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Excellence in Literature

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Let me just make this disclaimer right here at the beginning- I’m pretty biased to this program because after finding it this summer, it was already a diamond in our curriculum when this review came around.  But I really wanted to be included in the review team doing this one, because it’s just such an excellent program,and the author of this program is an amazing and talented person to have on your homeschool team.

Janice Campbell homeschooled 4 boys from pre-school through graduation, and even some college. That in itself is quite an amazing thing!!

But what’s even more amazing is her desire to share her talents with the rest of us, through many different resources, a free e-zine (that is absolutely wonderful!), an amazing blog, workshops, speaking at conventions, and even responding very graciously to email questions (ask me how I know that!).

The Everyday Education website in itself is worth a look- but plan to spend some time there. You’ll be amazed!

So what about this star program, Excellence in Literature? Well…

This program is absolutely the rock solid answer to High School English. Every educational institution in the USA should be using this for High School English. This makes me SO VERY THANKFUL that we are homeschoolers and can choose our own curriculum, and SO VERY THANKFUL that God directed our attention to Everyday Education and the Excellence in Literature Program.

This overview from the back cover of the manual sums things up quite nicely:

What’s Special About Excellence in Literature?

* Carefully-chosen great books provide a foundation for cultural literacy

*Self-directed courses encourage responsibility and independent learning

*Guided research helps prepare students for college academic experiences

*Week-by-week lesson plans make it easy to know what to do when

*Honors Option provides motivated students the opportunity to earn advanced placement or college credit

*Evaluation rubric makes grading simple

*Carefully designed end-of-semester evaluation reports provide a detailed snapshot of progress

*Context readings provide in-depth understanding of literature in its historical and artistic context

*Students will be introduced to books they’ll never forget


Excellence in Literature consists of five levels, designed to be used in 8th to 12th grade.

For review, we received the eBook version of Introduction to Literature, English I.

Introduction to Literature:English 1 Print book: $29.00 plus $4.95 s&h  or e-Book $27.00

This course consists of 9 units, with each unit’s schedule divided into 4 weeks. Each unit has a focus text (except for unit 1 which consists of several short stories), as well as an additional text for honor’s credit. In addition to the focus text, there are context readings assigned within each unit covering the author, the time period, historical events, cultural relationships and influences, places, etc, which can be found through supplied links or other resources listed.

By the end of the course, the students will:

  • Understand the process of writing, including the use of tools such as a writer’s handbook, dictionary, and thesaurus.
  • Have specific understanding of selected representative texts by major authors of the periods studied.
  • Have a general understanding of the historical and cultural contexts of the works.
  • Be able to analyze literary texts and present thoughtfully developed ideas in writing.
  • Demonstrate competence in essay organization, style, and mechanics.
  • For a complete list of focus texts click here.

    Another option is to order the complete 5 year curriculum:

    Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing Through the Classics:  The Complete Curriculum English I – IV $139.00 plus shipping for 5 print manuals, or $135.00 e-Book

    I. Introduction to Literature

    II. Literature and Composition

    III. American Literature

    IV. British Literature

    V. World Literature

    Thoughts from Gunn Ranch Academy in our first year of High School

    Upon recommendation by a couple of fellow Crew Mates, I purchased the printed forms of Excellence in Literature English I and English II last summer in preparation for my oldest to begin High School. I can’t tell you the excitement and anticipation I felt when I first clicked over to the Everyday Education website. This curriculum seemed like a dream come true for High School English. The more I read, the more I couldn’t wait to receive our books.

    When they arrived in the mail, I began my overview of the Intro to Lit manual, reading through the objectives for the course and familiarizing myself with the goals and styles of the author, Janice Campbell. I love the way this manual is written directly to the student in an encouraging and college-prep style. The author is very clear and complete in her explanations and organization of the course. She even includes a section on Frequently Asked Questions which further clarifies the format and direction of the course.

    Next she includes a section on How to Read a Book, which discusses how to read actively and analytically. One more section before beginning the units is Discerning Worldview Through Literary Periods, covering the six major movements in English literature with their appropriate time frames. The purpose of this section is to help the student understand how the era the author lived in shaped his worldview.

    As I dug into Unit 1, I found the organization and layout of the manual very easy to understand and follow. Each unit contains an assignment schedule divided out into 4 weeks, and containing clear and specific directions, supplying Internet resource links, page numbers of recommended resource materials, and reference to the Formats and Models section in the back of the book. The Formats and Models section is very complete in supplying models for writing essays, approach papers, literature summaries, and other required exercises within the units. While we have thoroughly enjoyed our Excellence in Writing experience, I am of the opinion that even a novice writer at the high school level could complete this course from the included instruction.

    While the schedule in the manual is extremely easy to follow, I did sit down at the computer and re-type it out to include in my 9th grader’s high school schedule so she could easily check things off, highlight, mark-up, or doodle on as she needs to.

    I couldn’t wait for her to get started. I so wish that I had this course in high school, as literature was NOT my favorite!  (Although many aspects of English were, and still are my favorite!)

