Monday, March 19, 2012

Review: Progeny Press


One of the very first homeschooling resources I was introduced to as a new homeschooler many (many!) years ago was Progeny Press.  I used one of the guides that very first year. Since then I’ve picked up  guides used when I’ve come across them to have on hand.

Progeny Press guides are literature guides from a Christian perspective. They are a mix of vocabulary work, comprehension questions, reflective thinking exercises, and related Bible study material.
Progeny Press study guides are designed to help students better understand and enjoy literature by getting them to notice and understand how authors craft their stories and to show them how to think through the themes and ideas introduced in the stories.
In addition to the book title, students will also need a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible (the guides use the NIV translation).

I was excited at the opportunity to select guides for the middle and high school levels since my exposure to Progeny Press has been mostly at the grade school level.  My son selected The Cay Study Guide, for grades 5-8.  My daughter selected The Screwtape Letters Study Guide. I received the PDF version for both of these guides.


The study guides are intended to take between 8 and 10 weeks to complete. Each guide gives a synopsis of the novel, information about the novel’s author, background information pertaining to the time period and/or circumstances of the novel, and suggestions for pre-reading activities. The remaining sections are broken down into small portions of the book, covering up to several chapters.

Each section starts with vocabulary work, then moves in questions taken directly from the reading.  Next are questions that fall under the category of Analysis (for the high school guides) or Thinking About the Story (for the middle school guides).  These questions are more reflective questions based on a story topic, event, or theme.  For the middle school guide, this section also contained literary terms. The category of Digging Deeper is next, with use of Scripture to answer many of the questions. Suggestions in Optional Activities includes projects, essays, and exercises applicable to the reading.

The studies are concluded with a overview and/or essay suggestions.  Most, though not all of the Overview questions in The Cay Study Guide  have a focus on the elements of the story, story structure. The final project suggestions include 1-2 page papers of various topics, presenting a speech, conducting interviews and writing a mock newspaper article, and even art projects. The Screwtape Letters Study Guide gives suggestions for paper topics varying in length from 2-4 pages to 8-10, in addition to a few creative project suggestions. Answer Keys are included with each guide.  While answer will and should vary for some of the questions, the Answer Key will give general themes and key points in order to best direct your student.

The samples below will give you a very good feel for vocabulary covered and the level and depth of the questions.

Sample of The Cay Study Guide
Sample of The Screwtape Letters Study Guide

A new feature to Progeny Press study guides is the interactive PDF. I’m typically not a fan of PDF products. I like to flip through the pages and hold the book in my hand.  This worked just fine when I was working with younger children and doing most of the work verbally.  However, the interactive PDF version, which allows answers to be typed directly on the PDF, has some advantages to the printed product. Both of my kids prefer typing to writing.  The ability to type answers directly on the file certainly keeps things more organized.  The vocabulary questions are often multiple choice or matching; the interactive PDF allows the student to select the answer with a drop down box. There is no need to print out questions and then file the completed sheets.  Instead, everything can be completed and saved directly on the computer under a different file name. The interactive PDF really does make completing the work easier and is a real plus with students that are able to work independently. 

The recommended pace is to work on one page a day. For high school level work, one guide is equivalent to about 1/4 credit. It is suggested that the student read the novel in its entirety before going through the guide.  This perhaps gives the student a better big picture of the book and allows them to go deeper when going back to study sections of the book.  However, both of my children, and my son in particular, don’t care to go back to think and reflect on chapters after they’ve read the book. The preference is to do the study while actively engaged in reading the book, wondering what will happen next, and more “in” the story.  You may want to consider your student’s preference before starting a guide and adjust accordingly.

Overall, Progeny Press Study Guides are very nicely done and serve as an excellent vocabulary, literature, and Bible study all rolled into one.  Flexibility is offered with optional activities, both creative and more academic. Depending on the selected Optional Activities, a fair amount of writing work could be added to stretch and round out the study.

Both The Cay Study Guide and The Screwtape Letters Study Guide are offered in the interactive PDF version, either on a CD or as an email attachment ($16.99 and $18.99 per title respectively), or as a printed book ($18.99, $21.99).  You can also get a combo package of both the printed guide and PDF ($21.99, $27.99). As a convenience, the novels are also available for purchase. Active military families are extended a 15% discount. My personal preference would be the combo package since I still prefer a printed book, but the interactive PDF provides enough conveniences to have both. Progeny Press sells Study Guides for Lower Elementary through High School, as well as series of Creative Classic Scripts and Additional Resources.

 Disclaimer: This review was provided as a result of my participation in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine Crew. I was provided the product free of charge in exchange for my honest review. I have received no other compensation. I strive to give a balanced overview of each product, detailing my opinion of both pros and cons and how the product worked for my family. What works for one family may not work for another. I encourage you to read reviews of other Crew members and research sufficiently to determine if any product will be a benefit to your homeschool. You may read more reviews on this product by visiting here.

1 comment:

Kela said...

Thank you for this review! I've been looking at Progeny Press for a while and like what I see. I think it'll be on my list for next Fall!!