Honors English Language Arts
On-Line for the 2019-2020 School Year
Teacher: Jody Best
NOTE: This class is designed as preparation for AP classes and will be designated as an honors class.
**This class is currently FULL. I will welcome applications to next year's class beginning in late March 2020.
Tuition: $650 before July 1; $675 beginning July 1
To apply: Please complete the application below.
Please feel free to email me your questions at any time.
Suggested Grade Levels:
This course is open to 8th, 9th and 10th -grade students. Some 11th-grade students may also find this class to be a good fit. Students should be highly motivated to explore legitimately honors-level work.
Length of course:
This course begins Tuesday, September 3, 2019, and extends through May 15, 2020.
There is a half-week break at Thanksgiving, a two-week break in December, an Easter break, and a one-week spring break.
Hang on. It’s going to be an adventure. We’ll explore all the big, fat rules and all the delicate and demanding nuances that encompass the enchanted land of language arts.
It’s gonna be fun. (“Outside of a book, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” –Groucho Marx)
It’s gonna be challenging. (“We live in a world where unfortunately the distinction between true and false appears to become increasingly blurred by manipulation of facts, by exploitation of uncritical minds, and by the pollution of the language.” –Arne Tiselius )
It’s gonna be good. (“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” –Adrienne Rich. )
Honors English Language Arts is a rigorous and engaging class that is designed to encourage creative and critical reading, writing and thinking. The class will prepare students for success in future AP classes as well as provide strategies and practice that are useful for upper-level high school classes, college classes or tests such as the PSAT and SAT. In addition to reading and writing assignments, students will be encouraged to develop skills such as time management, organization, note-taking, and legible handwriting. These basic proficiencies are crucial for AP and academic success. (Did you know that the SAT and AP tests have sections requiring hand-written essays? This class will help students be prepared!)
A small class size ensures that students stay engaged and receive meaningful feedback. This class will require that students be receptive to respectful critiques which will be offered in a positive way that reinforces the value of persistence and hard work. Students will learn how to develop drafts, make revisions, and present a polished finished product. The class is highly interactive and designed so students know and work with their classmates. Active participation is expected and recognized.
I think one of the most important aspects of language is recognizing its power. I will emphasize to students that their writing reflects on them. I will teach students to begin to recognize how language can be used and manipulated...with results that can be funny, poignant, disturbing. There will be much to discuss! Students can count on enthusiasm and attention! Parents can count on careful and in-depth evaluations and feedback and a teacher who will get to know each student. Plus, I will share ideas and tips that might be helpful in navigating high school homeschooling.
Our study of language arts will encompass novels, plays, non-fiction texts, and poetry. Vocabulary and grammar will be integrated into the curriculum in order to develop the strong foundation needed to become a confident writer. Students will learn how to develop a thesis and support an argument with textual evidence. Lessons will incorporate many real-world applications, and students will participate in contests such as the Scholastic Writing Awards. I will provide opportunities for students to develop and submit work for publication or recognition--excellent for resumes and for personal satisfaction. Students will complete a variety of writing samples for their portfolios.
For their excellent short story, poetry, and critical essay entries this past year, students in Honors English have been recognized with four Gold Keys (first place), two Silver Keys, and two Honorable Mentions in the Scholastic Writing Awards competition, one of the nation's most prestigious and oldest writing competitions. In addition, one of my students was honored with a "Voice of America" writing award nomination.
Honors English Language Arts will live up to its name. We will take a Renaissance approach to the study of English and integrate art, science, and history into our lessons. For example, lessons will be developed from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Nobelprize.org, Games for Change, and a wide variety of other cross-curricular sources. Students will have hands-on projects, and I will encourage intellectual curiosity. This class is not test-centric, and the tests that are given are application-and-long-term-knowledge-based as opposed to spit-back-information-based. The reading, writing, and projects assignments in Honors English Language Arts make this an ideal class for hard-working, curious, and motivated students and parents who understand that grades and true knowledge are earned through sincere effort.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer
Othello by William Shakespeare
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Inferno by Dante Alighieri (John Ciardi translation)
MLA Handbook 8th Edition
I will provide a selection of short stories, poems, and essays. These will include works by Ambrose Bierce, William Faulkner, Edgar Allen Poe, Martin Luther King, William Blake, Bob Dylan, Lewis Carroll, Billy Collins, and others.
Students should be prepared to spend a minimum of an hour each day on reading and writing assignments. Assignments will include the following:
-independent book projects
-First Friday creative educational games
-films (in conjunction with reading assignments)
-research project or paper
-tests and quizzes
Students must have full web and printer access and must be able to view and create PDF files. The class is hosted on a password-protected site designed by PA Homeschoolers. Each student will need full Internet and printer access. Students will also need to use a word-processing application such as Microsoft Word as well as Google Docs. I will provide instructions about how to set up and submit papers. Students may need to utilize Skype or Google Hangouts for book club discussions or group projects. (I am not a "techie" teacher, and I will strive to make all online interactions comfortable for all parties involved. We will patiently navigate the process together.)
