Friday, July 22, 2016

Heirloom Audio Productions: Beric the Briton (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Beric the Briton is the fifth audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions' series, The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty that we have enjoyed.  Each of the productions is an exciting tale that blends a story set long ago but that still has a meaning for today, and this 2-CD set is no exception.  In addition to the audio discs, Heirloom Audio offers a downloadable study guide that can take this from being a simple listening experience to the backbone of a full unit study.

We took our story with us on our summer road trip.  We are driving cross-country, and there are lots of miles to fill.  This story runs about two and a half hours, so it was a great listen on a very long stretch of road between Ohio and Missouri.  Beric the Briton transported us from the farmlands of Indiana to Britannia and Rome just before, during, and after the reign of Emperor Nero.  A combination of creative storytelling, gifted voice actors, and beautifully composed music kept everyone on the edge of their seats (well, as close to the edge of his seat as the seatbelts would allow).   I also have to give a loud shout out to the Foley artists. There were some well-timed and seemingly insignificant sounds -- the creak of a door, distant footsteps, etc. -- that would not necessarily be missed in the larger presentation, but add a layer of dimension that enhances the production and demonstrates Heirloom Audio's commitment to detail and quality.


One thing I enjoy about these stories is they are not just entertainment, but an engaging way for learning about history.  In the past, we've heard about explorer Sir Francis Drake, Scottish heroes Wallace and Bruce, and Alfred the Great.  Although we've learned about a young cavalryman in the American Confederate Army, you'll notice that the stories are rich in British History.  This is undoubtedly because Henty was a British Victorian author, writing for British children.  However, his stories still translate well to American children of today.  Ideals such as courage, standing up in others' defense, and thinking before acting are timeless.


Unlike the other stories, "Henty" (portrayed once again by Brian Blessed; John Rhys-Davies also is a repeat participant) is not directly interacting with our old friends Ned and Gerald, but rather reading aloud a letter he is sending to them as he travels on a ship.  In his message is the tale of Beric the Briton.  Beric is the son of a chieftainess in Brittania, in a time when clans ruled themselves but Rome ruled the world.   Beric, who has been in the keeping of a Roman centurion, attempts to help the clans overthrow the Romans, but he is taken as a prisoner and made to train as a gladiator in Rome itself.  He wins his freedom by saving that centurion's daughter from certain death in the Colosseum, and finds himself Nero's head guard.

Christian underpinnings in Henty's tales are usually easy to see and deftly woven into the story.  Here, I thought the Christianity was rather heavy handed. At first, the story often points out that the Celtic priests and rulers cannot be trusted because they are manipulating for their own gains what the "gods tell them," and Beric sees this incongruity.  There was also a Roman official, who swore "on the altar of Diana" that he would allow Beric's band of men to be kept prisoner, rather than put to the sword.  As Luke and I heard this, we were saying, "Wow, this sounds like Henty's showing that these virtues transcend 'just' Christianity, and show that regardless of religious belief, goodness is in all men."  Even when the ship carrying Beric and his band of soldiers to Rome is shipwrecked, he goes back into the water to save his jailer's child, because it was the right thing to do.  Cue Christianity. The man asks if Beric is a follower of Christus, because his actions put into life the words that he had heard a man named Paulus speak.  Beric eventually learns more about this man named Christus, including the persecution by Nero of those who overtly followed Christian teachings.  I thought this had the potential to be a great conversion story, showing how God works in our lives before we even realize it, but it soon became an "us vs. them" storyline.  I admit that I have not had an opportunity to read Henty's original story (an e-version is part of the digital download), so I can't say if it was the productions' decision or if the original work propelled it.  However, we found that it seemed to bog down the second half of the production, and Christianity became more a part of the plot than part of Beric.

In addition to the audio CDs, we received a digital download containing not only the novel but also a fifty-page study guide that included biographical information about the warring rulers Roman Emperor Nero and Queen Boadicea of Brittania and chapter questions that address both the facts from the story and critical thinking about the events.


Overall, we enjoyed listening to this presentation and are looking forward to the next release. For more information on Heirloom Audio Productions' offerings, follow them on social media or click the banner below for more Crew Reviews.

Beric The Briton ~ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/BericTheBriton
The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty series ~ Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TheExtraordinaryAdventuresOfGAHenty

Heirloom Audio Productions
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Beric The Briton Heirloom Audio Productions  Review



©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 2 - Sea to Shining Sea: Revolution on the Frontier

Day 2's journey took us from just outside Cincinnati, OH to St. Louis Missouri, via Vincennes, IN.  We packed ourselves back up and headed for our main stop for the day, the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.


At first, Indiana looked pretty busy. Heading west, we went from just outside a one moderately sized metropolitan area (Cincinnati) to another (Indianapolis).  Our "flight path" took us by the Indianapolis Airport area.



With half a dozen planes on one side of the highway and a truck depot on the other, everyone was duly impressed by the FedEx Facility.

As we headed south towards Vincennes, though, things quickly got more rural. Farms and farmstands dotted the landscape at first, and then covered them. This was outside a peach orchard stand that we passed.



Many family farms are in this area.  It's funny how we consider farms at home to be "new-ish" if they're only 3rd or 4th generation-owned, but compared to this one, NJ farms are "establishment."


Vincennes is a cute little town.  Located on the bank of the Wabash River, it was originally a French trading settlement.  It became an American town through the leadership of one determined man, George Rogers Clark.


Does the family name sound familiar? Yes, he's from that Clark family.  George's little brother, William, was the "Clark" in "Lewis and Clark who explored the Louisiana Purchase." The younger Clark  George, however, was a Revolutionary War hero, who led his own expedition and pushed the British out of the western frontier.  The British had gained the holding as part of the peace treaty after the French and Indian war but only sent 300 soldiers to guard the Illinois territory, relying on agreements with Indians to intimidate would-be settlers.  Clark appealed to Virginia Governor Patrick Henry (yes, that Patrick Henry) for a group of men to help get the area under American control. In February 1798, this group of less than 200  braved the bitter cold and a swollen-to-lake-proportions Wabash River to launch a surprise attack on Fort Sackville. Through a combination American alliance with the French, an alliance with many disgruntled native tribes, and some sleight-of-hand, Clark and his "Long Knives" secured the far west for the new nation.   The monument containing this statue and a picture storytelling of the western expansion is along the banks of the Wabash River and on the site of the old Fort.





After Jude and Celia had been sworn in as Junior Rangers, we headed off again.

We crossed the Wabash River into Illinois and the Central Time Zone.


We joked, "Corn, soybeans, cows...and wait, a miles-to-Trenton-sign?  Illinois is really just West New Jersey!"




One kid joked, "Look, they're growing corn oil!"


US 50 is dotted with these out-of-service bridges.  This one was fairly clear to see.  Most of the others have been overgrown with trees and vines.


Only five miles from St. Louis, and we're at a stop. Overturned tractor trailer ahead. Yikes!


Finally crossing over the Mississippi River...welcome to St. Louis, Missouri!





©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Writing with Sharon Watson (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

Sharon Watson is a favorite curriculum writer in our house.  Luke used her curriculum as a high school freshman, and things just clicked for him.  I've often tried to get him to let me use his books with Matthew, but he wasn't letting them out of his sight.  If I didn't know better, you'd think he was a German Shepherd guarding a toddler.  Lucky for Matthew,  there is a new version - The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition is now available from Writing with Sharon Watson.


This is Matthew's second experience with Ms. Watson's curricula (you can read our review of her Illuminating Literature - Luke enjoyed it so much that I purchased a second set of materials for Matthew), so he already was familiar with her easy writing style.  Her writing is written with a teenage audience in mind.  Too often I hear "This is boring!" when it comes to reading an assignment because the author either dumbs things down or writes on a level that flies over a high schooler's head.  All of Sharon Watson's curricula is written in a tone that is engaging to the student.

The second edition isn't terribly different from the first, in terms of content and scope of study.   It includes different styles of essay (persuasive, objective, etc.) as well as other types of writing that are important in both an academic and business atmosphere. In all, there are 21 different styles covered.  If you need to know it, it's in this program.  However, what makes it stand out from the first one is there are explicit daily lessons.  This was a huge help for Matthew.  It created clear expectations on what he was supposed to do in a day, rather than him trying to guess how much was "enough" work, or falling so far behind that he wound up spending all day on a single assignment.