    Now let me just say that my 9th grader is a talented and natural writer in my opinion, and a “natural” at literary analysis as a hobby (although she has probably never realized it!) Though she has never had a formal course in literary analysis to this point, her extensive love of reading, and tendency to gravitate toward some pretty classic authors I felt would really spark this course in the right direction.  Her literary interest was also sparked and driven by participating in an online one-month novel writing challenge (NaNoWriMo) and getting to know several literary friends on the online forum there.

    I have been amazed at the literary conversations I have witnessed between her and her younger sister in the past couple of years. I have especially appreciated their analysis of reading a book with watching a movie made from the book. These different aspects of literature including print books, audio books, movies, and media sources I was delighted to see recommended in EiL, as different aspects of learning.

    I turned her loose on her first day of high school, schedule in hand, and told her to please keep me updated on her progress, her feelings and impressions of the program. She seemed quite impressed and pleased with the first section, and discussed much of the instructional and informative beginning parts of the book with me. There are some invaluable college-prep ideas and recommendations discussed!

    I was very pleased with the completion of her first unit essay, and was equally as pleased with her mention of how impressed she was with the Writer’s Inc Handbook mentioned as a reference that we have owned for a few years. 🙂  I had spent quite a bit of time collecting several references mentioned in the Selected Reference section in the rear of the manual from various places, and was happy she felt I had done an adequate job of supplying materials for this study.

    You can easily do this without any of the extra resources, however, and can even find most if not all of the focus texts free online. We have learned through this and a couple of other credible sources, that marking up books definitely helps in the study, reinforcement, and learning process. So I have made sure she has an actual hard-copy of each book she will be using, and a fresh new pack of highlighters.

    We also decided together that she wouldn’t stress over following the honor’s tract. If she has desire, ambition and interest in the honor’s text, then she will add it to her studies. If she’s not enjoying the particular author or the honor text doesn’t grab her interest, then she won’t be required to read it. While I’m all for honor’s tract and accelerated study, I would rather she not be overloaded so that she can really concentrate and learn. One thing I’ve learned through my homeschooling experience is to relax and let the kids digest things at their own pace. I don’t really see the need in overfeeding. I think a high quality meal is worth digesting without being stuffed full. Now for a student who is headed for a college career in literature and English studies, I can see requiring the honors material. But I think this particular course will be much more valuable to her if she is allowed to enjoy it.

    I had to laugh when she began reading the second unit focus text Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne. As she got started she commented that she was having a difficult time staying focused because it was about the most boring thing she’d ever read. LOL. This from the kid who read the entire 1000+ page Lord of the Rings series in less than a week. 🙂

    But I was proud of her for hanging in there with it, and striving to understand and learn from the time period and culture that the author lived in. In the end, she supported her argument and illustrated her points very well in her final essay. (In all of the units, the final essay is clearly laid out as the answer to a specific question or evaluating a certain situation, contrasting and comparing things, etc with very clear points to make.) I have been learning how to properly evaluate her essays and work from the Rubric in the rear of the book, which is very clear and easy to follow, just like the rest of the manual.

    Unit three book, A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, is still waiting on her shelf because November in NaNoWriMo month where participants are challenged to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. She loved it so much last year that she has been planning all year for it. I was tickled pink when Janice’s monthly e-zine featured NaNoWriMo! Once December comes, we will be back on track with EiL and I’m anxious to see how she enjoys Mark Twain, and I am guessing she will want to read the honors text as well.

    One last opinion- my daughter and I discussed using this in eighth grade. We both agreed that most eighth graders we know really might not have gleaned the full learning experience from this (Morgan blatantly stated that she would not have enjoyed or been able to concentrate on this last year). While a parent could very nicely lead an 8th grader through the study, much of the college-preparatory and independent learning aspects of it would probably be lost. For our family of three, this manual will have the greatest impact beginning high school- ninth grade years, as it works so very nicely with a High School schedule and for learning independent study. While there are 5 manuals in the series intended to be used from 8th to 12 grade, I believe after using the first two manuals that the following three could be combined or re-vamped into two years. I’m not sure we’ll be using the final three at all, however, as we have some more intensive Writing programs we wish to include in High School English. We’ll see!

    In closing, I must reiterate that this curriculum should be taught in every High School in the nation. I also would like to mention we purchased the Transcripts Made Easy print book as well, and it is on the top of my list of high school reference resources. I was super happy that of all the high school resources I have, she picked it up and read it cover to cover. I’ve tried to keep her very involved in planning, understanding, and helping out with her high school studies, but this really seemed to spark her interest and bring up some valid points. I love it when they get involved and excited about their own learning!!

    Any questions, comments, ideas or suggestions about Excellence in Literature would be thoroughly entertained and appreciated!

    Check out my Crew Mate’s adventures with EiL over at the Crew Blog!

    Happy Homeschooling High School!


    *I received a free download of Intro to Lit eBook from Everyday Education to review as a Crew Mate on the TOS Homeschool Crew. Opinions here are my own and no other compensation was received.


    One thought on “Excellence in Literature

    1. Pingback: Excellence in Literature by Everyday Education « Armyof5 | IT Cookies

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