Three Powerful Courses for Preparing Students for College

Jul 15, 2019 | Posted by Jennifer


I’ve been journeying through this thing called homeschooling for some time now. This family adventure began when my oldest, who is now entering his senior year of college, stayed home to learn his ABCs and 123s instead of hopping on the big yellow bus that stopped at our corner each school day. It continued through the arrival of his siblings (two of them!) over the next few years. In all of that time since, I have generally moved through the various stages of homeschooling pretty smoothly. But I will admit that when my oldest was transitioning out of middle school into high school, I felt nervous. I wanted to make certain that the science and math would be rigorous enough to help him get into college. I worried my transcript wouldn’t be thorough enough. And I wondered which social studies programs would best help him prepare for the SAT subject exams he would need in order to enter the college of his choice. One thing I didn’t worry about, though, was language arts. I knew without a doubt that IEW would prepare him very well to write at a college level.

Through ninth grade, I centered my son’s experience with IEW by focusing on the nine units. In his ninth grade year, I had him work through the Level C U.S. History course, which has since been updated to Advanced U.S. History-Based Writing Lessons. At that time, this would have been his fifth time going through the nine units. All of the repetition of those units through those five years really helped him understand how to structure various types of essays and dress them up with stylistic techniques that enhanced and didn’t detract from his papers. My husband and I had hoped to prepare our son well enough so that he could dual enroll in college the last half of his high school career, so I was left with just one more year of IEW to help him prepare for college Comp I. I knew just what I wanted to do with him for that final year: Windows to the World.

Most students who go into college are required to take three English classes regardless of their major: Comp I, Comp II, and a literature course. At my son’s college where he dual enrolled, both Comp II and the literature course focused on literary analysis. I knew that having a strong foundation in analyzing literature would help him perform well in his college classes, so I felt strongly about providing that foundation to him in our homeschool. I began to plan.

First off, I gathered my materials. I bought the teacher’s guide to Windows to the World as well as two student texts, one for me and one for my son. I was delighted to discover that Jill Pike had created a syllabus, A Syllabus for Introduction to Literary Analysis, to accompany the course. It is included as a free download in the Windows course, but I opted to purchase a printed copy of it, and I’m very glad I did, as I have since used this syllabus many times over for subsequent siblings and co-op classes that I’ve taught. I purchased the novels and play that the syllabus would be using as well as Teaching the Classics, which is utilized in the first section of the course. I set up my son’s 3-ring binder with the recommended tabs as mentioned in the syllabus, but I still had one more element I wanted to add.

My own degree is in English, and I centered my coursework primarily in poetry, so I wanted to share my love of poetry with my son. To his notebook I added one more tab that I labeled “Poetry,” and then I began to search out and add at least one poem for every week of the syllabus. I combed through my dogeared Norton anthologies. I pored through my personal poetry collection. I wandered the web and found pieces through websites such as the Poetry Foundation and I scheduled poems to align with seasons, holidays, and subject matter that we were studying and then printed them up, one copy for him and one copy for me, keeping them in a folder for each day we would meet.

Tenth grade began. The two of us met every Monday afternoon that year in a cozy corner of the house, away from siblings, phones, and other distractions, where we spent about ninety minutes going over the lesson in the syllabus and discussing the literature. The syllabus was such a blessing for us both because it made our path clear. At the end of our time each session, I pulled out our copies of the poem and read it aloud.

I had only one expectation—that my son would take the poem with him to reread periodically over the week. I didn’t require anything else because I had one goal. That goal was to get him reading and enjoying poetry. By this time our entire family had already been enjoying memorizing poetry through Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization for a few years, but I wanted my son to develop his own personal connection with poetry, so I left it to him to simply read it and enjoy.

It worked. He eventually graduated high school and then went to college, majoring in English with a focus on, you guessed it, poetry. I’ve since taken what I’ve done with my son and introduced poetry to my other literature classes. Overwhelmingly, I hear back from students and parents alike who have found that specific element to be their favorite part of my class along with another element that I’ve since added: two opportunities each year for my students to choose a novel, which the two of us sit down with to hold a Socratic discussion.

That year of working through Windows to the World and introducing poetry to my son is among my favorite memories of homeschooling. I should mention that the Windows course wasn’t the only IEW course that we used that year; we also worked through the High School Essay Intensive and continued in Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. Those three courses are powerhouses at preparing students for college writing. If you are currently transitioning to homeschooling a high school student, enjoy this time. Frankly, I envy you a bit! Kids grow up quickly. Weekly, dedicate time to spend with your student, focusing on a special subject, perhaps literary analysis. I think you both will cherish the memories of this precious, fleeting time.


Jennifer Mauser has always loved reading and writing and received a B.A. in English from the University of Kansas in 1991. Once she and her husband had children, they decided to homeschool, and she put all her training to use in the home. In addition to homeschooling her children, Jennifer teaches IEW classes out of her home, coaches budding writers via email, and tutors students who struggle with dyslexia.

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