• 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.

Something more traditional, for Junior at Chicken Spaghetti

For Susan‘s son Junior, who has the good taste and good timing to wonder about that neighbour to the north.

It’s not Canada without:

Sam’s cousin, John Steele, RCMP action figure — as of 2009, apparently not as easy to come by.  How about action figures of Sirs John A. MacDonald, Isaac Brock, and Wilfred Laurier instead?

The RCMP Musical Ride by Maxwell Newhouse

The Maple Syrup Book by Marilyn Linton

At Grandpa’s Sugar Bush by Margaret Carney, illustrated Janet Wilson

Your own 5-foot tall, glow in the dark 3D CN Tower puzzle ((as of 2009, also no longer available…)

Canadian Geographic Kids’ puzzle map of Canada

Canadian poetry and art for children:

Eenie Meenie Manitoba: Playful Poems and Rollicking Rhymes and See Saw Saskatchewan by poet Robert Heidbreder

Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee

In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by Linda Granfield; picture book version of John McCrae’s famous World War I poem

Til All the Stars Have Fallen: Canadian Poems for Children, edited by David Booth

Voices on the Wind: Poems for all Seasons, edited by David Booth

Images of Nature: Canadian Poets and the Group of Seven, edited by David Booth; an amazing book of Canadian poetry and Canadian art, from the Group of Seven, selected for children

A First Book of Canadian Art by Richard Rhodes

Canadian classic picture books, deservedly so:

The Hockey Sweater by Roch Carrier; a Canadian classic

A Happy New Year’s Day by Roch Carrier; his autobiographical picture book about the festivities in rural Quebec

A Northern Nativity: Christmas Dreams of a Prairie Boy by William Kurelek; also by Kurelek: A Prairie Boy’s Winter and A Prairie Boy’s Summer

O Canada and Children of the Yukon by Ted Harrison

Robert Service’s poems, with illustrations by Harrison: The Cremation of Sam McGee and The Shooting of Dan McGrew

Some of our other favourite Canadian picture books:

Cinderella Penguin: The Little Glass Flipper by Janet Perlman; also by Perlman and very, very funny, The Emperor Penguin’s New Clothes and The Penguin and the Pea

Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman

Where Does a Tiger-Heron Spend the Night? by Margaret Carney

Emma and the Silk Train by Julie Lawson

Come to the Fair by Janet Lunn

Selina and the Bear Paw Quilt by Janet Wilson

The Prairie Fire by Marilynn Reynolds

The Night the Stars Flew by Jo Ellen Bogart

The White Stone in the Castle Wall by Sheldon Oberman, about Toronto’s own castle, Casa Loma

Canadian ABCs and 123s:

M Is For Maple: A Canadian Alphabet by Michael Ulmer

Eh? to Zed: A Canada Abecedarium by Kevin Major

ABC of Canada by Kim Bellefontaine

Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet by Matthew Napier; also by Napier, Hat Tricks Count: A Hockey Number Book

A Northern Alphabet by Ted Harrison

A Prairie Alphabet by Jo Bannatyne-Cugnet with illustrations by Yvette Moore

Canadian history and geography:

Here is the Canadian history post I wrote last fall

A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of a Pioneer Family in 1840 by Barbara Greenwood

A Pioneer Thanksgiving: A Story of Harvest Celebrations in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood

A Pioneer Christmas: Celebrating in the Backwoods in 1841 by Barbara Greenwood

Gold Rush Fever: A Story of the Klondike, 1898 by Barbara Greenwood

The Kids Book of Canada by Barbara Greenwood

The Kids Book of Canadian History by Carlotta Hacker

Kids Book of Canadian Exploration by Ann-Maureen Owens

The Kids Book of Canada’s Railway: And How the CPR Was Built by Deborah Hodge

The Kids Book of Great Canadians by Elizabeth McLeod

The Kids Book of Canadian Firsts by Valerie Wyatt

Forts of Canada by Ann-Maureen Owens

The Story of Canada by Janet Lunn; beautifully illustrated narrative history book; available new only in paperback, worth tracking down secondhand in hardcover

The Spirit of Canada: Canada’s Story in Legends, Fiction, Poems, and Songs, edited by Barbara Hehner; out of print but worth tracking down at your library or secondhand

Odds and ends:

The Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Margaret Atwood writes for kids

Mordecai Richler writes for kids

Proud Canadian Kids website, created by a Kindergarten teacher in Stratford, Ontario; with a special link for K-Grade 2 sites



First, we are done, done, done with Swim Club. Yes, the kids had great fun with ready access to a pool, their swimming improved tremendously, they loved wearing swim caps and goggles, and they adored swimming races and winning. But we don’t have to be in town four evenings a week any more, and the two older kids don’t have to do laps for an hour and a half every day. Yesterday was the last day, and we finished up with a barbecue potluck dinner for all the families at the provincial park.

Second, it rained this evening, just before supper. After a windy, drying week of temperatures around 90 degrees, and not much in the way of precipitation since the middle of the month, yoou could just about hear the garden heave a sigh.

