Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Progeny Press: The Silver Chair (Homeschool Review Crew)

When people ask me about my favorite literature study guides, Progeny Press is one that always is at the top of my list.  Our latest review from them is The Silver Chair E-Guide, and it continues to challenge Jude's comfort zone.

The Silver Chair guide accompanies the same-titled book from C.S. Lewis' Narnia series.  (Note: the book is sold separately, though you can purchase it directly from Progeny Press.) I admit a bit of trepidation jumping into the stories of Narnia rather literally in the middle.  Many will argue whether you should read them in the publisher's order or in the order Lewis ultimately intended, but either way, The Silver Chair jumps in in the middle of either listing.

Table credit: Wikipedia

Each of the Progeny Press guides begins with a "before you read" section, and while there are several other activities suggested, this guide suggests reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader before reading The Silver Chair. (One of the characters in this story visits Narnia for the first time in that volume.) I don't think this is strictly necessary because the book can be read as an independent, self-contained novel, but if I was making longer-term plans, I might consider reading that first.  Guides for most of the Narnia stories are available from Progeny Press, so you could create a literature study of the series and slide this one in in its "proper" place.

This guide is recommended for students in grades five to eight.  Newly minted fifth-grader Jude was the reviewer for this guide.   The Silver Chair has a Lexile score of 840L, which is just about where he's comfortable with me reading and him listening.  (Read more about how I use Lexile levels to determine if a book is going to work for us.)  I think fifth grade is a difficult year; elementary books seem too simple, yet they're not quite ready to make that leap to "middle school" thinking.  When a lesson seems truly on-grade-level, I prefer to work with him and model what I expect of him, providing a little scaffolding and a little cheerleading.  I have him do less challenging books independently, so he gets the "I can do this!" confidence to try harder books on his own.  He did well with understanding the book, especially when it was read with great animation.  Since this book is at the lower end of his true capabilities, I'm not surprised, but the study guide was harder for him than I expected.  We hit a speedbump on the very first page.

I had estimated that it would take him about fifteen minutes to work on the "Context Clues" vocabulary.  Nope.  It was closer to an hour, and at least two teary tantrums.  We're now down to about forty-five minutes, but they are painful.  I'm being "mean" and forcing him to honestly try before getting out his dictionary.  Most of the time he gets them close.  I'm not sure he's ever heard the word moor but blindly guessed it was a "yard" since it was outside.  Other words, like alighted, ultimately needed the dictionary.  Jude gets points for knowing -ed was an ending and the root word was "alight," but he got stuck on light = something you turn on to see.  He has a surprisingly extensive vocabulary (he knew malicious was a synonym for spiteful), so I'm surprised that these were so difficult for him to complete.  On the other hand, he's not used to this format.  He's used to getting a list of words and being told, "Look these up." Learning to read context clues is really important for the early middle school years, and I know he is capable, so I am pushing the issue.

The questions aren't incredibly difficult, provided you've paid attention to the book.  My complaint here is that they are grouped two chapters together.  It's not a huge problem, and a scan ahead shows me where there is a stopping point between chapters.  However, again, if you have a child that thrives on routine, habit, and things not changing unless it's his idea, then this might be a tough sell. When he's done, he is totally chuffed at his accomplishment.   We've negotiated a compromise of reading and doing the workbook only every other day.

I realize this review makes me sound like I didn't like the program, but that's not true at all.  I think that maybe it just was ambitious for Jude right now.  I think we will finish this one, if only because I don't want him to think that I'll let him give up just because something is hard, but I may hold off on introducing more of this level until closer to next summer, when he's approaching sixth grade and more mature.  There are plenty of Upper Elementary choices that will likely provide a less-overwhelming challenge. I'm also considering going back and starting the Narnia series from the beginning, and alternating working with him and letting him try on his own.  If we repeated The Silver Chair in a year or two, I'd be curious to see if his answers were different.

Click the banner below to read other Progeny Press reviews from Crew members; we've also been reading The Bears on Hemlock MountainCharlotte's Web, and Macbeth.  You can also read my prior reviews for the guides Sam the Minuteman and Follow the Drinking Gourd.   

Sam the Minuteman   Follow the Drinking Gourd

Study Guides for Literature {Progeny Press Reviews}

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