• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming and home schooling. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 17/Grade 12, 15/Grade 10, and 13/Grade 9.

    Contact me at becky.farmschool@gmail.com

  • Notable Quotables

    "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
    William Morris, from his lecture "The Beauty of Life"

    "The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man. Nothing else that he builds ever lasts. Monuments fall, nations perish, civilizations grow old and die out; and, after an era of darkness, new races build others. But in the world of books are volumes that have seen this happen again and again, and yet live on, still young, still as fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead."
    Clarence Day

    "Anyone who has a library and a garden wants for nothing."
    Cicero

    "Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtile; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend."
    Sir Francis Bacon, "Essays"

    "The chief aim of education is to show you, after you make a livelihood, how to enjoy living; and you can live longest and best and most rewardingly by attaining and preserving the happiness of learning."
    Gilbert Highet, "The Immortal Profession: The Joys of Teaching and Learning"

    "Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment."
    Walter Wriston

    "I'd like to give you a piece of my mind."
    "Oh, I couldn't take the last piece."
    Ginger Rogers to Frances Mercer in "Vivacious Lady" (1938)

    "No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem."
    Booker T. Washington

    "Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member."
    Attributed to Groucho Marx in "The Groucho Letters" by Arthur Sheekman

    "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me."
    Alice Roosevelt Longworth

    "If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, we feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
    Jean Hagen as "Lina Lamont" in "Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
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Ups and downs

Ups: our first trip to the beach this trip. The kids had all but forgotten about it until our beachside visit to Four Seasons for lunch on Sunday, but since then having been begging for more. The beach I chose — near the house of our gardener, to whom we gave a lift on the way — isn’t one of the best ones, not a lot of sand above the high tide mark and no shells for gathering, but nice and private and surrounded by a coral reef which makes for some excitement. The kids had a wonderful time digging canals (“just like in Holland” called out Laura, remembering some of our SOTW3 reading), and then she started collecting coconut husks “for a palisade,” she told the boys. Then the boys realized that instead of shells, they could collect bits of coral, some of them quite large, all broken off by the waves from the reef offshore.

I reminded the kids that the ocean, even on the considerably calmer Caribbean side (the Atlantic side is so rough few dare to go in), isn’t as safe as the pool and to be careful. When I mentioned the tide and the undertow, five-year-old Davy looked around rather panicked, and then I realized he thought I was talking some animal-like being that might grab him. So I had to explain that I was talking about the force of the water, and he relaxed, but not too much (which is good).

When the tide finally claimed the last bit of beach, and the kids were thorougly breaded with sand like little Wiener schnitzels, we headed home, where the kids showered all together and my wonderful husband made pina coladas, virgin and rum-laden, for each of us.

Downs: the pina coladas were followed by our French fairy godfather cooking French sausages — andouilles — for about the fifth night in a row. Even Daniel, who’s quite fond of sausages, stood by Tom at the barbecue tonight and whispered, “Sausages? Again? Why can’t we just have steak?” And the particular sausages tonight were particularly unappealing, essentially sausage casing around sliced tripe, which was just too much for my mother, who has been known to eat and like tripe. Not quite “Fear Factor” territory, though I did think of that scene in “Alien” when, rather disconcerted, I had cut into my sausage only to have the contents spill out in innardlike fashion. To their credit, the kids have been doing a dandy job of dealing with the gourmet concoctions, even without the reward tonight of fancy chocolates at the end; though to be on the safe side tonight, I set a tiny little metal condiment dish full of ketchup next to each of their plates.

Tomorrow is his birthday, for which he’s cooking duck breast, accompanied by what he called “my recipe” of sauteed cabbage, which I apparently made last year. I can’t recall either the occasion or the recipe, but I found it in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. Just heat some olive oil (or sesame oil) and garlic, and cook cabbage, and had some hot chili pepper to taste. I hope that’s what he’s expecting. And my parents and I are hoping that the duck breasts, which he brought with him a week ago and refused to store in the freezer, a) won’t be past their “best by” date and b) won’t be served rare, just in case.

Another up: we’re concerned enough about food poisoning and the possible surprise of yet more sausages that we’re not even going to bother with the State of the Union address. Hey, are there any more pina coladas?

