Category Archives: Sharon Watson

Writing With Sharon Watson, Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis – My Review

We have had the opportunity in the past to use curricula from Writing With Sharon Watson, and because “The Artist” really enjoyed it we were very happy to get the chance to review her Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis!

For the purpose of this review, we received the following:

  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis Student Text/Workbook
  • Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis Teacher’s Guide
  • Bound copy of Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis Quiz and Answer Manual


We also received access to the Quizzes to be done online, which then would grade them for us, allow the student to print out the completed quiz  and scoring, and would also then email the same to the email address used to log in and take the quizzes. In this case, I had “The Artist” use my email, so I would receive copies after he had done them.

We were also able to download as a pdf the free Novel Notebook, an 86 page optional addition. I did not tell “The Artist” that it was optional, because I really wanted him to use it. As it happens, I just asked “The Artist” what he thought of the Novel Notebook, and he says “It’s pretty good!” FYI, sometimes old age and trickery works! 🙂

Here is what I like best, as a parent/homeschooling teacher about products from Writing With Sharon Watson: I have found them all to be very good “open and go” products. I didn’t need to do any prep, other than providing the books called for. Basically, I handed it to “The Artist” and let him “have at it.”

Required readings are:

  • A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, in the textbook
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Dover Publications
  • Silas Marner by George Eliot, Dover Publications
  • Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, Dover Publications
    • An Assortment of Short Stories:
    • “A White Heron” by Sarah Orne Jewett, in the textbook
    • “The Garden of Forking Paths” by Jorge Luis Borges, link provided
    • “Haircut” by Ring Lardner, link provided
    • “The Lady, or the Tiger?” by Frank Stockton, in the textbook
    • “Of the Passing of the First-Born” by W. E. B. Du Bois, in the textbook
    • “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” by Dylan Thomas, link provided
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Dover Publications
  • Biography or autobiography of student’s choice
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, Mariner Books

Within the text, Sharon Watson recommends specific editions, because when the Student Text asks questions, the student is often directed to a specific page or pages of the novel.

There are suggested activities for each reading. Below, you will see a pencil drawing that “The Artist” did after reading the short story “A Jury of Her Peers.”


I was pleased with the amount of details he put into this drawing! Although, funny thing, when I pointed out that the kitchen sink setup seemed awfully modern, he said, and I quote “That’s the only kind of sink I know about!” 🙂

“The Artist” is now solidly into “Frankenstein”, which is the novel required for the second reading. He’s enjoying it very much, and looking forward to some of the other novels as well, especially “The Hobbit!”

This course is written for grades 9 – 12, and will qualify your student for one credit over two semesters. As with the other curricula we have used which was written by Sharon Watson, this is definitely written from a Christian worldview.

By the time he finishes this curriculum, “The Artist” will have been taught almost 100 literary terms and devices when they occur naturally in the reading selections. My hope is that as intended by Sharon Watson, my own student will gain a real appreciation for fine literature, and retain the knowledge of the many tools used by authors when they write.

This is the second volume in a series. However, students may take this and the first volume Illuminating Literature: When Worlds Collide in any order. This is another thing I quite like about Sharon Watson’s curricula.

All in all, we are so pleased to have the opportunity once again, of working with one of Sharon Watson’s products, and highly recommend this, and any other of her works.

To Read 39 honest and fair reviews from my fellow Review Crew Members, please click on the banner below:
Illuminating Literature: Characters in Crisis {Writing with Sharon Watson Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

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Filed under Sharon Watson

Writers in Residence: a T. O. S. Review

For several weeks now, we have been checking out another resource from Apologia Educational Ministries. This product is called Writers in Residence, and it is a very good, full language arts program, designed to be used over one year.

I must tell you, first and foremost, how overwhelmed I was when I opened the box! Even after reading about this program, I truly did not expect such a BIG Student Text and Workbook! It is an all-in-one book, and this program, Volume 1 Apprentice was written by Debra Bell. And when I say it is big, I am NOT kidding, because it comes in at 575 pages!

There is also a thinner (thank goodness!) answer key for the parent or teacher.

At first, when I saw that the first 30 or so pages were just for me to read, in order to learn how the Student Text and Workbook is to be used, I got a little panicky. I REALLY like for things to be kind of “open and go”, much like the “plug and play” games my kids used to have for the TV. However, once past those 30 pages, depending upon your student, it did end up to be sort of a “let him go to it on his own” sort of thing. There are suggested daily schedules in which he can check off his own boxes as he goes, for example.

