Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Meet our West Coast Reps

Today we're introducing our new West Coast representatives. You can meet these ladies at the CFS Expo, CHEA Anaheim, the Great Homeschool Convention, and at CHEA Modesto.

Samantha Lam
Sam has written several entries for our blog (read them herehere, and here) exploring her homeschooling journey. She teaches her three boys at home and has used our curricula for two years and has been homeschooling for four years. Her sons Josh and Jordan are finishing 3rd grade and are about to turn 9. Josh has had some special needs including autism, ADHD, and dyslexia. Her youngest, Jacob, will be five this summer and has started his kindergarten curriculum. Of homeschooling she says, "I am grateful every day that I get to be with them and their teacher." She is passionate about education and had jumped into her role as a rep with both feet! She also helps lead children's ministry at her church and loves to read and quilt in her free time. Oh, and she's a great baker! 

She had this to say about the retreat:
Photo by Lisa Sulewski
"What a wonderful time we all had at our retreat just 3 weeks ago. It’s always a wonderful time to be able to sit and listen to one who has had more than 30 years’ experience homeschooling multiple types of children successfully. What a joy it is to be able to glean nuggets of experience from Rea, but also being able to spend the weekend in the company of other woman who not only homeschool, but have the same passion for the Charlotte Mason method of teaching. Although I have been homeschooling for four years and was fortunate enough to begin at the beginning with my boys, in kindergarten, we switched from a classical method to a Charlotte Mason method just two years ago, and I find there are still little areas of my educating that have been forgot to be attended to in a CM way. I get so easily entangled in colorful curriculum that looks “fun” that I forget to take a true minute to examine and see if the method really supports my new philosophy. But I guess that is part of growing a new philosophy, that it doesn’t happen overnight, and does take time to grow into my own personal philosophy of learning and teaching and living and being. I am so grateful for a few days to be able to ponder these and deeper thoughts, and also have tons of time to laugh and sing and play. What a wonderful weekend it was."

Karyn Chung
Karyn was born and raised in Los Angeles and has been married to her amazing husband for 14 years! They have two boys, Nathan (12) and Shane (8 1/2) who she calls her "warriors". During our weekend together I was struck with her passion for character education and formation in her sons. She loves discovering used bookstores and finding treasures there to read while sipping tea (often from one of the china tea cups she's collected). Her eye to detail and experience in interior design and event planning came through as she added sweet touches to our table at mealtimes. She enjoys gardening and time together with girlfriends laughing while they decide who gets the latest book find. Karyn is such a calm presence to be around and is a wealth of information on finding and sticking to the best educational methods for your family. Here are her reflections on the weekend:
How beautiful it was to spend a weekend surrounded by women who share the same desire to gift their children with a love for great books!  There’s something extraordinary in exchanging with another mom an experience we’ve had watching our children light up when they’ve read a story that prompts their minds to think about what they’ve read, and compare it to their own process of thinking or life choices.  What continually stands out the most from this weekend is, “there’s power in story”.  Over and over again, this theme rang through all of our conversations.  It’s this truth that inspired me the most, a truth I hope to instill in my two young warriors.  Thank you, Beautiful Feet Books, for your heart-felt desire to deposit something incredibly special into the lives of our family!    
Karyn also shared about her homeschooling experience on our blog and you can read that here.

Vanessa Hill
Vanessa and her husband are the founders of an amazing ministry that provides mentorship and support to fatherless boys. She also homeschools her nephew and daughter and has shared how homeschooling has brought her family closer together and forged connections and fostered love. You can read more about Vanessa's story here. Here are her thoughts on the retreat:
I had such a glorious, refreshing, and magical time with all of you. I am convinced that Beautiful Feet Books are not only the most fun and adventurous time of the day, but it’s our opportunity to bond and connect to each other and the human heart. I am so grateful that God has led me too this.  I loved hearing everyone share their stories over laughter, and delicious beautifully arranged meals. The Nicoise salad was just fabulous. Kathy’s passion and quiet yet fiery spirit about her convictions just brought delight to my soul. I along with her, am assured that I want to do every curriculum that is out there with my children or by myself if they are unable to. These amazing stories teach my children, along with myself, the essence of compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and that they too, are part of a great story. I will be shouting “Beautiful Feet” from the roof tops until I am old and gray. I have stumbled upon treasure and look forward to seeing how many more families are impacted. It’s so beautiful to witness the hearts being evoked through history and great stories through literature. I had such a memorable and warm time."
Lisa Sulewski

