Thursday, April 18, 2013

TOS Review: Progeny Press

 (Just a little note: I have had computer crash problems lately and I am unable to share with you some of the great pictures I took to go along with this review. You will just have to imagine all of the awesomeness). 

Can you remember reading a great old book that just stuck with you? I love great old books. I think they address the human condition in such an honest and poetic way. I have mentioned before that as a child those great old books were some of my dearest friends. I learned about the ills of society from Oliver Twist, the joy of adventure and taking chances from The Hobbit and the sure heartbreak of revenge from The Count of Monte Cristo. I have enjoyed introducing them to my son.

Recently, I had the chance to review two literature Study Guides by Progeny Press. We got to review the both the Beowulf Study Guide and the Treasure Island Study Guide. What a combination! These weren't just any Literature Study Guides. These were Interactive PDFs. Very handy...I must say.

Progeny Press is a company started by a homeschooling family who desired to create products for their own family's use. They produce quality classic literature guides with a Christian Worldview.

Beowulf Study Guide (10-12)

$21.99 Printed Booklet
$18.99 CD
$18.99 Instant Download (this is what we received)

I am currently teaching a writing course to my nephew, Christopher. He's 15. And to be honest I think the last book he read was when I made him read Hatchet last year. And in case you were wondering....yes, Beowulf is quite a far piece from Hatchet. But, he was familiar with the story and is always up for an adventure story, especially when it involves mayhem and general destruction.

In my download I received a Read Me file containing all the tips and tricks for using an interactive PDF file. In addition to the Interactive Guide there is a Beowulf Answer Key file as well. This was tremendously helpful. I don't know about you, but just because it's been translated into modern English doesn't mean I really understand all the finer points. This was helpful to me as a teacher as well as Christopher as the student.

The study guide begins with a brief note about the study guide author, a synopsis of the story as and lots of introductory material. The suggested time period to use the Study Guide is 8-10 weeks. A few of the additional items recommended to have around are a Bible, a dictionary, thesaurus and Internet access.  It is also recommended that you use Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf. I had another translation downloaded on my Kindle, so I immediately put Mr. Heaney's version on hold at my library. Progeny Press does have this book available to buy on their website.

I really loved all of the background information. I felt it was so important to set the stage. It is never a good idea to study a work of literature in isolation...I think the student needs to have know some history about the era.  This information was so important to have. Christopher and I worked on this as a "group" study. It gave us opportunity to sit and ponder the finer points of Beowulf

It is also suggested that the student reads the book before starting the bulk of the Study Guide. Because we were using this to review (and it's Beowulf for crying out loud!) We wound up reading it in chunks and working through the study guide that way.

Included in the Study Guide is an interesting list of prereading activities. We listened to Beowulf read in the Original English, listened to the symphony "Lament of Beowulf" and discussed other folk heroes in literature.

The study guide itself is broken up by the lines within Beowulf. Vocabulary, story analysis, literary techniques and more are covered. There is a "Dig Deeper" section. These questions challenge the student to take certain aspects of the story and compare them to Bible Truths. This is not a light weight study.

I have to say that I found the analysis to be very thought provoking. Christopher had some insightful answers. I had studied Beowulf in college, but you don't to be familiar with the work at all. The Study Guide does all the work for you.

Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning the type and fill feature of the Study Guide. The student simply types in the answer within the Study Guide document and saves it. This is perfect for students who struggle with handwriting. I think it would also save on ink and space. Now I did print a copy off for myself (old dog/new tricks). It made it easier for me to assist in the discussion.

At the end of the Study Guide there is an Overview Section (you can use for final exams if you wish) and a list of things to do as final projects. We haven't gotten that far yet. And while I am tempted to make Christopher write a character analysis paper on one of the "supporting cast," I have a feeling he is going to cast his vote to either make some chain mail or a replica of the Heorot

As I mentioned that we received the the Treasure Island Study Guide Instant Download as well.

Treasure Island Study Guide (5-8)
$18.99 Printed Booklet
$16.99 CD
$16.99 Instant Download

 This was a book we have read before and Josiah remembered many things about it. Because Josiah is dyslexic we read aloud all of our literature studies. Many times I can also find the book on CD as well at the Library. I did use a digital copy of Treasure Island I got for free on my Kindle, but you can purchase it from Progeny Press. And who can resist pirates!

It, too, started with introductory notes. Information about the author, Robert Louis Stevenson.
The introductory notes also gives a synopsis, author information and before tackling the prereading activities. Josiah studied the variety of currency terms, different kinds of ships and created his own Treasure Map.

The setup for this guide is similar to the one for Beowulf. It is, however, markedly simpler (and rightfully so). Don't despair, it is plenty challenging for the age range. There is vocabulary, some general questions, a "Thinking About the Story" section and finally a challenge to "Dig Deeper."

Josiah is a fairly dramatic kid. All that analysis and drama works for him. I did have to redirect the conversation from time to time.

This is an example from one of the questions from Chapter 10.

....with the voyage underway and the true character of the crew still unknown, how does Stevenson use the sea shanty, "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest" as a type of foreshadowing?

After we established that foreshadowing as nothing to do with the forehead, his answer was this:

It sure doesn't sound good for them! I think I'd stay home.

At the end of the Study Guide are suggestions for Essays that your student can tackle. Obviously, he will need a little assistance from me. There is also a some recommended resources to help you along with your study.

We love using literature in our schooling. I generally don't use already prepared Study Guides, but what Progeny Press was a revelation! I found both to be so helpful and a great time saver for me! There were a few things I did to adapt it to our particular needs, which remains the beauty of homeschooling. I loved that both the Beowulf Study Guide and the Treasure Island Guide challenged my students to really think.

I already have my eye on this Holes Study Guide. We have a copy of Holes we recently found at the Thrift Store just waiting for us to dig into.

You can read more reviews of  these titles and many more.


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