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:
- a foundation of living books
- an emphasis on notebooking
- a loose structure
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.
Barb-Harmony Art Mom says
Excellent review Jimmie. Makes me want to start over with my boys and do it all again. 🙂
I used this curriculum to and loved it. On Fri. I’m posting a link to this review on my Homeschool FB page. Thanks for sharing.
I love Beautiful Feet curriculum. We have used several over the years and the ancient one is probably one of the best. Thanks for reminding of a great homeschooling time!
I’m using BF Ancients presently with my two younger boys, and we’re really liking it (for a lot of the same reasons you mentioned). When my oldest was first starting homeschool (he’s 18 now), we began with BF. I tried lots of different programs (the other 2 you mentioned as well as a few others thrown in the mix) and here we are…back with BF. I really appreciate the curriculum so much more now than I did prior.
Rebecca Manor says
Thanks so much for the review. We love hearing what our customers think of the curriculum. Thoughts like these help us know what our customers want and need in their study guides. I have posted your review to the BFB Facebook fan page so that other can read it.
Thank you again,
Kathy Wright says
Our first go with Beautiful Feet was Early American History, and we loved it. It changed the way we thought and even operated as a family. I was so new to homeschooling and needed that help. The guiding principle that we took with us from that study was the concept of self-government. I’d not studied it up to that point, but now we were impacted by it as a whole, and have many many times referred back to the concept. We also have the History of Science which I love, but I seem to get muddled down in getting the experiments off the ground.
The challenge I have as a homeschool teacher is learning to get past the things that could trip me up and keep me from enjoying the overall beauty of a curriculum such as Beautiful Feet. This is a review that encourages me to take another look!
Rea Berg says
Thank you, Jimmie for an encouraging, insightful, and helpful review. I am presently preparing for a speaking engagement in Grand Rapids, and your encouraging words lifted my spirits! Thank you!
SuzBee Broadhurst says
Love notebooking! And love Beautiful Feet! Love the pics, sweet memories!
Kim Monday says
I just signed up for your yahoo group this morning… LOL I have had BF books on my shelves for years, and we have read and reread them, with many of my children, but this is the first year that I am actually using the guides.. I am REALLY excited to see where they take us.
There are WAY to many choices out there these days, and it makes it very hard to decide what to do. And YES, it can be overwhelming. Thank you, for your review!!! It has been a confirmation that I am on the right track!!!
See Jamie Blog says
Thanks for this review. I’ve been considering one of the BF history curriculum for our next homeschool year, and this sounds like what I was thinking/hoping it was. From other reviews I’ve read, though, I’m not sure if their American History curriculum is quite as good. Oh, decisions, decisions!
Eddie - The Usual Mayhem says
I am a user of BF Books and never thought about the Ancient History guide – it might be just the thing for this fall. Thanks for the review!
Wonderful review! I used BF primary grades many years ago with my older children then we used Sonlight. Now, I am a full-time university student still homeschooling! Beautiful Feet is perfect for my situation and my 14 year old son loves it! Plenty of history and literature with still enough time left to delve into math and science.
Believe me, you really need the science and math once you get to college and I am a literature lover!I wish I had had more of the sciences when i was homeschooled!!
Michelle Light says
I am really considering it next year for my 2 Jr. High to be students.
Did you go ahead and do the lessons that were used with SOC? I was really wondering if we might not also find that really dry. (I think I might prefer to just add in more living books instead.) Did you find it necessary?
Jenna Edwards says
I read your review and it is so helpful. I am homeschooling this coming fall for the first time. My daughter will be in 9th grade. I am nervous to say the least. I love Beautiful Feet but I also like Total Language Plus. I do not want to over load her so I am confused a little. If I do Ancient History or Medieval History from BF, do I need a separate literature program or is it enough? Also, do I need extra spelling or vocabulary like worldly wise for sat prep etc. or is BF enough? One last thing, what do you do for writing? I am not a good writer so do not know how to teach her. I appreciate any feedback you can give. Thanks so much!
Thank-you for your excellent and detailed review. I love Bfbooks but was nervous about using it in the mid and higher “grade” levels. You have helped relieve some of the tension in making this upcoming decision. I am very grateful for you sharing your experience and ideas 🙂