostly Jewish from what I could tell). I can't comment on the quality as I haven't seen any real reviews.

Thanks for the warning on Calvert. As far as BYL, I think it is basically a very nice reading list, but not for rigorous study, but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything. Oak Meadow will stay on my list! It also looked pretty solid.

Your lit/history program looks awesome. I am intrigued. (Maybe you could throw in an Agnon short story, in the Middle East portion?) 😉 Do you intend it to function as a Literature/History program while Grammar/Comp is going on through other means (IEW)? Based on my cursory peek through it, it looks like it would work well like that.

I had never seen Edu-Together. I will have to see if I can figure out more about them. Thank you for the tip! They even have 2 semesters of Jewish History (looks like maybe a late high school elective), which for me is super-exciting. 🙂

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Naomi Israel said:

...Your lit/history program looks awesome. I am intrigued... Do you intend it to function as a Literature/History program while Grammar/Comp is going on through other means (IEW)? Based on my cursory peek through it, it looks like it would work well like that...

@Farrar's course is high school level (and I am guessing earns 2 credits, 1 for Literature/English and 1 for History). Most students have completed formal Grammar instruction by 8th grade or by the end of 8th grade. The typical high school student puts the grammar into practice use in the Writing process, through sentence structure in the rough draft and revision stages, and the capitalization/punctuation/grammar usage in in the revising and proof-editing stages.

As far as Composition... usually, if a high school student still needs specific instruction in Composition, families use a specific Composition/Writing program. Or outsource.

Literature and History courses at the high school level don't include writing instruction, just writing assignments (and some include a grading rubric). 

So yes, if the student still needed specific instruction in Grammar/Comp., a specific program (such as IEW, or other) could be added to the Literature/History program. 😄 

Edited by Lori D.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Welcome!  We are a Jewish family as well (conservadox).

I second what Farrar and Lori have said about just DIY-ing literature.  That's what we have always done and have enjoyed the flexibility to choose our own texts.  

Mosdos Press is a elementary/middle school literature program that I believe goes through 8th grade.  They market themselves as secular but it has some sort of Jewish origin -- I think it might originally have been designed for use in Bais Yaakov schools?  I have never used it but lots of folks on this board have recommended it highly.

I warmly recommend Farrar's combined history/literature program -- we've used the Middle East, Africa, and Asia units and they're terrific.  They're meant for older students, though,, and IMO the content is more suitable for a high schooler than a middle schooler. 

I've never heard of Edu-Together, either, which is odd because I was pretty sure than I knew about every online Hebrew and Judaics high-school-level study option out there 🙂   

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don’t understand BYL year 12. Specifically social studies — US History (1 year), US Government (1 year), and Economics (1 year). That seems like....a lot of social studies. For some reason I thought it was somehow Jewish / related, but I think maybe that was a figment of my imagination.

I looked at EduTogether and didn’t understand. Is it a full school or a provider of online classes? Can one only take a few classes? What do they cost? It seems like you have to have a consultation to find out.

Also Open Tent Academy is run by a Jewish lady, and they take Jewish, Christian, and Islamic holidays off. I think the classes are secular. They have a lot of elementary and middle school plus writing classes, but the husband (?) seems to have a lot of interests, and they have some other instructors as well. They’re on a trimester system and a lot of their classes are 20weeks long.

For writing, a lot of people seem to like a book like The Lively Art of Writing.

Oak Meadow often has the student read like four books for the year. I think their assignments are kind of creative, but this is my concern with them. I particularly am puzzled by their choices for Lit&Comp II, which has only three books: Huck Finn, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, and A Separate Peace.

I have to say, I like the encouraging spirit of this thread. I always feel overwhelmed by English.

Edited by stripe
  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The woman who writes BYL is definitely not Jewish. I forgot that the woman who runs Open Tent is Jewish though. They have way more middle school content than high school. But they teach IEW there.

