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Monday, March 23

Alan Shepard: Higher and Faster {Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.
This past year has been an amazing adventure as we watched a family friend on her journey to space.  We avidly await getting to visit now that she is home, and the kids have so many space-themed questions!  So it is rather timely that we just had the opportunity to check out Heroes of History - Alan Shepard, from YWAM Publishing’s Heroes of History!  The book even comes with a Unit Study Curriculum Guide, with many ideas for creating a full biographical study of one of aviation's space pioneers...


We read the book together as a read aloud over a week-long period, following 'bunny trail' conversations stemmed from the text.  I used the study guide comprehension questions - mostly with the younger one - as we went through the story.  I would ask him questions from the prior day's reading to be sure he was with us (recollection can be somewhat of an issue for him).  We also used the biographical sketches and mapwork included in the study guide.  We finished off the unit with a movie screening of The Right Stuff!



Book Description
Alan Shepard gripped the abort handle and braced his feet against the capsule floor. Five, Four, Three... Don't screw up, he muttered. Two, One, Zero, Liftoff. Alan felt himself rising into the sky. He could scarcely believe it. The boy who grew up with a passion for flying was off on the ultimate flight -- to space! Alan Shepard's boyhood fascination with flight led him from constructing model airplanes in his grandfather's basement to attaining national hero status in the race to space. Rooted in hard work and education, this pioneer's dreams of flight came true as he became not only the first American launched into space but, later, one of the privileged few to walk on the moon.
When he wasn't soaring above the clouds, astronaut Alan Shepard used his expertise to benefit others, raising money to fuel the dreams of science students and guiding NASA missions. The achievements of this high flyer -- America's "Lindbergh of Space" -- inspire all who dare to live their dreams (1923-1998).  (book excerpt)
Geared to students ages ten and older, Alan Shepard and the accompanying Unit Study Curriculum Guide are a fun way to learn more about one of history's bravest aviators.  The chapter book is written in a narrative style, and while there are no pictures beyond the small black-and-white line drawings at the beginning of each chapter, you’ll be so busy learning that you won’t notice!  
Our son's only dislike about the book was the amount of text on each page.  Though in middle school, he is a struggling reader who has difficulty with pages that look like this.  A well-placed illustration here and there would go a long way toward comprehension and breaking up the monotony of these pages for this type of reader.  He was very interested in the content, but was also ready to give up after two chapters.  We ended up reading it aloud together for that reason.


Unit Study Curriculum Guide
We loved the book, but only used the study guide as a sort of foot note.  I appreciated the Chapter Questions section, because it’s always nice to review comprehension and tie everything together through further discussion, and mapping activities made for some hands-on learning, but the rest of the guide was not as useful for us.  If we were using this book in small group setting, or homeschool co-op classroom, many of the activities would be more applicable.  There are a lot of great ideas offered for groups of children working together to learn about the same thing!

There are several biographies in the Heroes of History series, from Benjamin Franklin to Ben Carson. There’s even a chronological list so you can easily add them to your existing history curriculum.  If you want to use that list to create a year-long course, the Unit Study Curriculum Guide comes with a guide for using all of the books in homeschool, co-op, and school settings. The unit study itself is broken down into eight major sections, as shown below.

Key Quotes
This section has quotes from other famous figures that are offered up as examples of what may have inspired the hero. 
Display Corner
Suggestions and examples of items to collect for display are offered. 
Chapter Questions
Each chapter is allotted four questions to help students focus on vocabulary, factual information and opinion/ interpretation of the information.  Answers are provided at the end of the book.
Student Explorations
     -  Essay Questions
     -  Creative Writing
     -  Hands-on Projects
     -  Audio/ Visual Projects
     -  Arts and Crafts
This section is divided into several sections with writing prompts, research probes, map-making projects, play and script writing, and other crafty projects.
Community Links
This is basically a ‘field trip’ section. 
Social Studies
     -  Places
     - Terms/ Vocabulary
     - Geographical Characteristics
     - Timeline
     - Conceptual Questions
This section offers more traditional and familiar study tips for understanding the geography of the area.  The Conceptual Questions section involves more short projects to help students dig a little deeper in the politics and geography of the area.
Related Themes to Explore
This chapter allows you to see other topics (specific topics in science, history, geography) that can be tackled during your unit study.
Culminating Event
These are ideas for closing out the unit study. 

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