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Lightning Lit & Composition {Review}

Lightning Lit
Lightning Lit

I had never heard of Lightning Lit or Hewitt Homeschooling before this review, but I was impressed when I visited their site for the first time. In fact, I found just what I needed. I needed a literature course for my 10th grader, but I didn't need a full year course. Hewitt offers semester long courses, so I was excited to choose one!

My 10th grader is just finishing up American History so I chose:

I received the guides only and purchased the four books needed for this course for less than $20:

  • Uncle Tom's Cabin

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

  • The Red Badge of Courage

  • The Call of the Wild

Lightning Lit

In addition to reading these four books, my student will also be reading selected poems from Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Paul Laurence Dunbar, as well as a short story from Bret Harte that are all included in the Lightning Lit student guide.

Geared towards grades 9-12, Lightning Lit is perfect for my 10th grader, and I plan to use it this coming school year.

How we used it:

We started by reading the Introduction.

We examined:

  • why read literature

  • how to read literature

  • why the books in this program were selected

  • how to read poetry

  • why learn how to write

  • a guide to writing called Paper Writing 101

My first impression: Wow! This looks really good!

The first week Nathan began by reading the Introduction to the Lightning Lit guide. Then he read the Introduction to Unit 1, Lesson 1 "Harriet Beecher Stowe."

Over the next several weeks he read 5 chapters at a time in Uncle Tom's Cabin and answered comprehension questions. The questions are short answer or multiple choice and vary in number. I had Nathan write his answers in a separate notebook.

I love that if a question asks a specific question, such as how a description is meant to invoke feeling, that it gives you the page number in the book to look at. For this reason, I chose the exact editions that Hewitt recommended and am glad I did.

I am grading Nathan's questions using the Teacher's Guide and discussing the questions with him.

Since it is summer, I let him follow the yearly schedule for a more relaxed pace, so he is still reading the book. When he finishes the book, he will complete a Literary Lesson on "theme" for Unit 1, Lesson 1, and write a paper.

The Literary Lesson on theme covers the elements that Stowe used to communicate her central theme about slavery:

  • characters and theme

  • evoking empathy

  • plot and theme

  • setting and theme

  • identifying theme

Each element uses examples from the book that demonstrate that element.

There are 8 Writing Exercises after the Literary Lesson on theme. They range from arguing a point to compare/contrast character's attitudes. The Writing Exercises offer plenty of ideas to dive into the meat of the book. The last one is to identify a theme in a previous book he has read and show how the author expresses it using character, plot, argument, setting, etc.

Lightning Lit

Unit 1 is rounded out by Lesson 2, a selected poem from Walt Whitman. My student will read an introduction to Walt Whitman, an introduction to the selection, Leaves of Grass, and questions to to keep in the back of his mind while he reads the poem. After he reads the poem, he will answer 8 comprehension questions about the poem. Following this is a Literary Lesson on Sound and Imagery in Poetry. This lesson covers alliteration and consonance, assonance, repetition, euphony and cacophony, and imagery. Following this, there are 7 different options for Writing Exercises. Finally, the unit ends with a lesson on Perspectives that teaches about Regionalism and Realism and a Connections lesson that teaches about Poems About Stories, People, and Places.

Unit 1 is designed to last 6 weeks on a semester schedule and 12 weeks on a full-year schedule, with some overlap into the next week when Unit 2 begins to give them some more time for revising their written work. This is the longest unit in the course.

There are 4 total units in this course:

  • Unit 2 features a short story by Bret Hart and Mark Twain's novel Huckleberry Finn with Literary Lessons on Local Color and Humor.

  • Unit 3 features selected poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar and Stephen Crane's novel, The Red Badge of Courage with Literary Lessons on Register and Description.

  • Unit 4 features selected poems by Emily Dickinson and Jack London's novel, The Call of the Wild with Literary Lessons on Figurative Language and Point of View.

The Teacher's Guide is a stapled set of papers that has all the answers for the comprehension questions as well as grading tips and a teaching schedule.

My thoughts:

I really like that Lightning Lit alternates shorter readings with full length novels. I think this will be especially helpful for my 9th grader who does not like to read when he gets to this course.

I also like that Lightning Lit offers semester long Lit courses, but that they can be lengthened if necessary. I like that the Teacher's Guide is separate from the student guide.

I wish that Lesson 1 would have introduced theme and then challenged my student to first discover what the theme of the book is before giving it away. The theme in Uncle Tom's Cabin is obvious, so it would have been a good first practice for him to analyze the theme.

The writing lessons are all excellent and offer a range of topics to write about. I like that there are a variety of topics to choose from.

While Lightning Lit offers plenty of quality writing topics pertaining to the reading material, it does not walk them step by step through the process, but rather refers them back to the writing guide in the Introduction called Paper Writing 101. Normally this would bother me, but I am using this more for a literature course than a composition course, as I have a writing program that does walk my students through the writing process step by step.

I'm really happy with the books selected. They are not modern classics that I am used to in our literature choices, but rather they are original classics. They are books that are important to American Literature and provide strong examples of good writing and a range of styles and subject matter.

Overall, I'm very happy to be adding Lightning Lit to our curriculum line up this coming school year!

My Crew mates reviewed various products from Hewitt Homeschooling, so be sure to click below to read more reviews!

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Also, did you know that Hewitt Homeschooling is the home of the PASS Test? It is a standardized test designed just for homeschoolers! I have my eye on it for my students for next year!

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  1. Do you like it enough as a Lit course to buy another of their Lightning Lit offerings for High school?

  2. That's a really good question, Julie! These are the LL&C units I will consider for Nathan:

    British: Early to Mid 19th Century https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Materials/mItem.aspx?id=8074
    British: Mid to Late 19th Century https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Materials/mItem.aspx?id=8075
    Shakespeare Comedies and Sonnets https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Materials/mItem.aspx?id=8077
    Shakespeare Tragedies and Sonnets https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Materials/mItem.aspx?id=8076

    And maybe American Early to Mid 19th Century https://www.hewitthomeschooling.com/Materials/mItem.aspx?id=8072 along with the one I reviewed for Dylan depending on what we do for American History.

    I'm not interested in any others (content wise).

    I feel LL is more comprehensive as an actual Lit course than SL, which was just short comprehension questions and not really analyzing literature (unless you use the LA writing, which we do not). Also, Core 100 is the last SL core we will use, so I really did need another option for literature!

  3. This sounds like an excellent choice for the high school level! I'm glad that it worked well for you! I am eager to be a tester of the Lightning Lit 3rd grade course....

  4. Thanks, Lisa! I'm excited to have it in our line up!