We were recently given the opportunity to review the audio production With Lee in Virginia by Heirloom Audio Productions. I was incredibly excited for this review before we even received the package in the mail; my boys love audio books and I knew this one was going to be a hit in our house.
We received a physical set of CDs in the mail and a digital download of the study guide that goes along with the story. The story is on two CDs, and was just long enough to keep up entertained on a road trip up north. We listened to the whole audio production once at home, and then again on the trip up to visit Payson, AZ to escape the heat of the blazing summer sun down in the valley. Listening to it in the car was awesome! We had way less bickering over toys, and both of my boys were engrossed in the story until the very end.
The first time we listened to the story, we decided to break it into chapters and listen to one at a time in the evening before bed. My husband was out of town on business, so I had the four kids’ bedtime routine, which he usually handles. I had the kids pile up blankets and pillows, and we dimmed the lights. We listened to one chapter each night and talked about it before bed, or the next morning if everyone was really tired. It was a nice way to spend the evening together, and a God send with my husband away.
This set is an audio production, which is a world away from a regular audio book. In a traditional audio book, you hear one person reading the text of a book to you. In this audio production, there are gunshots, music, different actors interacting with one another, and it is so exciting to listen to. It is like an old time radio theater program, but done with today’s technology. I found myself getting into the story so much more with all the added elements. Also, this takes place in the middle of a war, so there is plenty of action and excitement.
The cast of characters is impressive and includes voices by Sean Astin and Kirk Cameron. The story takes place when the Civil War is just beginning in the the United States, and presents characters who are fighting for the south. It follows them though the war and documents their struggles. It’s a take on the story I’d never heard in public school growing up. It was interesting for me to see things from a different point of view. I only ever looked at the story from the viewpoint of the north.
One of my favorite things about this story is how it presents war. Raising three boys, we see a lot of “guns” and shooting even though I don’t have play guns in my house. Got a stick? You’ve got a gun. Got a piece of broken wood? You’ve got a gun. At least that’s how my kids see it. I hate that shooting and killing seem to be a “fun” thing to them, despite teaching them what the Bible says about murder, and how we need to love one another. Anyway, the boys in the story are super gung-ho to go to war at the beginning, like boys off to play shooting guns. Later on, the reality of war sets in, and they talk quite a bit about how they want to serve their country, but they are not excited about serving in the war anymore. It’s different than they thought it would be.
The material is heavy. I won’t give it all away (and we all know how the big picture ends, anyway), but the scenes with slaves can be intense, even without the images to go along with the audio. My kids and I had not previously discussed slavery at length, and it is delved into deeply by this story. It created the opportunity to have many great discussions about slavery, war, the Bible, God, love, honor, duty, and courage. The study guide gives questions to talk about with your children for each chapter. We used these questions informally, by speaking about what was going on in the story. You could use them for formal discussion or testing if you wanted to as well.
Overall, we really enjoyed this production of With Lee in Virginia. I would love to hear more of their offerings in the future. Their engaging style in telling a story is very different from other things we have heard in the past. It’s refreshing and a welcome addition to our homeschool curriculum.
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