• 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 16/Grade 11, 14/Grade 9, and 13/Grade 8.

    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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Homeschool contest: Tell your favorite American history story

and you just might win a prize!

If this sounds like a fun way to kick off your family’s new school year, not to mention a nifty writing assignment for the kiddies, Jennifer Armstrong, author of the new history title, The American Story, wants you. Details of Ms. Armstrong’s new contest just for homeschoolers are here, and as she writes, “Have fun! Writing about history is a blast!” Ten winners will receive an autographed copy of the book.

And did you notice that Jennifer Armstrong’s new blog is called Just for Homeschoolers? Color me impressed.

UPDATED to add: I’m feeling even more colorfully impressed this morning.

Run to the Edge of the Forest

Not the real forest. The online kidlit journal, The Edge of the Forest, issue #6, brought to you by editor Kelly Herold. I haven’t made it yet to even the edge of the Edge of the Forest, but I’ve heard there are interviews with kidlit author Melissa Wiley and kidlit librarian Fuse #8, as well as more interviews, more than a dozen book reviews, and a kidlit blog roundup. Sounds wonderful!

Autumn is a-cumin’ in

Saturday evening we headed for town to help celebrate our little town on the prairie’s 100th birthday. Not a great age compared to many, even in eastern Canada, but quite an achievement and a thrill for the kids especially to be a part of the occasion. There was a big dance followed by fireworks, then more dancing, and oodles of food throughout. And a chance to remember the pioneers who started it all with their hard work, and those who carry on. To whom we all say a well-deserved thank you.

Speaking of thank yous, Tom arrived home on Friday with a case of very, very ripe peaches. I’ve come to be very wary of this sort of gift when I’m least prepared and usually up to my armpits in some other garden preserving activity, and I’ve told Tom in previous years on various occasions that yes, dear, I will buy and can cases of peaches and pears — Davy calls them “hot sugared fruit” — but on my own schedule, dear, since that I had planned to deal this weekend with the last of the green beans, rhubarb, and a few other housekeeping projects. The peaches were well on the way to beyond ripe, so I had to do something fast. And quick and easy, to, which meant one cobbler, one pie, and peeling, chunking, and sugaring the rest for pie filling.

The leaves on the Virginia creeper have turned bright red already, harvest is in full gear in the fields around us, geese are honking and ducks gather on the dugouts and sloughs and the hunters from the U.S. are starting to circle too, our neighbor’s famous end-of-summer “corn supper” is next week, and though it’s still unusually warm for this time of year (we watched the fireworks at 10:30 pm in light shirts), the light definitely looks like autumn. I’ll miss the carefree summer weather and schedule, my garden especially — I’m enjoying great big blowzy bouquets right now, zinnias, cosmos, hollyhocks, cornflowers — but there’s something exciting about the change in seasons, especially this next season. Autumn usually means a withering and a decline, but as someone who always loved school (Tom and I decided to homeschool Laura in part because we wanted her to love school and learning as much as we had), this time of year to me signifies not only an ending but also a beginning, marked by kraft-paper covered books, new knee socks and art supplies, the excitement of new friends and activities. Now that the days are dramatically shorter — it’s getting dark before nine now — even the kids are starting to show a bit of curiosity and interest in our new schedule, not as freeform and out-of-doors as it’s been. Where and when will the 4H meetings be held? What will the new piano and voice teachers be like? What new books will be using? It’s all part of the new adventure!

Poetry Friday: The golden August edition

August
by Celia Thaxter (1835-1894)

Buttercup nodded and said good-by,
Clover and daisy went off together,
But the fragrant water lilies lie
Yet moored in the golden August weather.

The swallows chatter about their flight,
The cricket chirps like a rare good fellow,
The asters twinkle in clusters bright,
While the corn grows ripe and the apples mellow.

Read more about and see Celia Thaxter’s garden in An Island Garden, written by Celia Thaxter and illustrated with paintings by (Frederick) Childe Hassam (1859-1935)

****

Updated to add that both Liz B. at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy (here) and Jen at Jen Robinson’s Book Page (here) have compiled the day’s round-ups. Thank you!

