Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Enhancing Our Studies of Early American History with a Hero of History: George Washington: True Patriot {A Homeschool Review Crew Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

For the past several weeks we have been supplementing our history curriculum with a wonderful book from the Heroes of History series from YWAM Publishing titled George Washington: True Patriot by Janet & Geoff Benge. This actually isn't the first book we reviewed from YWAM Publishing. Several years ago we had the opportunity to review Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea. And then, a couple of years after that, we had the pleasure of reading one from the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series, David Livingstone: Africa's Trailblazer. These books really are wonderful. Here, let me tell you about the newest one in our homeschool library.

We received the 223-page, paperback book in the mail, and we also received the digital unit study via email.

As with the previous books from YWAM Publishing that we reviewed, this story begins with a look at an event later in George Washington's life before moving to his childhood. In the first chapter titled, "The Enemy," we are introduced to the man who was then the commander in chief of the Continental Army, and made aware of the fact that if the patriots were to lose in this conflict against the army he was once a part of, that he would be hanged for treason. Such a cheerful thought to begin the story with. Thankfully, most readers are already going to know that George Washington goes on to become the first president of the United States of America, so there isn't anything to worry about. However, it sure is quite the adventure reading about the details that lead to this point in the life of our first president. 

The authors then take us back to George's childhood, where we also meet his younger siblings, parents, and his older half-brother Lawrence. We read about his family's move to Ferry Farm, which was also a move away from the big brother he had come to idolize. We see George's love for learning and his anticipation of the day when he would be able to head to England to go to school. And then we read about Lawrence joining the British army to go off to fight the Spanish, which was sadly around the time that George's infant sister Mildred passed away. And all this was in the second chapter of the book. 

As the story proceeds, we meet George's other half-brother Austin and then are reunited with Lawrence as he arrives home from war. And soon after, George has another devastating loss when his father dies. This leads his mother to become overbearing and demanding, and George's hopes of going to England for school are dashed as he is to stay home as the man of the house, at only 11 years of age. She then also forbids him to join the military when he is interested in that, dashing more of his dreams. He does find a way to keep himself busy beyond the farm though, when he becomes interested in surveying. It is this interest that grows and helps him venture further to the west. 

Eventually this opens up an opportunity with the army, which of course was one of his dreams as a youth. We learn that his military career has its ups and downs, at times leading him back to the plantation. In fact, when trying to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley, we learn of George's grave mistake of killing an ambassador, because he technically didn't follow orders. This helped spark the Seven Years' War between England and France. Funnily enough however, he is still regarded as a hero by the people.

As the book continues we learn so many details of George Washington's life. Details that shape him into the man that ends up going to Philadelphia as a part of the First Continental Congress in an attempt to drive home to the king of England that the colonists will no longer take being unfairly taxed and have their rights violated. Unfortunately a strongly worded letter along with a simple ban on British imports wasn't going to be enough to change the way the colonists were treated. Soon, he was attending the Second Continental Congress, and then he found himself appointed as the General and commander in chief of the Continental Army, not a position he was vying for by any stretch of the imagination.

The second half of the book details how General George Washington led the Continental Army, laying out the struggles, the defeats, the betrayals, and the victories, all leading to the ultimate surrender of General Cornwallis. And then, after the end of the war, we see the beginning of the new government of the United States of America, and how George Washington becomes the first president. Ironically, this happens after George had exclaimed to his wife Martha, "Just think of it, Martha! For the first time in thirty years, I'm a private citizen. No more politics or war for me." And, George finds himself dealing with more bickering and more fighting, first as the delegates struggled to form the government and then as the newly formed government struggled to figure out how to take control of the country without becoming a laughingstock.

I have to say, I found it quite intriguing learning all the different struggles that our founding fathers dealt with on the road to creating our new nation. Beyond that, there was the realization of how the American's Revolution sparked the upheaval in France that led to the "Reign of Terror" which we learned about a while back. I was also surprised to learn that the massacre was more personal to George Washington because people who were dying had fought under him against the British. For some reason connecting these dots moved me. I love discovering how different events are connected, in a way that I never realized before. Honestly, it's one of my favorite things about homeschooling, getting to learn along with the children, and realizing there is so much I didn't really learn in school.

The book concludes with George Washington's death, and with these final words, "The young nation he had helped to found would now have to find its way forward without him." And of course, it did.

Not only have we been reading the book, but we have been working our way through the Unit Study that we also received.

