Monday, November 10, 2014

Remembering Veteran's Day and the Fall of the Berlin Wall

Tomorrow is Veteran's Day and we at BFB would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the veterans and their families who have made such incredible sacrifices for our nation. On celebrations like today it is easy to focus on the memories of the people who served and died during World War I and II and that is so very important. It is also essential that we not forget that we are a nation at war and have been for over a decade. Our armed forces are still put into harm's way every day and many return home bearing physical and psychological wounds. This Veteran's Day, let's not forget those who are serving amongst us today.

There are some excellent ways to observe Veteran's Day, check your local papers for details on parades, ceremonies, and other public events. Consider visiting with a veteran your family knows, or bringing a meal to a family who has a relative serving in the armed forces.

In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, illuminated balloons have been placed along the original 9-mile stretch of wall. Here it is seen from above at night. What an incredible visualization of a city divided.
Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall! If you were alive at this time, you probably remember where your were. I was nine years old and very confused about the idea of an "Iron Curtain" separating East and West Germany. Check out this video of the celebrations in Germany, including the release of balloons symbolizing the wall. Amazing! Other interesting articles about this historic event:

Pieces of the Berlin Wall around the World

The Berlin Wall is Everywhere

Reagan and Kennedy's Speeches at the Berlin Wall

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages.  To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here.
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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Literature Shaped Childhoods, or how every girl I knew growing up wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder

 If I had to choose one series of books that had an outsized place in my childhood it would have to be Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series. Whether is was being read aloud to me or I was sneaking the books off into my room to read ahead, the stories of Ma, Pa, Mary, Laura, and Carrie had a profound influence in shaping my love of reading. I wanted a dog like Jack, I thought that my wardrobe was horribly incomplete because I didn't have a brown and red calico dress (or any calico for that matter), I wished I had opportunities to prove I was adventurous and brave like Laura. And, of course, when I was picked on by a particularly nasty girl, I took solace in the fact that I had my own Nellie Oleson with whom to contend.  Isn't poor Nellie the villain that every girl loves to hate?

My two favorite titles from the series were On the Banks of Plum Creek and These Happy Golden Years and even now I can open those books up to my favorite chapters. Being the purist that I was at age 9, I was horrified to find that the movie versions featured a beardless Pa and swore to never watch them, a promise I have faithfully kept although it didn't take much effort.

I cannot wait to introduce my children to these books and so I was intrigued when I came across this article, Reading Laura Ingalls Wilders is Not the Same When You're a Parent. It's excellent and well-worth reading. The author, Amy Lifson, was similarly obsessed with Little House as a girl and writes about how her perspective on the books shifted when she began reading them as an adult and I can completely relate. The charm of the stories absolutely remains but there is a weightiness that comes when you begin seeing situations more from Ma and Pa's perspective as opposed to Laura's. The Ingalls lived a very very difficult life but I don't remember thinking that as a child. Yes, there were hardships and scary scenes (who can forget the story of Pa getting lost in the blizzard?) but the overarching theme was one of contentment and savoring simple pleasures. Despite the fact that danger and deprivation were often time scratching at the door, everything was fine when Pa played his fiddle long into the night. But now, I see these stories as a bit more harrowing and questions arise like, "Why were the Ingalls constantly moving?"and "How did Ma always remain so calm in the midst of so much constant uncertainty?"

Lifson digs into the history behind the stories and finds some real treasures. Letters between Laura and her daughter, Rose, help fill in glossed over details. These brings new light to something I sensed as a child but only fully realize as an adult and parents: Ma and Pa were truly remarkable parents. As quoted by Lifson:
Charles Ingalls was a hands-on dad at a time when gender roles were more distinct and fathers were often emotionally absent. Between the lines of the family’s travels is a guide for contemporary parents on how to smooth adversity with calmness and optimism. “Her father, particularly, must have been an incredible man who was able to distract them and entertain them and react to these situations as they unfolded with great equanimity, given the conditions,” says Fraser. He was the master of redirection, a code word in modern parenting, and found teachable moments at every turn. When Laura was crying over not getting what she wanted, Pa instructs her to look at the miles of Osage Indians leaving the territory. “Look at the Indians, Laura. . . . Look west, and then look east, and see what you see.” Laura choked down her tears, obeyed her father, “and in a moment she was still.”
As Lifson concludes "...Little House series isn’t so much a story of a young pioneer girl, but a tribute to her parents’ love, steadiness, and endurance." 