P.S. What are the chances of two selections by Celia Thaxter in one week? Go to MotherReader for hers.

And Karen at lightingthefires has, if not an official offering for Poetry Friday, a lovely offering for poor benighted Pluto by Walter de la Mare.

Books indeed

One of my favorite quotations has always been this from the Dutch scholar and teacher Erasmus: When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.” Not all that practical for too many folks, though.

Melissa at The Lilting House wrote the other day about a new nonprofit organization, Kids in Need – Books in Deed, started by some of her friends, that, in their words, “brings free books and free author visits to Kids in Need in the state of Florida.” Click the links to learn more and to see how you can help, either by donation or through a Write-a-Thon.

"Do you home school?"…

asks Jennifer Armstrong, author of the new children’s history book, The American Story, I mentioned on Tuesday, the date of publication:

I’m going to make sure that when my new site is up and has the classroom history contests it makes provision for a home school family or group to participate. Maybe a homeschooling family would even like to share some of the ways they plan to use the book. I’d love to hear from you.

Howzabout them homeschooling apples? Many thanks to Ms. Armstrong for recognizing a serious history-loving and book-buying segment of the educational market!

The Country Fair is back

The sixth Country Fair is up.

My favorite post so far is from Karen, in part because I’m delighted to discover her blog, lightingthefires, by another Canadian homeschooler. Which I know because she has posted recently about a free online Canadian history program and the Sir John A. action figure that I wrote about the other month. But lightingthefires is a wealth of resources, inspiration, and reasoned thought well beyond life up north (if you don’t believe me, read this and this). Thank you, Karen.

Late summer catching up

It’s been another busy week, and besides the usual weeding of the thousand trees it’s been dry enough to start watering the garden, because the beans and cucumbers keep coming, the tomatoes have started, and the corn is on its way. On Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful party celebrating the 50th anniversary of a dear couple we know, the parents of one of Tom’s closest friends. To top it off, his close friend and family, who live in northern BC, brought us a freshly caught salmon, which we enjoyed last night, grilled, and with — all from the garden — dill, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peas (via the freezer), and green and Royal Burgundy beans. The kids figured that the only storebought items were the olive oil, salt, and pepper. If I hadn’t spent most of the day outdoors, I would have turned some of the bag of apples from Tom’s cousin’s girlfriend’s tree into a cobbler or at least a compote, but everyone was happy with a dish of storebought ice cream. The apples will wait.

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The Common Room.

The Sixth Carnival of Children’s Literature is up at Castle of the Immaculate. And, for you early planning types (don’t look at me, I didn’t submit anythingto any of the carnivals), Carnival number seven will be hosted by Wands and Worlds next month, with submissions due by September 15th; Sheila writes, “This ‘Harvest of Children’s Literature’ will be celebrated on the equinox, September 23!” Not to be outdone, Michele at Scholar’s Blog has already advised that she’ll be hosting the Eighth Carnival on Halloween: “I invite you to start thinking about witches, pumpkins, vampires, ghosts and ghouls, and anything else that might be related to Hallowe’en.” Submissions are due October 15th. Michele also provides a handy listing with links of all the previous kidlit carnivals.

The deadline for the latest Country Fair of Homeschooling was, aack, yesterdayday. I didn’t submit anything, but I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s offerings shortly.

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight is ready with the Late Summer Field Day, a carnival of nature study, bookended by just the right poems saying goodbye to August and hello to September.

Kelly at Big A little a is working on the August edition of the online kidlit magazine The Edge of the Forest, and it should be up on Wednesday.

Sherry at Semicolon, a homeschooling/writing/reading mother, has a fairly new feature, The Saturday Review of Books, a roundup of the week’s book reviews, complete with its own easy auto-link form. Couldn’t be any easier!

