Review: Heroes of History--George Washington Carver

 YWAM Publishing has an outstanding line of biographies in their Heroes of History series.  When presented with 28 different titles to to choose from, my Nature Angel was very happy to select Heroes of History--George Washington Carver.

While there are a number of significant differences between the lives of George Washington Carver and my little daughter, there are enough similarities for my nature-loving girl to have found a hero/mentor.

Born under appalling conditions, and into slavery, George Washington Carver was kidnapped, along with his mother and sister, from his home at the Moses Carver farm.  Carver sent out agents to find his missing property, and eventually baby George was returned . . . but not his mother or sister.

Nature Angel's heart just about fell out of her chest as she read about these horrible events.  As she read, we talked . . . a lot.

A book that evokes strong emotion and elicits thought-provoking conversation gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

George was a survivor, and, surrounded by solid mentors, was able to learn to read, engage his senses in scientific observation, pursue an outstanding education, and leave a legacy of knowledge and determination.

And this is where Nature Angel found her own mentor in George Washington Carver.

She is a lover of art and nature . . . just like George Washington Carver.   Every chapter brings her to me, eyes wide with excitement, to tell me something else amazing about this amazing man.  She is so inspired by him.

A boon to Nature Angel's reading of this book is the companion Unit Study Curriculum Guide available in digital format.

(I'm not a fan of digital products, so, for a few dollars, I had the materials printed, covered, and spiral bound at our local copy shop.)

 It came in two parts:
1.  The main curriculum guide, comprising the bulk of the information
2.  A small set of consumable pages, including a fillable fact sheet, maps, and a timeline.

The Unit Study Curriculum Guide for this book is approximately 61 pages long.  It includes 8 chapters and 2 appendices.

1.  Key Quotes:
In this study guide there are 6 quotes by various historical figures that can be used for memorization, penmanship, essay prompts, discussion, etc..

A page of penmanship using one of the Key Quotes included in the Study Guide.

2.  Display Corner:
A list of physical items to create or find or research for a visual (and auditory) museum-like experience.

3.  Chapter Questions:
Questions for each chapter of the book.  There are 4 questions per chapter, and the first one is always a vocabulary word to look up and use in a sentence.  The questions vary from recall to comprehension to analysis in nature.

4.  Student Explorations:
These include several essay questions, creative writing prompts, hands-on projects, and audio/visual projects that relate to the book

5.  Community Links:
Suggestions for how and where to create a successful field trip related to the book.

6.  Social Studies:
 Suggestions for planning social studies projects in the areas of places, terms/vocabulary, geographical characteristics, timeline, and conceptual questions.
This timeline was included in the second section of the Study Guide.  It has some dates and a list of events from the book or related to it.  Nature Angel has done significant research in order to find the appropriate dates and mark them correctly on the timeline.

7.  Related Themes to Explore:
A chart with suggested cross-curriculum ideas that can spark further learning.  For Heroes of History--George Washington Carver, some of the ideas include making a study of scientific measurement, natural dyes, or the Civil War (among others).

8.  Culminating Event:
Suggestions for how to wrap up the Unit Study.

Appendix A:
Approximately 14 pages of related reading and study.  It includes more biographies about George Washington Carver, related YWAM biographies, related documentaries (including content advisories), related magazine articles, and internet sites.

Appendix B: 
Answers to Chapter Questions--answers are included for questions 1-3 for each chapter, but not for question 4 because these questions involve the student's opinion and personal experience.

A series of drawings by Nature Angel of her sweet potato as it sprouted roots.  We've since planted it in our garden and are waiting to see if it takes!

According to the introduction:
"This unit study guide . . . provides the schoolteacher and homeschooling parent with ways to use the book as a vehicle for teaching or reinforcing various curriculum areas, including
*Creative writing
*Movie critiquing
*Reading comprehension
*Essay writing
*History and geography concepts."

(I would add math, art, and science to this list, based on ideas presented in the guide.)

"As there are more ideas that could possibly be used in one unit, it is the parent/teacher's job to sift through the ideas and select those that best fit the needs of the student or students."

I agree.

This Study Guide (SG) is jam-packed with ideas.

Nature Angel and I sat down and looked the guide over and began to design a curriculum plan without realizing just how much was really possible.  We decided early on that her Culminating Event (SG ch 8) would be a PowerPoint presentation of images and ideas she learned about, and that gave us a focal point to aim for.  We looked the book itself over and found it had 16 chapters, so that lent some guidance as well.  But without deciding in advance just how long we'd work on this project, we began making a list of stuff to work on.

And our list got so long, that we've been working for 6 weeks, and we're still only half way through the book!!!!

After reading chapter 2 of Heroes of History--George Washington Carver, Nature Angel drew this picture of a scene representative of events in his early life.
In addition to reading a fine biography of an inspiring man, so far Nature Angel has:
--sprouted a sweet potato in a jar on the windowsill (SG ch 2)
--practiced cursive penmanship with the key quotes (SG ch 1)
--written answers to chapter questions (SG ch 3)
--looked up unfamiliar words in the dictionary (SG ch 3)
--produced a photo essay about a local plant (SG ch 4)
--researched George Washington Carver's peanut experiments/inventions (SG ch 4)
--worked on her PowerPoint presentation (SG ch 8)
 . . . and more.

I asked Nature Angel, "Is this dragging on?  Should we stop doing the activities and just finish reading?"

She answered with a resounding, "No!  I love the activities!  I'm not bored or tired of them.  Let's keep going no matter how long it takes!"

If that's not a favorable testimonial, I don't know what is.

One of her projects has been to regularly spend time observing the natural world around her--to be inspired by George Washington Carver's example.  Inspired by idea number 4 on page 23 of the Study Guide, Nature Angel draws what she sees.  The Study Guide recommends writing a poem, and that's still a possibility, but my drawing girl loves to express herself more visually, and the introduction to the Study Guide says to take the student's interests into consideration.

This is one of Nature Angel's favorite assignments.  George Washington Carver was an accomplished mycologist--second in the nation in his time--so Nature Angel studied local mushrooms and created this brief report about what she learned.  As she called me over to look at her final draft (though I do need to have her change "fungi" to "fungus" in a couple of places) she said happily, "I love projects like this . . ."

The Study Guide includes no calendar or curriculum plan.  It is a list of ideas and suggestions for study that the parent/teacher puts together.  On the one hand, this meant I had to sit down and organize a daily plan for Nature Angel--which I didn't love.  On the other hand, I was able to customize the activities and schedule for my girl and for our family convenience--which I did love.  I knew I'd get to the grocery store on a Tuesday afternoon, so I penciled in setting up the sweet potato sprout for Wednesday.  I knew our Thursdays were full with dance practice taking up much of the day, so I set up reading and penmanship--both simple things to do--for those days.  Having our activities match our schedule was a blessing.

Personally I'm torn between thinking it would be wise to use a calendar to limit the number of days of study in order to organize a manageable number of activities to accompany the reading versus just going with the flow.  We've had so much joy in exploring so many areas of study--even though we're taking a very long time to complete a single book.  I can easily see being able to organize an entire semester's study with a single YWAM biography and accompanying Study Guide.

Overall, we've found Heroes of History--George Washington Carver and the accompanying Study Guide by YWAM Publishing to be high quality biographical reading accompanied by enriching cross-curricular study.

To read about other YWAM Publishing books (Heroes of History and Christian Heroes: Then and Now) and Study Guides click here or on the banner below:


  1. I love the drawings!!

    We have done several of YWAM's books, but have never dived too deeply into the study guides beyond the questions.


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