Lightning Lit & Comp (Early-Mid American Lit) ~ Review

AJ still struggles with some skills in both reading and writing. While she has grown leaps and bounds over the last few years, she is not quite on grade level. Because of that, she is a slower reader and sometimes takes longer with writing assignments. One issue we have noticed is that we often feel like we are behind in our English curriculum. A little over a year ago we were able to review a Lightning Lit set from, Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. We enjoyed it, but she was doing a combined literature, Bible, and history course at the time, so she never finished it.

This year we are studying American History, and I was looking for a good literature program to go with it. I had planed to finish the old Lightning Lit set we had, and then find something new. But then we were given the chance to review another lightning lit set! We decided to go with, American Early-Mid 19th Century, because it would fit in perfectly with our study of US History. We have been working on it for the last few weeks.

What is Lightning Lit & Comp?

The idea behind Lightning Lit & Comp is to have the student read and respond to great literature. Along the way the student will gain college level composition skills. In the younger grades the program is divided into grade levels. Once the student is in high school the program switches to different topics. There are a variety of choices from American History, British Literature, and even different genres of Shakespeare.

The sets come with a Student Guide that is designed so that the student can do the program themselves, and a teacher guide. Depending on the needs of your student, each Lightning Lit guide can be used over a semester, or an entire school year. Each guide has the student read four novels and at least four other works of literature. Those may include poetry, short stories, or other material. You will need to obtain the novels, but everything else is in the Student Guide.

American Early – Mid 19th Century

Out of the four novels that are in this guide, I had only read one before. This guide has the student read:

  • Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave Written by Himself
  • The Scarlet Letter and
  • Moby-Dick

They will also read poetry and short stories from:

  • Washington Irving
  • William Cullen Bryant
  • Edgar Allan Poe and
  • Henry Longfellow

The Student Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History) Student Guide

The Student Guide is a 178 page soft covered book. It begins with a long introduction. The introduction talks about why the student should use the course. It then it goes on to give lessons on how to read literature, how to read poetry, and how to write well. It contains a lot of useful information. The student isn’t expected to remember all of the information. Instead it is right at their fingertips when they need it.

Finally, there is an explanation on how to use the Student Guide. The program is simple to follow, but this part makes it fool proof! The back of the book includes three appendix sections. They include optional discussion questions and project ideas, additional reading, and both the semester and year long schedule.

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ (Early to Mid American History) Schedule from Student Guide

The Student Guide is broken up into four units. They all follow the same basic outline.

Unit at a Glance

Each unit contains two lessons. They include:

Introduction – This is a short (page or two) biography about the author.

The Selection – This is the reading that the student will complete. Sometimes the student will not need to read the entire novel. In those cases the student is told what to read.

While You Read – This is a short list of things to look for or to think about while you read. It varies with each book. For The Scarlet Letter , one thing the student is asked to look for conflicts in the book and how they are solved.

Comprehension Questions – These questions are broken down by chapter, or by page number if the book is not broken up into chapters. The questions focus mainly on facts in the story, but there are some about different literary elements. Most of the questions are short answer, but there are also some multiple choice options.

Literary Lessons – These are lessons that cover one main topic that was in the reading. For example, after reading Franklin’s autobiography the lesson is on writing about yourself. Examples are taken from the reading to help show different ways to write about yourself. After reading Moby-Dick the lesson is on character development. Examples are given that show how in the book the author uses different ways to develop the character over time. These lessons are around five pages long. They are broken into sub topics and go into a lot of details.

Writing Exercises – After each reading selection there is a list of at least five different writing exercises. The student picks two of them to complete. There are a variety of options. Some include researching and writing a report, some are short stories, others have you analyze the reading. Sometimes, like after reading The Scarlet Letter, there will be an option to practice a new skill you learned while writing about a previous book. One option for the writing exercise is:

Write an analysis of at least one conflict in either Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography or Frederick Douglass’s Narrative.

Perspectives – This section is not included after every reading selection. When it is included it gives valuable information about the time period. One of the sections talked about Transcendentalism and how it effected writing at the time.

