Thursday, September 27, 2012

Announcing Our New Medieval History Through Literature Study Guide for High School Students

It's finally here! After more than a year in research and writing we are excited to announce our newest study guide: Medieval History Through Literature for high school students. This guide takes the best elements of teaching history using literature and adds detailed notes for literary analysis, geography, vocabulary, and much more. Beginning with the fall of the Roman Empire and continuing through 1500, this curriculum covers over 1100 years of fascinating history. Students will read classics like Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Inferno, The Canterbury Tales, Marco Polo's fascinating travelogue, Boccaccio's observations of the bubonic plague in the Decameron and much more! Beginning with the writings of Augustine and continuing through Chaucer you will discover some of the most important literary pieces in the western tradition. Additionally, The Medieval World, the background text for the course, provides a broad and fascinating look at the social, moral, religious, political, and scientific shifts that occurred around the world during the era. Works such as One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Scottish Chiefs, and The World of Columbus and Sons provide further depth to the study as students investigate the spread of Christianity and the emergence of Islam, the coming age of discovery, and the battles for independence that still affect our world today. 

Set up in 35 weekly lessons, this guide provides the structure necessary to get the most out of the literature while connecting it with historical events. Each lesson contains reading assignments, writing prompts, comprehension question designed to encourage critical thinking, vocabulary, geography, links to related websites, and much more. Additionally detailed notes on historical background and literary analysis are provided for Beowulf, The Song of Roland, Scottish Chiefs, The Divine Comedy, and The Canterbury Tales. Additional in-depth analysis of the three world religious, feudalism, and the great plague ensure students' comprehension of these essential topics. 

The study guide is available for immediate download. Get it here!

Below you can see the books required for the course:

In 5th century Denmark, a murderous monster stalks the night, and only the great prince of the Geats has the strength and courage to defeat him. The story of Beowulf's terrifying quest to destroy the foul fiend Grendel, his mother–a hideous sea-hag, and a monstrous fire-dragon, is the oldest surviving epic in English literature. Beautifully translated and updated by the brilliant linguist Seamus Heaney.
"A faithful rendering that is simultaneously an original and gripping poem in its own right." —New York Times Book Review

Lively, absorbing, often outrageously funny, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is a work of genius, an undisputed classic that has held a special appeal for each generation of readers. The Tales gathers twenty-nine of literature’s most enduring (and endearing) characters in a vivid group portrait that captures the full spectrum of medieval society, from the exalted Knight to the humble Plowman. For advanced readers due to difficult language and mature content.

Very few people know that Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) wrote a major work on Joan of Arc. Still fewer know that he considered it not only his most important but also his best work. He spent twelve years in research and many months in France doing archival work and then made several attempts until he felt he finally had the story he wanted to tell. He reached his conclusion about Joan's unique place in history only after studying in detail accounts written by both sides, the French and the English. Because of Mark Twain's antipathy to institutional religion, one might expect an anti-Catholic bias toward Joan or at least toward the bishops and theologians who condemned her. Instead one finds a remarkably accurate biography of the life and mission of Joan of Arc told by one of this country's greatest storytellers. The very fact that Mark Twain wrote this book and wrote it the way he did is a powerful testimony to the attractive power of the Catholic Church's saints. This is a book that really will inform and inspire.

Out of the rich turbulence of English history, June 15, 1215 stands apart as a significant milestone in the progress of human liberty. On that day, a brave band of barons, led by the noble Stephen Langton, and calling themselves the Army of God, stood up to the wicked King John and demanded that he restore the ancient laws of England that he had so unabashedly trampled underfoot. The era is a rollicking one filled with colorful characters like Robin Hood and his Merry Men, Richard the Lionheart, Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, and many more. Newbery and Caldecott medal-winner James Daugherty brings his own passion for freedom's story to this wonderful saga of the thirteenth century. Daugherty devotes the last part of the book to a history of the "documents" of freedom—what he calls the "Children of the Magna Charta"—demonstrating how liberty has progressed over the ages. Two-color illustrations by the author enhance the drama of this text.

An anthology of over 150 great writings including works by Boethius, Bede, Peter Abelard, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Marie de France, Marco Polo, and many others. When used in our Medieval History Through Literature Study Guide high school students will read medieval poems, songs, ballads, prayers, religious works as well as excerpts from St. Augustine's Confessions, Dante's InfernoThe Song of Roland and many others. An excellent resource for everyone interested in medieval literature. "No better anthology exists." — Commonweal.

