Asked what motivated her to write the book, Luchsinger says, “I wrote the book I wish I’d had when I began teaching my daughter at home. Like the literature classes I’d had in high school, most curriculums assign books and test students on what they’re supposed to be getting out of them, whether that’s understanding how foreshadowing works or what a particular symbol means. The problem is that most people don’t appreciate being made to read certain books or being told how to make sense of them—I know I don’t. Literature programs that impose selections and understanding on teens actually teach them to dislike reading or at least to dislike reading the kinds of books that get assigned in school. In short, such programs do the opposite of what any good literature curriculum should do. ”
Luchsinger’s experiments with curriculum design eventually led her to the program described in the book, which encourages teachers to organize a home library that emphasizes classic literature but also caters to each student’s personal tastes, abilities, and interests as readers and allows students to choose what they want to read, when. Rather than being required to write about or take tests on every book they read, students focus first on gaining experience with literature and learning to appreciate classic works that speak to the timeless concerns of all thoughtful people. At the same time, minimal requirements ensure progress and provide documentation of objective evidence of growth.
An important aspect of the program is individualization, which allows fluent and reluctant readers alike to accumulate meaningful experiences with literature. “As a college writing tutor,” Luchsinger says, “I meet with adults who never learned to read in school, but learned to read and to love reading as adults. These amazing people convince me that reading is for everyone, and it is the responsibility of teachers to make positive experiences with literature accessible to every student.” Correspondingly, the book lists numerous options for facilitating success, even among the most reluctant readers.
The first half of the 148-page book explains the program’s philosophy and differentiates it from typical approaches to doing literature, while the second half provides practical tools for both parents and students, including templates for reading logs and learning contracts, worksheets that teach literary elements and interpretation techniques, guided instruction for written responses to literature such as book summaries and literary analyses, recommendations for appropriate and appealing literature from diverse literary genres, and a list of classic literary works classified by each work’s degree of challenge and relative length.
Dena Luchsinger is a college tutor and a homeschool teacher who is active in her local homeschool community as a tutor, teacher, and workshop facilitator. The parent of three children, one diagnosed with Down syndrome and autism, and another as “twice exceptional,”
The Reader’s Odyssey: An Individualized Literature Program for Homeschooling Middle and High School Students by Dena M. Luchsinger – 148 pages – 8” x 11.5 Softcover ISBN 978-0-9848313-
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Crecer Publications is a small publishing company whose mission includes supporting individuals called to Christian ministry and families dedicated to educating their children at home.