Throughout the Student Text and Workbook, there are spotlights on Christian writers. These are very complete interviews with a variety of authors. I had never heard of any of them until now, but have become interested in looking for and reading their works.

This review did hit home with me in that we have never done “formal” grammar lessons, however, to be honest, it does not change my feeling that the way we have taught them, by example and with verbal correction has worked for our family.

I do think that this is a very good writing curriculum however. “The Artist” really enjoys writing stories, and so he was definitely interested in this review. He is always (like every day, in fact!) asking if he can go on the computer to write on one of his stories. He generally has more than one going at a time, sort of like me when it comes to reading books, lol!

I do like that you are encouraged not to force perfection on your child, but rather to reward their effort instead of marking it “wrong.” In my opinion, this helps the child to keep going, and wanting to succeed. I believe though, that we will take more than one year on this one; simply so that one, we can be thorough, and two, we can work at “The Artist’s” own pace.


To read what other crew reviewers think about Writers in Residence from Apologia Educational Ministries, please go here.

As always, I would just love it if you would join me on all of my “Journeys Through Life”. Just go to the top of the blog and enter your email information in the subscription box, and you will be notifies whenever there is a new post. Hope to see you here! 🙂

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Filed under Apologia, Sharon Watson, writing fiction

Writing Fiction (In High School) by Sharon Watson . . . TOS Review

I have had the opportunity to review the Writing Fiction (In High School) curriculum from Writing With Sharon Watson over the past few weeks with “The Artist”.


Because “The Artist” really likes to write stories, I thought Writing Fiction in High School would be a good fit for him, and when I told him I had the possibility of receiving it as a review product, he said he wanted me to go for it.

Of course, this all changed once the curriculum arrived, and “The Artist” actually had to begin DOING the work involved . . . lol! He started back tracking and trying to get out of it, saying he only liked to write for enjoyment, not as an assignment. Once his dad and I reminded him though, that had he not told me he WANTED me to ask for this curriculum to review, I would not have done so, he settled down and got going with it.

We have gotten almost through chapter 3 in the Writing Fiction (In High School). To complete this chapter, we needed to wait until we received the DVD “The Princess Bride” from amazon, as it is used in learning about motifs and patterns of three in writing fairy tales.

I think that “The Artist” is MAYBE beginning to see that he is learning ways to improve his writing, although we still have issues over the fact that both the curriculum (and I) have repeatedly said he must have his work typed and double spaced, with his name and the page number at the top. After having to go back and re-do things a couple of times though, I think maybe he’s getting the message. 🙂

The curriculum is laid out in fairly short lessons, with both the student and instructor being easily able to see where they end, because there are lttle boxes throughout the book with the words “End of today’s lesson” written in them.

The first three chapters (with lesson titles), which we have (almost!) completed at this time, are as follows:

1 Facts About Fiction
The Power of Fiction
A Teeny-Tiny Grammar Lesson
About This Course
Good Writers Are Good Readers
Character Verses Person
Where Do Ideas Come From
I Have an Idea, Now What?
Make Believe and Truths
Hook Your Reader
2 Point Of View
The Nitty-Gritty of Point of View, Part 1 (1st and 2nd Person)
The Nitty-Gritty of Point of View, Part 2 (3rd Person)
Decisions, Decisions
A Common Point-of-View Mistake
A Word About Filters
For the Reader
For the Writer
Proofreading Marks
Optional Writing for POV
3 Fairy Tales
Another Tale, Another Prince Charming (Motifs)
The Power of Three

Some of the books, short stories and other media which are needed in the different chapters:

The 1987 movie “The Princess Bride”
“The Last Book in the Universe” by Rodman Philbrick
The book of Jonah, from the Holy Bible
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Conner (the first few paragraphs, and a website is given where it can be read)
The “Iron Man” movie (2008)
“The Tell Tale Heart” bny Edgar Allen Poe (a website is given where it can be read)
The Disney/Pixar movie “WALL*E
The movie “The Island”(with Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson, rated PG-13)
The movie “Cast Away” (with Tom Hanks, rated PG-13)
The Disney/Pixar movie “Up” and/or “Tangled”
The “Pat the Dog Scene” from the 1983 movie “The Fugitive” starring Harrison Ford
The two “ladder” mirror scenes in the pilot for USA Networks’s TV series “Monk” (Mr. Monk and the Candidate)
The two “carrying” mirror scenes in the 1995 movie version of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” written by Emma Thompson

The Writing Fiction in High School is a two semester course for English credit, and there are no prerequisites needed. It is written to the student, and can be self-taught with guidance, or used within a co-op or private school.