Returning to these books as an adult has been such a joy. I know this isn't always the case, but these books only get better. What books have you enjoyed returning to as an adult?

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages.  To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here.
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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Creating a Thanksgiving Celebration

Berg family Thanksgiving play circa 1992

It's almost November and that means Thanksgiving is right around the corner! As faithful readers of this blog know, I love Thanksgiving. This year all the Bergs will be gathering to celebrate it. Since our last Thanksgiving together in 2012, the family has grown by three grandsons and we are all excited to get our little guys together for their first Berg Family Thanksgiving. 

Our family has always done Thanksgiving in a big way. Whether it was a traditional dinner with extended family and friends or a gathering of immediate family, it's the holiday we "do" best. In years past there have been amateur theater productions featuring cousins in Pilgrim costumes. There have been long walks through fall foliage or highly competitive touch-football games before dinner. Dinner has varied from the traditional Turkey feast to a French-style fĂȘte modeled after Babette's Feast. While I may now cringe at the pictures of me in a pilgrim bonnet and we no longer put on theatrical productions, Thanksgiving still holds a very special place in my heart. It's centered on spending time with the people  you love and taking time to reflect with gratitude on the blessings God has so generously bestowed. 

Thanksgiving stories have always played a part in our family's celebrations. From recitations of Five Kernels of Corn to the breathtakingly amazing story of Squanto, the accounts of those who came before us always add meaning and dimension. Today I want to share a few of our favorites with you so that you can read these in the weeks leading up to November 27. 


This sweet book is perfect for introducing the history of Thanksgiving to your youngest children. Dalgliesh's Caldecott Honor title combines lucid text with folksly Americana illustrations by Helen Sewell. Beginning in England the book follows the Pilgrims on their quest for religious freedom to Holland and then to Massachusetts Bay Colony. Their devastating first winter and the help they received from the Natives all pave the way for a day set aside to celebrate God's faithfulness to this little band of brave seekers.

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Gorgeous illustrations accompany this story of Bartholomew, Mary and Remember Allerton. These young siblings relate their adventures aboard the Mayflower, a journey that took sixty days, and learn how difficult it is to carve out a new life in a wild and foreign land. Squanto and Samoset play a starring role in helping the Pilgrims grow their own food. Harness's illustrations and maps provide detailed information on geography, ships, farming and more. 

The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall

A long-time favorite, The Pilgrims of Plimoth is a bit more advanced than the previous two titles but just as lovely and rich with detail. Sewall's illustrations are sumptuous and her text is expertly research while being very approachable. Sewell includes quotes from journals kept by some of the Pilgrims, adding a first-person feel to the text.



Relating the remarkable story of Squanto's life, this book is a whirlwind of adventure. Eric Metaxas is one of our favorite contemporary writers and he does not disappoint with this children's account of Squanto. Many people do not know that when Squanto first approached the Pilgrims he addressed them in English! How did a Massachusetts Native come to learn to speak the Pilgrim's language? Learn about it and in the next title.

Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Robert Bulla
This account is among the best we've seen it tells the amazing story of Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe, who went to London with some of the first English explorers, was sold into slavery in Spain, and finally returned to America where he befriended the Pilgrims when they landed.

The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
The perfect family read-aloud this book tells in detail the story of the Pilgrim's quest to find a place where they could worship God according to their consciences. The Pilgrim's love of freedom played a significant role in the establishment of religious freedom in the States. Their willingness to give up the comforts they enjoyed in England, leaving behind family, friends, and possessions behind is a reminder of what so many have to sacrifice for their faith. 

