Thursday, July 23, 2015

Brain Training with Jane Austen

We all know that exercise is good for your body. Now research confirms what we've known all along, reading is brain exercise! Neuroscientists and radiologists and humanities scholars have put together a fascinating interdisciplinary study to determine what happens to the brain when you read. It's always been assumed that reading helps develop the parts of your brain associated with executive function (decision making skills). What was surprising about this test, in which participants read sections of Jane Austen novels while laying in a MRI machine, is that blood flow increased not only to the executive function areas of the brain but also other areas showing that reading is good for the entire mind. Additionally, different areas lit up if the subject was reading closely or more casually  showing that both types of reading have value. So different areas benefit differently depending on whether the subject is paying close attention or simply reading for pleasure.

As one of the study authors stated: "it's not only what we read – but thinking rigorously about it that's of value, and that literary study provides a truly valuable exercise of people's brains." In an era when the focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) subjects are given (in my opinion) an outsized importance, it's good to see research that emphasizes the importance of reading. What makes this study so interesting is how it highlights the benefits of rigorous reading. This is important to keep in mind when our children and students complain about the difficulty of a book. Difficult reading becomes easier over time and this science shows why. So, encourage your students to press on in their reading of tougher titles. It's a discipline that will pay off in the long run. Of course, if your student is getting discouraged and wanting to quit reading entirely, peddle back and choose books that she enjoys to balance out the more difficult titles.

On a personal note, I remember being 11 or 12 years old and my mom assigning me Ivanhoe. This was the original. It's a tough read, especially for a youngster. And before the first chapter was over, I was in tears. It was ridiculously detailed (in my young expert opinion, ha!), the author used far too many fancy and long words and there was nothing enjoyable about spending 45 minutes reading
multiple pages that described a shepherd. I wanted to quit. But I was not allowed to and as I tearfully persevered it got easier. Soon I was looking forward to learning more about Rebekah, the Black Night and all the other colorful characters that dance through the pages of Sir Walter Scott's classic. Even now as an adult, if I've spent too much time away from the difficult classics, I know I have to push through the initial shock to my brain and that the reading will become less labored as my brain gets used to a more elevated style of writing.

To read more about the study, click here. And if you've experienced something like this, share below. Or if you have advice for encouraging young readers to tackle more difficult writing, chime in!


Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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, July 17, 2015

Homeschool Veterans: Meet Keisha!

Meet Keisha, a homeschooling veteran of over 25 years! I love what she has to say about giving students the time and space they need to overcome challenges. Such an important reminder! Keisha brings a lot of wisdom, gained over two decades of teaching six children! Enjoy our chat!

BFB: What originally drew you to homeschooling?
Keisha: At the time I began homeschooling, I had three children in public school. The oldest was getting set to graduate and the other two were in elementary. One of the elementary students should probably not have began school when he did because in hindsight he was not emotionally ready, though chronologically and academically he was. Each year the gap widened for him and he struggled with his peers. I had heard vaguely of homeschooling and began to explore the possibility of this for him. But then, of course, the other child wanted to as well. 

BFB: How long have you been homeschooling?
Keisha: I've been homeschooling since 1989, we adopted a sibling group of three in 1996 and a singleton adoption in 2003. He is now 11. 

BFB: How did you discover Beautiful Feet Books? Has the philosophy behind BFB influenced how you teach other subjects?
Keisha: A few years into homeschooling, I became acquainted with the Charlotte Mason philosophy but there was no existing curricula then so I would piecemeal what I could but always with the literature-based concept. Once we adopted we found our new family had more challenges that necessitated us working through many issues. So our goal wasn't curricula as much as it had to be about meeting deficits and needs. One of the children had an interest in horses and we found BF offered a study on that topic and used it to meet that interest. Our remaining child, now 11, has had many challenges and he was unable to endure any academic pursuits until about four years ago. We have had to go slow and concentrate on his reading , 'riting, r'ithmetic skills and then each year our goal is to raise the bar for him. By 3rd grade (age 10), I was able to read lots of biographies aloud to him. This past year, grade 4, I finally thought we could do a curriculum and selected one that embraced the CM philosophy and methodology. However a few months into it, I knew it was a wrong choice. The book selections only produced a deer in the headlight look from him and we were getting nowhere with it. Thus began a search on what was out there that would be literature based,  What I didn't realize fully was that the issue also was having him in ancient history with irrelevant books that he couldn't identify with. Hence we found BF again and made the call and ditched what we were doing and jumped in to more appropriate history for
him. I am fast-tracking him with the Early American Primary level so we will be finished soon and I have already ordered our next year guide and am looking forward to implementing it at a more reasonable pace. 

