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5 reasons your child should read biographies.

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  1. Reading biographies teaches children about other countries of the world and their culture. Reading about a man like Sundar Singh will teach the reader the culture of the Indian and Tibetan people.  A poor child, in particular, may never get to travel to India or Tibet, but as he reads a biography, he can learn so much about the land where the individual lived.

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  2. Reading biographies makes learning history interesting.  Who wants to study textbooks and learn about times in history by reading short paragraphs summaries about interesting events?  Vicariously living in history through reading biographies is so much more exciting and memorable.

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  3. Reading biographies provides children strong examples of good character in action.  A parent or teacher can find historical figures who have displayed specific character qualities and personally choose biographies with the intent of developing character in their own child or student.  If one wanted to teach their child the quality of compassion, they might choose to read the biography of Amy Carmichael.  Of course, discussing the ways that Amy displayed compassion in her life will further develop  the child’s awareness of compassion.  Finishing by asking how they could develop this quality would help the student to personalize the quality and apply it to his life.

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  4. Reading biographies allows children to study leadership skills of great leaders.  The best way to learn leadership skills is to observe great leaders.  While one cannot go back in time to study the ways of General Douglas MacArthur or George Washington, for example,  but we can study the lives that they lead and the choices they made by reading biographies written about them.

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  5. Reading biographies will grow empathy in your child’s heart.  When your child reads biographies, he will be able to experience so many other situations of life that it will help him to be able to feel how other people feel in various situations. As authors write about individuals they often include thoughts the character would have been thinking, so even if your child does not willingly empathize, the author will teach them this skill.

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Family fun – impromptu style

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Last night we bought a few more bingo markers (used for our pointillism art lesson previously) and posterboard.
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After cutting each piece of posterboard in half, everyone used a pencil to draw a picture and proceeded to “color” it in with bingo markers.

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Our color options were limited to red blue, black, purple, and orange.

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My son is a map-loving kid. He decided to draw a map of Europe.

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Our youngest made a sunset with three birds flying in the sky.

We had a good family time working on our paintings…and showing daddy about pointillism and Georges Seurat.  It was fun to show him a painting and then using the zoom feature get close to the paintings to see the individual color points closely and separate.

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This was fun and cheap too!  All of the paper and paint was less than $10 at Dollar Tree.

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A tree – the trunk is made by tracing a hand and arm.  (I saw this somewhere on pinterest last week.)

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A shield and sword

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The finished map of Europe – from memory.

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The finished ocean scene

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My husband’s horse

I just wanted to share our fun evening with you.  Maybe you can give this idea a try some time.

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Geography – continent study as a family

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We have chosen Apologia’s Around the World in 180 Days as our high school World Geography text.  Three years ago, on a whim (or so it seemed at the time), we began a study of the continent of Africa with almost all of our children.  We used the 180 Days text as our jumping off point.  It is so versatile, since it is primarily a book full of questions about the world.

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As you can seen this book has some wear and tear.  🙂

We started in Egypt.  We began answering Sherrie Payne’s questions.  We learned about upper Egypt and lower Egypt.  The next assignment was to describe the climate of Egypt.  We did a little research – I had the computer, and we used google chromecast so that everyone could see what I found on our tv screen.  (We love that!!)  I don’t even know if we made it entirely through the first page before we decided to watch Joseph, King of Dreams and Prince of Egypt.  During our study of  Egypt we listened to the biography of Lillian Trasher.  We went online and found that the orphanage which she began in Egypt is still thriving today.  That was an exciting realization for me.  It is a blessing to see how the LORD has preserved that ministry to this day.

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At a certain point we began to read the biography of David Livingstone, and we followed his path throughout the continent of Africa.  Day by day, we proceeded through the unit on Africa.  Some days we put more time into this study than others.  It was definitely a relaxed learning time as a family.  In just a few pages, we came on a two page list of Map Activities.  This turned into finding each country on the globe/map.

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We discovered that we could find a video on almost every country in Africa by searching on youtube.  I did choose to preview most of these videos, and I do highly recommend that you do so.  Dealing with the countries of Africa, as in most countries, you will find disturbing violence, nudity, and other concerns.  We chose a variety of videos.  Some were tourist presentations.  Some videos helped us to understand the volatile government of specific countries.  Watching these videos about each country grew our knowledge to an amazing depth.  We watched missionary videos, videos explaining wars, videos about natural land formations, and videos from mission teams.

