• 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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Pinocchio update

I am now the mother of two toys (possibly a toy soldier and a ball, or two balls, or two soldiers, but definitely no wind-up ballerinas) and a Pleasure Island child. We don’t have to make rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, but from Wednesday to Friday, the kids have some long rehearsals. The boy toys from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m. every day, and Laura those two hours plus another two from 6:15 to 8:15 p.m. On Saturday, the day of performance, the kids start rehearsals at 2:45 in the afternoon and go until the first and only performance at 7 p.m.

Once again I’m grateful we homeschool. I have to talk to the teacher about letting the kids sleep in and skip some of that homework in the evenings, tee hee.

Nifty resource, and cheaper than a trip to DC

I read this weekend that the U.S. National Archives and Google have teamed up to digitize and make National Archives holdings available free to all online. This means anyone with a computer can now have access to historic movies, documentaries, and other films in the Archives.

You can check Archives’ holdings at the official National Archives website as well as at a Google website. At the moment, the pilot program covers 101 films, including some U.S. government World War II newsreels; several NASA documentaries on the history of the spaceflight program; and some documentaries on the history and establishment of a nationwide system of national and state parks, Boulder Dam, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

The kids and I took a look through the links and found the following gems (the download takes too long for us dial-up types, but one can hope):

Even better news: the National Archives and Google are considering the possibility of expanding the current online collection — which at the moment includes the Declaration of Independence, the 1918 influenza epidemic, 20th century photographs and photographers, the meeting of Nixon and Elvis, and much, much more — and making the Archives’ extensive textual holdings available on the internet. Yahoo! Er, I mean Google!

Hey, kids, let’s put on a show

The Missoula Children’s Theatre travelling group arrives in our nearby teeny tiny little town this afternoon with a van packed to the gills with costumes, props, and scripts, ready to cast the fractured fairy tale version of “Pinocchio”. All three little hams are eager to participate (Davy, at five, is finally old enough), but we’ll have to see who gets cast, especially depending on how many others show up.

It’s a crash course in musical theater, with casting and some rehearsing beginning on the Monday and the performance on Saturday evening. It can be a long week with long evenings, especially for younger kids, and I honestly wouldn’t even consider the activity if we weren’t homeschooling — with no school in the afternoons, and the chance to delay things in the morning, the theater project is much more enjoyable for everyone.

Laura made her children’s theater debut in Missoula’s version of “Hansel and Gretel” a few years several years ago, and the year after (Daniel’s debut) in a production of “Snow White” by the more gentle, relaxed Story Man’s Children Theatre, more like an English Christmas pantomime than the the manic Missoula all-hands-on-deck-all-week approach.

I should mention that it would never have crossed my mind as a child to do something like this; at Laura’s age, I wouldn’t (couldn’t) ask strangers for the time. For my three, it doesn’t cross their minds not participate. I have to thank Tom’s family for the extrovert addition to the gene pool — his sister in Toronto is an actor, singer, dancer, so at least the kids come by it honestly. Will keep you posted on how it goes this afternoon.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Today it’s back to (home)school, the more formal, Well Trained Mind way, rather than the unschooling way we adopted in early December, when the kids (and I) set aside the books in favor of Christmas crafts, baking, and stories. And then travel/island school, which was heavy on the phys. ed. and unschooled science.

I threw a week or so of schooling in after the New Year, before all the packing started, and now here we are, tanned (well, sort of, kind of, barely, what with all that wind and rain), rested, and ready to hit the books again. Surprisingly, the younger folks are around here, the more eager they are. Laura and Daniel are eager to get back to the Story of the World; Daniel wants to start his new math book (I’m hoping I have a new copy, or at least — for temporary use — Laura’s old erasable copy, of Singapore 1B) and resume proper reading lessons; and since Daniel has a good head start on reading now, I’ll probably start Davy with some phonics lessons now. Over the past week he rediscovered one of his Christmas presents, Flip-Flash Phonics: Words & Pictures, a little McGraw-Hill flip book of high-frequency words (no, I’m really not a whole word kind of gal — more a Rudolf Flesch kind of gal — and the word “Dolch” tends to give me the shudders, but it looked cute, was dirt cheap at Bookcloseouts, and keeps the kid busy and happy). We’ll have to start out slowly though, especially for Laura, adding a new subject every few days. I’m hoping we’ll be up to speed by mid-March, just in time for calving and the local arts festival, where the kids will each be reciting a couple of poems, to slow us down again.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig (belatedly)

We’ve been home now for nearly a week, since Sunday night. The bags are unpacked, the laundry is washed (but not all folded and put away), children reunited with favorite toys and books, our own beds collapsed in, and old daily rhythms rewelcomed.

