How King James Can Boost Your Student’s Reading Skills

As your students move toward the high school years, reading skills become increasingly important. Not only does your student need to boost vocabulary in preparation for the SAT or ACT, he or she needs to be able to read and comprehend the kind of literature that is taught in high school and college.

Based upon my own experience in many literature classes and test-taking situations, the single most helpful thing your student can read to build understanding of vocabulary, syntax, and literary context is the King James Bible. I grew up on it, and the rhythm and cadence of King James English permeated my thoughts and literary imagination from very early in life.

This doesn’t mean that I think in thee’s and thou’s, or use words like “verily” or “thence.” It means that when I encounter King James English in a Shakespearean play or Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” it seems both clear and familiar, making it much easier to focus on the story or on literary analysis. It means that when I encounter references to Jonah, a lion’s den, or a “Gadarene rush” in a newspaper editorial, I can easily identify the allusion and understand the point of the argument.

How and when is the best time to introduce your children to the King James Bible? Read more

How Many Classics Should Students Read in a Year?

I got the following question about high school literature from a reader, and after answering it, asked her if I could share it. I think this is something that many people wonder, so this seems a good time to answer it! Both the question and answer have been edited to eliminate personal details.


Q- Do you have any recommendations as to how many books a student should read per year – is there a set amount?  I like them to read for comprehension, not just speed – no point reading 100 books, if you don’t take them in – but I wondered if there is an average?  Is your literature course geared to an age or grade, or just any high school student?

A- …As for how many books to read– it’s a very individual thing, and a lot depends on the books. For example, I could sit down and read several Jane Austen books in a row. She’s light and funny, and her books go quickly for me. On the other hand, Dickens, Cooper, Cervantes, or Hugo are much longer, and in many cases, much slower moving. I probably wouldn’t read more than two of them in a month, but I’d be reading a lot of other lighter stuff at the same time (I always have multiple books going at any one time).

My suggestion would be to have plenty of good literature available, and a designated time every day for reading classics, and then let them go at their own pace, choosing books that appeal to them. As long as time is built into the day, and an array of good books are available, they will be able to explore and learn in a way that allows them to fall in love with some authors, and become distantly acquainted with others.

My Excellence in Literature courses were originally developed as online classes for students from grades 8-12. They’re geared toward getting students ready for college thinking and writing, so many people start at the first level, no matter what age or grade level their student is. I’ve had students take the upper levels, then finish up by going through the first two levels.

Everything is written directly to the student, so that he or she can learn to study independently, but it’s adaptable to a more hands-on approach for parents who want to use it in that way. [The cover design you see in the illustration to the left is not the final cover-- just the beta version. It's still a nice bridge in Paris!]

The first two levels build skills in context-oriented literary analysis and writing, and the American, British, and World literature levels use, and continue to build, those skills while doing a college-style survey course in each type of literature. The literature chosen for each level increases gradually in difficulty, especially in the early semesters of the British and World Literature (the older it is, the more challenging the vocabulary and ideas, in many cases). Many of my students who have followed the honors track have ended up taking CLEP exams at the end, and earning college credits for their knowledge.

[As an addendum, I no longer teach the online classes, but with the curriculum, plus a good writing evaluator if you feel you need one, you can get much the same effect on your own.]



SAT Deadline extended: The late registration deadline for the October SAT has been extended to 11:59 p.m. EDT, Friday, September 19, 2008, for registrations made online or by phone. You can read more about this at

Internet Service Malfunction=Brief Sale Extension: My internet service has gone on and off today (more off than on, actually– I hope I can get this post up before it disappears again!), so I haven’t finished several things on my list, such as updating my web pages to remove the introductory sale price on the Conquer the Test SAT prep workshop. I will get it down as soon as possible, but until I can do so, it’s fair game as I still have a few copies of the original printing left;-).

Hurricane Help: Thinking of the inconvenience of having my internet service down, I am reminded once again of all those who are living through the aftermath of hurricanes. My thoughts and prayers will continue to be with them.

HSLDA Essay Contest for 2008: In this year’s essay contest, homeschooled students must “evaluate the worldly wisdom contained in two international folk proverbs. Students may choose which they want to argue and whether they are for or against.” Entries must be received between October 1 and November 1, 2008. You can get more information at the HSLDA site.

Constitution Day is September 17. Visit for a wealth of interesting information and links. (Thanks to Kathleen, the editor of the HEAV Update!)

The Carnival of Homeschooling should be up later today at the Nerd Family blog. Perhaps they’re having trouble with their internet service too!

High School: A Four-Year Plan for Homeschoolers

I thought you might enjoy seeing my four-year plan for homeschooling through high school. It’s included in Transcripts Made Easy: The Homeschooler’s Guide to High School Paperwork, which is, of course, my favorite resource for keeping high school records;-).

