Monday, October 10, 2016

Raising Creative Kids

by Rebecca Berg Manor

Homeschooling today looks so different from when I was growing up in the 1980s. In the early days of the movement when I was young, there was a lot of fear of failure and fear of state interventions. It was new territory and so most home educators duplicated a classroom environment and schedule at home. There was an emphasis on academic performance and producing good test results because this movement needed to prove itself. Now I see this generation of home schooling parents enjoying the freedom allowed by being part of a movement that has reached maturity, proven itself, and been found to be a legitimate option for many people. This generation of homeschooling parents, many of them second generation home schoolers, have embraced a more free and open education for their children. Movements like "Wild and Free" and an emphasis on character over curriculum, embrace the individuality of each child and allow education to be driven by curiosity, interest, and exploration of nature. So, when the above video popped up in my Facebook feed, I thought I'd share it here because it reinforces the importance of many of the things you all are already doing!

Between the growing popularity of poetry tea time, nature exploration clubs, creativity based education, and an emphasis on character, you're encouraging the free-thinking that is fertile ground for non-conformist thinking and problem solving. Bravo!

I loved the part about addressing life questions through book characters. When your child's education is chocked full of great literature, you are giving them rich fodder for creative thinking. So, toss out those boring textbooks, and reach for stories. We're here to help you do just that! And continue on in the good work you're doing! We're approaching the mid-semester mark and the new shine is wearing off, but be encouraged by this, you are investing in lives in ways that truly matter.

We Would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comment 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
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Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Again...and again...and again. The value of repetition.

by Rebecca Berg Manor

I'm in the middle of the endless rereading of favorite books with my two-year-old. Last night my husband read Lost and Found three times, after which our son brought the book to me for a fourth reading. Every parent knows this ritual of childhood. It's equal parts endearing and mind-numbingly boring. It's a rare book that can weather the storm of toddler-demanded repetitive readings without becoming somewhat annoying to the person tasked with the reading. Each Peach, Pear, Plum  is one that I still enjoy reading despite months of repetition.

As we have all been through this with our children, it comes as no surprise that one of the questions parents often ask us, is why do you repeat some of the books in your early American history programs? And should I follow the Early American History for Primary Grades with the Early American History for Intermediate Grades. Our answers are mostly, yes and yes!

Between the Primary-level and Intermediate-level Early American History studies three books are the same, d'Aulaire biographies on Columbus, Pocahontas, and Benjamin Franklin. These books are the best biographies we are aware of on these figures and as students progress from the primary level to the intermediate, they will be able to read these books on their own, adding a new experience to familiar material. We find that this is encouraging to students as well as empowering.

In terms of repeating the time period studied in both programs, it's important to remember that not only are students learning history at this level, they're learning how to study history. They're also learning what history is: the stories of people like them! The ability to immerse oneself in a time period grows with repetition. Just as children request to hear the same stories over and over, taking the time to repeat the study of our nation's history gives them the ability build a strong foundation for understanding not just that time period, but how history works, how our world is affected by ideas and action, and how that relates to our lives. Kim John Payne, in his book Simplicity Parenting,  observes that "Repetition is a vital part of relationship building for children. By repeating experiences and scenarios in play, as well as in storytelling and reading, kids are able to incorporate what they learn. Repetition deepens the experience and relationship for a child; it helps them claim it as their own...The consistency and security of such repetition is very soothing for young children."

We've found this to be true. As a student becomes comfortable in a time period, she begins to explore more, to ask more questions, to follow rabbit trails. This is especially important in the younger years. So don't be nervous about repeating a time period (or books!) in those first years. It's comfortable for the child and will help them gain a strong foundation from which to branch out and study other eras, cultures, geographies, and more.

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comment 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.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

#backtoschoolwithBFB Winners!

So, we're a day late in announcing our photo contest winner because we simply could not choose only one from the amazing photos you all sent us! We absolutely loved seeing your beautiful families, your lesson plans, peeks into your student's notebooks, glimpses at how wonderful books are impacting your family. It was a joy to get each entry. And even though we said there would be only one winner, we decided to award two more prizes! So, here they are.