Lisa was first introduced on our blog here and I know many of you enjoyed looking at the pictures of her children's notebook work. She was born in Arizona but has called California home for the last 25 years, following her move here to help plant a church with 30 people. That church has grown to have hundreds of members and Lisa is still a part of it! She's been married to her renaissance man husband for 18 years and homeschools their daughter and son. She loves photography and is working on building her family photography business. She also has become an expert on the location of the best used bookstores throughout southern California! She is in love with books and has passed that love on to her children. Never one to be at a loss for words, Lisa had this to say about our weekend together:
Photo by Lisa Sulewski
I had the privilege and  most extreme pleasure in being able to participate in a marvelous and inspiring retreat with Beautiful Feet Book’s Rea Berg, Rebecca Manor, Josh Berg, and a group of passionate moms!  So lucky was I!! The Beautiful Feet Book’s family is zealous about passing on the legacy of history and literature!! It was an honor to learn from their intensity and grow and pass it on. I loved loved learning from Rea and her reinforcing that my ministry is influencing my children and what better way than through stories that lead to empathy. It is not about just mechanically reading a story but molding my children’s heart through them. Of course, this only happens with the best books and I am always and will be forever inspired by their desire to feed children’s minds and hearts with excellence. They are constantly trying to find new ways of doing this with their ideas of more literary guides of heroes for boys and girls. It was amazing to hear from Rebecca and her love and knowledge for history through her new Medieval guide. I am excited about my children learning from her! Their hearts to meet all of our needs was displayed through their teaching, hanging with family, food and fun! I am so grateful to learn from and pass on all that I have gotten from Beautiful Feet Books!!
All of these ladies are so inspiring and we're excited for our west coast customers to be able to meet them. Here's their schedule so far:

CFS Expo in Escondido, CA May 9-10.

CHEA in Anaheim, CA, May 29-31.

Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, CA June 12-14. If you register through this link, a $5.00 donation will be made to the Patty Pollatos Fund.

Valley Home Educator Convention in Modesto, CA July 25-26th

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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Monday, April 21, 2014

Meet our New Representatives!

This year we've started working with six new representatives! After nearly 30 years of attending home school conventions, we decided we needed some more regular help. We now have six new representatives who will be working in southern California, Louisiana, Texas, and Wisconsin! If you live in these areas, you can meet these wonderful ladies at the state home school conventions this spring as well as smaller events throughout the year.

In order to get to know one another better, we had a training session in Santa Barbara where we were able to talk about education, Charlotte Mason, inspiring a life-long love of learning, chat about our favorite children's books, and much more. Each of these women is wonderful in her own right and I felt privileged to be able to listen to their experiences and gain from their wisdom. Being with them and seeing their dedication to their children's education–not just intellectual but spiritual and emotional–was encouraging and energizing. Today I'm happy to introduce tow new representatives who will be working with us in Wisconsin and Louisiana/Texas.

Samantha Millard
Many of you may know Sam from the Beautiful Feet Homeschoolers Yahoo group she moderates. She's been volunteering her time with this for years and has provided support to countless homeschooling parents who have questions about our study guides and methods. The group is a wonderful resource that is entirely independent from BFB and is run and moderated entirely by volunteers.

Samantha is the mother of three children ranging in age from 8 to 16 and has always taught them at home. When not busy teaching and moderating the BFB group she enjoys heirloom embroidery, smocking, and sewing children's clothes! Music is a huge part of her life, both in the church she and her husband minister at. She's also a great cook and has been learning how to cook Cajun food since moving to Louisiana. She loves to come alongside moms, "helping them learn to listen to their instincts and nurture their children from babyhood all the way into aldulthood." 

"Our weekend with the Beautiful Feet Books team was refreshing, inspiring, and challenging. Getting away for a girls' weekend in a such a beautiful location was refreshing to my soul. We ate wonderful food, shared our stories, laughed, cried, and bonded. It was amazing to be with a group of people who have the same love for their families, educating themselves and their children, and beautiful literature! As we each shared our stories, there were many moments of laughter, nods of agreement, and often tears as we were touched by the impact that beautiful literature and these incredible curriculum guides have had on our families. I was inspired by the stories I heard to delve into the Character guide with my family in our evening readings. I felt myself challenged to read aloud more to my older children. But perhaps the best treat of the weekend was to get to know the family behind this wonderful curriculum. Seeing their love for the books and the impact this kind of education has had on their family confirmed for me that we are on the right track. My heart has always led me in this direction, but sometimes doubts can creep in and cause me to question my choices. It was so obvious to me by the end of the weekend that this curriculum is serving my family well and that this is a product that I believe in and want to share with other homeschooling families."

