William Penn: Liberty and Justice for All, by Janet and Geoff Benge, is one of many selections from the Heroes of History series by YWAM Publishing. We received this book, along with the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide for review.
This biography tells the story of William Penn, from his early childhood in England through the establishment of Pennsylvania as a colony. Most of Penn’s story actually takes place in England against a backdrop of a tumultuous time in British history. The story begins with the beheading of Charles I and continues through the rule of Cromwell, Charles II, James II, William and Mary, and Queen Anne. Because Penn’s father was a wealthy landowner, he had a prominent place in British society and their fortunes and favor tended to ebb and flow depending on who was in power.
Although William Penn was a Quaker and is best known for his founding of Pennsylvania on the Quaker principles of tolerance and fairness for all, he became a Quaker as a young adult. This resulted in walls between his father and him and caused many incarcerations, since none of the British governments, Catholic, Puritan, or Church of England, during his life were sympathetic or tolerant toward Quakers.
We learned or reviewed a lot about British history and Quakers as well as about the founding of Pennsylvania in this book. I would consider William Penn: Liberty and Justice for All most appropriate for upper elementary and middle school ages, although my high school student enjoyed it as well.
I was very impressed with the study guide. In addition to the expected comprehension questions for each chapter, this small guide was loaded with other discussion and activity suggestions. Each chapter included one discussion question that required critical thinking and application of the concepts, such as,
“Admiral Penn claimed that the English peasants were better workers than the Irish peasants. do you think this was true, or was there some other reason he wanted English peasants in Macroom? Explain your answer.”
There is a study guide section devoted to “Key Quotes,” which included famous quotes that related to the book. We enjoyed discussing the meanings of ideas like:
“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” Mark Twain
Emily chose activities from Essays, Creative Writing, and Hands-On Projects to complete. Writing and project choices included topics like researching famous people who were imprisoned in the Tower of London, making a mobile to represent Penn’s life, drawing a family tree for Penn, topographical maps, writing a resume for Penn, and many more.
A few pages (with permission to copy) are included for map and timeline work and taking notes on key facts. Emily worked on these pages as she read the book.
While we chose to just devote one week to the extra activities, there is certainly enough material to develop a longer and more involved unit study on the book. I think books in the Heroes of History would be a great supplement to any history program.