William Bradford, Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith
This lovely book relates the childhood of the famous Pilgrim leader. Learn about his life in rural England and how he came to his strong convictions. Circumstances in his life prepared him for his essential role in the band of Pilgrims and children will enjoy hearing about his adventures as a child.

If you are interested in adding these titles to your library, give us a call at 800.889.1978 and we'll give you free shipping when you order all seven titles! 


All of these books will prepare your family for a Thanksgiving that's truly established on gratitude. One more way to prepare children is to make a Thanks Giving Tree. Ann Voskamp provides a beautiful free printable on her website here. Throughout the month of November, children record things they are thankful for on leaves and attach them to a tree. By the time Thanksgiving comes along you and your family will have cultivated an atmosphere of thankfulness that will be a wonderful blessing. 

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Lightbulb Moment!


Today Kathy continues relating her family's story of their journey to a Charlotte Mason approach to education. I'm sure many of you have had similar journeys and would love to hear about them in the comments below! Enjoy!


“First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality.”
                                                                                                                 -Napoleon Hill

While I was pregnant with our daughter, my husband I began to talk about the subject of education. Looking at it from the logical perspective, we had three options: public school, private school or home school. The public schools in our geographical area were teaching topics which were counterculture to our Christian beliefs. The private schools included the Christian faith in their curricula, but were too expensive. The final alternative was the words “home school” sitting on the table before us. As the old saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” so I began to research the topic of homeschooling. I remember leaving our local public library six months pregnant with a stack of approximately twenty books on the topic of home schooling. After sifting through the stack, I narrowed it down to three: The Well Trained Mind, A Charlotte Mason Companion and Dr. Beechick’s Homeschool Answer Book. I began reading voraciously.

The Well Trained Mind was reminiscent of the way I had been educated. Dr. Beechick’s Homeschool Answer Book provided answers to the questions swirling around in my mind; however it was the last book that truly caught my attention, A Charlotte Mason Companion. Knowing the background of my maternal grandmother’s education helped direct me towards this particular book. I had “seen the proof of the pudding” in her life and this was the educational experience I wanted for our child. Eagerly, I shared my discovery with my husband and began filing away mental notes for the future.

Fast forward three months. Our daughter was born at the end of August and immediately we began implementing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education via “living books.” Living books are defined as “books written by authors who have a particular fondness for their subject.” They are books which are well written, make the subject come alive and “get in touch with great ideas from great men”. I perused our book shelves, as well as the public libraries. Goodnight Moon, Blueberries for Sal, Winnie the Pooh, and Little House in the Big Woods are a few examples of the living books I selected to begin reading to our daughter during feeding time.


As the preschool years came and went, we began to think more seriously about homeschooling. My husband and I had defined our goals and objectives for education: 
~Create and foster a lifelong love of learning.
~Provide a solid academic foundation that will last a lifetime.
~Equip and prepare our daughter to be a leader, not a follower, in the 21st Century.

So with these goals in mind, we were faced with the question of how do we go about executing our educational philosophy? Initially, we settled for a pre-packaged curriculum that billed itself as “literature based.” In reality it led our child to information overload and her burning out on education. I retrieved my copy of A Charlotte Mason Home Companion and began to read again. On paper it looked so simple but in reality it seemed to be a daunting task. Where in the world could I find a curriculum that fit the Charlotte Mason philosophy? I remember reaching my wits end and praying for guidance one morning after my devotional time. After I prayed, I remember a friend asking me if I had ever read Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book, For the Children’s Sake. Within minutes I was online placing a hold for the book at our local public library. Once I began to read For the Children’s Sake I could not stop. Then one day while I was reading, the light bulb finally went on in my brain. Charlotte Mason isn't about using a particular curriculum it is about implementing the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education using "living books." God spoke to me through Susan's writing and I finally got it! Hooray! No more searching and looking for the perfect curriculum because now I understood what it was all about.