Thought/quote of the day

From Sense and Sensibility:

“[B]ecause they were fond of reading, she fancied them satirical: perhaps without exactly knowing what it was to be satirical.”

Island life

The weather hasn’t been typically tropical, unless you’re talking about hurricane season, which is supposed to be over and done with. The Christmas winds have turned into Valentine winds, starting long after they should have finished and considerably stronger than usual. Our first few days were quite nice but rather breezy, and the second half of the first week was downright miserable with near gale force winds and sheets of rain. Then we had some lovely weather (bordering on, I shouldn’t even think it though Laura said it out loud, “almost TOO hot”) from last Monday until Friday. Yesterday it turned crummy again, raining and windy, though today we have “only” the wind.

I’ve decided that since I can’t do anything about the weather, and since most people in North America reading this are annoyed with me anyway for being in the West Indies in January, I’m just going to ignore it. Which includes letting the kids go swimming a) even if it’s raining and b) when it’s sunny even though they should be doing math because, let’s face it, the sun won’t last and the math will always be here. I’m also going to make lemonade out of lemons when it comes to the fact that, probably because of holiday and trip-planning induced brain fog, I completely forgot that Daniel was perilously close to the end of Singapore 1A and that I meant to bring along the start of 1B. Oops. So his formal math lessons may be coming to a screeching halt sometime next week, though I think I might have him nearby when Laura starts more multiplication work (four times tables) shortly. And continuing in the lemonade spirit, in part thanks to the weather and the fact that we have way more than our usual two channels (not to mention my father’s incredible video collection) at our disposal, I’ve added some extra TV to the rotation. You might even go so far as to call it the new Boomerang homeschool curriculum, with oodles of old cartoons, especially Hanna-Barbera gems like Top Cat, Magilla Gorilla, and Wally Gator. Oh, with some National Geographic and Animal Planet thrown in.

Our day starts pretty early, at least on the sunny days. We have breakfast on the verandah, joined by some of the banana quits (little yellow birds) trying to steal sugar crumbs from the table, and while Tom and the kids have eggs or pancakes, I enjoy my toast and guava jam, with fresh coffee made by my father.

After breakfast, Laura and Daniel do a bit of math, which as you can see by the above is turning into a very little bit of math. And it’s distracting too — lizards climbing up and down the columns, the sound of the lawn mower from the end of the garden. So soon it’s pool time, and Tom has installed the unauthorized homemade diving board, which makes the kids shriek with joy. One of our very kind neighbors, a widower approaching 80, who lives on the ridge above my parents’ place, stopped me at the bank the other day to tell me how much he enjoys the sound of children’s laughter. Bless him for another 80 years.

By then, it’s time to follow around Dad, or Grandpapa, or the gardener, or plant the watermelon seeds from yesterday’s lunch, or help me make lemon squares for dessert, and then time for lunch. After which it’s time for some reading and reading aloud; our family readaloud at the moment is “Owls in the Family” by Farley Mowat, Laura is working her way through the collected stories of Felicity (one of the American Girls), I’m rereading Claire Tomalin’s biography of Jane Austen as I do every trip here, and I’m reading Hakim’s History of US/volume 2 to everyone.

If it’s a normal day with normal weather, the hottest part of the day is over and the kids spend another hour or two in the pool, while I play lifeguard and read some more and the houseguest tries to swim laps in between crazy diving children. Yes, I have suggested (in both official languages) that he take his exercise before or after us, with no luck. I don’t mind, and the kids sure don’t, if he doesn’t.

Another reason I’m willing to put up with my parents’ French houseguest — not only did he arrive with about 40 pounds of delicacies from France (fancy chocolates but no unpasteurized Brie) but he’s also doing most of the dinner time cooking. Last night we had spicy lobster with Basmati rice, the night before Moroccan sausages with couscous, and sometime this week duck breasts with cognac and walnuts. Not exactly as I would prepare the main ingredient in the case of the lobster and duck, but hey, I’m willing to put up with a lot in exchange for enjoying such delicacies.

