Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Excellence in Literature Review for TOS

I was so excited to receive Excellence in Literature:  Reading and Writing through the Classics by Janice Campbell!  My oldest son is a seventh grader this year and we received Introduction to Literature, the first year (8th grade) of the five year Excellence in Literature High School English Literature course.  I was super impressed upon looking over Janice Campbell's Introduction to Literature, but I was fearful that it would be WAY over my seventh grader's head.  In the end, it has caused me to second guess our approach to writing.  I don't think I've been requiring nearly enough of my kids, because my 12 year old son rose to the occasion and wrote a fantastic approach paper to the first short story in unit 1. 

Excellence in Literature is designed to prepare your High School, or almost High School student, for the independent study required in college.  EIL is full of links to author biographies and cultural and historical background information on each of the focus texts and your student is encouraged to use these as a starting point for their own research.  EIL emphasizes reading a work within its context and prepares your student to become competent at researching the information needed to truly understand a work.  Introductory chapters include How to Read a Book and Discerning Worldview through Literary Periods.  Honestly, one of the reasons we've been talking about sending our kids to high school is because I don't feel competent to teach literary analysis and writing.  Science and math, no problem.  Teaching writing scares me to death.  This course completely eliminates that fear.  It is so much beyond what I learned in high school and I went on to make A's in a private liberal arts university. 

I was tempted at first to skip unit 1,which uses 6 short stories as focus texts, and move on to a book I knew he'd really love like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (I've read it multiple times), but the writing assignments get progressively more difficult and really build upon one another.  The first unit uses short stories to teach students to recognize and compare and contrast the five literary elements in fiction:  Plot, Theme, Characterization, Setting, and Style.  Each unit takes 4 weeks to complete assuming 1-2 hours of work per day.  There is a great deal of flexibility in how you divide your time between reading, research, and writing, much like in a college level course.  There is no micromanagement of read x number of pages and write x number of paragraphs per day.  This takes getting used to for those of us tied to a strict schedule, but it's an important transition for our older students.

Around the World in Eighty Days, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, Jane Eyre, Pygmalion, Treasure Island, Animal Farm, The Tempest, and Gulliver's Travels serve as the focus texts for units 2 through 9.  The Honors track requires reading an additional work and more writing for each unit.  Incredibly, your 8th grader will be able to write a 650 word analytical essay by the end of this course!  That seems impossible to me, but I didn't think my son could write an approach paper just a few days ago and with the preparation Introduction to Literature gave him including the wonderful forms and models section, he cranked it out no problem.

I am so impressed with Excellence in Literature on every level.  It is academic and rigorous, yet it contains, or directs you to, all the tools your child needs to learn to write (and the rubrics you need to learn to evaluate their writing).  Excellence in Literature also emphasizes morality and good character within the classics, which your child will NOT receive in either public school or a liberal arts college!  Our son readily picked up on the character trait of loyality, which we have been studying for several weeks as a family, within "A White Heron".  It was really neat seeing him develop loyalty within a context other than our biblical and nature studies.

Each of the Excellence in Literature courses, including English I: Introduction to Literature which I reviewed, is available for puchase either in book format for $29 plus $4.95 shipping or instant e-book download for $27.   You can purchase Introduction to Literature here.  If your child is a 9th-12th grader and already an experienced writer, you may be interested in English II:  Literature and Composition, English III:  American Literature, English IV:  British Literature, or English V:  World Literature.  I recommend starting with English I:  Introduction to Literature, even for an older child, however, since it really can make a writer out of a student who has no previous writing experience.  I watched it happen and couldn't believe it!   


Please check out other TOS Homeschool Crew reviews of Excellence in Literature here.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of English I:  Introduction to Literature by Janice Campbell in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed in this review are my own.


  1. I have had the same thoughts about teaching high school literature vs. math/science! We were very impressed with Ex. in Lit, too!

  2. Thank you for this review. I am so done with Omnibus and cannot take 4 more years of it. I will check this out for next year.

  3. I too often wonder if I'm not setting the bar high enough! I'm so glad for the TOS Crew - I love seeing my 13 yr old son empress and surprise my socks off. Great program - great review!

  4. I bought the ebook today and plan to start w/Ben in Jan. Thanks for your review! I think this is going to be a great fit and an answer to prayer. I know serving on the Crew requires a lot of hard work and dedication. I appreciate your thorough reviews! :)
    Btw, I nominated you in HSBA. You haven't misled us at all but are honest about your imperfections and demonstrate God's grace at work. That is what makes your blog super! (That and all the cute pictures.) Congrats!!



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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.