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Middle School Literature, Writing
(offered every year)

Taught by Andrew O’Brien or Christina Wassell.

Taught by Andrew O’Brien or Christina Wassell.

Why MSLW?

Do you have a child who can’t put down a good book?  What about a reluctant reader who really can’t get interested in the books you assign in your homeschool?  Do you have a daughter who has already written her own chapter book, or a son who can’t seem to understand where one sentence should end or another begins?  Believe it or not, all of these students can gel around the Middle School Writing and Literature table at New Hope Courses for Homeschoolers to form a dynamic learning community together.  

Over the past 15 years at New Hope we’ve established a tried and true method of bringing a diversity of middle school students together with the common purpose of helping one another grow, from whatever stage each student arrives at around the table.  By creating a supportive community from day one to reassure each learner, we’re able to launch into dynamic literature together, using it to propel us toward the big questions in life: What does it mean to be human?  What does it mean to know God? What is the Good Life, and how do we live it?  Middle Schoolers ages 11-14 are more than ready to take on these big ideas, and to learn to express in writing their responses to this Great Conversation.  Come and join us if you’re ready to read, write and think in new and challenging ways with some of the best texts Western culture has to offer to young people.  Your student is sure to come away with new skills, new perspectives, and a new intimacy with a robust community of learners.

Course Summary

Middle School Literature and Writing takes a threefold approach to meeting each student’s needs: 

  • Establishing a community of grace and affirmation around the seminar table which enables students of widely varying abilities to feel confident offering whatever their personal best may be

  • Laying out a feast of great literature accessible by this age group in order to lead us toward the Great Conversation, and to fearlessly ask big questions based on what we read together

  • Establishing the goal of “moving each student forward in writing,” knowing that will mean very different things for each student, and meeting those needs by offering individualized writing instruction and an atmosphere of peer support

Major topics covered

Middle School Literature and Writing helps students move from reading for pleasure toward reading with an analytical mind, as we study the craft each author uses to immerse us in the worlds they create.  Students also take up writing across several genres with assignments that alternate between creative writing and analysis. The 5-part essay is covered in depth throughout the year as students learn to form and support strong arguments in essay writing.

Major skills developed

  • MSLW builds the skill of articulate and gracious discussion about big ideas.  

  • These skills also translate to the development of ideas in writing, as students work on clarity and fluency in expressing their ideas on the page.  

  • Organization in writing becomes a focus of striving for this clarity.  

  • Students will use the art of keeping a journal as they practice ‘writing to learn.’  

  • Students build the skill of taking notes from the board.  The course also utilizes an Archive, a book where these notes are revisited and rehashed in a polished and personalized form, creating a relic of what we learned together through the course.  

Book list

MSLW alternates between two book lists each year, enabling students to take MSLW twice, in any order.  

BOOK LIST FOR 2019-2020 (Through which we ask: Why do we tell stories?)

  • Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages, Harold Bloom, (Scribner) ISBN-10 0684868741

  • Silas Marner by George Elliot (Dover Thrift) ISBN-10 0486292460

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams, (Scribner) ISBN-10 0743277708

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Made Easy) ISBN-10 0812036034  

  • Walk in the Light and Twenty-Three Tales, by Leo Tolstoy (Orbis Books) ISBN-10  1570754608

  • The Essential Odyssey (translated by Stanley Lombardo) ISBN-10: 0872208990

  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway ISBN-10: 0684801221

  • A unit of short stories, mythology and poems, (two packets) to be provided in PDF form and printed or accessed through an ereader

BOOK LIST FOR 2020-2021  (Through which we ask: What is the nature of justice and mercy?)

  • Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages, Harold Bloom, (Scribner) ISBN-10: 0684868741

  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN-10: 054792822X

  • Animal Farm, George Orwell, (Mass Market Paperback) ISBN-10: 9780451526342

  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, (Dover Thrift) ISBN-10: 0486275590

  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, (Dover Thrift) ISBN-10: 0486268659

  • The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain, (Modern Library Classics) ISBN-10: 0375761128

  • The Merchant of Venice, by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Made Easy) ISBN-10: 0812035704

  • The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, (Anchor) ISBN-10: 0307950905

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (this edition is required: translated and abridged by Lowell Bair), (Bantam Classics) ISBN-10: 0553213504 
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Taught by Christina Wassell and Andrew O’Brien

  • help students to migrate from youth fiction to some of the great classics of western literature

  • meet students at their individual writing skill levels and bring them forward in their abilities

  • develop a safe and supportive space for students to engage in constructive conversation

  • give students tools to analyze literature and writing with new depth and perspective

The Humanities at New Hope

Though tutorials differ as to age, grade level and subject matter, the general philosophy of language studies remains the same. In every tutorial, from middle school through senior year, students work almost entirely from primary sources, analyzing the material independently, through in-class discussions, and in the context of tutor questions and lectures. Students are asked to do the difficult thinking rather than letting Cliff's Notes do their work for them. Also, though the writing genres are essentially the same for a middle school student as for a professional writer, the complexity of and expectations for student writing change over time. Students are growing as writers within these genres over many years. Therefore, they are asked to achieve greater clarity, control and power as they progress. Finally, these courses seek to engage students in the language arts from the perspective of the Christian faith. It is the position of New Hope Tutorials that the humanities are most profoundly understood and appreciated through the life of faith in Jesus Christ.

Course Description

The main focus of Middle School Literature is student enjoyment of literature and writing. In the second year cycle, students are expected to "bring things up a notch", with more focus on critical reading and literary analysis. The course will cover several novels, but will also spend a significant amount of time studying the art of the short story, exposing students to a broad range of great authors. Shakespeare and select poems will also be examined. Student writing remains a focus in the course, as students progress in their own abilities, aiming not only to experiment with language and style, but to move toward greater clarity of expression and a new depth in their ideas. The genres assigned will include: reflection, exposition, persuasion, literary analysis, narrative, poetry, etc.

Book List for 2019-2020

  • Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages, Harold Bloom, ISBN 0684868741

  • Silas Marner by George Elliot (Dover Thrift) ISBN 0486292460

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams, (Scribner) ISBN 0743277708

  • The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Made Easy) ISBN 0812036034

  • (TBA) by William Shakespeare (Shakespeare Made Easy) ISBN:

  • Walk in the Light and Twenty-Three Tales, by Leo Tolstoy (Orbis Books) ISBN 1570754608

  • The Essential Odyssey (transl. Lombardo) ISBN 978-0872208995

  • Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway ISBN 978-0684801223

  • A unit of short stories, mythology and poems, (two packets) to be provided by the tutor


Book list for 2018-2019 (MOST RECENT YEAR)

  • Stories and Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children of All Ages, Harold Bloom, (Scribner) ISBN-10: 0684868741

  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, (Houghton Mifflin) ISBN-10: 054792822X

  • Animal Farm, George Orwell, (Mass Market Paperback) ISBN-10: 9780451526342

  • Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson, (Dover Thrift) ISBN-10: 0486275590

  • A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens, (Dover Thrift) ISBN-10: 0486268659

  • TBA - (Shakespeare Made Easy) William Shakespeare, ISBN:

  • The Prince and the Pauper, Mark Twain, (Modern Library Classics) ISBN-10: 0375761128

  • The Annotated Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen, (Anchor) ISBN-10: 0307950905

  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas, (Bantam Classics) ISBN-10: 0553213504