About Excellence in Literature

Excellence in Literature book covers

To introduce children to literature is to
install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom,
to bring a continual holiday to their doors,
to lay before them a feast exquisitely spread.

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

What makes Excellence in Literature different?

This five-year curriculum focuses on full-length classic literature studied in its historic, artistic, and literary context. That means you study great literature, see famous art, and hear beautiful music, all in appropriate historical context.

My goal is to help parents teach classic literature to teens, even if they don’t know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf! 

Benefits of the Excellence in Literature format

  • Self-directed lessons help students learn college-style study habits
  • Mix and match modules allow you to coordinate literature with other subjects
  • Instructions and models help your student complete each type of writing assignment
  • Included rubric makes writing evaluation simple and constructive
  • Optional honors track helps to prepare students for advanced placement in college or for standardized tests such as the CLEP
  • This Excellence in Literature website hosts many of the context resources needed for the study of literature and writing. They are free, and we are continually adding to what is available.

Visit our home site, Everyday Education, for detailed information about the curriculum, what’s in it, how to use it, and a free sample lesson. From there, you can purchase it in print, ebook, bundle, or binder form.

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
Recommended editions of classics for Excellence in Literature

EIL 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 and writing for each unit is centered around a full-length focus text — a novel, play, or poem — chosen for its significance to the period of literature being studied. 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.

There is 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 unit.

Reviewer Cathy Duffy says:

“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.)

Cultural Literacy

Nothing captures the spirit of an age like great literature. 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 and worldviews they will meet throughout life.

Free Sample Module

I offer a free sample unit so you can see how the assignments are structured. Each unit has the same basic structure, so that the student knows what to expect and how to do everything. The explanations at the beginning of the book are long enough to be clear, but not so long as to be overwhelming, and the Formats and Models chapter, along with the Glossary, insures that students will be able to find out what they need to know. Click to download a PDF of the sample module.

The Excellence in Literature books sold on this site and Everyday Education are always the latest edition, so you may purchase with confidence through Everyday Education.

Please note the subscription form in the right column. I send a monthly e-newsletter with a roundup of the latest articles and resources added. I think you might find it useful. If you’ve already signed up at the Everyday Education site, you don’t need to sign up again —you’re already receiving it. I hope you enjoy it!

About the Author

Janice Campbell and her husband Donald homeschooled their sons from preschool into early college, using a lifestyle of learning approach influenced by Charlotte Mason, classical learning, and the Thomas Jefferson method. She graduated with honors from Mary Baldwin College with a B.A. in English, and has worked as a writer and editor since the late 1980s.

Janice’s books and resources reflect her focus on twaddle-free, active learning (she did have boys, after all!). She says, “I was raised in a home without television, so I’ve had a lifetime of marinating in the written word. During the development of Excellence in Literature, I taught classic literature online for several years in order to test the format with real students and make it simple and usable, even for students whose parents didn’t know Virginia Woolf from Beowulf. It was  a learning experience for both students and teacher! My greatest goal is to help students develop wisdom and virtue through the study of great literature, and to prepare them for the challenges of college-level thinking and writing.”

Janice speaks at conferences nationwide on subjects including literature, writing, homeschool planning and transcripts, as well as micro-business entrepreneurship for homeschool families. In addition to the Excellence in Literature curriculum for grades 8-12, she has written Transcripts Made Easy and Get a Jump Start on College, among other things. She is also the former Director of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE).

You may read more about Excellence in Literature at the Everyday Education website. 

You may learn more about how I chose the literature for Excellence in Literature in this post from my blog. Also, you might want to understand why you won’t need a teacher’s manual or an answer key for this curriculum.

Here is a very casual video tour of Excellence in Literature. Making the video was a learning experience for me, so it’s not professional, but I hope it will be helpful.

Note: In the interests of full disclosure, all books referenced on this site are purchasable from Everyday Education, LLC, the original publisher, or Amazon.com unless otherwise noted. For resources not sold through Everyday Education, LLC, the links are affiliate links unless otherwise noted. That just means EvEd receives a referral commission if the book is purchased, much as a consignment shop would receive a percentage of the price of goods it sold. We thank you for supporting this site with your purchases!

40 Responses to About Excellence in Literature

  1. Jana Carpenter says:

    I have homeschooled for over 20 years and am discovering the wealth of resources now available for my last two students (boys!). We have enjoyed IEW and are signed up for another year with Mrs. White. Your materials resemble the same written ones at IEW. Are you affiliated?

    My boys have done some literature with me in the past. They are now going into the junior year of high school. What level would you recommend? All of it looks beneficial for them.

    Thanks so much!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Jana,

      Thank you for visiting! Yes, IEW publishes some of my books. I’m glad you’ve been enjoying IEW, as it’s a good foundation for the writing they’ll be doing in the coming years.

