• 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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Hi honey, we’re home

We arrived home on Sunday evening, and Monday was spent unpacking, doing laundry, moving the mounds of extra snow that arrived in our absence, much to the kids’ delight, especially since a family friend had dropped off a snow saucer as a Valentine’s present.

Yesterday we all jumped back with both feet into our usual routines (though I saved the return to home schooling for today): grocery shopping, music lessons and “Fiddler on the Roof” rehearsals for the kids, a lunch meeting for Tom with the town’s Main Street rejuvenation program, and an after-dinner meeting for me, the Ag Society’s annual budget meeting for the country fair. Tom was supposed to come to the latter as well, but I promised to take good notes and not volunteer him for anything else so he could stay home with the kids and get them in bed early. Tonight I have a library board meeting, and then we should have clear sailing until we go listen to the 4H district public speaking event on Sunday.

I’ll post some photos from our trip shortly, and then I have to switch over to my new Mac Mini.

Aww, nuts

Apparently, librarians around the US and folks around the kidlitosphere are all atwitter over the “scrotum” kerfuffle surrounding the newest Newbery winner, “The Higher Power of Lucky” by children’s author (and librarian), and The New York Times article about the kerfuffle. Lissa has the rundown here.

Since the farm kids in our Farm School have known the word since they were knee high to a, well, scrotum — we spend part of every spring turning little bulls into steers (in other words, separating each from his scrotum) — the librarians’ objection reminds me of one of my favorite books when I was in high school, Cluny Brown, wherein can be found this advice: Nuts to the squirrels.

Charlotte’s cousin


Our friend, the donkey spider (since removed to a safe place, for all concerned, in the garden away from the house)

A late winter Field Day

Here, with great thanks to Dawn!

And the Cybils winners are…

here!

The winners include Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Beth Krommes (Poetry category — hurray, hurray, hurray!); An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston with illustrations by Sylvia Long (Non-Fiction Picture Books); and Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Russell Freedman (Non-Fiction, Middle Grade and Young Adult category). For all the rest click the link above.

Many, many thanks to our fearless leaders, Anne and Kelly, and poetry wrangler Susan at Chicken Spaghetti. Being part of the Cybils, especially in this very first year, was great good fun!

By the way, I was quite thrilled to see the Cybils mentioned in an email announcement from the folks at Chronicle Books announcing their Best Chronicle Children’s Books of the Year Contest. Two of the books — Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow and Tour America — are listed as “Cybils finalists” and in fact made it to our Poetry short list. Hop over to the contest and enter your name, or your child’s, for a chance to win a gift basket of books. Besides the two mentioned, other titles include Ivy and Bean, Mom and Dad Are Palindromes, Emily’s Balloon, and, especially some of my kids’ especial library favorites last year — Ton and Tools, both by Taro Miura, and Masterpieces Up Close: Western Painting from the 14th to 20th Centuries by Claire d’Harcourt (Art Up Close).

Lafayette, we are here

We left the little house on the prairie at 4 pm Thursday, and after 75 hours of travel finally arrived at the little island of waving palms, lurking donkey spiders, and plentiful rum. Tom and I still feel rather stunned from the ordeal, but the kids, untouched by any travel trauma, have been frollicking in the pool and enjoying themselves.

More later, possibly with photos (including the lurking donkey spider).

Ciao to the Chick

I get kind of nervous when military family types say things like “I hate to drop a bomb like this…but…”.

Jill, aka The Crib Chick, has decided to stop posting to both of her blogs (here and here),

When I started this blog, almost two years ago, it was a sort of extension of our circumstances; new location, new place in life.

Now, the ending of it is much the same. Different time in life, different commitments, different needs.

I understand completely, but I still feel all sniffly. The Crib Chick has been on the blogroll at right since I started blogging, and on my list of favorite reads even longer. I don’t know whether she plans to zap the blogs or just discontinue posting, so you might want to sashay over and catch up if you’re not already a fan, before any possible zapping. Breezy, wisecracking, homeschooling, hip, and always full of heart, she — and her adventures with her family — will be missed. Thank you for sharing your family, your friendship, and the books and movies in your life (and my boys will thank you forever for The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library).

