Full disclosure time: this review is not my first exposure to YWAM Publishing or it’s missionary biography series Christian Heroes Then and Now and American biography series Heroes of History. I received my first YWAM book on Gladys Aylward as a free sample at a homeschool conference 15 years ago (I believe they’re still making that same offer today). Now we have over 25 volumes from both series and I’m sure I’ll be adding to their number. While I was offered an ebook copy of George Washington: True Patriot for the review, I just pulled our softback edition off the shelves (both versions are $6.99). This was however our first experience with the corresponding George Washington: True Patriot Unit Study Curriculum Guide ($7.49 available only in paperback). Here’s a photo of our book shelf – I tried to make it large enough for you to read some of the other titles.
I’ve been reading aloud YWAM titles to my son since he was six. They’ve got the formula down-- the first chapter is kept short and intense. Even if your kid isn’t a bibliophile, surely you can get them to read or listen to three to four pages. The chapter always ends in a cliff hanger about a specific event in the subject’s life: Corrie ten Boom is taken into custody by the Gestapo, John Adams is crossing the Atlantic pursued by a British Man-O-War, George Washington becomes Commander In Chief of the Continental army and must defeat the British or hang. Now you (or your kids) are motivated to keep reading to find out what happens, but the story turns back to the hero’s childhood and we learn all the background leading up to the cliff hanger. Usually we get so engrossed in the back story we often forget what that dangling carrot was until the event is revisited during the normal course of the plot. A quick glance through our books show most are 200-225 pages long with 10-13 page chapters. There is a map near the front showing countries or cities mentioned in the text but there are no other illustrations.
I assigned a chapter per day for Schnickelfritz to read on his own (reading level ages 10 and up) and we would discuss the material afterwards. Often Fritz would voluntarily share what he’d read but I did have questions supplied in the Curriculum Guide. For each chapter there was:
- A Vocabulary question—one word from the text (with a reference to which page it could be found). After defining the word, Fritz had to use it in a sentence of his own.
- A Factual Question –this was a short “who” or “what” answer
- A Comprehension Question – these were longer “why” and “how” questions, but the Fritz could infer the answer from the text.
- An Open-Ended Question – Fritz had to supply his own opinion and give evidence from the text to support it.
The other sections of the Curriculum Guide include:
- Key Quotes – These could be memorized or assigned for penmanship practice
- Display Corner – This seemed designed for a regular classroom setting where students are encouraged to bring in Show and Tell items relating to Washington, Virginia or Washington D.C.
- Student Explorations – As in a true Unit Study, these ideas would incorporate Language Arts with essays and creative writing assignments or Arts & Craft projects. Fritz’s only interest was drawing a map of the United States when Washington became president.
- Community Links – Again this seemed aimed at a regular classroom where they might bring in a guest speaker but there were also some field trip suggestions that a family might do (visit a state capital or military base).
- Social Studies – Fritz’s favorite area. We made a timeline of key events in Washington’s life. We colored in the geological regions of Virginia and noted its rivers, lakes and highest point. We marked the location of important cities during the Revolution. The curriculum Guide includes blank outline maps of the Eastern Coast of the United States and a closer view of Virginia & West Virginia. There’s also a blank timeline.
- Related Themes to Explore – Again, if your were interested in making this a true Unit Study there were ideas to incorporate Math, Science, Politics, Geography, and History around the biography of Washington.
- Culminating Event – I guess a lot of Unit Studies suggest ending with a celebration where children can display their projects or give presentations on what they learned.
- Appendix A—includes a list of other books, magazine articles, videos, and websites where students can find more information on Washington and other related topics.
- Appendix B – provides answers to the Vocabulary, Factual, and Comprehension questions.
We’ve tried doing full Unit studies in our homeschool before and they just don’t work for us, but we will continue to read and recommend the YWAM biography series – in fact I did so just last night at a church dinner.
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