Lighted Lanterns is a relatively new Catholic language arts program for the primary grades. At present, it has three courses: Pre-Level, Level A, and Level B. Pre-Level assumes that children already have begun to learn to read and write, so it seems most appropriate for first grade level in most cases. Levels A and B follow, so they are likely to be suitable for second and third grade. However, you might try beginning the series with a kindergartner who is advanced. From the publisher’s website, it appears that further levels will eventually be developed.
The authors describe the approach used as the Natural Method. This seems to be a combination of methods usually identified as either classical or Charlotte Mason: dictation, narration, copywork, writing from models, and picture study. In Lighted Lanterns, the different areas of language arts are integrated for comprehensive coverage of grammar, composition, spelling, and vocabulary. (Explicit grammar instruction begins in Level A.) Reading skills and handwriting are also taught to some extent. The courses do not teach basic reading, and handwriting is practice rather than instruction on letter formation.
Content is thoroughly Catholic with stories of the saints, scripture quotes, Catholic doctrine, and traditional Catholic images. It appears that the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible is used. Stories used in the series are from public domain sources. The Lighted Lantern series is clearly designed to instill love of God, devout faith, and Christian virtues in children.
Both instruction and student exercises are contained in a single book for each level. No advance preparation is required which really helps busy moms.
You can purchase the beautiful, full-color worktexts as printed books with a spiral binding or as digital downloads. Printed books are consumable, and you will need one for each student. A downloaded book can be printed out for each member of your immediate family. You will really want your children to enjoy the colorful illustrations, so if you purchase the download, you might have your children view the digital PDF pages on a computer or other device or else print them from a color printer.
Parents can choose either cursive or manuscript versions of any level, an especially helpful option for those who want to begin with cursive instruction rather than manuscript.
Pre-Level has 26 lessons that should be completed at a rate of one per week. Each lesson focuses on a letter of the alphabet, providing practice for both lower- and upper-case forms. However, these lessons are for handwriting improvement rather than initial instruction since students are expected to already know how to form the letters. Lesson 1 already requires students to have enough skill to write their own first, middle, and, last names. Frequently, they are given words or phrases such as “c is for cross” to trace and then write on their own.
Each lesson has a brief story of a saint that parents will read aloud. Parents might have students do an oral narration in response, and a narration section in the lesson provides space for parents to record the student’s narration. Brief lessons on safety tips, grammar rules, or other topics such as “My Country” or “Seasons” offer simple information and associated writing practice. A nursery rhyme in each lesson is also used for a letter-search activity. “Just for Fun” activities might be jokes, tongue twisters, or rhymes that might be used for reading practice and/or memorization as well as for oral presentation. Extra writing practice pages after the lessons can be used as needed. Research is suggested in a few lessons, probably with the expectation that parents will help children search out information.
Level A expands to eight topical units with four lessons per unit, with each lesson again taking one week to complete. Examples of unit topics are: “Our Lord,” “Birds,” “Catholic History,” and “Music.” Each lesson begins with a short copywork selection that has been taken from a story or poem. Children will copy the selections in the space provided immediately below on their worktext page. They will compare with the model and make corrections. The copywork is used not only for copying, but also as the source for spelling, grammar and vocabulary activities.
Pages have space for up to ten spelling words, some of which will be chosen from the copywork. Parents can add others. “Lesson Suggestions” help parents to gently introduce grammar, phonics, and spelling concepts. Parents are advised to address any other concepts that arise in the copywork that might be helpful to their children. A poem or prayer in each lesson can also be used for memorization. The “You’re the Author” section gives children space to write their own original sentence. (Students might first dictate this to a parent then copy it.) “Word Play” presents students with an exercise where they might fill-in-the-blanks, write an acrostic, circle the correct words, or complete some other type of written exercise. “Fix-It!” offers an editing exercise based on the copywork. Following these activities, students write the copywork from dictation. Short stories of the saints and stories from Scripture are included for read aloud time and possibly for narration. Extra pages at the end of the book can be used for copywork or narrations if needed. The fourth lesson in each unit has a few activities under four categories: Hands-on, Writing Purpose, Word Play and Picture Study. Activities within each category vary from lesson to lesson.
Level B has nine topical units with four lessons per unit with topics such as “Our Lord,” “Animals,” and “Virtues.” The layout is very similar to that of Level A, although activities are more challenging. Copywork selections are longer and more complex. Grammar instruction and writing assignments are more advanced with children tackling more forms of composition. Spelling lists have room for up to 12 words per week.
Courses are presented within a single consumable worktext for each level. Level B includes an answer key at the back of the book, but answer keys are not needed for the first two levels.
Lighted Lanterns Companion Readers
Lighted Lanterns Companion Readers are available for Levels A and B. Companion Readers are printed in a large font and have full-color illustrations. These are not phonics readers but rather collections of the full stories and poems used as the sources for the copywork selections. Use of the Companion Readers is optional, but children might enjoy hearing the entire story after reading some of the excerpts. In the Companion Level A Reader, a few of the stories might be suitable for children to read themselves, but most will be too difficult. Stories for Companion Level B Reader (and for future readers in the series) are selected to be more age-level appropriate. Stories in Level B were largely selected from older readers identified as appropriate for third graders. The forthcoming Level C Reader will draw on reading material for fourth graders.
Lighted Lanterns adopts some of the most popular methods for teaching language arts in a gentle fashion. There is more variety in learning methods than I have seen in most other language arts programs for the primary grades. However, the use of older, public domain resources for stories and poems might appeal to some families and not others. Nevertheless, this is one of the more interesting options for Catholic homeschoolers who appreciate the thorough incorporation of religion throughout the courses.