We received a copy of the Mosdos Literature Ruby Edition (4th grade) in return for an honest review. I received this curriculum from Timberdoodle Company as I’m part of their 2018-2019 blog review team. This curriculum is part of the fourth-grade curriculum package.
My daughter is an energetic, hands-on kid and reading does nothing to feed the need to move and touch. However, she’s getting closer to middle school, so I told her this year would require more reading. She bristled until I showed her the Mosdos Ruby book.
My daughter was right between two grades – fourth and fifth – when we started this program. We have used it on and off throughout our 2018-2019 school year. I think my daughter was truly ready for this program about midway through our school year. She was much more hesitant about her reading skills from September to December 2018. We took time to read books she likes in between Mosdos selections to build her confidence. If you are considering placement as a homeschool parent, I believe this curriculum is advanced for reluctant readers. The fourth-grade package was a good fit for my daughter because it stretched her, but the selections were short enough to not exhaust her.
If you have a voracious reader, you’ll need to slow them down to use this as a literature analysis curriculum. This program is designed to get you and your student talking about literary elements and analyzing literature. We all hear horror stories about how studying literature in school sucked the joy of literature out of us. I believe that’s an unfair statement. Literature analysis can be a fantastic tool for building reading comprehension, critical thinking, character, and writing skills.
I believe that Mosdos does a careful job of introducing the analysis and discussion without ruining the literature. The program is gentle enough to slim down for the reluctant or struggling student and meaty enough for a student who is pumped about literature analysis. I also like that they introduce content that is interesting and geared at children this age. Most of the selections feature a child character and topics children are curious about. For instance, “Mom’s Best Friend” explains how a person gets a seeing-eye dog.
I’ll share more on how we use the program after I present the overview of what you get in the full Mosdos Ruby Literature package.
What You Get With Mosdos Press Literature – Ruby Edition
The curriculum package we received includes two enormous teacher manuals, a student reading textbook, and a student workbook. The curriculum is divided into six units based on a character trait (the things that matter; clarity; head, hands, heart; a poetry unit; caring; determination; and the grand finale). Each section of the unit is designed to cover a single reading selection (short story, novel excerpt, folk tale), a poem, and/or article per week. Mosdos is known for its attention to excellent literature and character-building stories.
The teacher edition includes reduced images of the student text along with notes about how to teach the elements of literature to your student. It’s designed for a classroom setting, but it’s highly adaptable to a homeschool environment.
The teacher’s edition has a typical teacher manual layout – information to prepare for the lesson, a guide to the reading selection to read with students, and a post-reading study guide. Each spread of the story has directions on how to teach the story. It tells you when to read aloud and has both literal and analytical comprehension questions on each spread of the story. It also includes literary elements to discuss with your student in several places.
The student textbook includes a pre-story element called “Lesson in Literature,” the literature selection, a blueprint for reading, and vocabulary pull-outs called “Word Bank” for students to see pronunciation and meaning for unfamiliar words. The selection ends with some comprehension questions, a few suggestions for writing a response, and an “About the Author” paragraph.
Each student reading selection is followed by a poem or article that relates to the literary element being studied in the main reading selection.
The student workbook includes a worksheet for each day of the week. The worksheets break down into the following categories:
- Day 1 – Vocabulary Exercise 1 is designed to get students using new words immediately. Each worksheet has 10 words for the week.
- Day 2 – Vocabulary Exercise 2 is designed to test understanding and context. This is designed to get students comfortable with the multiple-choice word analysis popular on standardized tests.
- Day 3 – This is a comprehension worksheet with questions for students to respond in writing.
- Day 4 – The comprehension worksheet includes a longer-form written response question that I feel is appropriate to move to the fourth day.
- Day 5 – The graphic organizer is designed to help students cement the literary element they learned in this week’s selection and to think critically about the reading selection.
Some Notes About This Curriculum for Homeschoolers
I believe it’s important to be upfront about some of the “issues” homeschoolers may have with this curriculum. I personally evaluate curriculum based on how well it helps me teach my children and look at everything through a Christian lens. However, I’m comfortable with what some would consider “secular” and “Common Core” curriculum because of how we use it and I preview the content my kids read.
We skip over content that may be questionable, or I use the content to have an age-appropriate conversation on why worldview matters. For instance, I’m not huge on overt environmentalism. We talk about being good stewards, but I’m not into guilting kids into agendas. I haven’t found anything like that in this curriculum, which is sometimes present in a secular curriculum. However, it’s not “if you don’t do this, you will fail humanity” agenda. For instance, the “Jill’s Journal” entry following “Two Big Bears” discusses how a group in China is working to defeat “bear farms” that restrict bears to small cages. This is about responsibility and caring for animals.
A few things you should know about Mosdos Ruby Literature as a homeschooler:
- This program is designed for a classroom setting and meets Common Core standards. You can use it as written, but lessons may take longer than you’re expecting if you try to squeeze it all in each day. Every child is different, but to give you a gauge of how long to spend on this curriculum I recommend thinking about your goals. Do you want to use this as your sole language arts program? Do you want to have your student work independently? Do you have time to “teach” the selection as recommended by the teacher guide? If you teach as directed, I’d expect the lesson to take 45-60 minutes.
- This program is secular. However, the stories come from “both classic and contemporary works that are wholesome, and stress both caring for others and a concern for the natural world.” (Timberdoodle) I discussed this a bit before, but the content is fairly neutral. I’d check stories out before your student reads them, but that’s just good parenting/teaching. If you’re looking for literature that weaves in Christian themes, this is not for you. It has character and ethics, but it’s not a Christian product.