Samantha will be presenting for BFB at various homeschool groups in her area. Stay tuned for more information as we will be posting that as events are confirmed.

Kathy Alphs 
Kathy will be representing us in Wisconsin and is a passionate advocate of following an eclectic approach to education. She and her husband have been teaching their 14 year old daughter from the day she was born, reading aloud to her and fostering what Charlotte Mason describes as an "atmosphere of learning." Kathy's educational approach melds together Charlotte Mason (of whom she's a distant relative!!), classical education, Thomas Jefferson, and unschooling. She's been using BFB study guides for the past seven years and is a wealth of information. You can meet her at the CHEA Wisconsin, May 29-31! She will also be sharing her thoughts on our blog and I know you will enjoy reading what she has to share about education.

She had this to say about the retreat:
“'Words are how we think; stories are how we link.' Christina Baldwin
As I sat around the patio table, I was awe struck by the stories which were being shared. Each woman’s story was different, but the stories linked us in a common bond. Our common bond is the implementation of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy through the use of 'living books.' 'Living books' nurture the imagination, feed the soul, and stir the conscience. It was amazing to see how one woman’s influence has rippled out and touched the lives of those who were participating in the discussion and those within each woman’s sphere of influence." 

Tomorrow I will introduce you to the the West Coast representatives and provide information on the conventions you can meet them at! 

First four photos compliments of Lisa Sulewski Photography.

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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Friday, April 11, 2014

Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay: Mentors of the Modern Home Schooling Movement

This is Part V in our BFB Fundamentals Series. 
Click on the links to read Part IPart IIPart III, and Part IV.

By Rea C. Berg


The year 2014 marks the thirtieth anniversary of the publication of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for the Home and School. Neophytes to home education back in the early 1980s (as most of us were) found in Macaulay’s book a call to a model of education that resonated with something deep in the human heart—something most of us had only inklings of. Macaulay was the first voice to articulate the teachings of Charlotte Mason in a way that was challenging, inspiring, and reflected many abstract thoughts circulating about education but not yet formed into a cohesive paradigm. Over thirty years later, Macaulay’s work is visible in nearly every quarter of the homeschooling world, where the legacy of Charlotte Mason is seen in countless ways.

Intrinsic Value of the Child as an Individual

How did the work of Charlotte Mason, as revitalized by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, shape the grassroots home education movement as it emerged in the early 1980s? While their vision and impact is difficult to quantify, I think there were three very distinct ways in which these two women impacted the education of hundreds of thousands of young children and by extension their parents. The first was a call to a sense of the intrinsic value of the child as an individual. Mason stated that “children are born persons” and challenged parents and teachers to really get to know, study, and respect the children God has put into their lives.1 Elaborating on this point, Macaulay noted that “Charlotte Mason not only said she treasured the minds of children, but she acted upon that belief, [she] enjoyed sharing the good things of life with the eager minds of children. She dealt with them on an eye-to-eye level . . . delighting in introducing them to all aspects of reality with a positive joy. She delighted in their separate individuality.”2 I remember distinctly how these thoughts impressed me—a busy young mother with four little ones under six. Never having seen this kind of parenting modeled growing up (where the motto was “children should be seen and not heard”), I hung on every word and labored to implement delight and joy into mothering and educating my four. As I learned to see my little ones with an eye to their individual gifts and intrinsic uniqueness, Mason and Macaulay taught me how to love my children better and how to relish the gift of life expressed through each of them. When Macaulay pleaded: “Where are the friends and lovers of children?  Who will open up the wonderful windows into the whole of reality and let their capable minds be stimulated?”3 I knew that I was the one to do that for my children. Mason and Macaulay gave me a vision of nurturing motherhood that was fresh, challenging, and consistent with a Biblical worldview. It required energy, passion, intelligence, and devotion, but promised the gratification and satisfaction of exploring the wonder and beauty of God’s world alongside my children. We would become fellow pilgrims journeying together in a great adventure of learning.

