Online for the 2023-2024 School Year
Teacher: Mr. Stewart
My course is currently accepting students! It requires an application, so please don't register or pay until after you've submitted your application (instructions below) and received a confirmation email from me!
To apply: Fill out the application and email it as a .doc or .docx to email@example.com
Here's an alternate link to download the application if for some reason the above link isn't working: docs.google.com/document/d/1A9zFSpo3Yx851SA3KaD4jArYoI7oUTiU/. Just go to the "File" tab at the top left corner of the page, choose "Download," and save the file as a .doc or .docx file.
I try to respond to all applications within three business days. If, after submitting your application, you haven't heard from me in that time, please reach out to me again at: firstname.lastname@example.org with a follow-up email. I'm also happy to answer any questions you may have. (You are also welcome to send an email to my official PA Homeschoolers email address: email@example.com)
Course Description: Honors English Language Arts is a highly interactive class that will push students to become critical readers, confident writers, and nuanced thinkers. It will be rigorous and demanding, but still fun. Learning is serious business, but that doesn't mean we always have to be serious while doing it!
The course is designed to prepare high school students for the demands of AP-level English coursework. Thus, the class is reading-heavy and will expose students to a wide range of genres, authors and writing styles — but without the pressures of studying for an AP exam!
In a typical week, students should expect to read anywhere from 40 to 60 pages, while also completing short daily responses to the texts and occasional longer essays/creative assignments. Students will read both imaginative literature (novels, short stories, poetry and drama) and non-fiction (essays, speeches, memoir, and journalism). Students should be prepared for readings that will challenge them. While I try to avoid assigning anything explicit, gratuitous or vulgar, our texts will sometimes feature difficult themes and subjects. Above all, I select books and essays that reward deep engagement and critical analysis. They won't always be "entertaining" per se, but I promise they will be thought-provoking.
Throughout the year, our study will be guided by such questions as:
1. Why should we learn to read "beneath the surface of things"? These days, we're surrounded by writing of all kinds: news, advertising, political signs, social media posts, group texts, emails — the list is extensive. In this class, we'll cultivate the capacity to read critically. By studying both classic and contemporary writing, we'll learn to analyze the motivations, purposes and rhetorical strategies of the authors seeking our attention.
2. How should we express ourselves through writing? Even as we're surrounded by things to read, we're all increasingly becoming writers too. We'll explore what it means to craft a writing "voice," how to tell compelling stories, and how to write persuasively with evidence and research. We'll follow in the tradition of great essayists and storytellers who had distinct individual voices and, importantly, something worth saying — like James Baldwin, Wendell Berry, Ursula K. Le Guin, Virginia Woolf and others.
3. What is literature and why does it matter? There are so many ways to spend our leisure time and so many forms of high-quality entertainment available to us these days. We'll consider the value of deep, sustained attention to classic literature like Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre and Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. We'll ask: What can fiction and poetry still reveal to us about what it means to be human?
Students will be asked to write on a regular basis. These assignments include informal journal posts, interactive discussions, and formal essays. Students will also read and respond to daily "Morning Messages," which is how I introduce assignments and explain key concepts. Additionally, students will learn how to craft thesis statements, conduct basic research on primary and secondary sources, and build evidence-based arguments. The key to good writing is rewriting, and we'll do a lot of that too; almost every essay will go through at least two drafts, giving students the chance to practice editing and revision skills.
We often think of reading and writing as a solitary pursuits. But in my class, we'll practice these arts as communal activities. The class will emphasize discussion and peer-feedback on written assignments. Students should expect to read each other's work, learn how to offer meaningful feedback, and accept constructive critiques with grace and goodwill. While I provide guidance and structure, discussions will be largely student-driven; students will often have the chance to discuss questions about readings that THEY want to ask. Students will also organize small independent book clubs to discuss high-quality texts of their choosing.