This is an academically-oriented plan, with an emphasis on looking forward and preparing for life after high school. Even if your student isn’t planning to go to college, it can’t hurt to have the basics in place, just in case his or her plans change, as they did in our family.

One of our boys is in an HVAC apprenticeship, and didn’t plan to go to college at all and wasn’t so sure he needed all the academic stuff. However, after he graduated from high school, he started considering entrepreneurship for the future. He ended up earning a Business Management certificate, and is currently studying for his Associate’s degree in Business. Having the academic basics in place made it easy for him to make a quick post-high-school decision to start taking classes, and having a solid transcript ready to go made the whole process easy for me.

Freshman year

• 6 courses, 1 unit of each core subject (English, Mathematics, History, Science, Foreign Language, Arts/Physical Education/Electives)
• Read for pleasure as much as possible.
• Learn Greek and Latin roots for vocabulary.
• Establish solid study habits.
• Practice note taking skills.
• Begin developing test-taking skills (PSAT skill book can be useful).
• Think about personal aptitudes and read up on career options.

Sophomore year

• Same class balance as freshman year.
• Continue or develop extracurricular activities that fit interests.
• Schedule PSAT for the fall of junior year.
• Begin researching college, trade school, or apprenticeship options.
• Request info.
• Use test-prep books to get ready for the SAT or ACT.
• Take CLEPs whenever ready.
• Begin classes at a community college, if desired.

Junior year

• Six classes*
• Take the PSAT in the fall (optional, but there are benefits, such as qualifying for the National Merit Scholarship).
• Focus on time-management & study skills.
• Narrow down college and/or career options.
• Spring: Take SAT/ACT and visit colleges or alternatives.
• May/June: Apply to two or more colleges, tech schools, or apprenticeship programs.

Senior year

• Six classes*
• Scholarship search/essays/applications.
• Take SAT Subject Exams, AP, CLEP exams.
• Retake SAT I or ACT if desired.
• Continue good study habits and extracurricular activities.

*Hands-on learning, college classes, entrepreneurship, or apprenticeship activities can fulfil some of the class requirements, so don’t feel that you have to have six traditional, text-book-based classes. Mix and match as needed!

Good planning and recordkeeping will help you and your student reach your goals (it’s hard to reach what you haven’t set, so goal-setting is a key part of the planning process). Take time to plan, then have monthly meetings with your student to determine whether you’re on track to succeed. If you work as a team, homechooling through high school can be a tremendous blessing!


(If you’re have difficulty getting your life organized enough to feel as though you’re making progress, you may find Cindy Rushton’s Organized Moms Super Set– a complete program for organizing every facet of your life. It includes audio resources, inspirational and instructional books, reproducible planning pages, and much more. It’s comprehensive and encouraging enough to help the most organizationally-challenged mom do more in less time than she ever thought possible. What a blessing!)


Got more month than money? Want to make the most of your money? Want to build a legacy for your children to follow? We have some secrets that just might help.

English 1: Excellence in Literature is Now Available!

As most of you know, I’ve been working non-stop to get the first level of the Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing Through the Classics series out in time for the new school year. Due to the pinched nerve in my neck, I have been behind schedule, but as of about 5 minutes ago, the e-book is now up and for sale! I’m so relieved;-).

The first level of Excellence in Literature now up and available! I’ll be sending out news in the e-zine, and personal notes to everyone who asked to be notified, but for everyone else, here’s the order link!

Click here for the instantly downloadable e-book of Excellence in Literature: English 1!

English I: Introduction to Literature contains nine units focused on the following classic works of literature:

Short Stories by

* Sarah Orne Jewett
* Edgar Allen Poe
* Guy de Maupassant
* O. Henry
* Eudora Welty
* James Thurber

Jules Verne: Around the World in 80 Days

Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

Charlotte Bronte: Jane Eyre

George  B. Shaw: Pygmalion

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island

George Orwell: Animal Farm

William Shakespeare: The Tempest

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver’s Travels

This curriculum is designed to be covered in one full year, and each unit takes four weeks to cover. This level can be used with students in middle school to high school. It will be followed by four more levels, which are scheduled to be available in 2009:

English II: Literature and Composition

English III: American Literature

English IV: British Literature

English V: World Literature

You may read more about it at my website where you can see a sample table of contents and other helpful information. I have also uploaded a sample unit for you to download. You can download it from this link as well: Sample Unit

If you’d like to order the instantly downloadable e-book of Excellence in Literature: English 1, CLICK HERE!

It’s $24.


The Carnival of Homeschooling has a Labor Day theme– the labors we do as homeschoolers! It’s hosted by Carol Topp, at Homeschool CPA.