Great good luck, CC, to you, Mr. Crib Chick, and the Peeps in your new place in life…

Warm up with a Fun and Frosty Field Day

Dawn is hosting a Frosty Field Day on February 16th, with entries due by the 15th. Which gives you enough time to come down from your Valentine’s sugar high and send something in. Thanks, Dawn!

Getting Ready

Our flight leaves Friday at 1 pm. For the past few years on our annual trip to see my parents, we’ve left home at 8 am, after finishing farm chores and tidying the kitchen, for the drive to the city. That gives us about two-and-a-half hours to get to the airport, and some extra time there to check ourselves in, a new wrinkle since last year which I loathe because there are always glitches and never any sort of price reduction, which you’d expect since I and not a salaried employee am doing the grunt work. I know a racket when I see it.

Over the weekend, however, Tom and I started thinking about leaving Thursday evening and staying with friends just outside of Edmonton, since the weather lately has been exceedingly cold, snowy, and windy. We spoke with our friends last night and they kindly offered not just to put us up for the night but to drive us to the airport and keep our truck for the duration. Just in time. It snowed all day here, with freezing rain in and around Edmonton, with lots of vehicles in the ditch along the city highways. And not too many flights in or out of the airport either, but that’s another concern. So at this point we’re almost certain about leaving late Thursday rather than early Friday, though it means an extra day of farm chores for Tom’s parents. Plane is scheduled to arrive at 7 pm, then free shuttle bus to the delightful Courtyard by Marriott with the excellent Greek restaurant next door that offers room service, clean duvets, and a bountiful buffet breakfast. And no bedbugs, I hope (yes, I check).

Packing has turned into a mini-spring cleaning. As the kids tried on summer clothes and picked books to bring along, we discovered oodles of things that didn’t fit or weren’t wanted any more, and I have boxes and bags to pass along to friends and the Goodwill tomorrow.

Our hens decided that this would be a good time to molt, and I’m happy at their timing, because my mother-in-law won’t have too many eggs to wash or any to deliver in our absence.

Since we’ll be gone for only two weeks, I decided that I’m not going to make the kids take or do any schoolwork, aside from Laura learning by heart one of her two 4H speeches and the boys learning their two archy the cockroach poems for the Arts Festival next month. Last year I brought the Singapore Math books, which the kids distractedly worked on on my parents’ veranda before they could go swimming each morning. But we were there longer, and I want them now to be able to spend as much time as possible enjoying the delights of their holiday, especially time with my parents.

After much thought and several weeks of shifting around piles, we’re taking these for our readalouds, but may not get through all of them:
A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
Encyclopedia Brown Saves the Day by Donald J. Sobol
Encyclopedia Brown Shows the Way by Donald J. Sobol
Feldman Fieldmouse: A Fable by Nathaniel Benchley, with drawings by Hilary Knight; my old copy, from the old school Book Fair
The Burgess Seashore Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess (alright, a little bit of sneaky school)

Up, up, and away. We hope.

PS Just remembered: I probably won’t be blogging even irregularly, so if I don’t pop back in, February 14th is not just Valentine’s Day but the day the Cybils winners are announced. Chocolate and children’s books — no wonder it’s my favorite holiday!

Missing Molly

Molly Ivins did not go quietly. From her last column, Stand Up Against the Surge, about a month ago:

Bush’s call for a “surge” or “escalation” also goes against the Iraq Study Group. Talk is that the White House has planned to do anything but what the group suggested after months of investigation and proposals based on much broader strategic implications. …

A surge is not acceptable to the people in this country — we have voted overwhelmingly against this war in polls (about 80 percent of the public is against escalation, and a recent Military Times poll shows only 38 percent of active military want more troops sent) and at the polls. We know this is wrong. The people understand, the people have the right to make this decision, and the people have the obligation to make sure our will is implemented. …

We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. Raise hell. Think of something to make the ridiculous look ridiculous. Make our troops know we’re for them and trying to get them out of there. Hit the streets to protest Bush’s proposed surge. If you can, go to the peace march in Washington on January 27. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, “Stop it, now!”

