June 13, 2019

Exploring 8th Grade Lightning Lit & Comp from Hewitt Homeschooling {Curriculum Review}

As I look ahead to our 8th-grade year for my oldest son, I really wanted a strong literature curriculum for him. I needed it to be fairly independent as we start preparing him for High School work. I also wanted to incorporate some literature analysis but in such a way as to not make it a chore to do. Additionally, I wanted to find something which had composition incorporated in it—but a style where my son (a reluctant writer) wasn’t going to balk at every lesson. I have looked all around and about gotten dizzy exploring the different curriculum available. But one stood out above the others that I wanted to explore more—the Grade 8 Lightning Lit Set from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I was given the chance to review the very course I was looking at. Join me to today as I share our review of this course and find out if we will be continuing it for our 2019-2020 year or not…

About the Product

Hewitt Homeschooling is an award-winning homeschool curriculum for language arts. Based in Washougal, WA (my old hometown!), they provide a wide range of literature and composition products for elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. Being literature based, all of the material explores a WIDE range of books and applies all the lessons based on those books to teach rules for grammar, vocabulary, composition, and literary analysis.

Some of the language arts products they carry include:

Elementary Lightning Lit Courses (Grades 1-4)
Junior High Lightning Lit Courses (Grades 7-8)
High School Language Arts Courses including 
American Early-Mid 19th Century 
American Mid-Late 19th Century 
British Early-Mid 19th Century
British Mid-Late 19th Century 
British Medieval
Shakespeare Comedies
Shakespeare Tragedies
British Christian
American Christian

They also carry some non-language arts products including:
My First Report: Solar System, Grades 1-4
Chronicles of __ State History Notebook, Grades 3-8
Joy of Discovery w Learning Objectives (Adult)

For the sake of this review, I'm going to be discussion the Lightning Literature and Composition for the 8th-grade course.

The Lightning Lit & Comp 8th Grade is designed to prepare for high school composition skills through exploring and discussing great literature. 
The Lightning Lit & Comp 8th-grade set includes: 
Teacher's Guide
Student Guide
Student Workbook 
All Literature books 

The books that are explored in the curriculum include Treasure Island, The Hobbit, A Christmas Carol, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Day of Pleasure, My Family and Other Animals, and Stories & Poems for Extremely Intelligent Children. This curriculum is split into two semesters of work and provides a complete year of Literature and Composition for 8th Grade. You would need to add spelling and grammar if you desired to add them this grade level.
It is possible to buy the Teacher's Guide, Student Guide, and Student Workbook without the reading books if you already own them.

Literary topics discussed in the 8th-grade curriculum include setting, author’s purpose, imagery in poetry, culture, details in writing, character development, figurative language, conflict, symbolism, humor, the meter in poetry, and writing a literary analysis. There are additional mini lessons on taking notes, rewriting in your own words, free verse and ballads, citing sources in a paper, the narrator, fun poems, genre fiction, sentence structure, bibliography, the Sonnet, and writing a conclusion. There are writing exercises for every chapter (unit) over a wide range of topics. 

Our Thoughts on the Product

I dove into this package as soon as it came. We were only given the primary course books, but I was already fairly prepared for it, as I had gone ahead and found a VERY inexpensive copy of the anthology collection to purchase. I had also already purchased a newer copy of Treasure Island for our collection. Because I planned on hopefully using this for next year, I started at the beginning of the curriculum and didn’t jump around. Unlike other full curriculums I have reviewed, I was determined to NOT tweak this one very much. I needed to see if it would indeed work in its intended form for us.

I noticed right away that the teacher manual explains and lays out very clearly the “how” of the program. Some of my favorite aspects of this explanation were that they basically weren’t going to beat a dead horse on the literary analysis aspect. This is good; as I feel literary analysis is a make or break point for many students and can ruin a love of reading. I also noticed that they recognized that not everyone likes to write and WHAT people like to write is varied—thus they always offered 4-5 writing options in every chapter so the child can pick which they want to do the most, yet aren’t required to do them all. 

Curious about the lesson plan aspect, I was THRILLED to discover that the assignments are grouped by weeks, instead of daily. This gives MUCH more freedom and control in the hands of my son—who likes to be able to pick what he wants to do. It also means he could double up if he desired to finish more swiftly. Although there might be 12 different assignments for a chapter, they are given TWO WEEKS to do them. It simply says start working on assignments in workbook pages _to_, and then the next week it states “finish whatever you didn’t get done last week”. There are also many weeks when the assignments are simply to read the literature. No written assignments. 