Another member on one of my Yahoo homeschooling groups mentioned the other week a new American history book for children (she had read about it in Parade Magazine), but on checking at Amazon discovered, of course, that it wasn’t yet out. So I was very pleased to find Chris’s glowing review, complete with list of links, of the book, The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History by Jennifer Armstrong (who has a blog and a website, though the latter is still under renovation). The blog in particular has some of the book’s beautiful illustrations by Roger Roth. Very nice. Publication date for those of us who don’t usually receive advance copies is — ta-da — today! Great good luck to Ms. Armstrong and Mr. Roth, and am very much looking forward to getting my mitts on a copy.

I’m so far behind that some of these titles reviewed by the prolific Fuse #8 predate her recent summer vacation. Worth noting is Fuse’s review of Counting on Grace, historical fiction from Elizabeth Winthrop (the kids adored her Castle in the Attic when we studied the Middle Ages the other year), about young Grace who works in a New England cotton mill and meets photographer Lewis Hine. Fuse calls the novel “remarkable,” which is good enough for me. A good companion book would be Russell Freedman’s Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor.

Also recently reviewed by Fuse is what I think might be Albert Marrin‘s first picture book, Oh, Rats!: The Story of Rats and People. So now while you curl up with your copy of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan, Junior can snuggle up next to you with his own version. Much as we here at Farm School like to curl up en famille with our Mark Kurlansky fish books: Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World for Tom and me, and the picture book The Cod’s Tale for the kiddies (both highly recommended, by the way).

A new blog, from children’s author Anne Bustard. It’s a birthday-by-birthday list of mostly picture book biographies (and some compilation books, such as those by Kathleen Krull). Definitely a fun way to learn history through the year. In a similar vein, I recently found Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More by Lee Bennett Hopkins with illustrations by Stephen Alcorn, at BookCloseouts, as a fun addition to our schoolwork.

L. at Road SCHOLA, aka Suzy Homemaker, wrote about a new-to-me recipe blog, Bakingsheet. Yummy.

And to end with a laugh, Greg at GottaBook has been considering famous authors and the children’s books they’d write. Don’t miss my favorites, Coulter and Faulkner.

And now we’ve got to get ready for the “end of summer” swim at the pool, sponsored by our local homeschool support group. Everybody in the pool!

I am trying very hard not to drool on the keyboard

because I discovered tonight that The Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich which I find so wonderfully delightful and delightfully wonderful was released in June as an unabridged audio CD; while my ideal audio version would include narration by a grandfatherly Viennese gentleman, the prospect of Ralph Cosham seems promising.

This it strikes me would make a marvelous back-to-school present for your favorite child, especially since it’s a bargain at under $15. And if you don’t have the book already (though you really should), you could give it to the lucky child as a set.

Homeschooling meme

I’ve been tagged for a homeschooling meme by Lissa in her Lilting House, and though we’re still enjoying summer — it’s still warm, hurray, and I’m still battling weeds in the shelterbelt trees and now a sneaky mole in my raised bed vegetable garden — the project seems like a good way to start making some back to school preparations, since we’ll begin the day after Labor Day.

One homeschooling book you’ve enjoyed:
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson, who wrote this back when he was a public high school teacher. As lyrical as you would expect from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, even on the subject of democracy and education, but also thoughtful and well-researched. And entirely secular, which is refreshing considering the subject.

The first title that occurred to me was Marva Collins’ Way: Returning to Excellence in Education, but then I remembered that it’s not really a homeschooling book. But it can most certainly be applied to home learning and it’s wonderfully inspirational, especially when it comes to confirming one’s thoughts about what motivates and challenges children.

One resource you wouldn’t be without:
A CD player, or three.

The boys received one for Christmas last year, Laura has had one in her room for the past few years, and the best one is in the kitchen. We listen to all kinds of music, audiobooks (particularly useful for stretching out storytime when Mom’s voice gives out), book and music combinations (the Classical Kids series, the Naxos Audiobook’s “History of Classical Music”), and foreign language instruction. Some of the audiobooks are just for fun, others for learning, most are more than a bit of both; at the moment I’m waiting on the delivery of Jim Weiss‘s “Thomas Jefferson’s America” and “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America” discs. Laura has recently discovered the library’s selection of unabridged recordings of classic literature from Recorded Books, reading and then reading and listening her way through Little Women (17 cds!) and A Little Princess (only 7 if I remember correctly). A sort of layered approach to literature, not to mention great practice for listening skills that I’m hoping will come in handy for college lectures.

