One of my favorite new vendors that I discovered through the Review Crew last year was Heirloom Audio Productions. Because of our love for the first of their products that we had reviewed, I was incredibly excited when I received the opportunity to review for them again this year. Rose was excited too, jumping up and down when I told them that Heirloom Audio Productions had a new G.A. Henry adventure for us to listen to!
We received the In Freedom’s Cause Single Package. This package includes the physical CD copy of In Freedom’s Cause and digital downloads of their study guide/curriculum, the audio soundtrack, and a printable copy of William Wallace’s prayer.
I do want to note that if you don’t have any experience with audio dramas, you are in for a treat. This is not just an audio book, but is instead a full audio experience with characters, music, sound effects and great performances. It’s truly theater for the ears.
About the Drama
In Freedom’s Cause is the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce and their fight for the independence of Scotland. The story actually begins in the present with Ned and Gerald. They meet up with an older friend of theirs (Mr. George) and decide to go and visit Mr. George’s study. They find that the study has as many historical artifacts as the British Museum.
They find a claymore, and Mr. George begins telling them about William Wallace, inserting them as characters in the story. He begins with Ned, and recasts him as Ned Forbes, a young Scottish man whose father was killed by the English. Ned knew that his father had died, but didn’t know how until he was told by his mother while they discussed his father’s favorite psalm.
As it happens, Ned’s father’s favorite psalm is Psalm 23. In their discussion of the psalm, Ned and his mother begin to discuss a very familiar part of the verse.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Ned has a question of his mother. How could that be his father’s favorite psalm if God did not protect him from death at the hands of the English? His mom’s response was simple, yet profound. She reminded her son that God didn’t promise that bad things wouldn’t happen to you, just that God would be with you when they did.
As Ned hears and learns more about his father, he realizes that he wants to take up his father’s cause against their English oppressors. That’s when he begins to learn sword fighting, and in the course of time, he is introduced to a young Scottish revolutionary named William Wallace. And that’s when the action really begins to pick up.
The Scottish men band together to begin to fight for their independence. Throughout the rest of the story, there is a sense of brotherhood, loyalty, betrayal, love and the continual struggle for independence. There are battles and there are times of peace. This story follows the fight for Scottish independence from England all the way through Robert the Bruce’s eventual victory against the English and Scotland’s entrance into a time of independent rule.
Without giving too much away, I wanted to share with you a couple of the ideas that touched me the most from this audio drama.
First, there’s a continual push-and-pull between the idea of having peace and fighting for freedom. Throughout the story there are characters who are willing to sacrifice freedom for peace and other characters who continually feel that peace under English rule is not truly peace without freedom.
In fact, at one of the turning points of the story, Ned approaches Robert the Bruce to ask him to take up the Scottish cause, and in their conversation, Ned has the opportunity to as Robert why he left the Scottish cause to make a treaty with England. Robert replies that he’s always been on the side that meant peace for his beloved country, whether that was Scottish independence or English rule. This is an important conversation for history and one that we need to be having today when we’re all to happy to sacrifice pieces of our freedom because of the idol we have made of safety.
The second idea that I felt strongly affected by is the idea that even when things do not turn out favorably for us personally, that God is with us. This is a theme that is recurrent throughout the drama, from Lady Forbes first conversation with Ned through the end of the story. As Lady Forbes says to Ned,
Remember…the Lord is your shepherd.
Even in the midst of the shadows.
I love the discussion of this throughout the drama, especially after Wallace is betrayed and battle and finds that he must flee to France for a while and after Wallace’s death when Gerald wants to know why God abandoned Wallace. These are touching and poignant conversations, conveying both our faith in God and our sadness when He doesn’t act the way we wish he would.
I also think that these are important questions to discuss with our children as we strive to impart our faith and the meaning that our faith gives to our lives with our children. They are going to have hard questions and wrestle with God, and this story is a great story to remind them of how God is with them always.
Using the Drama in Our Home
The children in our house who I listened to this drama with are 9 & 8 years old, and while I could have listened to the whole story in just one sitting, little ears get tired. So, what I would do each day would be to share just a couple of tracks from the story with them.
I would pull out my In Freedom’s Cause study guide, which I went ahead and printed out and placed in a binder so that I would have ready access to the materials as the children and I listened to the story. I would look over the sections that I planned on us listening to each day, pulling out the vocabulary that I might need to introduce the children to as well as a few questions to pose for discussion or for further look-ups after our listening time was over.
The guide is a true time saver because it contains three sections for each section of story that you listen through.
- Listening Well is a section of questions that are geared towards making sure that the story is comprehended as the child is listening through. For example, a random question pulled from this section is, “Who gives away Wallace’s location to King Edward?” These are mostly simple fact-filled questions that will build your child’s confidence for the next section.
- Thinking Further is a section of questions that requires either further thought or research. Your child might look on a map or globe for a location, visit a website for more information or simply reflect on a deeper meaning as he listens to the story. These are deep questions such as, “Sir John isn’t a good man, but he is not a complete fool either. In what ways does he demonstrate a practical or worldly wisdom?” or “How did Wallace’s victory at Lanark affect Scottish morale?”
- Define these words is a section of vocabulary words that can be used at your discretion. If they were words that made a big difference in how you understood the story, I would pause the story to tell the children what these words were. Some of these words were “glen, psalter, formidable, minstrel, etc.”
Another valuable section in the study guide is the presence of three simple Bible studies. Each of these studies have points and scripture-references to get you and your children started using this story to get into God’s word. These studies are themed: (1) I will Fear No Evil, (2) Vengeance and Forgiveness, and (3) Freedom. These are great starting places for a scriptural response to the major themes of the drama.
There’s also a brief historical background to set the stage for the story as well as a small bibliography for further information on both William Wallace and on Psalm 23.
I have found that, so far we’ve mostly listened to the story and discussed a few of the questions in the study guide. Once we were finished with the first listen through and discussion of the story, I placed it in the rotation of CDs for us to listen to in the car–eventually it will propel the children to far greater investigation as they continue to absorb the story and the ideas.
My Overall Opinion
This is a great story, and a fun addition to studies in medieval history. This would also be great to study as a parallel to the American Revolution as many of the ideas in the the American Revolution were inspired by ideas from the Scottish fight for independence.
My deeper concern with my children, even before history, is studying God’s word. I find this to be a highly valuable resource in teaching Biblical values to my children, including examples of our appropriate response when God doesn’t react in the way we would have Him to do. I recommend this resource as something far more valuable than a mere history resource. Instead, this is a faith building story about true heroes, the sacrifices they make and God that they serve.
It also passes my final test for good resources to use with my children. I love it as much as they do (if not more). We only have a few years with our children, and our joy in the resources that we use will help propel our children to a love for learning. This is one that I’m very joyful about sharing with my children.