Wednesday, April 27, 2016

YWAM Publishing Heroes of History- William Penn (A Review)

We have been fans of YWAM Publishing's Christian Heroes Then and Now, and have collected quite a number of them at Conventions as well as one received for review (Jim Elliot). I was intrigued by the Heroes of History Series, as we didn't have any of those on our shelves yet. From their wide selection of biographies, covering historical heroes from Christopher Columbus to Ben Carson, we were sent Heroes of History- William Penn, and the coordinating Unit Study Guide.

My memory of William Penn from my history classes in grade school was a little fuzzy, so this was a great refresher for me, as well as a good overview for my kids. The recommended age for this particular book is 10+, and I would agree with that as a minimum, but might even edge it up to 12+. The first chapter begins with William Penn in the Tower of London, passing implements of torture, whose use is described~ perhaps a little gratuitously, and you can probably easily skip that chapter... my high school students who were reading this book would have preferred not to start the book with that sort of beginning (when I read the book, I accidentally skipped that chapter, and it didn't affect the story at all). I had to remind my Eldest that the time period William Penn lived in was really still coming out of the Dark Ages, and life was not pretty or easy, but that William Penn was definitely a huge part of paving the way to "Liberty and Justice for all."

William Penn's biography is very timely, with this being a Presidential Election year, we've been talking about the Constitution and the principles on which our country was founded. Even though this is a mostly Junior High aged book, it is a great vehicle for opening up even more discussions and showing where basic concepts come from such as a fair trial with jurors who make decisions based on facts and conscience, not making decisions as ordered by a crooked judge.

Because I used this book with older, high school students, more as a historical literature reading assignment, we didn't really do much with the Unit Study at this time. In looking it over, it offers a very thorough unit of study for a Middle Grade student. We received the downloadable version, it also comes on CD. After opening up the zip file, you can access it through your browser by clicking the Start-Here file, or you can access the pdf files directly. This is what the browser-version of the Unit study looks like:

They very nicely offer suggestions on classroom, small group, and homeschool use, as well as some bonus materials and background on William Penn.

Unit Study- Part 2 contains the graphics for geography work, timeline, and a biography sheet
Unit Study - Part 1 contains the bulk of material:

  • Key Quotes: Interesting quotes that are related to the theme of the book. In this case there were quotes that referenced Liberty and Justice (or fairness/tolerance). It is suggested that the quotes could be used for memorization, as part of a display, or to kick off a skit of some sort.
  • Display Corner: Suggestions for gathering and displaying materials that relate to Pennsylvania and William Penn's life. This is a fun idea for the younger student if you have the space to utilize a display corner. 
  • Chapter Questions: Each chapter has four questions:  a vocabulary word from the chapter, a factual question, a comprehension question, and an open-ended opinion question. Basic Middle School level stuff here.  Because of my students' age, the open-ended questions were most useful~ While I didn't bring them all up in conversation, they offered good jumping off points, as the topics arose. 
  • Student Explorations: This section offers something for everyone, from essay and creative writing assignments to hands on activities~ arts, crafts, and audio visual. I would recommend checking this section out on the sooner side when beginning this study, as some of these projects could take a while to complete. 
  • Community Links: Suggestions for field trips that relate to the book
  • Social Studies: 
    • Places/Locations mentioned in the book, 
    • Vocabulary
    • Geographical characteristics
    • Timeline
    • Conceptual Questions. 
  • Related Themes to Explore ~ this is another place that can be expanded to offer upper level students more topics to dig in to if time allows. 
  • Culminating Event~ many homeschool families enjoy the opportunity to wrap a Unit Study up with a final "event" that showcases some of the subject matter in a creative way~ whether shared with other homeschoolers, or simply in a family setting. Because of our crazy schedules, we don't have a place on our calendar for something like this, but I really like the idea (Especially for the younger student).  The Study Guide gives some great suggestions for activities, menus, displays and presentations, among other things. 
  • Appendix A offers a large list of books (for a variety of ages) and other resources (including film) that coordinate with the topic. 
  • Appendix B contains answers to the Chapter Questions. 
I was surprised and impressed by the scope and quality of the Unit Study Guide. Because I planned to mostly review the book as historical biography/literature (using it with older students), I did not plan to use the study guide, but rather look it over to see what I could use in a few years with my youngest. I believe that if I had known the depth allowed before the review period started, I might have been able to adjust my high school students' schedules to incorporate more of the study guide options into their days. 

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
  • Company: YWAM Publishing 
  • Product: Heroes of History- William Penn
  • Ages: Publisher suggested 10+ (I'd agree, or possibly even 12+, due to historical content~ depends on your child, but could be used with a younger age as a "Parental-Edited" read-aloud)
  • Price: 
    • Biography ~ List $9.99, YWAM current price: $7.50
    • Unit Study Guide ~ List $9.99, YWAM current price: $7.49
You can visit YWAM publishing on their social media pages:
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Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Review Crew and see what others had to say about the Unit Studies they used. There were four Christian Heros Books/Studies and twenty-four Heros of History Books/Studies that were reviewed. I'm anxious to go read the Milton Hershey reviews~ which was one of my top two choices for review. :) As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.

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