As I understand it, Edu-Together is both an online school and a provider of individual classes. That's a model that I think you'll see more and more. I know that's basically where Aim is headed. That's how WTMA essentially functions to some extent. That's the case with a bunch of the Christian providers. They have individual courses or a "diploma track" or something along those lines.

Seconding Mosdos for lit study for middle school. It's really well done. It went out of print for awhile for some reason and I was really glad it came back.

As for GPS, my program - it's literature, writing, and history - two credits. There's writing exercises in the first year. I think doing a full composition program would be too much unless you wanted a super strong writing focus. On the other hand, it's not a lot of explicit, step-by-step instruction either. There's guidance in the opening about how to mark papers and writing in general and the assumption is that the assignments are there to practice. There is no grammar instruction in it. That's in keeping with most high school courses in schools. I do a writing service where I mark some of the key papers (I have a little group of students each year so far). Oh, and it does include a smattering of Hebrew lit - just a few things that are in the World Masterpieces textbook.

 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

54 minutes ago, JennyD said:

Mosdos Press is a elementary/middle school literature program that I believe goes through 8th grade.  They market themselves as secular but it has some sort of Jewish origin -- I think it might originally have been designed for use in Bais Yaakov schools?  I have never used it but lots of folks on this board have recommended it highly.

 

12 minutes ago, Farrar said:

Seconding Mosdos for lit study for middle school. It's really well done. It went out of print for awhile for some reason and I was really glad it came back.

Maybe I'll take another look at Mosdos, or at least think about using it for my first-grader as he moves along the next few years. I got a sample of one of the books, the 3rd-4th grade level, because a friend of ours' son was involved in the editing! It is indeed well done, but I happened to get that sample a year or two after my oldest was beyond that particular grade level. I should have looked into it more thoroughly.

Thanks for the reminder. 🙂 And yes, my understanding is that it's geared toward Orthodox/Traditional day schools, but does not have any overtly Jewish/religious content.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

52 minutes ago, stripe said:

Oak Meadow often has the student read like four books for the year. I think their assignments are kind of creative, but this is my concern with them. I particularly am puzzled by their choices for Lit&Comp II, which has only three books: Huck Finn, Ayn Rand’s Anthem, and A Separate Peace.

Yeah, and if they are spending 1/4 of their year on Ayn Rand, that tells me that politically, they aren't where I am at, which is fine. But I'd rather have her read Chinua Achebe, Jane Austen, and others. Sure, it's great to read differing viewpoints, such as Anthem, and discuss literary and political aspects, but I don't want to spend that much time on one author. Besides, my husband would probably make me stop homeschooling if we did a unit on Ayn Rand! (kidding sort of)

I really liked the background material I saw in Lightning Literature, as an aside. They have a really nice contextualization (in their sample unit on Things Fall Apart) for African literature, at least from my perspective as a cell biologist, but you're right, a lot of the work is basically reading comprehension questions.

Part of my nervousness about this whole "English situation" is that I was homeschooled myself, and we older kids basically were told to read "stuff" (this was haphazard and self-directed - I went on a Holocaust autobiography kick, a geology kick, etc) and we didn't do any significant history during high school. My mom had twins when I was 14, I had a little brother with some learning disabilities, and... basically it was math, reading, and music for the next 4 years. I got super "in" to cleaning, organizing our family, and that's kind of it. Oldest child syndrome. (Important life skills, by the way. My husband and kids all tease me about yet live by my lists.) My younger siblings seem to have fared better on the education front. I went a math/science and music route anyway (all but dissertation in molecular/cell biology/infectious disease, ended up teaching high school science and now am a violin teacher in my copious spare time). However, I so love to study history now, and I missed so much important literature (my husband went to a public magnet school in NYC, and I'm envious of some of what he covered in HS). Even in college I didn't do a lot of humanities courses, since I was so science-driven. I don't want my daughter to miss out. Especially since she's more of a music/art/writing/history person, mostly-ish. If she ended up going to some sort of music conservatory to pursue her violin, I want her to have a background in this stuff, just to be well-rounded. I, on the other hand, am kind of trapezoidal, maybe even trigonal, even though I am trying to work on that, as an adult. Trying to be a bit softer 'round the edges. Generally. 🙂

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, Farrar said:

There is no grammar instruction in it. That's in keeping with most high school courses in schools.