The Teacher Guide

Lightning Lit & Comp ~ Review (Early to Mid American History) Teacher Guide

The Teacher guide is simply a stack of papers stapled together and hole-punched. I like that it can easily be placed in a notebook, and that I don’t have another book to worry about.

The guide includes tips on grading. Grading writing is so subjective, that it can be difficult. This breaks everything down for you. There are even checklists for different types of papers. There are instructions for how to calculate grades for the comprehension questions and for final grades. The only thing it doesn’t explain is how to grade the vocabulary. There aren’t exactly any vocabulary assignments. The student is told to create a vocabulary notebook where they write down words they don’t understand, but grading this is not explained. Since vocabulary is only worth 10% of the grade, I plan to give AJ credit as long as she creates a decent notebook.

The Teacher guide also includes both schedule options and answers to the comprehension questions. The only suggestion I would make is that it would be more helpful to the parent/teacher if more than the letter was included for multiple choice questions. Just the letter “d” isn’t always enough. I found myself needing to look at the student guide to see what she was answering. This is just a personal preference.

The guide also includes the writing exercises and the optional project ideas.

How We Used It

AJ holding Student Book Lightning Lit & Comp (Early to Mid American History)

Since AJ is a slow reader, we decided to follow the year long schedule. The main difference between the two schedules is the pace of the reading. The schedules are broken up into weekly assignments. I like this because she can break the reading and writing up however she likes, as long as she finishes it by the end of the week.

She began by reading the introduction to the student guide. Then she went on to read the introduction about Benjamin Franklin. After that we read through the writing exercise options. I had her pick one to work on while she read the book. The schedule has her wait until after she reads the book to write, but that has her then writing two papers in a row. So we changed it up a little.

The first week she just did the  reading and answered the comprehension questions. The second week I had her read through the Literary Lesson and start working on her writing assignment.  She chose the following:

Imagine that you are writing to a pen-pal for the first time. You don’t want to tell them everything at once but you do want to give a reasonable impression of yourself. Choose what parts of yourself and your life to share. Write the letter – taking care to choose aspects of yourself that are telling and important and to describe those things well enough that your pen-pal will find the letter interesting.

As she read the book she worked on the writing a little each day. By the time she is finished with the book she will have one assignment finished and will then start on the second assignment.

We work on literature together. I downloaded the first book to our Kindle’s and we read the book together taking turns reading out loud and discussing the book. Using the Kindle was a little difficult, because the autobiography is not broken into chapters. The reading was assigned by page number, but the page numbers were different on the Kindle. We just read until all of the comprehension questions from the section were answered. But if page numbers not matching bothers you, make sure you buy the version recommended on the website.

I will say though, this first book has a lot of unusual words. It was nice to be able to highlight a word and quickly see its meaning. I think she might have been looking up a lot of words if she was reading a paperback copy.

As we read she wrote down the answers to the comprehension questions in a composition notebook. Then she would work on the writing assignment for a little while. Some days we read for an hour or so other days she only read a few minutes. I like that the weekly schedule makes it possible to be very flexible.

Out Thoughts

While Benjamin Franklin’t Autobiography isn’t our favorite book, we have both been enjoying this literature program. I like that there is the option to take a little longer to complete the course, but that she is able to use something that is challenging and will help her grow. The lessons are very detailed and interesting. There is a great variety of writing assignments. Some are easier like the one she picked for unit one, but others will require more effort.

This book is designed for 9th to 10th grade, while the other guide we used is designed for 9th through 12th grade. I did notice that this guide had some easier writing assignments, and that the comprehension questions were more straight forward. But I think it is challenging enough to be used at any level.

The guide is designed so that the student can use it independently, and I think most students would be able to do that. Even AJ would be able to use this independently. We just like to discuss the reading and spend the time together. I think it is a very solid program. We intend to use it next year for her main English curriculum.

If you are looking for a challenging, but doable English curriculum, that focuses on having the student read great literature, look no further. Lightning Lit & Comp is what you need.

Other members of the Homeschool review Crew reviewed different levels or topics of Lightning Lit. They also reviewed a few other products from Hewitt Homeschooling. Click on the graphic below to rad their reviews!

Lightning Literature, My First Reports, State History Notebook & Joy of Discovery {Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Reviews}
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