Thursday, February 26, 2015

In Freedom's Cause - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

There is a relatively new company called Heirloom Audio Productions that makes audio drama productions of the historical fiction novels by G.A. Henty. Last fall I was blessed to be given the opportunity to review their first audio drama, Under Drake's Flag. Their second audio drama, In Freedom's Cause, is now available, and I was so happy to again be selected for the review.

For purposes of the review, the Review Crew received In Freedom's Cause (CD Set - Physical Copy), In Freedom's Cause Study Guide (Digital Download), In Freedom's Cause Soundtrack (MP3 download), and Printable copy of The Prayer Of William Wallace. (Digital Download).

The short review: my son liked it! The long review: keep reading!
I am a lover of history and a lover of Henty, so I was very excited to dig right in. It was my plan to read the actual novel first, so I was able to start that even before my package from Heirloom arrived in the mail. I downloaded a free copy of G.A. Henty's novel for my Kindle, and we dug right in.

It took us several weeks to read through the novel, but doing this before listening to the audio drama really helped me, personally, to fully understand the historic situation and to follow the story. 

My son did not fight me about reading the novel, but then he did resist listening to the drama. I never quite know what to expect from him. It seems like most kids would prefer to listing to a dramatic story with multiple voices reenacting the different people in the story rather that listen to their mom read the same novel day after day for weeks...

Since my son was resisting listening to the audio drama, I made strategic plans to play the CD when he was "stuck" in the car with me for long trips. Because I used this method, I was not able to use the Study Guide in the way I think best, but I'll go over that a little later in my review. What I did do with the review was to preview it and prepare myself for our trip(s). Then, as we listened to the story, from time to time I would stop the CD and ask him questions or give him some clarification on points he might not understand.

In Freedom's Cause (audio drama) begins with the friends Ned and Gerald out for a walk and they encounter "Mr. George" walking his dogs, and Mr. George invites them into his home and ends up telling them a story. "Mr. George" is George Henty (a.k.a. G.A. Henty), the author of the book, and the story he tells is the audio drama of the story of Wallace and Bruce.

The story begins with young Ned Forbes, living in Glen Cairn in Scotland. Now, at this point, and several others, I struggled because the audio drama was diverting from the novel written by Henty. The novel focuses on Archie Forbes (Sir. Archibald Forbes), and I didn't like seeing him lose historical credit for all his accomplishments. I wrote to the company with my concerns. They assured me that they had gone to great lengths to separate facts from fiction in the Henty novel, and while they did take liberties to change some of the fictitious material (such as the name of the fictitious character, Archie), all factual information remained intact in their story. Some material was left out as they had to pare down a very long story into a two-hour audio drama.

So, the story follows Ned Forbes, his friend Gerald and other friends, as Scotland fights to free itself from the occupation by England that has been orchestrated under King Edward I. The resistance movement began under Sir William Wallace. After Wallace was captured and executed by King Edward's men, the battle was eventually taken up again by Sir Robert the Bruce who, although he acted the traitor at one point, finally turned back to support and lead his countrymen in the war against England. Between the perseverance of the Scots, the death of King Edward I, and the weaknesses of King Edward II, Scotland finally won their freedom. In the last battle against England, Bruce's men won the victory and sent King Edward II fleeing on a fishing boat like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs.

Now, to the study guide. The study guide is beautiful! The artwork in it is extraordinary! Photo below - sorry about the slight computer monitor distortion. The amount of ink it would take to print at home this study guide... I didn't want to consider it. Ink consumption in my home is always an issue. If I wanted a printed copy I would transfer the guide to a jump drive and take it to a local printer. We, however, decided to work on the study guide right off my computer. (We could also have transferred it to my iPad, but I never took the time to do that.)

If my son had been more cooperative, the method I would have liked to use with the Study Guide would be to have the study guide open on my laptop while playing the CD, and periodically pause the story to discuss each section as we finished it. Since we listened in the car, I obviously could not do it that way. I do plan to work our way through the vocabulary words provided in the study guide to make sure he knows what they mean.

Let me tell you a little more about the study guide. Its front cover is pictured above, followed by a page with cast credits. The introduction comes next, and it explains that each section of the story has discussion opportunities broken up into "Listening Well" questions, "Thinking Further" questions, and the "Defining Words" section. Following this introduction, there is a section to introduce you to the author, George Alfred Henty, and the two main characters of the story, Sir William Wallace and Sir Robert the Bruce. The main section of the study guide comes next, divided into 37 discussion sections. These divisions are not noted on the audio, so the best way to use the guide is to have it open so that you have an idea when to stop the story to spend some time in discussion. 

The vocabulary words could be covered in a variety of ways. One source I read recently suggested providing all vocabulary words with the definitions already connected. You have the student read the list and file in the "Vocabulary" section of their notebook. I know some folks have the student only look up the words they are unfamiliar with. Some teachers require the student to neatly write out, underline, and write down definitions for every word provided, either on a list or on 3"x5" cards that are then filed alphabetically. I know that I do not have a logophile (lover of words) for a student, and I will not be requiring him to write out the definitions. I know I learn best that way, but he has a different learning style than I do. We will be going over definitions of words he is unfamiliar with.

The end of the study guide has two bonus studies attached. The first is "Some Notes on the History of Scotland." This section is followed by a Bible Study that corresponds to In Freedom's Cause.

As we got to the end of our listening to In Freedom's Cause, my son said two things:

"I hate King Edward!" was the first.

The second thing he said was that he didn't want to listen to it again, but that he liked it and was glad we listened to it.

My son dislikes many products we review, so every time he actually likes something I am truly delighted.

To read the reviews of other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew, click below:

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