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American Literature for Middle Grades

Words are powerful—they elicit emotions and connect the reader with the author’s worldview. As Madeleine L’Engle so eloquently stated, “The author and the reader know each other: they meet on the bridge of words.” Words have founded nations: The Declaration of Independence. They have ignited revolutions: Patrick Henry’s “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. They have started wars: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. And they have negotiated peace: the U.S. Constitution.

In this literature class, students will explore historical fiction, probe human emotions in poetry, and enjoy folk songs and fables. They will interact with these words through writing, special projects, and discussion. Beginning with viewpoints exercises (from Socratic Circles by Matt Copeland), progressing to the annotation of small sections of text, and moving on to asking one another questions from their annotations, students will learn the basics of Socratic discussions. These skills and conversations will guide class interactions as they begin to see the shades of gray and the nuances of people and events.

While the focus of this class is literature, there will be some integration of American history in order to provide a richer experience of the past. This middle-school course will invite students to take a closer look at American historical eras through literature while providing students with general historical context that will enable a better understanding of the literature and the American era. This class will blend “surveying the landscape” (considering the whole) and deep dives into Great Books from American history.

This class is paired with our middle-school course on American history, often taught by the same teacher, and scheduled back to back with that course in a block. Students who take both courses receive a discount. This course may also be taken as standalone literature study.

This course is suitable for rising 6th–8th graders. Students are expected to have proficient reading and emerging writing skills as well as the interest and willingness to grow in discussion skills about literature and history. Students suited for this course will also be cultivating the following scholarship skills:

  • Actively engage in annotating
  • Practice outlining
  • Apply teacher critiques
  • Adhere to guidelines
  • Be responsible for class and project preparedness
  • Take initiative to ask questions for understanding and comprehension

How much time will students spend on homework?
This varies by student, according to his or her pace. However, students are generally assigned about 1.5–2.5 hours of reading each week. Additional time may be required to supplement the student’s own studying and paper or project development.

How does this course compare to the upper-school American literature course?
The chief differences between the middle-school and upper-school levels for this course are noted below. While there will be some overlap of content taught, the upper-school course will be much more challenging and assume a more mature student with more background knowledge and greater reading, writing, and scholarship facility.

How is faith integrated with these courses?
These seminar-style discussions unfold organically. One could approach the texts with a focus on defensive critiques of classical authors. By contrast, we seek to read charitably. We treat classic authors as if they were friends, gleaning every available truth while also examining them from a robustly Christian perspective.

At Scholé Academy, we have carefully considered how we should engage our contemporary culture as those who believe that Christ is the Truth (John 14:6), and that all truth has its source in him. We think it is important to provide our middle-school students (in grades 6–8) with tools and opportunities for critically examining various cultural trends, issues, and mores through the lens of orthodox, Christian beliefs. Being confident in the truth revealed to us in creation, the Scriptures, and the tradition of the church, we are not afraid to follow the truth and its implications, nor to address error and falsehood. Read more about our Faith & Culture.

Required Materials:
Books and supplies are not included in the purchase of the course.

For Sections with Vixie Friedman:
American Literature: ( Unless noted by ISBN, any version will work,  assignments are posted by chapter)

  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  • Short Story unit with Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jack London, Louisa May Alcott, and O’Henry (pdfs to be provided by teacher)
  • Lyddie by Katherine Paterson
  • Blue Willow by Doris Gates
  • Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
  • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving (pdf to be provided by teacher)
  • Various poetry by American poets such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, and other. Pdfs supplied by teacher.
  • Various fables, tall tales, and other pdfs provided by the teacher.

