Illuminating Literature: A High School Course {Crew Review}

One of my favorite passions is reading books. I also love exploring the depths of literature and finding little nuggets that reveal more about humanity or myself or society. Great literature is full of themes and statements. Sometimes the themes are more obvious and the author wants us to see the theme. Sometimes they are more ambiguous and we have to dig a little deeper. Sometimes a novel will stir things up inside and we don’t know why. A fabulous literature instructor will be able to guide you and show you how to identify the rich layers of a novel.  I am not a fabulous literature instructor but fortunately, I have been using Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide from Writing with Sharon Watson and Sharon Watson? Well, she has put together this amazing and easy to use program for a full year high school homeschool literature program which gives me the tools to become a fabulous literature instructor.
Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide

Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide Description

In this high school homeschool curriculum students will read and study eight novels that explore the theme of colliding worlds.  Ms. Watson states, in the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Teacher's Guide, that each of the novels “was selected for its colliding worlds, its literary value, and for its potential to help students make moral, ethical, spiritual, and life choices from a godly perspective.” (pg. 1)
The curriculum is divided into nine sections or chapters with the first one serving as an introduction to the program and to literary analysis. The first chapter is numbered Zero and labeled Start Here.  This section has three lessons.
Each novel has is its own chapter.  Each chapter is divided lessons. There are lessons to be completed before reading the book and lessons to be completed after reading the book.
Each novel study includes these elements:
  • Before You Read ~ these lessons give the context for the book including background information on the author and time period
  • Suggested Reading and Homework Plan ~ Generally a 4 week plan that includes a week of before you read activities, two weeks of reading the book, and a week of after you read activities
  • Imitate! ~ These are paragraph writing assignments. Through these assignments, which imitate well written passages, the student learns to improve her own writing.
  • Writer’s Devices and/or Literary Terms ~ I love that each chapter focuses a few devices and terms and uses that chapter’s novel to teach those terms!
  • Novel Notebook suggestions ~ Things to look for while reading. One example: while reading War of the Worlds the student is asked to look for three things that show Mr. Well’s evolutionary thinking and write them in her Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide:Novel Notebook (Free PDF Download).
  • Stuff You Might Want to Know ~ This is a guide that may include vocabulary or dialect to help a student understand the novel as in Pudd’nhead Wilson or it may include a chapter by chapter list of things to notice while reading such as the shift to Wendy’s perspective in Chapter 8 of Peter Pan.
  • Choice of Activities ~ Most of the novels include a list of activities at the end of the chapter. These activities vary from research projects to art projects to watching a movie version and writing a review. There are no additional activities for Peter Pan.  I love Ms. Watson’s sense of humor.  In the student book on page 141 she says “Before you finish today’s work, look at Your Choice of Activities at the end of this [Peter Pan] chapter. No, wait! There are no activities this month! Rejoice!”  Students are only required to complete one activity per chapter. Except of course for Peter Pan.
  • Discussion Questions ~ Some of these questions get students talking about the novel. Some questions are related to the Novel Notebook. Each book or novel though as one controversial or thought provoking question inspired by the novel but provides the opportunity to explore those moral, ethical, and spiritual choices.
  • Quizzes ~ Each book has a “Yes, I read it!” and a “Literary Term” quiz. There is also an opinion survey for each book.
  • and more! Really there is more! You can download the first two chapters!

The Novels

Sharon Watson generously included the first two books used in When Worlds Collide in her review package. (Thank you, Ms. Watson!) There are 8 books that are necessary to complete this program. Ms. Watson lists in both the Student and Teacher Guides the approved versions of the eight books. “It is highly recommended that your students use the suggested version of each book.” (Teacher Guide pg. 1) The page numbers and quotes are from the approved list and students using these versions will have an easier time keeping up with class discussions and following along in the program. On page two of the Teacher Guide she does also state that a student who is can use the search function can use an eBook version. Having the approved version for Pudd’nhead Wilson did make things easier for my daughter and I. We will be purchasing recommended versions of the other 6 books. These books can be purchased from amazon as a bundle through the Writing with Sharon Watson website.
Tailorbear read the book in half of the alloted time! She gave Pudd'nhead Wilson 4 out of 5 stars! Read Tess's Review of When Worlds Collide Literature Curriculum for High School.

