As I start plans for my sixteenth year of homeschooling, there are some subjects that are easy. Order the next level of math -- check. Print the next few chapters of the online science textbook -- check. On the other hand, there are other subjects that drive me crazy as I try to figure out the best option. Language arts, especially reading and literature, has often been the subject that frustrates me the most. I wasn't at all sure what Lauren would do for literature for next year until a good friend suggested that I take another look at Lightning Literature by Hewitt Homeschooling Resources.
I've used Lightning Literature before. Addison did Lightning Literature & Composition: American Mid-Late 19th Century when she was in high school, and Brennan used Lightning Literature & Composition: Seventh Grade. (Click on the product titles if you'd like to read my previous reviews.) When I've looked at their younger elementary offerings in the past, they didn't have that was quite the right age range for Lauren. Even when I pulled up their new materials, I was frustrated that it only went up to fourth or fifth grade. I looked a bit closer, though, and found that those materials weren't necessarily too young or too easy for Lauren. I requested to be able to review Lightning Literature and Composition: Grade 4 Set through the Homeschool Review Crew (a division of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine).
I was initially drawn to Lightning Literature: Grade 4 because of the books chosen for this level. Part of my difficulty in choosing a literature program for Lauren is that she's heard a lot of books. She loves read-aloud time and audiobooks, and therefore she has heard many of the books that are used in elementary or middle school reading programs.While I don't always object to studying a book that she's already familiar with, I found that often she wasn't enjoying the thrill of hearing a new story unfold because she already knows the ending. Last year sent me on a search for new books to experience with her and ideally a curriculum that would allow us to study these newer books together. Of the twelve books covered in Lightning Lit, she has only heard two of them, and those two were done on audiobook while riding in the car. They aren't old favorites that she knows inside and out.
A full list of the books in this level is available here, but some of the ones that appeal most to me are The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin, and The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan. As you can see, the selections span a wide range of cultures and types of literature. It also includes two books of poetry -- Love That Dog by Sharon Creech and Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger.
When choosing these materials, I decided to ignore the big "Grade 4" written on the front cover of the student workbook and press forward with these materials because the books are at her working level. She is perhaps capable of reading slightly more difficult books, but I want the focus of her literature study to be on thinking about the book. If she's struggling to read a book that is too difficult for her to understand, she's only going to be frustrated by assignments requiring her to analyze it.
As Lauren reaches middle school, it's important to find materials that are written directly to the student. I'm usually nearby to help while she's doing her schoolwork, but she likes to be able to work independently as much as possible. It frustrates her to have to wait while I read her materials that are only included in the Teacher's Guide.
Lauren appreciates that each section in the Student Workbook is set up to be completed in a week. It has a weekly checklist for the student and also divides the assignments up into daily work. The work is divided into four days which allows an extra day to catch up, add an extra project, or to have extra time to play board games. For our family, this extra day means that we don't fall behind when we have a lengthy doctor's appointment or other activity.
As you can tell from the checklist pages, Lightning Literature covers reading comprehension, grammar, and composition. We started using this program in May, and since both Lauren and mom were suffering from a severe case of Spring Fever, we opted to skip the composition assignments. We found the grammar to be a good review for Lauren, but may continue using our separate grammar program next year. The strength of the program definitely lies in its reading comprehension and literary analysis assignments.
In addition to questions about the book, the workbook often asks the student reflective questions that encourages her to make connections between the story and her own life. It's important to me to see Lauren reflecting on the story and not just answering fact-based questions about the material.
The Teacher's Guide contains more than just the answers to the Student Workbook pages. It contains teaching hints for the composition assignments, including ways to break down the larger assignment into smaller, more manageable chunks. It also has book discussion points for the teacher to cover with the student. I'm still trying to figure out how to frame these discussions in a friendly way and not a teaching way to make them more acceptable for Lauren. These discussions cover theme, character, setting, conflict, symbolism, etc. -- all the important elements of literary analysis she needs to learn.
We're taking a summer break right now, but I look forward to picking up in Lightning Literature: Grade 4 when we start back to school in August. It's going to be a great year of reading in our house!
Members of the Homeschool Review Crew have been using other levels of Lightning Literature and Hewitt Homeschooling's other products, be sure to click on the banner below to read about them.
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