September is back-to-school month, as it has been for me from the age of five–about a half a century of my life! First, when I was in school. Then, when my children were in school. Then, throughout my classroom teaching years with other people’s children.
Now, all those back-to-school-years-of-experience keep me busy compiling a host of my own original literature study curriculums, Bible studies, and drama enrichment materials into print formats as resources for the Christian classroom and homeschool communities.
I remain active as a private homeschool mentor, working with Haley Richardson, our Fable Springs Parables audio book musician and now, a high school freshman. We have many adventures ahead of us this new school year, and you’ll have a chance to sit in on some of our sessions through our blogging of the journey.
On September 1, we enjoyed a lovely teatime and planning meeting to kick off the year. Read about it here. And, as promised at the end of that post, this is a snapshot of what we’ll be doing in the months to come:
A is for AUSTEN
Haley and I love our Jane Austen. So we’re following her lead for the next three months on a reading and writing tour with these two books:
This brand new release will be our study guide. It’s chock full of writing advice culled from Jane’s personal letters and journals, speaking to aspects of her best-practices writing techniques.
Author, Rebecca Smith, is the great-great-great-great-great-grand-niece of Jane, descended from her brother Francis. She has researched Jane’s writing prowess in drafting her settings, character development, themes, and plot details, in addition to her use of language. As a writing teacher, Ms. Smith takes us step-by-step through Jane’s writing disciplines, featuring excerpted examples from her books and writing exercises. We’ll use this entertaining, informative, and instructional book to study one of Jane’s novels this semester, too.
But, which Austen masterpiece should we break down for study?
Sanditon is Jane’s final work–at least eleven chapters of it. She was suffering with what modern doctors believe was Addison’s disease, leaving the work unfinished when she died at the age of forty-two. It is Austen at her best when she felt her worst.
In eleven chapters, Jane drafted the groundwork of setting, characters, theme, and plot. The story was eventually completed by the anonymous “Another Lady.” In fact, there are quite a number of Austen aficiandos who fancied themselves up to the task of seamlessly finishing off Jane’s work in her voice. Most never really hit the mark. But, there is one, written under the penname of “Another Lady” a.k.a. Marie Dobbs, which rises to the top with staying power as an acceptable attempt. I read it with great interest a number of years ago and agree that it is relatively seamless, and remains largely true to the original diecast of the chapter fragments and Jane’s world.
We’ll note where Jane’s writing advice in Ms. Smith’s The Jane Austen’s Writer’s Club book, is followed throughout Sanditon’s story construction. Then, Haley will apply what she learns to craft her own short story, inspired by one of the most fascinating book of mysteries ever!
B is for Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick was a serendipitous thrift store find some years ago. Since its discovery, I have treasured each delicious page of mystery and facination by two time Caldecott winner for children’s illustration, Chris Van Allsburg (most famously of The Polar Express). It opens with a note from Allsburg relating how a series of fourteen illustrations with titles and captions fell into his hands through a publisher friend who had been given them many years earlier by a stranger who came into his office named, Harris Burdick. But, the publisher never saw this mysterious writer and artist again. Burdick never showed up for his next appointment to discuss publication–as though he disappeared into thin air! All that was left of him was his work, which was put in a box and forgotten.
To be sure–the story is so convincing I was disappointed to learn it was not true. Just brilliant fiction full of mystery and wonder to introduce children of all ages to these beautifully rendered pencil drawings of surreal imagery, teasing titles, and curious captions. Each illustration plants the reader smack dab in the center of a story–and leaves you there filled to the brim with a thirst for more.
Haley will choose one of the illustrations as the primary source of inspiration for an original short story that she will write throughout the year, culminating in a finished e-book in June 2017. Using what we learn through our literature study with Jane, we’ll employ challenging editorial tools for the finished product. In addition, our poetry study through the winter will equip her to add poetical elements to her tale when we study portions of the medieval Arthurian hero, Perceval: La quête du Graal (Perceval: The Quest for the Grail) in the musical adaptation of the French classic by Chrétien de Troyes.
C is for Customizing a Literature Study
Because of Haley’s musical background as an eight-time All-Ireland Fiddle Champion and her study of traditional Irish music from the age of five, making music a part of her literary study taps into her strength. La Nef’s early music renditions of the story of a young knight in search of the Holy Grail uses many variations of ancient tunes that Haley will readily recognize as informing the traditional Irish sounds she knows so well. Tying in the storytelling and lyrical rhyming of the words challenges her to create an aspect of her short story that includes the same elements.
I can’t wait to see what she comes up with!
Further customization of her literary studies this year includes another in-depth breakdown of a novel that ties into her Western civilization medieval history course from the fall of Rome through to the dawn of the Renaissance. To that end, we’ll use Principal Approach Literature Study techniques in a curriculum I wrote for the classroom when I was teaching some years ago. It is one of my favorite books to teach and I’m excited to do so once again: Men of Iron, by Howard Pyle.
This will be an excellent literary companion to bring the world of castles, battles, jousts, fair maidens, coming of age challenges, chivalry, kings, and kingdoms to life. It is a fascinating time in history with many facets that are relevant to the condition of our world today. Contemporary times are best understood via an historical timeline.
Unfortuately, today’s educational system does not put the emphasis on teaching history, as much as it does on the inferior subjects of the social sciences.But, that's another literature study post with the potential to incite a riot. Click To Tweet
I never thought I’d see the day when teaching literature and history would have the power to send modern day students running to safe rooms with an adequate trigger warning system in place.
Well, this my friends, is why we homeschool and why I am here to cheer you on and provide the enrichment study and resource materials in literature and drama that I do.
I hope you’ll follow our progress this year and that our teaching and learning experience enriches yours! Comments? Questions?
Reach out to me with your comment below!
Sharing Freshman Literature Study Plan: Mysteries, Music, and Men of Iron this week with: