Friday, October 11, 2013

YWAM Publishing - George Washington: True Patriot (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

YWAM Logo photo YWAMLogo_zpse2d5593a.jpg

George Washington has the nickname "First in war, First in peace, and First in the hearts of his countrymen."   I'll admit that my lifelong admiration of pulled-up-by-his-bootstraps Abraham Lincoln has put the first President just behind Number 16.  After working with Luke on YWAM Publishing's George Washington: True Patriot and George Washington: Unit Study Curriculum Guide,  I may just have changed my mind.

George Washington True Patriot Review

 George Washington: True Patriot is part of YWAM's Heroes of History series. Geared for students aged 10+, this biography explores Washington's youth and contribution to the American Revolution.  It is available as 224-page paperback ($6.99), or as a Kindle, Nook, or Audiobook version.   While it is an excellent standalone book (even as a "for fun" read),  there is also a companion Unit Study Curriculum Guide ($7.49, paperback only). 

George Washington: True Patriot

George Washington at Princeton
Charles Willson Peale
[Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
This story starts long before most others. I don't recall learning much about pre-Revolutionary George, beyond he was a surveyor by trade and a scout during the French & Indian War.  I had no idea the complexity of his childhood.  The first chapter begins as the newly commissioned General George Washington is standing on the shores of Boston Harbor.  He recognizes that he is giving up his lifelong dream of being an officer in the British Army - by their reckoning, he is now a traitor - and summoning the courage to begin leading a ragtag bunch of rebels.  It then moves into a flashback of Washington's childhood and youth.  Most history books list a man's accomplishments.  This book explores the man's psyche.

We learned about a more human side of Washington.  When his brother Lawrence was ill, George volunteered to go with him to the Caribbean when it was clear he could not go alone.  After Lawrence and Austin died - along with his parents - he wondered if he would be next to go.  He married Martha Custis and took on the responsibility of caring from them and the estate-in-trust left to them.  He and Martha did not have any children, though he cared for her children as his own; he later raised one of his grandsons after stepson Jacky's death. 

George Washington also was no stranger to adversity.  His father had been married and widowed; he had two older half-brothers that he had never met until he was six years old.  He had a number of younger brothers and sisters, and a very overbearing mother.  She ran his life with an iron fist from the first, and when his father died not long after George's eleventh birthday, George was devastated when she decreed he would not be permitted to attend school in England like his brothers Lawrence and Austin.  He was now the "man of the house" would be behave as such.  After reading this, I wonder if many of his skills as a scout and woodsman were honed trying to sneak away from this burdensome responsibility.   During the French and Indian War, twice he was nearly killed.  Several other times, disease nearly killed him.  When so many of his siblings died in infancy, and his elder brothers dying before reaching middle age, and all of his younger ones dying before him as well, one has to recognize that he was born do to great things.

I never realized the risks and sacrifices the Washingtons made to this nation.  Sure, I knew that George would be considered a traitor to the Crown, but I never knew that he went to the Continental Congress meeting in September of 1774 and did not return home to Mount Vernon for almost eight years.  He left Mt. Vernon hoping to be back by the end of the harvest time, but the next he saw Martha and Jacky Custis was when they joined him in Cambridge, just outside of Boston, for Christmas 1775.  The separation and the risk weighted heavily on Washington; he missed his home and family dearly, but dared not give up because if the colonists lost he would be hanged and his family homeless. 

By the end of this book, I no longer saw George Washington as a long-ago "historical figure" but a living, breathing, very human man.  I think the books I read as a child on Lincoln showed his humanity - his childhood, his hard work, how he learned his sense of justice. George Washington's childhood, smothered by an overbearing mother, gave rise to a fiercely independent young man.  He exemplified the quintessential Colonial "never give up" spirit.  He was often chosen almost unanimously by his peers to be the leader of  a group.  I would now argue that he almost is more important that Abraham Lincoln - without Washington's intimate knowledge of the shortcomings of the British army, Lincon's presidency  - or even the establishment of the United States as a free nation - would never have been possible.  Over two hundred years since his death in 1799, he remains "first in the hearts of his countrymen."

General George Washington Resigning His Commission, John Trumbull
Public Domain

Curriculum Guide & Unit Study

This is a mid-sized (64 page) lesson plan.  From the guide:
It provides the schoolteacher and homeschooling parent with ways to use the book as a vehicle for teaching or reinforcing various curriculum areas, including
  • Creative writing.
  • Drama.
  • Movie critiquing.
  • Reading comprehension.
  • Essay writing.
  • History and geography concepts.

    As there are more ideas than could possibly be used in one unit, it is the parent/teacher’s job to sift through the ideas and select those that best fit the needs of the student or students.