Another blessing for our family is that we had the complete set of Dispatches from the Front videos.  These videos helped us to understand the difficulties that Christians are facing in various areas of Africa.  We learned about the religions of specific countries. We took rabbit trails as they presented themselves in our study.  These 3 months of study were so full for our family.

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Our 3 year old personally fell in love with Africa, and especially he has claimed Mali as his favorite.  This study reached his heart.  He could spot just about anything pertaining to Africa when we were out around town.  When he played with rocks in our front yard, he found a rock that was shaped like the continent of Africa, and we still have that rock.   One day I came out to our living room to find him hugging the continent of Africa on our world map blanket.  I pray that God will use this love of Africa for His glory.

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Not long after we completed our study, we went to my parents’ home along with my brother’s family.  His wife took my mom and I into the guest room that day to tell us that my brother was being deployed to West Africa for approximately a year.  I am thankful that our study of Africa did not seem to bring my kids to too fearful of a state at the time.  We love the military, and we knew that my brother was in danger.  This allowed my brother to be a witness for Jesus Christ to those who were deployed with him in a very real daily way. While he was there, we were made aware that there were attacks within three miles of where he was.  Of course, it was not “fun”, but what we learned as we studied Africa helped our understanding and concern for my brother and the military units he was with.  We are so thankful that God positively answered our prayers, and my brother arrived back on American soil safely.  Praise God for His protection.  And we also praise God for all that we learned about Africa.  I know I would love to go to Africa some day.

So….we are moving on.  We are getting ready to do a thorough study of Europe.  Looking forward to it!

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I love it when God does this!

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Today we spent some time talking about this week’s character quality, composure, the ability to remain calm in the middle of confusion and frustration.  After lunch I was reading with my third grade daughter.  We started this biography of George Washington Carver.

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We took turns reading paragraphs in chapter one.  In one of the early paragraphs my daughter came across one of this week’s spelling words.  We continued reading, and in the last paragraph of chapter one, the author talked about Susan Carver trying to keep her composure as she cared for George after his mother had been kidnapped.  It is just a sweet blessing in my days when this happens, and I can hardly believe how frequently it happens.  Thank you, LORD!

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Eric Carle Styled Art Project

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I have loved Eric Carle’s books ever since I first became aware of them during my college years.  Yes, Children’s Literature was one of my favorite classes.  Going on to teach Kindergarten just further solidified Eric Carle on my list of favorite children’s authors.

Some time ago I made a playlist of all of the Eric Carle books that I could find on youtube.  (HERE)  I really appreciate that I can find good books read aloud by various readers and recorded for our benefit.  We find it convenient to have them saved ahead of time and ready for when we want to listen to books. While I was looking for more of Mr. Carle’s books recently, I stumbled on a few biographical videos and movies of Mr. Carle’s life and work. I saved these new videos to another playlist. (HERE)  My favorite was the video below.  Mr. Carle’s life story is inspiring.  Since my husband emigrated from Germany as a child, we especially were interested in Eric Carle’s life in Germany.

This week I shared this video with my children, along with the ones explaining Mr. Carle’s collage techniques.  Then while the playlist of his books played in the background we began to make our own collages.

We chose to print out these two silhouettes of birds to use for our collages rather than having to focus on the drawing of the silhouette.  I wanted them to focus on the art of collage.

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The bird on the front of this Eric Carle collection is what impacted me to choose a bird as the subject of our art project.

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I gave the children very little instruction because I wanted them to be creative rather than trying to model their projects after mine.  We had a little construction paper, and a wide variety of wrapping paper.  I crumpled the red wrapping paper to give it the worn white lines.  Then the kids got to work.

Step Two – Tear or cut pieces of paper to put on the bird silhouette.  Some glued their paper in the outline of the bird and trimmed.

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Some tried tracing the outline of the bird on their paper.  That did not work very well.

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And some tore or cut pieces of paper and fit them together like a puzzle.

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As you can see, they all have individual styles.  We were pleased with each one.  Maybe we are a LITTLE biased.

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One of the benefits of this project is that younger and older children can both succeed.

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After my 10th grader finished some of her other subjects, she asked if she could make one also.  I liked that she added extras details to finish her project.

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All in all, this turned out to be a really fun morning for us.  These projects are definitely ones that I intend to keep for a long time.

I would you encourage you to try a collage with your family.  If you do, I would love to see your finished work also.

