Saturday, September 3, 2016

BFB Early American History - Explorers

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers
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Well, we're making progress through Beautiful Feet Books - Early American History.  We finished the first "unit" on Explorers, so I'm going to start sharing how things are going for us!

What is the Guide like?
I already discussed this in more detail before, but essentially I chose the Primary Guide (K-3) because I felt it would be easier to add to it for a 4th grader if necessary, than to expect a 7 year old to "tag along" in an upper elementary/middle school level course.  This post will probably be a little longer, just because I wanted to talk a little about the guide, for those that are researching BFB.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

So?  Is the guide easy to use?  What are the lessons like?  Is it easy to adapt?

The Layout
Although I called it a "unit," the guide doesn't really distinguish any units or chapters.  It just moves from one lesson to the next; it doesn't even have headings to indicate when a new book is being started.  The books are listed in order of use in the front of the guide, which is nice.  It's a clean layout.  Simple formatting and a few pictures scattered throughout.  It's very easy to use.

Schedule and Pacing
There are 106 Lessons.  It is suggested to do two lessons every week for a two-year study for younger students, or three lessons per week for a one year study.  We are currently doing 4-5 lessons each week, and a lesson takes us about 30 minutes on average.  This quicker pacing now will give us a lot of wiggle room for when our schedule gets busier this fall and when we add in supplemental literature or any corresponding Five in a Row units.

Daily Lessons
Most lessons have a short reading, though not all do.  On days that don't have a reading, I usually ask for a summary of what we've been learning up to that point before doing the new discussions.  The short readings really do allow the kids to "get to know" these historical figures a little at a time, rather than trying to fly through a book in one sitting before attention spans wane.  There are usually a few questions or discussion prompts, and a short assignment or two.  The assignments might be a simple coloring page or notebooking/copywork activity, discussing relevant passages from the Bible, a mapping activity, or preparing a report.  The "how to use" section of the guide recommends parents can help younger students with copywork, and I usually do have to help Emory.

Is it Adaptable?
Yes.  I usually do the readings and the notebooking as assigned, but I use the questions in a bit more of an open-ended, narration style discussion opportunity.  You can easily do two lessons a day sometimes, or I guess you could even break a lesson down over two days if you need to slow down.  They do suggest a composition book, but I just used a basic spiral notebook because the pages are larger (for when we print notebooking pages to add to their free notebooking pages) and I can put them in a large 3-ring binder with future history studies.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers
Defining Self-Control

Leif the Lucky
Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire

This is one of the books that is only used in the Primary level guide (a different book is used to cover Vikings/Leif at the Intermediate level) but it has a 1st-6th grade age recommendation from Beautiful Feet Books, and a 3rd-7th Grade (8-12 years) on Amazon.  Surely it would be adequate for my 7 and 9 year old boys.

Anyway, we were introduced to Vikings through Eric the Red and Leif.  The kids seemed to have a mixed reaction to this book at first, I think mostly because it was one of the first subjects I added back into our routine, so it required them to refocus their attention every day.  To keep them interested in the book, we started telling Daddy what we were reading each night, and so they would rush to tell a different detail or interesting fact.  This means paying close attention to the readings so you have something to tell Daddy each night.  I'm sure Emory's most memorable fact was how Eric the Red was essentially kicked out of the land because of his demeanor.

As for the notebooks ~ I do help with the copywork when necessary.  The boys don't always love the coloring, and I don't force it.  We have used watercolor pencils a few times, and that was a nice change of pace.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

Five in a Row - Explorers
After we finished the lessons on Leif the Lucky, I decided we should interject with a row of Henry the Castaway.  It is a fabulous tie-in with this part of the study.  We were able to read about other explorers, learn about different boats through poetry, discuss survival skills and rivers and currents (which ties into oceans too of course), and expand on maps and globes.  You can see the full Henry the Castaway row.

Beautiful Feet Book Early American History and Five in a Row


Ingri & Edgar D'Aulaire

This book is also of the same age/grade level recommendations as Leif the Lucky, and it's used in both BFB Primary and Intermediate levels.  So you can see why I don't really have any qualms about using Primary for my 4th grader.  Speaking of which, he and I have had some interesting discussions lately, especially regarding Columbus, the myths and half-truths that surround him, how books portray him, and why there is a holiday.  I interjected this book with more details in many areas.  I understand it can be hard to teach about Columbus factually without it being overwhelming to some kids, but I don't think we should do it with rose-colored glasses on either.  

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

The Your Story Hour CDs that are recommended with this study were a mixed review for us.  I think the quality, as far as audio dramas go, was fine.  There were, however, some factual discrepancies that concerned us, and we eventually stopped listening to the second CD because they were having a hard time focusing.  (We do better with audio books in the car.)  I'll have to listen ahead to the others before deciding if the kids will listen to them or not.

Beautiful Feet Books Early American History - Explorers

The very last lesson was to compose an oral report about Columbus, and it listed very specific information that was to be included.  I didn't find that exactly Charlotte Mason friendly, because we shouldn't be expecting very specific facts to be regurgitated to us, but rather we should be asking for narrations that allow the child to express what they took away from the story and what connections they made on their own.  I think it's even less appropriate for the intended age range of this guide.  We do this informally at dinner anyway, so it's not like we're not covering this information.  Truthfully, I might have asked Elliott to do it, but I decided to skip it in favor of an interesting read-aloud to end the unit.

Thomas King

In my search for additional resources and authentic Native American literature to supplement this curriculum, I found this book recommended for the other side of the Christopher Columbus story.  Emory had been eyeing it in the book basket for a couple of days and couldn't wait for me to read it!  It was silly and humorous, and a little different from our typical classic literature, but they liked it.  Emory never left my side, and even Eleanor (3.5) sat through the whole book.  The next day she said "That was a weird book . . . and she (Coyote) didn't follow the rules!"  She didn't understand the actual story line, but both Emory and Elliott were engaged with the book the whole time.  Since we'd already talked about Columbus's less-than-stellar actions, the message wasn't new, but the book was still a great addition, and I liked the alternative ending to our study.  

Additional Resources Used
Homeschool Share Italy Lapbook
Columbus's First Voyage

Looking Forward
We'll be starting Pocahontas next week, and then Jamestown.  Elliott has already taken the guide to look through the literature list to see what books we're using next.  I take this interest as a good sign!  I also briefly mentioned looking ahead to science for next year, which seems silly since we just got started with this year's curriculum, but that's how my mind works.  I need to weed out possibilities and narrow down solid choices based on how we progress this year.  Anyway, I mentioned some different options, then I said there was a science course like this one from Beautiful Feet Books, and he immediately said THAT ONE!  It's obviously too early to make any decisions, but it was already at the top of my list.  I just think that means we're off to a great start with Beautiful Feet Books!

Related Posts
Early American History - The Planning Stages
BFB:  Early American History: Gathering Resources
Five in a Row:  Henry the Castaway

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  1. What a fun, literature based curriculum! We have never used this before, but it looks terrific. I love Notebooking and peeking into other's notebooks!

    1. It really is a fun course so far! I love the gentle CM approach!