• 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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New and noteworthy, for holiday giving and receiving, for children of all ages

And in no particular order:

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes

The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, compiled and illustrated by Jackie Morris

D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls by Ingri and Edgar D’Aulaire, recently reprinted by New York Review of Books Children’s Collection

Exploratopia: More Than 400 Kid-Friendly Experiments and Explorations for Curious Minds by Pat Murphy, Ellen Macaulay, and the staff of San Francisco’s Exploratorium

Alistair Cooke’s American Home Front: 1941-1942

The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within by Stephen Fry

Sheetrock and Shellac: A Thinking Person’s Guide to the Art and Science of Home Improvement by David Owen

Home Schooling by Carol Windley, which did not win the Giller Prize this year

Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York by Adam Gopnik; pair it with his previous Paris to the Moon

Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey; two thumbs up from my mother, to whom I sent it for her birthday recently; good though not too new companion books would be the gorgeous Mangoes & Curry Leaves: Culinary Travels Through the Great Subcontinent by Alford & Duguid, and Jaffrey’s own classic Invitation to Indian Cooking

letters to the editor

A couple of different responses to The New York Times article on unschooling, Nov. 26 — one ahem, one amen:

To the Editor:

I am shocked and saddened to read about the growing numbers of parents who are joining the unschooling movement.

I consider “child-led learning” to be an incredibly foolhardy philosophy. Not even older teenagers, much less the very young, should be put in the position of making unalterable decisions regarding their future welfare.

Achieving a satisfying and rewarding career is tough enough for those with a mainstream education that encompasses the breadth and depth of subject matter.

Many unschooled children may very well become deeply disappointed when, as adults, they find that the doors leading to exciting endeavors in disciplines like science, medicine and technology, among others, are forever closed to them.

Somehow, tossing precious potential to the winds seems a costly and irresponsible way to provide a freedom-filled childhood.

Mary K.

and this:

To the Editor:

We are home-schooling our children. Although we’ve opted to pursue a classical, college preparatory approach to our children’s education, we know many “unschooling” families, including several whose unschooled children have gone on to college and who seem to be well-adjusted adults leading happy, productive lives.

We see no reason to heed the concern and call for regulation expressed by Prof. Luis Huerta of Columbia University. As your article noted, there is little data suggesting that the unschooled population is at risk.

Also, given how many barely literate children graduate from government-run and supervised schools each year, it would be imprudent to divert the attention of our legislators and officials toward unschoolers.

We would rather see our taxes used to address the well-documented and distressing state of our country’s schools and the millions of children who leave them unable to pursue basic college work or to perform skills necessary to support themselves.

Margaret M.
Charles S.

Unplanned blog holiday

Last Wednesday thanks to small and very remorseful child who shall remain nameless, my laptop developed water on the brain….

Can get online and fetch email but keyboard is kaput so can only cut and paste like ransom note. veryveryvery tedious. Can’t be fixed, need new computer, but that means a trip to big city so who knows when. So haiku and fibs and archy-the-cockroach-lowercase and Tarzan-speak order of the day. So bye for now ;-)

veryveryvery cold snowy and windy since last Weds too, near minus forty, icy roads, travel even to town dangerous. ah, home.

Well, it looks like a book…

This week in Canada is Canadian Children’s Book Week. Excuse me. Make that TD (as in the bank Toronto-Dominion) Canadian Children’s Book Week, which means that for the past seven years, every year first grader across the country is supposed to get a free Canadian children’s book. This is supposed to big year, as it marks the 30th anniversary of CCBW as well as the 20th anniversary of this year’s giveaway, Franklin in the Dark, about Franklin the Whiny Turtle. I’ve never liked Franklin, not in book form and not on television, and not even for free, so my first grader won’t be helping the celebrations (and hence the link lack).

Last year’s offering was the classic Canadian children’s poetry book, Alligator Stew by Dennis Lee; but there have been some clinkers over the years (which you can tell by the number of copies that show up chez Goodwill and at garage sales), including The Girl Who Hated Books and Nicholas at the Library; you can just tell by the titles that someone is trying too darn hard to get kids to like books. Of course, it’s the 20th anniversary this year of Kids Can Press’s picture book edition of Robert Service’s The Cremation of Sam McGee with illustrations by Ted Harrison, but I can see where some teachers and parents sadly would consider that inappropriate for first graders.

The problem with the substandard offerings, and substandard assumptions about what children would enjoy reading, is that they don’t do anything to encourage children to enjoy either reading or books. But it makes the adults feel better, and what’s not to like about a bunch of bankers patting themselves on the back?

Speaking of CanKidLit and twaddle, here’s something from the life is too short/too many good books, too little time department: Degrassi “Extra Credit” graphic novels, based on the Degrassi High television show. Not on my shopping list any time soon.

The gods are laughing

So much for my plans for the next few days.

Just got back from chores to find a message on the answering machine from the electric company advising us of a “planned power outage” tomorrow and Thursday, from 9 am to noon and from 1-4 pm both days.

Well.

No power means no water, no light, no heat (did I mention those cold daytime temperatures coming?), and none of the niceties like CBC radio or that nice new KitchenAid mixer. Of course, this isn’t a problem for many of our neighbors, most of whom spend the day in town and none of whom homeschool. All I have to say is thank goodness for my vintage O’Keefe & Merritt gas stove. I think I’ll mix up the batter for Davy’s cake first thing tomorrow morning, and maybe some cookie dough, and we can do the baking throughout the day to keep warm. If it snows, so much the better, because we can spend most of the day outside playing, and we can at least have hot chocolate, cookies, and oranges.

And NPB is for Nonfiction Picture Books!

Here’s the Cybils list of nominated Nonfiction Picture Books, compiled by Chris Barton at Bartography — there are some gems here, for history, geography, biography, art, natural history, science, and more. Just the sort of things home educated children like to find under trees…

Thanks, Chris!

All of the lists of nominated books in each category are being put up at Cybils Headquarters, too. Just look for the heading “The Nominations”.

P is for Poetry!

Now that the nominations for the first annual Childrens and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards (the Cybils) have closed, Poetry administrator, the indefatigable Susan at Chicken Spaghetti has ready already her post, P is for Poetry! The Cybils Long List, complete with links.

Now to whittle down the long list to a short list. I’m very glad I have my elves to help, especially since they’re the target audience.

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