Lightning Lit & Comp - American & British Literature {Review}

Friday, March 17, 2017

Are you ready to swoon? If you're a bibliophile like me, you will have to fan yourself a little once you take a look at all of these lovely treasures we get to explore over the next few years. Nothing, no nothing gets me as excited as a beautiful stack of books!

I remember the moment I fell in love with history, and it wasn't in a history class. I fell in love with history in my first literature course I took in college. It was the first time I heard the voices from the past, and it was then that I wanted to learn more about the history of humankind. I was so tired of dry and dusty textbooks. It took me a while before I found a literature program that focused on the types of books I personally would choose. I found it was really difficult to find a company that chooses classics based not only on literary merit, but also historical significance. I love that Lightning Lit's book choices not only highlight excellent writing, but often also give a voice to a time and place. My hope is that my boys, too, will fall in love with literature and history when they hear these voices from so long ago.

Teaching high school literature can be intimidating if you don't have the background for it. Fortunately, we found a great program a few years ago that takes the guess work out of it all. If you've followed us here over the past few years, you have heard me mention our love of a new literature program we discovered back in 7th grade. I will share how Lightning Lit 7 & 8 went for us in a separate post, but for now I want to share where we are headed for high school next year.

Some decisions for high school curricula were easier than others. As soon as I took one look at the Lightning Lit book high school book choices, I was completely sold. Lightning Literature is published by Hewitt Homeschooling. If you take a look at their website you'll see that they have many literature guides spanning from 1st though 12th grades. They are still developing some of their guides for the late elementary age, but the choices and support abound.

After looking through the high school guide choices I settled on the American Early-Mid 19th Century and American Mid-Late 19th Century American guides for 9th grade. Hewitt Homeschooling suggests starting with the American guides in 9th grade as they are the most easily understood of the high school selections. They also suggest completing two high school guides for one full English credit, completing one each semester to earn an honors credit. You may instead choose to complete only one guide over one full year for a basic credit. We have chosen to complete both guides in one year.

The high school guides come with a bound student book and a 3-hole punched teacher guide. The student guide includes lessons for each book, but they also include additional short stories and poems that are used in the course.

 The first guide we will work through next year for 9th grade is the American Literature: Early-Mid 19th Century Guide.

Each novel, short story, and selection of poetry has a correlating lesson. I have listed each corresponding lesson under each set of books. This is one of my favorite things about Lightning Lit. It's one thing to teach a lesson on humor, but not until you read a good example of humor in an excellent book like Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn will you really understand how it can be used effectively in writing.

 American Literature - Early - Mid 19th Century
Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin - Autobiography - Autobiography
"The Angler" by Washington Irving* - Sources of Ideas
Poems by William C. Bryant* - Rhyme and Lines in Poetry
Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass - Persuasive Writing
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar A. Poe* - Tone and Mood
The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne - Conflict
Moby Dick by Herman Melville - Character Development
Poems by Henry W. Longfellow* - Meter in Poetry

* Included in Student Guide

Our second semester we will work through the American Literature: Mid-Late 19th Century guide. This guide covers the following books, short stories, and poems.

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe - Setting and Theme
Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman* - Sound and Imagery in Poetry
"The Outcasts of Poker Flats" by Brete Harte* - Local Color
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn By Mark Twain - Humor
Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar* - Register
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane - Description
Poems by Emily Dickinson* - Figurative Language
The Call of the Wild by Jack London - Point of View

* Included in Student Guide

First, I will walk you through how a lesson works in the Student Guide. Later on in the post I will walk you through what is in the Teacher's Guide.

One of the first things I did when I got my Lightning Lit guides was to dive into one of the books myself. I like to try to read the books I assign my kids each year to see if I am setting realistic expectations. I was a literature major long ago before this whole homeschool gig, so reading these beautiful books is no sacrifice for me. So many books, so little time!

Uncle Tom's Cabin is the first book the students read in the Mid-Late Century guide. At over 600 pages I was thinking this might prove to be a challenge. Once I got into the story I realized that it was easier to read than I expected. The lesson was clear and very helpful in singling out important items of information. I could write a whole separate post on how this book impacted me, but I'll save that for another day. Because my son had already been reading Lightning Lit 7 and then 8 books, I think he will be able to handle these literature selections. There seems to be a progression in the choices from 7th and into high school.

Before reading the book the students will read a short introduction on the author. I love this because it sets the stage for asking why the author might have written such a book. You can tell that the authors of the student guides love literature themselves in the way they approach each book.

