- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…”
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.
“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?