For Sections with Allen Rushing:

  • Origins: Native American and American (PDFs to be provided by teacher on Origin stories, “Emergence” and “Earth Diver” stories, and selections from Genesis)
  • Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • True to the Old Flag by G. A. Henty (paperbacks available at Abe Books)
  • Bound for Oregon by Jean Van Leeuwen
  • Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Short Story unit with Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen Crane, Jack London, O’Henry, and O’Connor (PDFs to be provided by teacher)
  • Poetry unit with Longfellow, Poe, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, E. E. Cummings, and Ogden Nash (PDFs to be provided by teacher)
  • “I Have a Dream” MLK Speech (PDF to be provided by teacher)
  • The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
  • Selections from James Thurber, and Ray Bradbury (PDFs to be provided by teacher)
  • Possible other selections (PDF’s to be provided by teacher)

Allen Rushing has always loved story, and that love only grew when, at the age of 14, the Lord saved him. Since then he has joyfully studied the truth, beauty, and goodness of The Story found in Scripture and reflected in the great works, from Dante’s Divine Comedy to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. One of the delights of The Story is taking the time to delve deeply into it, which is why the “restful” philosophy of Scholé is so appealing to Allen. One of the reasons such an approach is natural for him is because of the way he was homeschooled K-12 in the Classical Christian educational tradition. Allen was able to expand on this solid spiritual and educational foundation through his undergraduate degree in Classics with a History focus; in the process of earning this degree, he enjoyed taking classes in Classical Latin, Koine Greek, Literature, Philosophy, and Theology. While in graduate school, he was able to broaden his historical knowledge base, gaining a greater understanding of Western civilization as a whole and focusing particularly on the periods of the Greco-Roman world, Late Antiquity, medieval period, twentieth century world history, the World Wars, and the Cold War. Since graduate school, Allen has taught the humanities from a biblical worldview. Some of Allen’s favorite ways of enjoying the adventure upon which the Lord has set him are reading, writing, building his house, climbing trees, playing ping pong, and spending time with his wife and two children.  arushing.scholeacademy@gmail.com

Vixie Friedman Since she was a little girl, Vixie Friedman always wanted to be a teacher and lined up her dolls and stuffed animals to compose her classroom. That dream became a reality when she began homeschooling her oldest son in 1988, a journey that continued with her six children until her youngest graduated from their family’s homeschool in 2015. Vixie has taught in a formal classical education setting since 2008 and assisted with curriculum development and staff training with a classical Christian curriculum company. After graduating with a BS degree in nursing from Western Carolina University, Vixie entered the US Army Nurse Corps, where she was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. This fueled her love of travel and history as she married and left her Army commission to raise a family. She and her husband lived in Germany for nine years and enjoyed traveling throughout Europe, studying the region’s history as they traveled.
These days she continues to travel as she and her husband travel to Israel, Europe, and Africa through their ministry, Children of Jacob.
She is continuing her education as she takes classes in classical education, history, literature, Russian, and German and enjoys enriching her education through Bible studies, personal reading, and book clubs. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, including a growing number of grandchildren, cooking, and a multitude of crafts. vixiefriedman.scholeacademy@gmail.com

Quarter 1

  1. Pre-America (Before 1600
    1. _Island of the Blue Dolphin _
  2. Colonial Period (1630-1735)
    1. _Witch of Blackbird Pond _
  3. Revolutionary America (1735-1791)
    1. Johnny Tremain

Quarter 2

  1. Continue Revolutionary America (1735- 1791)
    1. _Johnny Tremain _
  2. Young Republic & Expansion (1783-1850)
    1. Bound for Oregon
  3. Civil War & Reconstruction (1820-1866)
    1. Across Five Aprils

Quarter 3

  1. Industrial Revolution (1871-1920)
    1. _Lyddie _
  2. WWI/Depression/Dust Bowl (1914-1933)
    1. Blue Willow
  3. New Deal & WWII (1933-1945)
    1. The Devil's Arithmetic

Quarter 4

  1. Continue New Deal & WW II (1933-1945)
    1. _The Devil's Arithmetic _
  2. Civil Rights
    1. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

Red checkmarkComputer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.

Red checkmarkHigh-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.

Red checkmarkWebcam: You may use an external webcam or one that is built in to the computer. Webcam Recommendations: Good (PC only) | Best (Mac and PC)

Red checkmarkHeadset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm

Red checkmarkZoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. unnamed-e1455142229376 To download Zoom:

  1. Visit zoom.us/download.
  2. Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
  3. Open and run the installer on your computer.
  4. In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.

Red checkmarkScanner: In this class, students frequently submit homework assignments by scanning pages from their workbooks. Students and/or their parents should have easy access to a scanner and the ability to use it.

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