“Twaddle-free” education

Based upon the foundation of the intrinsic value of the child, Mason and Macaulay demonstrate how to provide children with a rich adventure in learning.   That was the “twaddle-free” course of study.4  This phrase, coined by Mason, reflected a course of study free of textbooks and workbooks–both women lamented what they viewed as the watered down, uninspired, pedantic nature of so much that passes as educational curriculum. The very nature of institutionalized education spawned the birth of curriculum designed to keep classes of children engaged eight hours a day. Macaulay decries this approach to education, noting 
. . . how colorfully and scientifically our generation talks down to the little child! What insipid, stupid, dull stories are trotted out! And we don’t stop there. We don’t respect the children’s thinking or let them come to any conclusions themselves! We ply them with endless questions, the ones we’ve thought up, instead of being silent and letting the child’s questions bubble up with interest. We tire them with workbooks that would squeeze out the last drop of anybody’s patience. We remove interesting books and squander time on ‘reading skill testing,’ using idiotic isolated paragraphs which no one would dream of taking home to read.5 
Ruth Beechick, in her book You Can Teach Your Child Successfully, echoed this notion by pointing out that presenting our students with information that is “pre-digested, pre-thought, pre-analyzed, and pre-synthesized . . . depriv[es] children of the joy of original thought.”6  The cultural critic Neil Postman, who was most popularly known for his book titled Amusing Ourselves to Death, suggested in his book, The End of Education, that often knowledge is presented as the accumulation of facts, dates, times, places—trivializing the pursuit of knowledge to the extent that “there is no sense of the frailty or ambiguity of human judgment, no hint of the possibilities of error. Knowledge is presented as a commodity to be acquired, never as a human struggle to understand, to overcome falsity, to stumble toward truth.”7Sadly, in the current trend toward academic efficiency there is often a neglect of works of quality and enduring value for the “convenience” of books that contain neither literary beauty nor status in the world of children’s canonical literature.
What Charlotte Mason insisted upon rather than “twaddle” was a course of instruction rich in classical, historical, and biographical literature. Young children should have a diet full of folk and fairy tales, oversized picture books beautifully illustrated, Bible stories and tales of talking animals. Even Shakespeare could be introduced to young children of third grade in a book such as Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare. Literature should never speak down to children, but rather should engage them intelligently and respectfully. The best books for children do this naturally. 

Embrace the child’s tender years

What has become an oft-repeated tale in the current trend of academic rigor is a neglect of the tremendous wealth of young children’s literature. At a recent speaking engagement I was dismayed to hear from numerous parents of young children who knew nothing of the above authors, not to mention Charlotte Mason. Following an educational trend, they were missing one of the greatest joys of parenting—the vast treasury of glorious children’s books!  The beauty of Mason’s philosophy was the freedom she allowed parents and teachers to embrace the child in their tender years with literature suitable for innocent minds and hearts.  Rather than imposing education from without—following a pre-determined scope and sequence set by others—Mason trained us to see education as a matter of the spirit. The world of knowledge is brought to the child through gradually expanding circles of understanding.  In other words, the simplest fairy tales, folktales and picture books for the young one, then stories of our country for the primary child—and gradually moving on to the stories of other lands and places as they mature in understanding and scope. As we imgres-1explore the beauty and wonder of God’s world with the child, we nurture the spirit, validate the individuality of each young person, and respect the unique gift that every child is. 

An unlimited treasury of rich children’s books

From the moment a child enters the primary grades, the choices for a course of study rich in historical, biographical, and classical literature are unlimited. No young child should grow up without the wonderful works of award-winning authors like Meindert de Jong, James Daugherty, Arnold Lobel, Ruth Krauss, Alice Dalgliesh, Robert McCloskey, Ingri and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire, William Steig, Virginia Lee Burton, Beatrix Potter, A. A. Milne, Brinton Turkle, Marguerite Henry, Munro Leaf, Marguerite de Angeli, and many imgres-2others. In my view, Mason’s and Macaulay’s promotion of “twaddle-free” curriculum was their second most salient contribution and one that birthed an entire industry of rich literature-based programs.

Stories that make for wonder . . .

