Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chalk another one up for free time

A recent article as reinforced the fact that kids need free time. We have discussed this before in our entry on boredom as well as in the link on the alarming trend that boys are falling behind in school. Now new studies reinforce what any mother or father knows, kids need down time!

Interestingly in this day of No Child Left Behind and state and national standardization many schools have actually eliminated recess. Some estimate that up to 40% of all schools have done away entirely with the childhood institution with many more schools severely limiting free time. Administrators felt that time would be better spent cramming in as much teaching as possible. This trend hit poor performing schools the hardest, and these schools generally tend to be those that serve the poorest students. So recess was gone, along with art and drama and other classes that would have allowed students to move, express themselves creatively, and have a bit of down time. Now studies are showing that that was a desperately flawed decision when it comes to improving academic performance. Recess is a necessity. Children cannot be expected to sit through a six to eight hour school day without time to just be kids. The most recent research shows that children who have recess are more focused, can concentrate for longer periods of time, and are able to assimilate information more efficiently.

Academics aren't the only thing to show positive change when children have regularly scheduled recess, there are studies that link free time to significant improvements in behavior!

So, I was wondering how you structure your school day? I'm curious to know if you schedule your days after a school model or if it's more relaxed? Have you changed over time? What has worked for your family? Or is each child different? I know children who could sit still for hours, perfectly happy to just read and study, but most children need time to run and play. How do you account for different needs within your family?

To read more, here are links to some interesting and informative articles:
New York Times
Slate Magazine

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Monday, August 27, 2012

What do you think about holding kids back a grade?

The current issue of Time Magazine has an interesting article on a growing trend in the US to hold back 3rd graders who are unable to pass a grade level reading test. My new home state of Florida is one of the most strict when it comes to holding back third graders who do not pass the 3rd grade reading proficiency test and in the first year they enforced this policy 21,799 students were held back, up from 4819 the year before the policy went into effect. According to the article 10% of K-8 students nationwide are held back for one or more years. This percentage balloons to 25% when you only look at low income students. Not only is the cost of holding students back enormous at an estimated $12 billion each year, it has far reaching social effects on the children. As the article states, numerous studies have shown that students who are held back have a higher chance of feeling less connected and show less confidence. On the other hand, some studies have shown a link to greater academic aptitude for those who are given an extra year to develop those reading skills.

Reading this article coincided with me attending a ladies event at a local church where nearly every woman there talked about her lack of creativity. While these two occurrences may seem entirely unconnected, I believe that they share a common root. The modern reliance on standardized tests and standards does not allow for individual expressions of creativity nor does it give space for students who  develop at different rates. This is one of the natural outcomes of an educational system produced by an industrial model.

As someone who continually advocates the importance of reading, I am sympathetic to the need to insure that our students can read proficiently. I am also aware of the challenges teachers face in trying to achieve educational outcomes with a diverse group of students. But I do worry about the long reaching effects on students who are held back and wondered if any of you had experience in this area. Were you ever held back? How did this experience affect the way you looked at school? Have you had a child held back? Did this influence you to seek alternative educational options such a home schooling or private tutoring? Or did you decided to throw out the entire grading system and look toward a more unschooling approach?

Reading this article reminded me of an earlier post on home schooling as an equalizer. Not only have studies proven that home schooled students outperform their public school counterparts on nearly all measures of achievement, it shows the advantages of an educational system that puts the student first. I am also encouraged by studies that show parental involvement is the key to student success, no matter what educational system the student is enrolled in. As highly involved parents and teachers, I am curious how you may have handled the challenge of an "underperforming" student and I'm sure other readers would appreciate hearing your stories as well.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

FAQ: Books used in our Jr. High and High School Programs

In our previous entry we listed all the books that you read through in our programs for elementary levels, approximately K-6th grade. Now we're going to list all the wonderful books your Jr. High and High School students will read through using our study guides. Remember we offer great discounts on all of our package deals and even offer a Lowest Price Guarantee! Here's the lists:

  • Ancient History Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg and Rebecca Manor
  • Ancient History Timeline
  • Streams of Civilization, Volume 1 by Stanton and Hyma
  • Streams of Civilization Test Booklet
  • Student Bible Atlas by Tim Dowley
  • Ancient Greece by Christine Hatt
  • Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster
  • The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth Speare
  • The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum
  • City: A Story of Roman Planning and Construction by David Macaulay
  • D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • Galen and the Gateway to Medicine by Jeanne Bendick
  • Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne
  • Pyramid by David Macaulay
  • Tales of Ancient Egypt by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • The White Isle by Caroline Dale Snedeker

  • Medieval History Through Literature Study Guide by Rebecca Manor
  • Medieval History Timeline
  • The European World 400-1450 by Barbara Hanawalt
  • Beowulf adapted by Michael Morpurgo
  • One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Queen Eleanor, Independent Spirit of the Medieval World by Polly Brooks
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
  • The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
  • Cathedral by David Macaulay
  • Castle by David Macaulay
  • The Kite Rider by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Gray
  • The Morning Star of the Reformation by Andy Thompson
  • Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
  • The Canterbury Tales adapted by Barbara Cohen
  • Joan of Arc: Warrior Saint by Jay Williams
  • Fine Print: A Story of Johann Gutenberg by Joann Johansen Burch
  • The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly
  • The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster

  •  Early American & World History Through Literature by Rea C. Berg & Rebeca Manor
  • The following titles are all by Genevieve Foster
    • The World of Columbus and Sons
    • The World of Captain John Smith
    • George Washington's World
    • Abraham Lincoln's World
  • Poor Richard by James Daugherty
  • Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • Carry On, Mr Bowditch by Jean Latham
  • The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz

  • Ancient History Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg and Rebecca Manor
  • Ancient History Timeline
  • Streams of Civilization, Volume 1
  • Streams of Civilization, Test Booklet
  • Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster
  • Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare
  • Antony and Cleopatra Max Notes
  • Beyond the Desert Gate by Mary Ray
  • The Children's Homer by Padraic Colum
  • The Cat of Bubastes, A Tale of Ancient Egypt by G. A. Henty
  • Caesar's Gallic Wars by Olivia Coolidge
  • D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
  • Mara, Daughter of the Nile by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
  • Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt by Elizabeth Payne
  • Quo Vadis? by Henryk Sienkiewicz
  • Student Bible Atlas by Tim Dowley
  • Tales of Ancient Egypt by Robert Lancelyn Green

Medieval History Through Literature for High School (Available Soon!)
  • Medieval History Through Literature Study Guide by Rebecca Manor & Rea Berg
  • Medieval Literature in Translation edited by Charles W. Jones
  • One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
  • Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
  • The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter
  • Joan of Arc, Warrior Saint by Mark Twain
  • The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster
  • The Medieval World, An Illustrated Atlas by John M. Thompson

  • Modern US and World History Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque
  • Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
  • Bully for You, Teddy Roosevelt by Jean Fritz
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Beecher Preachers by Jean Fritz
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • Reconstruction: Binding the Wounds edited by Cheryl Edwards
  • The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  • Rifles for Watie by Harold Keith
  • Sojourner Truth: Ain't I a Woman by Patricia McKissack
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe 
  • Up From Slavery by Book T. Washington
  • The following titles are by Albert Marrin
    • Virginia's General 
    • The Yanks are Coming
    • Stalin Russia's Man of Steel
  • A History of Us: An Age of Extremes by Joy Hakim
  • A History of Us: War, Peace, and All that Jazz by Joy Hakim

  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • No Promises in the Wind by Irene Hunt
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
  • Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
  • The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta Trapp
  • Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • The House of Sixty Fathers by Miendert DeJong
  • So Far From the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  • The Vietnam War: How the United States Became Involved ed. Mitch Yamasaki
  • Journey to Topaz by Yoshico Uchida
  • A History of Us: All the People by Joy Hakim
  • The following titles are by Albert Marrin
    • Hitler
    • Victory in the Pacific
    • America and Vietnam

I hope this helps give you a better idea of all the wonderful books you'll be reading when you choose one of our study guides! And if you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments below! 

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

FAQ: What books are used in our curriculums?