BFB: What has been the greatest joy of homeschooling? The greatest challenge?
Keisha: My greatest joys in homeschooling have been many, but only two out of the six that I've homeschooled began with me at the beginning, so it was unbelievable to see them take off with reading and writing. Probably the greatest challenge has been working with children that had learning issues and trying to decipher what would work for them. 

BFB: What is one thing you wish you had known when you began homeschooling?
Keisha: The one thing I wish I had known at the beginning is that I could give myself permission to not have to feel that it had to all be accomplished in a day. These are our children, fearfully and wonderfully made, and I might say unique as well, they are not cookie cutter vessels that we fill, they have struggles like us, and may need extra time to push through obstacles that arise give them that space and time.

Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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, July 13, 2015

The Loveliness of Reading Aloud


I came across this quote in an excellent article by Meghan Cox Gurdon on the joys of reading aloud. Having been given the gift of a childhood in which reading aloud took place every day, I appreciated Gurdon's passion for the subject. And now as a mother myself the article confirmed that the time I'm spending reading Little Blue Truck over and over again each day is an investment in a future time where my son will curl up next to me while we read The Wind in the Willows, The Boxcar Children, and other favorites from my childhood.

The author of the article also made several great points on the benefits of reading-aloud. In lives lived helter-skelter and rushing from one commitment to the next, making reading-aloud a priority has become increasingly difficult. Add to that the ever present allure of the internet, iPad, TV, and other screens, reading aloud can seem like a quaint and charming relic from the past. But it shouldn't be so
easily dismissed. As Gurdon states, "To curl up with children and a good book has long been one of the great civilizing practices of domestic life, an almost magical means of cultivating warm fellow feeling, shared in-jokes and a common cultural understanding." We've often talked about the power of story to connect our post-modern lives with a greater past and reading aloud to children (and young adults) is one of the most powerful ways of accomplishing this goal.

Reading aloud as a family also combats the individualizing effects of technology: "Unlike tech devices, which atomize the family by drawing each member into his own virtual reality, great stories pull people of different ages toward one another, emotionally and physically." When my 19 month-old son wants to read, he also wants to be physically near me. He's no longer a fan of sitting in my lap, but he scoots himself right next to me so that he's pressing into my side. I can't help but think that the familiarity of the story combined with the comfort of being physically near me helps him center himself in the rapidly expanding world of his toddler consciousness. And this doesn't stop when children get older. How often has reading aloud given confused teenagers an excuse to snuggle up to mom or dad? Art is replete with paintings of young loves huddled over a book and who doesn't love reading in bed with their spouse?

The article points out some very real obstacles to reading aloud. The first would be the nearly omnipresence of technology in our lives. Gurdon, while recognizing the benefits of technology, also sees its very real limitations: "IPads and audio books have their virtues, but they don’t have warm arms, they can’t share a joke, and they haven’t any knowledge of, or interest in, a particular child." The second obstacle is lack of time. It's so easy to skip over read-aloud time because its benefits can be hard to quantify. It requires more engagement than watching a movie together and, let's be honest, in the very young years, the books aren't exactly riveting! But like all investments, it's worth making. The author shares a story of a friend who was so committed to reading aloud that she would leave parties she was hosting for long stretches of time to read aloud to her children! 

