Friday, June 27, 2014

Motherly Encouragement

We live in what is commonly described as the "Age of Information". As a parent and someone concerned with education, the vast amount of information available to me at the click of a mouse can be illuminating. It can also be overwhelming. Studies on brain development in infants, reports on educational trends, ongoing debates on child rearing styles–it can all leave a parent feeling wholly inadequate. For all its wealth of information, the digital age is often short on encouragement and long-term perspective. So it was extremely refreshing to have my sister-in-law, Grace, forward an inscription she'd found on the inside cover of a tattered parenting book. From one mother to another, the writer conveyed something I think our mother-hearts long to hear: that we are immensely important to our children but there is someone greater guiding their little hearts. I want to share these sweet, faded words with you because I think they speak to something we know deep down but is often lost in the cacophany of parenting advice and research.

"Sometimes when you are tired it is hard to be conscious of God's grace and presence guiding your nurturing of the new life in your family. This book has helped and encouraged me more than any other when my foggy and worn consciousness cannot quite get to the truth of the situation. My biggest leap of faith has been to know that while I am a very important tool in helping my son grow into who God has made him, there are other factors in every part of my son's life that will shape and form him and God's grace surrounds him and us no matter how confused, or blind, or tired we are. 
"So don't worry about what you don't know...yet. The new situation that demands new understanding of us is also the channel through which that understanding may come. You are about to get your first glimpse of Agape love. The love that teaches us to invest our best selves selflessly with the detachment of seeking nothing in return. From the moment she is born your task is one of letting go of the thing you love most. You will have so much fun learning about this amazing love together. If you are not enjoying yourself and at least at peace, ask yourself this: What am I holding on to? And let go! It's like a roller coaster."
What a cogent reminder of our role as parents. I'm a firm believer in the importance of boiling things
 down to the basics. While it's so easy to get caught up in checklists, educational outcomes, long-term goals, at the heart of the matter we, as parents, are here to love and care for our children. As a Christian the most important outcome for me is that my children carry on my faith, that they know God's love, and love those around them in a selfless way. What more could a parent want? The challenge is remembering this in the midst of all the distractions.

The author's ability to show that parenting should be something we can accomplish with peace and joy helps me reframe my mental state when my six-month-old is cutting his 6th (!!!!) tooth and the nights are long and exhausting. What am I holding on to? What am I allowing to rob me of taking solace in these moments when my baby needs me with a ferocity that I'm sure I'll miss in a few years? I know that being able to stop and ask myself that question will become increasingly important with each passing year. On days when homeschooling has caused tempers to rise and the threat of tears is looming, what am I holding on to? Is it that important that my child figure out the answer to this math problem right now? Or do we need to take a breather? What course of action will be more important to the development of his character? These are the questions I struggle with as a mother and they're the questions that do not have easy answers but encouragement from someone who has walked this path before me is more valuable than a dozen peer-reviewed studies on teaching styles.

When Grace first read the inscription to me over the phone, I was struck by the unknown writer's ability to speak to moms that she had never met. And it made me want to be like her! Graciousness is something one has a very difficult time finding on the mommy discussion boards, in the articles written by researchers, in the opinions of experts. Finding it anywhere is always a surprise, a gift. As she stated, motherhood is the "task of letting go of the thing you love most." Maybe it's also the task of letting go of my ideals, my expectations, my desires and leaning into hard (and happy) moments with my child. Maybe it's letting go of my desire to spout off some wise-sounding advice to an overwhelmed mom and just let her know that she's not alone. Maybe it's the daily discipline of recognizing my limitations as a mother and trusting God to graciously turn the messy chaos of my parenting into something beautiful. Yes, this adventure is like a "roller coaster" with its highs and lows and I'm so encouraged that there are people out there who will remind me that it's not all up to me. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Update and Expanded Study Guides

Here at BFB we are committed to offering you the best educational materials available. To make this possible we are working on updating and expanding all our study guides. This is a work that is ongoing as books go out-of-print, as new resources and literature becomes available, as we reprint books that have been unavailable for years. The following are the guides that we have recently updated. They feature parent and teacher-friendly lesson plans, the best literature available, comprehension and discussion questions based upon the Charlotte Mason model, hands-on activities, links to websites, and much more. To learn more about each guide, click the links below! 

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here. And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Reading for Moms

Yay! Summer has finally arrived and with it there is more leisure time. Or at least that's the theory. I have always found that after looking forward to lazy summer days they always tend to feel much more hectic than I had anticipated. It seems like summer can quickly slip away and before we know it we're pulling out the school supplies. Before we get buried in curriculum catalogs, let's spend some time reading books that will encourage, inspire, and inform us...and provide a bit of an escape. Today I'm going to be sharing a few titles that are on my summer to-read list as well as a couple I've recently enjoyed.

Found by Micha Boyett

This was one of the first books I read after giving birth to my son and it could not have been a more perfect read for that period in my life. It was grounding and encouraging. Here's the description of the book:
“My first year of motherhood I lost prayer.I lost early mornings of quiet, mornings in my pajamas with a Bible in my lap, mornings when I spoke my mind’s chaos into God’s ear and let the chaos come back ordered, holy sealed. I lost peace. I lost clarity and certitude. My faith was never perfect before my son was born, but somewhere in that first year, somewhere in my distraction and exhaustion, I lost the Spirit-life I had known. I blamed myself. . . .” 
Found is a story of nourishment for anyone who hungers for rich spirituality and has come up empty. It’s a story for anyone who is trying to reconcile great big dreams with the ordinariness of their days. It’s a story of discovering divine kindness and affection in the most mundane moments of life. With brilliant and moving prose, Micha Boyett invites us on a journey to discover the richness in the everyday—and it changes everything.

From Boyett's exploration of Benedictine prayer rituals to her honesty in relating the deep joys and unique challenges of parenthood, I enjoyed every sentence. For mothers seeking a book that will take them beyond the everyday chaos that rules so many of our lives, this is a perfect choice.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

One of the many things I love about my job is the opportunity it gives me to constantly explore what is new in the world of children's literature. Our representative Karyn recommended this book to me and it is excellent. Yes, this is a young adult book and some are a bit snarky about adults reading books directed toward teens, but this is one that I think the entire family could enjoy. Read this book with your pre-teens and I'm sure you'll be flooded with opportunities for discussion. I would encourage your to discuss the theme of courage when you chat about this book with your children. Courage takes many forms in this touching story and it will take a bit of sussing out to find each example.

I will be re-reading this one over the summer. I am constantly reading about new educational trends, the adoption of Common Core standards, the trend toward increasing racial segregation in public schools, and other less-than encouraging news from our school system so am feeling the need to reorient myself and I know this lovely book will do the trick. If you haven't read this treasure, add it to your reading list. It's encouraging and inspring. 

Gracious Christianity, Living the Love We Profess by Douglas Jacobsen & Rodney J. Sawatsky

I'm very much looking forward to spending some time with this book. The increased fracturing of our political system and social mores has resulted in a steep decline in graciousness. The online world seems to foster writing that is anything but kind and, unfortunately, this is as true on Christian websites as it is on secular ones. A guide to the Christian life, Gracious Christianity is a much needed antidote to the harsh dogma that shapes so much of public discourse. Written by two educators, I am excited to see what they have to say about rearing children in an atmosphere of grace.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen

I first heard about this book on Sara Clarkson's blog and cannot wait to delve into its pages. You can read her review here. This seems like a wonderful read for summer. This excerpt hooked me:

Books are bulky and inconvenient–like rocks, and trees, and rivers, and life. It occurs to me that everything that can be said agains the inconvenience of books can be said about the inconvenience of children. They too take up space, are of no immediate practical use, are of interest to only a few people, and present all kinds of problems. They too must be warehoused efficiently, and brought with as little resistance as possible into the Digital Age.
As a full-fledged member of the Digital Age (you are, after all reading this on a blog), I think quite a bit about how to raise my children to be savvy users of digital media, while still preserving the things I so value about growing up in a time with the internet was in its infancy. When I was a youngster my parents consciously made the decision to not have TV. Today, my husband and I have continued that tradition, only watching select shows on our computers but we also have smartphones and my six-month old is fascinated by them. The iPad is always within reach and I know he will need to have the skills needed to make wise choices in our online world. Thankfully he's already enamored with books and I  want to cultivate that attraction into a true appreciation of the joys of reading and building one's own library of real books. I think that Ten Ways will give me even more to think about on this front and I look forward to it!

What books are you going to be reading this summer? Share below! And if you would like to order any of these titles from Beautiful Feet Books, just give us a call at 800.889.1978.

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here. And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below.

Friday, June 13, 2014

From Kathy: The Gentle Art of Nature Study

Recently, I was talking with a group of homeschooling mothers when one of the mothers asked me, “Kathy, how do you do nature study?” To be honest, it doesn’t seem it was that long ago I was asking myself the same question. When our daughter was a toddler, I decided it was time to read up on this particular topic. After all, I was a homeschooling parent and I needed to be able to facilitate and guide my child in this particular branch of science. How hard could it be?

A Charlotte Mason Approach to Nature Study

I began to peruse the writings of Charlotte Mason and during my readings I came across this golden nugget of information from her: “It would be well if all we persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get in touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” (1)

Introducing Children to Nature

Bingo! I hit the jackpot and now had something to work with. The first thing I did with our toddler was to take her outside in our backyard several times a day for “nature explorer time.” Basically what this consisted of was the two of us venturing into our spacious backyard to look at nature. Looking for and observing birds, ants, worms, flowers, trees, spider webs, the weather became a daily adventure for us. As our daughter grew older, I began to take her to the local botanical center and nature garden several times a week. With her toddler energy she would run laps around the botanical center, stopping every now and then to look at the plants and flowers. In the outdoor garden, she would explore the various themed gardens and the wonders within them. Here I practiced what Charlotte calls, “Picture Painting.” I would get my daughter to look at a portion of the garden, then have her shut her eyes and tell me about the picture she saw in her mind. The purpose of this exercise is to teach your child to see fully and in detail. Although this act is fun for the child, it helps to develop their powers of attention, so that they begin to do it unconsciously, until it becomes a habit. On the weekends, our family would go hiking at a nearby state park. Here, our daughter was introduced to the woods, forests and its inhabitants. Daily outings to a local park offered an afternoon out in the open. I learned to allow my child to play vigorously, and at the same time allowing her to stop occasionally to observe the beauty of the earth and the heavens.