3rd Place 
$25.00 gift certificate to BFB

In 3rd place, we loved this table scene, chock full of works in progress, beauty being created, and learning happening. Congratulations Jenlovesaqua!
And the messy homeschool table has returned ❤️. We dove right into American history today learning about Jamestown, Capt John Smith and Pocahontas (the non Disney story) and about the difficulties the colonists faced along with the moral issues claiming land that indians already lived on. And they loved it! Also my boys take advantage of any excuse to draw sailing ships ⚓️

2nd Place
$50.00 gift certificate to BFB

I think we all fell a little bit in love with this scene. The orange, the globe, the knitting. And then we read the caption and realized these sweet boys were returning to last years study because they remembered they enjoyed it. Hooray for raising life-time learners! Congratulations farmhouse_schoolhouse!
They finished their @beautifulfeetbooks science study this morning and I told them they could have free time. I walk into their room a few minutes later and find them with one of last year's @beautifulfeetbooks. "What are you guys doing?" They smiled at me, "Just remembering our adventure with Columbus and doing more research and imagining, it's our free time right? You said we could do whatever." They are always reminding me that learning should be delightful and fun. So for those asking recently how we loved the Early American History study? I think this quick capture says it all! They loved it so much, they go back for visits with their old friends. πŸ˜‚πŸ’•πŸŒŽπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ

1st Place
$100.00 gift certificate to BFB

Not only to we appreciate that eight subjects have chosen a favorite title from one of our many history through literature studies, we also appreciate the logistical effort that must have gone into creating this endearing picture. And then we realized even the animals in this family read, and knew this was the entry. Check out those goats reading Augustus Caesar's World. Congratulation meteorsandmeadowlarks!
The goats know that September brings falling leaves, crisp apples, and great literature. Everyone has a favorite book from Beautiful Feet Books

Thank you to everyone who entered! We will do this again. And keep adding those pictures of your family using BFB. Just use #beautifulfeetbooks or @beautifulfeetbooks so we can find them.

Winners, give us a call at 800.889.1978 to claim your prize!
We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comment 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:

Monday, September 19, 2016

When should I stop reading aloud to my children?

Rebecca Berg Manor

Although the question is always framed a bit differently, we often encounter some form of the above question. "If my student is reading independently, can she do this curriculum on her own?" "At what point should my son start reading these books on his own?" "Is this curriculum supposed to be read aloud even in junior high/high school?" It's easy to understand why parents ask this. Often they're teaching multiple children, and/or balancing a job, running after toddlers, fulfilling social responsibilities, and much more. Reading aloud is time consuming and many home school parents look forward to the time when their youngsters are able to read independently.

We have found that the value gained by reading aloud does not cease when a student becomes an independent reader. In fact, we believe, along with Doug Lemov, author of Teach like a Champion and co-author of Reading Reconsidered that the time when your student is able to read independently is the very time you should amp up the read-alouds. This excerpt from the article linked here, explains it wonderfully:
Kids should pick books they love, and read what they want on their own. Agency is key. But there is a popular perception that to get kids to love to read, we should make it easy. That way they can make it through, build confidence, and ideally, start to love reading on their own...Lemov has more faith in kids, as long as they can harness the help of parents or other caregivers to help them along. 'Because challenge is far more engaging in the long run than pandering,' he writes.

