Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In celebration of books!

Some of my favorite books now have a home with our souvenir dog from Paris.
Over this past weekend, my husband and I finally made some attempts to make our apartment feel more homey. It's been nearly seven months since we moved from France back to the US and it was about time we started settling in. One of the very best things about moving back to the States was being reunited with our books. Getting all those wonderful books on to shelves made our apartment feel much more homey. I tend to agree with Marcus Cicero's philosophy on decorating, "A room without books is like a body without a soul." And so today, I want to celebrate books and give you a peek into my library. 

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” 
― Oscar Wilde

“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” 
― C.S. Lewis

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” 
― Charles William Eliot

“Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?” 
― Henry Ward Beecher 

“I cannot live without books.” 
― Thomas Jefferson

Just for fun, I wanted to share this little article on the anatomy of a book. Did you know that head and tail bands were available in so many different colors? From now on, I'll have a whole new appreciation for that little ribbon of color. 

In publishing, it is often very fun to be able to pick out every little detail of a book. It can also be very frustrating, but when you have the finished product in your hand, it's hugely satisfying to know that you've been with this product from the moment it was simply an idea to its full fruition. 

Books have played a huge role in my life, from my first trip to the library, to seeking out used bookstores, to building my own collection. I think that the books we buy say a lot about who we are, what we value, and what we dream of. Whenever I visit someone's home for the first time, I always catch myself staring at their bookshelves. Should they happen to have books I love, I'm aware of a possible kinship. Should they have a collection of titles I've never heard of, I'm curious to know more. I love meeting people who have read more than me. My endless to-read list is made up of suggestions from those people. They ensure that my reading horizons are always broadening. 
I would love to get a peek into your library. Would you post a photo or two of your book collections? If you would like to share, please post them on our Facebook wall. And as a final treat, here is a wonderful collection of photos of great libraries. Any book lover will enjoy looking through this. I've been able to visit and/or work in a few of these magical places and they truly are inspiring. Have you seen any of them? Which ones?

And for those of you building libraries for your children, might I suggest the following collections:

In case you missed it:

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Power of Story

History is nothing more than story. Often it can be diluted to mere names, dates, and facts but when that happens the purpose of knowing history is lost. History tells us who we are, where we came from, and why we are here. It also tells us about others, opens new worlds, expands our viewpoints, and introduces us to people, things, places, and beliefs we may never experience first hand. These stories cultivate wonder and curiosity, those traits essential to understanding and appreciating history.

Throughout recorded time we have always told stories. From the biblical accounts of Creation and the great flood and the tower of Babel, to Homer's epics Iliad and Odyssey, to classics like Beowulf and the Epic of Gilgamesh, these accounts frame our origins, give our lives meaning and worth.

And story telling also goes the other way. The stories we tell tell others what we value and find to be worthwhile. When those ancient Greeks recounted the battle for Helen, they were expressing their admiration for bravery, cunning, and beauty. When the Hebrews recounted the story of Passover, they were reminding their children of their deliverance from slavery in Egypt and recounting God's faithfulness to fulfill his promises. When the early Anglo-Saxons spoke of Beowulf fighting the fearsome Grendel, they were expressing the difficulty of a life lived under constant threat of attack.

As humans, we long for connection and stories provide that. Even now in our digital age where we rarely take the time to sit around a fire and tell one another where we came from, there are organizations and endowments that recognize the importance of this and have provided outlets for people to tell their stories. I listen to This American Life every week and I enjoy hearing people recount their memories on the StoryCorps podcast. While the people who are interviewed are often very different from me, their stories are invariably interesting and sometimes profoundly moving. I'm challenged to see the world through different eyes.

Additionally, our capacity for hearing stories is one that grows as it is fed. When students are introduced to history through stories, they rarely get bored. Instead their curiosity is piqued and they want to delve further into these wonderful accounts of the men and women who came before them. Textbooks rarely elicit this sort of response. And I've said it here before, curiosity is essential. Incorporating stories into your children's education will increase their capacity for curiosity and wonder and enrich their lives.

To conclude, I'm sharing this Ted talk by Ben Dunlap in which he extolls the virtues of cultivating an insatiable curiosity. Instead of presenting studies and speaking in academic jargon, he told stories. He told of a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust and made his way to America where he fought racism in South Carolina. He told of men who achieved great success in life because of their desire to always know more, to reach further, to never be satisfied with simplistic explanations. And this is the power of story. We are inspired, challenged (you may not agree with everything Dunlap says), and encouraged.

In case you missed it:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy President's Day

Here at BFB we love original source documents. We have found that reading original statements from historical characters brings them to life and makes history relatable. In honor of President's Day, we thought it would be fitting to share with you the farewell address given by our very first president. Washington's Farewell Address from 1796 gives us insight into the character of a man who is too often thought of as remote and unknowable. Here Washington beautifully expresses his heart and his love of the young nation he helped found. In honor of today, take a few moments and read this with your children and students. If you've never read it, I think you'll be surprised by how inspiring and humanizing these words are. The wisdom and humility expressed here is not something we see a lot of in Washington, D.C. today but it could be that by teaching our children what true statesmanship looks like we can have hope for a better level of political discourse in the future. 

George Washington's Farewell Address 1796
Friends and Citizens:
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.
I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.
The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
In looking forward to the moment which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.
The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.
While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rival ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.
In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?
To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice ? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it - It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my proclamation of the twenty-second of April, I793, is the index of my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.
The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually admitted by all.
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

As we exchange candy hearts, pink and red cards, and maybe book a table at a special restaurant to mark Valentine's Day with a loved one, it's fun to consider the history of this day. It's a bit mysterious and confusing, but worth looking into. 

February has long been a month associated with romance. During the days of the Roman Empire the ides of February, or February 15 was known as Lupercalia, a fertility festival dedicated to the god Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture. Over time, as Christianity spread many of these pagan holidays were Christianized and set aside as Feast days. In 496 AD Pope Gelasius set aside February 14th to celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Valentine. And who was Saint Valentine? This is where it gets confusing! 

Apparently there are three Saint Valentines! Each was martyred for refusing to give up his faith and there are several stories about these brave men. The story that fits most neatly with the Valentine's Day theme is about a Roman priest who was martyred during the reign of Claudius II. Apparently, Claudius had decided that single men made better soldiers and had outlawed marriage for all men enrolled in military service. Valentinus saw the injustice of this and conducted secret marriage ceremonies for these young soldiers and their fianc├ęs. In addition to this crime, he was caught aiding Christians and performing Christian marriage services, both criminal acts under Claudius' persecution of Christians. Valentinus was arrested and kept in prison. During his imprisonment, Valentinus became close enough to Claudius to try to convert him! This was the act that led to his death. He was tortured and beaten but refused to recant his faith. In 269 AD he was beheaded outside the Flaminian Gate. 

Other stories tell of another Valentinus who was imprisoned for trying to help persecuted Christians escape from Roman prisons. In prison Christians faced harsh conditions and torture as the Roman authorities tries to squelch the rapidly spreading faith. It is said that while in prison on the night before he was scheduled to be executed, Valentinus sent a letter to a young woman he loved and he signed it "From your Valentine" unwittingly starting a tradition that continues to this day! 

Today Valentine's Day is celebrated around the world and is an official feast day in the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. 

I found this chart from to be a very interesting info-graphic on the history of Valentine's Day. View the original here

All of us at BFB wish you a very happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Meet Lisa!

Good morning! I am excited to introduce you to another homeschooling mom who is going to be sharing her experience using Beautiful Feet Books. Lisa Sulewski, like Samantha and Vanessa, made a switch from a popular curriculum in the classical method to our literature based study guides. Here Lisa shares her experience and I think you will all find it encouraging and inspiring. Lisa has included a lot of photos of her children's notebooks and I am so glad that she did because I personally love seeing what people come up with for the notebooking assignments. Lisa does a great job of showing how these notebooks can be a creative outlet for your children. Be sure to click on the pictures of the notebook pages to enlarge so you don't miss out on any details. And now I'll turn it over to Lisa:

“I love history and literature!” my daughter said this for the FIRST TIME after this year with Beautiful Feet Books! I love love love Rea and Beautiful Feet Books. They have changed how and what we are reading this year­–beautiful books that will stay in the hearts of my children forever. She has taught me a philosophy of teaching that has grown in my heart and I am so grateful. She guided me on the path to good literature and I am never going back!

My name is Lisa Sulewski and I have the privilege and sometimes just plain hard labor of homeschooling my beautiful and artistic daughter, Chloe (11) and my energetic, singing, dancing, all around funny man Jack (7).  I have so much to share about what we are doing with BF Books and how we got to this amazing place but I don’t want to overwhelm you all so I will give you some now and some later! I have fallen in love with books and I love looking for them. Here I am on my birthday with some friends who, of course, took me to a used bookstore!

