- 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!
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.
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!
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.