• Is My Homeschool Student Just Average?

    By Vicki Tillman on 23 October 2014 / Encouragement, Helping Each Other, Homeschool Information / 0 Comment

    Sometimes we homeschoolers can get a little competitive:

    "MY kid was reading when he was 4!"

    to which someone replies,

    "How lovely, MY kids completed algebra in 5th grade!"

    Ever heard that conversation?

    homeschool student just average

    Homeschool Student Just Average

    The truth is that MOST homeschoolers are normal, average kids. They won't go to Harvard, they score in the 50th-78th percentile on achievement tests. They perform well-enough in their 3Rs.

    And guess what? God created them beautiful in His eyes. He gave each child just the right IQ and just the right other talents to accomplish HIS goals for each of them.

    God doesn't need millions of homeschool Einsteins. He needs just a few of them. He need LOTS of future missionaries, artists, nurses, teachers, plumbers, soldiers, entrepreneurs, and counselors.

    Our homeschoolers don't need to go to Yale for that; they don't have to be top of the pyramid!

    What they do need is to:

    Search for and discover the giftings God has placed in them.

    Each of our children is fearfully and wonderfully made. Since that is so, then it is an honor to God to help them find the special blessings that He has created in each child. (You can start your homeschool high schooler with a FREE look at the role models God has placed in his life as guides.)

    Introduction to High School Writing

    Learn to cope with any weak area by developing  perseverance in character, specific skills that might help (such as organizational skills for homeschoolers with ADHD),  and not wasting time doing overly high-leveled curriculum in their weak areas.

    I have some helpful pins from some wonderful folks at my Homeschool Special Needs Pinterest board. Also all our literature and writing guides, AND psycholgy, human development, and philosophy have instructions on how to "level" the learning activities- from average learners to honors activities. AND no time-wasting busywork.

    Compensate by really leaning into their interests and gifts. Specialize in those areas- create projects, field trips, read books, watch educational dvds.

    Check out my Homeschool Career Exploration Pinterest board for LOTs of activities to help explore, then have some fun!
    Strive to glorify God by understanding and appreciating themselves and others.

    Can your child tell you how he was fearfully and wonderfully made? Can she explain God's love for others? Visit tomorrow for more...

    Your average kid: ABOVE average in God's eyes!

    Here are Sabrina's thoughts (shared with a chuckle a gentle chuckle at herself) about Average kids -



  • Build Your Homeschool Student's Strengths - 6 Simple Ways

    By Marilyn Groop on 22 October 2014 / Challenges, Helping Each Other / 0 Comment

    Find ways to build your homeschool student's strengths while you also help with redeeming their weaknesses.

    1) Let your homeschooler see your delight in learning something new.

    Do you enjoy exploring new topics, reading new books, researching new ideas? Do they hear your excitement as you relate what you have learned?

    Build Your Homeschool Student's Strengths

    Build Homeschool Student's Strengths

    2) Enter into his or her areas of interest and encourage learning more.

    Show an interest in their passions and help them to explore them. We did unit studies on things of interest to various children when they were young - a pirate unit for the boys and a horse unit for my horse-crazy daughter.

    3) Keep your lesson times age-appropriate.

    A first grader can’t sit still very long, so keep instruction brief and interspersed with other activities.

    4) Take advantage of teachable moments.

    Yes, your children will roll their eyes and tease you about turning everything into a “lesson”, but they will remember these moments for years to come.  (Okay, don’t turn everything into a teaching lesson, but you get the idea).

    5) Find curriculum that balances your teaching style and your child’s learning style.

    What works well for one homeschooler doesn’t always work for the next one. It’s both frustrating and brings variety to life.

    6) Limit exposure to things that are not “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise” while exposing your children to the finer things.

    Teach them about the wonders in nature. Read good books. Watch good movies. Explore museums and historical sites. Go to worthy plays, musicals, and concerts. Show them fine art. Read the Bible and memorize scripture. Fill their minds with things that are good.