Rest in peace doesn’t seem right somehow. Rest in ruckus, perhaps, with banging pots and pans and the clanging of bells.

A few more choice Molly Ivins tidbits for the road:

“The thing about democracy, beloveds, is that it is not neat, orderly, or quiet. It requires a certain relish for confusion.”

“Satire is traditionally the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.”

“What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.”

“What you need is sustained outrage…there’s far too much unthinking respect given to authority.”

“The first rule of holes: when you’re in one, stop digging.”

Worth reading:

Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?

Nothin’ But Good Times Ahead

You Got to Dance with Them What Brung You

History and story: When "folklore and fact collide"

At the end of my hep cat post the other week, I mentioned all too briefly Chris Barton’s post at Bartography about fictionalized versions of history in children’s picture books. If you didn’t notice the mention or read it then, go read it now (and not too quickly either), and come on back.

Since we started homeschooling three years ago, I’ve noticed that one question that comes up often in various home education online groups is “How do I teach history when I don’t know much myself?” or “Which books are accurate?” or “How do I know which books are accurate?” Usually parents ask about solid books with unimpeachable research that they, often lacking the knowledge themselves, can trust. There’s no easy answer beyond doing your own homework and a lot of reading before you teach your kids.

I was reminded last week of this dilemma and Chris’s post while reading The New York Times article, “In [Frederick] Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide” (as usual, try Bug Me Not if you don’t want to bother with free registration at The Times):

At the northwest corner of Central Park, construction is under way on Frederick Douglass Circle, a $15.5 million project honoring the escaped slave who became a world-renowned orator and abolitionist.Beneath an eight-foot-tall sculpture of Douglass, the plans call for a huge quilt in granite, an array of squares, a symbol in each, supposedly part of a secret code sewn into family quilts and used along the Underground Railroad to aid slaves. Two plaques would explain this.

The only problem: According to many prominent historians, the secret code — the subject of a popular book that has been featured on no less a cultural touchstone than “The Oprah Winfrey Show” — never existed. And now the city is reconsidering the inclusion of the plaques, so as not to “publicize spurious history,” Kate D. Levin, the city’s commissioner of cultural affairs, said yesterday. …

It’s “a myth, bordering on a hoax,” said David Blight, a Yale University historian who has written a book about Douglass and edited his autobiography. “To permanently associate Douglass’s life with this story instead of great, real stories is unfortunate at best.”

The quilt theory was first published in the 1999 book Hidden in Plain View, by Jacqueline Tobin, a journalist and college English instructor from Denver, and Raymond Dobard, a quilting and African textiles expert. It was based on the recollections of Ozella McDaniel Williams, a teacher in Los Angeles who became a quiltmaker in Charleston, S.C. “Ozella’s code,” the book says, was handed down from slave times from mother to daughter. Ms. Williams died in 1998.

In fact, one of the first books to suggest the idea of the quilt as a form of secret code is the 1993 children’s fiction picture book, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson, who never tried to cloak her story as history (its follow-up, Under the Quilt of Night, is slightly less decisive). However, according to the Amazon page for the book, one reader’s review of Sweet Clara states, “This is one of many books I purchased as a learning tool for the Education Committee of our local quilt guild. It’s instrumental in showing our young people some of the history of quilting.” Oh dear.

While there’s certainly a place for folklore in history, it should always be identified as myth and not passed off as fact. Unfortunately, since the publication of both Sweet Clara and, six years later, Tobin’s Hidden in Plain View, the idea of the quilt code has taken off as history and spawned, or has been included in, a number of children’s books:

The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom by Bettye Stroud

The Secret to Freedom by Marcia Vaughan

The Mystery on the Underground Railroad by Carole Marsh

The Underground Railroad for Kids: From Slavery to Freedom with 21 Activities by Mary Kay Carson

Even National Geographic, which should know better, perpetuates the myth in a lesson plan, telling teachers to “Have students look at pictures and (for advanced readers) read about African-American quilting traditions. Ask them to look for quilting practices that might have helped slaves teach each other about the routes to freedom. Have the students describe the quilts they see and discuss how these long-established African quilting traditions may have helped slaves in the United States understand how to use quilts to communicate. Ask students if they think they would be able to effectively communicate important ideas with quilts.”