Sumptuously illustrating the vivid parade of a thousand years of history, this comprehensive historical atlas concentrates on the Mediterranean world but also shows what happened across the globe between A.D. 400 and 1500 —from the fall of Rome to the age of discovery. Every page glistens with period works of art, fascinating maps, quotes from medieval figures, close-ups of intriguing artifacts, and rich landscape photographs of the places where battles were fought and monarchs were crowned. For every century, a signature city is spotlighted to represent that era's developments. Time lines connect the many dramatic events that took place in these dark and exciting times, which continue to shape our world today. Written by a team of veteran National Geographic writers, this richly illustrated reference includes full index, reading list, and glossary.

A completely original version of the Arabian Nights by award-winning author Geraldine McCaughrean. In order to delay her inevitable execution, Queen Shahrazad tells her murdering husband, King Shahryar, a wonderfully exciting story every night. The brilliant storyteller preserves her life while relating tales of intrigue, adventure, and duplicity. A delightful window into the Persian world.

This magnificent book tells the story of the brave Scots who rebelled against the tyranny of King Edward during the period of 1296 - 1305. This inspiring tale of courage has been a favorite for generations of readers. The story of William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and the brave Scots who stood up to English tyranny is sure to become a favorite!

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.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Let's Choose our President! Resources for teaching your child about the electoral process

As we all know, it's an election year and it's shaping up to be an exciting one! And this is a great opportunity to introduce your students and children to the political process. I wanted to share some resources for explaining things like the electoral college to your children and suggest some books that will help open the often befuddling and confusing world of national politics. As an increasing number of people in America feel disenfranchised it is more important than ever that we educate our children and communicate to them that this unique government depends upon engaged and educated citizens.

One of the best ways to teach your students is to involve them. Volunteer with a candidate running for local office. This gives students an inside view of what it means to be politically engaged. I volunteered for a woman who was running for the state legislature when I was only 12 years old and it really helped me understand how elections work. I spent hours on the phone calling registered voters asking if they were planning on voting for my candidate and that was quite the initiation! The fact that I was just a kid didn't keep some people from letting me know exactly what they thought of the candidate! And despite the fact that my candidate lost, the experience made me politically aware and showed me that participation is essential. 

So sign up and volunteer with your family. You can work on campaigning for or against a ballot measure or proposition you feel strongly about, you can back a local candidate, or you can contact the campaign office of a national candidate and see what sort of need they have for local volunteers. This sort of engagement provides students with a realistic understanding of politics and can show the some of the strengths and weaknesses of our system. 

Here are some resources to help you get started:

Websites and Links

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids is an excellent resource for showing your students how the government works. Students can learn about local government and services like libraries and emergency response systems, all the way up to how our president is elected. And all this information is available in four different levels from K though 12! has some wonderful infographics on the election, like the one above on what it takes to be elected president. Another useful page is this one linking you to information about your state and its government. And here's a link to a game that will teach your children about the powers held by the three branches of government. 

Books and Movies

A More Perfect Union by Betsy and Giulio Maestro 
Excellent into to the US government and the history of our founding. Perfect for elementary and middle schoolers. 

The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz

An excellent DVD course for high schoolers, in one semester your high school student will have a thorough understanding of the basis for the US government and its history. 

As you learn more about our government, it can be very interesting to look beyond our borders and investigate other forms of government. Plato, one of the greatest political philosophers, really was not a fan of democracy and it is very interesting to consider his opinions on the different forms of government. Having lived in the UK for four years, I can now appreciate some of the advantages of a monarchy, with the full recognition that a monarchy would never work in the US! For high school students, you may want to investigate the role of money in elections. As more and more money is poured into elections, how does that affect the process? Do we lose something when corporations and private interests can exert such outsized influence? Or is that just the nature of our system and it is up to us to vote responsibly?

I hope these resources prove helpful to you! And I would love to hear about how you are introducing your students to the political process. Do you have any favorite resources?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What is most important in education?

Each year as people head back to school there is an increase in articles on education. There are programs on TV about going back to school, education reform, and all sorts of other topics related to schooling. One book getting a lot of attention is How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. In it Tough speaks to the changes that have taken place our educational system over the past fifty years. He argues that our current obsession with test results misses an essential element of teaching our children. He states that character education in terms of learning life skills is being neglected to the hurt of many children. 

