It’s no secret that we have a house full of book lovers. Literature has been one of the most important parts of our educational journey since I first started being intentional with Ian about “school” when he turned 2. So I was intrigued when I heard about Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 1 from Hewitt Homeschooling, and blessed by the chance to review the Teacher Guide and Student Workbook over the last four weeks.
About This Program
Written by Elizabeth Kamath, Lightning Literature & Composition: Grade 1 incorporates quality children’s literature into a study of English grammar and mechanics while also guide them in writing their own compositions, making it a very thorough language arts curriculum.
The 302-page Teacher Guide is a softcover book that clearly lays out the lessons for each day. The Teacher’s Guide includes questions to ask about the literature being used that week (and a place to record the student’s answers), instruction about the grammar or mechanical concept being taught (while teaching a specific concept such as when to use capital letters or what punctuation goes at the end of a sentence (with the focus on one concept each week), and specific instructions for the planning or writing of that week’s composition.
Each week’s literature lesson centers around a particular children’s book and also includes one of Aesop’s fables. The books used include some of our favorite titles. During the four weeks of our review, we revisited Harold and the Purple Crayon, Madeline, The Snowy Day, and Caps for Sale, and the list for the rest of the school year is equally delightful.
The Student Workbook is over 450 pages long! (The last lesson ends on page 439, but then there is a section for the child to create their own “dictionary” at the end, with a page for each letter.) Most of the pages relate to the story for that week, even the grammar worksheets, which not only help the student practice the concept being taught that week but also review the concepts previously covered.
The pages are printed in full color on high quality, fairly glossy paper. Everything is written in a large font that keeps the appearance simple and easy for the child to read. The pages are 3-hole punched and perforated, which is really helpful given the book’s size. It would be much easier to tear out the pages before giving them to the child to complete and then collect them in a separate notebook as opposed to having him try to work in such a thick book (especially since some are double-sided).
Additional materials needed are the children’s books (all are well-known titles that should be available at your local library), a copy of Aesop’s fables (available for purchase from Hewitt Homeschooling, or there are several free versions available online), and a composition book (or 3-ring binder in which to collect the child’s compositions).
How We Used It
We usually read the book of the week early in our day, when we gathered on the couch to read several things together. It was a cozy story time that all my kids enjoyed being a part of. I also used this time to talk through any of the planning steps for that week’s composition. Then as we got ready to head to our school room for “seat work,” I went over the grammar and mechanics lesson with Ian and explained what he would be doing in his workbook.
What We Liked
I loved the literature selections, and reading the books was definitely our favorite part of the program. It is easy to use because every part of each day is clearly written out in the Teacher Guide. I especially liked the suggestions at the end of each week for additional activities related to the books.
The other thing I really liked was the gentle approach to composition. It was our first time doing anything of this sort, but Ian enjoyed creating his own stories, and this program did a great job of guiding him step by step. There was never an overwhelming amount of work on any one day, but instead the process was broken down into simple tasks to help him craft his compositions. After seeing how much he enjoyed this I am definitely planning to get him a composition book in which to copy stories he writes. I think he will really like creating a book of his own work.
What Didn’t Work for Our Family
While I appreciated the inclusion of Aesop’s Fables in the curriculum, I would have liked a little more direction in how to use them. My plan originally was to have Ian narrate them back to me, but the very first week that idea was challenged by the selection of the fable. Even I was puzzled by what the moral was supposed to be teaching, so I wasn’t really able to help Ian figure out what the story meant and we didn’t do much more than just read it. Thankfully, the fables in the following weeks were clearer, but I still would have liked a little more guidance on including them in our lesson.
Aside from that, however, the overall approach of Lightning Literature & Composition just doesn’t really fit well with my philosophy of education. I try not to use worksheets very often and don’t plan to spend a lot of time specifically on grammar and mechanics until my children are older, preferring to let them pick up the concepts more naturally through copywork and reading, and then address issues as they come up rather than through a systematic approach.
Even if I felt like worksheets were a productive use of my children’s time, I’m not a fan of consumable resources. The student workbook is easy for students to read because it keeps things simple, but that also means there’s not a lot on each page. It felt really wasteful when I had Ian complete pages that seemed unnecessary to me.
Not only do I feel guilty wasting so much paper, but with multiple children in our family, I lean more toward materials I will be able to use over and over again. When I do use an occasional worksheet, I prefer something in pdf form that allows me to print only the pages I want and reuse them for each of my children. I would be more inclined to use this program if the student guide were available as a downloadable pdf that could serve our family in years to come.
My Overall Impression
I know my methods of homeschooling don’t work for every family. I tend to like a lot of flexibility and don’t usually follow curriculum the way it’s intended. If you’re like the many who prefer to have scripted lessons and detailed plans, I think this is a great choice for 1st grade language arts. You and your children will enjoy the wonderful literature, they will learn a lot about grammar and mechanics, and they will have the opportunity to grow as writers through the well-planned composition portion of the curriculum.
Just the Facts
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