As a public school graduate, I confess that my knowledge of American history is less than excellent. I know I learned some things, but haven't sought to continue learning, and I didn't connect with what I did learn, so I've forgotten most of it. I know George Washington was our first President, and that he led American troops against the British Army during the Revolutionary War, and that his house is called Mount Vernon (I've even been there). That's where my knowledge of his life ends. I would like to know more, and would certainly like my children to know him better, so I was excited to have the opportunity to review the book George Washington, True Patriot from YWAM Publishing. For the purpose of this review, I received an PDF copy of both the book and the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide.
I read this book aloud to all three of my children, primarily with my girls in mind, who are 12 and 13. My 6 year old listened in too, and he enjoyed it. The stated age for this book and others in the Heroes of History series is 10 and up, but it's certainly accessible for younger students. The vocabulary is not complex, and it isn't a difficult read at all. I thought it was a nice overview of his life, and gave some good insight into his early years.
My children and I had great discussions about how very different George Washington's life as a child was from the way theirs is now. For example, he learned to ride a horse at a very young age, and by the age of 8 (eight!) he was riding alone (galloping, according to the book), delivering messages for his father. Also, at around the same age, he was hunting deer to feed his family, by himself, with a rifle. My girls have learned to ride horses - but in a ring, always supervised, and always wearing helmets. They have also learned to shoot guns, but not until they were 11 and 12, under very controlled circumstances, and I don't think I would feel comfortable letting them go out hunting on their own. I know I didn't go out hunting by myself at their age; I took a hunter's safety course when I was in high school, and learned to shoot skeet, but I certainly never went out by myself with a gun. My dad did as a boy, I know. It's interesting to note the changes from generation to generation.
George Washington was ambitious from a very young age, and found creative ways to advance himself in his career. His mother was an anxious woman, and tried hard to keep George close to home, particularly after his father died. He was supposed to go to England to attend school when he turned 12, but after his father's death, George's mother refused to let him go. After that, he made his own way. First, he found his father's old surveying equipment, and taught himself to use it. That led to his first job, working as the chainman on a team that mapped out land in the Shenendoah Valley, across the Blue Ridge Mountains. From there, he earned his surveyor's license and was appointed count surveyor. After his brother died, he went to the governor to ask for his late brother's appointment as adjunct of the Virginia colony, which was a bold move - George was only 20 and had no military experience. The governor decided to appoint four adjuncts to replace George's brother, and George was given the least prestigious of the four positions, but it gave him the military rank of major and new start. He was always looking for ways to achieve his goals, and didn't give up or wallow in self-pity when things didn't go exactly as he planned. He was even responsible for the situation that started the Seven Year's War between England and France - and yet ended up a decorated general in the American army and was our nation's first President. I loved learning about the good and the bad things in George Washington's life, and learning that while he had some difficult circumstances and certainly made some mistakes, he kept on going and was successful in his life.
The Unit Study Curriculum Guide has some nice resources. There are key quotes, which you could use for copywork, memory work, discussion; perhaps display a significant quote on a wall. For each chapter, there are four questions: a vocabulary question, a factual question, a comprehension question, and an open-ended discussion question. I particularly enjoyed going over the discussion questions with my girls. Putting themselves in George Washington's shoes, thinking about how he might have felt in a given situation, helped them connect with story. The guide also includes creative writing suggestions, ideas for hands-on projects, audio-visual projects, and arts and crafts. I am not a huge fan of unit studies in general, but anyone could use this guide to pick and choose things that work for your students and your educational philosophy.
There is also a suggestion to look for links to this part of history in your own community; perhaps a museum you could visit, or a local expert on the Revolutionary War or military tactics you could speak with. I love that - living history! There is a nice book list, containing suggestions of other biographies of George Washington and other related books, related movies and documentaries, related articles from National Geographic magazine, and related internet sites. The guide includes maps and timelines, which are wonderful resources to enhance your studies of this period in American history.
George Washington: True Patriot is available from YWAM Publishing for $6.99, for any version: print, Kindle or Nook. The Unit Study Curriculum Guide is available for $7.49. There is even an audio book!
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