Two decades ago, those who implemented Mason’s paradigm discovered wonderful benefits in family life. Since most of us were products of traditional classrooms where textbooks comprised the bulk of our education, the opportunity to immerse ourselves and our students in a world rich with literature afforded us an opportunity that enhanced our personal lives dramatically. We became passionate about literature; we read books we had always wanted to read; we journeyed to other times and places in our imagination; we walked in the footsteps of others and understood better their joys, sorrows, and triumphs. In the process of doing all of this our hearts were enlarged, our relationships with our children were strengthened, and we learned empathy and compassion for others. C. S. Lewis referred to this process as the “baptism of the imagination”—an apprehension of that which is pure, true, and beautiful, and ultimately holy.8   Ruth Sawyer, the children’s author and critic, said the best children’s works are
. . . stories that make for wonder. Stories that make for laughter. Stories that stir within, with an understanding of the true nature of courage, of love, of beauty. Stories that make one tingle with high adventure, with daring, with grim determination, with the capacity of seeing danger through to the end. Stories that bring our minds to kneel in reverence; stories that show the tenderness of true mercy, the strength of loyalty, the unmawkish respect for what is good.9
The ability of great stories to speak to the human heart is a powerful tool in our parental tool chest.  The added beauty of reading aloud together with our children is that the books we read often have incredibly valuable lessons to teach us as well.  As our children watch us respond to the characters, events, and lessons we see in literature, they learn appropriate responses to all the vagaries of human life.

The Gift of Play

Finally, Charlotte Mason and Susan Macaulay emphasized the profound importance of play in a young child’s life. When a child is children-playing-philippines_40412_600x450nurtured and fed upon the best books, the natural outcome is a rich imaginative life. From the treasures of imagination comes the delight of play—free, unstructured, play-acting of the stories lining the shelves of the mind. The importance of this cannot be overstated. In our hurry-scurry world it is often free play that gets pushed out of the schedule in our endless shuttle to soccer games, violin lessons, church choir, youth group, gymnastics, ballet, etc. etc. Added to that, even the home schooled child may have play squeezed out in pursuit of academic excellence. Pity the childhood sacrificed on the altars of scholastic achievement. Of this pitfall Mason warns:
There is a danger in these days of much educational effort that children’s play should be crowded out [or what is the same thing] should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than about work. We do not say a word against the educational value of games (such as football, basketball, etc.) . . . but organized games are not play in the sense we have in view. Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.10
The rapidity with which children can pick up and play, anywhere and everywhere, is a testament to this wonderful God-given impulse in human nature. I have often been distracted from my homeschooling lessons by an important phone call, an email message, or an unexpected visitor. In every case my children disappear from their “assignments” and can be found donning dress-up clothes, building Playmobil cities, or dancing across the kitchen floor. While in former times I found this irritating, I now understand how wonderful it is. Play’s caprice is something we ought to delight in and embrace. It is a fruit of children who are loved in their homes, nurtured by a steady diet of rich literature, and secure in the love of their family and their God. It is a reflection of the God who made us for His pleasure–a God who delights in bestowing joy.
The teachings of Charlotte Mason, brought to a new generation by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, are truths that stand the test of time and bear sweet fruit. Nurturing our children’s individuality, providing them a twaddle-free curriculum, and allowing them the gift of play, are as peaceable and easy to entreat as they are simple and sensible. Thirty years after their clarion call was sounded, their reverberations continue to ring true with all who are childlike at heart.
Attention all California friends!  Be sure to sign up soon for the Great Homeschool Convention June 12-14 in Ontario, California.  Remember that if you sign up through Beautiful Feet Books here, BFB will donate $5 to the Brent Blickenstaff fund to help the family through this present crisis.  In my next post I will present a synopsis of the three sessions I’ll be presenting at GHC, so be sure to watch for that.  The three sessions include: Charlotte Mason Meets Plato: Restoring the Joy of Education in Your Home, American History Through Literature, and Character Through Literature.  Looking forward to seeing you there!
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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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Reading for Emotional Health

I recently came across a wonderful article entitled "Deep Calls to Deep" written by Joseph Prever. In it he speaks about the power of story to speak to us during the difficult times in life, often in unexpected ways. Growing up in a literary family he was exposed to literature far beyond his comprehension and only later was able to appreciate the formative role it played in his life. And only later was he able to understand the emotions faced by the characters he encountered. It's a beautiful article and one that I'm sure you will find encouraging. Click here to read.