    What are some ways you build your homeschooler's strengths?
    high school essay writing  curriculum
    Choosing curriculum with NO BUSYWORK leaves more time in your schedule to pursue things that are areas of strength for your child. Take a look at excerpts from our writing guides for Essays, Poetry, Research Papers, and Short Stories to see what we mean!


    Build Your Homeschool Student's Strengths

  • God is a Poet - Introducing Poetry to High School Homeschol Students

    By Vicki Tillman on 21 October 2014 / By Subject, High School Language Arts, Homeschool High School / 0 Comment

    I was asking my homeschool high school group-class students if they enjoyed poetry. Most of the class hastily asserted, "NO".

    Then I asked if they had studied any poetry. Most answered a bit hesitantly, "Not much."

    Poetry High School Homeschool

    Poetry High School Homeschool

    Well, that was exciting because I got to open their eyes to the fact that they had missed studying poetry by the most famous poet ever:


    That's right. God himself was a poet. Read the Psalms. All the Psalms are poetry. We could just as well call that book: "Poems".

    Look at the words that God gave the prophets to say. Often it was in poetic form (the entire book of Nahum is poetic in style, for instance).

    God is not the only poet from ancient times. In those old days, people wrote their stories in poetic style. The original forms of many works were poetry, including: Beowulf, Greek epics such as Homer’s Iliad, and the Epic of Gilgamesh 

    In times not too long past, writing poetry and reading poetry was household entertainment. Take for instance, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility. The Dashwood family’s evening amusement centered around reading poetry to each other. (In fact, the ability to read poetry in a passionate manner was the way John Dashwood stole Marianne’s heart.) 

    God thinks and expresses himself in poetic ways.

    Great writers of former days expressed themselves in poetry. If our homeschooling high schoolers have no sense of poetry, if they only read and write prose, they are going to miss out on part of the mind of God and important connections to our cultural past and present.

    This year our local homeschool high school group-class students are working through British Poetry 

    and TS Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

    Poetry High School Homeschool

    They will be learning to create their own basic poetry, too. 

    The 7 Sisters Study Guides they will use contain no-busywork, are simple enough for beginners to understand and enjoy AND hopefully will give the soul of poetry to the kids so they can understand. I want to give them a good introduction to Poetry. 

    Are your homeschooling high schoolers reading and writing poetry, too?


    Poetry High School Homeschool

  • God is a Psychologist, so Your Teen Should Like Psych - Why Take a Christian High School Psychology Course

    By Vicki Tillman on 20 October 2014 / Electives High School, Homeschool High School, Science, Psych, & Health / 0 Comment

    God is a Psychologist. First, allow me to show you why. Then, I'd like to tell you why your high schooler should like Psych. Ready?

    Ok, I’m a bit biased on this one, being a mental health counselor myself but this one is easy.

    Christian High School Psychology Course

    Christian High School Psychology Course

    A Psychologist is one with expertise in Psychology (of course)...which is defined as

    the science of the mind, mental states and processes, human behavior, and mental ploys or strategies.

    (Thanks, Dictionary.com!)


    God IS a psychologist. He says so and He instructs us in healthy thinking and living.

    First off, the Messiah is promised to be “Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace”. (Isaiah 9:6)

    His job on earth is to “preach good tidings to the meek, bind up the broken hearted…” (the job of a counselor). (Isaiah 61:1)

    After Jesus’ time on earth, the Holy Spirit came as a Comforter. (John 14:16)

    Jesus and the Holy Spirit both acted in “counselor” roles and held counselor-type titles. In fact, those of counselors who are Christians feel like we are acting as God’s representatives.

    In the New Testament, Paul spent a LOT of time giving the first lessons in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (the kind of stuff I teach my clients ALL the time).


    Cognitive Therapy from Philippians 4:8

    "…Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, if there be any praise; think on these things."