Each book has a lesson that is derived from that book. For instance, the lesson in Uncle Tom's Cabin is about Setting and Theme. If ever there was a book with a strong central theme it is this one. This book so strongly communicated the evils of slavery that it was the spark that ignited the Civil War in America. This is one of my favorite parts of Lightning Lit. They use each book, short story, and poem as a lesson in how to effectively use different literary elements by drawing from the example of excellent works of literature.

While they are reading, there are comprehension questions that they are to answer.

After they complete the reading there is a written lesson that they are to read. These are always done really well and explain the literary concept in relation to the book they just read. It's far easier to understand a literary device in the context of great writing. The student book gives examples of how that device was used and how they can also use it in their writing too.

I especially love the writing assignment suggestions in Lightning Lit. Some writing programs might leave a little too much room for interpretation, or may instead leave little room for creativity. I find that the writing assignment suggestions in Lightning Lit are not only valuable as far as teaching how to write, but are also really fun. My eldest son has really had a great time with his writing assignments this year in Lightning Lit 8. It's been fun for me to see him discover his writer's voice, and enjoy doing so in the process.

Lightning Lit & Comp - High School British Literature

I had already planned on using Lightning Lit American when the folks at Hewitt Homeschooling kindly sent me their British Literature guides for review. My plan had been to follow up the American guides with the British books for our 10th grade year, so the opportunity to preview these books was such a joy for me!

I mean...I can't even. Are these books beautiful or what?

The British guides follow a similar format. The books in these sets are a step up in difficulty, however, from the American book selections.

 The British Literature: Early-Mid 19th Century guide is the first of 2 British literature guides.

British Literature - Early - Mid 19th Century
Poems by William Blake* - Tone
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - Characterization
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott - Description
"Essay on Scott" by Thomas Carlyle* -  Persuasive Writing
Poetry by Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron & Shelley* - Imagery & Poetic Language
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley - Setting
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - Person
"Rebecca and Rowena" by William Thackeray* - Humor

* Included in Student Guide

The British Literature Mid-Late 19th Century is the second of two British guides.

British Literature - Mid - Late 19th Century

"The Lady of Shalott" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson* - Rythym in Poetry
Silas Marner by George Eliot - Plot
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Conflict
Poems by Lewis Carroll* - Rhyme in Poetry
"The Silverado Squatters" by Robert L. Stevenson* - Local Color
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde - Theme
"Adventure of the Speckled Band" by Sir Arthur C. Doyle* - Genre Fiction
The Complete Stalky & Co by Rudyard Kipling - Sources of Ideas

* Included in Student Guide
It is fun for me to see some of my favorite books show up on these lists. I absolutely love Jane Eyre! I plan to read all of these books, and in some cases re-read them for my own pleasure. It will be fun for me to read them with a more mature mind than I had all those years ago when I read them the first time.

Next, I want to give you a peek into the Teacher's Guide, and to show you how it works. You can find a sample of the guide's Table of Contents, Intro and Grading Tips and Schedule.

The Lightning Lit Teacher's Guides are especially helpful. They give clear instruction on how to use the course, offer grading tips, and provide grading rubrics for different types of papers that will be assigned during the course.

I really appreciate the various checklists and grading templates. Going into our first year of high school these will save me so much hassle and worry!

There is a sheet that gives a place to add credit for comprehension questions as well. These comprehension questions along with vocabulary work and written papers each count for a percentage of the total grade.

As I mentioned earlier there are two schedules in each guide from which to choose. You can choose to do one guide over a full year, or choose to use 2 guides, covering one each semester. I really appreciate when a company offers a way to daily schedule a course. This saves so much time!

I love that there are answers to the comprehension questions that are asked in the student guide. While we moms have the best of intentions to read all the books, sometimes time won't allow that during busy seasons, or while still we are still chasing little ones. Having the answers helps so much in refreshing my memory on what happened, or orienting me to the story when I don't have the time to get to the reading myself.

One thing that is a little different from the Junior High guides is that there are discussion questions and project suggestions at the end of the teacher guide. I love that they include Art, History/Geography, Religion/Bible, and Science/Health & Nature project suggestions. Some of these look really fun! I hope to employ some of the art lessons in teaching my son, who has always loved illustrating what he is learning.

