Reading Level: ages 12 and up
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
Most everyone knows who Helen Keller was. Many people are familiar with the story of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, as a result of The Miracle Worker, but this book is Helen’s story in her own words. Born at Tuscumbia, AL, in 1880, the daughter of a newspaper publisher, Helen was a normal child until at nineteen months she contracted a high fever which left her blind and deaf. The book tells how she overcame her handicaps.
After Miss Sullivan came into her life, she learned how to read, write, and speak; then went on to school to prepare for college; and finally was able to enter Radcliffe. There are many references and allusions to the Bible throughout the book. I was especially interested in Helen’s philosophy of education. Writing about her experiences with classes in college with their laborious explanations that seldom stick in the memory and the ordeal of examinations over useless information, she said:
“We should take our education as we would take a walk in the country, leisurely, our minds hospitably open to impressions of every sort. Such knowledge floods the soul unseen with a soundless tidal wave of deepening thought. ‘Knowledge is power.’ Rather, knowledge is happiness, because to have knowledge–broad, deep knowledge–is to know true ends from false, and lofty things from low. To know the thoughts and deeds that have marked man’s progress is to feel the great heart-throbs of humanity through the centuries; and if one does not feel in these pulsations a heavenward striving, one must indeed be deaf to the harmonies of life.”
Sounds to me like what most homeschooling families are striving to accomplish!
This is not a complete autobiography; it was written when Helen was just 22 and still in college. One review I read suggested that it would be too dry for young people under sixteen, but I found it very interesting reading.
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