We love to travel the globe in our studies and one of our favorite things (besides sampling the food) is to learn about missionaries that are serving or have served in our current location. My go-to resource for this is Christian Heroes: Then & Now from YWAM Publishing. Most recently, we have been reading through Christian Heroes- Jacob DeShazer: Forgive Your Enemies as we visit Japan.
The authors, Janet & Geoff Benge, know how to reach their audience! From the first pages, we were drawn into the story as Jake (Jacob DeShazer) jumps from a B-25 just before it crashes. He is somewhere over China, during WWII. Then, we jump (pun intended) back to his childhood and follow him through his Army enlistment and training leading to the jump. We cannot help but to want to read more, following this adventure.
The chapters are fairly short and the writing at a level that most 12 year olds will be able to read this on their own. As with many of the interesting books we find, we read this aloud. We could easily read a chapter a day during Lettuce Time (our morning time). The middle chapters took us through Jake’s time as a Prisoner-of-War (POW) of the Japanese. The conditions and treatment of the men helped my children to see that war is more than battle scenes in movies. It was during this time that Jake also gave his life to Christ. That was an interesting conversation as my younger children assumed he was one because he went to Sunday School and church as a child.
Which brings up the appropriate ages for these series. There was nothing objectionable about what we read, but these series being reviewed, Christian Heroes: Then & Now and Heroes of History, are generally for upper elementary (10 years old) and older. YWAM publishes a series for younger learners, ages 5-10, Heroes for Young Readers. If you have little learners, we highly recommend this series for you family.
The rest of the book covers Jake’s life after the war and his subsequent return to Japan to serve as a missionary. I don’t want to reveal too much, but I think you can figure that much by the title. This has been a great book to read with my children. The conversations sparked both during the reading and in the time set aside to use the study guide have been delightful and heartfelt. I love seeing my children grow in their love for the Lord and in seeking Him.
Is it only homeschool families that feel the need to expand everything into a learning opportunity? I don’t think this is comes only from a mama perspective. My children are always asking questions, wanting to know and explore more of what we are reading. They play and re-enact what we read and have discussions with each other and with us, their parents. It is wonderful to have a prepared resource to help guide these learning opportunities. YWAM has a study guide for many of the titles in these Heroes series, both the older and younger series.
The Unit Study Curriculum Guides can be used to plan activities across many subjects. Writing, critical thinking, mapping and more are covered via printables and hands-on projects. Many of these things we did orally: key Scriptures to memorize, Chapter questions, and poetry. We read how Jake both composed his own poetry and memorized a poem in one of the books given the prisoners. We spent time one afternoon composing our own haiku. Two of my daughters also experimented with origami and calligraphy. The suggestions and helps in the study guide give many options to pick and choose from. You can tailor the activities to your learners and their learning styles. Some of the things are best suited to small groups while many can be done individually. You can choose from downloadable study guides or the guide on CD.
Piled high with books and accompanying resources, the YWAM tables are a “must-see” when going to homeschool conventions. I always come home with new treasures for our family. Brother Andrew and David Livingstone are recent additions to our shelves. You’ll find Heroes of History, Christian Heroes and Heroes for Young Readers in printed books (some titles in Spanish), ebooks and audiobook formats (not all titles are available in all formats). To really expand upon the impact of these moving biographies, get the accompanying study guide. If you like to tie this in to your regular history studies, there is a list which puts them all in chronological order (I love this!).
Fellow Crew members have reviewed other titles from the Heroes of History and Christian Heroes series. Click the image below to read their reviews.