Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review: Hewitt Homeschooling: Lightning Literature's Shakespeare Tragedies

This summer has been an unusual one for our family in that we are continuing our school studies at full speed. Since we have experienced an unusual number of medical appointments and health issues since last fall, this school year had not proceeded as I had anticipated. For one, I had intended to incorporate some Shakespearean studies into my tenth grader's schedule--yet somehow those plans were set aside. So when the opportunity to review Hewitt Homeschooling cropped up, my tenth grader and I were thrilled to review one of their Shakespearean studies.

My daughter and I received Shakespeare: Tragedies and Sonnets, which is recommended for use by students in grades 9 through 12. I would judge this recommendation pretty accurate, though if your younger child is capable of more or you yourself want to study the Bard, there is some flexibility in this. This course may be covered in a semester or as a year's curriculum, or you may modify for your own needs. We opted to cover Hamlet for this review.

We received both the Lightning Lit Guide, which is an over-sized paperback non-consumable volume 185 pages in length as well as the Teacher Guide, which is three-hole punched and stapled and runs 51 pages in length.

So, what was included?

Student Guide ($29.95):
  • Introduction: This is meaty. It really covers the philosophy behind this program. Tips on how to read and write, including reasons why they are important. Includes tips on how to use this guide.
  • Lessons: These include the Introduction, Selection, "While You Read" questions, Plot Summary, Comprehension Questions, Literary Lessons, Writing Exercises and Perspectives.
  • Appendices: Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions, Additional Reading, Movie and Video Recommendations and Schedules
  • Suggested Optional Activities to Enhance the Study

Teacher Guide ($2.95):
  • Introduction. You, the teacher, will want to refer to the Introduction in the Student Guide as you read this section, which gives you the framework for what to do with your student.
  • Grading Tips.
  • Checklists. For grading student assignments.
  • Grading templates.
  • Suggested Schedules. One semester. One year.
  • Answers to Comprehension Questions from the Student Guide.
  • Writing Exercises.
  • Discussion Questions and Project Suggestions.

Although you may opt to purchase simply these two guides, you will need copies of these four Shakespearean tragedies: Julius Caesar, Hamlet, MacBeth, and King Lear. Although you may purchase your own editions, you may also purchase a complete pack at 10% off, for only $53.92.

What did we think? Definitely challenging, interesting and college preparatory. The Student Guide is designed to be used by the student, so some of the stress is taken off of mom, which is always nice for those of us with more children to school and more demands on our time. Although the teacher-parent really does need to read a good bit of the Student Guide as well as the Teacher Guide, the student can do much of the work on his or her own, with mom grading the work.

We opted to view one of the movies recommended by the Student Guide, and although it was a good version of Hamlet, I want my readers to be aware that for viewing the films (which do contain violence) and even discussing the mature themes introduced by Shakespeare's tragedies, I would recommend the high school age unless you have a very mature middle school student.

Hewitt Homeschooling also sells other products for students aged elementary through high school. The Lightning Literature series covers junior high through high school. Be sure to visit Hewitt Homeschooling to learn more.

Disclaimer: As a member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of this curriculum for review. To read further reviews of Lightning Literature or other products, be sure to visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I am walking through the dense green woods, far from any city or town. I hear nothing except birds and an occasional breeze or a twig snap. I have been struggling uphill for a long time, occasionally stopping to catch my breath or re-tie a shoelace. I am bruised and bleeding a little where I slipped on some rocks a couple of hours ago. Yet I walk on, taking a break now and again to catch my breath.

The day started out warm and sunny, yet an unexpected thunderstorm cropped up. Were it not for my poncho, I would be drenched. As it is, I am perspiring underneath the smothering plastic. I suddenly realize how very quiet it is now, after the buffeting thunder, wind and rain. I decide the storm has abated, so I remove the poncho, shaking it off, carefully folding it and replacing it in my daypack. I sip water thirstily while I survey my path.

A little ahead of me, the path forks. Not once, not twice, but in several different directions within just a pace or two. I study them. Which one should I take? I carefully retrieve my map from my pack and begin surveying it. I want to choose the correct one. The stakes are high. And the path I must choose will not be a well-worn one. In fact, it will be a narrow one, overgrown by weeds, littered with broken twigs and limbs--perhaps difficult at times to discern from the encroaching woods.

And I have more altitude to climb before I reach the mountain summit.

I look to the sky, now calm though cloudy. No one visible travels with me. It is only me and my silent companion. Which path?

I wake.

Or perhaps I sleep.

Is this my dream? Or perhaps my life? Or a metaphor for my life?

At times I want to share with you, my readers, once again. But where do I begin? My life is too fantastic, too truly strange for words. Certainly not easy words. Over the past several months our family has experienced a family medical crisis. And another. And yet another.

God is leading us along yet another unusual path. Sometimes the path is hard to traverse. Sometimes it is painful. One day you wake up and you realize that not a soul on the earth can truly understand what you are experiencing. And it is wearying to even try to explain. To burden another. To confuse another. Yet you also realize that the Lord is quietly walking alongside you, gently leading your way. For today, that is all I know. All I have. The Lord is more precious to me than anything. He is truly a faithful friend, when all else have either abandoned or have lent their encouragement and prayers yet cannot walk with you. Some paths He intends for just the two of you to walk alone.

Blessings to you, my friends, on whatever path the Lord has called you to walk today. May you find Him as faithful a companion as I have. Trust Him through the storm.