Ellen Finnigan

Hi, I'm Ms. Finnigan

I received my B.A. in English from Boston College and my M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Montana.

I like to say "I was teaching online before it was cool": I've been teaching writing online to homeschooled kids since 2008, most recently at an online classical school for 9 years, where my high school classes were very popular.

While I've been teaching writing and literature for a long time, I've never had the chance to teach them together. This is how I believe they should be taught. Stand alone writing courses and impersonal "scoring" services are, from what I've seen, not very effective at the high school level.

I know what is.

Check out the testimonials and the video that explains what makes this course truly unique and truly epic!

Questions? Email me!
[email protected]

Epic Meeting Schedule

Tuesdays, 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST (3-4 EST) -- usually literature
Wednesdays, 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST (3-4 EST) -- usually composition
(Optional) Office Hours Thursdays, 12:00-1:00 p.m. PST (3-4 EST)

First Semester: 14 weeks, Sep. 3 - Dec. 14, 2024
(No classes the week of Thanksgiving)

Second Semester: 14 weeks, Jan. 13 - April 25, 2025
(Spring Break week of March 10)

General Weekly Work Flow & Credit Hours

Monday: Complete reading assignment and study guide questions; watch short lecture and take quiz (2-3 hours)

Tuesday: Meet for literature discussion (1 hour)

Wednesday: Meet for writing class (1 hour)

Thursday: Optional Office Hours, complete Writing Assignment (1-3 hours)

Grade and Class Size

Maximum 18 students

Open to students in grades 9-12


56 hours live instruction
(roughly 50% literature, 50% composition)
Live classes that emphasize student engagement
At least 2 Study Guides (for The
Iliad & The Odyssey) created by Ms. Finnigan
Autograde quizzes each week to test for reading comprehension
Access to teacher via Weekly Office Hours for extra help
Weekly feedback on writing assignments, including at least 8 essays
Does not include course texts.

Questions? Email me!
[email protected]

Epic Enrichment

Educational Tour to Greece and Rome

in 2025 or 2026?

Your child could have the opportunity to travel and see some of the places we read about!

With enough interest, Ms. Finnigan would like to put together an educational tour for students and their families. This would give students the chance to travel with some of the friends they make in the class.

It would not be included with this course. It would be totally optional -- and totally epic.

We'll get the class going and then see what the future might hold!

More About This Class

0:00 Benefits of learning literature and writing in the same class
2:26 Getting students to engage with the text
6:09 Student engagement in live classes
8:37 AI? Don't even try!
11:04 Contemplative Learning
13:30 Depth over breadth
16:04 Structure, Not Symmetry
18:04 Focus of each quarter
20:00 What makes it "epic"?

Epic Course Texts

The Iliad
translated by Richmond Lattimore

The Odyssey
translated by Richmond Lattimore

The Oresteian Trilogy
3 plays by Aeschylus

The MLA Handbook

1 more literary text TBD, if time allows

Course texts not included with purchase.


Learning Objectives

Develop Active Reading and Note-taking Skills for Better Reading Comprehension

Analyze Texts through Close Reading and Engagement

Develop Critical Thinking Skills such as Analysis, Inference, Reflection, Comparison and Contrast

Develop Powers of Insight and Skills of Argumentation

Formulate Original Ideas and Explain and Support them Well

Express Ideas with Confidence by Practicing with Peers in a Supportive Atmosphere

Master Conventions of Academic Writing (MLA) Expected at a College Level

Identify over 30 Literary Devices

Understand the origins and foundations of Western Literature

Write convincingly with confidence!

In class, practice communicating with courage, clarity, and charity!

Questions? Email me!

[email protected]

Enroll Today!

Notes to Parents

On Recordings

Recordings will not be sold nor made available to anyone outside of class.

On Religion

The Study Guides and video lectures are "Catholic and Classical". They deal with moral, spiritual, and philosophical questions from a Christian perspective, and they draw on the 2,000-year-old intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church to articulate and present that perspective. However, this is not a theology course. The religious content is very general and should be acceptable to any Christian, whether Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant.

Not a believer? Perhaps, you will find the religious content interesting from a cultural or historical perspective. After all, the pagans who told these stories for hundreds of years were religious people: They believed in divine beings, they engaged in religious rituals, they worshipped, they prayed. Most of them eventually converted to Christianity. The materials will sometimes ask you to think about differing concepts of the divine, make connections with Sacred Scripture, or engage in introspection and spiritual reflection. If these exercises are not valuable to you, you can skip them, and you will still get a lot out of this study!

Non-Christians are welcome to take this course, as long as the Christian religion is respected.

Most paper topics will not require you to consider the Christian point of view, and will certainly not require you to write from that point of view, although you are welcome to incorporate this point of view if you desire. If Ms. Finnigan suggests a "Christian" paper topic, she will always provide an alternative for students who want another option.

Testimonial from Former Colleague

"I taught with Ellen Finnigan at Kolbe Academy for several years. She taught English Composition [and Ancient Literature] at the 9th and 10th grade levels, and I taught Literature and History at the 10-12th grade levels. Without question I knew that her students who took my classes were excellent, well-trained writers. Often her students were as well-prepared as any students I had taught at the college level in my previous positions. Ms. Finnigan does an excellent job of preparing young writers to master the arts of composition. Anyone who takes the time to study with her and follow well her instruction will become competent at the craft of writing. She has the gift of teaching composition well!"

-- Carl Hasler

"Ellen shows herself time and again to be a master of the online format. Her lessons are both creative and engaging, and her students benefit in countless ways from her kind heart and demand for excellence."