- The workbook has some cursive writing in it. I like cursive, but I think some kids may still be learning the art of cursive at this age. You may need to assist with the vocabulary sheet for Exercise 1.
- Your student must read the entire story before completing worksheets. It’s going to be hard to read this in chunks unless you’ve prepared ahead of time to cover certain words and questions along the way.
- Your student may need help with the worksheets because literary analysis is a “higher level” thinking skill. Not all of the words in the vocabulary exercises appear in the story. The student may not understand that they need to “figure things out” to answer the questions. The teacher’s guide suggests that students may develop this skill over the course of the year.
- The “One Step Further” exercise is designed to be actively taught – words defined, quotation discussed, etc. You may not want to just hand them the book and say “answer the question.”
How We’ve Used Mosdos Ruby in Our Homeschool
I believe that the curriculum should work for the homeschool and not according to the packaged directions. I was very excited about this curriculum because I almost bought it before I received it for review. As I mentioned in my introduction, my daughter is a reluctant reader. We suspect she may have dysgraphia, so I was a little hesitant to use the workbook when I previewed it. However, I think this curriculum is a great stepping stone into formal literature study.
I’ve tried working with great books. We still read books to her, but my daughter finds reading dull and laborious. She doesn’t read for enjoyment much at all. However, she really likes graphic novels, picture books, shorter chapter books with lots of illustrations, and “diary” types of books. With all that in mind, I set a few goals with Mosdos Ruby for my daughter:
- Get her to buy into reading interesting, longer-form material. The anthology and illustrations were selling points.
- Use the reader as our main literature curriculum for the school year.
- Begin teaching her the elements of literature and how to write about literature.
- Practice team reading to build reading stamina, fluency, and comprehension.
Here’s how I used the curriculum to meet our goals:
- We “team read” the story to help her confidence in reading aloud. I read a paragraph or section and she read a paragraph or section. She read more as she got more comfortable.
- We used the comprehension questions in the student book to review and discuss what happened in the story. I did not ask all the questions in the teacher manual.
- We began discussing the elements of literature with a story map. I found a simple notebooking page to outline the story – setting, characters, beginning, middle and end. We’ve done this several times and began adding in some new terms this month – theme and moral.
- We did not use the student workbook much at all. I felt like this was an add-on product to expand the program into a full language arts curriculum. However, the “Studying the Selection” section of the story and the questions along the way seemed an adequate workload for a homeschool family.
- We completed the hands-on project when appropriate. In the “Studying the Selection” section at the end of each reading selection, you’ll find a “Creating and Writing” project. I appreciate the addition of this “project” for kids who need a more hands-on experience with learning. My daughter struggles to get a few sentences on paper, so we limit her writing. However, I think they can learn just as much from a project. For instance, at the end of “The Tiger, the Persimmon, and the Rabbit’s Tail,” we each drew our version of the “imagined scary persimmon.” We discussed how we can imagine a fear and let it run wild – like our pictures. That’s the theme of the story, and she learned it without the tears and frustration of writing about it.
What to Think About Before You Purchase Mosdos Ruby
Here are a few honest questions I ask when I’m deciding on a program and my answers to these questions about this literature curriculum.
Do I need both the student and teacher guide? I believe this is an individual decision. I’m comfortable discussing literature with a student. I have a journalism and English degree, so this is a natural subject for me. If you don’t know where to start with a literature study, you may love this teacher book. You will need it for the workbook answers. I don’t think I’ll buy the teacher guide for the next level when we get there unless I decide to use the student workbook.
Do I need the student workbook? I thought this workbook was a good worktext. I get a little frustrated with workbooks because I often see the worksheets as busy work. I think you can accomplish a lot more learning by having discussions and specific writing assignments. However, if you are wanting a complete language arts program, you may want this book. It will give you vocabulary, reading comprehension, writing, and analysis in one worktext. It’s also very well written and thought-provoking.
Does this program affect my student’s love of literature? We are not all readers. I’ve had to accept that about my daughter. However, we do need to read to learn. We need exposure to good stories and the different written works to build connections to culture and people. Stories can be excellent teachers. I believe that an anthology may be a gentle exposure to different written works for a reluctant student.
I also believe this is a great way to build reading fluency and vocabulary with a struggling student. Some students may need all of the comprehension questions that guide the reading. Some may not. I like that they are there, but you don’t have to use them. I think a parent could preview the story and select a few questions for a guided narration or discussion about the story. The analytical questions are quite good. For instance, in “Mom’s Best Friend,” the writer asks, “What does the author mean when she says, ‘Her death left a big hole in the family.’?” That’s a thought-provoking question, and it may be a help to a parent who needs the support of pre-written questions.
Does this literature add to our studies? I like this curriculum because it’s not just based on what we’re studying in history or science. I like adding literature to those subjects, but I think students need to read for more than learning about the past or how science concepts work. They need to read about relationships and character and people who make an impact on a smaller scale than a Christopher Columbus or Harriet Tubman. I believe Mosdos does a good job of exposing students to a child’s concept of courage, loyalty, compassion, and fair play.
Overall, I think this is an excellent program that exposes students to great stories and great discussions about those stories. If you’re looking for a literature curriculum that breaks away from the heavy history slant of many programs, this is a good addition to your homeschool. You can learn more about this homeschool literature program at Timberdoodle.com.