• 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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Everything old is new again: Personifying punctuation and saving the endangered comma

Had a call from our friendly library lady today letting me know that my interlibrary loan copies of Talk to the Hand and the illustrated Elements of Style are finally ready for pick-up. Which was quite a coincidence — or maybe not, considering the way the publishing world works — reminding me of the July publication of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!, the illustrated kiddie version of Lynne Truss’s adult bestseller. The pictures are by Bonnie Timmons, whose animation you might remember from the “Caroline in the City” TV credits.

According to an article in the Independent Online several months ago, Truss’s original UK publisher heard from teachers eager for a version to use with their pupils. The sales and marketing director avowed that “Loads of teachers wrote in to say how marvellous Eats, Shoots & Leaves was and that they were going to use it. They were always saying that there was nothing enjoyable that taught kids punctuation. There’s a real need. I think this will be an extremely useful resource for schools.” Tellingly, the U.S. publisher jumped on the bandwagon first, and the UK edition won’t be out until September.

According to another article, Truss said she took “the lightness and humor that characterized the funny examples in the first book, and [directed] it at smaller people who are just learning that a mark can change the sense of a line of words.” She added that such books used to be rather more common: “in my research I came across lovely old children’s books on grammar — a delightful 19th-century pamphlet called Punctuation Personified and a wonderful 1940s book called The Grammatical Kittens, in which a couple of kittens were given basic grammar lessons by an old sheepdog.”

(Since the picture book version of Eats, Shoots has been slashed to a rather mingy 32 pages, perhaps school teachers around the world will be as delighted as I am to find that the recommended Punctuation Personified, or Pointing Made Easy by Mr. Stops (1824) is available as a facsimile edition, published by the Bodleian Library, from Amazon for only $10. The cute kittens, however, are out of print.)

The U.S. marketing blitz includes the not-so-serious “National Comma Awareness campaign” by way of a new website, Save the Comma, which should be up and running by the book’s July publication date. I’m all for saving commas, just as long as they don’t start reproducing like mad and running amok.

At this rate, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find later this year a 30th anniversary edition, complete with pictures, of William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, or, heavens, the picture book version of Fowler’s Not-So Modern but Charmingly Illustrated English Usage. Unfortunately, it looks as if Patricia T. O’Conner missed the boat with the unillustrated second edition of Woe Is I. Unless of course the publisher wasn’t exactly relishing the idea of sketches for Chapter 6 (“Comma Sutra”).

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