    Behavioral Therapy from Ephesians 4:29

    "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."

    Christian High School Psychology Course

    Those verses are the fabric of good psychological practices.

    If God is a psychologist, it is a great idea for homeschooling high schoolers to study psychology. It is a great idea for them to study a Christian high school psychology course - especially before they get to college and hear these important truths from psychologists who have long forgotten our true psychological roots. That is why 7 Sisters offers Introduction to Psychology from a Christian Perspective

    Click to learn more about this curriculum!


    Christian High School Psychology Course

  • High School Philosophy - God Is a Philosopher and Your Teen Should Be One, Too

    By Vicki Tillman on 19 October 2014 / By Age Group, Homeschool High School / 0 Comment

    God Is a Philosopher and Your High Schooler Should Be One, Too.

    Philosophy is simply the love of wisdom. God is the One who invented wisdom, so he must love it.

    First, God employed his wisdom when he made the heavens (Psalm 136:5).

    Then he gave a spirit of wisdom to people who had special jobs to accomplish:

    In Exodus 31, when the Tabernacle was being built, God filled the craftsmen with a “spirit of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and all manner of workmanship”. (I wonder if, although the skill of craftsmanship was necessary, wisdom was even more so?)

    High School Philosophy

    High School Philosophy

    Deuteronomy 34 tells us that Joshua was full of the “spirit of wisdom” for leading the people of Israel.

    When Solomon assumed kingship of Israel, he asked God for wisdom and knowledge to rule the people. God was so pleased that He gave Solomon other gifts as well. (II Chronicles 1)

    God devotes an entire book of the Bible to the topic of attaining wisdom. The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters devoted to wisdom. Proverb 4:5 admonishes us to “get wisdom”.

    We know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It is the foundation to everything we learn. (Psalm 111:10)

    With this in mind, it perplexes me that so few Christian young people study philosophy in high school. If even the craftsmen for the Tabernacle needed wisdom, it seems to me that most of our homeschooling high schoolers could benefit from learning to think and act with wisdom. High School Philosophy might be just the right addition to our academic plans.

    Of course, the place to start is simply with knowledge of Scripture. Young people (just like their parents) grow in wisdom by reading and studying Scripture. This should be complemented by the respect of the Lord that comes in consistent prayer.

    Teens or parents who have been tricked into believing that Scripture study is boring might be inspired by Sabrina’s FREE guide to Genesis 1.

    Or they might be blessed by learning to pray creatively.

    Our Prayer Journal 1 is FREE this week

    To extend learning on wisdom, I highly recommend homeschooling high schoolers take at least a survey of philosophy.

    They can learn to develop thinking skills and discernment as they learn about the idea-generating people of the various ages. This is why 7 Sisters and Dr. Micah Tillman produced World History and Philosophy. Homeschooling high schoolers can earn a useful world history credit while learning about the history of philosophy and philosophers in Western society. 

    And while your homeschooling high schooler is seeking wisdom, he or she will benefit greatly from Good Answers FREE Apologetics curriculum- learn to think and defend the faith. 

    God’s not afraid of philosophy. He loves wisdom. Is this a good year for your high schooler to “get wisdom”?


    Our World History High School Curriculum provides a fantastic introduction to Philosophy. See excerpts here:
    World History High School Curriculum

    High School Philosophy

  • The Making of 7Sisters' High School Financial Literacy Curriculum

    By Sabrina Justison on 17 October 2014 / By Age Group, By Subject, Homeschool High School, Math & Economics / 4 Comments

    Once upon a time" (as all good stories begin), Sara's 3rd son was just a year away from completing high school and was just itching to stretch his wings and leave the nest! Sara wanted to be sure said son was equipped to handle his finances wisely and not fall into the pitfalls befalling many young people first venturing out on their own.

    (Nothing worse than falling into a pitfall befalling others!)

