Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson– a Homeschool Review Crew review
I was very happy and relieved to have the opportunity to review Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis from Writing with Sharon Watson, the second in a series by Sharon Watson as evaluating literature and story structure has always been my weakest area.
This year-long literature course is focused on the characters in great stories who are in trouble. Sharon Watson will help your children explore how an author forms tension in a story using the characters as a vehicle to creating compelling literature.
While this is the second course in a series (the first is lluminating Literature: When Worlds Collide ), the order in which your child takes the courses does not matter.
Free Samples of the course are available to download
If you are not sure which course to use first (I really love this one, myself) you can take a look at free samples of all the materials HERE.
What comes with the product:
The teacher’s guide is a wonderful resource for moms like me who struggle with literature. I have been working to learn how to teach and study literature since my kids were in third grade. Now that they are teens, they have far surpassed me so the teacher’s guide is critical to helping me to evaluate my children’s progress and understanding.
The teacher’s guide includes answers for all the questions in the lessons, discussions, and even the quizzes. Beyond a simple answer key, the teacher’s key guides you through the process of assigning grades in a logical and coherent fashion. This is especially important in non-obviously quantitative subjects like writing and literature. And as a parent who has children entering high school years, it is a comfort to have a solid guide to help me grade my children’s progress in the course.
The Teacher’s guide lays out a monthly lesson plan for you to use and adapt to your homeschool. If you have a local co-op or a large group of high schoolers that you homeschool, the Teacher’s guide includes a schedule to run a book-of-the-month club that even adds Facebook posts designed to engage and enrich your students’ experience as they read each book in the course.
The textbook is structured as a walk through the books and short stories with literature analysis tools and literary terms woven into the text so that your child get a full college preparatory literature course.
A unique feature of the course and the textbook is that it refers to specific page numbers of the novels and plays and stories that your child will study. Thus it is helpful to obtain the editions of the novels that Sharon Watson uses and refers to.
Books Your High Schooler Will Study
- A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, in the textbook
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dover Publications
- Silas Marner by George Eliot, Dover Publications
- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Dover Publications
- An Assortment of Short Stories:
- “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett, in the textbook
- “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges, link provided
- “Haircut” by Ring Lardner, link provided
- “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton, in the textbook
- “Of the Passing of the First-Born” by W. E. B. Du Bois, in the textbook
- “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas, link provided
- Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Dover Publications
- Biography or autobiography of student’s choice
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Mariner Books
This is an optional alternative to the online quizzes. For my kids, the paper quizzes and surveys are a preferable option. Also I end up with samples to save in the homeschool records this way.
There are three types of activities for your children to complete in this manual: “Yes, I read it” quizzes, Literary terms quizzes, and opinion surveys for each of the books and short stories that your child will read.
Sharon Watson has placed the quizzes online for your child, if you want to use the course this way. You need a password to access the online quizzes, but that is located in your textbook and your Teacher’s guide. The advantage of using the online quizzes is that they are then graded online for you. Sharon Watson makes every effort to make teaching literature less stressful for moms like me.
The Novel Notebook is a free component that you can download and print, but it is fundamental to the course. This is the spot for your children to get creative. It is their personal journal as they work through the course. They answer questions in it. They analyze and form conclusions about the stories and books they read and then write those ideas in their Novel Notebook. And they even use the notebook to collect passages in the stories and books that really speak to them.
At the turn of the 18th century, the commonplace book was – well – common! Many people in this country used commonplace books to record thoughts and ideas that came as they read through literature. This is a practice lost in modern times, but it is a wonderful one. I have a commonplace book for a number of subjects lining the shelf above my desk. Every so often I grab an older one and read it through to be reminded of conclusions I came to years ago and favorite quotes from favorite authors. That is what the Novel Notebook is.
Time Required To Teach this Course
This completely depends on how you use the course with your high schooler. If you have a child who works independently through the material, then all you need to do is grade quizzes and read their writing. If your child takes advantage of the online quizzes, then those are graded online for you, making things even simpler.
We decided to implement the course in a group discussion format, so I work through the course essentially alongside my children. I did not need to do any preparation ahead of time, so the only time I spent was time reading and discussing along with my kids.
High School Credit & Pacing
Sharon Watson designed this as a one year high school curriculum for students to complete at a pace of four weeks per book.
There are 38 lessons in the curriculum, making it perfect to complete in two semesters with enough content to each one full unit of credit.
How We Used It
My kids both learn literature best together in a group. We read aloud together and then discuss themes and characters and stories. They both love writing but prefer to answer quizzes orally in the form of discussions. So we adapted Sharon Watson’s curriculum to our homeschool. I was surprised at how easy it was to adjust the lessons and also at how much my children enjoyed sitting down to do lessons.
My kids are tough critics of new curriculum, especially writing and literature lessons. While one or the other of them disagreed with at least one point in each lesson, they loved the experience. Characters in Crisis lessons are very loud in our house. At any point, while we are discussing particular characters in stories discussed as examples by Sharon Watson, my son would bellow, “I disagree!” And his twin sister would either loudly agree with him, or come to the defense of poor Mrs. Watson. Sharon Watson undoubtedly has no idea that she is part of our daily literature discussions these days. But my neighbors know that Sharon Watson is a part of our daily lessons, as the discussions get very loud when the teenage fervor rises in our living room.
Sharon Watson’s Characters in Crisis has reinvigorated my kids’ interest in literature and the curriculum is their favorite part of the day. They like it so much, that they both decided to re-read the books on the literature list that they already know – just so they can go through the course discussions!
The most fantastic aspect of Characters in Crisis lies in its flexibility. Any child can use this curriculum. There are options to accommodate any learning style and Sharon Watson’s frank and straight-forward tone is perfect for teenagers.