After the "light bulb moment" I got to thinking "How did my great grandmother implement the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education in her homeschool?" I remember my grandmother saying she only had Home Education and Comstock's Book of Nature at the beginning. From there she added books which met Charlotte's standards and ordered them from Sears and Roebuck or J.C. Penney and the Wells Fargo man would deliver them. From what I had gleaned from my grandmother’s experience and readings, Charlotte Mason is all about the implementation of the “philosophy of education" and how we apply it in our homeschools. I am so thankful God led me to Susan's book. I felt like a tremendous burden had been lifted from my shoulders and now our family could truly experience the truth that “the life of the mind is sustained upon ideas.”

Thank you so much for sharing Kathy! If any of you have similar lightbulb moments, we'd love to hear about them! And if you want to know more about the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy, check out the links below. You may also want to invest in a copy of For the Children's Sake. It's an excellent, inspiring resource you will turn to again and again.

Learn more about Charlotte Mason and our philosophy at BFB at the following links:










We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages.  To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here.
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Hooray for Real!

A while back we asked if any of you were using e-readers and the response was overwhelmingly "NO!" You spoke of the feel of pages, the smell of books, the beauty of books on shelves. And we agree. At BFB, we love our books and we're all avid book collectors. And while the reasons are often sensory or sentimental, there is now research that shows reading a printed book is better for our brains!

Recent research shows that e-reading and reading a hardcopy are two very different experiences. Science backs up the idea that reading on a screen results in lower reading comprehension, less retention, and reduces the relaxing effect of reading. All of these findings are something to consider as parents and educators. As students spend more and more time in front of computer and on tablets they are developing habits that could impede their ability to read for pleasure as well as hinder the development of reading skills such as plot comprehension.

There is fascinating research linking the tactile experience of reading a printed book with greater comprehension and retention. One 2014 study showed that people who read short stories from a Kindle had less retention of the story than people who had read a printed copy. And "slow reading", the sort required by a novel or long written work, is a skill that can be lost if it is not exercised. When reading electronically formatted articles or literary works, our reading pattern shifts into something more resemblant of skimming, as opposed to the concentrated reading that results in you being lost in the story. And if the book has hyperlinks built into the text, the distractions drastically increased and the ability to focus solely on the story is constantly interrupted. As we get more and more used to jumping around on our tablets, skimming articles, clicking links and jumping to other websites, our brain is being trained to process information that is not conducive to thorough, detail oriented reading.

I believe the ramifications of this lost skill are widespread, whether it's a reduced enjoyment of the relaxing practice of reading a novel, or accepting soundbite encapsulations of complex ideas and arguments, or a closing of one's world and experience due to an inability to persevere in reading a challenging story, we have a lot to lose. When children are not challenged to do anything more than read books they find to be fun and easy, there is a great risk that they will never come to know the satisfaction of making their way through a work like War and Peace. While we often talk about the pleasures of reading on this blog, I think it's important to sometimes remind ourselves that it is also a discipline and a skill that requires practice, especially for children. I was always an avid reader and it was not something I struggled to learn but I did have to learn how to persevere in my reading. I distinctly remember my mom assigning me Ivanhoe when I was about 12. Up to this point, reading was pure pleasure for me but I was in tears by the end of the first chapter. The exasperatingly detailed descriptions of a shepherd and the blades of grass being eaten by the sheep bored me beyond reason. I begged my mom to let me quit and read something else. She wasn't swayed by my arguments and so I struggled through, hating every second...until I suddenly was caught up in the fascinating story of Rebekah and the Black Knight and evil King. To this day I am not a fan of flowery Victorian prose, but I learned a valuable lesson in reading Ivanhoe. Reading is not always easy, sometimes it's work. But it will pay off. And the discipline of slowing down my frenetically paced reading, absorbing details, re-reading paragraphs and sentences that are especially beautiful is so much easier in a real book. So while the sentimental reasons for preferring books to e-books are still strong, we now know that they're better for our brains as well as our hearts. So take your kids to the library, give them books for their birthday presents, help them build their own libraries - it's a gift that will benefit their whole person.