And yes, there are any number of ideas.  There are some that are more suited to a group setting, while others are more conducive to a single-student homeschool.  We are using it for Luke as part of a high school level course, and I do believe there is enough in it to make it a suitably in-depth study of Washington and the colonial/post-Revolution eras.  However, I also think it could easily be suitable for a middle school level study by adjusting expectations (ie, shorter writing pieces, choosing from one or two categories of activity instead of "one of everything," etc.)

One of the activities I assigned were the chapter questions.  There were four questions for each chapter.  Three were fact based - read the book, answer the question. The final one for each chapter was  critical thinking question.  Some required you to climb into the mindset of the men in the book (for example, when the Founding Fathers wrote the Declaration of Independence, why didn't they include the slaves under the ideal of "right to liberty" that they deemed inalienable?) while others were more of an inference (after the British regiment he was with was brutally defeated when General Braddock insisted on maintaining protocol, what did George learn?). With all of the questions, they were clearly written and the answers easily found within the text.  (And for the teacher/parent, they're also all in the appendix.)

Beyond the questions, there were essay suggestions, and then "projects."  These can easily work for both the home and classroom student.  If you are a homeschooler, then you can just choose a few to work on; if you're a classroom teacher, the list can be given and the student allowed to choose, making for a variety of presentations to the class.

One that we chose was to research and plan a levée.  Martha Washington held these informal (by her standards) parties every week.  Luke's conclusion: Martha was a smart lady.  A levée was a way to look like a great hostess while using up the leftovers from the night before's formal dinner!    Instead of a formal meal,  hors d'oeurves consisting of two-bite canapés followed by miniature tarts and puddings were served - allowing them to use the leftovers from the night before for provisions while creating new dishes and a more relaxed atmosphere.    Even their beverage menu - wine punches in summer, mulled wine and eggnog in winter - was a way to use up half-bottles leftover from the previous evening's dinner.   Luke set a menu, went grocery shopping, and is in the process of preparing each of the dishes.  (We are only doing one or two at a time and serving them as our family's dinner since we aren't planning to have a fifty-person open house anytime soon!  We will be sharing our recipes after we finish perfecting our dishes.)

sample levee menu

For a hands-on project, Luke chose to work on a sampler.  (His occupational therapist was thrilled!)  He chose this pre-printed one.

A funny: I misread the package and thought it was an entire kit.  It was not - the package only contained the pre-printed sampler and no embroidery floss.  I ordered a box each of red and blue -far more than we needed for this project but I also have other projects to use it for - and the total due for them came to $17.76!

I started to teach Luke how to stitch his sampler, but we really struggled because he's right-handed and I'm a southpaw.  So at this point, I called in a "Special Guest Professor" -- Grammy!

embroidery sampler
My parents came one Sunday afternoon for dinner, and Luke was working on his sampler when they arrived.  Mom volunteered (ok, she pretty much got drafted) to help sort him out. They worked together for an hour or so, figured out what was going on, how to work right-handed and not just "backwards left" and Luke is cruising along on his sampler.  (No, that's not why I invited them, but I'm not foolish enough to say "No, thank you!")

The third project Luke is working on is a question-and-answer game. He is writing the game out and we are going to laminate it and donate it to his brother's school for the teacher to use in her American History classes.

Old State House Boston
Old State House (balcony)
Boston, Massachusetts

Finally, instead of a formal paper, Luke wrote a three-part biographical summary on George Washington.  He tried to choose some more obscure facts. For example, we recently visited Boston and the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first proclaimed in the New England colonies.  What we did not know before reading this book -- George Washington was one of the men assembled there.  Everyone knows that Benedict Arnold was a traitor, but it was George himself that discovered it (and that he was the subject of the incriminating correspondence that led to the finding).  We also learned Mount Vernon's original name -  Epsewasson - and that it was renamed by George's brother Lawrence Washington to honor Admiral Vernon. Epsewasson was George's home until Lawrence returned from England, and he actually inherited Ferry Farm upon their father's death.  He came to own Mt. Vernon after the death of his brother's wife and daughter. 

We really enjoyed this study.   Even if it was just a simple "read the book, answer the question," study, it is well worth the time.  The book George Washington: True Patriot is long on pages but well written; it flows easily and pulls the reader into the story.  Janet and Geoff Benge have written a book that describes the details of George's life without the reader feeling bogged down in the minutiae. However, the companion Curriculum Guide & Unit Study provide a strong program for exploring not just George's life but also the era he lived in.

Based on how much he liked this review, Luke has requested that we explore some of the other Heroes of History programs. 

Click the banner below to read the other crew members' experiences with this program, as well as Jim Elliot: One Great Purpose  from WYAM's Christian Heroes: Then and Now series.


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