Classic literature can be challenging to study with your kids, which is why I am glad there are study guides available to help. I recently had the chance to have my son use a Progeny Press Guide, and chose to review the Last of the Mohicans Study Guide.
Progeny Press’s goal is to help children understand literature. They are written from a Christian perspective, with an emphasis on Biblical values. The guide I received is designed for children in grades 8-12. My son is just finishing 9th grade, so he is right in the age range. I received an e-guide, which retails for $21.99. They also sell hard copies of the guides.
The guide starts out with some information that will help the student before reading, including the life of the author, the setting of the book and some historical details about the French and Indian War. There are suggested pre-reading activities, like making a map and timeline. Progeny Press suggests that you read the entire book first and then go through the study guide sections, but we found that this book took too long to read to make that a practical approach. So my son read about one chapter a day and then did the appropriate guide sections.
There is a section for every three chapters of the book. Each section contains vocabulary, comprehension questions and then two more involved sets of questions, “Thinking About the Story” and “Digging Deeper.” In general the “Thinking About the Story” section includes literary questions, about things like figurative language or irony, while the “Digging Deeper” sections deals with themes and lots of Biblical references.
The guide is interactive, which is very nice. This means that the student can type answers right in the pdf file, and vocabulary words are crossed out after they are used. My son much prefers this to writing the answers out.
The comprehension questions were thorough, and weren’t just requiring information straight from the book, but required some thinking and interpretation.
The Last of the Mohicans is a difficult book, with lots of tough vocabulary, and the first two sections of the guide were invaluable for working through this. Sometimes I have found we can skip the vocabulary and basic comprehension sections of study guides, but that was not true this time.
The “Thinking About the Story” and “Digging Deeper” sections we did out loud as discussion questions. I thought these questions were well thought out, and especially liked all the literary terms and devices which were discussed.
While I thought the study guide was well done and helpful, neither my son or I enjoyed the Last of the Mohicans book. It was way too wordy and hard to follow, and it moved very slowly, especially in the beginning. My son was interested in the book before we started, because we have visited the area where it is set, but that interested died quickly. After a few chapters he told me he couldn’t read it anymore, so we switched to taking turns reading it out loud, and then switched to an audio book when I got tired of reading it too. If this had not been for a review we would have dropped this book and moved on to a different one.
Last year I reviewed two other Progeny Press Guides, for The Golden Goblet and Things Fall Apart, and those worked much better for us. You can see what other Schoolhouse Review Crew members thought of this guide and many others that they were able to review here.