• 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, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)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"

    "‘Never look at an ugly thing twice. It is fatally easy to get accustomed to corrupting influences."
    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

    "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."

    "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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  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Growing with Grammar: a review

A friend of mine, Tamy Davis, has just finished her new third grade grammar book, Growing with Grammar, the first in what will be a series. Homeschoolers, especially secular homeschoolers in search of a rigorous grammar program, will be delighted.

Since we were lucky enough to be part of the test group, we’ve been using the program now for about a month. I, and others who’ve already started using the program, have shared our thoughts on it here, in a testimonial at the GWG website, and here, in a review at The Denim Jumper.

The timing of the test group couldn’t have been better. Laura had been working in Rod & Staff’s Beginning Wisely grammar program since September. While grammar is one of her favorite subjects, she was beginning to balk at the the unending religious references, even when we changed names to brothers, aunts, favorite dolls, and book and movie characters. I had thought that we could work with R&S knowing that it was religious but not proselytizing. I had hoped that we could, because I really want something thorough for the kids.

Tamy saved our bacon. I had hoped secretly in my heart that GWG would be “as good as” R&S’s highly touted (even by secular hs’ers) program. Guess what? It’s better, yes, better. This, aside from the secular aspect — which means it can be used by families of any faith or no faith — is why:

— it doesn’t involve a lot of writing, which is especially nice for reluctant writers. But the exercises are incredibly thorough, and include a lot of review of previously covered material (and each exercise contains references to the original lesson in the manual, so you or your child can go back for more review if necessary). In fact, the 230-page workbook is just seven pages shorter than the manual. How’s that for thorough? But it’s fun, sort of like a Mad Libs book but educational and not disjointed or overly silly. The student exercises are a combination of rewriting sentences as well as underlining, checking or circling the right answer, and completing sentences with a few extra words.

— both the manual and workbook are spiral-bound, so they lie flat on the table. Why should something so small make me so happy? Because books that flop shut of their own volition despite your best efforts do not make for extended, happy, learning periods. And the spiral-bound workbook is bound at the top, which makes it very nice if you have a lefty. I have a lefty and two righties, so this is much appreciated.

— there’s no teacher’s guide, because one isn’t needed. Just the manual, which you read through with your child, and the student workbooks. Very nice to get your budding grammarian doing more independent work.

I’ll give Laura the last word: “I like that the activity pages [workbook] are fun, I can work on them by myself, and it’s about kids like me and families like mine.” And she’s getting a solid foundation in third grade grammar. Sold!

Crash, bang, boom, or, Throw the bums out

Oh dear, is that the sound of a Liberal minority government falling that I hear?

I rather imagine that it would sound something like Fibber McGee’s hall closet

A Night at the Opera

We’re off to the little city tonight to see Alberta Opera’s production of Rapunzel. Tom is knocking off work early, because we have to leave here around 5 p.m. and the curtain is at 7.

Interestingly, when I called to order tickets, the woman who replied sounded rather reluctant to take my money, reminding me that the performance was on a Monday night, at 7 p.m. Alright, without my morning coffee I was a bit dense, but finally, after her tentative, “Well, it is a school night,” my own curtain rose and light dawned. “That’s okay,” I told her. “We home school.”


Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

I’m particularly thankful as a born American and naturalized Canadian that I have two official opportunities each year to be thankful, and so many unofficial opportunities and reasons.

Many of the things I’m thankful for this year are the same things for which I’ve been grateful for years, in no particular order:

my husband, who is kind, thoughtful (in all senses of the word), strong, a hard worker, a good earner, a great dancer, and blessed with masses of common sense and a terrific sense of humor, and so frugal that he enjoys leftovers; he is a dandy father who enjoys taking the kids along for the day, whether it’s for building, farm chores, paying bills in town (at such fun spots as the farm supply store, automotive shop, and lumber yard), or hunting at dawn. And because he turns a blind eye to the boxes of books, and the bills for boxes of books, that arrive here regularly. And, as always, a special giving of thanks to my sister-in-law, who 12 years ago decided that her wedding had to take place in rural Alberta instead of downtown Toronto, and who kept insisting that her brother take me along to run pre-wedding errands.

my three kids — healthy, joyful, and smart cookies all. They enjoy spending time with each other, with us, and discovering all there is to discover each new day. They have lively bodies and lively minds and are a joy to spend time with every day, something I’m mindful of when I encounter non-homeschooling parents who laugh too loudly when they say, “Oh, I couldn’t spend all day with my kids.”

our little house on the prairie under the huge prairie sky, warm, comfortable, and cozy, about to bulge out with a kitchen addition suitable for homeschooling (bookcases on the east wall!), dontcha know. And the four seasons, each so different, and some not as long as others (which can be a good thing and a bad thing). And speaking of pioneer life, I’m thankful for hot and cold running water, indoor plumbing, central heating, good roads, and supermarkets. And those butterfly bandages in the medicine cabinet.

