Over the years, I have used three curriculum packages from Beautiful Feet (BF): History of the Horse, History of Classical Music, and now Ancient History Junior High. I like BF Ancient History for the same reasons I like BF in general. All three packages I’ve used have these same characteristics:
We have already covered Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Now, after taking a break from history for many months we are beginning Ancient Rome. Since we are over halfway through the material, it’s a perfect time for a curriculum review.
BF Ancient History in its essence is a teacher’s guide that outlines lessons. (The guide includes an answer key.) There is a junior high track (grades 5-8) and a high school track (grades 9-12) in the same book. At a minimum, you need this teacher’s guide. As far as the living books, you can purchase them from BF in a package or find them on your own. Besides the books and the guide, all you need are normal school supplies and general reference books (or the Internet).
Notebooking assignments are included in the lessons. Examples of typical notebooking tasks are
- to copy a quote from a book and comment on it
- to explain a person’s behavior
- to sketch a map of an empire
- to research a personality or event
- to write and define a few vocabulary words.
The notebooking tasks are always meaningful. That means that not every lesson will have one just to fit an artificial standard. On the other hand, a particularly meaty lesson may have two or three notebooking tasks. The BF guide recommends a composition notebook, but a three ring binder (our favorite) can just as easily be used. Alternatively, you can assign some of the notebooking tasks to be answered orally instead of in writing.
Note that these are notebooking tasks, not pages. There are no reproducibles or hand-outs. There are instructions.
In the photo, you can see an example of the notebooking pages with which I sometimes supplement the BF ancients study. I either make my own or turn to the Ancient Times pages from Notebookingpages.com. [Use discount code discount5 to save $5 on your $10+ purchase; use discount10 to save $10 on your $20+ purchase.]
I say that BF has a loose structure because although there are clearly detailed lessons, there are no charts or check boxes. I have no regret about skipping over things or adding in tangents. Part of that tendency is simply my growing confidence as a homeschooler. But the organization of the teacher’s guide has a less rigid feel that many other curriculum sets we have used (such as Sonlight or Winter Promise) which have daily lessons laid out on strict grids where you can’t help but highlight or check them off.
The BF Ancient History guide for junior high has only 71 lessons. This means you do around three lessons per week to finish the course in a typical school year. (The senior high track has 90 lessons.) This kind of flexible scheduling is good for someone like me who appreciates an order to the study but doesn’t need a day by day guide.
The books are quality, of course, and are a mix of non-fiction and fiction. According to the directions at the opening of the guide, the reading assignments are to be read out loud so that both parent and child hear the books together. However, the program can be done with the child doing all the reading independently. We do a mix of the two.
There is a single textbook among the selections – Streams of Civilization. I am not a fan of textbooks, so it’s not surprising that this book came off very dry and dull to both me and to Sprite.
The senior high selection includes more books and more difficult ones. Among the junior high choices, our strong favorites were The Children’s Homer and The Bronze Bow.
BF sells a set of applicable timeline figures for each curriculum package. I have the entire Homeschool in the Woods timeline figure CD, so I use that instead. For each lesson, the teacher’s guide tells which figures should be placed on your timeline.
BF is a no-frills kind of curriculum. There are no hands-on project ideas. BF doesn’t do a lot of media hype although they do have a Facebook fan page. They have no forum where you can hang out with other users. They just make a quality, affordable curriculum and get out of the way so you can use it.
By the way, I have started an unofficial BF Yahoo group where you can ask questions and get support.