How to Teach High School Language Arts in Your Homeschool with Banned Books

Want to add an interesting twist to your teen’s language arts plans for the homeschool year? Using banned books to teach high school literature is the way to go! 

Want to add an interesting twist to your teen’s language arts plans for the homeschool year? Using banned books to teach high school literature is the way to go!

(This is a sponsored post and I received free access to this series for review. You can read this disclosure to learn more, but know that all opinions are my own and I was not asked to write a positive review. Also, this post contains some affiliate links.)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you’re probably familiar with the countless controversies surrounding banned books and their placement in schools and libraries. While these controversies seem to have ramped up in recent years, books have been challenged, restricted, and even burned for hundreds of years. (Read up on Galileo if you’d like an example!)

There’s a ton of history regarding banned books. Between history and their nearly-constant resurfacing in current events, these books provide a natural catalyst for discussion with teens. 

Better yet, they can be easily integrated into your high school language arts plans and used to teach literature. That’s where this Banned Books Literature Course comes into the picture. 


Before we talk about your teen reading banned books or the books themselves, here’s what you need to know about this Banned Books Literature Course and how it works.

Overview: Banned Books Literature Studies for Teens 

My teen is currently working through the To Kill a Mockingbird Online Book Club from this course, so I’m writing with that specific book club in mind. With that said, all of the units in this course follow the same flow and format.

If you’re not familiar with these book clubs from Literary Adventures for Kids, each book club serves as an online literature unit spread over several weeks. Each of the banned books studies also features a weekly lesson plan for guidance. This provides clear and easy pacing for all that’s covered through the weekly lessons. 

This banned books course is a fantastic way to teach high school literature.

More specifically, each week includes the following language arts elements.

  • Vocabulary, spelling, and grammar – These are all covered through a variety of interactive approaches within each grouping of chapters. 
  • Literary elements – This is where literary concepts from the reading are explored.
  • Writing – Writing assignments include journaling, freewriting, copywork, and an ongoing project. 
  • Rabbit trails – Deep dives into topics and people that come up while reading add layers and context to each book club.  
  • Extras – These include hands-on ideas and an end-of-book celebration. 
  • Questions – Since these are banned books, questions are a helpful way to spark discussion and contemplation. 

Now that you have an idea of what’s covered in each of these literature units, here’s a look at the titles covered in this Banned Books Literature Series:

This high school banned books course provides guided literary analysis, critical thinking, and self-reflection.
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

You can read this overview from Hide the Chocolate to learn why these books were banned by various groups.  In a nutshell, though, some were challenged because of intense scenes, some for other content, and others (like Animal Farm) because of unwelcome ideas.

Why Banned Books Deserve a Spot in Your Homeschool Plans

Now that you know more about this literature course, here’s why banned books, and this banned books series in particular, deserve a place in your homeschool plans.

Banned books encourage critical thinking.

Critical thinking is sort of a buzzword in educational spaces these days. While it’s great that there’s public dialogue happening about the importance of learning to think critically, that doesn’t mean this skill will develop naturally. That’s where banned books can help.

The best way to help our children use their powerful minds for good is to teach them the flexibility of thought and heart that enables to them to think, to think again, to rethink, and to think some more.

Julie Bogart, Raising Critical Thinkers 

While books certainly aren’t the only way to develop critical thinking skills, they foster this development in an ideal way. Granted, there are lots of reading options that can help in this area. That being said, banned books are beneficial for developing critical thinking skills because their stories always contain something that spurs contemplation.

Banned books have value.

Books get challenged and sometimes banned for lots of reasons. Sometimes those criticisms are valid, yet sometimes they are not. It’s also worth noting that what one person celebrates in a book could easily make another cringe. 

Regardless of where you land in that spectrum on a given book, its story has value. Some of this value comes from sharing different perspectives and experiences, while some comes from the opportunity to expand, change, or affirm your beliefs. 

"A good story should represent what is real and true, but real means presenting something a reader can build on. Despair is a hard commodity to build on. Real stories don’t hide what is wrong, but focus on greater truths." - Gladys Hunt

Ultimately, the good and the bad presented in all banned books allow students to grapple with ideas in a safe space. Providing a safe space to do this is an incredible opportunity we have as parents and home educators.

Since it is so likely that they (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.

C.S. Lewis, Of Other Worlds

Writing about literary content for kids, C.S. Lewis reminded readers that we’re all bound to encounter uncomfortable and even challenging things during our lives. Thankfully, we don’t have to sweep the uncomfortable stuff under a rug and hope it never comes out. Instead, we can prepare them through books. And that’s exactly where these banned books shine.

Related: Why You Should Read the Classics with Your Kids

These banned books courses teach teens how to read challenging material.

Along those lines, it can be tempting to think the challenging content present in banned books isn’t worth our time. Rather than skip these books and the value they contain, we can use these high school literature units to teach our teens how to read challenging material.

Since all the book clubs in the Banned Books Literature Series integrate rabbit rails each week, students quickly learn how these topical deep dives enhance understanding. These deep dives are interesting in any book, but they make all the difference when reading books that stirred up controversy. 

Teach High School Language Arts in Your Homeschool with These Banned Books Studies

In addition to learning more and adding context, this banned books series includes lots of questions for consideration. These questions provide a helpful model for helping teens look for important details in their reading, which benefits them when reading other books, news, social media content, and any challenging material. 


Ready to learn more about the Banned Books Literature Series for teens? You can head to the Literary Adventures for Kids site to learn more and enroll your student.

Get The Call of the Wild Course for FREE!

Want to get a feel for this banned books literature series? Get the online book club for The Call of the Wild through the button below!

Heads up, you’ll want to check out all of their high school literature offerings while you’re there. Also worth noting, they have tons of book club options, unit studies, poetry courses, and planning resources to help you add some magic to your homeschool days.

Here are a few of our other favorite courses:

Want to add an interesting twist to your teen’s language arts plans for the homeschool year? Using banned books to teach high school literature is the way to go!

In closing, I can’t say enough good things about this Banned Books Literature Series. It covers all the language arts components for high school, but through the lens of some legitimately thought provoking literature selections. And maybe most importantly, all of this happens while reading banned books with guidance, providing a model for critical thinking and appreciation for literature for years to come.

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