English Literature and Composition

Four Courses to Choose From!

Dreaming Spires' literature division gives you choices for your child's studies. In fact, you have four options of literary eras - Middle Ages, Renaissance, British Novels, and American Literature - and we're happy to help you decide which is right for your current and long-term needs.

Please read the whole of this page to get a good sense of how we operate, and then contact us via the contact form to discuss your particular needs.

All of the Dreaming Spires Home Learning English courses are designed by Dr Kat Patrick who is not only the founder of Dreaming Spires, but has taught at US college and marks international English exams for a UK exam board.

More than that, she is a homeschooling veteran of almost two decades, and each course she teaches now was first trialled on her own children who were quick to let her know what did and didn't inspire them!

There are some things all four of the English courses have in common:

  • A full year's course lasts 30 weeks, though we do accept mid-term entry as well. These part-year courses are generally 17 out of the full 30 weeks, depending on how the holidays fall;
  • Students will read between 60-100 pages a week depending on which course you choose; they will have one short narration of about 200 words due on a weekly basis, and they will answer three short discussion questions. These are not graded but are monitored, remarked on, and guided in various ways to coax improvement throughout the course of the year.
  • Students will attend the weekly one-hour, live, online webinar where their comments and contributions are generally made via chatbox, typing while the tutor uses the mic to present information that expands, deepens, or broadens what was read during the week for homework. Occasionally, we will make use of webcams and microphones, but this is only ever optional.
  • The weekly time commitment for the whole course - webinar and homework - is envisioned to be at least 4 1/2 hours, most of which is undertaken in the student's own time.
  • In between these live webinars, students have 24/7 access to the course environment where there are pdfs of the webinar Powerpoint, links to recordings of webinars, additional background resources, and discussion forums, both those that are reserved for posting homework as well as those that are purely social.
  • The ultimate aim of the Dreaming Spires English courses is to expose a student to a lot of different kinds of high-quality reading from a particular historical period, which in turn will contribute toward success in most college courses, not just those in English. This is partly because of the mastery attained in reading hard books, but also because of the transferable skills in things like time management, note-taking, historical and social contexts, critical thinking, and not to mention, social contacts with home-educators all over the world.

One student described the experience of taking literature through Dreaming Spires like this:

Dr. P weaves history into analytical reading, making the characters come alive and the authors’ intents vividly clear. Many of my peers who took classes in a more traditional setting recall their experiences reading Shakespeare’s classics as strenuous and often baffling. What I remember is completely the opposite. Specifically, through Dr. P’s Renaissance class, my Dreaming Spires classmates and I were not only able to understand Shakespeare, we also were shown how to recognise the political and societal undercurrents that influenced him in his writings. I consider the “relationships” with the books we read and awareness about the history of the times true blessings.

The texts we read for each course are in this order:

  • Middle Ages texts include Beowulf, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Canterbury Tales, and some lesser-known but important works like the York Mystery Plays and Piers the Ploughman. We also read Ivanhoe, Once and Future King, and Tennyson's masterpiece, Idylls of the King.
  • Renaissance texts include Utopia, Faerie Queen Book 1, Pilgrim's Progress, Paradise Lost (the whole thing!), three Shakespeare plays, and a selection of sonnets.
  • British Novels include Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels, Mansfield Park, Dickens and a selection of Romantic poets, Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Far from the Madding Crowd, The Time Machine, and The Importance of Being Earnest.
  • American Literature includes Scarlet Letter, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Little Women, Huckleberry Finn, The Jungle, The Great Gatsby, To Kill a Mockingbird, a choice of either two S E Hinton novels or Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, a short story unit including Edgar Allan Poe, and finally, Fahrenheit 451.

Writing Extensions

For students who would benefit from more specialised tuition in writing, Dreaming Spires offers add-on extensions, too.

Each of our four English courses is accompanied by an extension, but they have different aspects of writing that they focus on.

  • The Middle Ages expository writing, pragmatic types like letters, speeches, and some creative writing, too;
  • The literary essays of Renaissance and British Novels, where students learn to quote from a book and explain themselves clearly;
  • The three different types of research papers in the American Lit course will help prepare for university courses and even one's professional career.

Students on the writing extension courses stay an extra 1/2 hour on the live webinar site and get step-wise instruction toward as many as ten sub-units in the year, written projects that will be marked against internationally acclaimed mark schemes that are appropriate for the task.

The weekly time commitment for writing extension is an additional two to three hours. This includes the 1/2-hour webinar.

A sample from a writing webinar can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/dreamingspireshomelearning/videos

For current days and times of our English courses, see the timetable here.

1 comment

  1. From a 2014-2015 student, now going to college: What I really wanted to let you know, is that I am very grateful for the year that I spent in Brit Nov with you. I really can see now, that the writing that you had me do in your course was the perfect final phase of my high school education, and that it helped to propel me into the college level of academics. There are so many students at community college who are not ready to work at college level, or who don't understand what is really expected of them. I think that my time spent in your course was the perfect preparation for me. Thanks again Dr. P!