Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Role of Story in Instilling Meaning in our Children's Lives

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give their children is a sense of meaning and purpose. Often times parents say that they want their children to "be happy" and while this seems to be a laudable goal, I believe it misses the point. Teaching children that their happiness is the ultimate goal in life will, more than likely, result in children who grow to be deeply unhappy and disappointed adults. Recent research bears this out. Social scientists have found that "having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression" (source). Happiness is a byproduct of a full and meaningful life.

Meaning vs. Happiness
Additionally, as observed by Nazi concentration camp survivor and psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl in his book The Meaning of Life: "It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness." While this may seem like a contradiction it bears out both in experience and in research. "Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others," explained Kathleen Vohs, a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania where researchers found that those who pursue a happy life are associated with being "takers" and those who seek to live a meaningful life are more often "givers".

Where do stories fit in?

So, how does one instill in a child a sense of meaning and purpose? I believe that every parent wants their children to know that they inhabit a unique place in this world and that their lives have meaning. Whether we're affirming our children's value by loving and nurturing them or teaching them that their actions affect others, these are all a part of affirming a child's value. Fostering a connection to others is one aspect of showing our children that their lives have significance. Investing in the lives of others gives children an opportunity to see how they can positively impact those around them. One of the most effective ways to do this is to introduce them to the magic of story. Not only do stories educate intellectually, they reinforce emotional values. 

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is one of my favorite children's books. In it the young
protagonist, Wilfrid, makes friends with an elderly woman who lives at the nursing home next door. They both have four names and become fast friends. His friend, Miss Nancy, has "lost" her memory and Wilfrid is determined to help her find it. And while the boy is only four-years-old, he accomplishes his goal. Reading stories like this to children from a young age shows them that even the youngest children can have lives of significance. Stories open up the world to youngsters who are naturally very self-centered and in doing so show them the limitless possibilities that are available to them. The relationship between Miss Nancy and Wilfrid is not one-sided, it's a beautiful friendship from which both individuals gain tremendous benefit. And I think that is an important part of teaching our children to be wholeheartedly empathetic and kind. Obviously, we don't want to raise children with martyr complexes who give of themselves out of an unhealthy compulsion. Instead, we want to encourage our children to see their immense value and worth and  then invest of themselves in rich relationships and meaningful projects.

Historical Context

There are many wonderful fictional stories like Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge that provide examples of dynamic people living meaningful lives. Many can be found in Honey For A Childs Heart or Books that Build Character or our Teaching Character Through Literature curriculum but the stories of history can be just as effective. It is in history that we meet other "givers" – people who shaped history and made the world a little better by their having been in it. We also meet people who serve as cautionary tales. The richness of history is that it is about people just like us and if we can teach our children that they will understand that they also have a place in history. By connecting our children with the great "course of human events" through stories, we can instill that sense of value and meaning that may just result in their leading happy lives!

I would love to hear about your favorite stories! What books do you read to your children in the hopes that they help your child understand his or her value? What historical characters do your children connect with?

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, December 17, 2014

How Our Family Discovered Beautiful Feet Books

I am so excited about this blog posting. Kathy is continuing to relate the story of her family's educational journey and today she tells us about how she discovered BFB! I'm sure many of you will find some correlations between your story of learning about BFB and Kathy's experience. It usually begins with a book and that's how Kathy found us. Enjoy!

During the past few weeks, I have shared with you our family’s story and my light bulb
moment. Today, I will be sharing with you how our family discovered Beautiful Feet Books. It all began with a book. Yes, you heard me right. Our family’s discovery of Beautiful Feet Books began while I was searching for a book to add to our family library. The book was Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire’s Benjamin Franklin. As a second grader in the early 1970’s I had read through the D’Aulaire’s books, Leif the Lucky, Columbus, Pocahontas, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Buffalo Bill with abandoned rapture. Now as a parent, I had rediscovered these books via Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. I procured a tattered copy of Benjamin Franklin from our local public library system. After our six year old daughter read through it, she asked, “Are there any more like this?” Another library search yielded a few more of the D’Aulaire books in this series. However, when our child began to carry the books around with her and even take them to bed, I knew it was time to seriously consider purchasing a set.

While doing an internet search on the D’Aulaire books, the name “Beautiful Feet Books” popped up
into my search engine, so I clicked on it. I eagerly scanned through the website and bingo! I had located the entire set of D’Aulaire books I had adored as a second grader. After perusing the company’s website for over an hour, I requested a catalog. Within a week, the catalog arrived. I placed it on our coffee table to look at later in the evening. That evening, after dinner, my husband saw the catalog along with an insert sitting on the coffee table and picked it up to read. I peeked in the living room on my way to another room, and found him “studying” the catalog and insert. I could see the cogs and gears working in his engineer’s brain. He was looking at the data and analyzing the results. After an hour, he finally spoke, “We should seriously consider using Beautiful Feet Books as our primary history curriculum.” Together we perused the catalog for a few days, and then placed our order for the Early American History Primary Jumbo Pack.

When our Beautiful Feet Box arrived, it was like Christmas Day! Eagerly, our daughter began to dig into the box exclaiming, “Books! Books! Look at all of the wonderful books!” Eager to begin, she selected one of the D’Aulaire books, headed for the sofa announcing to our family, “It’s time to read!” Every evening since “box day,’ my daughter and husband gathered together on the couch for Beautiful Feet Books read aloud time. As they read, I sat in my chair, curled up with a blanket and a cup of cocoa. Our family was transported via literature to the founding of our nation. 

On our journey we met the Leif the Lucky, Columbus, the Pilgrims, and our founding fathers. We experienced the hardship of Valley Forge, the thrill of Edward defending his family from Indians with his matchlock gun, the courage of young Sarah as she traveled with her father through the wilderness to build a new home for their family, and even had breakfast with George Washington!

A while back, I was asked “Why do you love Beautiful Feet Books?” First and foremost, I love the Beautiful Feet history curriculum because it incorporates the use of “living books” into the study of history. “Living Books” are defined as “Books written by authors who have a particular fondness for their subject. Books which make the subject come alive.” The books Beautiful Feet chooses enable the reader “to get in touch with great ideas from great men and form relations with great minds of the past and present.” The literary selections are written with “literary power,” words which are “fitly spoken, worthy thoughts, and inspiring tales.”

Secondly, I love the fact the curriculum is rigorous, yet flexible. Our child has developed a love and working knowledge of history, not just memorizing facts and dates. She understands the why and how of historical events and how it all fits together in the “big picture.” The curriculum is flexible, serving the parent and child in a gentle manner.

Thirdly, I love that Beautiful Feet Books is preserving our “literary heritage” by publishing out of
print books for future generations to enjoy. The latest release is The Child’s First Book of American History by Earl Schenck Miers with illustrations by James Daugherty. In closing, I would like to leave you with a favorite quote by Ruth Sawyer. It is my heart felt desire that as your family reads through the selection of “living books” featured in the Beautiful Feet Books curriculum, you will experience the following: “…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 out minds to kneel in reverence; stories that show the tenderness of true mercy, the strength of loyalty, the unmawkish respect for what is good.”

~Karen Andreola, A Pocketful of Pinecones, Union, Maine; Charlotte Mason Research & Supply, 2002.
~Simply Charlotte Mason.com “Choosing Books like a Connoisseur.”
~Ruth Sawyer, “The Way of the Storyteller,” New York; Viking Press, 1962, page 157.

Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Kathy! I love the Ruth Sawyer quote at the end - what a blessing an education steeped in such books and stories is. I am so glad that BFB has been able to be a part of that for your family. 

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Give the Gift of Story

Looking for a gift that will mean more family time, last longer than a few days, and provide opportunities for meaningful discussion? Check out our Berg Family Read Aloud Favorites Pack! Available for a limited time, this is a collection of books that the entire family can enjoy. Specially priced at $59.99 and shipping for free, this pack also includes a free discussion guide for each book. Topics range from questions about neighborliness and character to appreciating God's creation. Each title was picked by a member of the Berg family as a special favorite and we think your family will enjoy each of these books just as much as we did!

A combination of timeless classics and autobiographies, this pack includes the following title:

All Creatures Great and Small

The Cricket in Times Square

The Gift of the Magi


Strawberry Girl

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

The Secret Garden


a free reading guide for each book! 

This is a great gift to suggest to grandparents, for family gift exchanges, or as a treat for yourself! Available for a limited time only, click here to learn more. 

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!