Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
Great literature enhances understanding and can broaden views of life. Progeny Press sees this and has created a large line of literature study guides for all ages to help guide students into deeper understanding of ideas found in many great books. We were given study guides for the older end of the spectrum this time, though we have explored some of the younger guides in the past. This review will cover the Little Women Study Guide for High School, Grades 8-12 and the Animal Farm Study Guide for High School, Grades 9-12.
When you purchase a study guide from Progeny Press, you can choose either an ebook format or a CD for most titles. If you choose the ebook format, you get a link with which to download the guide. The purchase is for the guide only and you will need to obtain the book yourself. Progeny Press does have most of the titles available for purchase on their site. Downloading the guide is very easy and once it is downloaded you can decide how to use it. Both of the guides we received could be used in print or in interactive PDF format.
Miss L used the Little Women Study Guide. I chose this one for her since she enjoys this book so much. She chose to have the guide printed and to write her answers. It worked well for her this way. I printed the guide in sections and these includes about 5 chapters in each section. Starting out with a short biography of Louisa May Alcott and background information gets the student started in the right directions. There are several choices for pre-reading activities, including looking into Pilgrim’s Progress which plays an important role in the story. There are also some while-you-read activities that can help a student stay focused on the story while reading. These include things like keeping an on-going word list or keeping track of other books mentioned.
For each group of chapters, there are several common sections. These include vocabulary, questions, thinking about the story, dig deeper, and optional activities. The style of questions or activities for each set of chapters varies and the optional activities vary, as well, though there always seems to be a baking choice.
The vocabulary is a strong part of this particular guide because the words used in Little Women are strong and rich. As with all questions, some of them are stronger than others. Between the questions section and the thinking about the story, the questions move deeper into the application and evaluation end of the question taxonomy, asking more thought from the student. Dig Deeper involves evaluation and use of understanding to consider how ideas from the story impact us. It often includes verses and ideas from the Bible to really drive home the concepts and allow the student to see application in their own lives.
The Progeny Press website has a huge list of the specifics that the student will cover by completing the Little Women Study Guide. It lists the literary techniques discussed, the moral lessons and character values explored, and writing assignments and activities included. Please visit their site to see these specifics.
Miss L is literal minded (as you can see above), very advanced in her thinking, and wants very clear wording in questions. These guides are a challenge for her because what she sees the questions asking is often not what they are going for. Her extreme out-of-the-box thinking makes them frustrating for her to use. However, I see it as a good challenge for her to stretch her thinking and to try to see even more sides of the story, so to speak. For her, I would not use these exclusively but I see some good coming out of using one a year or so.
Miss E utilized the Animal Farm Study Guide for the past few weeks. She chose to utilize the ebook version of the guide instead of printing it. This has been a smooth process for her. Each day, she just opens the PDF on her computer and enters the answers for the activities and questions directly into the PDF. She then saves it before closing each time so that her work is retained.
The Animal Farm guide is a bit different from the Little Women guide, though the purpose is the same – take a look at the story and glean deeper understanding of life from it. It also begins with a synopsis of the story and a biography of the author. It also includes some background information on different governing systems and economic systems, since this book is an allegory of these. The prereading activities for this book are quite large projects, including doing research on Russia, Stalin, and socialism. There also is a list of books and movies that are recommended reading/viewing to get a handle on the ideas that will be explored. Miss E did a short bit of research and reading on Joseph Stalin, including his politics, government, and the state of the people during his time. We discussed what she found rather than having her write or type it up.
From there each set of chapters includes vocabulary work, a look a different characters or events and what they represent, general questions, analysis questions, dig deeper questions, and optional projects and activities.
The vocabulary work varies from section to sections but includes words that are not every-day words for us. The student might define something, choose the right word for a given definition, write a sentence with the word, have a multiple choice section, or work with synonyms and antonyms. The questions sections covers knowledge level questions such as why or where. They help focus in on the story. The analysis questions really delve into what the author of Animal Farm was driving at, what he wanted his readers to get and understand. These are designed to challenge the student to understand the story.
The Dig Deeper questions really look at people, their beliefs and how they act. The Bible is brought into the discussion here and the student is challenged to really consider what goes on and what it might mean beyond the simple view. Optional projects and activities vary from section to section and might include writing a comparison paper, researching a topic or idea, or leading a class discussion. These are designed to really push the student. Due to the other projects that Miss E was working on during using this study guide, she did not tackle any of the optional activities.
The Progeny Press site includes a list of the specific literary techniques, moral lessons, character values, activities, and writing assignments that are covered in Animal Farm. Visit their site to read these lists.
I really like the depth to which these high school level study guides push the students. Animal Farm is definitely much more of a challenge than Little Women. While I would not want to personally use these one right after the other of these study guides to create a year’s worth of literature study, I do like the idea of using one a year to take a different look at literature.
If you like looking at books with this analytical approach, these would be a great fit for your family. They will certainly challenge the high school student to consider things on a deeper level and, if the optional activies are utilized, I can see this building a really strong literature study for the year using 4-6 of these.
Be sure to read more about other families’ experiences with Progeny Press study guides, from early elementary through high school by visiting the Homeschool Review Crew. You can also read about our other uses of these guides for the following books:
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain
The Sword In The Tree
Sarah, Plain and Tall
The Courage of Sarah Noble
Little House in the Big Woods
Lori, At Home.