In these books, the line between fact and fiction is pretty blurred, not just for younger children who aren’t yet able to conduct their own research or know yet to question the source but for their unknowing parents and teachers as well.

Home educating parents and classroom teachers alike often prefer a “living books” approach, since real stories, especially when they’re beautifully illustrated, are a wonderfully engaging way to attract and hold children’s interest in a subject, not to mention an easy way to liven up what is often dismissed as “dry and dusty” history. And both home educating parents and teachers can have trouble teasing the myth from history; according to The Times article, “The codes are frequently taught in elementary schools (teachers have been eager to take up the quilting-codes theory because of its useful pedagogic elements — a secret code, artwork and a story of triumph), and the patterns represent a small industry within quiltmaking.”

As Shelley Pearsall, who writes children’s historical fiction, notes at the very worthwhile and comprehensive Underground Railroad Quilt website (for more on this site keep reading, below):

[The "Quilt Code"] enables schools to keep from tackling the realities of the runaway slave experience. I think it also diminishes the incredible courage, guts, and individual determination the journey required. There were no quilts — there was hunger, there was fear, there was illness, there was bad weather, there was frequent misinformation and losing your way — it was not a lovely journey of hopping from one quilt pattern to the next.

Mentioned just above, a solid source of information on the myth of the quilt code is Leigh Fellner’s Underground Railroad/Quilt website, a “greatly expanded” version of Fellner’s March 2003 article for Traditional Quiltworks magazine, and one of the few websites I’ve ever come across with a bibliography. Be sure to scroll all the way down on the website’s main page. I’ve had this site bookmarked for a while, and was glad to see it included in J.L. Bell’s Boston 1775 post on The Times article — where Bell also notes that “there are many elementary school lesson plans about the ‘quilt code,’ despite all the serious historical questions” (and don’t miss his paper on “grandmothers’ stories” of the Revolution). I’m pleased to see that Fellner updated the website as recently as last month. It includes a wealth of information, with a variety of links and the aforementioned bibliography/list of resources, including links to the article, “Young Readers at Risk: Quilt Patterns and the Underground Railroad” by Deborah Foley of Culver Academies; primary sources from the University of North Carolina, Library of Congress, and elsewhere; and, also from Culver Academies, a lesson plan of “Search Strategies for Researching the Lives of African Americans”.

Beyond the quilt code myth, an excellent choice for adults is Passages to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in History and Memory edited by the aforementioned Dr. Blight of Yale, who specializes in historical memory; some of his other books include Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory and Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War.

In a similar vein as Passages to Freedom but meant for children is Freedom Roads: Searching for the Underground Railroad by Joyce Hansen, Gary McGowan (published in 2003 by Cricket Books), mentioned by JoVE the other day; she writes,

“While the topic is the underground railroad (and it appears to have lots of good historical information on that), the approach is very focused on how historians know what they know. Each chapter looks at a different type of evidence and assesses its value and how it would be used by historians. I only skimmed the book but it looks like it is well presented with lots of pictures of actual artifacts, record books, etc. It also deals with how historians use a variety of sources to build up a picture of what happened.”

I haven’t seen the book but I’m intrigued and would be interested to hear from JoVE, Mother Crone, and others who’ve read and used it with children. According to the Booklist review at Amazon, “the authors examine the origins and development of the Underground Railroad, with a special focus on the varieties and limitations of historical evidence. … Valuable as much for its approach as for its specific topic.” A good lesson to learn regardless of the historical event or era.