Also, just in case you're wondering, Hewitt Homeschooling is so much more than a literature curriculum publisher. They offer course syllabi for many different programs. They sent me the Apologia Biology Syllabus and Tests as I was planning on using that course next year as well. I really like how their schedules clearly set forth the expectations for the course. This year we are using their I Dare You! Bible Study Syllabus, and it's been an awesome study! The next thing I want to check out at Hewitt is their PASS Test which is a standardized test made for homeschoolers that you can administer at home. It would be nice to be able to see the progress my students have made minus the pressure of other test options.

If you made it to the end of this post, I give you an honorary bibliophile of the year award! Hopefully you feel you have been given a clear picture on how this fantastic program works, and that you might even be excited to check it out yourself. I can't wait to dive into these books with my son. He has already added many of our Lightning Lit 7 & 8 books to his list of favorite books of all time list. It was such a joy to hear him add Tom Sawyer, Alice in Wonderland, and A Christmas Carol to his favorites. Classics are classics for a reason. If they can still reach through time and touch a 14 year old boy, that's the sign of a really fantastic book. I look forward to seeing what his new favorites are next year.

Disclaimer: In exchange for this review Hewitt Homeschooling sent me the British Early-Mid & Late-Mid 19th Century Student and Teacher Guides. All of the opinions are shared with the sincerest honesty and are my own.

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  1. Great review! Thanks for sharing your love of books with us.

    1. I'm glad I have you to chat with about that mutual love we both have for books!

  2. I will admit that I have been anxiously awaiting this review - and it did not disappoint!! As an English major, I, too, have a passion for reading really great books. I can't wait to read these alongside my own children. The fact that LL comes with a schedule is a HUGE bonus! Deviating from HOD's laid out schedule can sometimes make me feel as though I'm going to get behind or miss something - so I am so happy to know that there's an easy to follow schedule for each semester. :)

    When will you start LL with Silas? Will you wait until 7th (Rev to Rev)? If you do wait, will you implement another literature study other than HOD's suggestion?

    Thanks so much for such a thorough and wonderful review! ((And, now I really can't wait until you post the 7th & 8th grade LL reviews!!)) Blessings!

    1. You are so sweet Amber :) I'm glad to know there is someone out there that loves books as much as me! We need a book club for people like us. I will wait for 7th grade to use LL 7 with Silas. Until then we have been picking and choosing great books from various lists. Sometimes we use Brave Writer Arrow issues, and sometimes we just discuss them. It's kind of nice to have a few years to just enjoy reading before we head into a formal lit study. I feel comfortable picking out elements enough that we still have great discussions.

      I will get to work on the LL 7 & 8 post :). Thank you so much for being patient. The junior high post was definitely a long time in coming. I already have the pictures taken. I can share more about how the writing assignments played out in the 7 & 8 guides because we have worked through those.

  3. Swoon ♥♥♥ All those books make my heart go pitter patter!

    Very much looking forward to your LL 7 & 8 post! Malachi will be 7th next year and I haven't (yet) thought about Literature!

    1. The books in both 7 & 8 are so good!

  4. I've bit waiting on pins and needles for your review of this. :-) I can't wait for yr 7 review!! I ordered Teaching the Classics and believe I will add Lightening Lit to our plans for next Year. I've gone back and forth but now....well...thanks a lot. :-)

    1. Haha! Woops. Sooorrry! We really did love LL 7. We didn't find it until halfway through the year unfortunately, but I'm so glad we got through at least that much.

  5. Ahh...books! I am such a bibliophile! I am actually now looking into the 3rd grade level of this for my daughter. Thank you for the review!

    1. I wish I had found it earlier. You'll have to tell me what you think of the earlier guides :)

  6. Thanks so much for this review. I have gained so much from your blog since you first started blogging about HOD. I have two boys in 5th and 7th grade and we've done HOD from the beginning (with a slight detour that I wish we hadn't taken ;) so we follow close behind you and your experience has been invaluable to me. Now I'm in the middle of trying to figure out what we're doing for literature for 8th grade next year, so I keep checking back for the LL middle school review. :) Can't wait to read it. I wish I had discovered LL a little earlier for my oldest, but I think we'll definitely be using it as we go on to 8th grade and high school. And I'm sure we will be using it eventually with my younger guy. (Are you using any other writing curriculum in addition to LL for 7th/8th grade - besides the narrations in HOD?)

    1. Thank you so much for following my little blog. I had a year away from HOD that I regret too! Thank you for being patient on the middle school LL review. We are off next week, and I hope to get to it. This year we have done R&S, LL writing assignments, a few Brave Writer free writes. With the narrations already built into HOD it's more than enough writing. I better get to writing that next review!


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