We had a wonderful time with my parents and had a chance to visit with old friends and make some new ones; Laura discovered the local Brownie troop and, wearing her Canadian uniform complete with badge sash, was invited to make Valentine’s crafts with the girls one afternoon. We went to favorite old places — the calm beach with perfect sand for building castles, the rocky beach with all the conch shells, the noisy beach with the coral reef just off shore, the Friday night chicken and ribs barbecue sponsored by the local Water Department (to raise money to support their cricket team). The kids became part fish again, and we all enjoyed a new style of living and eating. Some of us, including the very youngest (ahem), developed a fondness for pina coladas, even with the rum; we’re doing our darndest to continue the cocktail hour tradition in the evenings, but for a disconcerting absence of Coco Lopez from local store shelves. We just may have to ask the supermarket to bring in a case, just for us.

And Laura, with her grandfather’s help and genes inherited from her grandmother, was able to indulge her growing love of luxury and dining out. Our farewell dinner was enjoyed at the Four Seasons seafood buffet on the beach, where we all stuffed ourselves with lobsters, shrimp, mussels, oysters, and crab legs — happily, the kids weren’t at all interested in the hamburgers or hotdogs made available to keep resort kiddie guests happy — and then moved on to the dessert table, where my youngest discovered “Mom, I think it’s drunken pineapple” (it was marinated in rum) and Daniel had four helpings of the chocolate sponge cake rolled up with chocolate icing and a banana in the middle.

And Tom was his usual productive self.

He spent most of his days, from 7:30 in the morning until 6 in the evening, in the guesthouse, which later this year should become the home for my parents’ gardener and his family, he built back in 2003 — this time, Tom built large closets in all of the bedrooms, cut out the openings for the kitchen sink and taps, installed the guttering outside, made and installed several lattice windows (the largest one is visible on the far right, bottom/basement level), and built two gorgeous bookcases, one extra deep to serve as master bathroom linen storage, out of Caribbean cedar. My started taking measurements in the main house, thinking that in future Tom could build another one or even two, and a few friends were wishing they could have placed orders. Maybe next time…

And this morning I’m home alone, savoring our house — well, maybe not the unusually loud noises coming from the basement deep freeze on its last legs — and even the winter scene outdoors. Laura is at her Brownies sleepover, happily postponed from earlier in the month, and this morning Tom asked the boys if they wanted to come along on the current building project, a shop for their uncle on his new property. I’ll pick Laura up in a few hours, throw in another load of laundry, and put the wooden skewers into soak (dinner will be grilled garlic shrimp, with rice and maybe some broccoli). It is good to be home.

Discovering The Edge of the Forest

Remember earlier today when I was moaning about the fact that for nearly a year, as long as I’ve known about blogs, I had missed two great kid lit ones? Well, I’m happy to say that in my desire to catch up with Chicken Spaghetti and Big A little a, and the rather coincidental desire to, erm, put off housecleaning for a little longer, I happened on today’s birth of The Edge of the Forest, a children’s literature monthly. Head over for Volume I, Issue I, brought to you by Kelly and Susan and four other children’s book blog friends (links to follow). And there’s also a call for submissions. Congratulations to all at the Edge of the Forest, and all best wishes from Farm School for great success!

Even Luddites can sometimes be at the right place at the right time, even in cyberspace. Or maybe it was just good karma…

A new discovery (er, make that two!)

While writing yesterday’s poetry entry, I did some Googling and ran across a new-to-me blog, dedicated to one of this household’s consuming passions, children’s literature. Kelly’s Big A little a has lots of yummy things, including book reviews from around the world and some wonderful links.

I was especially glad to find Kelly’s post on the Royal Society of Literature’s “children’s canon” of top-ten books for schoolchildren, which I had read about in the little (formerly British) island weekly, but that was mostly a garbled press release, and I never had a chance while there to follow up on it. Scroll down to the bottom of the Guardian article for the lists by J.K. Rowling, Philip Pullman, and, for the second day in a row here at Farm School, Andrew Motion.

Update: I was going through Kelly’s blogroll and am now wondering how on earth in the last year (okay, 11 months) since I discovered blogs have I missed Susan at Chicken Spaghetti? But just in time to learn that Susan will be hosting the second Carnival of Children’s Literature. The deadline is March 3rd, so you still have time to hurry over.