 I had pretty much been following a classical education method and had a desire to do more with literature. We had been going along and reading for three years, drawing pictures and putting them all in a binder. I know, I know, I will get to the journaling part but that is after I met Rea! Well, I had this thought that I needed to do more. Maybe journal? During a home school convention, I was invited to go to Rea’s class by some friends. Mind you, I have no idea who she is and I get in line afterwards (this should have been a clue) and ask her about taking my literature to another level. She kindly invites me to spend time with her at the Beautiful Feet Books booth. I get there and am captivated. After many questions, discussions, and laughs, I am sold. I buy a few curriculums and I go home and later on buy one more! I am so grateful for that time of transition into what I am teaching now. Rea has done extensive work in this field with her Masters Degree in Children’s Literature and it shows!

Fast forward six months and we have are being filled with knowledge from all our beautiful books. I want to share with you some of our journals that we have been working on to go with our books. This was a new concept for me and was hooked when Rea showed me her children’s journals at a Literature Soiree she hosted in her home.  At the end of the year to have these precious journals with my children's ideas is priceless to me. It is hard work with much more time invested since my children can spend quite a bit of time working on a picture for their journal but it's worth every moment.

Jack's notebook pages on Owl Moon, a book read in the Teaching Character Primary Study Guide
First, I want to show you a journal from Beautiful Feet's Teaching Character Primary Reading Pack that Jack has been working through. I have enjoyed reading all of these books and in curriculum gives so many more books than is pictured! She lists authors and other favorite books which is so helpful for me as I'm starting on this “only the best literature for my kids" journey. Thank you Rebecca! These are two of the almost 40 stories that Jack has worked so hard in putting together. These were below his reading level but I didn’t want him to miss out on anything and we are talking about character, something we can all relate too! I know I need to be reminded of “hope never fails you”.
Jack's notebook entry for The Pink Tulip by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey, a story read in the Teaching Character Through Literature Study Guide
Chloe has read through the some of the books in the Early American History for Intermediate Grades and here are her journal pages on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. Reading Abe Lincoln Grows Up by Carl Sandburg brought history alive. Spending that time listening to the details of his life, we learned so much more than we would have in a short text on the subject. I also added her pages on Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth. Spending time reading, drawing/coloring, and writing has helped us to really absorb the subject. You get to know the person you spend time with.

Chloe's journal pages on Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman
Chloe's journal featuring a timeline of the Civil War and map of the United States
Chloe's journal entry on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln
Here is journal page from Jack’s Early American History books. We started with Leif the Lucky and are now learning about Benjamin Franklin. Here are two pages from Jack's work on The Matchlock Gun a story about a brave boy who obeys his mom. OK, so there's more than that but I like that part!

Jack's notebook pages for The Matchlock Gun
We love Beautiful Feet's Geography Through Literature study! I have a co-op of five kids and we spend our time reading, writing in our journals, and working on our maps. Here is Jack’s journal (below) from Seabird by Holling Clancy Holling. When we read the first book, Paddle to the Sea, I love that Jack noticed that the pictures were “amazing because they are very detailed. . . and look real and true.” I had him write that in his literature journal as well.

Jack's journal entry featuring the travels of Nate in Seabird from our Geography Through Literature Study Guide
Chloe is also part of an all girls book club where they are reading through the Teaching Character Intermediate books. The mom puts a spread of food and hot chocolate and the girls have a great time reading and learning together!

I have definitely put more hard work and thought into homeschooling this year but it is more rewarding! There is so much more I couldn’t share,  the best illustrators, timelines, summer reading lists, Christmas books, the influence is endless. Thank you for enriching us with good books and memories to last us a lifetime!

Thank you, Lisa for providing us with a window into your homeschooling experience and for letting us peek into your children's beautiful notebooks! I love the idea of your daughter's Teaching Character Through Literature book club. Does anyone else do that? Would people be interested in doing an online book club for their kids?

If anyone else is interested in their children's notebook pages being featured here, please send me a picture of them. I absolutely love seeing what sort of creative ideas you all come up with and know that other homeschooling families and educators would be inspired as well. Just email the pictures to and I'll let you know when they'll be posted. 

Thank you again, Lisa, for sharing your story with us. We look forward to hearing more in the future! 

You may also enjoy these other entries written by homeschooling moms:

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Russian Family Cut Off From Modern World For 40 Years

Agafia and Karp Lykov shortly after being discovered by geologists. Photo via Smithsonian Magazine
Students using our Modern US and World History study guide will find this story to be absolutely fascinating. Smithsonian Magazine recently featured an article about a family in Russia who had gone into hiding in 1936 following oppressive purges led by the Bolsheviks. The family, the Lykovs, were Old Believers a very traditional sect of Christianity that had been persecuted since the reign of Peter the Great. Under Peter many Old Believers retreated to Siberia, living in harsh conditions but able to worship with some measure of freedom. Under the Communists the persecution took on an even more extreme form and the Lykovs retreated further into the frozen tundra of the north. When they were discovered in the 1970s they were unaware of major events like World War II and the lunar landing. 

