We have used Apologia Science texts throughout my son's high school years, and we love them. I appreciate knowing that there is a publisher out there that is as concerned with presenting the materials from a biblical christian worldview. Just this year I've started using some of their literature curriculum with my youngest (Readers in Residence and Writers in Residence) that have blessed our studies in so many ways.
I have come to really appreciate sources that give me background on the author and time period that help draw out the author's vision for their work and not merely my own reaction to the piece. That's exactly what Apologia has done for high schoolers with their latest American Literature curriculum. It is well-written, thought-provoking, and masterfully curated. I'm excited to have a guide that will help my daughter explore American literature from a biblical worldview.
This post is sponsored by Apologia. I received the American Literature curriculum for free and was compensated for my time in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy for more details.
American Literature by Whit Jones, PhD
Brian College professor Whit Jones brings his twenty-four years of teaching experience and ties it together with his experience from homeschooling his own children to bring fellow homeschool families a fantastic resource for learning American literature at home. Supplying a year's worth of study, the American Literature curriculum consists of a textbook and a student notebook. Most of the works that are studied are woven into the textbook. There are a few titles that are not included, but they are easy to find at a local library (or already on your bookshelf)!
The text is divided into 18 sections, with tests following each chapter, a first-semester exam after chapter 9, and a second-semester exam after chapter 18. There is an extensive Answer Key, along with the Daily Lesson Plan outline, available for free on the Apologia Book Extras site. You will find the login information for this special site inside your American Literature textbook.
Students who utilize Apologia's American Literature course would satisfy both a composition and an American literature credit. Therefore, the student would earn two high school course credits.
History and Philosophy Intertwined with American Literature
The textbook is organized by the time period surrounding the work written. Each "age" is introduced with a generous explanation of the happenings in America at the time and how those events were inspired or influenced by the world around them. You really can't appreciate American literature with all of its depth if you don't look beneath the surface at the philosophies of the day that shaped the writers. It really brings both history and literature to life.
The formatting of the textbook is superb. Filled with full-color paintings and photographs, students are drawn into the works studied. Art is a great window into understanding the philosophy of the time. All of the vibrant pieces included really enhance the immersion into the time period.
Thought Provoking Questions
In the workbook, students are guided through thought-provoking questions about the pieces they read. Following the Socratic method, Whit Jones does a masterful job of starting with basic observation questions before guiding his students to draw out the depths of understanding from difficult writing. Let's face it. American literature is not for the faint of heart!
I always want my kids to give evidence for the answers that they produce, and this workbook requires the same. By requiring direct quotes, students are prepared to give a defense for their answers and not just write down the first thing that comes to mind. This is a fantastic way to cultivate critical thinking skills.
Thorough Writing Instruction
While there is thorough writing instruction included in this material, you won't be writing a paper following every piece you read. There are two major papers over the course of a year, with around twenty pages of clear instructions on how to write a literary interpretation paper successfully. Coming from a college English professor, this section alone is worth its weight in gold!
Some of the writing skills that are cultivated include:
- developing a thesis
- utilizing topic sentences to support your thesis
- including specific supporting examples
- analyzing your supporting examples
- working through the format of a literary analysis paper
- revising your work
- smoothing out the transitions between ideas
- editing for clarity and accuracy
- trimming the unnecessary
Each skill introduced is followed with several examples to help the student see clearly what is expected of them in the writing process.
Exploring American Literature from a Biblical Worldview
My favorite aspect of this American literature curriculum is that it is written from a biblical Christian worldview. Many of the works presented wrestle with the moral issues of the day. Not all of the authors are even Christian, but that doesn't mean that it can't help us grow in our own faith.
In the introduction, Dr. Jones clearly states that his work is distinctly and explicitly written from a Christian perspective. His purpose is to seek and highlight both the truth and the beauty that stems from God's character in each work presented and studied. Additionally, he carefully leads students to appreciate the value of evil in literature to strengthen the light of truth and beauty.
His goal is to nurture our humanness by contemplating the artists whose words thoughtfully reflect the Master Artist-Creator. Being made in His image, we can also thoughtfully reflect on how the Source of all truth has given us the ability to be sensitive to his truth and beauty—and delight in it.
Dr. Jones believes that literature can uniquely connect the heart and mind in such a way that can deepen understanding and enrich the emotional value of truth, making tangible what began as intangible. This is such a profoundly important aspect of education, as it imitates how Jesus introduced man to God—he was God incarnate, making tangible what began as intangible.
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Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.