Review of Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide by Sharon Watson

My daughter is now entering her junior year of high school, and, while she is an advanced reader enjoying an honors classical literature program, we hadn't covered all of the components of writing and writing mechanics.  I know that this is important, both for testing for the ACT and PSAT, and for life in general. I was excited to be offered the chance to review the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide series by Writing with Sharon Watson.

What's included? The course set offers the following for sale, and we used all of them in our daily work:
Writing with Sharon Watson Review
We got started right away, having my daughter read through the "Start here" section of the Student Book. Right away, my daughter commented on how easy to read and friendly the format was.  She liked that Ms. Watson seemed to be speaking directly to her, in a casual tone, yet it was very instructional from the very first page.

We received two of the books required for this series, as well. (You are required to use this course with several "literature" paperbacks, which are all available on the site, as well, for a modest price.) Since we follow a classical curriculum in our home, we had several of the required titles, but the first one (Pudd'nhead Wilson, by Mark Twain) was new to us.

My daughter proceeded to read according to the schedule provided in the book. As an organized person who craves structure, my daughter immediately loved that she didn't have to come to me for the reading assignments; she has been doing mostly independent study for the past 2 years (both online and offline) and this fed into her need to be the guardian of her schedule and her week.  As such, she tackled this subject first just about every day she did school.

What is she learning? I'm delighted by all the literature terms and devices she is learning. I have to admit, that even as a professional writer and a book lover, many of them were new to me!  The course, which counts as 2 semesters or one credit in English or Language Arts, covers the following (and much more):

  • Text and Context 
  • Pseudonym (nom de plume)
  • Foreshadowing 
  • Conflict types 
  • Protagonist and Antagonist 
  • Hyperbole 
  • Telling detail
  • Loose (cumulative) sentences 
These are just a few of the ideas discussed, and all of them are introduced in a non-threatening way that should be well received by the student -- even if they have never studied a formal language arts course in high school.

As a parent who trusts her student to get her work done each day and does very little formal instruction, I found that I didn't use the Teacher's Guide much. It was nice to have for reviewing what my daughter will be learning that week, and I could reference it if she had any questions, but the student guide is so well written that I didn't see much of my daughter during the time she was studying. I did, however, really enjoy seeing her answers in her Student Book and found the free PDF Novel Notebook to be an effective way to get her to write and express more willingly than she has in the past.  The optional quiz and answer manual is a good way to gauge where you student is at with overall comprehension of the elements of this course and the books, as well.

We have reviewed many literature courses over the years, and we have found them to fall into two camps: purely mechanics or a "book club" that has kids read and review what they comprehended from classic titles. I appreciate that this course combines the best of both teaching styles to get my daughter truly excited about the ins and outs of good writing for the first time in her homeschool career. I myself will be going through the course out of a desire to learn to be a better writer, as well. (Note: even those without any desire to write as an adult will love how this series teaches you to read and enjoy books and even movies!)

Sharon Watson sends out email newsletters regularly, discussing what new products and events are coming up. She offers writing helps and answers questions, as well.  I had been signed up for her newsletter for quite some time before being asked to review this course. If you are curious to how she interacts with students and parents via her courses, the newsletter is a good place to start -- and it's free! (You can sign up on the right-hand side of the home page.) You can also find free samples of all of the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide course materials at the website.

Writing with Sharon Watson Review

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