The section of the article I found exceptional and very moving was where he talks about being exposed to the gruesome images of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. And he asks a question we're often asked at BFB and answers it much more eloquently than we have been able to!
Is it safe to expose children to such dark images? I think so, or as safe as any real poetry can be; poetry is no tame lion. At that age, I had no categories in my mind for real darkness, and so the darkness couldn’t get in to do me damage. But the image stayed; which meant that when the reality showed up years later, I was not defenseless.

What a beautiful way to put it. In the past decades we've increasingly sterilized the images we place before our children. While the original Grimm fairy tales were in fact very grim and often disturbing, we're no longer willing to tell stories of cannibalistic women living in candy houses and instead opt to present stories of princesses attaining self-fulfillment and tales where dreams come true and everyone lives happily ever after. This may be a good thing, especially when it comes to evil stepmothers wanting to be rid of their stepchildren, but when it comes to great literature one must ask, "Are we limiting the ability of our children to deal with the difficulties life will inevitably present them?"

When one considers the stories that speak most deeply to us they are not the tales of everything turning up roses. They are the stories that provide guidance to us in the decisions and situations we face in real life.

Whether one seeks relational wisdom from Jane Austen or encouragement from Psalms, great literature is not made up of cotton candy tales. When I was young I spent hours staring at the illustrations that accompanied a fantastic children's version of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. These were pictures of frightening monsters, dark valleys, daunting mountains, and treacherous companions. I remember friends of my mom expressing their surprise that she allowed her children to be exposed to such a violent book. This despite the fact that Pilgrim's Progress is one of the great literary works of Christianity. Just as Prever later found solace from the poetry his mother read to him, I've found myself comforted by the story of Christian's perilous journey. Reading the original last year was enriched by the images I carried with me from that children's version read so long ago. And through the ups and downs of life I take comfort in the fact that just as Christian faced obstacles, he was also granted periods of rest and renewal. Even in the darkest points of life, I am reminded by Bunyan's poignant tale that this too shall pass and while I do not have the ability to see beyond the next moment, Christian's faithfulness in a multitude of challenges and situations reminds me that a single period does not define a life. It's now an overused cliché that life is a journey but it's also true and I know of no other piece of literature that illustrates that point more clearly. Pilgrim's Progress reminds me to cherish the sweet days, persevere through the difficult ones, and give thanks throughout. And that is the power of great literature.

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! 

1st image source: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hansel-and-gretel-rackham.jpg

2nd image source: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/henri-martin/young-girl-reading

Friday, February 28, 2014

Fun Links for the Weekend

Here at BFB we love reading articles, books, and other blogs relating to history, education, and social studies. We would love to be able to write full blog entries on every interesting article we come across but that just isn't possible! So, we're going to provide a weekly roundup of interesting articles and post it each Friday. We hope you enjoy reading these links as much as we have! It's always good to have a reminder that history is the fascinating story of people just like us!

Historical menus - anyone feel like trying boar's head? 

Encouraging reminders for homeschooling moms.  

Letting kids run free may have some unexpected benefits!

Hugely popular historical twitter feed is run by two teenagers.

Can quitting actually be a beneficial skill?

treasure trove of photographs of Queen Victoria will go on display at the Getty Center.

Children should be allowed to lose.

Today in history.

A suggestion for one of our favorite read-alouds.

Have a fantastic weekend.

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, February 24, 2014

Is BFB Classical?

This is Part IV in our BFB Fundamentals Series. 
Click on the links to read Part IPart II and Part III

By Rea C. Berg
Dear Friends,
In Part IV of our series BFB Fundamentals, we are exploring the question of whether or not Beautiful Feet Books is classical in nature. As we noted in the previous post, until the definition of classical is clarified, the question can become one of semantics and may lead to simplistic conclusions.  Because classical is currently the homeschool paradigm de jour, examining some of its well-accepted tenets should prove helpful as you determine which path is right for you and the students you serve.

What does contemporary classical homeschooling mean?

Classical education as a home schooling model first became popular as the 20th century gave way to the 21st and has remained so since. For those of us who began home schooling in the 1980s, classical education was the new kid on the block.  As with any fad, it swept many in its wake and provided some folks with solutions to the failing standards they saw in public education as well as in the more relaxed homeschooling model.  Its emphasis on a rigorous academic approach seemed to guarantee the creation of scholars who would take positions of leadership in law, medicine, government and so forth.  This would be achieved through implementing the trivium as we noted in our previous post.

