Crew Review: Lightning Lit: Shakespeare Tragedies and Sonnets


I love Shakespeare. Ever since we made the decision to home educate our children, I have wanted to share Shakespeare with them. I had every intention of writing my own high school level English class focusing on Shakespeare but never found the time. And I struggled with confidence.  With a blink of an eye, my oldest is now a senior in high school.   I no longer believe I have the ability (or time!) to truly do a full English study.  We might be able to read and study a play or two but it wouldn’t be the full course I envisioned.

And then, the Schoolhouse Review Crew introduced me to Hewitt Homeschooling and the Lightning Literature program.   There are multiple courses from 7th grade through high school in this program.  Much to my delight there is not one but TWO courses covering Shakespeare!   It was a tough decision trying to decide between Shakespeare Tragedies & Sonnets and Shakespeare’s Comedies & Sonnets.  In my ideal perfect world, I would get to choose both.   Since I couldn’t choose both, I let my oldest daughter pick.  She chose Shakespeare Tragedies & Sonnets. 

With Shakespeare Tragedies & Sonnets,  high school students will study 4 plays: Julius Caesar, Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear.  Students will also study 8 sonnets.  The course is divided into 4 units and each unit is divided into two lessons.  The first lesson is the play and the second lesson covers two sonnets.  A suggested schedule is included in the appendix and offers both a semester option (18 weeks) as well as a full year option (36 weeks).  Please keep in mind that this is a literature and composition course.  There are 12 writing assignments: 2 for each play and 1 for each pair of sonnets. 

Before addressing how we’ve been using the program I want to discuss Hewitt Homeschooling’s recommendations for this course.  This is an advanced level course. 

From the website: Recommendations:  This course is especially recommended for students who have already taken at least two previous high-school level Lightning Literature courses, who are studying Renaissance history, and who are interested in Shakespeare. These should not be viewed as restrictions; this course can profitably be used by high-school students of any grade regardless of which previous Lightning Literature courses they have completed. Generally speaking, this course is more difficult than the two American Literature courses, Speech, British Christian Literature, and the two British Literature courses and about the same as British Medieval Literature. Much depends on student interest in the material, however. 

We started this course with no previous experience with Lightning Literature  but both of my daughters have previously read some Shakespeare, are strong writers who have taken other writing courses and have a high interest level. I would not attempt this course with student younger than 10th grade and I highly recommend that the student have previous writing instruction.

 How we’ve been using the program:  I love that this program is mostly independent.  The Student’s Guide is written to the student and my daughters are able to work independently. I have deviated a bit from the suggested schedule by having the three of us read aloud the play rather than having each girl do the first reading alone.  We assigned several characters to each of us and my 8th grader joined us for an act as well. This helped facilitate discussions and I could be sure that they were understanding what we were reading.  I plan to continue this method with the other three plays.

We’ve been following the 18 week semester schedule but I think we’ll either complete it in 20-22 weeks or we’ll drop two papers.  I think 12 papers is a bit much for a 1/2 semester and yet it is not quite enough for a full year.   Appendix A lists discussion questions and project suggestions for the play.  I would use these to “beef up” the course for a full year.   I did allow my 12th grader to drop the 2nd paper for Julius Caesar and choose to do a memorization project instead. 

What I love about this product:  I love that I do not have to write a Shakespeare course!  I love that this course can be done mostly independently.  I love that the course provides choices for the writing assignments.  If one topic doesn’t appeal, there are several other options available.  I love that in the Teacher Guide, a three whole punch loose leaf paper guide, there are grading tips and a few grading templates.  I love also that it includes the answers to the comprehension questions.

Thoughts from BooBear (age 17, 12th grade):  “I really liked having something that gave me interesting literary topics to write about. I enjoy studying literature and I also love Shakespeare.  This is probably one of the best literature programs I have come across in homeschooling career. I really liked Lightning Lit a lot.  I hope I have time to complete the Shakespeare Comedies & Sonnets program.”

Thoughts from Turtlegirl (age 14 1/2, 10th grade): “I am really enjoying using it. I liked the fact that discussing the plays gives me an opportunity to spend more time with my older sister. I am also enjoying the writing assignments. I like that they include a variety of topics to choose from.”

Shakespeare Tragedies and Sonnets retails for $29.95 for the Student’s Guide and the handy Teacher’s Guide for $2.95.  The sonnets are included in the Student Guide but you do have to provide the plays.  Hewitt does offer a complete package that does include the plays for $53.92

Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog to read what others have to say about Hewitt Homeschooling.  

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