Ben Carson, A Chance At Life (Review)

We have been very fortunate to have been chosen as reviewers for  YWAM Publishing (Youth With A Mission) before during the years I have been a member of the Homeschool Review Crew. This year, we were so lucky to receive my very first choice, Ben Carson, A Chance At Life, along with the accompanying study guide.

There is a reason I really wanted this particular title to review with my boys. As you know, we have built our family by way of adoption. Two of our boys, “Mr. Loquacious” and his twin “The Puzzler” are biracial. It is so very important to me that as they are getting older (they just turned 16, which is so hard to believe!) they learn that it is not true that the only path for them is to follow the street crowd. One of the boys has had some problems which stem from his early life, and had been headed down the path of thinking the best thing was to look like, talk like, and act like a “gangsta.” He’s been working hard at moving back into the correct direction, but this story showed him and my other boys that eve coming from poverty and a hard life, one can go so far, if they work at it!

This book doesn’t actually open with the early days of Ben Carson’s life. The very first little (two page) chapter, more of a prologue, really, shows us Ben, looking around at all of the famous people sitting with him at the 1994 Essence Awards at the Paramount Theatre in New York City. He was there, being honored as one of the African-Americans who have made significant contributions in each of their fields.

Here are my twins reading the book together.


Right after this prologue, we go directly to the early life of Ben Carson, at the age of eight. It was then that he discovered something had happened, and his mother had made it clear that his father was no longer welcome in their home. All she would tell her son was that “He’s done some real bad things, and now he has to pay or them.” She told Ben “This ain’t his home no more.”

At that time, Ben, his mother Sonya and his brother Curtis lived in Detroit. It was not easy to be a single mother in the 1950’s. Sonya Carson went to work as a domestic servant, working two, and sometimes three jobs at a time to try and make ends meet.

At some point during that time, his mother began going to church, as did her son’s. There came a Sunday when the message so moved Ben and his brother Curtis, that they both went forward to commit their lives to Jesus. It was then that Ben told his mother he wanted to be a doctor, having heard such a message about missionary doctors.

Ben’s family moved to Boston for a while to live with relatives. Unfortunately, he did very poorly in school, failing almost all assignments. Eventually, the school did vision tests on the students and discovered that Ben could barely see anything on the chart! His mother took him to an eye doctor, and when he came back to school with his new glasses, he was astounded at what he could see written on the board, that he had never even known was there! But Ben was still not doing very well in school, so his mother told him and his brother she was going to pray on what she could best do to help them.

Mrs. Carson prayed, alright, and then she came home from one of her jobs and snapped off the TV! She told them that from now on, they could have two programs a week and that was it. She told them from this point on, instead of coming home from school to watch TV, they had to get to the library and check out at least two books. Each week, they were to read both books and write a report on each one.  Ben soon realized his mother was right, and it was not impossible to do this. He didn’t know it at the time, he never knew until many years later, his mother couldn’t read or write. she wanted so much more for her boys.

Later, in junior high school during the early sixties, he discovered how much racial strife was erupting. He was one of only a few black kids in a mostly white school, and got a lot of threats. His anger kept building and one day, he’d had enough and hit another boy back who started a fight with him. he hurt the boy, because he didn’t remember he still had his locker padlock in his hand. He was ashamed, because he knew a Christian boy shouldn’t do that. But, that wouldn’t be the last time his rage would erupt. It would happen again one day when his mother bought him pants he didn’t like. He said he wouldn’t wear them, and when she said he had to, Ben swung on her, and had to be held back by his brother. Having been through this with one of my twins, I know how very important it is to get the child to turn around in direction.

Eventually in high school, Ben was also in JROTC, and working hard to get his life on track. And he did well at it, too.

Ben went on to Yale, and did his medical residency at Johns Hopkins. Ben Carson went on to become the first neurosurgeon to successfully separate twins who were joined at the head, having to separate their brain.

I’m sorry that this book ends when it does, because I think it’s a really big deal that he has gone from poverty as a child to now being the Secretary of Health and Urban Development.

Now, the unit study, as are all of the studies from YWAM Publishing, is really great in that it fleshes out the information in the book.

The unit study gives us the following things to work on:

  • Introduction
  • Key Quotes
  • Display Corner
  • Chapter Questions
  • Student Explorations
  • Community Links
  • Social Studies
  • Related Themes to Explore
  • Culminating Events
  • Appendix A: Book and Resources
  • Appendix B: Answers to the Chapter Questions
  • Appendix C: Social Studies Reproducibles

Now, we are still working through this, because it’s so interesting and there is so much available! We have mostly used oral discussion during this study, but are looking forward to going back over this study and going even deeper with it!

We had Corrie Ten Boom, Keeper of The Angel’s Den last year, and in 2013, we had George Washington: True Patriot. Having now read three books from YWAM Publishing and used the unit studies, we have become huge fans of this company! So far, we have felt them to be exceptionally good reads, very historically accurate, and accompanied by wonderful study materials to bring them further to life!

100 Homeschool Review Crew Members reviewed YWAM publications, both Heroes of History and Christian Heroes : Then & Now. To read what the other 99 crew members and their children think of the abundant choice of heroes, please click the banner below!

Christian & History Heroes {YWAM Publishing Reviews}Crew DisclaimerAs always, I would just love it if you would join me in all of “My Journeys Through Life.” Just go to the subscription box at the top of the blog and enter your email information. After that, you will always know when there is something new happening. I hope to see you here very soon! -)

1 Comment

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One response to “Ben Carson, A Chance At Life (Review)

  1. Mary AnnHunter

    I love your comments. We are all human beings, God DidNot die for a certain race. HE died for all. Dr. Ben Carson is in a position he knows best. You really wrote a great article. Thank you for what you were saying. I love your boys,all 4 for them,Alex, Ian, Maurice and Melvin.

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