Historical fiction is a favorite genre for the girls to read, especially if it is from YWAM Publishing. I often find the girls browsing through the biography section of the library, scanning the spines of books for the brown color with the distinctive print of a Christian Heroes: Then & Now book. The opportunity to review a book and curriculum guide from YWAM is always exciting so our selection to receive Christian Heroes- Gladys Aylward was exciting.
Christian Heroes- Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime by Janet and Geoff Benge is the true story of the Christian missionary to China. Gladys had desired to be a missionary and tried her best to pass the required to classes to be sponsored to go to China but she just could not do it. They did not think she was cut out to be a missionary and that she was too old. (Can you imagine being too old to do the will of God?!?) Gladys would not accept their choice and decided that she would just have to get to China on her own. So she did.
Through many difficulties (frostbit, war, no money and more), Gladys finally makes it to China. She makes her way to where Mrs. Lawson is, though Mrs. Lawson never truly expected her to show up. She dug in, learned the language, how to work hard, how to do what needed to be done. And, she spread God’s word. Even after the death of Mrs. Lawson, Gladys stated with the people Yangcheng, teaching and helping them. She became very trusted, even to the point that the mandarin (ruler) of the area sought her out for assistance.
Gladys did many amazing things: stopped prison riots, became the foot inspector in charge of assuring that foot binding had stopped in the province, taught, nursed, and more. But she is best known for an amazing feat – assuring the safety of hundreds of children during the war.
Gladys’ story is one of remarkable courage in the face of unbelievable odds. Trust in God, knowledge that He is the one who cares and provides, is the overarching theme of the story of Gladys Aylward. It is one of strength and power of the God Almighty. What a marvelous story for our children to hear.
The story alone is magnificent. But, if you couple it with the unit study curriculum guide from YWAM, you have a unit study that takes you beyond the story into the heart of the missionary, the areas of England, Russian, and China, and a time of war. By adding just a few of the activities from the curriculum guide, you open up the story to additional understanding and an increased ability to remember some of the lessons from the story.
The curriculum guide comes in a downloadable format. Once you download and unzip the file, you can access an additional short biography of Gladys, a “Meet the Authors” page, and the unit study. The unit study is in two parts – the first is the written activities and ideas; the second is the printable maps and worksheet.
The first part, the written activities and ideas, is extensive. There are tons of ideas and activities. From comprehension questions (with answers provided) to vocabulary words, there are plenty of the expected activities. You will find maps to mark the places and geographical locations mentioned in the books, as well as lists of ideas of the places to mark (with page numbers from the book to help you know which part of the story that places corresponds to). There are ideas for community involvement, displays, hands-on activities, and projects.
Our family chose just a few of the ideas since we have already moved into summer mode but we love doing unit studies that allow for flexibility in intensity. We worked on the maps. Using a map to relate to the story is always beneficial. I read the book out loud with Miss J (age 8) and I used some of the comprehension questions with her. Miss E (13) and Miss L (age 11) both read the book on their own and then talked with me about what they read, with me thinking through some of these questions to guide the discussion. Each of the girls chose one of the Bible verses to illustrate or memorize. Miss E also decided to combine this Bible verse with the Related Themes sections of the guide.
Related Themes basically gives some examples of ideas that are related to the missionary story and where it took place. One of the themes from the book that was of interest to Miss E is the foot binding – when did it originate, why was it continued, what were the physical properties of it, when was it abandoned as a practice, etc. This related to her theme and a speech she wanted to write. She is still working on the speech and the research of foot binding.
The guide also lists a number of additional resources directly related to the story, as well as some that are less directly related but might be of interest. We used a few of these but found many were not available through our library system. Instead, we used the idea of supplemental materials and I located books, videos, and other materials to go along with the study. I kept these in our book basket for the girls to pull out on their own. We watched a couple of documentaries on China and some illustrated folk tales from China. We will continue to pick and choose activities for a bit longer, as we find them interesting.
The curriculum guide is not necessary to get a lot out of the story Gladys Aylward: The Adventure of a Lifetime but it definitely brought the story even further to life for us. If you would like to read an excerpt from the book, visit the Bonus Section for the Heroes Series. There is a sample with a couple of chapters from Gladys Aylward, as well as some more specific information about the curriculum guide. This page also includes lots of extras like word puzzles, crosswords, and coloring pages for various books.
It is difficult to say enough good things about YWAM Publishing. Their series Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History are both excellent history resources, well researched and easy to read. Challenging the mind to think about the people, the decisions they made, and what they chose to pursue, these stories are well suited as a read aloud for a family but can easily be read by a 10 year old student who enjoys reading. They are definitely appropriate from that age on up. Though a high schooler might find a more challenging read more suited, there is much to be gained for all ages by reading the books of these two series.
Other families reviewed different books from these two series. To read what other families from the Homeschool Review Crew thought and to find out about the book titles they reviewed, click on the banner below.