I have heard so many people say they hate history, that it was their least favorite topic in school. Either that, or they just didn’t retain it or understand it. My own children are astonished when they hear such things. They just can’t fathom why anyone would not love the subject. Actually, history is what our entire homeschooling program revolves around. We read about it, discuss it, draw about it, cook about it, and sing with it in mind. We also love to go on unit study adventures by delving deeply into an event, person, or era.
This is one reason why we were so happy when we were asked to do a review of the new G. A. Henty audio-drama books put out by Heirloom Audio Productions.*
When our package arrived in the mail we were immediately impressed. It was evident that these audio products have been put together with the highest standards of quality and design in mind. We were not at all expecting to receive such an amazing pen, along with a nice mug and mouse pad. The box we received is definitely acceptable for gift-giving, something to add to the list of possibles for future Christmas and birthday presents.
Included were four titles from G. A. Henty to choose from: In Freedom’s Cause, The Dragon and the Raven, Under Drake’s Flag, and With Lee in Virginia. Since my husband comes from a long line of Scots, we decided to listen to In Freedom’s Cause first.
The quality of the recordings, including the music, sound effects, and the vocal actors and actresses, was amazing.
Instantly we were drawn in and snatched up into the whirlwind of a yarn spun in the mind of a master. No need for a screen save the one in our minds as we played out one scene after another in vivid color.
One of the best parts of these recordings was their depiction of Christian values and precepts. As stated in this link:
These new Audio Adventures are “character-driven” stories about great Christian heroes. What’s fun is, we use these heroes to teach kids about making Godly decisions when life gets tough. (That’s when our character is really tested after all.) So if you’re looking for true “inspiration” for yourself and your family… these Audio Adventures are for you.
We started listening and drawing just before lunch, took a brief break while we ate and cleaned up, and then continued in the car on our way to the pool. When we returned it was easy to talk about all that we were hearing and learning. (The part where a crude bagpipe was tried out made all of us laugh out loud!)
After a few days, we listened to the book again, this time with the idea that we were going to dive in and discover deeply-hidden treasure. I downloaded the study guide from Heirloom and perused it. This is another well-produced extra that is very helpful. If we were going through each chapter separately, it may have been nice to use the questions as discussion starters, even to use the suggested vocabulary list to look up and talk about some of the words. (One drawback was that the PDF took a long time to load and the design elements, although beautiful, prevented me from wanting to drain my ink cartridges to print them out.)
Next, I brought out atlases and outline maps of Scotland. We all had fun scouring the map for Glen Cairn, but we never found it! We also labeled the major cities and took note of the geography, discussed climate, etc.
Then I turned the older children loose with their notebooking pages (I used the biography pages from Westvon Publishing) and a few general directions while I directed my attention towards the little girls.
I began by re-reading about Robert Bruce and the spider from James Baldwin’s 50 Famous Stories Retold. This helped them put Bruce into a context they could relate to. Then we talked together and began our notebooking pages. The younger set use a more simple style, with a huge place for drawings and other graphics and some space for a brief description, etc. The ones who are reading and writing at a beginning level can usually come up with a few good sentences on their own, although they might need some help with spelling. The beginners need a little more assistance, so I usually have them tell me their impressions and I write them down so they can be copied onto the page itself. Each person works at whatever level she is comfortable with.
This is not about strict academics, it’s just about recording what we have been learning while keeping everything loose and fun.
This time we decided to print out and copy some drawings of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce instead of drawing them ourselves. This is especially recommended for children who don’t like to draw or are having a bad day (as my little seven-year-old sometimes does).
Fortunately, we had already learned a bit about the context of the story so that we had other sources of information to draw upon when filling in our pages. Here are some that influenced us:
King Alfred’s English by Laurie White
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
The Scot’s Worthies by John Howie
and, of course, Braveheart, the movie.
One thing to note: These recordings are not typical, they are exceptional. There is nothing quite like them, in their quality and their focus. The subject matter is compelling, the character development is exceptional, the message will encourage and enthuse young people to follow Christ when faced with the hard decisions in life.
The names in the credits include actors from film and television such as Kirk Cameron, Sean Astin, John Ryhs-Davies, Joanne Froggatt, and Billy Boyd. The graphics, packaging, and marvelous scripting and sound engineering make this product top-notch. This means that there is also a top-notch price attached. If you have a boy who is reluctant to read on his own, or a group of children who just aren’t understanding how wonderful history can be, this might be well worth the investment (especially when considering all of the other media vying for their attention!).
Our Audio Adventures are not slowly read books on tape. Which means your family is going to experience full, high-energy “theater of the mind” audio with multi-dimensional sound. Not to mention big, swashbuckling stories that keep your kids gripped, engaged and on the edge of their seats.
Oh, and another thing, listening has caused my children to want to grab some other Henty novels and read more.
I call that a win-win!
*This post was underwritten and I received free product from the company mentioned. Follow this link for my full disclosure statement.