Sunday, March 18, 2012

Progeny Press – Across Five Aprils (TOS Review)

Months ago, we visited a Civil War museum with our co-op.  I watched with awe as Hannah’s hand flew up to answer a question posed by the museum curator.  Subsequent questions caused  her hand to raise more cautiously to give others a chance to answer.  As no other hands appeared, she would give a lengthy and eloquent answer – answers to questions on topics we had not studied in depth.  Suddenly it dawned on me – my science-obsessed daughter also had developed a keen interest in the Civil War simply from  reading the history books on our shelves.  I made a mental note to add additional Civil War information to our studies.

When we were given the chance to review a literature study guide from Progeny Press, I took that opportunity to choose a guide focused on the Civil War – Across Five Aprils.  

Progeny Press publishes study guides for literature for grades kindergarten through high school.  Their catalog features over 100 study guides, which will help your student focus on critical thinking, comprehension, literary analysis, and Christian application.  You can search the study guides by genre HERE, or search by grade level HERE.


I requested and received the Across Five Aprils Study Guide in the PDF format, which included the study guide (interactive, so the students can fill in the answers on the computer), the answer key, and a “ReadMe” file which contains information and instructions for working with the interactive guide (for both Windows and Max users).  The study guide is available in several different forms at varying prices:

Printed, paperbound booklet - $18.99
CD (with interactive PDF) - $16.99
CD plus booklet - $23.99
interactive PDF by e-mail - $16.99
CD (with non-interactive PDF) - $12.75

See your various purchase  options HERE and HERE.

The study guide for Across Five Aprils is 64-pages and targeted to grades 5 through 9,  and is set in the U.S. in the 1860’s during the Civil War.   We had previously read through the book, but read it again for this study.  The study guide added so much more! 

So how does it work?

The guide begins with introductory topics:  a brief biography of the author of the study guide and info on the members of the peer review panel; the table of contents (which I thought was odd placement as it referred to the prior two sections); a note  to the instructor, a synopsis of the story, and information about the book’s author; and background information on the Civil War and suggested activities to do to enhance your experience in reading the book (both before reading and while reading).

Following (beginning on page 14 of the study guide) were six lessons, each covering two chapters of the book.  Each lesson is set up in a similar fashion:  vocabulary, comprehension exercises, what I like to call “thinking” questions (about themes, events, characters, the use of language and literary elements, etc.), a “dig deeper” section, and writing suggestions.

Next was an overview section which discussed, among other things, conflict, plot,  climax and resolution, all things we have studied in our writing course this year.  Next was a section for essay and writing suggestions. 

The study guide concludes with a list of suggested additional resources (books, 2 websites, and a PBS movie).

To get the most out of the study guide, your student should have access to a Bible, a dictionary, a thesaurus, and sometimes a concordance.  According to Progeny Press, the student should complete one section of the study guide per week.

You can read the authors’ suggestions on how to use the guide HERE.


Love that the girls can simply type in their answers on the computer on the PDF version.

I love when I’m given a list of additional resources.  Invariably there are other “rabbit trails” on a topic that we want to chase, and guidance on potential resources is always appreciated!

I like that each study guide is reviewed by a peer review panel.

I love that the girls can do this somewhat independently, although I’d prefer to always do it with them  - you’re never too old to think and learn!  My girls’ enthusiasm for learning more about the Civil War has rubbed off on me.

Sprinkled throughout the guide are things that I’d characterize as a review of grammar/writing/literary elements – discussions/definitions of idioms, synonyms, personification, metaphor, etc.  I think reading about these things and seeing how they’re used adds a lot to the learning experience, helping the student use them in their own writing.

I love the different ways the guide introduces vocabulary: writing definitions, multiple choice, matching, etc.   Learning vocabulary is more interested when the method varies.


I wish there were lists of suggestions for younger/older “tag-along”children – a way to lower the level  a bit for younger students yet keep them learning, and a way to heighten the requirements a bit for older kids.  I don’t think this particular study would need any increased requirements for older kids since we found some of the assignments to be way more than we were ready for, but I think a younger student could benefit from a couple “lower” level suggestions.  That’s something that can be done by the parent fairly easy, but our family stays extremely busy so I always appreciate all the help/guidance I can get!


Be aware that if you want to print the completed PDF and your children have been “wordy” on their answers, the complete answer may not print.  If the inserted text exceeds the length of the text box given, the text will wrap and they’ll be able to fill in their complete answer, but when you print it there will be a plus sign at the bottom right of the text box indicating there is text that did not print.  I don’t believe this is a fault or error on the part of Progeny Press – it’s simply the nature of an interactive PDF.

Any internet sites referenced in the Additional Resources section of the guide should be double-checked before allowing your children to visit them.  While the sites referenced were checked at publication, the guide clearly states that Progeny Press can’t continually check all websites referenced (common sense, of course).  Your child’s use of the internet should be supervised while using this guide, or you could pre-check all the websites.  I did not see any websites in this guide that caused me concern, but I double-checked them anyway.

While Progeny Press suggests one lesson per week, I found that was a bit too accelerated for my liking.   I wanted more time for the girls to really discuss and think about the story.  The one lesson per week is just a suggestion – do what works best for your family.

I found many of the writing suggestions in the Essay/Writing suggestions section to be slightly too difficult for my 4th and 6th grade girls (the oldest struggles a bit with writing, and the youngest is a grade below the suggested grades for this guide), so we discussed them instead.  That worked much better for us, and still accomplished the purpose of getting them to think about the story.

There are some references to “class”,  as these study guides can also be used in a classroom  setting.  As a homeschooler, I simply modify the suggested activity (if necessary) to fit our family.


Check out information on the study guide for Across Five Aprils, and take a peek at the study guide and answer key HERE.

When ordering the e-mailed PDF, it’s likely that it will be delivered as a zip file.  If you’ve never unzipped a file, there’s a small learning curve, but it’s not hard at all.

Read the book before starting the study guide.  We already had a copy in our collection, but it is also available from Progeny Press HERE for $6.99.  Special bulk pricing is available for the book, in case you’re leading a book club.

View the current catalog HERE.

Read about the mission, history and statement of faith of Progeny Press HERE.

Read their online store rules and policies.

In addition to online sales, the study guides are also available at retailers.  Find out were you can buy study guides HERE.

View various ways of saving money on the guides HERE – they offer irregular prints, unbound copies, etc.  Progeny Press also offers at 15% discount to active military personnel – love that they support our troops!


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We enjoyed this study guide, and intend to purchase more.  If you’re looking for a literary study guide, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the Progeny Press guides!


To see other reviews of this AND other Progeny Press study guides, click HERE and look for the linky tools list at the bottom of the post. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


**Disclaimer: As part of the 2011-2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product referenced in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.

1 comment:

  1. Now you are making me wish I had gone with Across Five Aprils for my 5th and 7th graders...