      Have your boys done survey courses in American and British Literature? If not, those might be the place to start if they are college-bound. If they are not college bound, they may want to begin with the level that has the most appealing literature. They can jump in anywhere, but the levels graduate slightly in difficulty, with World lit being the most challenging.

      I hope that helps!

      Janice Campbell

  2. Hi Janice, I found this site very interesting – especially the material on the Daffodils poem – and thought you might be interested in looking at my debut novel, Dances with the Daffodils, which I’ve just published on eBook and am about to publish in paperback. I’d be very keen to know what you think of it, bearing in mind your interest in literature.
    Do let me know if you’d like some more information.
    Matthew Connolly

  3. Tricia Puritz says:

    We have 2 questions please.
    We are considering using this program in a co op setting. Is this is good idea?
    Also, if we choose to use it, can you choose between the honors texts and original texts based on each unit and student choice (student preference for the titles) or must you follow one text line only (regular track only or honors track only)?
    Thank you!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Tricia,

      EIL works well in a co-op setting, and in the latest edition, I have included suggestions for using it a co-op or classroom. There are several different ways to approach it, and I think the co-ops that have used it have enjoyed it.

      You are welcome to make choices about which text to use for each unit, but the context resources are geared primarily for the focus text. Since the honors text relates in some way, some of it will apply, but not all of it. You can always visit this website to check for additional context resources if you decide to use an honors text instead of the focus text.

      I hope that’s helpful!

  4. Pingback: Christian Worldview or Christian Content? Which Do You Really Want? | Janice Campbell

  5. Brittany says:

    Is this curriculum just a literature/writing curriculum or a full English curriculum? I was wanting a literature/writing based curriculum that is worth a full credit each year.

  6. Suzanne Alioto says:

    What is the difference with the honors books? My son is going into 8th grade. Do you advise doing all the books, including the honors?

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Suzanne,

      The honors track is completely optional. If you decided to do it, your student would read the honors books in addition to the focus texts. Some students space them throughout the year, while others have used them for summer reading.

      I would suggest making a decision based on the student’s aptitude and experience with literature. If he loves to read and enjoys thinking through great books, or if he is planning to attend a very selective college, the honors option might be a good idea. If he’s a math/science person who would rather be be dissecting something than reading, the regular track is fine for him.

      My goal is for students to enjoy the literature and work through it at a pace that allows them to think and absorb these great works without incurring literary indigestion, so please feel free to do what works for your family.



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  8. Rebecca says:

    Can you tell me the editions of your books? I know that IEW and Rainbow have the 3rd edition for the American Lit. and the British Lit., but was wondering if the other three books have been updated, and if they are available through your website. Thank you!!

  9. Rebecca B says:


    This year was our first year of homeschooling and we chose your program for my 10th grade daughter. She loves the program and has been doing very well with it – choosing the honors track. We began with your program at the beginning with Intro to Literature because I felt her 9th grade year in public school was lacking in so many ways. Now I am wondering how to fit it all in before she is ready to go to college – or rather how to choose what to do from each level. I wonder if I shouldn’t have been doing American Lit with her American History this year (she is not quite done with your program or her history studies). I was wondering what you would recommend as far as maybe purchasing the remaining levels of your program and then choosing from various levels based on her history studies. I would probably begin with choosing some of the American Lit Units to correspond with the remainder of this years’ history and then move from there. My only concern is that somehow the units build on one another or that if we had to reduce the number of units done from each level to get all 5 levels in before college, she would miss something important.

    Thank you so much for any thoughts you might have on this.

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Rebecca,

      I’m so glad your daughter has been doing well with EIL. You may definitely get the remaining levels and pick and choose those that will work best for her. The program is designed to make this possible, and there’s even a binder version with all five levels that is printed with each module laid out so that it can be pulled out for mixing and matching. All the types of writing cycle through the levels, so she should eventually work with everything if she goes through a significant number of modules. Any number will be better than none!

      It is always beneficial to do compatible literature and history (American literature with American history, etc.), but she’ll do fine, even if you can’t do them together. The American and British levels are chronological surveys, so it’s very easy to blend them with almost any history program. The order of the selections in World Lit can be switched around to fit whatever world history or western civilization curriculum you use. I hope that is helpful!


  10. Kelly says:


    I am trying to piece together my son’s 10th grade curriculum! He will be doing the IEW online class, level C, for his composition piece of English.
    My dilema is trying to find a World History curriculum that we like and then a literature program to complement that. I read that you recommend your World History literature for grade 12.
    Any advice you can provide would be greatly appreciated!!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Kelly,

      EIL is designed to be flexible, so you can use World Literature at a lower grade level. The biggest challenge is that the books they read in this level are pretty challenging. You may want to do a bit of extra discussion with him to be sure he is understanding the big issues and underlying themes. It is always helpful to match your literature and history, so from that perspective, I think World Lit would be the right choice for him. I hope that helps!

