Friday, August 29, 2014

Teaching 2014-2015 Courses at Brave Writer & Heritage Class Days

This fall will be a very busy one for me. In addition to homeschooling our two high school boys (a freshman and a senior—our other two have already graduated high school), I will be teaching writing and literature classes at Heritage Christian School’s East County II Class Days Co-op as well as online writing and literature courses at Brave Writer.

I’ve taught at Heritage’s Class Days since 1997 when we officially started homeschooling our four children. This year I will continue teaching Expository Essay I (formerly Intermediate Writing) to fifteen students. This class is based on the Writing 110 (freshman composition) courses I taught at Point Loma Nazarene University (PLNU) before we started our homeschooling adventures.

We will be covering the descriptive essay (Keen Observation from Brave Writer's The Writer's Jungle), the personal essay, the comparison and contrast essays, the definition essay, the literary analysis essay, the poetry explication essay, the in-class timed essay, the revised essay, the persuasive essay, and the MLA research essay over the school year. We meet in class only eighteen times over the school year, so the students usually have two weeks in which to write and submit their essays via e-mail; I comment and grade their essays, returning them before the next essay assignment is due so that they may apply my suggestions to their next assignment.

This year I am also preparing a new class: Discussing Shakespeare. This class is based on the many Shakespeare plays I have taught online through Brave Writer. No written work will be submitted; this course focuses on reading and discussing the comedy, history, and tragedy plays of Shakespeare, including clips from filmed performances (either actual movie versions or films of stage plays), reading certain scenes aloud, discussing the background, characters, poetry, and themes of the plays, etc. We will start with a look at Shakespeare’s life, times, and writing style and the Elizabethan Theatre scene, and then we’ll explore three comedic plays (Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice), two historical plays (Henry V, Richard III), and three tragic plays (Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, Hamlet). Before each class meeting, I’ll e-mail links to audio versions of the plays, film recommendations, humorous links regarding the plays, etc., to the students to help them to thoroughly enjoy the plays.

While the courses at ECII Class Day will extend all the way to the final days of May, the classes I teach at Brave Writer are of much shorter (yet far more intense) duration. On September 2, I’ll start teaching a four week high school class entitled Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities. We will read and discuss this Dickens novel for three weeks, and then finish the class with the students choosing one of the four options for their Final Writing Project: 1) writing a letter from one character to another; 2) writing a formal review of one of the several recommended film versions of the novel; 3) writing a comparison/contrast essay on two characters from the novel; or 4) writing an exploratory essay on a theme from the novel. After completing the class, students will receive a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

Literary Analysis: A Tale of Two Cities will be followed by the five-week Literary Analysis: British Poetry which will provide a survey of British poetry as well as in-depth analysis of nine poems (three per week) following a week of learning how to analyze a poem. The Final Writing Project will entail a poetry explication essay on one of four British poems not yet studied by the students. Poems for analysis and explication are still being chosen but should cover the major movements of British Poetry (Medieval, Renaissance, Neoclassical, Romantic, Victorian, Modern, Post-Modern).

Following the two Literary Analysis courses at Brave Writer will be one of my favorite courses, the six-week MLA Research Essay. Using the seventh edition of the Modern Language Association Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, students will be taught how to select an appropriate persuasive topic, how to locate sources and create source notes, how to take notes from these sources, how to write and format an outline, how to draft an MLA research essay using parenthetical citations, how to revise the first draft (with feedback from other students and the instructor) in a virtual read-around, how to format a Works Cited and create a Title Page, and finally, they will submit their final draft, including Title Page, Outline, 5-7 page Research Essay, and Works Cited to be graded by the instructor and returned via e-mail with comments, a grade, and a Brave Writer High School Transcript form detailing their final course grade, the contents of the class, and the high school credits earned.

In Brave Writer’s winter term, I will be teaching two family workshops: the Groovy Grammar Workshop and the Playing with Poetry Workshop. Both workshop classes are set at one price for the entire family, and activities are provided for students ages 6-18, rather like a buffet in which families choose which activities will be most valuable for their students. Parents are also encouraged to do these activities along with their students, and I’ve received some amazing poems from parents in past years. In addition to the two workshop classes, I’ll also be teaching Literary Analysis: Rebecca. Daphne DuMaurier’s wonderfully Gothic mystery will be a delight to discuss and analyze, and the same four options for Final Writing Projects as we saw with A Tale of Two Cities will be required of students. All three courses are four weeks in length.

In the spring term at Brave Writer, I’ll be teaching another family workshop class, the Shakespeare Family Workshop. A five-week workshop, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre scene (Week One), Shakespeare’s writing style and his sonnets (Week Two), and then we’ll spend the final three weeks on Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies, one week on each. As with the other two family workshop courses, a variety of activities will be made available, and each family may choose the activities that will work best for their family learning style, ages, interest levels, etc. Lots of fun links are provided to charm the least-eager fan of the Bard.

And finally, we’ll end the spring term with Literary Analysis: Twelfth Night. Set up similarly to the Literary Analysis courses on A Tale of Two Cities and Rebecca, we’ll explore Shakespeare’s life and times, the Elizabethan theatre, and Shakespeare’s use of language (Week One) before reading and discussing the play in-depth for two weeks, and then complete the class with the same Final Writing Project options as the other two classes.

In the summer, I hope to teach the Fan Fiction class again. This course allows creative writing—writing stories based on popular books, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. With students already knowing their characters well from the original works, story writing becomes much more exciting as we learn to extend our favorite characters into new adventures. Fan Fiction is a wonderful way to keep kids writing over the summer without realizing that they are actually writing; it’s that fun!

Plus I have essays being submitted for comments and grading through this website. Homeschooling families from across the US send me their junior high and high school essays, and for $10 per double-spaced, 12-point font page/part page $.03 (3 cents) per word, I offer copious commentary, suggestions for improvement, encouragement, and a letter grade for the assignment. To read more about my online essay grading service, check out Susanne Barrett: Online Essay Grading Service. Sample graded essays are also available for review above. 

So these courses are my teaching load for this year. I’ll definitely be quite busy, but I’ll also be having so much fun teaching on and writing about British literature and many more of my favorite topics.

Have a wonderful fall,


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Caol!! I miss you, too! Crazy-busy right now teaching Shakespeare at Brave Writer!! Can't wait for summer! :)

    2. Duh, that was "Carol"--typing too fast, LOL!! ;)


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