But hold on — not every assignment comes straight from Ye Olde English course! Students will have plenty of chances to exercise their creativity too. They’ll craft original poetry, practice writing descriptive imagery with precise diction, and participate in lively debate forums. Students will reflect on their own intellectual influences and favorite authors; learn to analyze literary tools like plot and characterization; and much more. Most importantly, I'll ask students to make connections between coursework and their own lives. I strongly believe that students should write about what interests them, and my assignments will encourage this.
My course is also designed to help students prepare for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, a national competition for students. We’ll study several of the major writing categories, including persuasive writing; personal essay and memoir; journalism; short stories; novels; poetry; and drama. (You can see the full list of categories here.) The deadline for most regions falls in early December, and students will have the chance to submit at least one major writing project. Several of my past students have brought home Silver and Gold Keys, which means their writing was judged to be among the best in their region!
Doing well in this class takes motivation, discipline and time. I require active, daily participation in class activities, and I expect students to meet firm deadlines. In return, students can expect detailed feedback and individual attention from me. I will get to know every student and support their success. I will provide parents and students with a detailed progress report after the first semester, as well as a comprehensive final summary in May.
Who should apply? This course is open to advanced 9thand 10thgrade students. It is also open to 11thand 12thgrade students who want a challenging high school English course but who aren't taking AP English courses. A background in formal literary analysis isn't necessary, nor do students need to be aspiring poets or novelists. But all students should be able to write cleanly and clearly, with minimal grammar errors. We'll review some grammar rules and study vocabulary, but this is NOT a remedial English course. Successful students will be curious, self-motivated, disciplined, and willing to tackle books that make them think. The amount they get out of my class will depend heavily on the effort they put in.
Time commitments: Students should be prepared to spend a minimum of 7 to 8 hours a week on reading, writing and discussion assignments.
Students will have assignments due every weekday (usually by midnight) on our course website. Essays and other major writing assignments will usually be due on weekends. This course has no live class sessions. Work can be completed at any time on the day it is due. I remember what it was like to be a busy homeschooler, and I will accommodate students who need to work ahead because of travel or other commitments, as long as I'm informed ahead of time.
Tech needs: The class takes place on a password-protected PA Homeschoolers website. Students should have reliable access to the internet and a printer. They should be able to view PDF files. Students may also need to use Skype, Zoom or Google chat to organize their book club discussions.
Length of Course: Monday, August 21, 2023 to Friday, May 3, 2024
Breaks: Students will have one week off for fall break (mid-October), one week off for Thanksgiving, two weeks off for winter break, and one week off for spring break (mid-March). No assignments will be due on any U.S. National Holidays.
- Tuition: $750 if payment is received before July 1; $800 after July 1.
- Books: Roughly $70 + S&H if purchased new from a retailer like Bookshop.org or Amazon. The cost may be less if you find used versions or make use of your local library!
Registration deadline: Applications will be accepted through August 1 or until the class fills up. The class size will be limited to around 30 students.
- Summer reading assignment: The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction by Alan Jacobs (ISBN: 978-0199747498)
- The Signet Book of American Essays (Signet Classics) (ISBN: 978-0451530219)
- A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver (ISBN: 978-0156724005)
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway (any edition)
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (any edition; free online version available at Gutenberg.org)
- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (any edition; free online version available at Gutenberg.org)
In addition to these books, students will choose four additional books to read and discuss in independent book clubs at various points throughout the year.
I will also provide PDFs or web links to short stories, poems, and essays by James Baldwin, Wendell Berry, Ambrose Bierce, Rachel Carson, Anton Chekhov, Kate Chopin, Ursula K. Le Guin, Saki, Virginia Woolf and others.
Instructor Qualifications: This is my third year teaching Honors English Language Arts, though I've been teaching with PA Homeschoolers since 2017. Previously, I worked with Maya Inspektor as a co-teacher for her AP English Literature class from 2017 to 2021. (I also co-taught AP English Language with her for one year.) I have degrees in English and Journalism, and I've worked as a teaching assistant in practical, hands-on journalism classes. I love helping students to learn and grow as writers! I'm also a former homeschooler and took many classes through PAH. Finally, I own more books than I can possibly read in the near-future, but (for some reason) I continue to frequent bookstores!