One resource you wish you had never bought:
Not as dire as the question makes it sound, but I wish I hadn’t spent the time and money on Modern Curriculum Press’s Spelling Workout, despite its recommendation in The Well-Trained Mind. Fortunately, Laura used it for only a few months in first grade before I realized she wasn’t retaining anything and that SWO needed the old heave-ho. Ever since, Laura has been happily using and retaining Avko’s Sequential Spelling.

One resource you enjoyed last year:
Story of the World: Early Modern Times (volume 3), which we get to enjoy again this year, because I’ve added in enough early (through 1850) U.S. and Canadian history to make 1600-1850 a two-year study.

One resource you’ll be using this year:
Write with the Best by Jill Dixon, recommended by my friend L. of SCHOLA and Road SCHOLA fame and recipient of of some intriguing reviews. I was looking for a composition program that uses imitative writing and follows the progymnasmata, offers a variety of examples and activities (I’m fairly certain of headbanging at best and a full-scale writing mutiny at worst if I offer Laura nothing but fables or Homer for an entire year), and is a good deal (not only is it $26 CAN, but also it can be used for kids from grades 3-12).

After some digging, I found that the only Canadian source for WWTB had been A + Books Canada in Ontario, and while WWTB wasn’t currently in stock, the new owner was more than willing to bring it in, along with a few other things — such as the Jim Weiss CDs mentioned above, not carried by either Chapters.ca or Amazon.ca for some reason — to encourage some one-stop shopping. So now the publisher, the vendor, and I are all happy (well, I will be when it arrives, which should be soon). Moral of the story: it pays to ask, and that goes for asking publishers about Canadian distributors as well as vendors for bringing other items in. If you want it, chances are someone else will, too.

One resource you’d like to buy:
I’m tempted by several things from BrimWood Press, especially their new coloring book, Color the Western World: An Artful Journey through 5,000 Years of History; it’s hard to resist items called “Tools for Young Historians”. And knowing that Circle of Quiet includes the Brim family in her circle of friends and recommends some of their other “Tools” is a lovely, more than reassuring surprise.

One resource you wish existed:
An enormous warehouse within a half hour’s drive containing each and every one of the books, programs, CDs, DVDs, manipulatives, etc. I’ve ever considered purchasing, where I could see, read, touch, and listen to them.

One homeschooling catalogue you enjoy reading:
Tree of Life from New Brunswick; not secular but lots of goodies for the classical homeschooler

One homeschooling website you use regularly:
I can’t think of a particular homeschooling website, but I’m a regular and frequent visitor of our library system’s page for placing online ILL requests. And on a related note, another plug for Library Elf, which keeps me from spending more time than necessary at the library website searching out due dates for our oodles of items. And the Elf needs only one visit to its own website, after which you get handy dandy reminders in your email inbox.

For the final item I’m supposed to tag five others, but as usual I’ll just leave it open, and if you decide to play along let me know in the comments, please!

Poetry Friday

Inspired by the recent birthday candles, new (well, new to us) tea sets, and a summer full of vases of garden flowers on the kitchen table, I offer

Setting the Table
by Dorothy Aldis (1896-1966)

Evenings
When the house is quiet
I delight
To spread the white
Smooth cloth and put the flowers on the table.

I place the knives and forks around
Without a sound.
I light the candles.

I love to see
Their small reflected torches shine
Against the greenness of the vine
And garden.

Is that the mignonette, I wonder,
Smells so sweet?

And then I call them in to eat.

********

Many thanks to MotherReader, who stepped into the Poetry Friday breach with the weekly roundup – one might even say she kept it from going to the dogs — and a review of a cute new kids’ book in verse. And a special thank you to Karen, ever a kindred spirit, for finding the above so delightful and linking to this post. Now if we could just get her to join the Friday fun!

Happy birthday, Laura dear

who is a very nifty nine today. May all your dreams, with and without horses, come true.

