Lightning Literature

To read, or not to read. That is the question. Actually, it’s really NOT the question. As a homeschoolers, it’s a given that there will be much reading in this house.  Many books enter this house on a weekly basis, but I can’t say with surety that they’re all good.  I mean, I read things that are fluffy, mindless, yet entertaining.  All books can’t be War and Peace, you know?  So if I need some distracting yet fun literature, why wouldn’t I let my kids choose some for themselves?

Case in point:  When my middle child (a boy) was at that iffy “I don’t want to read” stage, I bought him everything I could to entice him.  First it was Sports Illustrated for Kids.  Then he moved on to the Dave Pilkey Captain Underpants series.  I knew that he had become a real reader though when he started begging me to buy another series of books.  Sad to say, but that series started with The Day My Butt Went Psycho by Andy Griffiths.  No, not that Andy Griffith.  GriffithS.  Hey, he had to start somewhere!!!!

I honestly think, though, that because he had fun reading, he looked forward to reading more – and better – literature.  Fast forward several years, and now the kid goes to the library and checks out about 15 books every two weeks.  No, it’s not all great literature, but because he gets to choose the majority of his reading, he doesn’t mind reading the quality stuff I buy for him for school.  And often, he even enjoys it.

Which brings me ’round to what literature curriculum I buy for him and his sister each school year.  We use Hewitt Homeschooling’s Lightning Literature.  I first found out about it on a homeschooling email loop.  Although I’d been using a writing curriculum, as well as a grammar curriculum, I found that I was always struggling to find excellent and  age-appropriate literature for them.  I kept falling back on what I remembered reading in school at their age and then trying to extrapolate all kinds of useful reading comprehension exercises after the fact.  I remembered reading A Separate Peace and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 8th grade.  Therefore, our oldest read those.  But then, so did I.  Again.  Only some 30 years later.  I had to invent vocabulary lists,  come up with interesting discussion topics, create essay questions for writing exercises, and make up tests covering the books as well.  It was exhausting.

Someone on that email loop professed unwavering loyalty to Lightning Literature.  That mom had used it for several year with great success.  She felt her children were receiving a quality literature and composition education.  And best of all, she felt like she was able to do the “fun” part of teaching (having discussions about character, plot, theme, or even just reading the book) while not having to do the grunt work like creating essay questions and the like.

After using it for 3 years now, I feel just like she did.  Or still does, maybe.

This year, my daughter will be taking American Literature.  She’ll be reading several classic poems, but also things like The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and The Call of the Wild.  My son will be taking British Literature and will read several classic poems and short stories, as well as Pride & Prejudice*, Frankenstein, Silas Marner, and others.

Why the *?  Well, because I’m a huge Jane Austen aficionado, and he – and all my kids – know Pride & Prejudice like the back of their hand.  .  They’ve heard me talk about it, or possibly have walked into the room at least 47 million times when I’ve been watching the BBC version on DVD.  Normally, I’d just let him skip it, but I’m going to go back to our Psycho Butts era, and let him read Pride & Prejudice and Zombies instead.  Who says Austen can’t be fun?

See, I’m a literature kind of person.  But I wouldn’t automatically think to ask my kids “do the settings relate to the meaning of this story, or the author’s purpose?”  I’d probably ask them some kind of setting question, but nothing that specific.

I think about imagery, but I don’t always convey those questions I should necessarily ask.  It’s kind of like driving a car… I don’t always think about what I’m doing; it’s just become second nature to do those things.  But since I’ve had teenage drivers in the house, I have to deliberately think about the choices I make when I drive so I can model good driving to my kids.

But with the literature thing, I don’t always think about it anymore.  And to have to think about it – while I’m also thinking about chemistry, physics, economics, etc… well, it’s just sometimes overwhelming.  If literature and composition were the only thing I taught my kids, that might be a different story.  As I said earlier, I like having discussions about plot and character and the like.  But I don’t like having to come up with all the questions myself.  If someone else can help spark great conversations about literature, when then, hey!  I’m all for it.

I think it’s going to be a great year talking about literature at our house…. I love Pride & Prejudice, but I can’t even imagine what a few zombies thrown in will do to our discussions


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