Memory is a funny thing. Modern impressions of some events — such as the quilt code or, say, Pickett’s charge at the Battle of Gettysburg — are based on myths and legends rather than on historical evidence. The interesting part, of course, is learning how and why those myths and legends arose in the first place, and then changed over time. Speaking of Pickett’s charge, Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory by Carol Reardon is terrific book (and just out in paperback). Yes, Reardon is a military historian, so you might be thinking of edging your way toward the nearest exit or at least a more popular David McCullough title. But give her book a chance if you’re interested in how to teach and learn history. It’s hard to find a better lesson about primary sources, how memory even indavertently manipulates public opinion, and the dangers of accepting even primary accounts of historical events as truth, colored as they can be by personal biases.

Other good books and articles:

The classic mystery novel The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey, published in 1952. Tey’s protagonist, Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard, spends the entire book in a hospital bed. Where, bored by his confinement, he becomes fascinated with a portrait of Richard III and decides to delve into the mystery of the murder of the little princes in the Tower and the accuracy of Shakespeare’s portrayal of the murderous hunchback. As Grant discovers, it’s the victors who tend to write history.

“Would JFK Have Pulled Us Out of Vietnam?: A tantalizing archival discovery suggests the perils of historical evidence”, an article by Sheldon M. Stern, director of the American History Project for High School Students at the John F. Kennedy Library

Also by Sheldon Stern, the article “Evidence! Evidence! All You People Talk about is Evidence!” at the Organization of American Historians website; the article was originally published in the March 1998 issue of History Matters!, the newsletter of the National Council for History Education.

Lesson plans from the Library of Congress, including The Historian’s Sources and Using Primary Sources in the Classroom

Hardhat History, a website established by Professor Tom Isern originally for his undergraduate and graduate students at North Dakota State University “in their development as historical scholars”.

James (Lies My Teacher Teacher Told Me) Loewen’s Tips for Teachers, including Ideas for Dealing with Textbooks, Books and Periodicals Suggesting Alternate Approaches in History Teaching, Teaching American History Through Imaginative Literature (“American literature usefully ties in with American history, so long as that literature is historically accurate,” writes Loewen), and more.

The American Historical Association’s Guidelines for the preparation, evaluation and selection of history textbooks

And finally, even if you haven’t discovered the writings of Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died recently, this appreciation today by Verlyn Klinkenborg of The New York Times:

Where does the truth of history lie? In coups and revolutions, in wars and treaties and the chronicles of our textbook heroes and antiheroes? Or does it lie in the pulse of ordinary life, in a dailiness that looks almost hallucinatory if you venture outside it? I think of Ryszard Kapuscinski, who died at 74 on Jan. 23, as an emissary between those two versions of history. His writing life divides between the conventional reporting he did for the Polish press agency PAP — a voluntary slavery, as he described it, that made the whole world available to him — and the literary journalism that has found its way into books like Imperium, The Soccer War and The Emperor.  He was both witness and reporter, and an enduring reminder of the fact that the two are not the same.

Read the last bit here, and read some Ryszard, too.

Updated, as I’m still going through The Times (in between bouts of wrestling the basement into shape before our departure and beginning to pack), to add today’s op-ed piece, “History’s Tangled Threads,” by journalist and historian Fergus Bordewich in reply to last week’s article. Mr. Bordewich is the author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America (2005). Also worth reading is his original blog post the other year on the myth and reality of the Underground Railroad.

Poetry Friday: A month of Sundays

Actually, a month of Fridays in one post, since next Friday we’re off to visit my parents for a few weeks, and a) I’m quickly running out of time (the weather isn’t helping — more wicked wind, blowing snow, impassable roads, and frigid temps) and b) I won’t have my favorite poetry books at hand.

Speaking of winter, today’s gaggle of groundhogs are nothing but a bunch of liars. We spent two hours this morning doing chores, setting out bales of hay (cattle need more feed when it’s cold to keep warm) and straw (they need warm and dry bedding, too), and clearing snow with the tractor. We have quite the snow walls all around the farm, now beginning to resemble a winter fortress.

