Thursday, April 12, 2012

Back to the Beginning: OK, now I have a huge pile of books? What should I do with it?


Welcome back to our brief synopsis of BFB history. If you missed the first part, you can read it here. Inspired by the writings of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and the ideas of Charlotte Mason, Rea set about building a library. As a child I remember boxes of books arriving regularly and I knew this was special. Each box held multiple worlds and ideas and new experiences. We also made regular trips to the library where caring librarians help us find dusty treasures that had been sitting for far too long in forgotten corners. Each time we left the library we all had checked out our limit and with four children, that was lot of books.
As my siblings and I got older our homeschooling adventure naturally shifted from lots of informal reading time to a more structured form. Frustrated by the dreariness that marked so many of the history textbooks available,  Mom began formulating our history and English curriculums around the books we were reading. We learned about American history through biographies on Abraham Lincoln, old collections of Pilgrim stories, first hand accounts of encounters with George Washington, and harrowing recollections of Revolutionary War soldiers. Living in California offered great opportunities to delve into the history of the Wild West and we read about gold miners seeking their fortunes, the doomed Donner Party expedition, the great San Francisco earthquake, Buffalo Bill and his traveling spectacular. It was exciting. History was the stories of real people just like us! By reading biographies, historical fiction, award-winning literature, and first-hand accounts, we were being given the gift of a legacy. History became personal and relevant. It was not just a collection of facts consisting of names and dates. It was "our" story, it told us why we were here. That is the beauty and importance of history. It is not necessarily the dates and facts that are of most importance. It's the reasons behind the stories that give our lives meaning and help us understand who we are. I have never heard of a child not wanting to hear stories of her parents and grandparents childhoods and that is simply because as humans we long for connection and placement. And yet, so many children's natural curiosity for what came before them is squelched when they're given a history textbook. It may provide all the facts but no matter how well-written, it cannot provide the narrative that we long for as human beings. Story does that.
So we were immersing ourselves in story and as anyone who knows my mom can attest, when Mom is excited about something, she's evangelical. Her friends rarely left our home without a book loan, she had a book recommendation for everything. As a child, I was sure that birthday party invitations would soon dry up because we were arrived with our tell-tale flat, square gifts!
Mom faced a couple of challenges in her pursuit of the best books. The first was that this was in the early 1980s so there was no access to the internet and finding some of the more obscure titles required hours of research and lots of phone calls to book finding services. Secondly, we lived in a tiny little gold-mining town and did not have access to vast libraries or other resources. Mom decided the best way to ensure that her friends all had access to these books, was to start selling them herself. She applied for a business license and soon the UPS man was making daily deliveries and boxes of books were taking over an entire room in our home.
Now all my mom's friends and fellow homeschoolers had easy access to the books that were making history come alive, but now what? It was great to have a wonderful library, but people craved a bit more structure. While she was teaching us, Mom had been putting together study notes, reading assignments, discussion topics and unwittingly creating a history curriculum entirely based on literature. As we got a bit older, Mom and her other homeschooling friends starting doing co-op classes and guess who always taught history? As their children became excited about history, these happy parents began asking for Mom's study notes. And so she typed them up on a typewriter and made photocopies. I distinctly remember this point in my childhood because we were making lots of trips to the little printing store around the corner from our house.
These hand-typed study notes became the basis for Beautiful Feet Books' History Through Literature curriculums. Soon enough there was a growing demand from parents seeking to switch from textbooks, or others who loved literature but wanted a guide for using these wonderful books as a history curriculum. The typewriter was traded in for one of those original Apple Macintosh computers and homeschooling time now included lessons in running a small business! Lessons like how to take inventory, how to collate the printed study note pages and bind them in a plastic binders, how to check in arriving shipments and politely take an order. And as the homeschooling movement grew from those early days, so did BFB. Conventions and speaking engagements soon followed as people latched on to this new approach that harkened back to a long storytelling tradition we had lost sight of in our educational approaches.

BFB now sells over a dozen history study guides covering everything from ancient to modern history, geography, literature, and more. Tomorrow, I will finish up this history by sharing the story of the first book we published.  If you have any questions relating to the history of BFB, please feel free to ask!

And don't forget, the special promotion expires tomorrow! FREE STUDY GUIDE DOWNLOAD with a $75.00 purchase. Simply enter "blogpro" at checkout and the cost of the study guide ($15.95) will be deducted from your purchase. 

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