I would highly recommend reading through the article, The Great Gift of Reading Aloud–I'm sure you'll find it encouraging and inspiring. 

And if you're looking for books to read aloud this summer, check out our Read Aloud Favorites series and our Summer Reading packs!

Books for Youngsters
Books for Middle Schoolers
Books for Jr. High Students
Books for High School Students

We are also offering some fun Summer Reading Packs on our website. Check them out!

This pack contains some of our favorite titles with stories of adventurous, strong girls! 

Share stories of courageous, generous, and loyal heroes to inspire your sons!


Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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, July 06, 2015

The Role of Beauty in Learning

At Beautiful Feet Books we believe in the power of story. We also believe in the power of beauty to communicate truth, awaken imagination, and inform. Oftentimes the importance of beauty can be ignored in the pursuit of knowledge but we have found through years of experience that beauty can grease the wheels of education, especially when it comes to illustrations. Whenever we are considering the publication of a book, especially one for youngsters, one of the key criteria is the quality of the illustrations. This is one of the reasons we loved being able to reprint the d'Aulaire titles. Ingri and Edgar's superbly, and painstakingly, rendered illustrations helped shape generations of children's images of Columbus, Leif Erikson, Pocahontas, Benjamin Franklin, Buffalo Bill, and other key historical figures. Combined with their impeccable research and passion for American history, the d'Aulaires understood that when good history is combined with gorgeous illustrations, children will enjoy learning about the past.

In this month's issue of The Old Schoolhouse, Karen Andreola shares a story about her family's study of the Vikings and Leif Erikson. You can access the article here. I loved this quote: 
During rare moments when a busy home teacher is able to sit comfortably somewhere, she is likely to be found on the sofa with a picture book in hand, her children close beside her. Cozy and sweet? Yes, it is. These cozy times, however, should not be underestimated in their power to train children in the habit of attention. And picture books, or storybooks, have a wonderful way of introducing a subject, especially history.
Over thirty years of working with home educators we have seen the truth of this time and time again. Parents whose children had hated history tell us stories of their children now begging for "one more page" as they read through the d'Aulaire books, or Pilgrim Stories, or James Daughtery's lusciously illustrated classics. 

This is important to keep in mind as you choose books for your young children. If the illustrations are cartoonish or drab or farcical, those images will influence their early perceptions of historical characters. A bobbleheaded George Washington may not be what you want your child to think of when they consider the father of our nation. Of course we don't want to present perfect pictures of mere mortals and that is where accurate historical representations become so important. Balancing accurate history with inviting illustrations is what authors like the d'Aulaires do so well! 


Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online 
here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.



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! 

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Happy 4th of July!

The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Georgia:
Button Gwinnett
Lyman Hall
George Walton

North Carolina:
William Hooper
Joseph Hewes
John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Arthur Middleton

Massachusetts:
John Hancock

Maryland:
Samuel Chase
William Paca
Thomas Stone
Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Virginia:
George Wythe
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Jefferson
Benjamin Harrison
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Carter Braxton

Pennsylvania:
Robert Morris
Benjamin Rush
Benjamin Franklin
John Morton
George Clymer
James Smith
George Taylor
James Wilson
George Ross

Delaware:
Caesar Rodney
George Read
Thomas McKean

New York:
William Floyd
Philip Livingston
Francis Lewis
Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton
John Witherspoon
Francis Hopkinson
John Hart
Abraham Clark

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett
William Whipple

Massachusetts:
Samuel Adams
John Adams
Robert Treat Paine
Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins
William Ellery

Connecticut:
Roger Sherman
Samuel Huntington
William Williams
Oliver Wolcott

New Hampshire:
Matthew Thornton



Thursday, July 02, 2015

4th of July Resources


Independence Day is just around the corner! We hope you all have plans to celebrate with cookouts and fireworks. Independence Day is a wonderful time to look back on our nation's history and remember the principles upon which she was founded. 

Here are some resources to help you do just that!