    So what did she do? She called her friend Maureen, another homeschool mom (and Sara's 1st son's Consumer Math/Financial Literacy teacher from years before).


    high school financial literacy curriculum

    High School Financial Literacy Curriculum

    "Maureen," Sara asked, "What curriculum did you use?"

    (Isn't it wonderful when homeschoolers help one another out?)

    Maureen gave her info and as many pointers as she could. Then Sara embarked on her first year of teaching Consumer Math/Financial Literacy at her local homeschool day school. Sara's third son (and numerous other students) graduated that year with a good foundation for facing the realities of financial decision-making in their lives.

    But the story doesn't end there!

    The class continued on each year, and Sara found herself modifying the curriculum in various ways.

    - First, the curriculum wasn't from a Christian perspective, and since handling financial matters is such a big part of life (and God says SO much about it!), Sara began supplementing the curriculum with Christian principles.

    - Then, Sara noted that the curriculum her class was using sometimes only lightly covered topics which she believed would be more beneficial to teens if covered a bit more in depth. She sought out resources that would shore up these weak spots for her students.

    The years passed (as they always seem to do), and Sara continued teaching Consumer Math/Financial Literacy, making improvements and corrections to the course each year. One day, Sara looked at her curriculum and realized that her 'changes' had evolved into a course of her own with an exclusive focus on Financial Literacy!

    The topics are the same as those in most Financial Literacy courses, but the angle of approach is quite different.

    - First, God's perspective is considered in every topic, from setting up a budget to understanding the principles of insurance to paying taxes.

    - Next, as a homeschooling mom herself who understands how important it is to parents to be able to share their values with their children, Sara included numerous assignments asking students to discuss with their parents financial topics which might not otherwise come up in day to day life.

    - Finally, realizing that this generation of students will turn to the internet to have their financial questions answered, Sara's curriculum utilized reputable sites to reinforce financial literacy topics. Articles, videos, and interactive sites provide varied activities throughout each chapter.

    With a 'hat tip' to the painstaking work of 7 Sisters' editing team and a grateful prayer of thanks to the Lord for His unfailing faithfulness, 7 Sisters is pleased to announce a launch date of January 2015 for "Financial Literacy from a Christian Perspective"

    (and we'll all live financially-literate-ly ever after!)

    What resources have you used thus far to help your teen become financially literate?


    High School Financial Literacy Curriculum

  • History Movies for Homeschool - Our Favorite Titles for High School

    By Vicki Tillman on 16 October 2014 / By Age Group, By Subject, Homeschool High School, Social Studies & More / 0 Comment

    We asked our Facebook homeschool-friends to share their favorite movie adaptations of a book. (We love good movies for enriching our children’s educational experiences.)

    Here they are:

    history movies for homeschol

     History Movies for Homeschool

    (Note: Some of these are most appropriate for high schoolers.)


    Ancient History


    The Robe

    Ben Hur

    St. John in Exile


    Ever After

    The 1600s

    The Three Musketeers (Good follow-up to the book and Study Guide. What a delightful writer!)

    The 1700s

    Master and Commander

    Amazing Grace

    Pride and Prejudice

    Sense and Sensibility (This is a good one to watch as a follow up for the book and Study Guide. We LOVE Jane Austen.)



    The 1800s

    Les Miserables (EVERYONE'S favorite! AND a good one to watch as a follow up for the book and Study Guide.)

    A Christmas Carol (either the Muppets or the old B&W)- This is a good one watch as a follow up for the book and Study Guide


    Friendly Persuasion

    Anne of Green Gables (TV series) (Another good one to accompany the book and Study Guide)

    Christy (TV series)

    The Secret Garden

    The 1900s

    Captains Courageous

    The Rough Riders

    The Miracle Worker

    The King's Speech

    Sgt. York

    chariotsChariots of Fire

    It's a Wonderful Life

    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

    The Wizard of Oz

    The Inn of the Sixth Happiness

    The Sound of Music

    The Hiding Place (Excellent follow-up to the book and Study Guide)

    Chronicles of Narnia (old BBC version and the new movies)

    On the Waterfront

    To Kill a Mockingbird

    Lilies of the Field

    Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

    Night Crossing

    Mother Teresa  (Excellent movie, and good follow-up for the biography: Something Beautiful for God with Study Guide.)


