Big River Academy has a lot to offer for families looking for English and Literature homeschool classes. In this blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the classes taught by Jana Bontrager as she discussed in our TeacherTalks podcast. Mrs. Bontrager is excited about English and loves to share her zest for language arts with her students. We’ll take a look at English, Literature, and Public Speaking classes offered at Big River Academy.
We offer a succession of English classes — English I, English II, English III, and English IV. They are each full-year classes. Ideally, a student might enter into English I in 5th grade and progress through English IV in 8th grade. But we start students in whatever class is appropriate for them. For example, if a student discovers Big River Academy when they are ready for English III, they can start there.
During this series of homeschool English classes, students progress through learning about grammar from start to finish. We also learn about how to write. By the time they’ve completed English IV, they are pretty accomplished in writing, research, and character analysis.
“I love the way we are teaching vocabulary,” Mrs. Bontrager said during a podcast discussion. “It is the best way I have ever seen the vocabulary taught. I will never teach it another way.”
We teach using Latin and Greek stems. It’s more than just reading a list of words and memorizing the definitions for random words. What we do is we learn pieces of words. For instance, did you know that the stem “ortho” means straight? So, whether you’re talking about an orthopedic doctor straightening the bones or talking about an orthodontist straightening the teeth — based on knowing the definition for that stem — students know what they’re going to be dealing with for those words.
As we learn these pieces of words — we call them stems because they can be prefixes or suffixes or sometimes even roots of words. Students learn the pieces so they are able to put them together and make whole new words. Or they recognize words by breaking them apart and examining the pieces to them rather than having to memorize the definition of a whole new word.
We also cover classic literature in all of our English courses. Here’s a look at some of the classic literature we cover in each of the English classes.
- English I — Where the Red Fern Grows
- English II — The Giver, Tuck Everlasting, and Swiss Family Robinson
- English III — The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom.
- English IV — Treasure Island, The Time Machine, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Hobbit.
Students will also cover plenty of short stories and poetry in all of these classes. We especially dive into poetry in English IV. We also have extensive grammar and punctuation study in those classes so the students learn to put their writing together correctly.
We also offer lots of writing and literature homeschool classes. Mrs. Bontrager teaches an upper-level homeschool literature course called Intro To Literary Analysis. This course provides a good foundation and is a great way to break into those full-year literature courses. Students in this class will cover some classics and higher-level reading material — including Gulliver’s Travels. We also read The Scarlet Letter, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Hamlet, which is our Shakespeare for the year.
Students will research writing and respond to each other in verbal discussion. Mrs. Bontrager said she likes to give students the microphone in that class and let them discuss and run away with these literature pieces. The goal of this class is for students to look at a piece of literature from all angles and become immersed in it. We want them to really understand it from the perspective of the author. We also discuss lots of history about the authors, the worlds in which they lived, and in which the literature pieces are set.
This is a popular class among our students. In fact, some students had so much fun that they wanted to keep going. So we did an independent study over the summer. They selected some books and went through them — almost like a book club.
“These kids love to interact with each other, they’ve made friends, and it’s one of my favorite literature homeschool classes”, Mrs. Bontrager said.
She also teaches Public Speaking. This class is not something that everybody is excited about. In fact, statistics show that people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of actually dying! That’s pretty amazing when you consider that most of us will have to do public speaking at some point in our lives.
Any adult reading this blog post can surely think of some time they have had to get up and deliver a toast or talk at a graduation or some sort of meeting. Maybe it is getting in front of family members and telling a story. Public speaking doesn’t have to be intimidating!
The more you do it, the better you get at it. Every single time you get up in front of people you are getting experience and it gets easier to shake off those nerves. This is where our homeschool Public Speaking class comes in.
It is a one-semester class — available in both the Fall and Spring. In this class, students are on the cameras and microphones right out of the gate. The students have to stretch themselves out of their comfort zones. And there is a lot of writing involved in public speaking too.
This class might even be worth a partial English credit in a lot of states because these students are creating a lot of the speeches that they do. Here’s a quick look at the speeches students do in this class.
- Informative — This is for 2-3 minutes and the students just tell me about something that they like to do.
- Persuasive — This is an important skill. It is helpful to know how to persuade someone in both writings and in speaking.
- Demonstrative — Students love this one because they get to show us what they are doing. We have had students prepare food, show us how to ride a unicycle, teach us about playing the guitar, or how to train a dog, or how to paint. We have even watched a young man make lip balm with essential oils.
- Extemporaneous — This is when you have a very limited amount of time. Students get 30 minutes to flesh out a topic for about two minutes. It puts pressure on and makes them think on their feet.
A lot of places require public speaking for graduation so it is a great way to get that taken care of. We know it is difficult to find something like this for a homeschool setting which is why we love that we are able to offer it. Mrs. Bontrager says she loves public speaking, has been doing it for a long time and is grateful to get to share that knowledge with these kids.
Big River Academy
We love what we do at Big River Academy and hope that you have enjoyed spending a bit of time getting to know us and how we approach homeschool for the 21st century. If you have any questions about literature homeschool classes or anything else, feel free to email us or message us on social media. Make sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram and YouTube to keep up with the excitement at Big River Academy.
Jana Bontrager is the founder of Big River Academy. She earned her degree in English Education from Florida State University and a Master’s in Online Education from Concordia University. Check out her bio or you can learn more about the rest of our teachers. You can learn more about Big River Academy on our about us page or on our blog.