NPR's This American Life devoted the full hour of their weekly program to talking with Tough and I found the program very interesting. There is a lot of hope expressed in a trend that takes character, or cognitive development, into account in education. While the program mainly focused on high-risk student from poor neighborhoods there were some very interesting points made on aspects of parenting, issues of attachment, the ability of children to thrive in difficult circumstances, and much more. One stat that jumped out at me was that while American schools is still good at getting student enrolled in college, they fail to prepare them for college as seen in the fact that we have the highest college dropout rate in the developed world! That shocked me. While I think much of it has to do with high college costs and other factors, it cannot be ignored that many students are simply not adequately prepared. 

The radio show is very interesting and if you would like to listen to it, here's a link:
This American Life: Back to School

And I would love to hear from you. As you work with your children and students is college the ultimate goal? If so, how do you seek to prepare your student for the challenges they may face when they arrive on campus? Thinking back to online education, is that an option? And if college is not the ultimate goal, what other options are you exploring? Trade programs? Apprenticeships?

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Author Feature: Brinton Turkle

Anyone familiar with the "Obadiah" stories has undoubtedly fallen for the endearingly mischievous little Quaker boy and his lovely family. The brainchild of Brinton Turkle these books communicate tender lessons on kindness, respect, and forgiveness. Here at Beautiful Feet Books, we've been honored to reprint these books so that they are not lost to future generations. 
Illustration from Rachel and Obadiah

Brinton Turkle was born August 15, 1915 in Alliance, Ohio. He says he enjoyed drawing all through
school but that his teacher didn't appreciate his art! "Unfortunately, none of my school teachers appreciated it. If only only elementary school teacher had egged me on, I think I would have acquired art skills much earlier than I did." He attended Carnegie Institute of Technology from 1933-1936 and two years later enrolled in the School of Boston Museum of Art. In 1964 he illustrated his first book, If You Lived in Colonial Times written by Ann McGovern. One year later he published the first book that he authored and illustrated, Obadiah the Bold. He originally wanted to publish three books so that he could dedicate one to each of his three children but he went on to write and illustrate 11 books. He also illustrated many other titles by various children's authors. In 1970 he was awarded the Caldecott Honor for Thy Friend, Obadiah
Illustration from Obadiah the Bold
Turkle once wrote: "In writing, I use all sorts of tricks to capture the attention of my young audience: suspense, humor and even charm, when I can muster it. But no matter how successfully I may entertain, I am really up to something else: subversion. My abilities are implacably lined up against the hypocrisy, materialism and brutality that so pervade our society. As my readers leave childhood behind, I hope that they will carry with them an appreciation for such alternatives as integrity, mutual respect, kindness and reverence for life. These alternatives are in my books and I pray that exposure to them will play a part in the construction of a better tomorrow."
The Obadiah Books
Anyone familiar with the Obadiah stories will surely agree that the author has accomplished his goal! Brandy at AfterThoughts wrote a lovely and thoughtful entry about reading Obadiah the Bold with her children and learning a very important parenting lesson. I would highly recommend reading it

To learn more about each title, click the links below:

Rachel and Obadiah

Obadiah the Bold

Thy Friend, Obadiah
All three are available for a special discounted price. Click here!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Online Education: are you using it?

As more and more universities post content online, start up distance learning programs, and education becomes more and more accessible it opens up new opportunities as well as new challenges. The following TED talk is a fascinating look at the opportunities created through programs such as Coursera and other sites where content from top universities is made available free of charge to students around the world. I think that this video is definitely worth watching as it reveals not only the exciting possibilities of online education, it should also be encouraging to home schoolers and educators seeing to engage their students in new ways.

Upon watching the above lecture, it struck me that in some ways online lectures could be more interactive than your traditional classroom lecture. The Two Sigma problem is one we have indirectly addressed here in our talk about the need for engagement in education. When parents and educators seek options outside the classroom, more often than not, the students benefit. Being able to engage more creatively with students is what home schooling is all about! It's also foundational to teaching history using literature! Teaching history this way is not about filling a student's head with knowledge, it's about teaching them to engage with ideas and see history in a new way. 

I have to say that I think there is a lot to be valued in the trend toward online education. I was fortunate to take online classes back in 1997! Even at that very early stage in the world wide web, I enjoyed the interconnectedness offered by the courses. Despite having to listen to the annoying whine of a dial-up modem, it was fun to interact with fellow students around the world, get feedback from peers, and read lectures prepared by the teacher. The internet and online classes have come a long way in the past 15 years! 