-- Department Chair

Student Testimonial

Parent Testimonials

"Ellen Finnigan is an educator in the truest sense of the word. My two high school age children have flourished under her mentorship, both in her literature and writing classes. Her use of the primary texts of The Iliad and Odyssey provides a unique and challenging curriculum for any high school student. Ellen masterfully guides students through this rigorous material with enjoyable and thought-provoking discussion. She engages her students, going out of her way to connect with them personally and creates a camaraderie within the class to facilitate thoughtful discourse. Equally as impressive is Ellen’s ability to teach writing. From inviting topics to prompt feedback, Ellen provides professional critique in a naturally supportive manner that coached my teens to communicate their thoughts and ideas with clarity, creativity, and skill. I cannot thank her enough for her influence in my teens’ intellectual development and life."

-Bernadette Reidy

"Mrs. Ellen Finnigan is one of those rare teachers who effectively combines deep subject knowledge, abundant joy, engaging inspiration and captivating creativity in her approach to teaching children. For over six years, Mrs. Finnigan instilled a love for literature and writing to four of my children through her classes in Greek literature and creative writing. Her writing tutorial has been indispensable to preparing my children for college level writing. Mrs. Finnigan’s joy for teaching is genuine and made every class exciting and enjoyable for the children. She enabled her students to recognize the deeper meaning of the great literature of the past and draw on its impact on their lives and its meaning in the modern world. I would sincerely and enthusiastically recommend Mrs. Finnigan to any parent as their child’s teacher."

 - Greg Simia

"In Mrs. Finnigan you have the stellar combination of a great teacher and an amazing person. Being at the same time professional and warm-hearted, she inspires her students to bring their best into her literature and writing classes. She meets students where they are ability-wise, and brings out the best in them with her encouraging and detailed feedback. She has a great grasp of the literature she teaches and the human nature that lies behind it. She came alongside my daughter in many ways in her life during her high school years, and we are forever grateful."

- Amy Grasso

Why Read The Iliad

Not convinced? Give me five minutes...(actually six and a half...)

More Student Testimonials

Anonymous student nominations for "Teach of the Month," won April 2021

"I wasn't sure that I wanted to go to [this school]. However, when I went to Mrs. Finnigan's class I LOVED her humor, she's always making me laugh! I know that if I had not done her Greek Literature class I never would have read all the amazing books I am reading now! My writing and reading level is increasing month by month as she is pushing me to read harder books. Instead of reading easy books in my free time, I now want to push myself."


"During class, me and my classmates are very big discussers that have lots of comments and observations on the reading, and although our thoughts do slow our progress through the material, Mrs. Finnigan never gets frustrated with our excessive enthusiasm for discussions. Other teachers might grow exasperated with us and limit how much we are allowed to raise our hands, but she doesn't, and I think that this is a very good example of what kind of teacher she is - patient, kind, and enthusiastic about the material."


"Well, I do seem to email her a lot about questions I have. She always responds kindly and never writes as if she is annoyed. She also emailed me to ask whether I prefer to be called Ann or Annie, which meant a lot to me because she was trying to make me feel as comfortable as possible."


"When I wrote my first paper to her, the grade was not outstanding. However, her feedback made me feel very encouraged, for she gave me detailed information on all that I missed and could do better on and all that I did well on. In addition, she gave much encouragement and told me the potential that I have in writing papers, and that she was very excited to see how I did in the future."


"Mrs. Finnigan has a very fun Honors Literature seminar. The topics and assigned readings we discuss in class are either new or things I've wanted to talk about with others. The discussions are interesting and open up my mind to other possibilities and ideas."


"Mrs. Finnigan doesn't just give lectures, she allows us to discuss our own opinions and thoughts on the readings and gives interesting insights into the more obscure or confusing parts, which is extremely helpful and often makes me re-think my first thoughts on what I read."


"Everything Mrs. Finnigan teaches is clear and she teaches in a way that makes our reading enjoyable. She does not over load us with assignments, but uses different ways to make sure we understand what we are reading which is very helpful! I love how she draws relatable problems and such that correspond with the reading and this makes the reading easier to understand."


"Class is always fun with Mrs. Finnigan. I will come in completely bamboozled by something from the homework and will come out of class not only feeling relieved but invigorated. You can't help but feel better after a class with Mrs. Finnigan (And I'm lucky: I have her in 2!)"


"Mrs. Finnigan always gives a large amount of feedback on papers, quizzes, and exams. Even when the grade is not amazing, she gives plenty of feedback on how to do better, what was done well, and what was not done well. For papers she gives a 'point of focus' which is something to especially work on for the next paper."


"Mrs. Finnigan always has a fun attitude and disposition, and works hard to make the class as uplifting as possible. Seeing her example, I am inspired to always do better and to work harder."


"Mrs. Finnigan asks questions about the reading and assigns essay prompts that are difficult and thought-provoking. I may not always appreciate this, as it can be frustrating at times to have such hard homework, but once I've finished an assignment, when I look at it again, I can see how it has helped me gain a better understanding of what we're learning and my faith."


"...during our discussions, she never fails to consider the Catholic point of view on the character's actions or words."


"Throughout her classes, Mrs. Finnigan uses examples of the books to help us make the right choices in life. Like how Achilleus' pride and anger caused his death in the end. She used that to teach us the gifts and benefits of humility and patience. Once she shared one of her past temptations and regrets that was similar to the reading and it was eye-opening because everyone has their temptations but in the end, it is not worth sinning for."


"She keeps us in check, makes the class fun, and we even end up learning something! Who could ask for more?"