Wednesday, September 23, 2015

This Book Makes Us Want to Read the Entire Series {A John Adams: Independence Forever Review}

This year, we are focusing most of our family history and geography studies on the United States, as a whole, and Massachusetts, in particular.  So, when I was offered an opportunity to review one of the long list of Heroes of History or Christian Heroes: Then & Now books along with a Unit Study Curriculum Guide by YWAM Publishing, my choice easily became the John Adams: Independence Forever book and study guide.  John Adams is from Massachusetts (our state), lived during the Revolutionary War (a time period that my children are quite interested in!, and was a key player in American history (who my children and I had yet to learn much about).

Now that we've read John Adams: Independence Forever, I can confidently say we have become more than just "familiar" with John Adams and the history of his day.  In fact, nearly every recent day, John Adams and ideas related to him have popped up in our everyday conversation.  I love it when that happens!

Why This Book and Study Guide?

In short, we found that John Adams: Independence Forever brought John Adams to life for all of us, built on our prior knowledge, and extended our learning.  The Unit Study offered even more.

In the mail, we received a 215 page, softcover copy of John Adams: Independence Forever and an accompanying CD-rom study guide. The image on the cover of the book was well-designed and provided some gentle study and review in and of itself.

We noted the background was part of a map of Massachusetts and the foreground contained an outline map of the lower 48 states of the America overlayed with small pictures that the kids could connect to key events in early American history, such as a tea kettle for the Boston Tea Party, a printing press that reminded us of Ben Franklin, a man on a horse that reminded is of Paul Revere and Ben Dawson, a scene that reminded us of the Boston Massacre, a picture of what we think may be the Liberty Tree, and more. This cover drew my children's attention since they enjoy studying about the American Revolution.

On the back cover of the book, an image of John Adams helped me introduce the main character of the historical biography.

Inside the book, there are no illustrations beyond a black and white map of the colonies opposite the Table of Contents and reproduction of the man-and-horse from the cover, which heads each of the 17 chapters in the book. 

The book also includes a one page Bibliography, an About the Authors paragraph and a listing of related titles.


The Unit Study CD we received includes TONS of information, including:

  • a brief text biography about John Adams.
  • overviews on how to lead a Unit Study in a classroom, a group or at home.
  • a 79-page Unit Study that comes as a downloadable pdf that includes quotations that can be used for copywork, discussion questions to be used orally or as written exercises, ideas for related projects, and so much more.

  • a 5-page Appendix to the Unit Study that includes a John Adams information sheet for students to fill in, a number of maps, and a timeline worksheet.
  • Author Interview videos
  • Reader Review videos
  • a link to online Bonus Materials
  • Heroes Series Resource and Catalog information

Upon inserting the CD into my computer and opening it, a flash drive intro with music and graphics immediately opened, which led to an easy-to-navigate menu that allowed us to access any of the Unit Study information and features that we sought.

A Gentle, Engaging Living Books Study of John Adams and More

Snuggled on the couch, cuddled up together in bed, basking in warmth on a blanket outside...  That is how we did much of our study of John Adams, along with related historical events and geography.  For, indeed, John Adams: Independence Forever became such a welcome and easy family read-aloud that we did not feel the need to do much more to "study" it.  We simply enjoyed learning about John Adams through reading and chatting about each interesting chapter of his life.

That said, since we had the Study Guide, I did introduce portions of it to the children even if we did not feel the need to do much more than read and chat about the book, and I am glad we did.  My children enjoyed viewing parts of the author videos; iinspirational John Adams' quotes became fodder for copy work; printable maps were great for reference; and well-written study guide questions guided some of our chats.  The guide includes six questions per each chapter, with one on vocabulary, some on basic comprehension, and some that encourage deeper thinking or expression of personal thoughts.

Because I chose to read
John Adams: Independence Forever slowly with my children, letting one to three chapters "sit" with the kids for a day or two before going on to the next (even when they asked me to "keep reading, keep reading!"), we just finished the book this week.  Reading at this pace (as opposed to buzzing through the book over several days as we sometimes do with other books the children enjoy), worked well for us in that the kids enjoyed the story and seem to have retained more of it than they have of other stories we have read.

Often, before opening up the book to read, I asked my children what happened in our last reading and waited for them to offer narrations.  Sometimes, I used Study Guide questions to prompt their narrations or to inspire even more thoughts and details about prior readings.  Always, I was impressed with how much the children recalled. 

Now that we have savored the story of John Adams as a read aloud, in the coming weeks, I plan to gently review parts of it again by having the kids make notebooking pages for their Massachusetts and United States History and geography notebooks.  I am excited that the printables from the Unit Study CD will make this super easy for the kids and me to do!

Thumbs Up from Us All

Some biographies are dry.  Others exaggerate.  Still others simply recycle canned information about a person.  No so with
John Adams: Independence Forever, and, I imagine the entire Heroes of History series!  My children and I found John Adams: Independence Forever engaging, realistic, and chock-full of details that made John Adams, his family, his colleagues and the time period they all lived in come alive for the children and me.  In fact, as we read, there was laughter, sad "aw"s, excited bouncing up and down, and more.  There was also genuine discovery.
"Wow, I did not know there was a type of revolution in Massachusetts even after the revolution!  Why would the farmers revolt?"

"The Vice President was the second place person people voted for?  Is that what still happens?"

"Isn't it weird that the men who got together to make our country free had so many problems between them?"

These comments and more unfolded during recent readings of the book.

Further, when I asked my five-year-old about the book and what he learned through listening to a reading of it, he said:

"John Adams was our second president.  (The book tells us about ) when he was a kid... America got free... The British and them (America) made peace... John Adams helped." 

My eight-year-old said:

"I would recommend this book because I liked it.  I like that it begins at an exciting time and then goes back in time to when John Adams was a kid, then when he grows up, goes to school, becomes a lawyer... He married... He helped the Americans in the war... He went to France... He became Vice President and then President...  I like that it is realistic and more real than most other stories you read about heroes.  It was not exaggerated like most stories about heroes."

My nine-year-old added:

"The book is really good.  It's like his journal and you're not him, but you know what he's thinking of and everything.  You're someone looking into the mind of John Adams and you know what he is thinking, doing, and all that...  Something new I learned was that he was the first vice president and the second president... I would recommend it to everybody.  Everybody should read it, because it is just a great book, and, I think that unless you hate stories, you're going to love this.  Anyone who likes history and stuff like that would especially like it!"

As you can see, the book was well-received here!

The Unit Study was a helpful bonus, too. Having questions handy as conversation starters helped to focus some of our informal narration periods and also helped me guide conversations to pull out key points.  The maps, timeline, etc. have and will be a big plus to our discussions and notebooking efforts.  Plus, there is a great little section on State History!

I thoroughly appreciated that the combo of the
HEROES OF HISTORY John Adams: Independence Forever book and study guide is flexible!  You can use the two together as we did in order to enjoy a gentle, interesting study balanced in with the rest of life and learning, or you can use the materials for a singular in-depth project or semester-long studyTruly, as I read through all of the Unit Study materials all, I thought, Wow!  There is enough here for a complete month or more of study ONLY on John Adams and related topics for an entire co-op or class!  Any home-education co-op or traditional classroom teacher that seeks a living history book as a core for studying about early American history, John Adams, the Revolution or related topics could easily complete an enjoyable, in-depth, semester-long study culminating in an event so long as this book and unit study guide were in hand!

Learn More

YWAM Publishing Review

YWAM Publishing Review

YWAM Publishing Review

YWAM Publishing Review

What fabulous living history books have you found lately?  Might you add Heroes in History titles to your learning adventures?

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