An American Literature class is an excellent way for your high school student to earn an English credit on their transcript. We have found a variety of ways to do this with our older children, but I am very pleased with Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set from Memoria Press this year.
As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, we received this set to use with our 11th grade son. When I flipped through and took a good look at the material, I knew I wanted our 9th grade son to join in this course with us. I ordered a second student guide for him to use.
What is it?
This American Literature set , recommended for grades 8 and up, covers a variety of well-known American authors from early 1800’s to the first part of the 1900’s. Included are:
- Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature (an anthology of works by authors such as Washington Irving, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and more)
- Student Guide (consumable workbook)
- Teacher Guide (which includes answer key to workbook pages as well as tests with answer key)
The soft-cover literature book includes the full, unabridged versions of fourteen different American authors and poets. Some are very well-known while others may not be as familiar.
- Washington Irving
- Edgar Allan Poe
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
- Oliver Wendell Holmes
- Sidney lanier
- James Russell Lowell
- Richard Hovey
- Ernest Lawrence Thayer
- John Greenleaf Whittier
- Emmily Dickinson
- Carl Sandburg
- O. Henry
- Amy Lowell
- Robert Frost
At the end of the book there is an appendix with a sampling of works from ten British poest from this same time period.
- Robert Southwell
- John Newton
- William Wordsworth
- Lord Byron
- Barry Cornwall
- Lewis Carroll
- Rudyard Kipling
- Alfred, Lord Tennyson
- Alfred Noyes
- Edward Lear
The text is divided into individual short stories (prose) and poems, according to author. The text is clear and easy to read. The pages have generous margins. Students are advised to mark their books according to instructions at the beginning of their workbook. There is plenty of room for them to make notes, highlight, underline, etc. The longer pieces have paragraphs or stanzas numbered, making reference for lessons and discussion very easy.
The black and white illustrations included are taken from engravings, prints and portaits. They add just the right touch to the text. Simple and classic, not overwhelming or too busy.
The student book is also soft-covered and is consumable. After an explanation of how to use the book, and an introduction to the course, the student is able to pick up and begin, following instructions for each section. The pages correlate directly to the text in the American Lit. book.
Each lesson is divided into four sections: Pre-Grammar, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. You may recognize these as the progression of levels in a Classical Education. This makes a lot of sense and naturally builds from the concrete to the abstract, giving the student a well-rounded experience.
The Pre-Grammar section guides the student to prepare his thought and expectations, so he can be ready and open to the words and knowledge shared in the piece they will read. He might be asked to do a short writing exercise or make a list of ideas.
In the Grammar section, students present the things they are learning from the piece. They’ll make notations in the book, look definitions of vocabulary words, answer comprehension questions. The workbook gives plenty of space for your student to enter their answers.
Next, in the Logic (or Dialectic) section the student will be asked to answer questions that will encourage reasoning and thinking skills.
And then, in the Rhetoric section she will be asked to express her thoughts and ideas on what she believes is the one central idea in the work.
This is followed by an essay assignment option to take the lesson even deeper and give you, the instructor/parent are better idea of how much they have absorbed and learned.
Lastly, the Teacher Guide includes the exact pages the student finds in her book, but with the answers filled in. At the end of the guide there are about a dozen tests which give the teacher a chance to have students show their knowledge of the prose and poetry as well as the authors included in this course.
How did we use it?
On Mondays, I read aloud to everyone the short story or poem we will study for that week. We discuss what I’ve read and share our thoughts and ideas about the characters and the story. We might ask questions about what didn’t make sense or tell about our favorite parts.
On Tuesdays, my two high school students (9th and 11th grade) worked together to mark the pages of that week’s story (or poem) so the important words and themes stand out clearly. The explanation and example at the beginning of the Student Guide is excellent and my boys followed the advice given there.
Throughout the rest of the week they worked independently through the exercises in the Student Guide. Ideally, the essay is written and the test given at the end of the week. Because there is quite a lot of information to process with some lessons, we have sometimes carried these over to the next week. And then, there are other lessons that are short and quick. They had no trouble finishing these early.
How did we like it?
Memoria Press gets a thumbs up from our family for this course. Poetry & Short Stories: American Literature Set is interesting, provides high-quality material and gives us all we need for a high school American Lit course. It’s easy to understand, easy to use and is presented in a way the student can work with the class as a whole or independently at his own pace.
Having a mixture of authors and pieces we are familiar with and some that are new to us was just the right balance. Because we live very near to the place where “Paul Revere’s Ride” actually took place, this poem was a lot of fun to read, memorize and discuss (even for my big boys!) Our discussions about what life would be like if we woke from a twenty year nap were a lot of fun, and insightful! Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog” came to life in our imaginations as we read his words – we could just see those little cat paws!
It’s been eye-opening, comparing the works of these different authors and poets. My children are learning about ballads, prose, rhyme and rhythm, metaphors and imagery by reading classic literature. Reading good writing, processing the words and how they are put together, considering the message of the author and how he conveys it gives my children a more well-rounded education.
We’ve used several Memoria Products in the past couple years (such as their Music Appreciation course.) They are all excellent, but I think this is our favorite. We’ll have no trouble following through and finishing this one. And then? Hmmm, maybe another of the Literature courses they offer!
Many of my fellow Crew Mates are using and reviewing products by Memoria Press (Latin, Logic, Phonics and more!) I hope you’ll visit to learn more about the many courses and see what might be a good fit for your family. Just click on the image below: