Over the years, our family has developed a rather short list of favorite companies. One of them is YWAM Publishing. I remember reading a Christian Heroes book about George Mueller when Addison was first grader, and I doubt there have been many years since then that we haven't read at least one of their books.
Earlier this year, we read our first Heroes of History book (Ben Carson: A Chance at Life). We enjoyed it so much that I was eager to review Heroes of History- Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea by Janet & Geoff Benge. We also received the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide as a set of pdf files to download.
The Heroes of History series covers American History from the first voyages of Christopher Columbus all the way up through modern days (Ronald Reagan, Billy Graham, Ben Carson, and others). The bonus materials on the Curriculum Guide gives a sample schedule so that these books can be used as either a one-year or two-year American History course for upper elementary students.
Christopher Columbus: Across the Ocean Sea is a 190 page paperback book detailing his life from his early days in Genoa through his death. I found a lot of the story to be absolutely fascinating. I learned things that I've never heard before. For instance, I knew that Columbus approached the king and queen of Spain several times before they agreed to sponsor his expedition, but I didn't realize that a lot of their hesitation was due to the political climate of the time (they were preoccupied with driving the Moors from Spain). I also found it interesting to hear the details about the expeditions and see him persevere in spite of grim circumstances like having his crew turn against him time and time again. Sadly, I also learned how Columbus's adventures ended with him marooned on Jamesque for over a year and barely making it home to Italy. He was once proud to be called Admiral of the Ocean Sea but was buried without any public recognition.
Lauren says that her favorite parts were learning about Christopher Columbus's family. She had studied Columbus in her American History course, but she hadn't ever stopped to think about him having a mom, dad, and siblings. His younger brother Bartholomew heard of Christopher's discoveries and voyaged to Hispaniola to meet him there. Lauren also enjoyed learning about Christopher Columbus's wife and children.
The Unit Study Curriculum Guide is 75 pages long and provides enough activities and materials to turn this book into a complete unit study. If a child is reading the book independently, the chapter questions would be a good way to check to make sure they are grasping the important events in the story. These questions range from simple vocabulary or fact based questions to more complex questions that require the student to form an educated option. At the conclusion of the book, the student could be assigned one of several essay or hands-on project relating to Christopher Columbus's journeys. Some of my favorite features in the Curriculum Guide were the maps, timeline, and notebooking page to print. The notebooking pages for each famous American would be a great way to keep a record of what your child learns over the course of a school year (or even longer).
After seeing how much Lauren enjoyed hearing me read Ben Carson last semester, I was ready to set forth on a path of American History studies via YWAM biographies. I knew the books were intended for ages ten and up, and I also realized that Lauren's reading skills are not strong enough to read the books on her own. Lauren loved hearing Ben Carson so I just assumed she would do okay if I read the Heroes of History- Christopher Columbus to her. Unfortunately, I found out that Lauren's listening comprehension skills are not strong enough to allow her to grasp much from these books. I was fooled by how well she did learning about Ben Carson. The difference lies in the fact that she brought a lot of medical background knowledge to that study and is fascinated by anything medical. She doesn't have the same amount of interest in the stories of Columbus's sailing expeditions and got lost rather quickly.
The Heroes of History books would be a good way for a proficient reader to study American History and would thrill any history lover. Each book in the series costs $7.50 for a paperback copy. Digital versions are also available for Kindle, Nook, and directly from YWAM.