Speaking of food, my parents took us all to lunch at the Four Seasons resort this afternoon. The kids think Four Seasons is a magical place (and having seen how there seemed to be no wind there at all today, I’m inclined to agree) and had a marvelous time; Laura in particular had been quivering with excitement ever since hearing the news, because getting all dressed up in one’s best sundress to go to a fancy restaurant and ordering from a menu one can read all by oneself is about as good as it gets. We had a table by the beach, and after enjoying lunch they were able to run down to the sand and play for a bit while the adults enjoyed their pina coladas and tropical sorbets. And in full hearing of my father, an elderly Englishwoman leaned over to me on her way out of the restaurant and purred, “Congratulations, dear. What beautifully behaved children.” I thanked her and flushed, and it wasn’t all the rum.

Four meme

Because I owe Maitresse a meme and four is ever so much easier and shorter than 15 lol, especially over the holidays and while getting ready to leave on a trip. La Mai, I’ll give 15/Books my best shot after returning and unpacking…

And because four is my favorite number (and if I tell you that four is blue, will you think I’m nuts? I did, till I read several years ago about synesthesia. Five is orange in my head, by the way, and two is yellow.).

Four jobs you have had in your life:
junior account exec at a public relations agency in D.C.
congressional aide to a Congressman (D-CA)
picture researcher at the family historical picture library
farmer

Four movies you could watch over and over:
I Know Where I’m Going
Swing Time, with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
The Grapes of Wrath, with Henry Fonda
Some Like It Hot

Four places you have lived:
Manhattan
Vermont
Washington, D.C.
Alberta

Four TV shows you love to watch (bearing in mind we have only two TV channels):
Law & Order (especially Criminal Intent)
The Amazing Race
The Sopranos
What Not to Wear (unfortunately, only when we go to hotels or visit my parents so no, the novelty has not yet worn off. And I enjoy Clint so much more than that long-haired buffoon.)

Four places you have been on vacation:
Manhattan
Prague
Zadar (in the former Yugoslavia/present Croatia)
Montreal

Four websites you visit daily (well, almost):
Google
Amazon.ca
Bloglines
Blogger

Four of your favorite foods:
Homemade chocolate pudding (heck, anything chocolate, as long as it’s the good stuff)
Scrambled eggs cooked very slowly, made with farm eggs and fresh cream, and served with hot buttered toast
Breyer’s coffee ice cream
Leftover pork tenderloin, which was marinated in Dijon mustard, curry powder, and garlic and then grilled, in a sandwich on crusty French bread with mango chutney and tomato slices

Four places you’d rather be right now:
Vermont
home
here
Somewhere picturesque with LOTS of snow and a fireplace (the grass is always greener)

Anyone else? I’m not tagging, but you’re free to play along. And delurk, too, if you’d like.

New homeschooling blog

A homeschooling, invisible online friend of mine has a new blog, Kitchen Table Learners. Not only is Frankie a dedicated homeschooling mother to her son, but she’s also den mother to his cub scout troop. The kind who doesn’t flinch at painting 100 popsicle sticks blue for centerpieces for a den banquet. As someone who lasted one year as one of two leaders to the boys’ Beaver group (eight boys, two of them mine, under the age of 8), my hat’s off. And fun pictures of their homeschool classroom, aka Teeny Tiny Classroom; is it just me, or does anyone else like to see what others are doing for organization and storage…

Welcome, Frankie!

Alive and well, though wet and windswept

We arrived safe and sound on Sunday the 15th, after two full days of travelling. The first surprise was learning that my parents, who had changed their arrival date several times already — they had planned to arrive at their home before us for a proper welcome– weren’t going to arrive the next day but Wednesday (which changed to Friday, which changed to yesterday, but I couldn’t blame them for not wanting to fly with colds, coughs, and the flu). The next surprise was the nearly complete absence of sunshine. Instead, lots of clouds, then buckets of rain, and wind. Great huge gusts of it. The winds are traditional over the holidays, and are in fact known as “the Christmas winds”, but they’ve been coming about a month later for the past few years.

