An Interview With James Stobaugh

Confession time. I am a book-aholic. I love books! I was recently asked a question: “If you had to be stranded somewhere for a full week, would you prefer to be stranded in an amusement park, on a tropical island, or in a library.” Well, that’s a no-brainer. Of course a library!

My favorite pastime is to curl up next to a fire in the woodstove with a cup of coffee and a good book. I am a nerd. I admit it. Other women can’t pass up a new outfit or a new pair of shoes or purse or a Starbucks…but I can’t pass up a new book.

Now, I hope you all are tracking with me, because that brings me to the reason for this post. I was so excited about an opportunity offered by the folks from New Leaf Publishing to give away FREE a set of books worth over $160 on Friday, November 16. (More information about Free Book Friday is at the bottom of this post.) This is a set of 6 books (3 student books and 3 teacher books – 3 years worth of literature curricula) that leads your student through some of the best literature through the ages from authors all over the world. If I were a student, I would be in student heaven if I’d had the chance to read and analyze great books…and call it school.

This set of literature guides (World Lit, British Lit, and American Lit) is the newest work by homeschool icon James Stobaugh. (The folks at New Leaf Press told me that the winner of Free Book Friday will be THE first homeschool mom to own them – they’re that new!) Dr. James Stobaugh was a Merrill Fellow at Harvard and holds degrees from Vanderbilt and Rutgers universities, and Princeton and Gordon-Conwell seminaries. An experienced teacher, he is a recognized leader in homeschooling and has published numerous books for students and teachers. He and his wife Karen have homeschooled their four children since 1985.  I had the privilege of interviewing James Stobaugh to discuss his Literature curricula. Join me for a few minutes to learn more about the author and his exciting new books.

Me:  Can you share with us any interesting vignettes about the curricula or the process of writing it?

James: I started writing it in 1995 and finished American Literature the next year.  I wrote the other books over the last 15 years.  My literature was out there before Sonlight, before Tapestry, before anything but Konos!

Me:  That’s nearly two decades of your life invested in these books! James, I’m sure this investment you have made into your students, the homeschool movement, and even our nation as these students apply the lessons they learn to their daily lives will yield dividends personally, culturally, and eternally. Allow me to ask you another question. Do you have a favorite author/story from the many you share in your literature curricula?

James: Allegedly Nathaniel Hawthorne, a professing Christian, married the lovely, Brahmin Bostonian socialite Universalist Sophia Peabody. He loved her all his life, but also struggled because of her “faith”–which is not Christian.  He is a living example of the problem with being unequally yoked to an unbeliever!  Yet, from his frustration emerged perennial classics Scarlet Letter and House of Seven Gables.  People can always find Sophia in Hawthorne’s novels–in the Scarlet Letter–is she Hester or the witch J?

In British Literature I feature William Wordsworth’s spinster sister Dorothy as one of the best poets of the 19th century.  Wordsworth, a notorious choleric, would go into long periods of melancholy and would not write a thing.  Dorothy, wishing to help her brother, would write several brilliant poems–with the greatest of ease–and would give them to her brother!  He claimed them as his own and was out of his funk!  We don’t know how many of Wordsworth’s poems were actually written by his sister!  She didn’t care in any event.

Me: I love learning the stories behind the stories, and I’m sure students will as well. I’m the type of person that always reads the introductory information in a book. Knowing the author and the history behind the story adds a valuable component to any piece of literature. I personally appreciate the human interest component of your curricula. What’s your favorite thing about your curricula?

James:  I like my curricula because it has a high view of the student and teacher (parent).  There is nothing “gimmickry” about it.  It invites the student to prepare for life without doing any “busy” work.

Me: I’ve heard really wonderful things about your Literature course.  I haven’t actually seen it yet (the winner of Free Book Friday will be the first homeschool mom to actually get her hands on one!). Can you tell us about some of the features of your curricula?

James:  Here are some distinctives about this curricula:

  • Student directed: Students can do it on their own.
  • Homeschool Friendly
  • Whole Book/Classical
  • Teaches Writing Skills
  • Promotes Biblical – Worldview
  • Encourages Apologetics/critical thinking
  • Two full year credits: Literature & Composition
  • Culturally Diverse: Best African-American, Hispanic, and women selection in the market
  • Guaranteed Higher ACT/SAT Scores
  • Affordable
  • Works with history (World History, British History and American History): Students can do history and literature together in 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Door to AP Courses: Pre-requisite for AP Literature Courses.
  • Whole book is read before lesson
  • Encourages development of Vocabulary cards
  • Writing helps provided means that student can start on any course
  • Daily Warm ups: 10 minute
  • Daily Concept builder: 10-15 minute exercise on an important concept.
  • Narrative highlight: Highlight narrative sections from the text.
  • Essay prep task: Prepares the student for 1-3 essays: Literary Criticism, Bible Application, Challenge Question

Me: Anything else – anything burning on your heart – that you’d like to share with homeschool parents who are looking at your curricula?

James: It is my prayer that these courses will ultimately prepare your students to think apologetically. To ignore rhetoric is to invite ourselves on a dangerous search for truth. Our mindless search for relevance and literalness has gotten us pretty lost in the cosmos. When something we seek is so easily obtained by computer chip or digital photograph, then we lazily refuse to engage ourselves in the discipline of metaphor, or even of thinking.

Me: My next post will also be by James Stobaugh. In answer to my last question, he wrote an important and profound answer that I hope you’ll all take time to read. His answer, above, is just a teaser. To read James’s full response, stay tuned.  And, James, my most sincere thank you for taking the time to talk to us today!

Don’t forget to tune in on Free Book Friday, November 19, for a chance to win a complete set of James Stobaugh’s Literature curricula!

 James P. Stobaugh

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