  11. A.J. says:

    Is there any warranty/guarantee for the 5-level series of EIL? Just want to make sure that we could return it all if we decide it wasn’t for us after we try it out, even for a month or so?

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Here’s our standard return policy: If you purchase a book from Everyday Education (that’s the parent company), and you feel it does not meet your needs, you may return it within 30 days, in original condition, for a full refund of the purchase price (not including shipping).
      For The Complete Curriculum, I would give you 45 days to try it out.
      I hope that helps!

  12. A.J. says:

    Yes….very reasonable…thanks!

  13. Lora says:

    I ordered the text and ebook for IEW Intro to Literature and paid $39. I received the hard-copy in the mail. I do not see anywhere how to access my ebook? Please help. Lora

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Lora– I’ve emailed you the link. When you order the print and ebook package, the browser should take you to the download page right after the payment completes. Sometimes it takes a minute or two, depending on connection speed, and it’s easy to click away before it happens. I hope you and your student enjoy using it!

  14. Todd Sparrow says:

    We are contacting you to see if you would be interested in attending the 2015 Appalachian Home Educators Conference as an Exhibitor. If you are interested please follow the link to apply. http://www.appalachianhomeeducators.com/exhibitors

    If you have any questions please do not hesitate to visit our website or email us at the above address.

    Thank You!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Thank you, Todd. I think I may be on the road back from another conference, but I will look into it. I appreciate the invitation!

  15. lucy says:

    We’ve already ordered Intro. to Literature for my 8th grader (haven’t received yet). She plans on reading all books, including those required for the Honors level. Does completion of this course count towards a high school credit? If so, would it count as a General Literature requirement? Thank you.

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Lucia,

      We’ve already talked via email, but I wanted to post the response here as well in case anyone had a similar question.

      Introduction to Lit is designed as a high school course, but many/most students do it in eighth grade. I created five levels so that people could have flexibility in where they started and what they read, as well as because I couldn’t narrow my booklist any further (there were just too many good ones!). You are starting early enough to complete all five levels, but someone who is starting later can opt to begin in English 1 or 2, or simply do a blend of the two levels. You can read more details about the curriculum at the Everyday Education page.

      I hope you enjoy it!

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  17. Jacki Smathers says:

    My 8th grades daughter is a first time home schooler this year and plans to home school for this 8th grade year only. We are planning to purchase the Excellence in Literature Complete Curriculum to give her flexibility and plenty of material to move ahead if she chooses. Do you recommend purchasing the entire package like this or just specific components (if that’s even possible?) Also, from your knowledge in the homeschooling world, do you recommended a specific history curriculum to teach along side your program? I have been looking at Beyond the Page but this is all so new to me that any insight would be so very appreciated.
    Thanks very much!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Jacki,
      I hope you and your daughter will have a wonderful year! You can definitely mix and match among the levels to create a year that fits your daughter’s interests. The five levels graduate in difficulty, they are all adaptable. You could begin with just one or two of the levels, but the Complete Curriculum does have more flexibility. If your daughter enjoys reading, she may love having more choices, but if she is more of a math/science person, she would probably be fine with just one of the levels.

      As for history, there are several options that go well with Excellence in Literature. Diana Waring’s “History Revealed” curriculum (Protestant worldview) is an excellent program that is designed on a four-week cycle, just like EIL. Using them together makes it easy to coordinate your schedule. Two other good options are Susan Wise Bauer’s non-sectarian History of the World volumes or Warren Carroll’s beautifully written History of Christendom series, presented from a Catholic perspective.

      Additional options include Biblioplan and Mystery of History, both from a Protestant worldview.

      Remember, you’ll find more information, a free sample lesson, and several articles at the Everyday Education site, and more articles on teaching literature and writing at the DoingWhatMatters.com blog.

  18. Rosalia says:

    Hi I am a junior in high school and I recently realized that my Literary Analysis skills are pretty weak. I’m an avid reader, I just sometimes have difficulty discerning the main point of a passage and such when the meaning isn’t explicit. EIL was recommended to me, but I’m kind of overwhelmed by the many different topics and sections – I’m not sure where to start!
    Could you please recommend a few things to begin with? I would really appreciate it!
    Thanks in advance!

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Rosalia! I’m glad to hear that you enjoy reading — reading a lot is the first step in becoming a discerning reader. To deeply understand a text, I have found it helpful to start with a bird’s eye view, annotate as I read, and to study appropriate context resources. I’m glad you asked this question, as it reminds me to create a “Start Here” page on the site, linking to the appropriate articles. Until I get that up, you can read more about annotating, which should give you a few ideas. You can find context resources for many of the specific works studied in the EIL curriculum by clicking on the right sidebar links for a list. You may also find the Plot Diagram article and the Glossary to be helpful.

