The cool, crisp air coupled with foggy mornings illuminated by the sunrise are here. How lovely to be greeted by the vibrant and jewel-tone garments of autumn when stepping outside. Hot tea and oatmeal or warm apple cobbler with omelettes, among other favorite breakfasts, awaken our family in the morning. Snug pajamas are often times the wardrobe of choice for our literature studies and discussions (be it in the mornings or evenings).
Our literature studies are more than just reading and discussing what we enjoy. We go pretty deep. Will you join me this lovely fall day as I walk you through what we do? I’m using Sir Walter Scott: Wizard of the North as an example because it’s a current read.
Below are five steps for how to do a Christian character literature study.
Step 1: Study the Plot
As you read through books with your children, take notes together about the order of events that take place. This is done by using the author’s words. If it’s a historical work, autobiography, or biography, look for God’s Providential Hand.
For older students, simply writing this down on a notebook page chapter by chapter is sufficient. However, older students and younger students may enjoy using a Sequence Chain notebook page where they can do thumbnail sketches or sentences of the story as the plot unfolds chapter by chapter.
Step 2: Study the Characterization
The main character alone could be the focus or a study of the supporting characters may be added (it depends on how much time you have or how in-depth you want your study to be). When doing this, a T-Chart is used with the left side titled “Internal Qualities” and the right side titled “External Qualities”. As you read through a book, you and your children pay attention to these details. Below is an example from our literature study of Sir Walter Scott: Wizard of the North:
So far, it might sound like a regular literature study. Yes? To apply the Principle Approach® method, this is where we slow down to consider the internal qualities. This is where you have two choices:
- Look at a positive character quality (ex. loving, kind, generous, lending a hand, joy, patient, etc.).
- Look at a negative character quality (ex. coveting, walking in offense, bitterness, holding grudges, quick to anger, etc.)
Once you decide which character quality you want to discuss, use Webster’s 1828 Dictionary to define that adjective for a proper understanding of what it means. Then you go to a concordance to search for Bible verses that talk about the character quality you are studying about. In doing so, you will find the Bible Principle for your lesson. Then a rich discussion may take place with you and your children.
With the help of the plot notes, in this discussion you help them see the cause to effect; that is to say, you help them see the cause of the internal quality and the external effect you read about. “This” heart attitude or thought life or action caused “this” to happen in the plot to the main character or others in the story. An example is below:
“A new baby son lay sleeping in the little cradle in Mother Scott’s room…”
“The months that passed were happy times in the Scott home.”
“Little Walter lay still and strange…”
“He is burning with fever, Walter.”
“The fever had crippled his right leg.”
The examples above are from Chapter 1 and they are listed in the Sir Walter Scott Teacher Guide ©2010, Foundation for American Christian Education, p. 23.
If the story tells about the person over a number of years, a study of the individual may be divided in the following way:
- The person in their youth,
- The person as a mature adult
Some observations to make about the main character(s):
- What is their response to their life’s circumstances?
- What is their response to failure?
- What is their response to success?
- What is their responsibility to their family, community, or nation?
- What contributions in life did the person make (personal or professional)?
- How did they deal with affliction or trials?
- What is their work ethic?
Characterization studies help us to consider our own selves: our strengths, our weaknesses, where we need to grow and change, and the development of the characters’ internal qualities over the course of the story.
Step 3: Study the Setting
There are many wonderful quotes by an author on the settings found throughout their work. The ones that appeal most to you and your children are the ones that you’ll take note of. I love this example from Sir Walter Scott: Wizard of the North:
It was summer in the Highlands. The blue sky held a golden sun and the heather-painted hills were softly lavender.
Step 4: Study the Theme
The author has a main message he or she is sharing. There are also sub-messages throughout a story. You have two choices here as well:
- Focus only on the main message that the author is sharing,
- Write down sub-messages from each chapter in addition to the main message.
The main message will likely be one of the Seven Loves of Literature that The Noah Plan® Literature Curriculum Guide teaches about on pp. 85-86.
Step 5: Study the Author
As already mentioned, the author has a message he or she wants to share. Learning about the author adds layers of meaning to the story and the message(s) in their work. The Noah Plan® Curriculum Guide on page 135 has us consider the following:
Identify the author in the light of the Chain of Christianity moving westward. Did this author contribute to Christian principles of literature? If the classic is a biography or historical work, give the students a background in terms of the individual period to be studied.
The Chrysalis Members’ Club members are doing a Literature Study of Sir Walter Scott: Wizard of the North this school year. If you’re interested in a Literature Study using the Principle Approach® method for Robinson Crusoe, you can join my friend Gina and her community at her veteranhomeschoolmom.com website.
Please tell me, does this post help you understand how to implement the Principle Approach® method in literature studies? If you have any questions or suggestions, please share them in the comments below for our community.