Just from these initial things, I had a great feeling about the program, but the real test was going to be my son’s response to it. I printed off a copy of the weekly assignments so I could keep them in my planner and reference them easily. I showed my son how they were laid out and he was pleased with the arrangement right away. “I can do as much as I want in any week!”—exactly what I knew he’d appreciate. We didn’t have the anthology the first day we started, but I was able to pull up the reading selection on my Kindle for him. He initially wasn’t a fan as it was an allegory—something he had ZERO experience with and for his very literal mind confused him greatly. Because of his reaction to the reading AND to one or two of the workbook assignments, I got a little bit worried. But we worked on it together and he was able to see what was required and he did the first writing assignment VERY well. In fact, he surprised me with how well it was done. 
Chapter 1 Writing Assignment--Allegory/Personification

Reading the first short story
Once he figured out that every week basically followed the same routine, he got in his groove with the first two week’s assignments. He learned about author bias, as well as having fun with allegory after he realized what it allowed you to do. 
Lesson on Author's Purpose

Chapter 1: Identifying Author's Bias Practice

Chapter 2: Describing Setting of Different Rooms Assignment
Chapter 1: Assignment on writing with a purpose
Although he did well with the initial selection from the anthology, he did exceptionally well with the next chapter which moved to the first piece of literature, Treasure Island. I was actually surprised as he typically avoids all fiction preferring to be in the non-fiction world, yet he really got into Treasure Island. As before, the new literature begins with reading an introduction in the Student Guide to the story. This introduction gives information about the author and the history or context behind the piece of work being read. It gives them clues as to what literary lesson is going to be covered and just extra tidbits of information. There were 34 chapters in Treasure Island, but the course has them spread out over three weeks worth of reading. Assignments for the literature don’t even begin until the 3rd week as they wrap up the reading. There are comprehension questions (just 2-3) for each chapter, which I allowed him to answer orally. 

As of right now, we are in the middle of completing the assignments for Treasure Island and he’s learning about the importance of setting in literature.
Two of the five options for the Writing Assignment
Because we spaced out the first week to get in our groove, we are just now completing everything for week 5. I will be stopping our work on Lightning Lit, once we have completed the Treasure Island unit.
Student Study Guide Assignments
So—the big question…Will we use it for 8th grade?
100% yes! The curriculum offers exactly what I was hoping for! Not only is it literature based for all the reading and assignments, but it offers my son the independence to choose the assignments he wants to complete. The writing assignments are right up his alley giving him the freedom of choice. He did as I expected and combined a couple of days of work to give him more freedom later. He told me that this style is what he likes. 

I like that I can assign a point value to the assignments he completes in his workbook—the teacher guides offer some point values, and then I have figured out values for other things like the crosswords, and word searches. 
I calculated point values for all the workbook assignments
While my son is not usually a workbook kind of person, the assignments are varied in style and difficulty and he can do them in any order he desires. Two things that make this a win. The one thing that I'm doing to make it a bit easier is using tabs to designate which book has each assignment for the week. Some of the assignments are in the study guide (the readings and writing), and some are in the workbook (printed assignments to be completed). I don't mind having them separated, as this makes only one book consumable and needing to be replaced for a new student, but I find it is less confusing if I go ahead and designate what is for each week.

I highly recommend this program for someone who is looking for a way to start getting their child ready for high school material. I think we are really going to enjoy using this for our Literature and Composition for the 2019/2020 school year! When we start our official year, we will simply review these first weeks we’ve completed and then jump in with the new unit. I am thrilled that we get to explore books like The Hobbit and To Kill a Mockingbird—both excellent choices for literature and analysis. I also happen to LOVE the movies that match them. LOL. It’s really making me excited for the next year—something I almost dreaded before. By the final lessons of the course, it looks like the writing assignments include more advanced things like writing poetry, literary analysis papers, and essays--I think this will be great preparation for the high school level courses! 

Want to Know More?

For the last several weeks, we have been working through the Grade 8 Lightning Lit Set from Hewitt Homeschooling Resources. This is only one of the many products that our review team explored, so I encourage you to visit other crew members to learn more about what is available!
Lightning Literature, My First Reports, State History Notebook & Joy of Discovery {Hewitt Homeschooling Resources Reviews}
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I really am excited about our year next year. These are going to be great books and I'm hoping that he will enjoy exploring them as much as I hope he will. I also love that these books have mostly been made into movies--which will be his first experience analyzing a book-to-movie adaptation! I'm sure it won't surprise you either that I'm considering Hewitt Homeschooling Lightning Lit Grade 4 for my youngest! We just love their program--and I hope you will check it out more yourself.


Unknown said...

Hi Lisa! Thank you for the intro to this program, which I'm considering along with Moving Beyond the Page. How did you and your son like LLAC, overall? What were the pros and cons? Thanks again! CJ

cottington said...

I am so thankful for this review!! It’s hard to find YouTube reviews of the higher levels, but this is helpful!!