YWAM Publishing has become a favorite in our home and we are always on the lookout for more of the biographies we don’t own so we can increase our collection. They have two series – Heroes of History and Christian Heroes: Then & Now
– that are well-written, well-researched biographies of important people through history. Each of the heroes has made contributions to history and shown courage through their actions and life lived. Each of the lives is focused on serving God. We received a softback copy of the book Heroes of History- George Washington Carver and a digital copy of the study guide to go with this particular book.
The YWAM biographies are easy-to-read books written by Janet and Geoff Benge. They are written for about 4th grade and up, though they are easily used as read alouds with students much younger. The research is evident that has gone into the books, bringing to life the people, places, and events of their lives.
We chose George Washington Carver because we knew of this man but not a lot about his background and life. Additionally, it fit well into the period of history we were studying – from before the Civil War and well into the 20th century. These biographies are perfect for adding into studies, as we did with the G.W. Carver book. They enhance and bring to life the era being discussed and they are always about influential people that deserve our attention.
We added the Carver biography to our morning time, reading two to three chapters each day. We would discuss the questions from the study guide aloud and once or twice, we pulled out a map to add to the discussion. There were vocabulary words that we included from the study guide, also. Many of these words we touched on as we came across them in the reading. These discussions and vocabulary words allowed us to talk about important topics such as racism, slavery, education, and advancement. We also talked about some difficult topics, again racism and slavery are part of that, but also words like lynching and what burning at the stake meant. It brought to the forefront a discussion about how people can choose to act certain ways and why it was tolerated by so many.
If you haven’t caught it yet, this book includes some very deep ideas about how to treat others, values, morals, and how all that should come out in the way people live. There are some difficult scenes that Carver experienced. We did not shy away from them and we talked about how those affected his life.
One way I knew that this book was worth the time we were spending on it was when Miss L asked about how long it was going to be before we got to the peanuts. You see, that is what so many people think about with George Washington Carver – peanuts. At this point we were about 3/4 of the way through the book. That allowed us to talk about how history can misrepresent people and their contributions in life. Yes, Carver did amazing things with peanuts. Yet, Carver had many, many contributions that were extremely important that had nothing to do with peanuts. His main goal in life was to help black farmers live better lives and to have better, stronger, healthier farms and families. And he did this in many ways.
George Washington Carver wrote hundreds of leaflets that were distributed to the farmers, telling them how to grow different plants, how to use different medicinal plants, how to preserve food, and how to get more out of their lands. Carver lived alongside his students at Tuskegee Institute and taught them as much about how to live an honorable and frugal life as he did about botany during his 50 years there. He strove to present a life beyond reproach. He lived in the midst of the racial issues but chose to address them with understanding and hope, not arguing or trying to force anything. And he made much headway with his approach, garnering worldwide attention and admiration.
The Book –
The softback book is 190 pages long. It covers the story of George Washington Carver’s life from infancy to death. His actual birthdate is unknown since he was born a slave, though to the caring and kind Carver family. He died in his upper 70s in Tuskegee.
George was a curious young man, always desiring to know and understand the way things worked. From a young age, he collected plants and studied them. When he was eleven, he left home to get an education, which he couldn’t do where he lived as he was not white. So, he went to find what he desired. He found kind families to help and house him, working throughout to earn his stay and keep. He often started his own laundry business to earn money to pay for his books and rent, especially as he got older and was still seeking education. This pursuit of education continued all of his life, though he ended up with a masters degree and a couple of doctorate degrees conferred upon him.
From being refused admission to a university because of the color of his skin to working for more than 50 years at Tuskegee Institute, Carver was a model of a life lived in pursuit of the good things – knowledge, understanding, and living as a Christian. He shared what he knew with others, freely, asking nothing in return except to try to live a good life and help others when they could. His work as a botanist brought him to understand that life had to change for farmers, so he taught them to change. He worked hard to find ways to make new products, such as the peanut, sweet potato, and cowpea, attractive and helpful. With hundreds of ideas of new product options and how it would benefit them, Carver brought about change for the farmers, black and white, in the south.
The Study Guide –
The study guide is a downloaded product, so you must have internet access to download it. After that, it is on the computer and you can access it without internet. There are two parts to the study guide – one is the main part of the study with the activities and ideas, the other is the reproducible worksheets and maps. I accessed the activities and ideas online, choosing to not print any of it, though it would have been easy to do so as it opens in a PDF. I did print the worksheet, maps, and timeline for use.
There are 8 parts to the study guide.
- Key Quotes
- Display Corner
- Chapter Questions
- Student Explorations
- Community Links
- Social Studies
- Related Themes to Explore
- Culminating Event
There is also a list of books and resources, as well as the answers to the chapter questions.
As I mentioned earlier, we added the chapter questions in as we read through the book. These included a vocabulary work, a question whose answer comes directly from the text, a comprehension question, and an open-ended question requiring and opinion or interpretation. Most of these came up naturally in the discussion of the chapters as we went along. The answers to these are found at the back of the study guide.
The student explorations allow the students to choose an area of interest to them and do a project in that area. It might be an essay or a creative writing assignment, such as a journal entry (GWC was known for writing every day in his journal) or writing a song or writing a newpaper article as might have featured George. The student might create a crossword puzzle or plant a crop or flower garden.
Miss J was interested in planting this year and so we chose some flowers from a local nursery and planted a flower bed to grow. As botanicals were something Carver was well-known for, she also chose another activity related to flowers. She created a botanical picture using sculpting, which came from a link we found in the list of books and resources. (This was from one of the teacher lessons by the National Park Service on the artist George Washington Carver.) She painted a piece of cardboard for a background and then sculpted some flowers for the pictures from air dry clay.
We also tackled some of the information from the social studies section, working on the maps related to where Carver lived and worked, as well as maps of the state of Alabama. There was a timeline included to mark important events on, such as the civil war, the Great Depression, the Emancipation Proclamation, and many other events and people, such as WEB de Bois and Booker T Washington. These help us key into other events that are around the same time and built that transferable knowledge that helps make history come to life.
Overall Thoughts –
We adore YWAM and the study guides they have to go along with the Heroes of History and Christian Heroes of History series. We highly recommend the books to everyone and can’t wait to find more for the girls to read. Miss E often asks for these as gifts so we will be looking at the homeschool convention this week to see if there is a booth to get a few more. We have previously reviewed the following books and study guides:
And on our shelves – well, we have probably 10 or 12 others. These are wonderful stories that are gripping and interesting and encouraging to live lives full of courage and hope and purpose.
Lori, At Home.
Click on the banner below to visit the Homeschool Review Crew and read about how other families used these books and study guides. There are stories on well-known, current people like Heroes of History- Ben Carson and others from that past that I would enjoy reading that go along with the vacation we took last fall, like Heroes of History- Benjamin Franklin and Heroes of History- Thomas Edison. Click below to find more to read!