On our Facebook Page, I got a question that I realized many of you probably have. What books are used in our study guides? It's one of those questions that escapes our notice because we're so familiar with all the books, but many of you may not know what treasures you'll be reading when you choose to do one of our programs. The fastest way to discover what books are used in each study is to visit our website and click on the "Literature Packs" tab. Under each pack you will see all the books listed individually–those are the books you'll be reading through during the school year! For a quick reference, I'm also going to list them below. We'll start with our K-3 programs and work our way up through the high school level programs. I will also provide links to the packs we have available on our website. Remember, we offer a Lowest Price Guarantee on all our packs and give you the option to customize the packs if you already own up to five of the titles! 

  • Early American History Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Columbus by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Pocahontas by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • George Washington by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Abraham Lincoln by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims by Clyde Bulla
  • Pilgrim Stories by M. Pumphrey, edited by Rea Berg
  • The Pilgrims of Plimoth by Marcia Sewall
  • Meet Abraham Lincoln by Barbara Cary
  • A More Perfect Union by Betsy and Guilio Maestro
  • The Matchlock Gun by Walt Edmonds
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • The Forth of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
  • George Washington's Breakfast by Jean Fritz
  • Winter at Valley Forge by James Knight
  • Jamestown, New World Adventure
  • The Year of the Horseless Carriage 1801 by Genevieve Foster
  • Benjamin West and his Cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry
  • 4 Audio CDs featuring the stories of Columbus, the Pilgrims, and Abraham Lincoln

  • Geography Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • The following titles are all by Holling C. Holling
    • Paddle to the Sea
    • Minn of the Mississippi
    • Tree in the Trail
    • Seabird
  • Set of Four Maps, these maps have been specifically designed to go along with each book!

  • Teaching Character Through Literature Study Guide by Rebecca Manor
  • A Time of Wonder by Robert McCloskey
  • The Runaway Bunny by Margaret W. Brown
  • Boys and Girls of Colonial Days By Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
  • Brave Irene by William Steig
  • The Clown of God by Tommy DePaola
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by ALice Dalgliesh
  • Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
  • Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
  • Obadiah the Bold by Brinton Turkle
  • Rachel and Obadiah by Brinton Turkle
  • Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
  • When I was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant

  • History of the Horse Study Guide by Hilary Severson
  • Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
  • The Black Stallion by Walter Farley
  • Handbook of Horses by Elwyn Edwards
  • Draw 50 Horses by Lee James
  • Horses of the World card game
  • The following titles are by Marguerite Henry
    • Album of Horses
    • Brighty of the Grand Canyon
    • King of the Wind
    • Justin Morgan Had a Horse
    • Misty of Chincoteague
    • Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West
    • White Stallion of Lipizza

  • California History Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • California HIstory Timeline by Rea C. Berg
  • Columbus by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Cruise of the Arctic Star by Scott O'Dell
  • Zia by Scott O'Dell
  • Patty Reed's Doll By Rachel Laurgaard
  • By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman
  • Riders of the Pony Express by Ralph Moody
  • Jessie Benton Fremont–California Pioneer by Marguerite Higgins
  • Blue Willow by Doris Gates
  • Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

  • History of Western Expansion Through Literature Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • Abraham Lincoln by James Daugherty
  • Abraham Lincoln's World by Genevieve Foster
  • Amistad: The Slave Uprising Aboard the Spanish Schooner by Helen Kromer
  • The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies
  • Daniel Boone: The Opening of the Wilderness by John Brown
  • Frontier Living by Edwin Tunis
  • Of Courage Undaunted by James Daugherty
  • The Stout-Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail by Neta Lohnes Frazier
  • The Year of the Horseless Carriage by Genevieve Foster

  • Early American History Through Literature Intermediate Study Guide by Rea C. Berg
  • Early American History Timeline by Rea C. Berg
  • Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Columbus by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Pocahontas by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • Benjamin Franklin by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire
  • The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty
  • The Lewis and Clark Expedition by Peter Copeland
  • A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution by Betsy and Guilio Maestro
  • Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg
  • America's Paul Revere by Esther Forbes
  • America's Providential History by S. McDowell and M. Beliles (optional)
  • Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
  • The Life of Washington by Josephine Pollard
  • Go Free or Die, A Story about Harriet Tubman by Jeri Ferris
  • Sacajawea, Guide to Lewis and Clark by Della Rowland
  • Walking the Road to Freedom by Jeri Ferris
  • William Bradford, Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith
  • The Vikings by Elizabeth Janeway
  • 4 Audio CDs featuring the stories of Columbus, the Pilgrims, and the story behind the U.S. Flag

