• 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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Call of the wild

One of my Google Alerts picked up this article, “German Tots Learn to Answer Call of Nature” from The Wall Street Journal earlier in the week. From the article,

Each weekday, come rain or shine, a group of children, ages 3 to 6, walk into a forest outside Frankfurt to sing songs, build fires and roll in the mud. To relax, they kick back in a giant “sofa” made of tree stumps and twigs.

The birthplace of kindergarten is returning to its roots. While schools and parents elsewhere push young children to read, write and surf the Internet earlier in order to prepare for an increasingly cutthroat global economy, some little Germans are taking a less traveled path — deep into the woods.

Germany has about 700 Waldkindergärten, or “forest kindergartens,” in which children spend their days outdoors year-round. Blackboards surrender to the Black Forest. Erasers give way to pine cones. Hall passes aren’t required, but bug repellent is a good idea.

Trees are a temptation — and sometimes worse. Recently, “I had to rescue a girl” who had climbed too high, says Margit Kluge, a teacher at Idstein’s forest kindergarten. Last year, a big tree “fell right before our noses.”

The schools are a throwback to Friedrich Fröbel, the German educator who opened the world’s first kindergarten, or “children’s garden,” more than 150 years ago. Mr. Fröbel counseled that young children should play in nature, cordoned off from too many numbers and letters.

Interesting how the idea of kindergarten has changed, isn’t it?  By the way, all three of my kids have either been stuck in, or fallen out of, a tree (in some cases, both), and it’s generally not a mistake they make twice. Outdoor schools aren’t anything new (back in 2003 The Christian Science Monitor ran an article about the “forest kindergartens”), but I’m glad to see that the idea is still striking a chord with North Americans, and that there those who believe that nature in general, and mud and winter in particular, are not to be avoided or endured but enjoyed and celebrated. It reminded me of the outdoor winter schools I’d read about perhaps 10 years ago, in one of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark or Sweden I think, where the children spent all day out of doors in the depths of winter — playing, learning, eating lunch, and even answering the call of nature too.

A bit of Googling and I found that Forest Schools have also become quite popular in the UK in the past 10 or so years. In 2006, all 49 pupils at Pott Row First School, Norfolk, received waterproof suits (I just love the accompanying photo of the child in the rain clutching a pencil); at the time the school’s goal was to provide half of all lessons outside within two years. In England you can find special weather gear at places such as Raindrops, which offers children’s outdoor clothing from Scandinavia. The company’s director, Nikki Horne, writes on the website,

Having a Finnish mother I spent many years in Finland and always admire how well dressed Scandinavian children are whilst playing outside – no matter the weather. It is not an unusual sight to see children dressed from head to toe and playing outside in thick snow or harsh rain in sub zero degrees. If the clothing is right there should be no reason why not to play outside in such conditions.

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6 Responses

  1. I love this!! Our homeschool group just finished reading “Last Child in the Woods” Such a great book! These outside schools are so cool.

  2. I would love for someone to do studies on these children who were taught to love nature early on, and follow them to see if they continue on the outdoor path. I love that photo as well. My kids grew up in Land’s End slickers,rain pants, and puddle boots!

  3. When we were in Sweden we learned, from our friends, that the public health advice given to new parents is to have your children nap outdoors (yes, all year). Babies nap in their strollers outside. Apparently the fresh air is better for their health.

    They also talked about outdoor day-care centres. These were not in the woods or particularly about nature, but the kids were outside all day. There was some shelter, I think, though not with 4 walls. Again, the logic is much more about health and fresh air.

    Still gives a lot to think about.

  4. OH, reeeeally interesting. Thanks for posting this.

  5. Hey! So I’m actually doing something right? :-)

    Ds is outside as much as possible all year round — and I’m sure you can appreciate how challenging that can be at our -40° prairie winters! You can see a marked difference in his general demeanor on those days when it is just too cold to go out (or, as in the case lately, is too sick to go out).

  6. That’s fantastic. I wish I had gone to such a school – although since I spent summers working on a horse & cattle ranch where I spent all day outdoors or at best, in the barn, I guess I got a taste :D

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