Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Literature Study with Memoria Press {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

I can remember using Memoria Press materials during our first few years of homeschooling. Addison spent part of her second or third grade year learning Latin, using their Prima Latina materials. Over the years since then, we've used (and reviewed) Latina Christiana, Geography, and First Start Reading.

In addition to the supplemental materials we've used before, Memoria Press also offers a full range of curriculum for homeschool families -- either a full packaged curriculum for a specific grade or curriculum options for a single subject. Lauren has been using their package of Third Grade Literature recently.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

The first thing I noticed about Memoria Press Literature is that they've chosen quality books that are known for their appeal to children -- favorites among homeschoolers, so to speak. The third grade selections include Farmer Boy, Charlotte's Web, A Bear Called Paddington, and Mr. Popper's Penguins. Lauren has heard me read all four of the books to her, but hadn't read or studied them herself. Memoria Press also offers study materials and a fifth book, The Moffats, that can be purchased as an addition to the package.

Even though Lauren is a fourth grader, I chose a grade lower for the literature studies because the book selections looked advanced to me. Indeed, when I checked the grade level equivalents for these books, I found that the easiest of the books is Farmer Boy with a grade level equivalent of 4.3. Although initially frustrated that the books were at least one to two grades more advanced than the advertised package grade, I was pleased to see that the Student Study Guides and Teacher Manuals do not have a grade level printed on them. It would not be blatantly obvious if you picked literature materials that are a grade or two lower than the grade your child normally uses.

The key component of the Literature study materials is the Student Study Guide for each novel. The four Student Guides in this package range in length from 25 to 91 pages. Each guide has a two-page spread for each chapter in the book, and they all follow the same general pattern. Lauren typically looks over the Reading Notes and discusses the vocabulary with me before she reads the chapter. At first she would read the chapter and then answer the comprehension questions. Lately she's decided to work on the comprehension questions as she reads. Obviously, we talk about the discussion questions together.

The format of this workbook-based study works really well for us. Lauren is reading Charlotte's Web, and the assignments are a good fit for all of our crazy days lately. When we have out of town appointments, Lauren knows that she has to read one chapter and complete the corresponding pages in the study guide on her way home. (It's over an hour -- plenty of time for her to finish.)

That said, we're struggling a bit with the material. When we're at home, Lauren uses a dictionary to look up the vocabulary words. In the car, we either discuss them or she googles to find a suitable definition. Some of the words are actually quite difficult to explain -- scruples, compunctions, hysterics, gullible, bestirred, and others. I'm often thankful for the answers in the Teacher Guide because they allow me to help her figure out a suitably accurate definition that is concise enough for her to write down.

The comprehension questions can be a bit tricky at times. They aren't always just fact-based questions with answers that can easily found in the text. On one day, Lauren was asked to come up with a possible reason that the geese live in the sheepfold. (I cheated and looked in the Teacher Guide to find the answer for that one.) On another day, Lauren struggled with a question where she was asked to describe Wilbur and give his age.

Many of the discussion questions are also difficult for her to comprehend. Those are a bit easier for me to handle, though, because the point is to discuss the answers and she's not expected to fully answer them on her own. In the case of Charlotte's Web, I am familiar enough with the book to lead her in a discussion. The Teacher Guide also has complete answers to the discussion questions that I can use to aid in our discussions and would be valuable if I wasn't familiar with the book.

In addition to answers to the Student Study Guide pages, the Teacher Guide includes a few pages with general teaching instructions, quizzes to be given after every few chapters, and a final test.

So far, Lauren and I have only worked through the materials for Charlotte's Web. If she continues working through them at a pace of one chapter per day, the study materials including review pages and quizzes/tests will last for approximately 6 weeks. Because the rest of the books in the Third Grade Literature vary in length, the amount of time spent for each one will also vary (from less than 3 weeks for A Bear Called Paddington to approximately 8 weeks for Farmer Boy). When I calculated the length of the materials, it seems like it would take us approximately 24 weeks to complete them. That allows me enough time to add in a few of our own favorite books to round out the school year.

All four of the Guides cover similar topics, including vocabulary and comprehension questions. Each one also includes some extra activities relating to the story such as art projects, written assignments, and topics for additional research. Two of the guides introduce advanced literary concepts such as character, setting, and plot.

The Third Grade Literature package can be purchased for $95 (Teacher Guides and Student Study Guides) or $125 (Teacher Guides, Student Study Guides, and novels). Individual Teacher Guides are $12.95 each and the consumable Student Guides are $11.95 each.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

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