  • The History of Science Study Guide by Rebecca Manor
  • The History of Science Timeline
  • Explorabook by John Cassidy
  • The Picture History of Great Inventors by Gillian Clements
  • The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
  • Along Came Galileo by Jeanne Bendick
  • Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick
  • The Story of Thomas Alva Edison
  • Albert Einstein, Young Thinker by Marie Hammontree
  • Marie Curie's Search for Radium by Beverly Birch and Christine Birmingham
  • Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia by Margaret Cousins
  • Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes by Beverly Birch
  • Scientists card game
  • The Science Experiment Pamphlet

  • The History of Classical Music Study Guide by Rebecca Manor
  • The History of Classical Music Timeline
  • Set of 18 CDs, these feature the biographies and music of 21 composers!
  • Dance Me a Story by Jane Rosenberg
  • The Story of the Orchestra Book and CD set by Robert Levine
  • Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers by Patrick Kavanough
  • Musical Genius by Barbara Allman
  • Farewell Symphony by Anna Harwell Celenza
  • Coloring Book of Great Composers, Chopin to Tchaikovsky
  • Coloring Book of Great Composers, Mahler to Stravinsky
  • Composer card game
There you have all the books listed for our Primary and Intermediate program, those appropriate for students from Kindergarten through 6th grade. Tomorrow I will provide book lists for our Jr. High and High School programs. And be sure to keep asking those questions! We're happy to help with any information we can provide.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Another chance to study literature with Rea Berg!

For all you readers in California, you have another opportunity to sign up for one of Rea Berg's literary parties! Here's the details from Rea:

Hello Fellow Book Lovers,
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.–Shakespeare, Sonnet 18

Well, summer’s lease is nearly over, and despite our wish that it could linger just a bit longer, school days will shortly be upon us!  So, to give us all a boost (myself included), I am hosting a “Back to School” Literature Soirée on Saturday, September 8.  I will cover more literary analysis, but this time we will look at how to analyze historical literature within the context of the heroic quest.  This will be a fun adventure as we consider how the heroes and heroines of the eras of exploration, discovery, and colonization provide examples of heroic archetypes fulfilling their own unique destinies.
I will present an overview of the best historical works for children covering the period of the early 1600s up through the Civil War.  The concentration will be early American History, but some world history will naturally be a part of that.  So roughly speaking, here is how the day should go:
9:30-10 am: Arrival and get acquainted with a cup of coffee or tea
10 am-10:30: a brief session will look at current statistics of American student’s knowledge of history and literature as well as the why’s and wherefore’s of the “notebook approach”
10:30-11:30 am: the best children’s literature of Early American Exploration, Discovery, and Colonization
11:30 am-noon: Analyzing historical literature using the elements of the heroic quest (definition and overview), anthropomorphism, the orphaned child literary trope, and others!  (not to worry, I will clearly define all of these before setting you out on your own).
Noon-1:45: Working lunch applying literary analysis to various works of historical literature. This time we will work in pairs to save time
1:45-2 pm: Coffee Break
2:00-3:00 pm: the best Children’s Literature of the American Revolution–the Civil War
3:00-3:30 pm:  Wrap up and feedback on take away
So to recap: Saturday, September 8, 2012
At my home: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo
Time: 9:30 am–3:30 pm
Cost: $30 (which will include lunch– please email me if you need gluten free or vegetarian)  You can register here.
Finally, this soiree is already half booked with ladies returning from our summer session.  So please register soon, to insure you have a place!

If you have attended one of Rea's events, you know it's a wonderful time of meeting other likeminded home schooling parents and working together on fun assignments, expanding your knowledge, and really being recharged and re-inspired. 

If you would like to book a literary event at your home with Rea, please contact her at 
rea (@) bfbooks (.) com to discuss the details.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Merits of Memorization

I recently read an interesting article on the disappearance of memorization activities in our school systems. While the author makes some political statements I find unnecessary to the broader context of the issue, it was fascinating to think about how our children no longer memorize passages of poetry, great speeches, or other things of literary value. 