Sorry, yeah, I meant general mechanics of writing and also writing style when I said grammar/comp. I am not sure how much more she needs. Having graded and read college papers, she is kind of close to on par with that. Which probably says more about my former students than her. But still, she may really not need much more writing-focused instruction, but rather practice expressing and conveying her thoughts/opinions, writing research papers, etc.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Naomi Israel said:

 

I really liked the background material I saw in Lightning Literature, as an aside. They have a really nice contextualization (in their sample unit on Things Fall Apart) for African literature, at least from my perspective as a cell biologist, but you're right, a lot of the work is basically reading comprehension questions.

 

Exactly - the contextualization for their literary selections is what I was intrigued by, but then I was very disappointed with the actual assignments.  They required no thought at all - just read and answer questions on the reading.  I liked their selections and the background info they provided for them, though.  

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, Naomi Israel said:

 

I really liked the background material I saw in Lightning Literature, as an aside. They have a really nice contextualization (in their sample unit on Things Fall Apart) for African literature, at least from my perspective as a cell biologist, but you're right, a lot of the work is basically reading comprehension questions.

We skipped the comprehension questions and just did the writing assignments for Lightning Lit. ETA- I think I may have occasionally added a different essay here and there. We used it for early high school/ late middle school.

We've been off track for Farrar's materials, but I like what I've seen.

Edited by MamaSprout
  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

6 hours ago, Naomi Israel said:

Yeah, and if they are spending 1/4 of their year on Ayn Rand, that tells me that politically, they aren't where I am at, which is fine. But I'd rather have her read Chinua Achebe, Jane Austen, and others. Sure, it's great to read differing viewpoints, such as Anthem, and discuss literary and political aspects, but I don't want to spend that much time on one author. Besides, my husband would probably make me stop homeschooling if we did a unit on Ayn Rand! (kidding sort of)

I am no Oak Meadow expert, but Ayn Rand seems out of character. I will say that I didn’t realize they also study four short stories in that class. But this is my main concern with their English classes: too few books, and typically not what I would have picked. For example, American Lit is The Great Gatsby, The Red Badge of Courage, To Be a Slave, and some poems. British Lit is Beowulf, The Once and Future King, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, David Copperfield, and the The Oxford Book of English Short Stories. World Lit is Don Quixote, The Ramayana, The Metamorphosis, and A Doll’s House. 

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I also raised my brows at the Ayn Rand choice, honestly. Anthem used to be read in schools pretty commonly (I had to read it in 9th grade as part of a trio of political novels) and I have wondered if it's just an... out of date suggestion. They're definitely more liberal leaning overall as a provider - I think they're just stuck in 1990 or something. The small number of books is also why we didn't use it. But having seen the materials and used other OM things, I think it's fine. It just depends on your goals.

For a kid who is headed into high school already writing solid papers, you can really decide how to approach things... lots of potential options. 

  • Like 2
  • Haha 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Farrar said:

I also raised my brows at the Ayn Rand choice, honestly. Anthem used to be read in schools pretty commonly (I had to read it in 9th grade as part of a trio of political novels) and I have wondered if it's just an... out of date suggestion. They're definitely more liberal leaning overall as a provider - I think they're just stuck in 1990 or something.

That’s hilarious and informative.

When I was in college, there was some Ayn Rand foundation offering cash or scholarships for essays related to her books. No one seemed to have heard of her besides my mother, and then all of a sudden everyone’s a huge fan.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...