One thing that the Homeschool Review Crew is amazing at is introducing me to products and companies I’d never heard of. Such was the case four years ago with Progeny Press. Every year that I’ve been on the Crew (this is my 4th), Progeny Press has offered literature study guides to members of the Crew. And every year, I’ve been blessed to review one. This year, Munchkin has the Charlotte’s Web E-Guide to work through.
Charlotte’s Web has a special place in our hearts because it was the first novel Munchkin ever read when he was just 6 years old. I thought it would be a fun one for him to study deeper even though he’s read it before and is very familiar with the story. It’s neat to take books you know and love and look at them through a more critical lens, and that’s just what I’d hoped Munchkin would accomplish through his review of this study guide.
Progeny Press offers study guides for literature of all genres and age ranges from lower elementary (roughly grades K-3, including novels such as Frog and Toad Together) clear up to high school with selections like The Hunger Games. The study guides are available as instant downloads or you can purchase a physical CD-ROM. The guides are interactive PDFs, meaning that you don’t even have to print it out if you don’t want to – the student can type their answers right into the PDF reader. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it that way, though. Printing is allowed by the copyright, so long as it’s all for students in the same family. For our use, I received a downloadable study guide, which I’ve saved to my computer (and backup drive) for use with future kids, and I printed one copy for Munchkin. To save on paper – and make it feel more “legit” – I printed front and back, then punched holes in the pages and added them to his school binder.
Once we had the study guide all situated, I bought the Kindle version of Charlotte’s Web for him to read. We already have two copies of the paper novel, but they’re packed up in storage (read: difficult to access and/or find) and I didn’t want to deal with possible late fines through the library. At just $4.99, buying the e-book was the right answer for us.
I love Progeny Press Study guides for a lot of reasons. I love how they start with prereading activities to do before you even crack open the book. In the case of Charlotte’s Web, they suggest studying spiders and having the child(ren) do a short report on them; taking children to a working farm to learn about the animals; and starting a vocabulary journal so that they can learn and start using all the “fancy” and “complicated” words that Charlotte uses. In addition to the prereading activities, the study guides always include a synopsis of the book and short biographies of the author and illustrator (when applicable).
Then you dive into the actual studying. Each chapter chunk has comprehension questions, which are superb. They help your child make sure he read the book and understood what he was reading. Comprehension is where a lot of literature guides end, but not Progeny Press. In addition to the comprehension questions are a variety of different activities for making sure students understand the vocabulary of the selection. These activities include multiple choice for figuring out the definition of potentially problematic words, having students come up with their own definition of the words based on context, thinking of synonyms for vocabulary words, and more.
Once your student has finished the vocabulary and comprehension sections for the selected chapters, Progeny Press really shines and stands out from other literature programs. There are “thinking about the story” questions, which go beyond comprehension and push students to think about the way things are in the book rather than just about what happened. For example, one of the questions in the Charlotte’s Web guide is “Why do farmers raise pigs?” This is the kind of question that relates to the story indirectly, forcing students to really think for themselves rather than just flip through the book to fill in a blank. (In case you’re wondering, my almost-11-year-old responded to this question with “To make bacon.”)
And then there my very favorite part of Progeny Press guides: the biblical “digging deeper” section. In these questions, the author of the study guide gives scripture references that relate to a part of the story and asks questions to draw the two together. For example, “Do you believe that human lives and animal lives are equal in value? Read Genesis 1:26, Genesis 9:3, 8-11, and Psalm 8. What do these passages say about the place of humans and animals in God’s creation?” This is the type of question you don’t get with most other literature guides, and it’s what makes Progeny Press one of my absolute favorite curricula for studying literature.
Munchkin, an avid reader anyway, has absolutely loved having the opportunity to reread something “easy” that happens to be one of his favorite books anyway. I love that he’s getting some new perspective on this favorite classic. He’s not too far into it yet (he worked lightly over the past several weeks, and has picked up a lot more steam now that we’re doing school each day in earnest), but he will absolutely be finishing this one. It’s a keeper!
In case you’re interested, we’ve reviewed for Progeny Press in the past. Click the following links for my past reviews: Little House in the Big Woods, Tuck Everlasting, and Give Me Liberty. For more of this year’s Homeschool Review Crew reviews of Progeny Press, click the banner below. Selected titles include The Bears on Hemlock Mountain, Charlotte’s Web, The Silver Chair, and MacBeth.