As a child I had to memorize some poetry and can still recall the opening lines to Longfellow's The Village Blacksmith, "Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands..." In college I had a professor who required each student to memorize a passage of poetry each week. While much of what I  crammed into my head has disappeared into the dusty reaches, I can still relish the haunting lines of Blake's The Tyger

There is something about memorizing poetry that allows students to revel in the pleasure of beautiful language. Often this is something overlooked in our modern curriculums as they strive for efficiency and production, but I would argue that cultivating an enjoyment of language is a wonderful skill to give your children and students. 

There are many poems that just seem to be made for memorization. My youngest sister used to entertain all of us with her adorable rendition of Great Grey Elephant

Great grey elephant
Little yellow bee
Tiny purple violet 
Tall green tree

Red and white sailboat on a blue sea
All these things You gave to me
When you made my eyes to see
Thank you God!

I was not always a fan of poetry, I found it too symbolic, too flowery, too overwrought. But in college I had a professor who opened up the fact that poetry is linguistic gymnastics and poets are having fun with the boundaries of grammar. What a different way of looking at it! So, I was wondering if any of you have your students memorize poetry? If so, what poems do you find work best with youngsters? What about older students?

I love some of the classics like The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, All Things Bright and Beautiful, Flint by Christina Rosetti, others by Robert Louis Stevenson, George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton, and Longfellow. What poems have you memorized?

One excellent resource for introducing your children to poetry as well as the linguistic tools used by poets is A Child's Introduction to Poetry by Michael Driscoll. It includes an interactive text as well as an audio CD of poetry readings.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Answers to your FAQs!

The response to the previous entry on What Order to Use BFB made it clear that a lot of you have questions about our curriculums. So, we've looked back and are going to offer some answers to the questions we are most frequently asked. I hope you find it helpful! Also, feel free to chime in on the comment section with any additional questions you may have.

1. Why are there not answers to all the questions in the study guides?

This question is the one we encounter a lot. First, it is important to understand that there are two types of questions in each of our study guides: comprehension questions and discussion questions. Answers are provided for the comprehension questions but it will be helpful to use the answers merely as a guide. Different perspectives provide interest and color to the study of history and relying too heavily on the provided answers may cause frustration. History is open to interpretation and it is important for a student to learn this fact. The discussion topics do not have answers provided as these are designed to develop the reasoning abilities of the student. Being able to converse on topics of history, religion, geopolitical and social events is a skill that students are developing as they formulate their own viewpoint. Encourage this growth by affirming their observations and asking probing questions. This is one of the most enjoyable aspects of studying history and it takes the subject from its dusty and dry reputation and makes it come alive. Encourage your students to think of historical characters as real people with unique beliefs and perspectives and suddenly history is no longer a collection of dates and facts but a fascinating story of the people who came before us. For those teachers who find themselves relying heavily on the answer key, do not be afraid to throw it out! You do not want to squelch a child’s learning process by consistently referring to prescribed answers. 

2. What is the Principle Approach?

The Principle Approach is an educational method that became popular in the early days of the modern home schooling movement. Several BFB guides use aspects of the method to teach certain character qualities such as Individuality, Self Government, and Conscience. The original method is fairly in-depth and we chose to include only those aspects of the approach we found accessible and applicable to our programs. The guides that include the principles are some of the first guides we published: Early American History for K-3, Early American History for 5th-6th grades, and our California History

3. How many lessons are in each guide? 

Below you will find information on the number of lessons in each of our study guides as well as the recommended number to complete each week if you want to finish the program in one standard school year. 

Ancient History Intermediate - 71 Lessons (complete 2-3 per week)

Ancient History Sr. High 
- 91 Lessons (complete 3 per week)

California History - Semester Program (approximately 2-3 per week)

Early American History (K-3) - 107 Lessons (complete 2-4 per week)

Early American History (4th-6th grade) - 119 Lessons (complete 3-4 per week)

Early American and World History - 91 Lessons (complete 2-3 per week)

Geography Through Literature - 38 Lessons (complete 1 per week)

History of Classical Music - 75 Lessons (complete 2-3 per week)

History of the Horse - 92 Lessons (complete 3 per week)

History of Science - 67 Lessons (complete 2 per week)

Medieval History Intermediate and Jr. High - 35 Weekly Lessons (complete 1 per week)

Medieval History Sr. High - 35 Weekly Lessons (complete 1 per week) New version available for instant download in two weeks. 

