Friday, March 30, 2012

Announcing the winner and a special offer!

The Library at the Hotel de Ville, Paris
Thank you to everyone who took part in our giveaway! We had a great response and will be doing more in the future. Be sure to "Follow" the blog and "Like" our Facebook page so that you don't miss any future giveaways or promotions.

For everyone who entered and didn't win, we would like to offer you a free study guide download with a $75.00 purchase! The offer is good for the next two weeks (expiration date: April 13). To get your free download, simply place an order on our website and be sure to include a downloadable study guide. At checkout enter this promotion code: blogpro. The price of the study guide download will be subtracted from your order!

And, now for the winner:
StacyMar 27, 2012 09:21 AM
Would be blessed to win anything! We are doing Early American History next year so that would be great!!!
Congratulations Stacy! Send me an email at rebeccaATbfbooksDOTcom and we'll make sure you get your prize. 

Thanks again, everyone! We really enjoyed this and hope that you did as well. Have a wonderful weekend, and as always, happy reading.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Joan of Arc, Six Hundred Years Later

2012 marks the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc! This fascinating young woman captured the passions and imaginations of people in her own day and continues to do so. As someone so young, she was a mere 17 years old when she first led the troops of France against England, her legacy has long outlived her and continues to grow. Both fervently admired and coldly ridiculed, Joan's life continues to be documented, commented upon, written about, and even diagnosed. On one side she's deemed a hero, others see her as deluded but inspiring, film versions have given us a character who is bizarre and out-of-touch, paintings often portray a dreamy looking pale-faced girl gazing towards the heavens while others show a strong military leader rushing into battle. It seems her place in history will always stir up controversy and speculations, but to millions of boys and girls, she is one of those historical figures that inspires.

A woman of fervent faith and grand vision her life story captures young minds–it doesn't get much better than an illiterate girl turning the tide of a bloody, century-long war. As a child, I remember first reading about Joan and being fascinated by every aspect of her life; her visions, the passion, her ability to inspire courage in the men she led into battle. I could just imagine her charging into the fray atop her brave horse, armour gleaming. It struck me that her simple view of what was right cut through all the intrigue and politicking and lobbying that took place in the Dauphin's court, paralyzing the young, weak ruler. Joan had seen firsthand the effects of this horrific war. She was a peasant's daughter and lived through frequent raids on her village. She saw her hometown burned to the ground by English soldiers eager for booty. Guided by her visions and voices, she was determined to bring this injustice to an end. The leaders of France, concerned mainly with their own well being, were continually switching sides, vying for power, and undermining the Dauphin, a character who failed to inspire anyone. They were not bearing the brunt of the war like the people in Joan's village. When Joan comes on the scene she is not acting out of selfish ambition, she simply wants what is right and just.

If you want to learn more about Joan, there are several fantastic biographies on her life available at BFB. Each of these books goes beyond the popular portrayals that have been handed down through history and give us a picture of a very complex young woman. My personal favorite is Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. It is difficult to imagine the author known for Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer tackling the biography of this a girl living six hundred years ago, but Twain accomplished the feat with grace and heart. He spent twelve years of his life in research and writing and it is said that he considered Joan of Arc to be his greatest work. At 452 pages this is an undertaking, but it is well-worth ones time. A great family read-aloud if you have older children, teens also love this book. And we've known a few moms and dads who have mysteriously disappeared for hours when they picked up this tome.

For junior high readers, Beyond the Myth takes young readers deep into the details of Joan's life. As alluded to in the title, there is a lot of mythology that surrounds Joan but this book rebuilds Joan's life story with remarkable research and is based on first hand accounts. Readers will learn about the young heroine's struggles with convincing the Dauphin of her worthiness, they'll read about her visions, battles, capture and interrogation. Well-written, historically accurate, Brooks shows respect for Joan by fleshing out the details of a young woman who can often be portrayed as flat and peculiar.

And for readers in 4th-7th grade, check out Joan of Arc, Warrior Saint by Jay Williams. This biography is a great choice for introducing your middle school students to Joan. It provides a well-rounded historical biography without the fluff so common Joan of Arc biographies written at this level. Readers will begin in her little village of Domr√©my, France and follow Joan as her life takes her far beyond the small world of her birth.

What better way to celebrate the sexcentenary of Joan's birth that learning more about her fascinating life? And, if you haven't already, be sure to enter our giveaway where you'll have a chance to win two free downloads of our study guides! 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Homeschooling as an Equalizer

There is a graphic that has been floating around on the internet recently and I've found it fascinating. As the homeschooling movement grows in size and multiple generations of people can now state that they are either homeschool grads or were homeschooled for a portion of their education, it's getting easier and easier to measure their achievements, academic records, and even adjustment to post college life.
According to the data, homeschoolers are more successful than their public school peers when it comes to performance on standardized tests in all subjects. They are also more likely to graduate from college and have higher post-secondary GPAs. As a disclaimer, this entry is not meant to be an indictment of those who choose to send their children to public schools. Multiple studies have also shown that students in public schools with highly involved parents are much more successful than those whose parents are not involved. I am also not going to address issues of poverty and education. I just want to talk through some of the data on this graphic.
What I find fascinating in these statistics is that homeschooling is a great equalizer. I find this so exciting and inspiring. Study after study has linked student success with family income. For students in public schools, those from lower income levels are consistently outperformed by their wealthier peers. Those whose parents are more educated also perform better. With homeschooling, disparities in family income resulted in virtually no differences in a students' success. Whether parents made under $34K per year or more than $70K per year, the students performance was much higher than their public schooled peers and only 4 percentage points separated the least and most well off homeschooled students. This trend continued despite "per student" expenditures. Home schooled students whose parents spent less than $600 per year per student only performed four percentage points lower than those who spent more than $600. Current public school spending is over $11K per student per year. Obviously, homeschooling is much less expensive (not factoring for lost income for the parent that chooses to stay at home) as you are not paying for full-time teachers, building maintenance, support staff, etc., This entry is not trying to tackle issues of public educational spending. What I am interested in at the moment, is the idea that a good education is not something you can put a specific price tag on. I think these homeschooled students are not benefiting because of what their parents spend on education each year. Instead, they are benefiting from their parents' investment of time, energy, and vision. These parents are affirming the importance of education in their student's minds and this is crucial for a child's academic success. The students are also benefiting from customized educational programs as well as time to read, explore, and create. Unstructured time, as we've seen from previous entries (here and here), is so important to a child's creative development and homeschooling allows students more freedom to pursue their own interests.

This study brings up many interesting issues and I think that homeschooling families will find it an encouraging affirmation of their efforts. The United States faces diverse issues with its educational system and I hope that homeschoolers will be a part of the discussion and effort to seek solutions. I would love to hear your thoughts on this graphic. I also wish that it included more information on people who are homeschooling on very small budgets. Please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. Have a great weekend! And if you've enjoyed this post, feel free to pass it on to your friends.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Product Feature: The Revised and Expanded Early American History for Grades K-3

We are really excited about the changes in this study guide. A long-time best seller and many people's introduction to teaching history using literature, Early American History, A Literature Approach for grades K-3 was one of our very first study guides! In this new edition we have added two wonderful books, cut out a resource, expanded the lesson content, added helpful and fun links to websites, and more! The guide is also now in full-color with informational pictures, diagrams, poems, historic artwork and illustrations.
Three major changes were the elimination of America's Providential History, a costly resource that many parents did not use and of which only twenty pages were referred to in the study guide. By cutting this out, we simplified the program and ensured that all books were age-appropriate. We were able to add two titles, recently republished by BFB: Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry and The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 by Genevieve Foster. We believe the addition of these two titles adds a further richness to the study as well as fills some gaps that existed in the previous version. 

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin tells the inspiring story of America's first great artist, a young Quaker who comes of age with the young country. As a Quaker youth, Benjamin was prohibited from painting but his parents eventually saw that his talents were a gift. As a painter, West had a unique vantage point from which to record the history of his lifetime. The most powerful people in the world sat and had their portraits done by him. It is from his portraits that we know what Paul Revere, King George, and others looked like. We're sure your children will enjoy the story of West's childhood adventures with Grimalkin!
We have been Genevieve Foster fans for a long time and are thrilled to be able to bring back into print one of her lesser-known titles. The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 explores the dynamic events at the turn of the 19th century. Students will read about Napoleon's march across Europe, Jefferson's many pursuits, Dr. Livingston's explorations of Africa, Sacajawea and Lewis and Clark pushing past the known frontiers of the American West, Dolley Madison's feisty personality as she carved a place for herself in the White House. Complete with Foster's lovely illustrations, this book expands the historical and geographical reaches of the previous edition of the study guide. 

With 107 lessons, this guide may be completed in one year if three lessons are completed each week. This is usually appropriate for students in 2nd and 3rd grade but we recommend taking it a bit more slowly with younger students. Feel free to stretch it out and make it last for two years if you have a kindergartener or 1st grader, or are working with students at multiple levels. There are lessons with discussion topics, writing assignments, activity ideas, and much more. As with all of our guides, they're set up to be just that, guides! We know that each family has a different academic approach and each child learns at a different pace and in diverse ways. This information is there for your use, to best serve your students and family. The hardcopy version is available for $17.95 and the instant download is available for $15.95.

Please feel free to leave comments or questions. We'd love to hear from you if you've done the study. What are your thoughts? And if you're enjoying these entries, please share them with your friends. Thanks for reading!

Monday, March 19, 2012

RSA Animate: Changing Educational Paradigms

The RSA or Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce is a fascinating organization based in Britain. It brings thinkers and speakers from all over the world to attempt to seek solutions for today's challenges. The talk above, given by Sir Ken Robinson, is wonderful. One of the things I love about the RSA Animate talks is that they're illustrated - and who doesn't love a good illustrated story? This talk on educational models tackles a lot in eleven minutes and is well worth listening to. Not only does Robinson address the outdated structure of our schools, he also talks about ADHD, divergent thinking, and the best environments for learning. I hope you enjoy it! Let me know what you think about this talk and if you would be interested in seeing more like it!

Happy reading!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Online BFB Resources

Although we're admittedly late in carving out a little space in the blogging world, we have enjoyed watching the wonderful online homeschooling community grow over the past several years. It's been so inspiring to see all these homeschooling parents blogging about their experiences, curriculum choices, struggles, triumphs, and so much more. It seems there are now discussion boards for all sorts of topics, everything from using Charlotte Mason to homeschooling children with special needs. We'd like to share a couple online resources related to BFB. Jimmie over at Jimmie's Collage writes great curriculum reviews and she's recently posted a review of our History of the Horse study guide on Squidoo.

For people looking for interactive resources, one of our customers started a Yahoo! Group for BFB users and you can join it by clicking on the link.

This is a really great group with people discussing all sorts of topics related to education and using BFB curriculum. Some of the users even upload content for a few of the study guides!

At our website there are free resources available for download, the opportunity to review products, articles on education, and answers to frequently asked questions

And we're you blog? Have you connected with other homeschoolers online? What are your favorite online resources, websites, and blogs? Feel free to leave website addresses in the comments so others can be inspired as well. And if you've written a review of a BFB product, be sure to share that link. We are happy to receive helpful feedback, both positive and critical, as that helps us to continually strive to improve our products! 

Have a lovely weekend and happy reading!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Product Feature: The Revised and Expanded Geography Through Literature Study Guide

As many of you know we are working our way through each of our study guides and updating, expanding, and revising them. Our Geography Through Literature study guide is a perennial customer favorite. It's also a wonderful summers study for those of you looking to keep young minds engaged while also having a lot of fun and exploring new subjects! Using Holling C. Holling's wonderful books, Paddle to the Sea, Tree in the Trail, Minn of the Mississippi, and Seabird, students are exposed to much more than geography. In each fascinating story there are elements of biology, botany, history, and ecology. Follow carved model of a canoe with an Indian through the Great Lakes, discover the Mississippi through the story of a snapping turtle named Minn, uncover centuries of history observed by a cottonwood tree situated at a crossroads of American history and geography, and take to the seas with an ivory seagull carved by a whaler and handed down through generations of sailor. Each book is a door to another world and time. As a child I spent hours pouring over Holling's intricate drawings, so rich with detail. As an adult I now recognize the immense task the author undertook in writing these treasures; the research, the writing, the drawing. His passion for the subjects comes through each page.

In order to help teachers and parents get the most out of these wonderful books, our Geography Through Literature study guide employs the Charlotte Mason approach. Each lesson will help your students to read, reason, relate, and record using the discussion and comprehension topics, ideas for further research, helpful diagrams and illustrations, mapping activities, an answer key, and much more. There are ten lessons for each title and the mapping activities will utilize the specially designed Geography Through Literature Map Set. The full-color guide is available in both hardcopy and downloadable formats. For those of you interested in doing the study, we have a package with the study guide, books, and maps for only $63.95! That's an 18% savings!

If you have any questions about the study, feel free to ask in the questions form. And for those of you who have completed this study, feel free to share your experience and suggestions. We loving hearing from you and are inspired by the creative ways you use our curriculum!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sir Ken Robinson on Education

One of my favorite websites is It features talks given at Ted conferences by experts in science, health, history, literature, education, and much more. I find many of the talks challenging, inspiring, and thought-provoking. One of the most challenging lecturers is Sir Ken Robinson, a British academic, who questions the educational paradigms of our day and seeks solutions to the problems that face our school systems. He argues that our current school systems, with their emphasis on grades, standardized curriculum, and testing, stifle creativity. The importance placed on getting the "right" answer causes students to squelch their naturally curious instincts. He argues that the ramifications of this are widespread and dangerous. Like he says, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original." The implications of this for creating leaders who are able to think outside of accepted norms places us at a distinct disadvantage for finding solutions to the problems facing our society, whether economic, medical, agricultural, artistic, technological, or social. The following talk is fascinating and I highly recommend taking twenty minutes to watch it.

As homeschooling parents who have opted out of the traditional classroom setting, I would love to hear what you are doing to encourage your children to be creative thinkers? How do you uphold educational standards while fostering children's inherent curiosity? Or do you think these standards are artificial? How are your children inspired?

Over the next weeks I will be sharing more videos and I hope you find them encouraging and inspiring. 

Friday, March 09, 2012

A discussion on education

Hartlepool Cultural Services
When my family began homeschooling in 1984, I was four years old. Homeschooling was still something that most people were unable to comprehend and I endured lots of people asking me if I did school in my pajamas. My parents had to address the sudden spike in concern over the socialization of their children. Since that time, we've seen homeschooling grow, both in numbers and diversity. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s it seemed that most people, including my family, were choosing this educational model for reasons of faith. It was a matter of deep conviction. Later waves of home educators included people who were fleeing poor public school systems and wanted to give their children better educational opportunities. Others were seeking alternatives for children with learning disabilities or options for students who did not thrive in a classroom setting. The movement now includes people who choose to homeschool for all sorts of reasons and who come from all backgrounds, races, faiths, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Recently, homeschooling has attracted more parents with liberal and progressive convictions, and this has resulted in an interesting debate between Astra Taylor and Dana Goldstein. Astra Taylor was unschooled until 11th grade and is now a movie producer. She wrote an article in the literary magazine n+1 relating her experience and thoughts on education. Dana Goldstein, an education reporter, wrote a response to Taylor's piece in which she states that liberals and progressives have an obligation to invest in their public schools, and that includes sending their children to schools that may not offer the best educational opportunities. This exchange set off a firestorm of debate and brought up many fascinating points. It's interesting to me because I know this same discussion happened between many Christians when home education became more popular. People wondered if they had a responsibility to engage with their schools and try to improve them from within the system. Others argued that their first responsibility was to their children and nuclear family.

To the Best of Our Knowledge just hosted a fascinating discussion between Taylor and Goldstein. It addresses issues of educational reform, social values, and much more. You can listen to the entire program by clicking here.

One of the most important questions asked by the host was "What, for you, is the purpose of education?" I think that is such a fundamental question to consider when making educational choices. As most of BFB's customers have made the decision to home school, I would love to hear what you think is the point of education. And if you do listen to the program, what do you think? What is your reaction? 

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Celebrating World Read Aloud Day!

Today is World Read Aloud Day and we at BFB think that's something to celebrate. Having grown up in a family where a high priority was placed on reading together, I can attest to the fact that those hours reap great rewards! Study after study affirms the fact that children raised in families that read together go on to perform better academically, are more socially well adjusted, and will pursue higher levels of education. One major study involving more than 70,000 people in 27 countries found that simply the presence of twenty books in the home was an indicator of increased propensity toward learning. Children raised in homes where there were over 500 books pursued between two and six more years of advanced education. Students enrolled in school systems where literature is no longer read but the emphasis is on worksheets and textbooks can overcome those educational deficiencies if they are encouraged to read at home. Books are powerful and if they are read together that power is multiplied.

Beyond the academic, good literature opens new worlds, encourages curiosity and wonder, develops empathy and compassion, and models virtues any parent would want to develop in their children.  A great story reminds us of who we are and who we'd like to be.  To Kill a Mockingbird has inspired thousands of young hearts to stand up against injustice and defend the poor. Miss Rumphius shows us the beauty that is always present for those who search it out. The simple and costly faith exemplified in The Clown of God pricks our consciences. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve evenings spent exploring the magical worlds of Narnia as my dad read aloud to his four wide-eyed children. We laughed at the hilarious antics of Mr. Toad in The Wind in the Willows. We bonded as Little Britches struggled through his difficult childhood in the wild west and overcame adversity at every turn. I remember my mom barely being able to finish reading Amos Fortune, Free Man as emotion choked her throat at the example of gracious generosity shown by the hero. Thus is the power of a great story, whether fictional or factual, it becomes greater when it is shared. A good story is not something that you can horde up and save for yourself, it is meant to be communal. Have you ever met a book lover who wasn't evangelistic about her latest literary discovery?

And, finally, good stories bond us together. Just as the ancients gathered around their fires and told the stories of Odysseus, we continue that legacy when we read with our children. That time of sitting close together and experiencing the same emotions creates bonds. It conveys to our children our values and beliefs. It creates opportunities for honest conversation, inquiry and explanation.

Today, we encourage you to set aside some time to share a great story with your family. On our Facebook Page, people have listed books that they are reading as a family. If you're looking for inspiration, that's a great place to check out. Also, please let us know what your favorite read-alouds are by leaving a comment below.  We would love to see what you're reading and what books you remember from your childhood.

Happy reading!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Product Feature: The Revised and Expanded History of the Horse Study Guide

As many of our customers know, we've been working on revising and expanding many of our study guides. With each passing year, it seems that there are more and more resources available to enrich each study and we are having a great time exploring new websites, literature, movies, and more. The most recent revision has been our well-loved History of the Horse. A favorite since its publication in 1997, Hilary B. Severson's guide has opened the wonderful world of horse history to thousands of young readers. We are excited to announce this new full-color expansion. Here is a rundown of some of the changes:

1. The lesson plan now features 92 easy-to-use lessons. This is to allow for ease of scheduling and students can easily finish the study in one school year by completing three lessons each week. This course also makes a delightful summer course!

2. Expanded background and biographical information on the featured authors. All our expanded guides now feature notes and background information in order to facilitate learning. The guides still encourage students to seek out information by way of assigned research projects, but we also know that sometimes having the information at your fingertips is a lot more useful and helpful!

3. This guide now features even more helpful diagrams and graphics.

4. The expansion also includes more comprehension questions, more research topics, more hands-on activities, more suggested readings, and links to interactive and informative websites, as well as suggested videos! 

History of the Horse by Hilary B. Severson, daughter of Russ and Rea Berg, and newly expanded by Joshua Berg is available in both hardcopy and instant download form. 

We would love to hear what you think of these changes and are also happy to answer any questions. Also, please let us know if you have suggestions for changes on any of our study guides.

Happy reading!