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To Every Nation – Book Review

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As I have mentioned recently, I am purposefully focusing on character development in our education this year.  As a result of this decision, I ordered To Every Nation by Kim Sorgius for my 7th grader to use for social studies this year.  I made this choice with a little bit of hesitation, not because of the book, but because my 7th grader has bucked a bit about reading biographies in the past.  Over the weekend I showed my daughter To Every Nation on the Not Consumed web site.  (Here)  She didn’t complain.  (YAY!!!)  Since there are 12 biographies to read , she will need to read 1 biography and complete the accompanying pages of To Every Nation every 3 weeks.  I pointed out to my daughter that when she has completed the biography assigned for a given 3 week period, the rest of the time she can read a book of her choice until it is time to begin a new biography.  My daughter did ask if she could just read all 12 biographies and To Every Nation back-to-back and then read other books the rest of the year.  I find that agreeable, so we made that change of plans.

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Monday morning, she began reading the biography of Hudson Taylor.  Two times she has brought up to me specifics about Hudson Taylor that she didn’t understand or agree with, and she did ask if she had to finish the book.  I reminded her that she doesn’t have to agree with every decision Hudson Taylor made, but to finish the book and see how God used that choice in his life or ministry.  Thankfully she continued on without much complaint.

On Tuesday, To Every Nation arrived, and  my 7th grader commented that she liked the book.   (This is good.)   She even commented that she likes the feel of the cover.  🙂  I spent some time looking through the entire book, and I was so glad to see specific character qualities being highlighted for each of the 12 missionaries studied.  These qualities each have a special focus – endurance, virtue, honor, forgiveness, faith, sacrifice, focus, perseverance, service, compassion, patience, and contentment.  What needed topics to cover with our children!

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For each Christian Hero biography that is read, Kim has a 2 page biographical sketch, 2 pages regarding the country where the individual served and their ministry, a timeline page, a page spotlighting the quality being studied (including personal application!!), and copywork of a verse that fits the quality focused on.  This makes 8 pages each for the 12 individuals being studied.  I am praying that the LORD will use the study of these missionaries and our God to help my daughter grow and develop her character.

At the conclusion of this class, I plan to post a follow-up post with my daughter’s and my feedback about this class.  Stay tuned!

*The only textbooks / curriculum I will promote on my blog are what I am willing to use, am using, or have already used in our home.  I will include an affiliate link if I am an affiliate.

Purposeful Character Development through Reading

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This morning our 5 year old and I walked Daddy to the car when he left for work.  Everyone else was still sleeping.  As we walked inside, he asked me to sit on the porch while he played in the back yard.  We have had an enjoyable hour and a half to ourselves. (!)

I brought my phone and the Book of Virtues with me.  I was intending to get my Bible reading in and skim the Book of Virtues for a literature idea I am working on.  I can’t say that I accomplished either completely, but I did get some thinking in.

On the page following the introduction to the Book of Virtues, William Bennett shared a portion from Plato’s Republic.  Since I have been working to focus more on developing character through our schoolwork, Plato’s words really grabbed my attention.

“Shall we just carelessly allow children to hear any casual tales which may be devised by casual persons, and to receive into their minds ideas for the most part the very opposite of those which we should wish them to have when they are grown up?   We cannot….Anything received into the mind at that age is likely to become indelible and unalterable, and therefore it is most important that the tales which the young first hear should be models of virtuous thoughts…”

 

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As I think about his writing and particularly what the Bible says about our thinking in Philippians 4:8, I see a 2 part determination that must be present in our reading choices and literature classes for our families.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
We must determine 2 things.

1.  We must not present our children favorable examples of bad character in our reading choices. (or viewing choices!)

It is for this reason, when my oldest children were young we decided not to watch particular programs (even on PBS!), because the producers made the parent(s) look like idiots or because a bratty child was not corrected and disciplined.    It is for this reason that I do not offer reading choices which include profanity, witchcraft, or anti-God themes.

2.  We MUST also teach our children to choose to read (and think) on things that pass the Philippians 4:8 test.  You will notice the verse does not say “don’t think on bad things.” It says, “think on these things.”

Is this honest?
Is this just?
Is this pure?
Is this lovely
Is this a good report?
Is this a virtue we should model?
Is this praiseworthy?

For me, this means I am not offering my children literature such as Harry Potter.  It means we don’t watch Caillou and Arthur.  (There are other books and videos that are ruled out, but those are the ones that came to mind just now.)

For us, this is why we love to read biographies of great people in history and virtuous literature.  This is why my kids love to watch “Friends and Heroes” and read the Jesus Storybook Bible.

How would you apply this to your reading and tv viewing choices?  What woud you leave out?  What will you pursue?