The Western Expansion - 51 Lessons (complete 3 per week) - Semester Program

U.S. and World History (High School) is divided into four parts. Each part should be completed in one semester. This program will last two years if completed at this pace. 

Our Teaching Character Through Literature is not designed as a strictly academic program. It should be followed at the pace that works best for you and your family. 

4. I want to order one of your packs but already have a few of the books. Can you adjust my pack?  

Of course! We are happy to adjust our packs for those of you who already own a few books. We can take out up to five titles and the discounted price is adjusted accordingly. To do this, just give us a call at 800.889.1978. 

Those are a few of the answers we most frequently encounter. Of course, we'd love to hear from you if you have additional inquiries! Simply leave a comment below and we'd be happy to help!

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

What order do I use BFB?

This is one of the most common questions we are asked when it comes to using our curriculum. As we are not based on the four year cyclical "classical" model, this can create some confusion for people considering using our study guides. 

First, it is important that you understand our philosophy of teaching history and why we do not advocate teaching history in a chronological sequence from the very beginning. There are many contributing factors to our decision to begin with American history. First, the literature choices are much better for younger students. It is very difficult to find excellent ancient literature for students in grades K-3, where as there is an abundant wealth of excellent literature available for American history. This is so fundamental to a Charlotte Mason approach in building your curriculum around the best children's books available and so it makes sense to be guided by the literature.
Secondly, we believe that youngsters find the history of their country more relatable. They have a familiarity with the Pilgrims, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. Student can take field trips to experience the history of their area, where as for most families a trip to Cairo is simply impossible. By building on the familiar, you can create a curiosity that will extend beyond the student's immediate experience. Some argue that beginning with American history can lead to a close-minded view of the world, but our experience has been the exact opposite. By encouraging a student's natural curiosity of the world around her and providing her with well-written and beautifully illustrated literature, her inquisitive nature will be fostered and as her experience grows, she will have the tools and abilities to seek out the world beyond her own borders. To read more about our philosophy, click here. You can also read an article by Rea Berg on when to teach ancient history by clicking here.

As with our study guides, there really is no set order in which a family should complete our curriculum. This may be frustrating for parents and teachers who want a definite plan but we very firmly believe that educational choices should be driven by factors outside of what a curriculum company prescribes as the best and proper order or sequence. These factors include student ability and interest, family structure (having multiple students study the same time period can be an enriching and bonding experience), teaching styles, and much more. So to honor that, we have created the following "guide" for choosing BFB curriculums. But remember, this is just a guide to help provide some structure for those of you looking for a bit more guidance. 

Primary K-3rd Grade

Early American History (K-3rd grade)

History of the Horse (2nd-6th grade)
Teaching Character/Primary (K-3rd grade)
History of Science (3rd-6th grade)
Geography through Literature (3rd-6th grades)

4th Grade

Early American History (Primary or Intermediate)
Ancient History/Intermediate (4th-8th grade)
History of the Horse (2nd-6th grade)
History of Science (3rd-6th grade)
Geography through Literature (3rd-6th grade)
History of Classical Music (4th-8th grade)
History of California (4th-6th grade)Semester program
Teaching Character Through Literature/Intermediate (4th-6th grade)
The History of Western Expansion (4th -7th grade) Semester program

5th-6th Grade

Early American History Intermediate (5th-6th grade)
Ancient History/Intermediate (4th-8th grade)
Medieval History (5th-8th grade)
History of the Horse (2nd-6th grade)

History of Science (3rd-6th grade)
Geography through Literature (3rd-6th grade)
History of Classical Music (4th-8th grade)
History of California (4th-6th grade)Semester program
Teaching Character Through Literature/Intermediate (4th-6th grade)
The History of Western Expansion (4th-7th grade)Semester program

Junior High 7th-8th Grade

Early American and World History (7th-9th grade)
Ancient History Jr. High (4th-8th grade)
Medieval History (5th-8th grade)
History of Classical Music (4th-8th grade)
The History of Western Expansion (4th-7th grade)Semester program

Senior High 9th-12th Grade

Early American and World History (7th-9th grade)
Medieval History Sr. High (9th-12th grade)
Ancient History (10th-12th grade)
US and World History Sr. High Pt I & II (10th-12th grade)
US and World History Sr. High Pt III & IV (10th-12th grade)

