Tuesday, July 28, 2015

With Lee in Virginia {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

If you're a regular reader around here, you'll recognize the name Heirloom Audio Productions, and you probably won't be surprised that I was thrilled to review another of their titles.  This time, it's With Lee in Virginia!  We received not only the 2-disc CD set, but a beautiful study guide and some other bonuses as well.

What's Included?
There are different purchasing options, but the basic package ($29.97 + s/h) includes the 2-disc set and three bonuses.  You'll receive a high quality digital study guide, a printable poster with a quote by Robert E. Lee, and an MP3 download of the official soundtrack scored by John Campbell.

The Story
With Lee in Virginia is the third in a line of high quality audio dramas, based on the historical fiction work of G.A. Henty:  With Lee in Virginia, A Story of the Civil War.  Obviously this is a war story, but it is also a story of courage, of honor, and of duty.

As I expected, the story immediately comes to life the moment it starts.  Sound effects, music, talented voice actors (Sean Astin, Kirk Cameron, Chris Anthony, Kelsey Landsdowne and Jim Weiss are some names you might recognize) make this a truly amazing listening experience.  We're introduced to a boy on the brink of adulthood, fifteen year old Vincent Wingfield.  He was from a well-established plantation in Virginia, and the year is 1861.  Vincent finds himself on an "adventure" when he joins the Confederate army.  He battles alongside many famous Confederate generals, with Robert E. Lee of course being one of them.  Lee is an inspirational leader, and Vincent learns he has to take a stand for what really matters.  Just like the other stories we've experienced from Henty, the main characters experiences physical and moral struggles.  He's injured, he's captured, he's betrayed, and yet he still finds his way to displaying virtuous character traits.  It's hard to tell you too much about the plot of a book without giving too much away, but what you should know is that Heirloom Audio Productions puts you right in the setting of the Henty books.  You don't just listen to a war story.  You're transported right there to the battlefield to experience those battles, to feel their pain, to experience their emotions.

The Study Guide
One thing that really sets Heirloom Audio Productions apart from regular audio books (aside from their fabulous quality) is that the stories come with an excellent Study Guide and Discussion Starter.  The With Lee in Virginia study guide is 30 pages of questions and assignments.  This study guide includes short biographical sketches of Henty, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, a map of famous cities and battlefields referenced in the story, suggestions for additional readings on Lee, and two Bible Studies--one on Duty and one on Loving Your Enemy.  The bulk of the study guide, though, is where each track has its own set of material.  For each track, there are three sections called Listening Well, Thinking Further and Defining Words.  These are questions with varying degree of difficulty and vocabulary words.  These are the "assignments" so to speak, and the heart of the study guide.

How We Used It
I would suggest listening to the whole production all the way through (because you won't want to stop!) and then listening to one track at a time to answer the accompanying study guide questions.  My kids are younger, so typically we would use a study guide like this together, with me picking out questions that would help illustrate they key points I wanted to focus on.  This time was a little different though.  I didn't use the study guide with the kids at all, because I had to listen to almost the entire story alone.  I loved this story just as much as the others, but the kids had a different reaction.

Early in the story, there are a couple of violent episodes against slaves.  My 8 year old became very distraught and finally asked me to turn it off.  He is not usually this sensitive, so I don't know if it was because it was a woman, or if it was the crying baby, or if it was the repeated acts of violence against humans, but he was adamant that he was not listening to it anymore.  (Then of course the 5 year old followed suit.)  I tried to turn it on a couple more times, after some serious discussions, but it just wasn't the right time.  I could tell it hurt his heart to know that people were treated that way.  It opened up a whole line of dialogue, though, about human nature, slavery, abolitionists, how we treat others, and ultimately what our religious and moral beliefs say about loving others.  Although they weren't ready to listen to this story, I did choose to follow up with a study on The Underground Railroad, to show a different side of the hearts that others had during that part in history, so it was still a good learning experience.  With Lee in Virginia will be waiting until they are ready.

Would I Recommend It?
Yes, I would still recommend With Lee in Virginia.  If you're studying the Civil War or Virginia history, if you're interested in wars in general, if you just like good audio dramas . . . this is a fantastic resource.  In fact, I would recommend all of the Heirloom Audio Productions so far.  I would caution you preview them first if your children are sensitive, due to the sometimes graphic scenes, but they are great for homeschooling, and great for families.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review

Previous reviews of Heirloom Audio Productions that we have done include Under Drake's Flag and In Freedom's Cause.

To find out more, check out With Lee in Virginia and Heirloom Audio Productions on Facebook, as well as Google Google +, and Twitter.

With Lee in Virginia Audio Drama Review
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