For this week, something about groundhogs that reminds me of Lewis Carroll (Will you, wo’n’t you, will you, wo’n’t you, will you join the dance?)

To the Ground Hog
by Kay Winter

Will you
Won’t you
See your shadow?

Will it
Won’t it
Really matter?

Do you
Don’t you
Grin to see

People
Take you
Seriously?

For next Friday, February 9th, departure day:

I’d Leave
by Andrew Lang

I’d leave all the hurry,
the noise and the fray
For a house full of books
and a garden full of flowers.

For the Friday after, February 16:

Lincoln Monument: Washington
by Langston Hughes

Let’s go see old Abe
Sitting in the marble and the moonlight,
Sitting lonely in the marble and the moonlight,
Quiet for ten thousand centuries, old Abe.
Quiet for a million, million years.

Quiet —

And yet a voice forever
Against the
Timeless walls
Of time —
Old Abe.

For the Friday after that, February 23:

There Isn’t Time
by Eleanor Farjeon

There isn’t time, there isn’t time
To do the things I want to do,
With all the mountain-tops to climb,
And all the woods to wander through,
And all the seas to sail upon,
And everywhere there is to go,
And all the people, every one
Who lives upon the earth, to know.
There’s only time, there’s only time
To kmow a few, and do a few,
And then sit down and make a rhyme
About the rest I want to do.


***

Surprise and Imagine, indeed

From today’s New York Times, “Posing as a Family, Sex Offenders Stun a Town” (as usual, all italics and bold mine, all mine):

EL MIRAGE, Ariz., Jan. 31 — To neighbors, Casey Price was a seventh grader with acne and a baseball cap who lived an unremarkable life among a bevy of male relatives.

He built the occasional skateboard ramp and did wheelies on his bicycle down the streets of this subdivision of stucco homes north of Phoenix.

In nearby Surprise, where Casey was enrolled as a 12-year-old in a public school for four months, he was regarded as a shy, average student with chronic attendance problems. A man identified as his uncle had registered him, attended curriculum night and e-mailed his teachers about homework assignments.

Now Casey is in jail, and his former neighbors and classmates have learned the unthinkable: Not only is Casey not Casey — his real name is Neil H. Rodreick II — but he is also a 29-year-old convicted sex offender who kept a youthful appearance with the aid of razors and makeup.

And the men known as his uncle, grandfather and cousin, who until recently shared a three-bedroom house with him here, were not family at all, but a web of convicted sex offenders and predators, law enforcement officials say, preying in part on one another.

A retracing of Mr. Rodreick’s tracks over the past several years shows that he is under investigation in three states. The authorities in four jurisdictions say he repeatedly failed to register as a sex offender, housed a large cache of child pornography in his computer and, based on videos found by the police, had sex with at least one boy.

“Obviously there are a lot of emotions to work through,” said Mindy Newlin, the mother of a kindergartener at Imagine Charter School, the school in Surprise where Mr. Rodreick posed as Casey. “We are just shocked.”

Robin Kaiser’s daughter Kaitlin shared a class with “Casey,” but he failed to make an impression, Ms. Kaiser said. “She remembers him, that he was quiet and sat in the back of the classroom,” she said. “She said he looked like he had been held back.”

Mr. Rodreick spent seven years in prison in Oklahoma for making lewd and indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys. After being released in 2002, law enforcement officials said, he was able to convince Lonnie Stiffler, 61, and Robert J. Snow, 43, who had been trolling the Internet for boys, that he was a minor. …

Mr. Rodreick continued the charade as a minor for nearly two years, the authorities said, registering at four charter schools in Arizona, until this month, when school administrators in Chino Valley called the sheriff.

The police and school officials in each location where “Casey” enrolled said they knew of no children harmed, although the indictment against Mr. Rodreick includes an assault count. The authorities are trying to determine, with the help of videos confiscated from the men, if there were victims in the schools.

