Monday, March 12, 2012

Review - Progeny Press Lit Guide - The Screwtape Letters

Progeny Press - The Screwtape Letters

Web Site:
Age:  High School (they have guides for the lower grades as well)
Cost:  Booklet $21.99, CD/Email Attachment $18.99, Booklet and CD $27.99

We’ve been struggling to effective incorporate literature into my son’s first year of high school.  There are several programs out there, and, believe me, I feel like we’ve tried most of them.  Some are too slow, some don’t provide enough guidance, and some are overwhelming.  We've ended up changing direction a couple of times this year, which I prefer not to do.
Right now, however, he is using the study guide from Progeny Press for C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and I’m excited at how things are progressing.
The Screwtape Letters, if you’ve ever read them, are a somewhat humorous look at ‘the other side’.  Screwtape and Wormwood are demons bent on keeping souls from God.  Here’s how the website describes the book:
What if hell were organized as a fiendish bureaucracy with managers and field agents? Meet Screwtape, upper management and uncle to Wormwood. Hell shares no love, but it is full of advice on the weaknesses of humanity, and it is extremely practical. Screwtape, an undersecretary in the Lowerarchy of Hell, has undertaken the guidance and tutelage of his nephew Wormwood, who has been assigned a human patient to secure for eternity. In a series of letters, he guides the young demon through the finer points of temptation, the weaknesses and foibles of human beings, and the disaster of Wormwood's patient becoming a Christian. Though this may certainly complicate things, the two infernal beings won't let it stop them.
I knew the book would catch his attention; it's one that I really enjoyed a few years back.  I wasn’t sure about how a study guide would work for him, though.  As noted above, we’ve tried several.

Well…  The first thing we both loved was the format.  The file we received is an editable PDF file allowing him to type in his answers as he goes along.  No printing, no handwriting – all digital.  What a great benefit!  He emails me the file each day with his completed portion for me to check. 

The guide is broken down into chapter-based sections.  There are eight sections each covering about four chapters.  Each section is broken down as follows:

The vocabulary is challenging.  The guide uses different formats to enhance definition learning – multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, synonym/antonym, word search, etc.

Questions are a basic review of the content of the chapters read.  They ask the student questions to help them reflect back on the plot or theme of the story.

Analysis asks the students to really analyze how literary devices such as parody, allusion, metaphor, etc. are used.  I really like this application as it ensures the student not only understand what is being written, but why the author used the approach he did in writing it. 

Dig Deeper
For The Screwtape Letters, this section asks the student to open up his Bible and compare what he is reading with what the Bible tells him.  This is an especially effective device for this book as it is focused on Christianity. 

My son complains some about having to look up so much scripture; however, his answers reflect insight into his own faith that I find invaluable.
Optional Activities

These activities include opportunities for group discussion, creative representation of what is being read through art, research and essay, as well as many other suggestions.  I think it’s important to have the student really manipulating learning in several different formats and appreciate these activities.  While we may not do one each section (we’re about half way through right now), we have used essay as a way to help strengthen his writing during this process.
To see a sample from the first chapter of the guide - click here.
The end of the guide offers a Final Essays section.  Suggestions are given for writing essays of lengths varying from 2-4 pages to 8-10 pages.  Essay writing is a very important skill for college.  We jump at the chance to write essay whenever we can.  The ability to synthesize information and articulate it well in written form will go a long way to helping with college success!

I do wish there was a test at the end.  While I’m not big on testing, having to retain the information throughout the process in preparation for the final exam would be beneficial.

According to the web site, if you are using these guides for high school, each guide counts as 1/4 of a credit.  So, four guides would make a credit.  I plan to let my son pick one more after we are finished with The Screwtape Letters to finish out his year.
If you are looking for an effective, literature-based approach to early high school English, then I do recommend these guides.  One additional recommendation I have, incorporate a grammar text with the guides as well.

To see what other members of the TOS Crew thought of the guides they received – click here.

*** I received this guide free of charge as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

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