The Reader's Odyssey: An Individualized Literature Program for Homeschooling Middle and High School Students

by Dena Luchsinger
(Wasilla, Alaska)

This book is not so much a curriculum but a manual that shows parents how to individualize a literature program for secondary students.

Following Maria Montessori and John Dewey, the program advocates allowing students as much freedom to choose literature as possible. Teachers are advised to organize appealing but edifying options for students and to minimize course requirements, which students can then opt to exceed if they wish to receive a B or A for the course.

I have followed this program for several years. This year, I required my 7th grader to read 3 classic and 3 modern classic literary works from at least 5 different genres each semester. Choosing from our home library, she selected books that have ranged from re-reading Tolkien's trilogy to sampling Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Anne Frank, Jack Schaefer, L.M.M. Montgomery, and Mark Twain--among a smattering of more contemporary titles. She rated all of the books between 3 and 5 stars (out of five).

When my oldest was her age, I was assigning her books to read and papers to write about them, and she read more slowly, wrote poorly, and disliked nearly everything I made her do. When I switched to this program and offered her more freedom her 8th grade year, she read faster and got more out of her reading, even though she chose primarily titles from authors like Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charlotte Bronte, and Homer. She went from a D in Language Arts (her last semester in public middle school) to a perfect score on the reading section of the SAT at age 15.

The book includes several suggestions for facilitating success with reluctant and slow readers as well as lists of classic literary works categorized by genre, years in print, and difficulty.

My Comments: That sounds like a great book. I'll have to check it out.

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