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Excellence in Literature: Reading and Writing Through the Classics

Excellence in Literature helps you teach classic literature and writing to teens even if you don’t know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf!

Have you always wanted to read the Great Books? Now is your chance! With the Excellence in Literature curriculum, you and your student can enjoy reading, understanding, and analyzing the greatest literature of all time. Excellence in Literature presents a feast of great literature along with the context information you need in order to fully understand it.

Excellence in Literature helps you teach classic literature and writing even if you don't know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf.

These challenging, self-directed courses introduce students to full-length great literature in its historical context, while developing skills in writing and literary analysis. English I and II provide foundational skills; English III and IV offer a chronological survey of American and British literature, and English V focuses on classics of the Western world.

 “Discovered some of her favorite books of all time . . .”

“Just as a note of testimony . . . I overheard a phone conversation [my daughter] was having with a friend this morning, and she was talking about literature with the friend.

She said that she hadn’t really looked forward to literature this year because she thought it would be dry and boring but had discovered some of her favorite books of all time this year, including The Great Gatsby (because of all the symbolism), ‘Evangeline’ (even though it’s a poem, and she didn’t think she liked poetry), and The Scarlet Letter. What a wonderful thing for me to be able to overhear!”

Heather M., AR (after using Excellence in Literature’s American Literature with her daughter)

An Honors Track, with additional readings and writing, for each course encourages preparation for AP or CLEP exams. Some students who have taken this track have been permitted advanced placement in college based upon the material covered. Students who complete five years of Excellence in Literature have the potential of earning 24-30 hours of college credit through testing.

Free sample lesson from Introduction to Literature with information sheet and printable booklist (PDF). 

Course Format

The literature-based module format of Excellence in Literature offers students the opportunity to grow thoroughly familiar with some of the greatest writers and literary works of all time. There are nine four-week modules in each level.
Study material and writing assignments for each module are centered around a full-length focus text — a novel, play, or poem — chosen for its significance to the period of literature being studied.

Testimonial for Excellence in Literature

A reasonable number of context works, including poetry, short biographies, art, music, videos, and online resources, are selected to enhance the student’s understanding of the focus text, its author, and the literary period in which it was created.

A week-by-week assignment schedule provides an emphasis on the analytical essay, which offers the opportunity to perfect the standard writing process of planning, drafting, and revising. Shorter assignments in various forms will round out each module.

The Excellence in Literature curriculum is boy-friendly

"I have used EiL Introduction to Literature with my youngest son and we both loved it!
You have done an excellent job at providing quality literature analysis and composition for the college bound high school student. The most appealing thing about Excellence in Literature . . . is that so many of the works of literature you have chosen are interesting to boys.
I have been homeschooling my 4 sons over 20 years and each year it was a struggle to locate a strong literature program that contained classic works that would be interesting to boys/young men. EiL meets that very important requirement at our home and I jump at the chance to let other moms know that you have produced an excellent source of literary study. I am thrilled to recommend your products every chance I get. Thank you so much!"
Whitney from Mandeville, Louisiana, via e-mail

What’s Special About the Excellence in Literature curriculum?

  • Carefully chosen great books increase cultural literacy.
  • Self-directed courses encourage independent learning.
  • College-style study helps to prepare students for university study.
  • Week-by-week lesson plans make it easy to know what to do when.
  • Nine four-week modules in each level.
  • Honors Option provides motivated students the opportunity to earn advanced placement or college credit.
  • Evaluation rubric makes grading simple.
  • Carefully designed end-of-semester evaluation reports provide a detailed snapshot of progress.
  • Context readings provide in-depth understanding of literature in its historical and artistic context.

Free sample lesson and printable booklist (PDF).

Students are introduced to books they will never forget

I thought you’d like to know what my daughter had to say about EIL when we were talking about curriculum this year (last year was our first year in EIL3). She told me that she likes EIL so much better than our previous curriculum.

When I asked her “Why?” she told me that she is able to enjoy the books so much more. She said it’s not easy, but it really makes her think hard and try to understand much more about books than she did before.

She likes the context resources too because they are “interesting and I learn a lot from them.” She said that she’s surprised that she enjoys it so much even though it’s hard work! Believe me, that’s saying something coming from her! 🙂

P. G. via email (she owns The Complete Curriculum—all five levels in a binder)

Reviews of Excellence in Literature

There are more out there, but here are a couple that are especially informative.

Cathy Duffy: “Students completing either of these courses should be miles ahead of most of their high school contemporaries in their ability to read and analyze literature at a sophisticated level. The challenging writing assignments also promise to develop student skills in composition to a high level.” (Read the entire review at Cathy Duffy Reviews.)

Debra Brinkman: At Footprints in the Butter, Debra offers a detailed description of how she is using Introduction to Literature (English I in the Excellence in Literature curriculum) with a son who struggled with writing. Her conclusion? “I think Excellence in Literature is beyond amazing for the bright, advanced high school student. I think it is fabulous for the average student. And I think with some adjustment, it can be great for the student who struggles in language arts as well.”

Andrew Pudewa of IEW: In a brief video, Andrew outlines some of the core features of the Excellence in Literature curriculum.


  • We have received a Reader Award from Practical Homeschooling magazine every year since 2017
  • Excellence in Literature won the Blue Ribbon Award from The Old Schoolhouse.
  • Awarded Favorite High School Product and Favorite College or College-Prep Product 2011-12 from The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew

Nothing captures the spirit of an age like great literature. These books that have stood the test of time allow readers to briefly share in another’s life, and to learn from his or her successes or failures. Students who study literature in context develop a firm foundation in language arts and humanities, and are well equipped for wrestling with the important ideas they will meet throughout life.

We love your program!! My kids attend homeschool with a private tutor who has used your series extensively with three out of four of her children, plus my two. She has two in college and they have remarked that they could have never been ready 
for all the college writing requirements if it hadn’t been for this program.

Thank you . . .
Jo from Lexington, Kentucky, via e-mail

Excellence in Literature Curriculum: High-school English for home schools, private schools, charter schools, and non-traditional learners everywhere. 

“I really do appreciate the curriculum. Not only is it wonderfully easy to understand and follow, I appreciate your choices of literature, AND I feel as though my daughter will be well-prepared for all of the writing she will need to do at the college level in a couple of years. THANK YOU for making this resource available! I have recommended it to several other homeschooling mothers as well.”

From Betsy, a homeschool mom with technical writing background and a college double major in English with Writing Emphasis and Bible with a history minor

Resource links stay up to date on the Excellence in Literature resource site, where we host hundreds of pages of study resources for literature and writing.

  • Self-Directed 
    Excellence in Literature has received a 2018 Reader Award from the readers of Practical Homeschooling!
  • Week-by-Week Lesson Plans
  • Classic Literature-Based
  • College Preparatory, with Optional Honors Track
  • Earn one full English credit through each study guide
    Descriptive overview of study guide contents

    Excellence in Literature helps you teach classic literature and writing to teens even if you don't know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf!

    Click each title below for a detailed description of the study guide.

    Introduction to Literature (English 1) 
    Literature and Composition (English 2)
    American Literature (English 3)
    British Literature (English 4)
    World Literature (English 5)
    The Complete Curriculum: Literature and Writing for Grades 8-12
    Handbook for Writers