Incorporating Guides and Literature into Your Nature Study

As she grew into the primary and intermediate years the study of nature grew as our daughter grew. She began to develop an interest in botany, which led us to utilizing the following books: One Small Square: Backyard, The Usborne Complete First Book of Nature, and The Golden Guides. Interest in nature gave way to conducting science experiments which revolved around a nature theme using Janice Van Cleave’s Let’s Play and Find Out About Nature, Science Play: Beginning Discoveries for 2-6 Year Olds, and The Usborne Book of Science Activities

Photo by Kathy Alphs
“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature diary is a source of delight to a child.” (2) During the latter primary years, our daughter started her own nature diary. The diary is filled with her drawings of flowers, plants, leaves, flowers, observations based on nature, the science experiments she conducted at the time and photographs she has taken of the great outdoors. Her study of nature has also crossed over into the world of literature. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss and Aesop's Fables are some of her favorite “nature themed” pieces of literature. 

Nature Study as a Part of Everyday Life

“On fine days when it is warm enough to sit out with wraps, why should not tea and breakfast, everything but a hot dinner, be served out of doors? For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage turns to see; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increases of brain power and bodily vigor, and to the lengthening of life itself...Never be within doors when you can “rightly” be without.” (3) I heartily concur with Charlotte’s advice. Our family has made it a tradition to eat all three of our meals out of doors as the weather permits. As we talk together as a family, we are able to witness the miracle of God’s creation in the form of birdsong, bees buzzing from flower to flower and the scent of wildflowers and lilac wafting through the gentle breeze.

The pursuit of nature study can be a family activity or a solitary pursuit. To assist you in your study, I would recommend Karen Andreola’s book, A Pocketful of Pinecones, and Exploring Nature with Your Child by Dorothy Edwards Shuttlesworth.

In closing, I would like to leave you with a quote from one of our daughter’s favorite scientist, George Washington Carver, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”


1. Mason, Charlotte M.; Home Education: Part II Out of Door Life for Children: Nature
Knowledge the Most Important for Young Children
 page 61; Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Wheaton, Illinois; 1989.
2. Ibid, page 54.
3. Ibid, page 42.

Thank you so much Kathy! These are wonderful suggestions and thoughtful ways to incorporate nature study into our daily lives. And summer is the perfect time to start making a habit of getting out of doors and enjoying God's beautiful creation. 

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here. And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Early American History Updated and Expanded

As many of you know we are currently working on expanding and updating all of our study guides! While this is a long-term project that will be accomplished over several years, we're are so excited about the guides we have completed. Our most recent is our Early American History for Intermediate Grades. Now in full-color, complete with hands-on activities, links to amazing websites, expanded comprehension questions and writing assignments, and much more! The book list now incorporates A Child's First Book of American History and covers more of the Civil War.

Now included in our expanded Early American History study for grades 4-6!!
Literature still includes favorites like Amos Fortune, Free Man and The Vikings but the inclusion of An Child's First Book of American History allows for deeper study and the inclusion of a more events!

Here's a peak at some of the lessons, just click on each picture to zoom in.

We hope you enjoy this expanded study! And remember, we're now offering free shipping on all our complete packs so now's a great time to order for the coming school year.

Early American History for Intermediate Jumbo Pack

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comments section and share your thoughts. Don't forget to check out our Facebook and Pinterest pages. To learn more about Beautiful Feet Books, click here. And if you've enjoyed this, please feel free to share using the buttons below!

Friday, June 06, 2014

D-Day 70th Anniversary

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasions in Normandy. This somber anniversary is being remembered in many striking and fitting ways. Today we're sharing links to some of these resources and stories.

Artists create a visual representation of the lives lost on the Normandy beaches.

Live stream coverage of ceremonies in France.

The most important weather report in history.

The President's address this morning. 

Our visit to Normandy a few years ago. 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt's D-Day Prayer

June 6, 1944

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home -- fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas -- whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them--help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too -- strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


At BFB, we are so grateful for the brave men who stood for freedom and gave the last measure of devotion. May we always remember. 

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Just for Fun!

As the school year has recently ended (or it's end is nigh) for many of you, I thought it would be fun to share some fun quiz links! After grading (or taking) all those year-end tests, these will be delightful. Enjoy!

How To Tell If You Are In A Jane Austen Novel (I found this hilarious!)

Which Children's Book Character Are You?

Which Children's Book Are You?

Do You Still Remember Your Favorite Children's Books?

And finally, looking back on your school year, what was the best book you read all year? Leave your answer below!

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