How to Use Literature Study Guides in Homeschool High School

By request: How to Use Literature Study Guides in Homeschool High School.

How to Use Literature Study Guides in Homeschool High School

A staple of high school English/Language Arts is Literature. This makes some teens happy because they love to read. It makes some teens irritable because they are not impressed with reading. That’s okay! There’s not ONE kind of homeschooling high schooler and there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school! We have some help for handling literature in this post!

Literature also intimidates some homeschooling moms because they are afraid they will miss something or mess something up. So let me comfort you, Homeschool Parents. You can do this!

Okay with all that settled, let’s talk about using literature study guides in your homeschool high school English/Language Arts courses.

First off, WHY should you use literature study guides with your homeschool high schoolers?

Literature study guides do the heavy lifting of teaching literature for you. A good study guide:

  • will give important background information about the story and usually, the author
  • will give important vocabulary for the teen to know about the book
  • will cover important themes or ideas from the book
  • will develop inferential skills

Note: the problem that makes many teens hate literature study guides is that many study guides analyze a book to death. There are so many themes, topics, ideas and details covered that all the joy of the book is gone. We learned this from our homeschool high schoolers decades ago. (Our kids like to tell us their opinions about their curriculums.) And our teens are the reason we started creating 7Sisters Literature Study Guides, which are:

  • No busywork
  • Doesn’t kill the book (we choose one or two main themes to explore and questions are paired down to cover the inferential skills they need to build critical thinking)
  • Adaptable (for teens who love to delve deep or who need Honors credits, we include instructions for meaningful activities to level up)
  • Tries to avoid being preachy or demeaning in words or tone

You can download the complete list of 7Sisters Literature Study Guides at this link.

How many guides should your teen use?

Well, that’s complicated. Let’s start with these rules of thumb:

  1. We do not recommend that a teen work on a literature study guide for EVERY book they read. Teens need variety.
  2. We start with a guideline of completing one literature study guide per month or per unit. This would mean about nine study guides for the school year. Teens who are interested or working on Honors credits will need and/or want more study guides. Remember: there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school. You get to do what is best for YOUR teens.
  3. For more information on using different levels for homeschool high school Language Arts check out this episode of Homeschool Highschool Podcast.
  4. Check out this post on how many books a teen should read based on age, ability, need and goals.

There's not one right way to use a Literature Study Guide. Do what is best for your teen.

How do you use Literature Study Guides in homeschool high school?

Since there’s not one kind of homeschool high schooler, there’s not ONE right way to use a Literature Study Guide. Here are some ways our teens have used the guides:

  • Independent learning
    • One of our goals for homeschooling high school is to help our teens become independent learners.
    • When our teens were beginning to become independent learners, we would give them the guide, go over the structure of the guide with them so they know what to expect. We might then do the introductory information with them, discuss the vocabulary, then the first question or two. Then they were on their own.
    • After they had done a couple Literature Study Guides in this manner, we could set them loose to manage the entire guide on their own. Then all we had to do was check the answer key when they were done.
  • Working with the parent through the guide
    • Some teens are not ready for independent learning and that is okay. There’s not ONE right way to be a teen. These teens often need to discuss the questions with their parents (no writing involved), so parents need to cover the entire guide with their teens.
    • Some books are SO cool that the parent WANTS to go through the study guide with them. (I confess that I did the Study Guides for CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy and Chronicles of Narnia with my teens because I love those books so much. I read the books along with my teens and we discussed the questions as a group.)
  • Working with a co-op or group classes

Some teens may also need help with reading the book.

    • This could be teens who have reading or attention struggles.
    • OR it could be one of those books that are way more fun if you listen to a great reader on an audiobook (many British novels are fun to listen to, if the reader is British- take, for instance: Sense and Sensibility or Right Ho, Jeeves).
    • OR some books are written so long ago that it is much easier to catch and retain the information in audio form (for example: Plato’s Republic).

What else could they do to show interaction with the books they read?

So, we really do not recommend doing a literature study guide for every book your homeschool high schoolers read. Recently on our 7SistersHomeschool Facebook Group (you should join, btw), some of our 7th Sisters were sharing other ways to handle Literature interaction so that all the books did not need have study guides:

Remember, there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school, there are other ways to homeschool with literature. Here’s a post to help you choose literature curriculum. Either way, you can do this!


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How to Use Literature Study Guides in Homeschool High School

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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