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Progeny Press - A Review

 photo 26018_10150154187290243_4120345_n_zpsd9393f12.jpgTeaching methods are varied and different styles ebb and flow in popularity. Most homeschooling methods tend to agree that good literature is integral to a quality education. My family began with a classical education as described in The Well-Trained Mind. Every year, I've embraced a little bit more of a Charlotte Mason education philosophy, but the two methods aren't really at odds with one another after students enter the logic stage. Both methods encourage narrating literature back to mom after it has been read. Discussion about literature helps flesh out themes and build reading comprehension skills. This is more fun,and much more helpful than filling out a worksheet at the end of each chapter. However, I can only help my students analyze literature at the level that I am able to analyze literature. Much as I love reading, I am not confident in my literary analysis skills. Because of this, I really appreciate guides to accompany our reading assignments. Progeny Press has created the best guides I have seen.
The creators of Progeny Press are Christian homeschooling parents who created these guides with their own children in mind as they began to study classic literature. The guides "concentrate on critical thinking, comprehension, literary analysis, and Christian application. I reviewed two of their guides last year, and my high opinion hasn't diminished in the least.

This year, we added the Treasure Island Study Guide to our lineup. My 13 year old occasionally found last year's guide to be tiring. He didn't like going back to look over paragraphs he had already read. But he did see the benefit in it and has embraced this year's guide more enthusiastically. 
 photo a64739513876c78eaae8f5_m_zpsc345c325.jpgWe received the Treasure Island Study Guide as a downloadable PDF. This is an interactive study guide that allows students to type directly onto the worksheets. This is a great option for students who think they're allergic to writing. It also saves on the cost of printing. The guide can also be sent to an e-reader, such as a Kindle. You can't type in it this way, but it is a great method if you plan to work through the guide verbally with your student.

It is intended for grades 7-10 and I found this to be a fair assessment. Certainly, older and younger students could also enjoy it. It is written toward the student, but parents could use the guide to facilitate narrations and discussions instead. Done this way, and with an audio book or reading aloud, the entire family could benefit.  

The guide covers around 3 chapters at a time, rather than chapter-by-chapter. This allowed my 8th grader to get into the book a bit more without approaching it with a clinical eye. However, Joel loved the story so much, that he kept forgetting to stop at the end of his assigned chapter. He didn't want to put the book down. The guide suggests reading the entire book before beginning the study and then working through it again with the guide. Now I understand why.

The guide is divided into 6 sections to cover the 34 chapters of the book. It takes around 8-12 weeks to complete the entire guide. Each section includes:

  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension Questions
  • Thinking Questions
  • Digging Deeper

The Vocabulary portion covers vocabulary words from each chapter. There around a dozen vocabulary words for each section. The activities vary from lesson to lesson, but include fill-in-the-blank, matching, multiple choice, etc.

The Comprehension and Thinking section contains questions to help students and parents realize how much the students gathered from the book. It also prompts them to think a bit more about what they read, examining motives of characters and possible outcomes. There are about a half-dozen Comprehension questions. These are standard questions, such as, "Why does Tom refuse to join Silver?" and "Why does Jim sneak away?" The Thinking questions take it a bit deeper. There are about a half dozen of these per section. These require students to consider what they've read and draw conclusions. These questions include, "What is ironic about Hands' outlook on "good," considering his past and present circumstances? Explain how this is also dramatic irony." Another question is "In your opinion, was Israel Hands' death a form of poetic justice? Why or why not?" A beautiful aspect that I truly appreciate is that irony and poetic justice are explained to students before these questions are asked. It is not just a book of questions and quizzes.  

The Digging Deeper section views selections from the book through the lens of scripture and helps students glean some practical application lessons. For example: "Jim's first view of the island is one of dread and discouragement, and the fear becomes stronger when he sees Silver murder a man. Read Deuteronomy 31:6; Lamentations 3:21-24; and Romans 8:35-39. In what way do these verses teach us to handle fear and discouragement?" There are 1-3 Digging Deep questions per section.

The guide begins with 8 pre-reading activities, which contain interesting things to research before reading the book. Some are quite helpful, such as researching the value of coins used during the time of the story. Some were less helpful, such as choosing a design of ship to draw. This did require investigating the ships on the list, which was helpful to the story, but drawing isn't something everyone wants to make time for outside of art class. We opted to look up the ships online and skip the drawing. 

The guide ends with an Overview section. It teaches students about themes and dramatic structure and asks 8 excellent questions. This section also provides several options for essay assignments. There are also suggestions for other resources students might find interesting. 

Overall, I love the guide. I can't think of anything I would change. I plan to continue using one guide per year to help strengthen my student's ability to really appreciate what he is reading. If desired, students can complete 4 of the guides to earn a full high school credit. 

There are 107 guides available for all ages and readers. The downloadable ebooks also comes with an answer guide for parents. The prices vary, but our Treasure Island Guide sells for $16.99 for an instant download or CD, which can be used again and again for multiple students. It costs $18.99 for a printed copy. 


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