He stopped again.
“Would you tell me what you want most in the world?…Would you tell me that?”
He was looking at her.
“Horses,” she said, “sir.”
“To ride on? To own for yourself?”
He was still looking at her, as though he expected more.
“I tell myself stories about horses,” she went on, desperately fishing at her shy desires. “Then I can dream about them. Now I dream about them every night. I want to be a famous rider, I should like to carry dispatches. I should like to get a first at Olympia; I should like to ride in a great race; I should like to have so many horses that I could walk down between the two rows of loose boxes and ride what I chose.”

from National Velvet by Enid Bagnold

Book meme

I saw this first at Rebecca’s Gypsy Caravan, and then Kelly’s Big A little a and decided to play since it’s cool and cloudy today and I need a break in between washing the kitchen floor and cleaning the fridge. And this reminds me that I owe LaMai a book meme, too, which I’ll have to dig out (sorry, LaMai!).

One book that changed your life:

The Well-Trained Mind. While I’ve tweaked it and deviated from it considerably since starting to homeschool — it is, after all, just a guide — and while academic reasons have come to be only part of the reason we homeschool, the book was instrumental in helping me to realize (and to convince Tom) that we could teach the kids at home and give them the education we want.

One book that you’ve read more than once:

Pride and Prejudice, which I feel compelled to read every spring (it’s a wind-changing, Mary Poppins sort of thing)

And, in my childhood, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books; these two series probably also changed my life considerably in that I developed such a love of pioneer life and of Canada that when presented with the option, upon deciding to marry Tom, of moving to a farm in Canada, it seemed the answer to a dream. And I’ve never regretted the choice (especially when I discovered that I could have almost any book sent almost to my door through Chapters.ca, Amazon.ca, Abebooks.com, or Powell’s).

One book you’d want on a desert island:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Not only is it chock full of useful information for homesteading situations, but at over 800 pages, it would keep you in reading material for quite some time.

One book that makes you laugh…

out loud, every time:

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough.

One book that made you cry:

Vichy France and the Jews by Michael Marrus and Robert Paxton

One book that you wish had been written:

Even More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, who died much too young.

One book that you wish had never been written:

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Disney’s Princess Storybook Collection

The Sesame Street Treasury

Oh dear. Is that more than one?

One book you’re currently reading:

The Winds of Change by Martha Grimes

One book you’ve been meaning to read:

With the kids, The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson (I’m planning to give it to Laura for Christmas) and for myself, Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud by Peter Watson

I’m not planning on tagging anyone, but if you want to play, let me (or Rebecca or Kelly) know…

****

Updated to add that Kelly at Big A little a has more on more kidlit meme links here (and I’m not the only one who finds LYF creepy twaddle).

Poetry Friday: Look up

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

For the day’s roundup, check later today or this weekend with Kelly at Big A little a and Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy.

Carry on…

We’re making the most of the last of the season, enjoying summer (and summer must be enjoying us, too, because we’re having another heat wave). My sister-in-law and her two little boys are here for a visit, the garden is exploding, the chicks and ducklings and other farm babies are getting bigger and eating more every day, we made a quickie run to the to the little city (instead of a big trip to the big city) where we stocked up briefly on artists’ pastels and anklets for Laura (but didn’t have time to look at the also much needed bigger Mary Janes or proper sketch pads), and went here on the weekend for a fine old time, so at most all I’ll be posting in the next while are some links and probably a poem for Friday as usual. But don’t hold your breath. Eat a Creamsicle instead and run through the sprinkler.

Zero tolerance, indeed

Thanks to JoVE at Tricotomania for the head’s up on this article from yesterday’s Globe & Mail:

It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal’s cancellation.

The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.

Heavens. Get those lawyers a copy of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. The illustrated children’s edition — subtitled “Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!” — if necessary.

Filched shamelessly…

from Rebecca’s Gypsy Caravan, where she writes about her family’s recent afternoon at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, including the special Children’s Garden, outside of which is a stone with the following from the great American horticulturist Luther Burbank engraved upon it:

Every child should have mudpies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pinecones, rocks to roll, sand snakes, huckleberries and hornets. Any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.

