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Progeny Press - a Review

Progeny Press Review
 It is exciting to see a child's face light up with the pleasure of reading. The delight, the trepidation, the frustration, the hope...they are all on display on the brow of little readers. I love it. 

They begin sharing what they've read, what they've loved and what they've hated, and all fears for their education evaporate. Parents know that once a child loves reading, they can't help but love learning. Once they can narrate back what they have read, you know that they are processing their reading. Sharing with mom about their favorite part of the story in The Littles is the exact skill that yields them high scores on the SAT. 

My youngest is my first child to struggle with this part of reading. She has always enjoyed it, but she has trouble staying focused. History is a favorite subject, but at the end of each history lesson, she was in tears with frustration that she couldn't remember what I had read to her. I needed a gauge to see how well she comprehended when reading independently and something to help her start to notice more details to stories. My older daughter loves reading and was in need of a good challenge. Enter Progeny Press.

Progeny Press offers literary analysis studies for all ages of readers. With Gracie in need of some help in reading comprehension and with Honor in need of more reading challenge than I had previously offered her, this came at a perfect time for us. Gracie is now working on Little House in the Big Woods ($16.99), a book for upper elementary students in grades 3-5. Honor is working on Anne of Green Gables ($18.99), a book for middle school students in 5-8 grade.

This has been their favorite subject this year. Both girls loved reading their books and are enjoying digging into them a little deeper. I've used Progeny Press in the past and have learned the ropes a bit with their older brother. This means reading the book all the way through first and then starting over, reading through it again while working through the guide. My daughters fell in love with the characters and were more than happy to open the books back up at the beginning. 

The guides start with some pre-reading assignments to familiarize them with the setting of the book and the culture of the characters. For Little House in the Big Woods, we sat down and examined a map of the U.S. and then of Wisconsin. For Anne of Green Gables, we looked at Canada and then Honor created her own map of Prince Edward Island. 

Next, the guides are divided into sections that cover multiple chapters of the book. These sections include:
  • Vocabulary (around 5-8)
  • Questions (around 5-8)
  • Dig Deeper (around 3-6 thoughtful assignments)
  • Projects & Activities (around 3-4 options given)
Anne of Green Gables, the guide for middle school students, included an extra section just before the Dig Deeper assignments. This section is called Thinking About the Story. These questions aren't in the elementary books. They ask students to think about their own ideas and beliefs. This is a skill that is not entirely possible or appropriate for elementary students who not yet in the logic stage of learning. For the middle school student, these are well-placed and interesting questions.

Other than the Thinking About the Story section, both books are laid out in similar fashion, with one being a bit more challenging and age-appropriate with questions.  The guides take 8-10 weeks to work through. You'll want to add an extra couple weeks in for pre-reading activities and for reading through the entire book before beginning the guide.

Progeny Press Review
Because Literary Analysis is such a new subject for her, and because she already struggled a bit with reading comprehension, I worried that it would be overwhelming to Gracie. However, she has kept right along with the work and is still enjoying it! 

Everything has been a little bit challenging for her, but not at a frustrating level by any means. In fact, she seems to be thriving on the challenge. I think I've been just too gentle with our learning in the past. The challenge is part of why she likes it. 

The comprehension questions were perfect for her level. She doesn't always remember the answers to questions and has to look them up, but she is able to understand what they're looking for in an answer. These questions include asking for names and descriptions of characters, asking what Pa was bringing back from town, or what do they do in their playhouse? 

The Dig Deeper questions help students read the book with a Biblical lens. Verses are given and applied to the story and to the students' lives. For example, Colossians 3:20 is given to the student to paraphrase (a new task for Gracie, which she handled beautifully!) Next, they are told to list 3 things Laura does to help her parents. Finally, they are told to list 5 ways they can obey and help their parents. 

The Project section is Gracie's favorite. These are hands-on activities that are just perfect for this age group. These include churning butter, carving soap, decorating an apple with cloves, and much more. 
Pardon the blur; she's shaking that cream violently! 
Beautiful, creamy butter. I hear it's delicious.

Progeny Press Review
Honor's book is a bit more challenging than her sister's. She's a bit younger than what the publisher recommends for this book, and I've found that if I don't read the questions with her, she tends to "miss" part of what they're asking. Previously, she has only worked on parroting back answers, in a way that is very appropriate for students in the grammar stage. This is our first transition to logic stage questions and it has been a challenge for her. A very good challenge. Many of the questions ask a basic thing that she can answer, but then they follow up with, "Why?" That's a new concept to her. She has never examined motive before and it has been interesting to watch her work through the thought process. 

Honor also loves the Activities section. These are listed as optional and we didn't do many of them with her older brother. I wasn't planning to push them with Honor, since she was already working hard, but she read ahead and begged to do them. She ran in, excited to tell me that her next assignment was to WRITE A STORY!!!! And then guess what! I get to draw a picture of Anne's bedroom!!!! There are several options given, but she's in love with every one of them. Joel was...not in love with them. It's hilarious to me sometimes how different boys and girls see things. 

The Thinking About the Story section has some very challenging questions. They vary in content. Some introduce techniques such as foreshadowing, personification, and such. Others require some deep introspection, such as "What are some shortcomings of your own that you would like to overcome?" They are asked to compare and contrast things in the story, communicate their opinion of things within the story, identify characters and events that occurred, and more. It's hard, but it's a good hard.

We're not to the end yet, but I looked ahead and this guide ends with an Essay Project. 9 topics are given to choose from. There are also 6 other optional activities to end the unit with. 

What I love
I love that the vocabulary section teaches them to look for context clues and attempt to think of the definition themselves before looking it up in the dictionary. Both girls loved hunting up the words to see if they guessed right. 

I also love that the books are available in different option: printed workbook, CD, or E-Guide. My preference is the ebook so that we can reprint them for more students.

I really love that the answer key doesn't just say, "Answers will vary." They will, frequently, but the answer key provides ideas of what direction the student should have been going with their answers and they don't just leave you hanging as a teacher. Oh, how I wish more books did this!

What I didn't love
The only thing I'd like to see change is lines and more space for writing. The ebooks offer the option to type directly onto the pages, but we need the writing practice right now. 

There are many guides available through Progeny Press. Be sure to check out what the rest of the crew thought of this great company by clicking the banner below.

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