• 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.

Poetry Friday: Four years, four dream variations by Langston Hughes

by Langston Hughes (1923)

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Dream Variations
by Langston Hughes (1924)

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me —
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening…
A tall, slim tree…
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

The Dream Keeper
by Langston Hughes (1925)

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Water-Front Streets
by Langston Hughes (1926)

The spring is not so beautiful there —
But dream ships sail away
To where the spring is wondrous rare
And life is gay.

The spring is not so beautiful there —
But lads put out to sea
Who carry beauties in their hearts
And dreams, like me.

For more Poetry Friday fun, round up the usual suspects, beginning with instigator Big A little a! Hope to add the other links, maybe tonight. We’re off and running now…

A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants

Just a quick note, since we’re in between birthdays — my lovely cake with the yellow roses is all gone, and I’m making Daniel’s tonight for his big “lucky seven” day tomorrow — not to mention off to town to run some quick errands and make it home in time for lunch before our semi-annual homeschool facilitator visit; under Alberta’s homeschooling legislation, homeschooling families are required to register with a school board (some of which, as ours does, specialize in home education), which then assigns us a facilitator, a certified teacher.

Ours is a former teacher, still certified, and currently home educating father, and doesn’t mind at all that we see him only the required twice yearly and don’t feel the need to ask him any questions other than, “What time will you be here?” Mr. Smith is coming to check on our efforts and progress since his last visit in the fall, an opportunity all three kids see as unparalleled for a Show & Tell/Let’s Put on a Show extravaganza, complete with singing, dancing, poetry recitations, an exhibit of our new pets (snails from the pond in a jar), and, if I overheard correctly, some trick riding on horseback if they can get him outside. If it’s like all his other visits, poor Mr. Smith will leave here not knowing what hit him.

Read to me this morning by child number two

from The Happy Birthday Present by Joan Heilbroner, pictures by Mary Chalmers (An I Can Read book):

“Davy,” said Peter.

“Do you know what day it is?”

“Yes, I do,” said Davy.

“It is today.”

“No, silly,” said Peter.

“It is Mother’s birthday.”

“We must tell her!” said Davy.

“She knows,” said Peter.

“I am going to get a present for her,” said Peter.

“May I come with you?” asked Davy.

“Will you be good?” asked Peter.

“I will,” said Davy.

“Come on, then,” said Peter.

“Is this [the toy store] where I get my present?” asked Davy.

“No, Davy,” said Peter.

“It is not your birthday. It is Mother’s birthday. We are going to get a present for her.”

“Oh!” said Davy.

“What do you think Mother would like?” asked Peter.

“A dump truck,” said Davy.

“Mother does not want a dump truck!” said Peter.

“Roller skates?” asked Davy. …

And so day two of our birthday bonanza week continues. The celebration began yesterday, with a bit of a party for Daniel, whose birthday is on the weekend, after homeschool Gym Day, always one of the month’s highlights for the kids. Daniel treated everyone to some Secret Special chocolate chip cookies (made by adding two spoonfuls of cocoa and one cup of mini M&Ms to the recipe on the back of the bag) and juice, more than welcome after an hour and a half of running, bouncing, and leaping. And Daniel, old soul that he is at almost seven, was able to enjoy some more time around the 11- and 12-year-old boys…

Today is supposed to include a bit of schoolwork, a tadpole safari, lots of sunshine and some gardening (made possible in all this warm, dry weather with the wonderful present of a new hose reel), a few remaining preparations for our all-afternoon homeschool facilitator meeting on Friday afternoon, a cake with chocolate whipped cream, and some surprises…

And many happy returns to Carol Burnett, John James Audubon, Frederic Law Olmstead, Bernard Malamud, and Anita Loos (Happy Birthday indeed!).

A new lap dog for George

From today’s Globe & Mail:

The media will be banned from CFB Trenton today when the bodies of four Canadian soldiers killed over the weekend in Afghanistan return home.

The decision to mirror a practice that is controversial in the United States follows an announcement on Sunday that the flag on the Peace Tower will not be flown at half-mast to mark the deaths.

Take that, you nattering Canadian nabobs of negativism.

And only a hopeless cynic would see any connection.

This week’s Carnival of Homeschooling is open for business

at The Common Room, at heartkeepercommonroom.blogspot.com. Many thanks to the Headmistress for a wonderful job, especially despite all of the pesky technological obstructions.

By the way, while you’re there, don’t miss the Headmistress’s basic tutorial on a Charlotte Mason education from earlier this month.

As always, you can find the archives to the previous homeschooling carnivals here.

