This year, I'm doing literature a bit differently. In the past, I've followed an instructional system loosely based on Classical Education. I chose our history topics and tied literature (as much as possible) to the period/person/place we were studying. We also read many, many other books not related to history, but I didn't count those as "Literature" the subject, just literature worth reading. For the 2010 - 2011 year, I decided I needed a change and break from Classical, and am using Moving Beyond the Page for literature, social studies and science.
I have yet to decide whether I love this curriculum or not. After approaching education from a Classical standpoint for so many years, I feel somewhat like a sell-out using a more traditional approach. I recognize that this is not selling out as in theory I don't believe there is one right way to do anything. But emotionally, I feel like I'm cheating. It's illogical, I know. And there are things to like about the change. One of the great things about this curriculum is that it involves layers of thinking on one topic - which the Grammar Stage in Classical Education does not. Naturally, a parent can always encourage this, but traditionally the Grammar Stage is more about memorization of fact and procedure. We have always been a project-based family so MBtP fits in well as there are many projects in each unit. (This is also the challenge for me with this curriculum - four kids, four times the number of projects.)
My 10-year-old daughter recently completed A House of Tailors for her literature unit. The book ties into her social studies unit on immigration. Last year, I would have had her read the book within a week, discussed it with her, and had her do either a narration or a simple project (depending on the week). I can guarantee you that we would not have spent three weeks on the book. At first, spending so much time on one book was a tough change for her. And for me. But as the year has gone on, I've come to appreciate how much deeper we are delving into each book and how much more she is getting out of it. I believe she has a firmer grasp on literary elements and story structure. She still reads at least 2-3 other books each week (one assigned by me, the others of her choosing) on topics not necessarily related to our school.work so I'm not worried about "killing her love of reading" by any means. In fact, she told me this week how much she likes MBtP and wants to stick with it for next year. Shock! I don't think any curriculum is perfect, and I'm still undecided about continuing with it for next year, but I can say that sticking with it thus far has broadened my thinking on approaches to learning and I believe it is helping my children develop critical thinking skills. Above is a picture of the final project on A House of Tailors.