From the website:

“Students will learn how to …

•Write engaging dialogue
•Build scenes
•Ramp up the conflict
•Create empathetic protagonists
•Select a point of view
•Describe settings and characters
•Hook their readers
•Critique themselves and other writers
•Get published
•And much, much more!”

Beginning with chapter four, the student will be using a novel, “The Last Book in the Universe” by Rodman Philbrick, which you will need to purchase separately. It is to be completely read by the time the student reaches chapter four, as tasks will begin to be assigned based on the novel. It’s actually a pretty good book, written below the student’s expected reading level, because the idea is that he or she will not have to struggle with the reading in order to dissect the writing.

As I said earlier, “The Artist” took a look at the curriculum and tried to change his mind about doing it, especially when it came to his first creative writing assignment, which was to write a story. It was to have only 26 sentences, one for each letter of the alphabet. He was told to “hook” the reader early. “The Artist” was not happy, and thought it was dumb. He also didn’t think his story was very good, but once each person he showed it to said they really liked it, he felt a lot better about what he was doing, and became more willing to do this, agreeing that he might learn things to improve his writing after all. 🙂 He has given me permission to share his A-B-C story with you, so it is copied and pasted below:

“The Artist”
Page 1

An Inter-Dimensional Portal Opener was a hassle to build.

But the love of science flowed through my veins like water over a waterfall, and nothing could dampen that love.

Curiosity always kept me working through the night and through mealtimes.

Daniel is my name and I was working on an invention that would change the world.

Elisabeth, my sister, was always bugging me and never gave me any peace.

“Fun is never in your schedule!” She would always tell me, “You’ll be building that thing in your grave!”

“Go kiss a frog.” I would tell her back, “and maybe he’ll turn you into a beautiful princess that’s unlike you.”

Happiness filled me as I put the last part in place and yelled, “IT’S DONE!!!”

I turned the machine on and looked on as I saw a window to another world like my own open, “SUCCESS!!!” I yell as I take a step closer to the portal and

suddenly look on in horror.

Jolts of energy flew out from the machine and began to pull my whole lab into it.

“Kangaroo feet.” I said as I’m pulled into the portal as well.

Light shines into my eyes as I wake up and look around a while after I hit the ground.

Much of my lab equipment was scattered around on the ground and some of it was broken into lots of little pieces.

“Nuts.” I say as I get off the ground, “Stuck on an uncharted dimension and I don’t have a way back home!”

“The Artist”
Page 2

Orange trees were on my left.

Peach trees were behind me.

Quails were running around and pecking at the grass.

Running over to the nearest orange tree; I plucked one of the fresh fruits from its branches and eat it.

Sunlight was dimming and I needed to build shelter fast.

Two hours later I had built a tree house and was sleeping soundly.

Until…I heard a rustling in the trees nearby, I looked out the window to see what it was.

Vultures wearing violet vests and playing the violin.

Wonder why they were wearing vests and playing the violin?

Xavier, my friend, would most likely say, “No idea.”

Years later I returned to my own dimension when I was near one-hundred and two, only to see…

Zebras eating my mom’s front lawn!


Now, *I* think he did a pretty good job, especially since this was one of his first assignments, and he really didn’t agonize over it, spending a huge amount of time writing! 🙂

The textbook, “Writing Fiction [In High School] is available here for $25.05, and contains “practical lessons, approximately 100 interesting assignments, and hundreds of age appropriate fiction examples from classics to recent novels”.

The student book is non-consumable, so it can be used again with subsequent children as they reach the grade level and ability for this curriculum.

The teacher’s guide is quite useful, and if you’re going to use this curriculum I do recommend that you also purchase the guide, available for $9.95.

From the website:

Writing Fiction [in High School]: Teacher’s Guide

•Crammed with teaching ideas and discussion starters
•Contains answer key for questions and assignments such as identifying the hero’s journey phases in the Disney movie Tangled
•Equips you to be as involved as you care to be

Really, for the combined cost of $35.00, plus the cost of the paperback novel “The Last Book in the Universe, by Rodman Philbrick”, which I purchased for $6.99 (minus my educator discount) at Barnes and Noble, I believe you’re getting a very good deal on a two semester credit course for English, if you need to keep those kind of records in your home-school.

I plan to continue using this with “The Artist”, and perhaps catch up to where he is, and do it along with him, as I enjoy writing, too.

Other crew members reviewed either this or Writing Non Fiction in high school. To see what their opinions are, please click below.



Filed under home education, homeschool products, homeschooling, Schoolhouse Review Crew Post, Sharon Watson, writing fiction