When using literature to teach history, reading aloud also allows you to introduce more complex
stories and concepts. It's one of the many reasons our K-3 level history programs contain books that are written at a 5th or 6th grade reading level. These books add a richness to the study that would be missing if the curriculum were limited to books written for 2nd graders. Children are often able to comprehend so much more than we realize and using that ability to introduce them to a varied and challenging smorgasbord of story, literature, poetry, and myth will enliven their minds, whet their appetite for more reading, spark their curiosity, and provide great fodder for discussion. You probably noticed that the language employed in the previous sentence is language usually associated with food and eating. I believe there is a parallel. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers who eat a varied diet expose their babies to more flavors via their breastmilk leading to less picky toddlers. When we wean our babies we don't stop introducing food when they're able to spoon feed themselves bland cereal.We continue to challenge them with new flavors and textures. we introduce chopped bites of avocado, banana, chicken. The same should hold true for reading aloud – don't stop challenging your children when they're able to read. It's just the beginning of a whole life-time of experiencing all the literary world has to offer. And keep reading aloud until they leave home. Family read-aloud time never goes to waste. It's a gift that family members can give to one another. Don't forget that sharing stories is a human tradition that goes back to the very beginning of human history. It is something we never outgrow.
Don't forget to enter our Back-to-School with BFB contest. Details here.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Back to Home School!

Is today your first day back to (home)school?? In the midst of the fun, don't forget to enter our photo contest! Post a pic with your BFB books/guides/timelines/maps on our Instagram and Facebook page. We've received some amazing entries and can't wait to see yours. Post your picture on Facebook or Instagram and be sure to add #backtoschoolwithBFB for a chance to win a $100.00 gift certificate to use at Extra points awarded for creativity! Make sure to tag it with #backtoschoolwithBFB to ensure it gets entered in the contest and follow along for inspiring and adorable pics from other BFB families. Deadline for entries is September 25, 2016. We'll announce the winner on September 30, 2016.

Full terms and conditions here.

We would love to hear what you think! Chime in below in the comment 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, August 31, 2016

The Discipline (and Joy) of Notebooking

by Rebecca Berg Manor

Back in 1984, when Beautiful Feet Books was just starting out, there were very limited resources available for home educators, so we had to start from scratch. One tool that we always found to be a reliable standby was the humble composition notebook. It served students as a creative outlet, journal, portfolio, and much more. In the past 32 (!) years we've never strayed from recommending that students keep notebooks as they progress through our studies so when I came across this quote on Instagram, I had to share it.

"No other learning tool has more purity of approach than a blank notebook. Like the artist's canvas, it has the creative potential of becoming anything the author wishes to portray. It's natural form makes it adaptable to any task or learning situation. The content, rather than being dictated by a pre-set curriculum, is determined by the family, meeting their unique and individual needs. When the development of learning tools becomes the focus rather than merely gaining content, then the family is free to use all of life as their curriculum." Marilyn Howshall

Thank you so much kinderfarm homeschool for sharing that quote. It perfectly sums up what we have believed all along. Now that we live in a more fast-paced time and our students are drawn more and more to "interactive" media, the discipline of keeping a notebook can seem rather old-fashioned and maybe even pointless. We do hear from parents whose children find the notebooking activities suggested in our guides to be less than thrilling, and we understand the tension between teaching the disciplines of education and the desire to make learning fun in every way. Here's some tips for combining the two.

First, just as Howshall so eloquently states, notebooks are tools. We never offered worksheets for our
notebooks because we believe in the freedom and promise of a blank sheet of paper. Our guides all contain writing prompts to help you begin and carry on the notebooking process but it's important to push aside the workbook/worksheet mentality while notebooking. This begins with the notebook itself. Choose one that your child likes. Many people use a sewn-bound notebook and only put their best work in it. This approach results in a great portfolio of the student's work. Others prefer a spiral notebook. This can be useful for removing pages if necessary. I love these notebooks pictured to the right. Moleskines, three-ring binders, they're all great! Use the format that works best for your child.

Secondly, we provide free print-outs for many of our study guides (available here) and these are great for adding color to student notebooks along with mapping activities to incorporate geography. When using these printouts, let your children's creativity go wild. If they prefer using water colors to colored pencils, or if they want to draw their own illustrations, these assignments are opportunities for your children to exercise creative license! It can be so tempting to want our children to create brag-worthy portfolios but these are their projects and should reflect their aesthetic.

