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Essentials in Literature (Review)

A few weeks ago I wrote about Essentials in Writing. This week I want to share one of Essentials in Writing's newest product: Essentials in Literature a literary analysis program!

As with the writing the literature program uses DVDs too!!! It's like having a literature teacher at our house!
Essentials in Literature a Homeschooling6 Review
Essentials in Literature Level 8 is the first to be available. I believe there eventually will be levels for grades 4-12. I'm looking forward to using them with my children.

The Level 8 literature program includes a Student Textbook, 3 DVDs, Teacher Handbook, and the novel Night by Elie Wiesel.

What is covered in Essentials in Literature: There are four units that Mr. Stephens will cover:
Unit 1: Fiction
  • Fiction unit terms and explanation
  • 6 short stories (application)
  • 1 summative assessment
Unit 2: Nonfiction (short literary works)
  • Nonfiction unit terms and explanation
  • 5 nonfiction works (application)
  • 1 summative assessment
Unit 3: Novel
  • 1 Novel (literary analysis application)
  • 1 summative assessment
  • 1 major writing activity
Unit 4: Figurative Language/Poetry
  • Figurative language/poetry unit terms and explanation
  • 5 units of up to 8 literary works (application)
  • 1 summative assessment
The summative assessment assess your child's knowledge of literary terms as well as your child's ability to analyze literary elements withing the literary work. Each of the four units have a summative assessment. Estimated time to complete the summative assessment is between 60-80 minutes.
Essentials in Literature
The units with the exception of the Novel unit are pretty much set up the same making it easy and familiar for both mom and child as they work through each literary work and unit.

Each literary work your child will:
  • Day 1: Before You Read - Meet the Author 
  • Day 2: Before You Read - Analyzing Literature and are introduced to vocabulary
  • Day 3: Before You Read - Access the Backdrop and Making Life Connections (this can be conflicts or integrity or weaknesses and so forth)
  • Day 3 continued: Reading Focus - for example in The Ransom of Read Chief the reading focus is, identifying sequence. In A Mother in Mannville it is, making inferences.
  • Day 4: Analyzing Literary Elements, Check Comprehension, and Connection Reflection
  • Day 5: Analyzing Figurative Language, Extended Activities, and Writing Connection
  • Day 6: Independent Practice (it's basically an end of a literary work assessment which includes a writing assignment)
The daily workbook lessons will take between 20-40 minutes (Independent Practice is estimated to take 40 minutes all the other days it's closer to 20-35 minutes)

What I love about Essentials in Literature is every day the program tells your student exactly what to do making it super easy to follow. If the child is to watch the video lesson first or to read the text before watching the video there is an icon.

Essentials in Literature takes all the guess work out. You should never hear, "Mom! I don't know what to do!" when using Essentials in Literature (or Writing!).
The video lessons take about ten minutes, so they are not long, drawn out, nor boring. At the end of the video lessons Mathew will cover the assignments in detail so again, your child should know what is expected of him/her. 

The Novel unit will take 23 days. The days are broken down into five sections. Each section has your child reading a certain amount of pages from the novel: Night and complete the corresponding workbook pages.

The Teacher Handbook includes a suggested schedule, the titles of all the literary works, an overview of each unit, a syllabus and answer key.

Other than the novel that is included with this program all other works can be found online or at the library. So far with Unit : Fiction I have been able to find pdf's of the selections online.

Usually on days 4 and/or 5 there are questions that analyze, check comprehension, and connection reflection questions, I have Brent find me and we do this section together.
Essentials in Literature
Teacher Handbook
How we are using Essentials in Literature: For the purpose of reviewing, Brent has been using EIL daily along with Essentials in Writing and it has been doable. I think I'm going to change that though and have Brent alternate EIW with EIL. On the Essentials in Literature page there are a few different ways that are suggested when using both programs.

One is to complete Essentials in Writing the first half of the year and Essentals in Literature the second half (or vice versa). I think I prefer alternating using EIW a few weeks then switch to EIL for a few weeks.

Brent for the most part completes the assignments on his own with the exception of discussion questions which we do together.

He completes an assignment daily. With the summative assessments I allow two days to complete.

I have Brent write directly in the textbook. It just makes things so much more simple for both of us. He does use a composition book for the Research Activity and writing assignments though.

You can obtain another student workbook for $50 by calling or emailing Essentials in Writing. At the time of me writing this review there is no buy option on the website.

Final thoughts: I absolutely love having Mathew Stephens "teach" Brent literature. It takes a load off my shoulders. The only con is that so far this is the only level available. I would love it if some of the lower levels were for sale right now so I could use them with Ethan and Lance this year. Other than wanting more levels, I'm VERY pleased with Essentials in Literature and would recommend it to others. 


  1. I am so glad there is a review out on this. I was looking at it. Really considering trying it this year.

    1. Thank you. It's really a great program. I love the DVDs! They are a life saver :)

  2. Do you plan on using it for the 2016-2017 school year?