So I would love to know what you thought of the video! And do your students take part in online classes? Are they thinking of enrolling in a distance learning program for college? What benefits and downfalls to you think are inherent to the type of education?

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Author Feature: Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

The beautiful books of Ingri and Edgar d'Aulaire have been loved for generations of young readers and are one of the reasons Beautiful Feet Books exists today! At the beginning of the Berg's homeschooling journey it was the discovery of Leif the Lucky, Abraham Lincoln, and the d'Aulaires' other wonderful biographies that showed us history was about the fascinating stories of real people. Mr. and Mrs. d'Aulaire's wonderful ability to capture the every-day details of life, their impeccable research, engaging writing style, and gorgeous illustrations truly brought history to life. We know many of you love their books and thought we would share with you some information on this remarkable husband and wife team.

Edgar was born in Munich, Germany in 1898 to an Italian father and American mother. Edgar's father was a noted painter and his mother was a also an artist as well as a musician. Edgar began studying architecture but after only one year enrolled in the Munich School of Arts and Crafts. During his education Edgar studied under Henri Matisse as well as Hans Hofman and traveled to Italy to study fresco. He exhibited in Paris, Berlin, and Oslo and seems to have been fairly successful.

Igri was born in Kongsburg, Norway in 1904 and it appears she pursued art from the beginning. She studied in Norway and Germany as well as France. The couple met in Munich and were married in 1925. They moved to Paris and lived a sort of Bohemian artist life and often talked about immigrating to the United States. Upon receiving a small settlement following a trolley crash Edgar made his way to New York where he worked and saved to bring Ingri over. The two lived in a cold, walk-up apartment in Brooklyn and set to work establishing themselves in the art world. 

The director of the New York Public Library took a liking to their work and encouraged them to write children's books. This began a life-long collaboration that would result in some of the best children's books published during the 20th century. Initially they focussed on myths and fairy tales, publishing their first children's book, The Magic Rug, in 1931. That was followed by Ola. Eight years later they would have a son and name him Ola!*

It wasn't until 1936 that they began writing historical biographies, the first being their well-loved George Washington. Soon their books became well known for the sumptuous illustrations.

The process of recreating their drawings in all their lovely detail and folksy personality involved a painstaking and labor-intensive process known as stone lithography. Each illustration was carved four times on to Bavarian limestone slabs. The purpose for carving four times, was each slab was used for a different primary color. The slabs were then inked and the illustrations were printed using the slabs. The advantage of using this method was it preserved the remarkable hand-drawn quality the d'Aulaires were known for. 

What many people do not know is that along with being talented artists, the d'Aulaires were also talented researchers and historians. Fluent in a combined five languages, the couple poured themselves into the research for each book. From traveling Italy, Portugal, and Spain while researching Columbus, to camping in the wild spaces of Kentucky and Illinois while studying Abraham Lincoln, and combing through national archives while writing George Washington, the d'Aulaires spared no effort. 
Here the d'Aulaires work on Benjamin Franklin
In 1939 the d'Aulaires published Abraham Lincoln and were awarded the Caldecott medal for their work. 
Illustration from Abraham Lincoln
They continued to work together producing 27 works, many of which have been reprinted in the past ten years. 

We are so honored to have been able to reprint seven of their biographies. You can check them out on our website. Just click the link below:

We also carry the classic d'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, the unrivaled best children's book on Greek mythology. There is also an audio version of this title read by Paul Newman, Sydney Poitier, Kathleen Turner, and Matthew Broderick and it is available for immediate download from BookHampton. It sounds fantastic is would make a great accompaniment to the hardcopy

For other fans of Ingri and Edgar, be sure to "Like" the d'Aulaire's Children's Books Facebook Page. They post great photos, information on lesser-known titles, and much more! 

*This reflects a correction sent in by Ola d'Aulaire as the original post stated that the book Ola was named after the d'Aulaire's son. 

New York Review Books: Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

We're on Pinterest

Hello everyone,

We are excited to announce that we have started a BFBooks page on Pinterest. Now you can pin all those wonderful books you're reading and share them with your friends.

We've set up eight boards featuring the books used in some of our favorite programs as well as author boards and a special one featuring biographies of Abraham Lincoln. We will be working on adding new boards and have plans for sections on activities, websites, and other resources to enrich your studies.

If you're on Pinterest, please follow our boards. We're looking for all sorts of ideas from teachers and home schooling parents and would love to see what inspires you. And we may just pin some of those ideas!