If you have used BFB in an order that has worked for your family and would like to share that, please leave a comment below! And feel free to ask questions and interact in the comments section–we love hearing from our readers.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Introducing Youngsters to Medieval Classics

In a previous blog post, I shared with you some of my favorite titles for introducing pieces of ancient literature to younger readers. As we talked about before works like Homer's Iliad and The Gallic Wars by Julius Casear can be intimidating and overwhelming when approached for the first time. Thankfully there are wonderful adaptions available for parents and teachers who want to expose their children and students to these works before high school and college. Today I am going to list some of my favorite adaptations of medieval works. By making your children familiar with the works of Chaucer, Shakespeare and other great writers you are giving them excellent tools for understanding the original works later on. Let's get started:

One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean
McCaughrean's adaptations of the fantastical Arabian nights stories opens a world of intrigue and adventure to readers aged 10 and up. Based on stories from Persia, India, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Middle East your student will learn about the courageous and clever Shahrazad who says off a death sentence with her fantastical stories. You'll hear about the adventures of Sinbad and Ali Baba and Aladdin. Dating from the 10th Century, these stories offer a window into the world of the medieval Middle East, telling much about the beliefs of the people who valued these tales. McCaughrean's version eliminates some of the more sensual stories, favoring those appropriate for youngsters. 

Beowulf adapted by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman 
Not only is this adaptation of the oldest English epic poem beautifully written, its illustrations communicate all the drama and color of this exciting tale. Students will learn of the brave and young Beowulf and his battle against the hideous terror Grendel. Preserving much of the lyrical quality of the original, Morpurgo's version is engaging, fun, and expertly crafted. Appropriate for ages 8 and up. Some of the illustrations do portray bloodshed so it may be worth previewing the title for your children. 

Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, adapted by Barbara Cohen and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
It can rightly be said that it is thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer that the English language enjoys the prominence is does today. Chaucer took a language formerly thought of as vulgar and common and elevated it to a literary level. His tales are part of our language heritage as are many of the words we commonly use. Chaucer invented about 2000 English words! But many parents and teacher have resisted teaching Chaucer due to the fact that many of his tales are crude and contain material inappropriate for children. Thanks to Barbara Cohen's wonderful version of several of the Canterbury Tales young people can now enjoy the funny and lively stories. The book includes The Nun's Priest's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale as well as The Franklin's Tale. These tales give life and color to medieval England and are wonderfully entertaining. I remember reading these stories and pouring over the details of Trina Schart Hyman's gorgeous illustrations. This book even accompanied me to college where I would refer to it when I ran into confusion reading the originals! This version is only available in hardback and is pricey but BFB is offering it for a discount here

Chanticleer and the Fox by Geoffrey Chaucer, adapted and illustrated by Barbara Cooney
One of Chaucer's most famous stories is that of the proud rooster Chanticleer. Cooney turns this wise tale into a wonderful children's book appropriate for little ones 5 and up. Her illustrations of the cocky cock and foxy fox earned her a Caldecott medal and make this a modern classic. 

Another English classic these tales are firmly established in the lexicon of western folklore. The stories of the sword in the stone, brave Sir Galahad, Lancelot, the Holy Grail–they're all familiar to us but many have not actually read the stories based on Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur and other medieval classics. Roger Lancelyn Green's well-loved version preserves the frantic pace and neck-break randomness of the stories while providing readers with all the intrigue of the dark and foreboding forests of England. A must for all who are interested in medieval literature. 

Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
Undoubtedly the best-know and best-loved adaptation of Shakespeare's writings, the Lamb's version is a classic in and of itself. Originally published in 1807 this book has been introducing young readers to the joys of Shakespeare for over 200 years! Preserving the intricate plot-lines, brilliant characterization, and insight into the human condition that makes Shakespeare so great, this is the best resource for introducing the Bard to your students and children. It is even an excellent tool for getting more out of the original versions! Students will be able to read 21 of Shakespeare's greatest plays in prose without having to worry about keeping lines and characters straight. If you have never read Shakespeare yourself, read this first. It makes the originals so much more accessible!  

I hope you find this list helpful! I would love to hear about any adaptations you've particularly enjoyed or stories of using these resources to help open up the world of medieval literature to your children.