Poetry Friday: The rain in Spain edition

Very thoughtful Grandpapa (aka Old Curmudgeon) sent us a parcel the other day. It’s always a wonderful surprise albeit a bit confusing to get a box from Amazon I haven’t ordered. But before we even left the post office Laura suggested, “I think it’s probably from Grandpapa.” And it was, too: two rhyming dictionaries — “For Poetry Friday and the rest of the week, too,” he wrote. No doubt to help Laura and the boys compose some Ruthless Rhymes of their own.

The first is the Oxford Junior Rhyming Dictionary by John Foster, illustrated by Melanie Williamson and Rupert Van Wyk. Not to be confused with the Oxford First Rhyming Dictionary, for budding poets (and readers) of about 4 or 5. The junior edition is more geared for established poets from about, oh, age 7 or 8. The “How to use this dictionary” section runs several pages and is a lovely and almost invisible reinforcement of early phonics lessons, reminding children that “hole” rhymes not only with words in the same “rhyme family” (“words that end with the same rhyming sound and have the same spelling pattern”) but also with those in other rhyme families (reminding them that “-ole rhymes with -oal” and “-ole also rhymes with -oll”). Most of the entry words in the dictionary are fairly simple, one or two syllables at most, but the rhyming words offered are quite comprehensive and not at all as simplistic as you might expect in a dictionary for kids; “us”, for example, rhymes with pus, plus, thus, as well as circus, genius, hippopotamus, glorious, raucous, and dubious.

The back of the book includes a 13-page section of activities for playing with rhyme by writing poetry, complete with prompts, from limericks, nonsense nursery rhymes, and counting rhymes to rhyming riddles, epitaphs (handy for pets and aged relatives), rapping, rhyming couplets, chants, homophones, and a brief discussion of rhyme patterns.

The second book in our box was the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary by Clive Upton and Eben Upton. Aside from the actual entries and the usual “how to use this book” business, the book has three other charming though not necessarily G-rated bits at the front, “Introducing rhymes”, “…and a bit of theory”, and “Who needs rhymes?”. The first two sections explain that the rhymes in the book are organized phonetically and are based on their pronunciations, with no regard to spelling or alphabetical considerations. Which means that “moustachio is as good a rhyme as peepshow for the word quizshow”, not to mention “clayey” for “Pompeii”. Though it also means you have to bear in mind that the book was put together by two authors who pronounce, and write, the Queen’s English. Another reason that the very comprehensive index of 85,000 entries is so handy, including everything from Oberösterreich, “off and on”, and cetaceous to Nintendo and both “raison d’être” and “raisons d’être”.

As for who needs rhymes, the Uptons write,

…almost everybody needs information about rhymes at some time in their lives; perhaps to compose a little ditty as a joke for family or friends, when constructing a quiz, or to settle an argument such as whether there’s an exact rhyme for orange (there is, incidentally, though there isn’t for butcher). So this dictionary is for everyone. Anyone, who enjoys the sounds of the language, whether or not they have a professional purpose or a pressing personal need for a rhyme, could find themselves browsing far beyond the immediate confines of any target word they look up.

And so I leave you with one of John Foster’s epitaph examples from the Junior Rhyming Dictionary:

In memory of Charlotte Cul-de-sac,
A loyal and trusted friend
Who finally lived up to her name
And came to a dead end.

*****

As usual, Kelly at Big A little a and Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy should each have a round-up of the day’s poetic offerings from around the blogosphere.

Domesday for the new millenium

The Domesday Book is now available online, and is searchable and downloadable as well, thanks to the National Archives of England, Wales, and the United Kingdom. Many, many thanks indeed.

Worthwhile too, though not as new, is the National Archives’ Learning Curves website, a free online teaching and learning resource that follows the History National Curriculum. The Learning Curves section on the Domesday book is here.

Road SCHOLA

L. and her family are back (still Down Under) and better than ever at Road SCHOLA. And I can now see every last word of the posts, hurray! Am now off to read them, double hurray!!

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