Institute for Excellence in Writing has long been known for its seminars for parents and teachers to learn to teach writing. Recently I was presented with the opportunity to review Teaching the Classics. Would it stand up to the quality that I have come to know and love with products from IEW?
Teaching the Classics consists of a seminar on 4 DVDs and a 97 page workbook. The workbook consists of notes from the lecture, story analysis charts and questions for each work covered, and several appendices. The appendices include an extensive list of Socratic questions which could be asked to facilitate a discussion on a literary work, a classics book list broken down into age ranges, and a glossary of terms. The Teaching the Classics seminar is intended to teach parents and teachers how to teach basic literary analysis to children of all ages. The complete package retails for $89.
For me, literary analysis has been a bit of a stumbling block. I value quality literature for reading purposes, and as I have matured, I have noticed how great works can change a person. Due to my experiences with literature in high school and college, I have not wanted to spend much time doing literary analysis though. Recently, I have begun to ponder on the necessity of analysis and came to the conclusion that it really is necessary if one is to learn from a piece of writing. Since I want my children to think about the works they read and understand how to analyze them, I need to know how to teach it to my children. I don’t want to be like the teachers I had in high school and college so I was really excited to get to review this seminar.
Throughout the seminar, Adam Andrews was engaging and animated. He had me laughing within the first minute. While he is excited to teach about literary analysis, he is a historian by training. As a result, he brought many fascinating historical details into his discussions of some of the works covered. I am happy to say there was no stuffiness or self-importance in this seminar. Andrews teaches the basics of literary analysis and how to teach it through familiar short stories, most which are often read to children because he contends that the skill of analysis is best learned through children’s stories before moving on to the more meaty classics.
I really identified with what was being taught, perhaps because of the educational models which were mentioned in the lectures. He primarily pulled from classical education and leadership education philosophies. I found that he had a good grasp on developmental stages of children and made special notes on ways to teach even the smallest students. Because he believes in inspiring children to love literature, he was very clear that the Socratic list was not a worksheet, nor was the story chart. It was a tool for discussion. I loved this!
After watching this seminar and going through the syllabus, I feel like I have a better grasp on how to approach analysis with my children- one step at a time. I love the list of Socratic questions. They ranged in difficulty from questions to ask my youngest children like, “Who is this story about?” to much more complex questions which require deeper thinking. The only thing I would change is that occasionally I couldn’t hear the students’ answers in the seminar. I really don’t like listening to a lecture where I can’t hear the questions being asked! The only other thing is I wished I had read To Kill a Mockingbird more recently than 7th grade. Several times To Kill a Mockingbird was referenced in the lectures. Time to re-read it and re-watch the seminar!
I would say that Teaching the Classics lived up to the IEW reputation. Like a good class at a homeschool convention, Teaching the Classics has inspired me and given me a few tools to go to work with.
The crew also recently reviewed IEW’s writing programs. Be sure to check out the reviews.