This is a comprehensive high school language arts program that covers literature, grammar, vocabulary, and composition skills, although composition skills focus primarily on essay writing rather than a broader spectrum of writing. You will need the Smarr Publisher's guide for the course. Then each course requires that you obtain a number of books, poems, or other pieces of writing that are to be studied. Smarr Publishers provides specific ISBNs for literature when the student needs a particular edition. Inexpensive Dover versions of books are often listed. For some courses a few shorter works (in the public domain) are connected by web links. The guide for each course is available only as a PDF download.
There are eight courses available. Since each course takes a school year to complete, you will have to select from among the courses. The first four listed below fit a conventional school framework. The last four follow a chronological sequence that often works better in conjunction with worldview and/or classical studies. You should choose one sequence or the other. Methodology is the same for either sequence. Course titles and a list of some of the works studied within each course are:
Introduction to Literature: The Importance of Being Earnest, The Merchant of Venice, Call of the Wild, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Robinson Crusoe. This course also has introductions to the short story and to poetry.
Survey of World Literature: Epic of Gilgamesh, the book of Job, The Odyssey, Antigone, Julius Caesar, Ivanhoe, The Misanthrope, The Law, and studies in poetry.
Survey of American Literature: Scarlet Letter, Walden, Red Badge of Courage, Up from Slavery, Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, and selected works of Jonathan Edwards, Edgar Allan Poe, Longfellow, Emerson, Twain, Edith Wharton, and Robert Frost.
Survey of British Literature: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Idylls of the King, Beowulf, Macbeth, Utopia, Othello, Frankenstein, Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, and works of WWI British poets.
Ancient Period (Creation-AD 476): Epic of Gilgamesh, the book of Job, Midsummer Night's Dream, Iliad, The Odyssey, Antigone, Aristotle's Poetics, Julius Caesar, and introduction to poetry.
Medieval and Early Renaissance Periods (476-1611): Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Idylls of the King, Beowulf, Macbeth, Ivanhoe, The Black Arrow, Utopia, The Prince and the Pauper, Merchant of Venice, and studies in poetry.
Later Renaissance to Romanticism (1611-1850): Mourt's Relation, The Scarlet Letter, Man in the Iron Mask, Pilgrim's Progress, Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, A Tale of Two Cities, Pride and Prejudice, and selected works of Edgar Allan Poe.
Realism and Modern Periods (1850-1960): The Law (Bastiat), The Red Badge of Courage, South Carolina (Simms), Civil War Stories, Up from Slavery, Humorous Stories and Sketches (Twain), Arms and the Man (Shaw), The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (Johnson), The Road Not Taken and Other Poems (Frost), I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition, The Pearl, and Animal Farm.
The downloadable guide is primarily for the student but there is some material for the teacher. The teacher has introductory material that explains how the courses work, a list of required reading material, a course schedule, answer keys, vocabulary quizzes, and the essay writing assignments.
Students have the course schedule, then a unit for each book or work to be studied. Units are broken down into step-by-step lessons for each day so that it is easy for students to complete most of their work independently. Each unit opens with an introduction to the reading. The number of lessons per unit depends upon the length and complexity of the reading.
Each lesson begins with vocabulary words students will need to know to make sense of the reading. A glossary at the end of the unit has brief definitions, which is very helpful since some of the words are archaic. Vocabulary words are followed immediately by a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary exercise.
With the new vocabulary under their belts, students are assigned a portion of the reading. This is followed by comprehension questions. Next are critical thinking questions. These really need discussion, so this is the most challenging part of the course as far as parents are concerned. Parents really need to do the assigned reading to be able to carry on the discussion with their teens. These discussion questions are open-ended so no answers are provided. At the end of each lesson are "bonus thoughts." These are extra bits of information that help students to understand elements of the reading or concepts introduced by the reading. One or more vocabulary quizzes are provided for each unit, and these should be used after the group of lessons they cover.
A number of five-paragraph essays are assigned throughout the course. These are to be edited and revised. In addition, there are five optional impromptu essay assignments for student practice that are not to be revised. Essay assignments are shown in the schedules but are not specified within the student lessons, so the teacher will need to be certain to give out each essay assignment from the teacher material at the appropriate time. Helps for evaluating the essays are provided in the teaching material.
Interspersed between literature units are pages from "A Guide to Critical Writing, Grammar, and Style." Each segment of the guide has a number of lessons. For example, the first segment has four lessons on essay writing. Other segments deal mostly with grammar, usage, and style, although they include some lessons on polishing the assigned essays. The grammar and usage exercises are the sort you find in many grammar texts with a combination of instruction and application exercises.
This combination of the grammar guide with vocabulary instruction, literary studies, and composition covers all the elements of a high school English course, so you will not need other resources for English.
The courses seem very well organized and focused on developing students who can read, think, and write well. These are clearly Christian courses, written from a Protestant viewpoint. Since Robert W. Watson, the original general editor, is philosophically a Southern agrarian and politically a Jeffersonian constitutionalist, one thing to be aware of is that these courses definitely reflect these positions. In the Survey of British Literature that I reviewed at length, I noted quite a few examples. Lesson one for Utopia, raises the question of whether or not the U.S. Constitution authorizes a standing army, followed with a question asking whether or not a standing army represents a threat to citizens. In the same lesson, a bonus thought talks about forms of government, clearly stating that good governments need to be based on scripture; all others are unjust. In the third lesson on Utopia, it says, "Thus, eminent domain, which is a taking of land from an owner for the use of a civil government, is wicked." In a few places, it pushes for an agricultural life-style and self-sufficiency, sometimes idealizing that choice (lesson four, Utopia, bonus thoughts). In a discussion of ideas from Jonathan Swift's writings, it takes on secular humanism and "free thought." Alexander Pope's Essay on Man elicits anti-evolution commentary. Opposition to gun control is yet another position taken in the context of the Oliver Goldsmith's play "She Stoops to Conquer."
I provide these examples to alert parents that the curriculum definitely advances particular religious and political ideas with which they might or might not agree. Even parents with different views might use the courses, providing additional discussion opportunities for some of the controversial ideas.
Those interested in this curriculum but reluctant to purchase a full course might want to try one of Smarr's individual guides for literary studies. Each small guide covers a single work, and is the same as in the various courses.Guides are available at $12.50 each for a PDF download.
In addition, Dori Anne Abbott, general editor of the courses, offers an optional writing evaluation service for $32.50 per paper or $250 a year.