The Lykov's home. Photo via Smithsonian Magazine
The Smithsonian Magazine article is an astounding and even heart wrenching read, and I hope you enjoy it.

For those of you interested in learning more about this turbulent time period, the world wars that allowed Stalin to take power and the consequences of this, check out these books:

Primary source documents that relate to preparation for the war, life in the trenches, postwar struggles, conflict over the Fourteen Points, and several historians' interpretations of the war.

Excepts from radio broadcasts, news accounts, photos, letters and journals. Tells the story of our troops landing on the beaches and flying bombing missions over Europe, along with words from leaders on both sides of the war.

Marrin relates the gripping story of how the Yanks "came over" to aid the European Allies and turn the tide in the first Great War. How the United States mobilized industry, trained doughboy soldiers, and promoted the war at home makes for fascinating reading in one of the few books on this topic for young adults. The human cost of the war is poignantly related in tales of the action at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Woods, in the air with the daring men of the Army Air Corps, and with the Lost Battalion at the Battle of Meuse-Argonne. From the sinking of the Lusitania to Armistice Day, Marrin tells the heartrending and inspiring story of the "war to end all wars." Illustrated with maps and photographs.

Stalin, Russia's Man of Steel by Albert Marrin
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.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Marie Remarque
Contemporary classic confronting the morality of war. Story of young German soldiers during WW I "on the threshold of life, facing an abyss of death..." Considered one of the greatest war stories ever written -- and one of the classics of antiwar literature -- Remarque's 1929 masterpiece tells the story of young Paul Baumer, who enlists in the German Army in World War I and takes place with his comrades in the trenches. For mature readers.

An Age of Extremes covers the time period 1880-1917. For the captains of industry men like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, J. P. Morgan, and Henry Ford the Gilded Age is a time of big money. Technology boomed with the invention of trains, telephones, electric lights, harvesters, vacuum cleaners, and more. But for millions of immigrant workers, it is a time of big struggles, with adults and children alike working 12 to 14 hours a day under extreme, dangerous conditions. The disparity between the rich and the poor was dismaying, which prompted some people to action. In An Age of Extremes, you'll meet Mother Jones, Ida Tarbell, Big Bill Haywood, Sam Gompers, and other movers and shakers, and get swept up in the enthusiasm of Teddy Roosevelt. 
You'll also watch the United States take its greatest role on the world stage since the Revolution, as it enters the bloody battlefields of Europe in World War I. Hakim's history is vivid and engaging, told in story form. Somewhat biased at times, but certainly not enough to disregard this book. Recommended for use along with the Basic History of the United States series. 

From woman's suffrage to Babe Ruth's home runs, from Louis Armstrong's jazz to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's four presidential terms, from the finale of one world war to the dramatic close of the second, War, Peace, and All That Jazz presents the story of some of the most exciting years in U.S. history. With the end of World War I, many Americans decided to live it up, going to movies, driving cars, and cheering baseball games aplenty. But alongside this post-WWI spree was high unemployment, hard times for farmers, ever-present racism, and, finally, the Depression, the worst economic disaster in U.S. history, flip-flopping the nation from prosperity to scarcity. 
Along came one of our country's greatest leaders, F.D.R., who promised a New Deal, gave Americans hope, and then saw them through the horrors and victories of World War II. These three decades-full of optimism and despair, progress and Depression, and, of course, War, Peace, and All That Jazz-forever changed the United States. All of Hakim's books are filled with an abundance of pictures, graphs, maps and a chronology of events that are all very useful. Recommended for use along with the Basic History of the United States series.

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Call for Submissions!
We're looking for submissions! Do you have students who are really proud of their BFB history notebooks? Have you found ways to customize your children's notebooks? Instead of notebooks do you use other mediums like computer files, websites, or blogs? If so, we would love to feature your work on our blog! Email me your submissions at Simply send me a photo of your best notebook pages, a link to your blog, a PDF of computer work, or any other sort of file that shows your student's work. Use the subject line: "Student Notebook Submissions". I will be accepting submissions for the next week and look forward to featuring some of your work on the blog! This is a great opportunity for your students to show others what they're working on and to give other parents and teachers ideas on how to notebook and effectively use the notebooking assignments in our study guides! I can't wait to see what you all submit!

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