    Walk the Line

    Facing the Giants

    Des Hommes et Des Dieux (Of Gods and Men)


    Here are ways to use History movies for homeschool:

    -Follow up the reading of the book

    -Illustrate the life challenges of a historical period

    -Discussion and writing prompts for compare/contrast essays

    -Inspire your own film projects

    -Movies as Literature by Kathryn Stout is a great course for high schoolers- incorporating all these how-to-uses on some more great movies. (Non-sponsored plug for a curriculum several of us have used with our kids.) OR Create your own movies/literature curriculum!

    -Log hours to add to your "leveling-up" of credits

    Make sure you consider our World History High School Curriculum for your student -- No Busywork, and a introduction to Philosophy woven through the study of important people and events. So rich!

    World History High School Curriculum

    History Movies for Homeschool

  • Teaching Reading for Evaluation in High School

    By Sabrina Justison on 15 October 2014 / By Age Group, By Subject, High School Language Arts, Homeschool High School, Middle School / 0 Comment

    This is the third of a 4-part series of posts taken from a popular workshop I've offered over the years to homeschoolers.

    If you would like to have the full text of the workshop (this series of posts will share about 1/3 of the information in the workshop), you can download a .pdf of the whole thing from our ebookstore for just $0.99. Click here to purchase.

    In case you missed Part 1, click here to read Teaching Literature - Helping Students Form Relationships with Books

    click here to read Part 2, Teaching Literature Interpretation in High School

    or click here to read Part 3, Teaching Inferential Reading in High School.


    Teaching Reading for Evlauation

    Teaching Reading for Evaluation


    Yet another level of reading is Reading for Evaluation. When we evaluate a book, we determine its worth. This is a highly subjective process, and it can be empowering for students who are NOT natural bookworms when we teach them to evaluate a book and encourage them to articulate their conclusions.

    The worth of book can be defined in countless ways. Simply pick one, and ask your student to evaluate it on that scale. Then give them a different scale and ask them re-evaluate based on the new parameters. Often a kids who thought a book was “stupid” will have a new way of thinking open up to him when he is asked to evaluate a book.

    Here's an example:

    Our world lit. group read Books I and II of Plato's Republic last year. Suffice it to say that Plato's Republic will probably NOT make it on to any of their “My Favorite Books of All Time” lists.

    Knowing that they were pretty universally NOT loving this one, I asked them to evaluate its worth and discuss their evaluations.

    First I asked, “Ok, this is a work of philosophy. Plato wanted to explore the idea of justice in society, and to suggest what a truly strong society should look like. So, as a tool for getting the reader to think about 'What is justice?' and 'What does a good society look like?' was it effective?”

    They were divided in their conclusions about this. Many of them thought that the ancient-world setting of the book made the examples and specifics too weird to work for them as they think about justice and society in our modern world. Some of them thought it was too confusing to follow the philosophy because they book is written as a dialogue among Socrates and his students. For the most part, they rated the book's effectiveness about a 5 out of 10.

    Then I asked them to evaluate the worth of the book as a tool for explaining and demonstrating the Socratic method of teaching. Socrates, as the main character, asks question after question to expose the flaws in his students' ideas. I had explained the basics of the Socratic method to them before we read Republic, and I often use this method in my own teaching. But after they had read this classic book in which Plato opened the window onto Socrates and his teaching style, they were quick to say that the book was VERY effective in introducing them to the Socratic method.

    Evaluating a book gives students a way to give credit where credit is due without having to say, “I liked it” if they really didn't.