Third, notebooks are for recording. After your student has had fun creating/drawing/painting/sketching, this is the time for labeling and recording. Study after study shows that writing things out by hand reinforces memory and information processing. So, while your student may not find this to be his favorite activity of the day, it is important. This activity incorporates handwriting, composition, and reasoning, so remind your students that their accomplishing a lot in these assignments. If your children are very young, feel free to label the pictures for them until they are proficient enough in writing to do it themselves. While it is important that written work be done, it's also good to make it as enjoyable as possible for children who find it challenging. "Short and simple" is the key for children who find this extra challenging. Some students will love writing in their notebooks, others will not. Do not worry too much about the students who don't find it enjoyable. As their appreciation for story and language grows through exposure to great literature, their abilities to write will expand.

Last, provide good materials. When a student is creating, it's very helpful to have colored pencils that blend and aren't so hard that they make everything look messy. It's wonderful to have watercolors that are saturated with color and good paper to use them on. It makes for a much more pleasant experience if your students have tools that facilitate creative expression, not hinder it.

For inspiration on notebooking, check out these blogs: Jodi Mockabee, kinderfarm homeschool, and our Instagram (where we're constantly posting pictures from homeschooling mommas!).

We hope your students enjoy the creative outlet provided by notebooking and grow in the critical reasoning and processing that the discipline fosters. And we LOVE seeing your children's notebook pages, so snap a picture and post it on our Facebook page or Instagram. And tag it with #backtoschoolwithBFB for a chance to win $100.00 to spend on our website.

Notebook photo credits: Reflections from Drywood Creek

Don't forget to enter our Back-to-School with BFB contest. Details here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Shifting Teaching Paradigms

by Rebecca Berg Manor

It's back-to-school time and many of you may be using our study guides for the very first time. It can be a big change if you're used to at textbook or a more schedule oriented history curriculum, so we wanted to write a bit about how to make this approach work best for you family. Today, let's take a look at scheduling, study guides, and subjects.
At BFB, we want our study guides to be seen as guides, not checklists, do-to lists, or something that holds undue influence on how you teach your students. The guides exist for you to use in the way that works best for your family. When using literature to teach history, it does take more time than it would if you're using a textbook. Textbooks are designed with efficiency in mind, not story. In order to make a literature-based approach work for your family so that they can glean the riches of a literature approach to history, it can be helpful to simply set the amount of time you want to spend each day or week on history/literature/geography. Then, within the confines of that time, do what you can. Do not be distressed if you do not complete an entire lesson in the time you've set aside for history. The study guide is a tool, not a master. If you set up history to be for three hours a week, stick with that as you've already determined that this is what works best for your family. This gives you control of your curriculum, instead of the curriculum controlling you. Try not to feel like you must complete three lessons each week or read four books a month. Simply complete what you can in the amount of time you allot for the subject. If the study takes you longer than a year, that's one of the freedoms of homeschooling; you do not have to follow an artificially imposed schedule. This also give you the ability to take diversions when your student comes upon something they want to explore further. Additionally, it gives you and your chilfen time to enjoy the literature and really delve into the historical characters, ideas and consequences, movements and upheavals, that make history so interesting.
For many this approach can be intimidating or it can feel like you are not accomplishing enough, but it can also be very freeing. Your students are digging into history as more than just dates and events. They're learning that history is the stories of people; people like themselves who lived at times that can inform our own and give us wisdom in how we live. In this way coupling history and literature becomes more than just social studies, it becomes a study in ideas and character and when viewed from this lens, it's bigger than a lesson plan or a four-year cycle in which the entire history of the world is covered on repeat.
Additionally, our study guides encompass more than history. Your students are learning geography with every mapping activity. They're being exposed to great literature and language with each reading assignment. Their written work counts toward language arts. Notebook illustrations count as art. Discussion questions develop critical reasoning skills. Teaching in such an interdisciplinary style takes the pressure off of feeling that each subject must be covered in a separate lesson. The separation of disciplines is artificial. Rarely does life fall neatly into separate categories and neither should our studies.

Later this week we will be talking about notebooking and how to make it more engaging for those of you whose students find it boring or challenging! Please post your questions and comments here and we will try to address those in the next blog post.

Don't forget to enter our Back-to-School with BFB contest. Details here.