All my children enjoy reading, and one of the challenges I have homeschooling them is how to cover topics like literary analysis, because they;d rather just read the book! It can be difficult to find something that teaches them to read analytically without destroying their interest in the story. To me it makes sense to pick a few books a year to cover in detail, and let them just read for pleasure the rest of the time. So I was happy to get the chance to review some literature guides from Progeny Press, which are designed just for that purpose.
Progeny Press has over 100 literature guides, designed for all ages. I was able to review the Golden Goblet Study Guide, and the Things Fall Apart Study Guide with my children. I received the downloadable interactive PDF version of both products, which allows the student to type the answer right in the document. My kids loved the interactive PDFs, and much preferred to type their answers into the document rather than write the answers down on paper. And since both of them have lousy handwriting I liked it better for checking their answers too! I loaded the interactive PDFs onto flash drives, so my kids could carry it around with them and work on them on any computer, wherever we happened to be. This was very convenient, especially for my son, because we do a lot of our schooling on the go. The downloads also included answer keys, which was a big timesaver for me.
Here are our thoughts on the individual guides.
The Golden Goblet
The Golden Goblet study guide is designed for grades 7-9, and I used it with my 13 year old son. The Golden Goblet is a classic story set in ancient Egypt about a young apprentice gold smith. The guide is well organized, and starts out with some pre-reading activities and background on the story and Egypt at the time the story was set. Then it is broken down by chapters, with a section every 3-4 chapters. Each section of the guide starts out with vocabulary, comprehension questions, analysis questions and then a section for digging deeper into the meaning of the story.
I thought the questions and analysis were well thought out and comprehensive. There was quite a bit of work on imagery in the writing, especially symbolism and metaphors. The story is quite exciting, with lots of intrigue and danger, so I am sure if my son had just read it for fun he would have enjoyed it, but missed a lot of the richness in the writing. The literary analysis topics covered included theme, foreshadowing, characterization and they were all covered at a level appropriate for middle school.
The end of the study guide includes a suggestions of 14 different activities to do at the end of the book, which cover everything from art to creative writing or a research report. All in all I thought this is a very comprehensive guide, and makes a great addition to my son’s literature studies this year.
Things Fall Apart
The Things Fall Apart Study Guide is designed for grades 10-12, and I used it with my 16 year old daughter. The book Things Fall Apart is an African novel set in Nigeria among the Igbo people in the late 1800s. This novel was challenging for my daughter, because of the different culture of the people. The study guide included background information on the area, people, times and religions, which was very helpful in her understanding of the book. The guide is broken into parts by chapters, and each contained vocabulary, comprehension questions, analysis and then a section on digging deeper.
Because of the unfamiliar setting and culture I don’t think my daughter would get nearly as much out of this book without the study guide. There are some places in the book where she is baffled by the decisions the characters make, and the guide is useful for helping her make sense of what she is reading. The analysis questions cover all the expected literary areas, like foreshadowing, characterization and imagery. The digging deeper questions are focused on the conflict between the cultures and religion, and are very helpful for understanding the story. At the end of the guide are 20 suggested essay topics, so there is more than enough to choose from.
Overall I think the Study Guide is essential for this book, and I am sure I would not have been able to get my daughter through it without one. This has also made me realize she needs to broaden her reading some and read more books from other cultures!
I am enjoying using the Study Guides from Progeny Press. The company suggests using each for 8-10 weeks for each guide, although we are going through them a little faster. This seems like a useful way to approach literature, and I think it will be especially helpful for more demanding books. It is nice to be able to pick and choose the books to cover, so I can pick what is best for each child.
All of the Progeny Press guides are written from a Christian perspective, and the “Digging Deeper” sections especially contain material relating the books to the Bible. So if you are looking for purely secular guides these aren’t the choice for you. I thought they did an excellent job of covering literary analysis in the right amount of detail for grade level, and will make a good addition to our studies.
The Study Guides don’t include the actual novel being read, so you have to purchase that separately or get them out of the library.
Schoolhouse Crew members reviewed quite a few Study Guides from Progeny Press, so click to read more reviews about some of the other Guides.