    Teaching Literature Workshop

    If you would like to download the rest of the text of my Teaching Literature workshop, click here. The .pdf file of the full text is available for $0.99.


    Here are thoughts from 7Sister Kym about what to do when homeschoolers don't like to read:

     Teaching Reading for Evaluation

  • Teaching Inferential Reading in High School

    By Sabrina Justison on 14 October 2014 / By Age Group, By Subject, High School Language Arts, Homeschool High School, Homeschool Information, Middle School / 0 Comment

    This is the third of a 4-part series of posts taken from a popular workshop I've offered over the years to homeschoolers.

    If you would like to have the full text of the workshop (this series of posts will share about 1/3 of the information in the workshop), you can download a .pdf of the whole thing from our ebookstore for just $0.99. Click here to purchase.

    In case you missed Part 1, click here to read Teaching Literature - Helping Students Form Relationships with Books

    or click here to read Part 2, Teaching Literature Interpretation in High School.


    Teaching Inferential Reading

     Teaching Inferential Reading


    How about Inferential Reading? When we read for inference, we gain knowledge from the book, then reach a conclusion based on that knowledge. The conclusion one person reaches may be vastly different from the conclusion reached by another reader.....and this is a place where we can quickly frustrate our students when we are teaching literature.

    When I went to college, I went as an English major. I had always loved books, but after 4 years of high school reading lists and a year of college classes, I reached a conclusion – I was tired of being told what to get out of the books I was reading. I felt like every book I was assigned came with a foregone conclusion. It was as if the teacher told us, “In this book you will see that blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.”

    I wanted to read the book and then tell the TEACHER what I saw in it!

    Tests and writing assignments only added insult to injury. I was supposed to spit back the teacher's conclusions about the book even if I didn't agree with them. If I had reached a different conclusion and said so, I lost points. Apparently I was only allowed to learn from the book the same thing my teacher had learned.

    Truth be told, I quit reading for much a decade because of this. When I began teaching my own kids and their co-op and day-school friends in high school literature classes, I vowed that I would never do to them what I felt teachers had done to me back in the day! It had to be okay to learn something different from the book than what I'd learned, and as long as you could take a reasonable stab at sharing with me HOW you reached that conclusion, you should get full credit for using your brain as you read.

    Here's an example:

    In our homeschool World Lit. class this year we read Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. This cautionary tale is full of ideas that led to fascinating class discussions. Now, when I read this book, I become angry with the character of Lord Henry Wotton. Harry proves to have a profound influence on Dorian and encourages the young man in irresponsible and selfish pursuits, pouring ever more and more fuel on the fires of Dorian's passions...and those fires eventually consume Dorian completely. I wanted to have a discussion with the kids about the responsibility of personal influence, but I didn't want to “lead” the discussion too much. So instead of saying, “Lord Henry fails to take responsibility for the charismatic influence he seems to have on Dorian, and he leads him into all kinds of selfish ways of thinking. How did those selfish ways contribute to Dorian's downfall?” I said, “Lord Henry is a charismatic guy, yes? What do you think about his power over Dorian?”

    I was astounded to see the class of 20+ kids almost evenly split as to whether or not Lord Henry even HAD any responsibility for his influence on Dorian! We had a spirited discussion about the fact that while Lord Henry was a magnetic person, Dorian still had the responsibility for choosing his own mind-set and behaviors, and many of the students felt that Dorian alone was to blame for his bad choices. Others thought, as I did, that Harry should have recognized the influence he had and been more careful with his young protege. But if I had launched the discussion with blame on the older character as he corrupted the younger, imagine how frustrated fully half of my class would have been! They read the same book I did, but reached an entirely different conclusion about this question.


    Up Up Next: Part 4 - Teaching Reading for Evaluation


    For ideas on the effective use of focused Literature Study Guides, watch this short video:



    Teaching Inferential Reading

  • Teaching Literature Interpretation in High School

    By Sabrina Justison on 13 October 2014 / Homeschool Information / 0 Comment

    This is the second of a 4-part series of posts taken from a popular workshop I've offered over the years to homeschoolers.