A More Perfect Union by Betsy and Giulio Maestro

America's Paul Revere by Esther Forbes











Online Resources




We at BFB wish you a celebratory 4th of July! We'll leave you with John Adam's great words on celebrating this day:

John Adam's famous words regarding this special day:
The fourth day of July "will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. you will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not." (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784)


Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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, June 29, 2015

Homeschool Veterans: Meet Helen!

Today I'm excited to introduce you to another veteran homeschooling mom! I have actually known Helen since I was a little girl and she's one of BFB's very first customers. Helen has homeschooled eight of her own children and now those children are beginning to homeschool their kids. What a cool legacy. Helen brings a great perspective on how homeschooling. Enjoy reading her story!

BFB: What originally drew you to homeschooling?
Helen: Many of my friends were, and had been, homeschooling for a number of years–it was the beginning of the homeschool revival. I began first with just my oldest daughter when she was in 7th grade, just to see whether or not I could handle it, and what were the benefits and possible disadvantages. With three preschoolers and three others in public school I felt like I was testing the waters. My daughter Carolyn did fine but I mostly checked in to see if she was completing her assignments or needed help, not totally involved in what she was learning. It was a little frustrating to me but I could see benefit in the process despite my lack of total commitment. She decided she would rather go back to school when the next year rolled around. My next attempt was with my son Bobby in 5th grade. I knew he was struggling with school and soon discovered he has a form of dyslexia. Working with him really brought to light the benefits of homeschooling and after that I began pulling out some of my other children to homeschool.


BFB: How long have you been homeschooling? 
Helen: I have been homeschooling for 22 years. Now that my children have grown I am tutoring homeschool children–I just can't get enough! My son Stephen, and daughter-in-law, Faith, will begin homeschooling this fall, so I am very excited about that!

BFB: What is one thing you wish you had known when you began homeschooling? 
Helen:  I really wish I had known that I could teach my children - all eight of them - all the way through high school. I didn't have enough faith in myself, enough support, or encouragement back then. It has taken a lot of years and experience for me to realize that it is not only possible, but the best way to go.

BFB: What has been your greatest joy and greatest challenge of homeschooling? 
Helen: I think my greatest joy came first in finding a true love for learning. I grew up with textbook history lessons...boring! When I began teaching with the BFB program I discovered that history is really interesting! Who knew? This fueled my fire for learning and teaching. Now I can say that my greatest joy is to work with a child and see "the light go on" when he/she understands something and becomes excited about learning. One of my greatest challenges was to overcome curriculum confusion–there is so much to choose from! I think it's something you have to grow into, or out of, depending on how you look at it. Pay attention to the BFB philosophy! The next challenge would be in figuring out how to teach a child with a different style of learning and reach their understanding. It is a process and a goal to achieve. 

BFB: How did you discover BFB? How has the philosophy behind BFB influenced your teaching in other subjects? 
California History Through Literature
Helen: I discovered BFB upon it's inception. Russ and Rea were living here in our county, Tuolumne, and attending the same church as we were. Rea and I were involved in several groups together and so I naturally was drawn to her vision behind teaching history through literature. I first used the California History Pack, fell in love with it, and have just about all of the packs in my library. I feel that the philosophy of BFB has affected by teaching in giving me the insight and ability to pull subjects together and make a more cohesive structure to total learning. I use Spalding Language Arts (The Writing Road to Reading) which fits in really well with BFB; I love how one subject overlaps into another, how you can teach writing and reading structure with what you are learning in history, or history in reading, etc. Making math problems out of time periods, or really any information read, is another way to expand thought. There are so many ways to weave your lessons that it is amazing.

Thank you so much Helen! If you have any questions for Helen, just leave them below in the comments! We're going to be checking back in with our veterans over the next few weeks with your questions–this is such a great opportunity to glean wisdom from these women who have walked the path before us!

Our new 2015-2016 catalog is now available! If you want to view it right now it's available online here. And if you would like to request a hardcopy, click here.

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!