Stage One: The Grammar Stage

Early Greek educators did not view education as the process of three distinct stages, but as soon as students could read and write they were reading the classic Greek texts.
Early Greek educators did not view education as the process of three distinct stages; as soon as students could read and write they were reading the classic Greek texts.
Modern classical proponents ascribe to the notion that learning takes place in three distinct 4-year phases of a student’s life. While these phases may seem to correlate to the physical and intellectual development of the child, the bland acceptance of them can prove problematic. In the grammar stage of the classical approach (also known as the poll-parrot stage), emphasis is placed on pouring into the student facts (indeed “masses of information”-as one promoter put it) as children are supposedly sponges ready and willing to soak up facts of every kind, and can easily memorize these facts. Theoretically, later on, in the logic stage, these facts will be drawn upon as the child begins to reason. While this approach fits some students well, especially those gifted in memorization, other students, particularly those not gifted with the ability to retain masses of disparate facts, flounder. The focus on pouring information into a young child is based on the notion that in the grammar stage children will unquestioningly accept what is offered.
But is this 4-year cycle based upon a truly classical approach to education?  Did the ancients view education through this 12-year paradigm to which modern classical proponents ascribe?  As Diane Lockman points out in her helpful article “Classical Education Made Easier“, the ancient Greeks did not separate the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. Students became proficient in reading, reasoning and speaking as they studied the classic texts of Greek literature with an emphasis on copy work and reading and reciting aloud.
An authentic classical Christian education, as developed during the ancient Greco-Roman world and later refined by the Western Europeans and American colonists, involved mastering three fundamental skills so that the student could then explore the deeper meaning of abstract ideas for the purpose of influencing society.  Three chronological stages were never part of the original interpretation.
The Charlotte Mason approach asserts that all children, regardless of age, are capable of reason, delight, appreciation of beauty, and  that “Education should aim at giving knowledge touched with emotion” (For the Children’s Sake). Pouring information into a child for the mere goal of “filling the brain with facts” defies the essential nature of classical education–the desire to teach children to think. True education cannot ignore the spirit of the child, his basic need to feel connected in some way to the studies at tumblr_moe00wJ7U91rrs6fio1_500hand.  At Beautiful Feet we believe this is done through literature’s emotional connection–the ability to identify with others through the power of stories of literary beauty and historical import.  A quick narrative read of historical facts (standard fare in most classical approaches) that offers no literary beauty and no connection to the great questions of the human condition, fails to meet the standards of a truly classical education.

Begin at the beginning: the four-year cycle of history study?

Additionally, the current classical notion that history studies must begin at the beginning (with ancient history in first grade) is another layer of artificial construction upon an already artificial 12-year model.  Classical education’s promotion of a four-year cycle of history instruction seems reasonable and the repetition (“what we don’t get the first time around, we’ll be sure to pick up next time!”) provides reassurance.  While the four-year cycle approach does provide that revisiting, it doesn’t consider the question of age and developmental appropriateness for subject matter. This concern is dismissed by promoting the notion that while studying ancient history with your first grader, one can just focus on mummification, gladiators, and chariot races; in effect this belies the basic notion that ancient history can be taught to a first grader.  The resultant “classical” studies are cultural in nature, not historical. Indeed, Oxford Reference defines history as “the study of past events, particularly in human affairs”–the study of history necessitates the focus on events.

History, taught classically  . . .

So how does one approach historical studies with a truly classical view to nurturing in young students reading, reasoning, and speaking skills? In essence, this can be accomplished in much the same way as the ancient Greeks did it–by exposing children to the best age-appropriate literature which is relevant to their times and culture.  For a young American child this means the best children’s books on the early saga of America’s great story, much as the Greeks read Homer and studied Plato–the stories of their ancestors, the history of their nation.  A child gifted with the knowledge and appreciation of his own historical heritage better understands his or her place in the world and from that foundation can embrace the beauty and the heritage of other nations and cultures.

So, how does this answer our question, “Is Beautiful Feet Books classical?”  If one looks at some contemporary notions of classical, then the answer would be, “No.”  On the other hand, if one perceives classical as incorporating Socratic reasoning and discussion, engaging with timeless literature (age appropriate), eschewing the use of textbooks and bland narrative works, and involving students in the Great Conversation about the important issues of the human heart, then yes, Beautiful Feet Books is classical.

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