Otherwise, we’re all doing well and getting acclimated to life in the tropics. The kids have decided that a little bit of rain isn’t going to keep them from the pool (“It’s wet anyway,” explained Daniel to his silly mother), and only two of the kids have been attacked by fire ants. And, despite my best efforts to do some shopping for my parents, no real milk or Heinz ketchup for the table. So we’re making do with powdered milk and Hunt’s…

Island School: All dressed up and nowhere to go (until tomorrow morning, that is)

The end is in sight. Which is a pity, because now some of us are left with not a lot to do, in order to keep the house tidy. Next time we go, I’m contemplating sending the kids out to a hotel until it’s time to leave. This morning I actually found myself suggesting that they watch television instead of painting pictures.

Herewith a few necessary items from our bags:

Bug spray and sunscreen, because while available down south, everything costs two to four times as much, as in $20 U.S. for the two-liter container of Breyer’s ice cream. Just about had me leap across the cash register and kiss the startled cashier on the cheek when we returned from our seven-month stay. Not to mention a generous supply of antifungal cream for the entire family (living in the tropics isn’t all sunshine and bougainvillea) as well as butterfly bandages. On the kids’ first trip, Daniel swung a kid-size metal golf club too close to his two-year-old brother, which is why Davy now has a dashing scar — fairly faint to those who don’t know and love him well — on the bridge of his tiny nose. Tom and I weighed the pros and cons of having the local doctor stitch him up, and decided that he might end up with a bigger scar from a crummy sewing job, not to mention the even more real possibility of infected stitches (remember that fungus business?), then tried to locate some butterfly closures at the local pharmacies. Nada, not even at the well-stocked gift shop at the chi-chi American golfing resort. In the end Tom ended up cutting some out of regular Bandaids, but given the tendency toward liveliness and accidents in our household, better to travel with the real thing.

Bathing suits. I take back everything I’ve ever said about Sears‘s nasty habit about publishing the Wish Book in September and the fall/winter catalogue in April. I had thoughts of suggesting naturism to Laura upon discovering over the holidays that none of her summer bathing suits fit any more — one had lost its elastic and the other two, thanks to a big fall growth spurt, were downright cheeky. And just where is one supposed to buy bathing suits in rural smalltown Alberta in January? Saved by the lovely woman at Sears, who told me that though none of my choices from last summer’s catalogue were still available, I could order sight unseen from the new catalogue, only just back from the printer that very day. Wowee — now that’s customer service! She described a couple of suits to me in my price range (that would be “cheap and serviceable”), I ordered two of each in two different sizes, just to be sure (of course Sears has an easy and cheerful return policy). Laura is now the proud owner of two handsome and well-fitting swimsuits.

Our new readalouds (some are repeats for those who were too young the first time around to remember much): Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat, Gentle Ben by Walt Morey; Eagle Mask by James Houston; Davy’s island must-have, the Ladybird Classic edition of Treasure Island; and two of our old stand-bys, Grimm’s Fairy Tales (our older edition is illustrated by the wonderful Leonard Weisgard) and Canadian Wonder Tales. No, this list isn’t final, subject to substitutions, suggestion, and the battling fears of 1) we’re taking along too many heavy books and b) what if we run out of books so far from home.

Presents for our friends: Canadian books (especially multiple copies of Wild Alberta: A Visual Celebration by Wayne Lynch) and music (<a href=”http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000BPO6NQ/qid=1137169571/sr=1-1/
ref=sr_1_3_1/702-1714200-2731251″>Sarah Harmer, <a href=” http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0008KLV7S/qid=1137169350/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/
103-7518925-3551814?s=music&v=glance&n=5174″>Bedouin Soundclash, the latter of whom are very popular with our West Indian-East Indian friends from Guyana); Crayola Twistables colored pencils; the Klutz Solar Car Book kit (batteries, like everything else, are hideously expensive down there); Sudoku puzzle books from the supermarket; and little Clikits kits for Laura’s friends.

And the various goodies and treats that some of us pine for but are allowed only on airplanes: chewing gum (I don’t care what the dentist tells me about the benefits of Mal…) and those keep-fresh(?)-forever packages of crackers and cheeselike substance. And Davy’s bright idea — those mini boxes of cereal, especially those types that don’t usually find their way into our cupboards — Fruit Loops, Corn Pops, and Frosted Flakes. Ahh, vacation…

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