“With boys it is a really tough deal,” said Lt. Van Gillock of the Police Department in El Reno, Okla., where Mr. Rodreick is believed to have posed as a 12-year-old to ingratiate himself with boys at church. “If they did it voluntarily, they have the stigma of homosexuality, and if it is forced, well, boys are supposed to be tough and the things the boys have on them gives them an embarrassment factor.”

Though many parents have publicly praised the Surprise school’s handling of the deception, Mr. Rodreick’s enrollment has raised questions about admissions procedures, which officials at Imagine, one of the state’s largest charter schools, said they were reviewing. Arizona, the nation’s fastest-growing state, is a leader in charter school enrollment, with more than 450 schools that account for 8 percent of the state’s total student body.

“He probably thought that a charter school was easier,” said Candace Foth, another parent in Surprise. “It is not really difficult to enroll.”

He was 18 in 1996 when the authorities in Chickasha, Okla., charged him with making lewd and indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and released after serving 7. …

Mr. Rodreick next made his way to Kingfisher County in Oklahoma, where, according to the sheriff, Dennis Banther, he registered as a sex offender. Soon, he was joined in his mobile home in a secluded area by Mr. Nellis, who had served three years in prison after a conviction for lewd molestation, Sheriff Banther said. The two gravitated among fast-food restaurant jobs, the sheriff said, and were seen at a school playground, a library and parks. …

While looking for Mr. Rodreick, Lieutenant Gillock stumbled upon his new life. He learned he had been posing as a 12-year-old named Casey and befriending families at a local church. He had spent the night with at least one boy, the lieutenant said, and traveled to the Grand Canyon, with Mr. Nellis in tow as his uncle, with another boy. …

When Mr. Rodreick arrived in Arizona, he is believed to have first enrolled at the Shelby School in Peyson, where administrators say he attended under the name of Casy Rodreick for 21 days in 2005.

The next stop was Surprise, where the same “uncle” played the role of enroller again, presenting Mr. Rodreick as a 12-year-old. His concocted name, Casey Price, was that of a child in Oklahoma, the authorities there said.

“He absolutely looked age-appropriate,” said Rhonda Cagle, a spokeswoman for Imagine Charter School, of Mr. Rodreick, who is listed on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Web site as 5 feet 8 inches tall and 120 pounds. “We have several seventh-grade students who are taller and of a larger build than this individual.”

Ms. Cagle said he was quiet and participated in no after school activities, eventually being expelled by school officials for poor attendance.

“He took all of the subjects our students take — math, social studies,” she said. “By all accounts from the teachers, he was fairly quiet and withdrawn. He turned in homework, certainly didn’t come off as brilliant or as someone needing extra help.”

After another effort to enroll in a school in Prescott Valley, the police say, Mr. Rodreick headed a bit north, to the Mingus Springs Charter School in Chino Valley, and this time, his “grandfather,” Mr. Stiffler, took him to enroll on Jan. 16 toward the end of the day.

But administrators and staff members quickly grew suspicious, said Dawn Gonzales, the school director.

“The person posing as the child obviously looked older than 12,” Ms. Gonzales said, although he was allowed to start class while they looked over his paperwork. Things were not right, there, either. Some records had Casey, others Casy. Different birth dates emerged.

The next day came, and so did Casey. “He did have the demeanor of a kid,” Ms. Gonzales said. “He played that part very well. He appeared to be very shy. He kept his head down and spoke softly.”

It wasn’t working. “Every adult that encountered him said something here is not right,” she said. “He just looked older. They kept saying, ‘Are you sure he is 12?’ ”

When information on his enrollment forms turned out to be fiction, school officials, believing they had an abducted older child on their hands, called the Yavapai sheriff’s office.

“In my wildest imagination I could not have dreamt up,” what was discovered, Ms. Gonzales said.

The authorities said Mr. Stiffler and Mr. Snow were shocked, too, and angry about being duped by an adult posing as a minor.

Ms. Cagle said her school in Surprise learned about their “Casey” on the evening news. “Needless to say, our staff is devastated,” she said. “This individual violated a sense of community that we all share. This is something that is bigger than our school. It affects the way we live and the way we look at each other.”

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