a freezer full of our own beef, chickens, ducks, geese, venison, rhubarb, and saskatoons; and shelves of Mason jars filled with our own home-canned pears and peaches, cranberry sauce, and apple sauce.

the Zabars care packages from my parents, collected annually during our visits down south — tubes of garlic paste, Zabar’s freshly ground Mocha-Java, *real* pepperoni and unpasteurized Brie

our library and the magic of interlibrary loans, which brings books and audiobooks nearly to our door from across the province

the upcoming change to visit Grandmama and Grandpapa, loving grandparents and parents extraordinaire.

And a few new things this year:

Laura’s discovery of the joy of reading (and her newfound artistic abilities),

Daniel’s discovery of his ability to read

Davy’s discovery of the joy of writing, which has brought him to discovering the necessity of the ability to read

hibernating bears

kittens that made it to adulthood without discovering fan belts in trucks or coyotes in the back yard (aka Back 40)

our close friends, who are now 15 minutes away instead of two-and-a-half hours

Amazon.ca, which has seen the errors of its customer-unfriendly ways and has started shipping orders qualifying for “free shipping” in a timely manner rather than holding them hostage

and last but not least, all of my new invisible imaginary online friends, most of them other home schooling mothers, and all of them smart and smart alecky, strong, funny, and kind, who have opened doors, windows, and hearts for me. I thank you.

Happy Birthday, my tan-faced prairie boy

Now we are five, and I love you even more now than when I first held you in my arms, even if you did wake me up at 5:30 this morning to open your presents. But you know, the presents really are all mine.

O Tan-Faced Prairie Boy
by Walt Whitman

O tan-faced prairie-boy,
Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift,
Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among the recruits
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give — we but look’d on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me.

The not so Amazing Race

Not a particularly meaningful entry for my 100th post (tee hee), but I’m having difficulty getting interested in the current edition of the Amazing Race. Especially since the Gaghan family with the two little kids was eliminated. After last night, all I have to say is, what she said. And I’m glad I’m not taping episodes for my kids anymore. Sigh.

Something immeasurable and almost indescribable

From The New Yorker, November 30, 1963, by E.B. White:

When we think of him, he is without a hat, standing in the wind and weather. He was impatient of topcoats and hats, preferring to be exposed, and he was young enough and tough enough to confront and to enjoy the cold and the wind of these times, whether the winds of nature or the winds of political circumstance and national danger. He died of exposure, but in a way that he would have settled for — in the line of duty, and with his friends and enemies all around, supporting him and shooting at him. It can be said of him, as of few men in a like position, that he did not fear the weather and did not trim his sails, but instead challenged the wind itself, to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.”

From a letter to Robert Kennedy from E.B. White, recipient of the Presidential Measure of Freedom, December 1963: “The accomplishments of presidents in office are usually measured in rather exact terms, but your brother gave the country something immeasurable and almost indescribable, for which we all will be forever grateful.”

From Death of a President by William Manchester:

In his notes to himself [an unnamed Cabinet member] observed that Lyndon “does not have this sense of the time and the age and the forces which John F. Kennedy had to such an unusual degree.” The cachet was gone. It had been odd: “Jack Kennedy was never really outgoing in a sense with people that you felt close to him, but yet he had that peculiar quality that so endeared him and commanded such loyalty and devotion…that quality was there until I could almost say that you love that man [despite] his somewhat taciturn New England attitudes.”

Excerpts from John F. Kennedy’s acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Los Angeles, July 15, 1960:

… We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: “If we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.”

Today our concerns must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power — men who are not bound by the traditions of the past — men who are not blinded by the old fears and rivalries — young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions. …

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch 3,000 miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West.

They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not “every man for himself” — but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over — that all the horizons have been explored — that all the battles have been won — that there is no longer an American frontier.

But I trust that no one in this assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won — and we stand today on the edge of a new frontier … a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils — a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats. …

… I tell you the New Frontier is here, whether we seek it or not. Beyond that frontier are uncharted ares of science and space, unsolved problems of peace and war, unconquered pockets of ignorance and prejudice, unanswered questions of poverty and surplus. …

For courage — not complacency — is our need today — leadership — not salesmanship. And the only valid test of leadership is the ability to lead, and lead vigorously. …

Can a nation organized and governed such as ours endure? That is the real question. Have we the nerve and the will? Can we carry through in an age where we will witness not only new breakthroughs in weapons of destruction — but also a race for mastery of the sky and the rain, the ocean and the tides, the far side of space and the inside of men’s minds?

Are we up to the task? Are we equal to the challenge? …