    If you would like to have the full text of the workshop (this series of posts will share about 1/3 of the information in the workshop), you can download a .pdf of the whole thing from our ebookstore for just $0.99. Click here to purchase.

    In case you missed Part 1, click here to read Teaching Literature - Helping Students Form Relationships with Books.

    Teaching Literature Interpretation

     Teaching Literature Interpretation

    How can we encourage our kids to read classic literature, help them actually get something worthwhile out of it, but also be honest enough to validate the frustrations they feel, and help them move beyond that frustration to something like satisfaction with the experience?

    Okay, let's look at ourselves for a moment. How do we introduce reading to our kids?

    We read-aloud to them when they're little, right?

    Some of the most delightful memories we have of our kids' early years of homeschooling center on reading aloud to them.

    Then we teach the kids to read for themselves. Some kids take to it like a duck to water. Some kids take to reading more like a CAT to water! Sounding out words, memorizing sight words....bit by bit we make it possible for the child to read a book alone.

    From that point on, we focus a lot of attention on READING COMPREHENSION, right?

    • Vocabulary must be learned so that they will understand the book.
    • We teach literary devices like symbols or personification or metaphor so that they will understand the book.
    • We have them answer questions to make sure they are following the plot so that they will understand the book.
    • We have them draw pictures when they are young and write papers when they are older describing characters and their relationships with one another so that they will understand the book.

    And these are all good things – don't get me wrong. Comprehending what you read is absolutely vital to success as a student, and even to success in life as an adult.

    But there is a lot more to reading than comprehension and analysis. In fact, reading experts (whoever they are!!) generally recognize comprehension as only the FIRST level of a reader's grasp of a book.

    So what else is there beyond understanding the vocabulary, the plot, the characters and devices in a book?

    Reading for Interpretation is another layer, a deeper level of interaction with a book. When we read for interpretation, we are trying to understand the book IN LIGHT OF a particular belief.

    For example, when my son and his friends recently read Arthur Miller's play The Crucible together (btw, a readers theater gathering is a GREAT way to help teens connect with a play....) their initial comprehension of the story gave them a look at historical characters in Salem, MA in 1692 who were a part of the infamous witch trials.

    They met John and Elizabeth Proctor who were destroyed by the mass hysteria in Salem. They witnessed the manipulative behavior of Abigail Williams, the young woman who brought accusation against so many in her town. The comprehended the facts of the story – innocent people were put to death for refusing to admit to crimes they had not committed. Fear took control of a whole community.

    But if we read The Crucible with Arthur Miller's own notes about his play, and with a little bit of historical information about when and why he wrote it, we come at the story and characters with a new level of interpretation. The play was written in 1952 during what is now referred to as “The Red Scare” as Senator Joseph McCarthy accused one public figure after another of being a communist. Miller believed that the United States was in the throes of a growing mass hysteria not unlike the town of Salem 250 years before. If we read The Crucible in light of the belief that The Red Scare was a dangerous time, a time when innocent people were likely to be ruined, to lose their lives even, simply because fear was taking control of a whole community, then a new level of interaction with the book can take place.

    I asked my son (he just finished his sophomore year in high school, by the way) to write a short reaction paper after reading and discussing The Crucible. He wrote about the current climate of fear in his world, the post-9/11 United States where every person who appears to be from the Middle East is suspect in an airport. His interpretation of the story – thinking of it in light of the belief that “A society ruled by fear is a danger to itself” – allowed him to form a relationship with the book because he understood more than simply what happened in Salem, MA in 1692.



    What are your thoughts about study helps like Cliffs Notes or Sparknotes? Do you feel like your kid is cheating?



    Up Next:  Part 3 - Teaching Inferential Reading in High School


    Hip Homeschool Moms


    Teaching Literature Interpretation in High School

Back to top