Review: Progeny Press – Two Novel Study Guides
Progeny Press is a family-owned and operated publisher of literature study guides for all ages from kindergarten through high school. In business since 1992, over 100 study guides are currently available. Progeny Press strives to create materials that allow students to examine literature from a Christian perspective. We’ve had the opportunity to review two of their titles: The Hobbit Study Guide and the Eagle of the Ninth Study Guide. I’ll get to the specifics about each of these guides in a moment; first, let me tell you about the company and their products as a whole.
Study guides are offered in three formats: as print books, as PDF downloads, or as PDF files on CD. Study guides for grades 4-12 are available in a special “interactive” format, which means that students have the option of entering all their answers into the workbook on the computer, and saving printed (if desired) for last. Of course, the study guide can always be printed and used in the traditional manner if desired. Products for grades K-3 remain in the standard format, and there are no plans to change these – likely because most K-3 graders wouldn’t be likely to be typing effectively in the first place.
Progeny Press study guides are especially economical if there are multiple students in the family who would be using them, because the purchaser is permitted to photocopy (or print) copies for use in their home or classroom. Also, original booklets and CDs may be resold, but downloaded electronic files may not be transferred to another person.
We received the downloadable version to review, and since one was middle school, and one high school, both are in the interactive PDF format. The download actually had three separate files inside – the student book, the answer key, and a ReadMe with detailed instructions for using the interactive book.
Study guides are in black & white – so are answer keys – making Progeny Press study guides thrifty in their use of printer ink, a feature always appreciated but not always determinable before purchase. (The only color is found on the title pages, and of course, that’s up to you whether or not it’s necessary to print. Must say, though, I love the covers!)
Both study guides we received are about 60 pages long, and include a few pages with information for the instructor, a brief synopsis of the novel, and a biography of the author. A page with several pre-reading activities follows, leading into the study.
Progeny Press recommends that during the first week of the study, students read through the novel in its entirety, while working through one pre-reading exercise. Students should have access to a good dictionary, a thesaurus, and a bible, and might also find a topical bible or concordance useful. They state that most parents and teachers find that it works best if students complete one page per day, or about a section per week. Student should be permitted to use the novel while doing the lessons, because many of the questions expect the student to compare, contrast, and comment upon multiple locations in the book.
At the end of each study guide, there may be a section entitled Overview, which may be done as the weekly lessons, for review, or used as a study-ending test. Another option for a final test would be to use a question or two from each weekly section. Many of the guides include essay and post-reading activities; this may be used during the study, or at the end of it, however the instructor desires.
The final portion of the study consists of lists of additional resources; in our case, they included other titles by the novel’s author, books about the novel’s author, books on similar topics and themes, and relevant movies.
Progeny Press also advises that most Christian high schools assign 1/4 credit per study guide, and that this also appears acceptable to colleges reviewing homeschool transcripts. A study would be expected to take 8-10 weeks, or approximately four studies per year.
My one concern with these guides, whether used interactively or print-and-write style? That there may not be enough room to answer questions. Granted, when typing, a significant amount of room is saved, but judging by my own wordiness – and that of one of my children – it’s going to be a challenge at times to keep the space from flowing over. That’s the one drawback of the interactive version; a too-full entry box simply starts scrolling inside the box, and it’s very unlikely to print right when all is said and done.
The Hobbit Study Guide – grades 9-12
I was surprised that this was a text chosen for high school level material; I’d read the Hobbit in early middle school myself, and so have a couple of my kids, though they’ve just enjoyed it, never studied it.
The questions asked, though, are relevant to this age, and do an excellent job tying modern story to biblical history. Thought-provoking and not answerable with just a word or two, this text demands real study of the novel in question, because without it, the student has nothing to write.
The answer key is succinct – likely for ease of printing – but clearly indicates, in the case of open-ended questions, what sort of answers the instructor should be looking for… and if there are any traps that students are likely to fall into.
All in all, The Hobbit Study Guide delivers on its promise – a way of allowing a popular fantasy title (often avoided by Christians) to be examined against a backdrop of faith.
The Eagle of the Ninth Study Guide – grades 5-8
I’d never heard of the book The Eagle of the Ninth until this unit study, and it was quite a surprise – and a bit of a puzzle – to me when my students chose this one.
Despite my lack of familiarity, I’m glad to admit that it’s actually a captivating novel, and the study guide from Progeny Press really hightlighted the excellent job storytel – ling. A strong emphasis on learning and using vocabulary suffuses this guide, which I much appreciated with my kids. Though they’re well read, and have extensive vocabularies, there is always more to learn.
I admit it – I had to look up damson – a small, purple fruit, or a dark purple color. And that was only a couple of lessons in. That’s a word that, had I read it in a novel, I’d have gotten a glimpse of the meaning through context, and moved on, ignoring it. No way my students can do that if they’re answering questions.
I also found it valuable that the interactive format is not limited to question and answer, fill-in-the-blank styles answers – Progeny Press makes liberal use of some of the best fillable PDFs special features, such as creating multiple choice questions.
Best of all, Progeny Press study guides are an easy way to ensure that your student is comprehending and synthesizing what they have learned through applying their understanding. Plus, there are enough options available that you’re sure to find something that you – or your student – is interested in.
Schoolhouse crew members reviewed
several other study guides from Progeny Press,including one for 3rd-4th graders:
two for 5th-8th grade:
and two for 9th-12th grade: