Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thank you for voting for us!

The 2012 Practical Homeschooling® Reader Awards™ have just been announced and we are so grateful to you, our customers, who voted for us this year! Thanks to your loyalty we have received the following awards:

1st Place in Geography

2nd Place in Literature

3rd Place in History

3rd Place in Unit Studies

It means so much that each of you who has used our programs and took the time to vote chose to vote for our programs. Thank you. 

You can check out all our study guides here. To see other awards given to our guides, click here. And be sure to check out Practical Homeschooling Magazine. They will be announcing the awards in their Sept/October issue.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

Author Feature: Albert Marrin

This blog has featured many of the authors we publish but we haven't talked a lot about Albert Marrin. We first discovered this talented writer's historical books over a decade ago and have had the privilige of bringing six of his title back into print. 

Dr. Albert Marrin was born in New York City in 1936. As a junior high social studies teacher he learned about the power of stories, the ability of a well-told tale to draw youngsters attention and light up that spark of curiosity. That story-telling ability has propelled him into a career as a prolific writer. He's written over 40 books for young adults as well as four academic titles and has won many awards including Washington Post Childrens' Book Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, the James Madison Award for Lifetime Achievement, several Horn Book awards by the Boston Globe. He consistently appears on the best book of the year lists of the American Library Association, and receives frequent recognition by Book Lists, and the Western Heritage Award for best juvenile nonfiction book presented at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame among others. Winner of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal for his work, which was presented at the White House, was given "for opening young minds to the glorious pageant of history. His books have made the lessons of the past come alive with rich detail and energy for a new generation."

We couldn't agree more! Marrin also served as professor of history and chairman of the history department at Yeshiva University until he retired to become a full time writer. It was at this point that he was able to devote his energies to making history come alive for millions of young people. 

Here at Beautiful Feet Books, we have been able to reprint six of his titles on American history. 

Fought in a small Asian country unfamiliar to most Americans at the time, the Vietnam War became a cause that divided the nation and defined a counter-culture. The first televised war, newscasters became a force creating the greatest anti-war movement in history, while American boys suffered and died in jungles and rice paddies against guerilla soldiers they rarely saw face to face. As Marrin does so well, he brings an objective look at the complex issues that brought America into this war, that compelled her to stay there, and that prevented her from pursuing a definitive conclusion. Beginning with a history of Vietnam from ancient times, readers will understand the cultural, religious, and geo-political forces that made Vietnam a desirable territory conquered again and again by rival nations. They will learn how America's initial efforts to support anti-communist forces led to greater and greater involvement eventually spanning the administrations of Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, and Nixon. Through photographs, perceptive epigraphs and first-person accounts, Marrin puts a human face on a multifaceted war. As Everett Alvarez, the longest-held POW in Vietnam, says of this book, "One of the book's strong points is that it portrays the war the way the men who fought remember it."

"Marrin writes insightfully about the life of Adolf Hitler and attempts to ascertain the reasons for his fanaticism, as well as the motives of those who blindly followed him. The author forgoes sensationalism, and his matter-of-fact writing style and recitation of events are more than adequate to chronicle the horror. Step-by-step, he describes how Hitler, a seemingly shy, insecure young man was able to inspire a defeated nation that saw the extermination of many of its citizens as it salvation." - Booklist
School Library Journal: Best Book of the Year

Adolf Hitler—der Fuehrer—rose from a childhood of obscurity to wield more power than probably any person in history. His control over his subjects was so complete that he literally shaped every aspect of their lives—the slightest defiance of his authority meant torture and death. Marrin carefully traces the forces that framed Hitler's fanaticism; readers will learn of his hardhearted and abusive father and his doting and indulgent mother who continually schooled Adolf in his superiority over other children. When he is twice rejected at a prestigious art school in Vienna, Hitler's delusional thoughts of himself seek a scapegoat for his seething anger. This was the genesis of Hitler's raging anti-Semitism that would play out in the deaths of over six million. Hitler's path to power included a heroic career as an infantryman in World War I where he earned six medals for bravery, including the Iron Cross. But Germany's surrender plunged him into a dark depression. In this state he began to believe he was called by God to "right Germany's wrongs, rebuild her armies, and punish the traitors." The rest is history, and Marrin brings the tragedy of Hitler's dark reign to the young adult reader in a manner that is honest, forthright and sobering. Illustrated with maps and photographs.

School Library Journal "Best Books of the Year"

When Joseph Djugashvili was born the son of a poor shoemaker, few suspected he would rise to become one of the twentieth century's most ruthless and powerful dictators. Enamored as a young man with the revolutionary politics of Lenin, he joined the underground Marxist Party and began his pursuit of power by leading strikes and demonstrations. Six times he was exiled to Siberia for his illicit activities, escaping many times despite below freezing temperatures and on one occasion an attack by a pack of wolves. His instinctive ability to command authority and divide the opposition through lies and deceit set him on a path he would follow to become Russia's most absolute dictator. He was never reticent to shed innocent blood in the pursuit of his own ends, and he carefully orchestrated demonstrations that brought about massacres that he then used to his own revolutionary ends. His vision was far reaching, and while his initial purpose was to establish a Soviet socialist state his larger goal was world domination. Ultimately responsible for the deaths of over 30 million—13 million alone in the Ukrainian famine he caused—Stalin's life is a sober and heartbreaking account of the reign of terror suffered by countless millions at the hands of one man. Illustrated with photographs.

Victory in the Pacific covers events from the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor through the battles of Midway, Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands, Savo Island, the Doolittle raid on Tokyo, Corregidor Island, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima , and Okinawa. In each case, readers see the battles through the eyes of the men who were there, landing on the beaches, running raids in PT boats, dodging kamikaze bombers, and flying missions over Japan. In an easily accessible style, Marrin relates not only the important details of these conquests but also explains the military strategies of both the Allied forces and the Japanese. Readers get an overarching view of the war that helps to bring understanding especially as American forces drew increasingly closer to Japan and the Japanese grew ever more determined to fight to the bitter end. Marrin helps readers to understand the Japanese mindset that made surrender impossible and ultimately led to the decision to drop the atomic bomb in the interests of saving millions of lives. For the young adult reader, or even an adult unfamiliar with this period of WWII history, this book provides a sobering but inspiring look and the men and women , the nations and ideologies, that battled over half a century ago in the Pacific theater. Illustrated with diagrams, maps and photographs.

Portraying the sterling character of this admired hero, Marrin paints a complete picture of this complex man. Divided between his dislike of slavery and his loyalty to his beloved Virginia, Lee rose from an impoverished and tragic childhood to become one of the greatest military minds America has ever known even while being lauded for his kind, generous leadership. Marrin writes of Lee while including the stories of the ordinary soldiers, the Johnny Rebs and Billy Yanks. The victories, defeats, successes and failures of each side are portrayed in vivid and personal detail. Used in the Literature Approach to U.S. and World History, from the Civil War to Vietnam study guide.

All of the above titles are available on our website and we're offering a discount when you purchase more than one! Save $13.00 when you purchase all six in our Albert Marrin Collection, a Cathy Duffy Top 100 Pick for Homeschool award winner! Or save $9.00 when you purchase any four!

You can read reviews from other parents and readers at the links below:

And as a little bonus, you can watch Albert Marrin read from his book Flesh & Blood So Cheap, a finalist for the National Book Foundation Young Person's award. 

To learn more about Albert Marrin, visit his website

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Stories from BFB Users and Product Updates

Today I'd like to share a few write-ups on BFB curriculum from parents just like you! We love reading blog entries written by other home schooling parents who use BFB as we take their feedback into consideration when we're writing and/or revising our study guides.

Here are links to a few blogs from parents who use BFB and have shared some experiences.

"Girls Have Rights Too!" This is a fun entry about a girl who really connected with Abigail Adams in her study using our Early American and World History for junior high.

At "Terrie's Treasures from Above" you can see wonderful examples of the notebooking activities that are a part of our Early American History program for K-3.

And a home school dad shares his thoughts on our Early American History for K-3 at "Dwelling Among the Tents".

Further reviews can be read here. Please note that some of the reviews are referring to older editions of the study guides and so some content may no longer be relevant.

And speaking of updated study guides, we have been getting more and more questions as to what guides have been revised. For those of you who are wondering here is the complete list:

Each of these guides is now in an easier-to-use full-color format. We've changed books, added new literature, expanded the activities and much more. For more complete descriptions of the changes, click on the links above where you will be taken to a description page for each guide. You can also read more about the changes at the following links:

Our high school level Medieval History Through Literature has also been revised and is in the final stages of editing. It should be available for immediate download in the next couple of weeks! 

For those of you who have used one of our revised and expanded guides, we would love to hear from you! Share your thoughts on the new format, structure, literature choices. Your feedback is so valuable to us in our pursuit of creating high quality educational products that are enjoyed by teachers, parents and students. And if you've reviewed one of our products on your blog, send us the link. We'd love to feature it! 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our longing for connection

As I mentioned before, I am currently and slowly making my way through For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I came across the following passage in which Macaulay shifts from the idea of "home" to the much more complex issue of the people who inhabit our homes:

"We cannot start with homes. We have to begin with the people who make and live in them. We are part of a generation and culture that has forgotten the very framework and the truth of who persons are and why being human is special and wonderful. With this loss, personal self-understanding also disappears, along with a sense of purpose. Having forgotten or turned aside from these roots, we've gone on to throw out the fruits that grew on the tree of this understanding. Our culture has changed rapidly. Fundamental knowledge of right and wrong is disappearing, and in the subsequent confusion, people sell their souls for a "mess of pottage." Our schools, workplaces, houses, and apartments are filled more and more with lonely people seeking someone who will love them and not just use their bodies. Counselors are kept fully busy as persons seek "self-worth" and try to decide who and what they are. Good relationships grow out of the lives of persons who have roots and who are living in a balanced way. Relationships have always needed perseverance, compromise, consideration, priority, enjoyment, forgiveness, and unself-centeredness. So of course, with so many persons unsure of who they are, relationships dwindle and start evaporating like the morning mist on a hot day."
In light of the tragic events of this past week, it has suddenly become painfully easy to see the effects of extreme disconnectedness. One untethered soul wreaks havoc on the defenseless and vulnerable, snuffing out lives without an apparent thought. This is the most extreme example of what happens when one lives life outside of relationship; when one's reality seems to be more closely tied with electronic media and war game fantasies.  When one's understanding of the value and fragility and beauty of life is nonexistent. And when one's understanding of his own value seems not to be based on what his or her life may mean in terms of service, friendship, and eternal worth.

And so in a few moments this tragedy is enacted and it stands as a harsh and difficult reminder that in our lives the truly important thing is connection, something so easily ignored in the rush of everyday life. It almost feels cliché that in these moments we want to hug our families closer, but that is the very natural reaction that shows we are creatures who long for and crave connection. And so, as we pause in the reminder that life is brought meaning by the people we share it with, it is worth asking the following questions, fully recognizing that this event is complex and beyond simplistic understanding and solutions. Are we living lives of investment in our families and in our friends? Are we modeling for the children in our lives that a valuable life is one in which we make time to open the door to our lonely neighbor? Are we showing them that investing in friendships has more eternal significance than contributions to retirement accounts?

It is hard to contextualize events like those in Aurora, but it is important to pause, honor the victims, and try to see what there is to learn in an event of such tragedy. It also make us more sympathetic to those around the world who live in daily fear of violent death, those in war zones, those who live under brutal regimes, and those in our own neighborhoods who are surviving their own private tragedies.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those in Aurora and with those around the world affected by violence. May there be healing to those wounded both physically and emotionally. And may a peace that passes all understanding fill the hearts and minds of those troubled and distressed.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Author Feature: Genevieve Foster

 "Nothing is more critical, I believe, than that children growing up in these critical explosive days should be given an understanding of American history as a part of the history of the world. Every year this grows more urgent, as increasingly rapid communication integrates world events more closely and the impact of foreign affairs on our own lives becomes more serious and immediate." -Genevieve Foster
Although Foster wrote these words nearly fifty years ago, they are even more relevant to us today as our world continues shrinking at a rapid pace. It also seems that today the world is increasingly divided along religious, social, and economic lines. Foster saw that the knowledge of history would help ease those tensions, provide perspective and help inspire positive changes. 

In order to accomplish her lofty goal of educating American children in their own history as well as the history of the world, Foster wrote several award-winning titles that places world events in a sort of parallel with one another. She also wrote her histories in an engaging conversational style that grabbed reader's attention and made history relatable. Here are the titles we at BFB have been honored to bring back into print.

In Augustus Caesar's World, Foster traces the seven major civilizations—Rome, Greece, Israel, Egypt, China, India, and Persia—from 4500 B.C. to the time of Augustus Caesar in 44 B.C. and culminating in 14 A.D. Within this timeframe readers will learn not only the stories of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony, but also the historian Livy and how Virgil came to write the Aeneid. Foster will then take her readers all over the world to learn what was happening at this same time in China, Persia, India and so on. Foster's detailed pen and ink drawings are fresh and appealing, and her illustrated timelines give a clear sense of chronology, enriching the engaging text. An all-time customer favorite!

"This book is a story of the world. It is a slice of history measured by the lifetime of Captain John Smith, a small, courageous Englishman who was born in the days of Queen Elizabeth I and whose heart, he said, had been forever 'set on brave adventure.' This is a very successful and welcome addition to Mrs. Fosters other horizontal treatments of history in which she presents, along with historical events, a total picture of the world - religious, cultural, social, and economic - during the span of one man's life. As in the others, many drawings add much to the attractiveness of the volume and are in keeping with the lively, authentic text. - Horn Book

This is the story of a wonderful, changing, reawakening world—the world of the Renaissance and Reformation. Measured by the lifetime of Columbus and his sons, this book spans the years from 1451-1539. With Columbus as the central figure of this narrative, readers will also learn the fascinating stories of Prince Henry the Navigator, Ivan III of Russia, Gutenberg, Queen Isabella, Leonardo da Vinci, Mohammed II, the African ruler Nomi Mansa, Martin Luther, Erasmus, Albrecht Dürer, Copernicus, Michaelangelo and many others. Told in Foster's engaging and winsome style enhanced by her helpful chronologies and timelines, readers will learn of the religious, cultural and scientific changes that ushered in a new frontier of exploration and discovery.

Spanning the years from 1580-1631 the life of the adventurous John Smith gives a picture of the world just before and during the colonization of America. When Smith was a boy, Shakespeare was on his way to London to become an actor, the Spanish Armada had failed to conquer England, Mary Queen of Scots had lost her head, and Akbar the young prince of India sought to rule his people wisely. Galileo was perfecting his telescope and seeing things never before seen by the human eye, while Pocahontas romped the forests of Virginia and saved a young Englishman's life. A little band of Pilgrims seeking to escape religious persecution in England fled to Holland and a little Dutch boy named Rembrandt began to paint. These are just a few of the intriguing personalities, events, discoveries, and advances that made up the world of Captain John Smith and are now made alive to the reader in Foster's masterful way.

Continuing her unique approach to "horizontal history", Genevieve Foster explores the wide world of William Penn from the 1660's to the early 1700's - a world reaching across the courtyards of the Sun King in France to the Great Wall of China and beyond to Colonial America. Penn's contemporaries included such colorful figures as Louis XIV, Peter the Great, Edmund Halley, Sir Issac Newton, Shah Jahan ( who built the Taj Mahal), and the great explorers Marquette, Jolliet, and La Salle. His life also spans a fascinating age of world exploration and discovery. Penn's Quaker beliefs under girded his relationships with the Pennsylvanian native tribes and established the longest standing peace treaty between American Indians and European settlers. Wonderful maps and illustrations by the author complement the text.

The period measured by the life of George Washington—1732 to 1799 —was one of revolution and change in many parts of the world as Enlightenment thinking took hold in the minds of men. When George was a young man, Benjamin Franklin was the most well-known American, Louis XV was on the throne of France, and George II was king of England. Father Junipero Serra had just arrived in Mexico to work with the Panes Indians. Mozart and Bach were writing their immortal music and Voltaire warred with his pen against Ignorance, Injustice and Superstition. The young nobleman Lafayette watched the feisty American colonies with fascinated interest as they stood up to Mother England when she sought to tax them unfairly. James Cook was sent by the Royal Society of London to Tahiti where their team of astronomers might observe a total eclipse of the sun and thereby accurately measure the distance between the earth and the sun. These are just a few of the wonderful narratives explored by Foster in her Newbery Honor Book of 1940. Prolifically illustrated with intriguing line drawings and detailed timelines, Foster's telling of the life story of George Washington does justice to the man it celebrates.

Originally published in 1944, Foster earned her reputation by her masterful display of "horizontal history"—telling the story of world events in the geo-political sphere, while giving as much importance to advances in science, medicine, music, literature, and exploration. Thus, while Abe Lincoln was a boy romping the woods of Kentucky, Thomas Jefferson was completing his eighth year as president, George III reigned in Great Britain and Napolean was about to meet his Waterloo. Beethoven and Sir Walter Scott were at the height of their creative powers, while Victor Hugo was staging plays at school. By the time Lincoln was old enough to help his father chop wood, other young boys and girls were being prepared for the future parts they would play. Harriet Beecher was reading anything she could get her hands on, Charles Darwin was collecting toads, crabs and shells, and the impoverished boy Dickens was working in a shoe blacking factory in London. When Lincoln opened his shop in Salem, David Livingstone was opening up deepest Africa, and thousands of Americans were opening up the West on the Oregon Trail. The spirit of freedom was moving around the globe as the abolitionist movement gained power in the States and serfdom saw its demise in Russia. Technologically the world was bursting with the invention of the telegraph, the railroad and the steamboat. With her whimsical and informative illustrations and timelines Foster has magnificently captured a remarkable age and a remarkable man.

The Genevieve Foster titles have been long respected and have introduced countless children to the joys of learning about the history of our world. You can also read Cathy Duffy's review of these wonderful books here.  

For those of you who want to add these classics to your family library, we offer significant discounts on our packs of 3 or more titles. Purchasing all six will save you $38.95! Check out our offers here

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Our philosophy and what others say about our curriculum

As many of you are probably spending the summer deciding what curriculums to use this coming school year, I thought it may be helpful to provide you with some information on our teaching philosophy as well as some reviews of our products. 

As we have mentioned before, our approach is guided by the Charlotte Mason approach. We love books like Books Children Love, For the Children's Sake and Honey for the Child's Heart. But if you are not familiar with Charlotte Mason here is a link to an article by Rea C. Berg, founder of BFB, on the teaching philosophy of Charlotte Mason and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. You can read it by click here.

And now to the reviews. First, I want to feature Cathy Duffy's reviews as she reads through more curriculum than anyone I know. She's able to distill the strengths and weaknesses of each product very well. Here are links to her reviews of BFB curriculum and books:
The Genevieve Foster Collection 
Cathy Duffy's review of our titles by Genevieve Foster (these are part of her 101 Top Picks!)

Drawing on History 

Early American History Through Literature for grades K-3

US and World History for High School

A History of Science through Literature
Cathy Duffy's review of  A History of Science (it's one of her 101 Top Picks!)

And now for some reviews from fellow BFB users.

Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

Ancient History, A Literature Approach

A selection of our History through Literature study guides 

If you would like to share your BFB story, please leave a comment below as we would love to feature it! I hope you find the above reviews helpful in determining your teaching philosophy and style. As always, we would be happy to answer any questions you may have. Feel free to leave them in the comments section below as you never know if another reader has the same question! 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Call for submissions

Me with my siblings and cousins all dressed up as Pilgrims for a Thanksgiving play written by Rea Berg.

Good morning!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Today I would like to ask you for submissions. Are you a homeschooling parent who blogs about your experiences? Have you reviewed a Beautiful Feet Books product? If so, please email your link to rebecca (@) bfbooks (.) com. Just erase the extra spaces and parenthesis.

Also, we would love to see the projects you've completed using BFB curriculums. Is your child proud of his Early American History notebook? Did your student do a really spectacular job on her Geography Through Literature maps? Did your co-op group write and perform a historical play? Take a photo and send it to us. We may feature your child's work here!

We would love to connect home schooling parents and educators so they can inspire and encourage one another. So send us your submissions and you and your blog may been featured!

Happy reading!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Caldecott Medal Classics

As we discussed in our previous entry What is a Classic? there are many wonderful Newbery Medal winners. Now to the Caldecotts. The Caldecott has been awarded each year since 1938 and is given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This award is distinct from the Newbery in that it is awarded for aesthetic achievement only. That being said, there are some absolutely wonderful books in the list of winners. And it's so important for children to be exposed to quality illustration. It helps develop a sense of beauty, it fuels the imagination, and encourages students to express themselves in drawing, painting, and other mediums. Here are a few of our favorite Caldecott Medal winners.

 Abraham Lincoln by Ingri & Edgar Parin d'Aulaire, 1940 Caldecott Medal Winner

They Were Good and They Were Strong by Robert Lawson, 1941 Caldecott Medal Winner

Paddle-To-The-Sea by Holling C. Holling, 1942 Caldecott Honor Title

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey, 1942 Caldecott Medal Winner

Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli, 1945 Caldecott Honor Title

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, 1949 Caldecott Honor Title

Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi, 1950 Caldecott Medal Winner 

America's Ethan Allen by Stewart Holbrook and illustrated by Lynd Ward, 1950 Caldecott Honor Title

One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey, 1953 Caldecott Honor Title

The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen, illustrated by Marcia Brown, 1954 Caldecott Honor Title

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh, illustrated by Helen Sewell, 1955 Caldecott Honor Title

Chanticleer and the Fox illustrated by Barbara Cooney, 1959 Caldecott Medal Winner

Thy Friend, Obadiah by Brinton Turkle, 1970 Caldecott Honor Title

Noah's Ark by Peter Spier, 1970 Caldecott Medal Winner

Castle by David Macaulay (Houghton), 1978 Caldecott Honor Title

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr, 1988 Caldecott Medal Winner

John Henry by Julius Lester, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, 1995 Caldecott Honor Title

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein, 2004 Caldecott Medal Winner

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, 2008 Caldecott Medal Winner
As you can see there are some absolutely gorgeous titles in this list. Books like this are all wonderful additions to your library as you will find your children returning again and again to look at the pictures, notice new details, and relish the beauty found on these pages. I would love to hear what books you remember from your childhood due to the illustrations. One of my personal favorites is Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, I love Julie Vivas's joyful watercolors. 
So chime in! Share your favorites. And we will be back with more award winning titles in the future.