New Math + 30 (Years) = Reform Math = Still Fuzzy After All These Years

Squeaking in before the end of Math Awareness Month….

As a former victim of the old New Math — I still remember my father the Oxford graduate looking over some incomprehensible homework and telling me, “You’re on your own, dear” — I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to math and arithmetic instruction, knowing full well the ramifications of a lousy, fuzzy job. It was the subject I spent the most time researching when we decided to homeschool Laura two years ago, because I knew I wanted a program that would give her, and then the boys, a solid foundation in the basics. After looking at Saxon Math, the choice of many homeschoolers but a tad heavy-handed for Laura at the time, I ended up choosing Singapore Math, with a bit of Math-U-See thrown in from time to time. Not for nothing that in my spare time I read books like Knowing and Teaching Elementary Math by Liping Ma or track down Canadian vendors of Developmental Math.

Which is why Joanne Jacobs’s post, “Mathless in Seattle”, about a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article last week, “Seattle’s teaching of math adds up to much confusion: Where 2+2 gets sticky”, got my attention.

Like many Seattle schools, [Rick Burke’s] daughter’s school was teaching “reform” math, a style that encourages students to discover math principles and derive formulas themselves. Burke, an engineer, worried that his daughter wasn’t learning basic math skills.

And, shades of the Alberta Program of Studies,

Reform math also emphasizes estimating and being able to analyze whether the answer derived is correct and reasonable. Students are urged to use calculators from an early age, “because as adults, that’s how we do it — we either do mental math or use a calculator,” said Ruth Balf, who teaches fourth and fifth grade at Olympic View Elementary.

Not so coincidentally, according to The Post-Intelligencer, “Colleges have been seeing a rise in the number of freshmen who have to take remedial math courses, feeding into the growing concern that the United States is losing its edge in math.” And it’s not just the United States, my friends. If you don’t believe The Post-Intelligencer, believe erstwhile college math instructor, MoebiusStripper, who blogs at Tall, Dark and Mysterious. Read it, especially this and this, and weep. MS is particularly scathing on the subject of calculators in elementary and high school, to which I can say only, huzzah.

What saddens me is that educrats have gained precious little understanding, conceptual or otherwise, from the results of the first go-round of New Math, and even less since the 1989 release of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. These standards have concerned responsible, right-thinking mathematicians, math teachers, parents, and more than a few states for over 15 years, and yet “the math wars” continue. The good news? According to The Post-Intelligencer, “In Seattle, schools have a lot of autonomy in how they teach math. The district has adopted textbooks and provides guidelines and timelines for teachers to follow, but doesn’t require them to do so. In fact, the district doesn’t keep track of what style of math teachers are using.” Some Washington State parents with a beef with Reform Math have banded together at Where’s The Math?, and a particularly informative article on their website is “A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics Education” by David Klein. Great good luck to the families in Seattle, where textbook adoption has been postponed until next January. May the new year bring some not-so-New Math.

But let’s not forget the possible bad news — sitting around in nursing homes, waiting for our pension and Social Security checks administered by dolts who can’t function without a calculator (here’s hoping their computers never crash and their batteries never wear out), not to mention living at the mercy of doctors and nurses who didn’t quite master the math. “Hmmm, how many cc’s of morphine was that supposed to be?” Let’s just hope they learned to read with phonics instead of whole language and can tell “Morphine” apart from “Motrin” on the label.

Additional reading: check the the Article Index for Where’s the Math? and the Site Index for Mathematically Correct; Mathematically Correct’s list of Web Links of Interest alone should keep one busy until that room at the nursing home is ready.

Growing with Grammar, now in Canada

Just received the latest homeschool curriculum catalogue from the folks at Academic Distribution Services (ADS) in B.C. and am delighted to see that they now carry Growing with Grammar/Grade 3, on page 19, and at a price of $37.50 CAN (for the student manual, workbook, and answer key), which compares very, very favorably with the GWG website price of $29.99 US.

While GWG isn’t on the ADS website yet, you can request a free catalogue here or by calling 1-800-276-0078. Worth noting is the annual Spring sale on now until the end of June, which features no GST and free shipping on orders over $200. This is when I usually stock up on Singapore math and Explode the Code workbooks.

No, I don’t get a commission from GWG (or ADS), but author Tamy Davis, a homeschooling mother of two, is a friend, and, most importantly, with three kids I have a vested interest in a rigorous, enjoyable, and secular grammar program. My full, pleased-as-punch review from November still stands, and Laura and I are both looking forward to the release of the new Grade 4 material in the fall.