Christians typically use the word "world" to refer to two different things. On the one hand, the world is anyone or anything that is not Christian in nature. On the other, it simply refers to the world as we know it—people, ideas, events, whether Christian or not. As Christians we need to be aware that we are separated in fundamental ways from the rest of humanity, but we also need to remember and recognize that we are part of the race called "man," and that we are not disassociated from natural human endeavors.
In her literary analysis curriculum, Windows to the World, Lesha Myers uses both senses of "world" to teach high school students how to understand how to read literature and get something profound from it. Reading literature, she emphasizes, should not be a passive activity; the reader must actively engage with the text to take from it what the author intended. She teaches students (and parents) how to make their own annotations, how to look for and recognize symbolism and themes, how to recognize patterns, and all kinds of other useful tools for getting inside the real meaning of literature.
Mrs. Myers clearly knows her stuff. In the introduction to the student text, she says that she has been influenced by New Criticism and Formalism (two prominent 20th-century critical methods that assume a text has universal, objective meaning that can be known, and that the text interprets itself as a result of authorial intent). Into this mix she throws her own Christian worldview and what emerges is a biblical form of literary criticism that is easily understandable even by non-specialists. Though she is obviously versed in technical literary analysis, the author never weighs down her text with pontification or worthless jargon. She is to the point and clear in her presentation.
Windows to the World includes several stories for students to read and practice on, though the intent is much more broad. The curriculum is intended to give students the skills needed to analyze and evaluate any piece of literature they encounter. Mrs. Myers includes only stories that most people will find relatively inoffensive (not all have a specifically Christian message), though she makes it plain that a lot of worthwhile literature contains "offensive" content and unchristian ideals, but that we shouldn't shy away from it for such superficial reasons. Good literature shows us about life, and at some point Christians need to confront its less appealing aspects.
This is definitely a curriculum for high school students. While younger kids could conceivably benefit from some of the material, most of it will be over their heads. High schoolers are generally on the cusp between thinking in primarily concrete terms and feeling comfortable thinking abstractly, and this rigorous course will be a good stretch for them as it requires them to think for themselves. There isn't a lot of busy work here, mostly just reading and thinking hard. The course is intended for one semester of study, but the content could easily be spread over an entire year, or compressed for concentrated study. The teacher's guide is not superfluous—it contains excellent supplementary information and includes suggestions for getting students to think more clearly. This is the first real literary analysis curriculum we've seen for homeschoolers; it's difficult to foresee a better one in the near future.
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