      You can read more about the EIL curriculum and find links to more articles at my other site, Everyday Education. I will try to post a page here with more ideas about how to start with a birds-eye view and work with context within the next week or so. Adding more information to this site is one of my big goals for 2017, so if there are topics you would like to see, please feel free to suggest them. I hope you’ll find the site and EIL helpful!

      I’m sorry it took me so long to see your question — I have had family here for Thanksgiving, and took off a couple of weeks to be with them. I’m not usually this slow;-).

  19. Penny Vaughan says:

    Good Afternoon,
    My daughter has completed “Intro to Literature”. She did enjoy the curriculum. My question is, how does she receive her English credit for the course?

    Penny Vaughan

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Penny,
      I’m so glad your daughter enjoyed Introduction to Literature. I assume that you are creating a transcript for her, so you would just record the completed class on it, and put the Student Evaluation Summary (on pages 117-118) in her cumulative file as evidence of what she has covered. I hope that helps!
      Janice Campbell

  20. Guy Hocker says:

    Hi Janice – We met in Cincinnati with our two girls by our side. We are signing up for the Level 1 program for our 8th grader. Planning ahead, how much time do you think she should plan to complete the reading part of a given assignment? For instance, I downloaded The CT Yankee and it is 11 hours on audible. It that about the time/size of the books for each lesson? If you do two books (honors) that would be 20 hours of reading per month. Seems like a lot given that doesn’t include the workload to go with it, but maybe that’s normal.

    Thank – Guy

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Guy — 
      I would estimate that the time needed averages about an hour a day for the different readings across the curriculum, though a few up the books in the upper levels are longer (and many throughout the curriculum are shorter). The honors track reading can be handled in a variety of ways — during the module month, spread through the calendar year, or as summer reading assignments. There’s no requirement that honors books be done within the same month as the focus text, so you can do what works for your family.

      When thinking of time required to read, consider that it’s much easier to be caught up in the story and truly understand it when it’s not dripped out in bite-size bits. If students are listening to the audiobook, it is usually good to do other things (handwork, cooking, drawing, practicing penmanship, riding in the car, etc.) while listening, and of course, I would not confine the reading to a designated “school time” or place. Reading is part of life, and it is usually a richer and more in-depth experience to settle into a comfortable chair with good lighting and immerse in the world between the pages. There will be time enough later to emerge and discuss what has been read. Classic literature has a way of opening doors to interesting and fruitful discussions. In CY, for instance, Twain has parroted some of the fake news and prejudice of his day (satirically or otherwise), and his characters sometimes deliver debatable opinions on various topics. Most will not catch the attention of students as they tend to be focused on plot, especially at this age, but those points that raise questions can lead to interesting conversations.

      One of the things that makes literature study so fascinating is that there is not one right answer to the essay prompts. The insights of each reader are based the accumulated reading and experiences of a lifetime, so as long as the student uses evidence from the text or other works to support her thesis, it is a valid reading. I am always delighted when a student sees something in the work that I had not seen.

      Finally, since the curriculum is designed to teach the student to think and work in a more mature way, I have provided guidelines to the student for planning time (in the “Frequently Asked Questions” chapter), and this is a good thing for her to try, as the high school years should bring increasing responsibility and growing independence in the area of schoolwork.

      I hope that’s helpful!

  21. Crystal says:


    I find your website very cumbersome, convoluted, and overwhelming. We recently purchased this curriculum (Amazon) but do not have clear guidance on how to access the materials from the website without typing the URLs by hand. Additionally, we are not sure how to login (or if we can/should) to the website. Is this because we did not purchase it directly from this site? As a consumer, I would suggest a revamp of your website (respectfully).

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Dear Crystal,
      I’m so sorry you’ve found the site difficult to navigate. You are right — there is a lot of information, and we do need new ways of making it clearer. We are definitely working on that. You do not need to log in — that is just for those of us working on the site. The Curriculum User Content, organized by module and level is linked from your text and the sidebar of all the pages, but we’ll work on posting it elsewhere, as well. We do want to make it easily accessible to you.

      You’ll find the link on page 17 of your book (assuming that you are working with Introduction to Literature), under the pacing chart. There is also a link on page 24. These pages are where we can keep links updated, and your student can click directly to each resource. I hope you and your student enjoy studying literature with EIL. I really do appreciate your feedback.

  22. Shannon says:


    I will be road-schooling my 10th grader next year as we travel around the western U.S. Our access to internet will be inconsistent and rarely reliable. I am wondering how much of this curriculum, after downloading modules, assume and requires internet access. Thank you.

    • Janice Campbell says:

      Hi, Shannon,

      What a wonderful year you’ll have! There is a fairly significant amount of internet access assumed for EIL. It’s designed to be flexible, though, and if you can access a few online resources via cell phone, you can probably manage. Best wishes for a delightful road-schooling year!

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