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Lightning Lit - a review

My oldest son is methodical. He loves math and all things orderly. He spends his free time (and his work time) daydreaming about how to construct and build complicated contraptions. He is an engineer at heart and we tease him about having cog wheels where his heart should be. Knowing this, it is especially funny to me that this boy also loves British Literature. I confess, the language bogs me down and I have a hard time embracing medieval lit, but he immerses himself in it for hours, complaining if too many months go by without me assigning more.

Currently, we are well out of the medieval stage in history and I'm stretching him by moving him up to more modern fare. We're now sampling eartly to mid-19th Century works thanks to Hewitt Homeschooling, who sent us the Lightning Literature and Composition: British Early-Mid 19th Century Student's Guide and the Lightning Literature and Composition: British Early-Mid Teacher's Guide.

Hewitt Homeschooling Review
This is a high school level course, intended for grades 9-12. It is a challenging program that I would not recommend for younger students. 

In this program, students study 4 major works and many poems from the era. The poems are included in the Student's Guide, but students will need access to the following:
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Jane Eyre by  Charlotte Bronte
In the Student's Guide ($29.95), students begin by reading an introduction, which gives a brief biography of an author, before moving on to the selection (be it poem or story) being taught. Questions are provided to keep in mind while reading the selection. These prepare students for the lesson to follow. 

Following the reading, students answer comprehension questions. These can be used as comprehension assignments, as tests, or for class discussion. It is recommended that students answer comprehension questions as they read, rather than after reading the entire week's assignments. For example, Week One assigns 23 chapters of Pride and Prejudice.  There are 49 questions to follow this work, but they are divided up so that students can answer 17 questions in reference to chapters 1-4, 10 questions regarding chapters 5-12, 13 questions regarding chapters 13-15, and 9 questions for chapters 16-23. 

After the Comprehension Questions, students read the Literary Lesson. This section helps to increase the reader's understanding of how to read more deeply and to recognize techniques. It also helps to improve the student's writing. 

Students next move on to Writing Exercises. Students are encouraged to complete one writing exercise for each of the shorter selections and at least two for every major work. 

The Appendices include more discussion prompts and projects, additional reading suggestions, and schedules.  The book's introduction includes compact, yet fabulous suggestions for improving reading and writing skills 

The Teacher's Guide ($2.95) comes as plain, whole punched paper, stapled at the top. You will want a binder for this. 

The Guide has excellent guidelines for grading students' writing. As it says, if you were to gather 100 English teachers, they would find 100 different ways to grade a paper. The guide finds commonalities and helps you fairly evaluate writing assignments.    

Grading Tips are given for Non-fiction, Fiction, and Poetry. It even gives checklists for each of these, as well as score sheets.

Schedules are clearly lined out by week. There are two schedule options: 1 Semester-long course (18 weeks,) which is recommended by the publisher, or a 1 year-long course (36 weeks,) for students supplementing with a separate grammar work or language arts material.  

The Teacher's Guide also includes answers to Comprehension Questions. The Student's Guide's Introduction states that the answers are also in the Student Appendix A, but it they are not. Appendix A provides Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions.

The Teacher's Guide states that the first week's assignments are demanding, but that the rest of the workload is not as heavy-going. We opted to stretch this first week, which included studying William Blake and his poetry as well as the first 23 chapters of Pride and Prejudice plus comprehension questions, into two weeks. This is the first exposure my sons have had with Jane Austen and I wanted to introduce them a bit more gently, in hopes they will love it as much as I do. We school year-round, so this will not throw us off track too badly.                

My sons (ages 14 and 17) have found the material to be challenging, but interesting. You can read a sample of Lesson 2 here. They both appreciate the clear instructions and the orderly layout.

Hewitt offers quite a few great resources for all ages. Be sure to check out what the rest of the Crew has used by following the link below.

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