This course is asynchronous, which means that it is structured but flexible. There is no specific time requirement to be on-site. Daily interaction is expected with me and with classmates on the class discussion board. With this flexibility comes a responsibility to complete all assignments and meet all deadlines. Every Sunday, students will receive an overview of concepts, assignments, and deadlines. Assignments will usually be due on Wednesdays or Fridays. Parents also receive weekly updates. Extensions to deadlines will be granted with advance notice or in the case of illness or emergencies. Students will interact with one another both in online discussion forums and in group projects such as online book club meetings. I am readily available to parents and students via telephone, email, or skype.
About the Instructor:
I am delighted to be part of the roster of dedicated PA Homeschooler teachers. I love teaching, and I am committed to challenging my students and caring for them as individuals. I know the importance of establishing standards and maintaining a sense of humor. I taught high school English in a rural public school prior to a 14-year homeschooling journey with my two daughters (who took many PA Homeschooler AP classes before heading off on international student exchanges and enrollment at Dickinson College and Rhode Island School of Design.) I attended Penn State University, Florida Atlantic University, and Saint Vincent’s College, and I have written for newspapers and other publications. Now, I am the director of a non-profit community arts organization, an avid reader and writer, and an advocate and teacher of arts and literacy.
Instructor Recommendations / Endorsements
"HELA is something I wish would have been available earlier through PA Homeschoolers. My son has a very scientific brain, and so English was never his strong point. When I saw this class offered I jumped at the chance for him to get his feet wet before having to take a college level English class. He has loved every minute. Not once during the year has he complained about doing HELA (like was so common when I would try and get him to complete an English assignment.) Mrs. Best has put so much time and effort into keeping the class engaging and interesting. This class will prepare your child for the workload that is required of them in upper-level AP classes. If you are on the fence about this class, jump! It is wonderful, and Mrs. Best is the best!"
Pauline Berry, homeschooling parent of students who have taken multiple AP classes
"I have been ecstatic with the steady improvement in my son's writing under Mrs. Best's tutelage. Her assignments are creative and have certainly challenged my son this year. One of his favorite assignments, because of the reward, has been a thank you letter to a company. My son sent his letter to a chocolate company, and he was rewarded with two boxes of his favorite chocolate pretzels and a letter from the president of the company! He has always been reluctant to write, but the students are given clear instruction that has really clicked for my son this year. He has become more confident in his ability to write well. Mrs. Best also gives excellent feedback to the students about their coursework. We have been very pleased with the quality and depth of instruction that my son has received."
Mary Schmidt, homeschooling parent of Honors English student
The first story I heard about Jody Best was how she had her daughters lie on the ground to paint the underside of their picnic table as they studied Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel. This creative approach to education is central to who Jody is, and I can honestly say that she is one of the most natural teachers I have ever encountered. I know that our family’s homeschooling experiences are better in so many ways from the knowledge and inspiration we have received from Jody for the past eight years. From organizing community-wide art classes to teaching local youth the fundamentals of Shakespeare as the director of the community theatre, Jody embraces learning and instruction with boundless creativity, enviable energy, and a sincere interest in each of the young people she works with. She is a master at taking advantage of teachable moments to help students thrive and learn in an enjoyable and nurturing environment. Without a doubt, the most compelling evidence of her ability as a teacher is her two daughters, homeschooled for their entire K-12 programs. They are exemplars of what is possible through homeschooling, and their success owes much to Jody’s kind and thoughtful guidance. I am confident that students and families who embark on a learning adventure with Jody will gain much from the experience, and have a wonderful time along the journey.
Annelise Carleton-Hug, homeschooling parent
Mrs. Best was an amazing find! We have a ninth grader who was not ready for AP classes but wanted to be challenged. This was the perfect course and teacher. The lessons are so thoughtful and purposeful, but the best part is how much creativity she puts into each one, and how she loves to reward creativity on the part of the students. Our daughter loves that she offers options and choices on some select assignments. A fun project was producing a video interview of a character from A Tale of Two Cities. Our daughter feels very connected with the other kids in the forum thanks to Mrs. Best. One thing that was very important for us too was the book selection. The books are both challenging but also respect the fact that these are young high schoolers. Mrs. Best has chosen classics and some modern books and handles the controversial topics very well and in a balanced way. As a parent, we can tell that she truly cares about each student and is very encouraging with every assignment. Thank you, Mrs. Best!
Guy Hocker, homeschooling parent of Honors English student
Honors English Language Arts is an ideal blend of fun and rigor. The assignments are creative and embed considerable practice of multiple valuable skills. Every assignment has a clever twist that sparks new learning and keeps it enjoyable. What makes this class particularly stand out is the thoughtful and detailed feedback Jody Best gives her students and the supportive community she creates in an asynchronous class.
Tammy McKanan, homeschooling parent of Honors English student
I have known Jody as a teacher and friend for over twenty-five years and can attest without reservation to both her love for learning and for children of all ages. Jody was my high school English teacher, and what I remember the most about that time and relationship was being both simultaneously encouraged and challenged - to think a little bigger, to go beyond "good enough". Since then, I have known Jody as a friend, and never come away from a visit without a book recommendation, a good story to ponder, or some other inspiration to live a more creative and joyful life. My husband and I have enjoyed being a small part of the Best family's homeschooling experience. Watching her daughters grow and learn, learning ourselves from visits and conversations, they have shown us what is possible and are a guiding influence as we look forward to homeschooling our own children. Jody is a gifted educator, and I am confident that her students and their parents will find her class to be rich and rewarding.
Sara Wetzel, former student and parent of two young daughters
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