Using the program:

The When Worlds Collide Set includes 4 separate components. The Novel Notebook is a FREE PDF download but it is not necessary to print it out. The questions and suggestions are included in the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide (Student Book). If a student is not using the Novel Notebook pages, she’ll need a spiral notebook or three ring binder to create her own novel notebook. We opted to print out the Novel Notebook and store it in a three ring binder. Tailorbear said it made it easier to use if it was already printed out.
As the teacher I made use of both the Teacher Guide and the student book. The Student Book is written directly to the student and contains all the information the student needs. I found it helpful to read the student lessons. I have not read any of these novels and though I have read other Twain novels, I did not have any of the context that Ms. Watson provides. If I were leading this course in a classroom or co-op setting I would want a student book just for myself as a reference tool. Speaking of the Student Book, each student does need their own book as these are work texts and the student will be writing in them.
My Teacher Guide is getting quite the workout! In addition to detailing how I can use this program in a co-op and providing a suggested monthly schedule, the TG provides grading guidelines and a grading guide. Of course the TG is also an answer key but it is more than that. Ms. Watson provides questions that *you* as the teacher can use in a group setting such as a secret Facebook group set up just for your students and their parents.
What I have found most valuable with the TG are the discussion questions. Many of the discussion questions answers are “answers will vary” but Ms. Watson doesn’t always just leave it at that. She often includes some statement that the teacher can use to further the discussion or to guide a student or gives a bible verse to use as a reference.
I gave Tailorbear the option of completing the quizzes online or using the Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide: Quiz and Answer Manual. The Quiz and Answer Manual can be photocopied for use in your own family but if you are using When Worlds Collide in a Co-op students should use the online option. This manual includes all the “Yes, I read it” and “Literary Terms” quizzes as well as the Opinion Surveys. It isn’t necessary to purchase them if you want to just use the online option but I like being able to read the questions and having the option to administer a physical quiz.
One of my fellow crew members did set up a secret Facebook group for us based on the suggestions in the TG. Tailorbear and I are both part of that group so she has access to discussion threads. Tailorbear followed the the schedule of taking about 4 weeks to complete Pudd’nhead Wilson. When she finished reading the book the first thing she said was “Mom, did you finish it?”  She was as eager as I was to talk about the book. She took the online quizzes and then we did our discussion time.
Tailorbear works on her Novel Notebook, thinking about the book she is reading for When Worlds Collide literature program.

Tailorbear’s Reactions

Tailorbear said that she has always wanted to read H.G. Wells and Dickens but she said “I know that I would give up and not read them. I’m glad that we are doing a study because it is forcing me to read these books.”  I asked her if she liked Pudd’nhead Wilson and she said that it wasn’t a book that she just would have picked up any old day but that she did enjoy it and she was glad she read it.  She rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

My Thoughts:

Many many years ago when I was a just a 9th grade student, I had a fabulous literature teacher. Ms. Bradovitch continues to influence me even now as I strive to pass on to my daughters the love of exploring literature and reading powerful literary classics. I am looking forward to using Sharon Watson’s program to introduce A Tale of Two Cities to my daughters just as Ms. Bradovitch introduced Charles Dickens to me. If you are looking for a Christian perspective to tackling literature that is not necessarily written by a Christian or from a Christian point of view, then you’ll want to consider Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide for your homeschool curriculum.

The Details:

  • The Vender:  Writing with Sharon Watson
  • The Product: Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide
  • The Author: Sharon Watson
  • Format: Physical Student Book, Physical Teacher Guide, Physical Quiz and Answer Manual, Online Quizzes, PDF Download Novel Notebook.
  • Age Range: High School  
  • Also Available: Sharon Watson also overs high school level writing programs. I recommend Writing Fiction for High School for your high school students interested in writing a novel. 
Writing with Sharon Watson: Illuminating Literature  Review
  This Graphic contains the FTC Regulations statement for Reviews.

All information is correct and accurate as of the date of this review.
You can read my other Schoolhouse Review Crew Reviews to find more great products.


  1. Hi, Tess! Thank you for your thoughtful review of Illuminating Literature! I'm so glad you included the chapter features such as the Before You Read section, the Suggested Reading and Homework Plan, and the section on imitating great writing. You've given people the inside scoop!

    I love the pictures of your daughter going through the course. She looks so relaxed.

    Again, thanks, and have a wonderful school year


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Blog Celebration Giveaway!


My Love Affair with the Homeschool Review Crew!