Though I have read the book in its entirety, we have not yet finished it as a family. I had started out by letting Tabitha read it on her own, because she was interested in it. However, because of all her other reading assignments, she wasn't moving through it at a pace that was going to have her finishing it by the time the review was due. So, I decided I would read it to the younger children. Then, after we had gotten several chapters into the book, I decided I wanted to utilize the study guide. Oops. This meant we needed to start back at the beginning of the book, because no one could remember enough details to answer the chapter questions, including me. Plus, there were other aspects of the unit study that I wanted to utilize.

Let's take a quick look at the Unit Study Curriculum Guide.

There were actually two separate files, Unit Study 1 and Unit Study 2. The first contained the bulk of the information and is 64 pages in length. The second was a 4 page file containing a George Washington Fact Sheet, two maps, and a timeline.

After the Introduction, the Unit Study is divided into eight sections:
  1. Key Quotes
  2. Display Corner
  3. Chapter Questions
  4. Student Explorations
  5. Community Links
  6. Social Studies
  7. Related Themes to Explore
  8. Culminating Event
There are also two appendices. 
  • A - Books and Resources
  • B - Answers to Chapter Questions
There is just so much here to help a homeschool parent or school teacher get as much as possible out of the book in several different curriculum areas. I appreciate that the introduction states that we are to take what we feel best fits the needs of our children. I decided that we would use the Key Quotes, the Chapter Questions, and the Social Studies sections.

I had the children use the Key Quotes as copy work, and then they were to choose one of the quotes to display.

We have been working through the Chapter Questions as a family. Though at first Tabitha wanted to work independently, she was struggling with finding the answers to the questions, which was holding her back, so I told her she might as well just follow along with us. 

The format for each chapter's questions is the same. 
  1. Vocabulary word which includes the page number where it was found so we can read it in context. Children are to define the word and write it in a sentence. 
  2. Factual question arising from the text
  3. Question to gauge the level of comprehension
  4. Open-ended question seeking an opinion or interpretation
Prior to reading the chapter, I would read the questions. Then I read the chapter. And finally, I re-ask the questions one at a time, and we work out the answers together. 

For the vocabulary word I would see if they could figure it out through the context. Then we would look up the definition, and if there were more than one, we would figure out which one fit the context. I would type up the definition and they would copy it out. Then they worked on their own sentences. I would sometimes have to give examples and then write out some ideas. 

Sometimes the factual questions were quite easy to figure out the answer to, other times it took me re-reading the passage where the answer was found. Sometimes multiple times. I would usually have to write the answers out for Hannah and Harold to copy. 

Even Tabitha and Amelia needed some guidance on answering the third question of each chapter most of the time. Sometimes they were able to give some good thoughts for the final question, sometimes they struggled.

We just started working through the Social Studies section. There is map work, vocabulary, and a timeline. I like that the unit study gives multiple suggestions for using the materials given.

I was also delighted to find some website suggestions for further learning in Appendix A. The children were able to spend some of their computer time taking a virtual tour of Mount Vernon. As much as Harold complains about having to do his schoolwork, he seemed to be having a great time finding different places on George Washington's old plantation.

If our finances were better and we had more room in our home, I would have loved to have set up a Display Corner. Unfortunately, we face the same issues as we did five years ago when we reviewed the Christopher Columbus biography and unit study. I stuck with parts of the unit study that were the easiest for us to work through. 

I have absolutely enjoyed learning more about our first president, a founding father of our country. 

I love that the authors don't skip over the flaws and mistakes that he made, which I had mentioned when I was reviewing the Christopher Columbus book. I loved seeing how all the events in his life shaped him into the person who was trusted to lead our great nation. I also greatly appreciate that they include his Christian faith, and remind us that our founding fathers did pray, even though in this day and age people seem to think those in government are barred from praying and having a faith in the Lord. 

The unit study is chock-full of information to help a family (or class) get the most out of the book. Though, some of the activities almost seem as if they would be better suited for a classroom situation. I am glad I was able to take what I needed and not worry about the rest. 

I highly recommend this biography and the unit study, especially, if like us, you are learning about early American history. It was a perfect way to supplement our lessons and increase our knowledge of an important figure in history. As I mentioned, even I learned so much. 

You can find YWAM Publishing on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I also invite you to read my past YWAM Publishing reviews. As I mentioned above, we read and reviewed Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea, and David Livingstone: Africa's Trailblazer.

Don't forget to click on the banner below to read more reviews of these great biographies from YWAM Publishing. My fellow Crew Mates and I had quite a few books to choose from. There were 26 Heroes of History books, and 6 Christian Heroes: Then and Now books.

32 Heroes of History {YWAM Publishing Reviews}

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