To read more about the research on e-reading vs. reading as well as the relaxing and sleep-enhancing benefits of reading, check out this article.

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here. And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below.

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Family History

Today our Wisconsin rep Kathy shares the history of her family's journey to home education as well as a surprise connection to Charlotte Mason! 

“In every conceivable manner, the family is link to our past, bridge to our future.”
                                                                                                           Alex Haley

Kathy Alphs
Every homeschooling family has a story to tell of how it all began. For our family, our homeschool journey begins in the past. My maternal grandmother, Daisy had graduated from the sixth grade at the one room country school in her small rural town. Gram was not content to be known as a “sixth grade graduate.” She had higher aspirations. She had her eyes set on obtaining a high school diploma. In the mid 1900s if you were seeking higher education, there were two options: 1. Move to the nearest city which had a high school and board with relatives. 2. Study for four years and sit for the yearly high school examination. My grandmother chose the latter.

In the pursuit of this goal my great grandmother, Mary, decided to “home educate” my grandmother because in reality, it was the only option available. She acquired a copy of Charlotte Mason’s book Home Education and read through it voraciously. After finishing Home Education Grand Mary constructed a yearly lesson plan for my grandmother using the knowledge and insight obtained from Charlotte Mason alongside the Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs from which she ordered. Gram’s days were structured with short lessons in the morning and outdoor time in the afternoon
Charlotte Mason
For four years, Grand Mary and Gram followed Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education of living books, narration, habit training, short lessons, handwriting, dictation, poetry, Shakespeare, Plutarch, grammar, foreign language, art, music appreciation, handicrafts, nature study, outdoor education, Bible, history, and geography. The day to sit for the yearly high school examination finally arrived. Gram walked into the classroom with a positive attitude, determined to do her best. After the day of testing was completed she returned to her rural community and its way of life. A month later, the examination results arrived in the mail. Gram had the highest overall score in the group, plus she passed the examination of the first attempt. As an adolescent, I remember Gram sharing this story to encourage me while I was going through a particularly difficult time. After her passing, while going through her belongings, the high school diploma was discovered. Time had discolored the once white stationary paper to a cream colored tint, but the black italic lettering remained unaltered. As the diploma was passed around, I was able to share her story with the family members who were present.

Through the teachings of Charlotte Mason, Gram developed an insatiable appetite for learning and discovering. Her “love of learning” enriched the lives of those within her sphere of influence. When I stop to think about this particular quote from Charlotte Mason, “The question is not—how much does the youth know when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? And about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” I think back to this incredible, articulate woman and her passion for learning.

This is the first portion of how our family’s homeschooling journey begins in the past. Please allow me to share with you the second portion of our story. My paternal grandparents, Elliott and Lola, were descended from Brits who left England during the reign of King George III. They came to the colonies as masons and evolved into plantation owners, slave traders, and tradesmen who eventually migrated north.

While doing research on our family tree several years ago, I was able to trace our ancestors back to England. While going through the family tree, there was one name which stood out from all the others: Charlotte Mason. I had always felt a “connection” to the teachings of Charlotte Mason through my maternal grandmother, but here was the proof that I am actually related to her. My husband and daughter weren’t surprised when I gave them the news. They always had an “inkling” Charlotte was somewhere on my family tree.

Next time, I will be sharing with you my “light bulb” moment which led our family to pursuing a Charlotte Mason Education.

Bibliography
Mason, Charlotte. “The Original Homeschool Series School Education” pp. 170-171. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers Inc. 1989.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hear Rea on the Sociable Homeschooler

Rea Berg will be speaking with Vivienne McNeny, the Sociable Homeschooler tomorrow! The podcast airs at 12 central and you can access it here. Vivienne and Rea will be discussing the power of great literature and how to channel that power to shape our children's lives and character. Do not miss!