Since I was familiar with the student edition from Luke's use, I focused my learning on the Teacher's Guide. There were some great points that I truly hadn't realized.  Because I enjoy writing, I can easily write a "larger" amount fairly quickly.  As I work with things to review, in my head I'm composing my outline and a very rough idea of what I want to say, so when it's time to write a review it is mainly an issue of me gathering and organizing my thoughts, then putting fingers to keys and typing.  However, the Teacher's Guide for The Power in Your Hands points out that the average student takes an hour to compose a 100-word essay.  This was a bit of an eye-opener to me because I can easily write a 500+ word review in about three hours.  It has helped me temper my expectations for how long it really takes -- and how long I should realistically expect -- Matthew to take with an assignment.

I also appreciated a clear guide to grading.  Often, there is an argument here over whether an assignment is completed "well enough."  One can imagine that often, my idea of "sufficient" and Matthew's don't always match.  In both the Student's and Teacher's guides, there are explicit explanations of what earns a particular grade.   Questions ranging from slightly more subjective "Has the student communicated his ideas clearly and expressed them well?" to extremely concrete "Was the paper handed in on time?" and "Did the student follow the written directions?"  help both of us when it comes time to evaluate his writing. These helped him understand that yes, on time matters, but also content needs to be pertinent and well-presented, and not just following directions of "Write a 3-5 sentence paragraph" that turns out to be three uncoordinated sentences written one after the other in paragraph form.

I'm happy Matthew finally has his very own copy of The Power in Your Hands.  I'm hopeful that with such structured assignments and clear expectations, Matthew's skills at writing will grow and soon enough I'll find myself the former teacher of a pack of book-guarding writers.

For more about Sharon Watson and her reading/writing programs, follow her on social media or click the green banner for more crew reviews.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WritingWithSharonWatson
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/writingwithshar


Writing with Sharon Watson Review



©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Day 1 - Sea to Shining Sea Tour: National Parks Make Great Pit Stops

Let the journey begin!!

We left New Jersey early this morning and started rolling down the highway.





Oh, joy.  The Tunnel.  Not my favorite part of the drive.


(Today's drive was past Columbus to Cincinnati.  Tomorrow is St. Louis, but it's going to take us about three weeks to get to Denver!)

Three hours is about my limit to drive before I need to stop.  Somebody piped up from the backseat that he needed to stop, too.  Navigator Luke googled specific directions, and next thing the kids knew, they were getting a break from the car...at a Civil War battlefield!




Monocacy is a battle that often gets overlooked.  Technically, the Confederates won, because they were able to continue their advance on Washington, but the Union forces delayed them long enough for reinforcements to make it from Petersburg, VA to protect the Union capital.

We learned that the 14th New Jersey was part of the fight. This uniform belonged to one of the soldiers from our state.


Confederate soldiers were represented as well.  Damien, my dress-up king, found this interactive exhibit.



Matthew, Celia, Jude, and Damien are doing travel journals.  Damien needs to share three things he learned at each place we visit.  His first fact: Uniforms are heavy and hot.


This timeline and narrated light map helped explain what happened on that day in 1864.

There is also a section on the history of the Parks, in celebration of the 100th Anniversary.



 Back in the car, we made ourselves some sandwiches and headed off again.  Then we ran into the rains.


The rain only lasted for about 30 miles total, but the ten or so that were just a deluge weren't fun.




Corn fields in the hills on 40 West...it looked just like what we saw before the bridge out of New Jersey!  Are we sure we're going the right way?



That's the real color of the Youghiogheny River.  It's stunningly green!

Coincidentally, our route took us past Fort Necessity National Battlefield.  We decided to stop off for a break, even though it's not technically on our agenda until the last day of our trip.  We will still go back because we want to go to Jumonville Glen, but we decided to walk out to the fort.  When we were there last time, it was raining.  Seeing the meadow in the summer sun, it's easy to see why George Washington was so enamored of it.




This time, the building within the stockade was open, so we got to take a peek inside.





Matthew's travel journal has the most information required.  He decided he better take notes.  It's sort of like photocopying, right?


Just past the turn off for Jumonville Glen is this sign.


We thought we had seen a lot of steep gradients on our way to that spot.  How bad could what was coming be?


Yep, that's scary.

Continuing, we finally arrived in our fifth state for the day, West Virginia.


Followed by, finally, Ohio.


Luke snapped a few sunset pictures somewhere between Columbus and Cincinnati.





We finally made it to our hotel, ate some snacks, and went to bed.  Tomorrow's another adventure!


©2012- 2016 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author. http://adventureswithjude.com
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