Everyone and everything is having a bit of a rest this evening, appreciating the wet and quiet.

Having a Field Day

Grab a water bottle and pack a lunch, because today is the first ever (and Early Summer Edition) of Dawn’s Field Day, packed with posts and photos.

I thought Dawn’s closing thought, from John Muir, was wonderful: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

Don’t get your hopes up

but inspired by the recent discoveries of the kildeer and bluebird nests, the peony’s blossom, and how darn cute my kids are in the summer, I’ve been inspired to haul the digital camera out of the sock drawer. Since I know my courage and confidence need bolstering in the face of mod-ren technology, I’ve enlisted the support of the kids, who think this is all great fun and more than possible (which is more than their mother thinks). So far, Daniel has found some batteries and installed them in the charger. They should be juiced up by the time we return from Swim Club tonight. The actual photography should be easy enough, but the next hurdle will be the downloading or uploading or whatever you call it. Stay tuned, and clap your hands or cross your fingers or hold your breath or whatever you think might help.

Box of books: "Eating Outdoors"

My parents, who believe that the way to a person’s heart is through the stomach, helped us celebrate our anniversary earlier this month by sending along a box of new cookbooks. Nothing is more fun than getting a box of books from Amazon or Chapters than getting a box of books you didn’t order yourself. Inside the box were three enormous volumes, and one slim one (though considering the size of the three others, slim is a relative term). I’ll post a recipe or two from each over the next while, focusing on summery ones.

First up is Eating Outdoors: Cooking and Entertaining in the Open Air by Lindy Wildsmith. Wildsmith is an English food writer and cook, and her book is lovely — most of the recipes are double-page spreads, with a color photograph (by Martin Brigdale) on one side and a fairly simple recipe on the other. The recipes are divided into four chapters, “Barbecues”, “Families Outdoors”, “Picnics” (more of the elegant English style than the slapdash North American kind), “Elegant al fresco”, and “Drinks”.

Here’s Wildsmith’s recipe for Catalan Salad, “a refreshing change from the more usual Salade Nicoise”, from the “Families Outdoors” chapter:

Catalan Salad with tuna and aioli (serves 4)

3-1/2 oz. thin green beans (haricot verts)
2 heads baby romaine lettuces
3-1/2 oz. thinly sliced serrano ham or prosciutto
4 hard-cooked eggs, halved lengthwise (the photo shows the yolks still moist and not too hard-cooked, er, boiled)
6-1/2 oz. good-quality canned tuna, drained and broken into large chunks; for a variation, you can use chicken breasts
8 large pitted green olives, halved
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg yolk [raw; this doesn’t seem to be the concern here it is for most North American cookbook writers and publishers; if you have doubts about the freshness of your eggs and the safety of eating raw eggs, cook the egg in its shell in gently simmering water for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes first]
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

To make the aioli, put the garlic cloves in a mortar and bash them lightly with a pestle, pulling away the skin as it frees itself [you could use peeled cloves and just run them through a garlic press]. Add the salt and grind the garlic to a smooth paste. Transfer to a large, wide bowl, add the lemon juice and the egg yolk and whisk with a metal whisk. Continue whisking as you add the olive oil a few drops at a time; as the aioli starts to thicken, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. This should take about 5 minutes. If you prefer a lighter mayonnaise, whisk in 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and chill until required.

Cook the beans in salted water for 3-4 minutes until al dente, then drain and plunge into ice water. Drain and dry. Cover a large platter with lettuce leaves, then fan the beans around the rim of the platter, sticking out from under the edge of the lettuce leaves. Twist the slices of serrano ham and arrange them on the lettuce leaves, then arrange the eggs, tuna, and olive halves on top. Drizzle the olive oil and vinegar over the salad, then add salt and pepper. Serve with the aioli in a separate bowl.

Bon appetit, and merci beaucoup!

Quintessential Canada ahead of Canada Day

Some new and different things to share with your kids:

Sir John A. Macdonald action figure, $11.99 CAN

Mike Ford’s “Canada Needs You” CD, nominated for a Juno (Canadian Grammy) in 2005 for Best Children’s Album. The 12 songs from pre-1905 Canada include I’m Gonna Roam, Thanadelthur, Les Voyageurs, The Oak Island Mystery, La Patriote, Turn Them Ooot, Sir John A. — You’re O.K., D’Arcy McGee, Louis & Gabriel, Canada Needs You, A Woman Works Twice As Hard, and I’ve Been Everywhere; just for fun, a little historical background on the songs.

Contes traditionnels du Canada [Traditional Canadian Tales], book & CD set, a bargain at $9.99 CAN

Our Canadian Girl and Dear Canada historical book series (similar to the American Girl historical book series). By the way, the fine folks at Penguin Canada have a very nice Our Canadian Girl free timeline for teachers and home educating parents.

Canadian children’s publisher Kids Can Press

Professor Noggin’s Geography of Canada card game and History of Canada card game, for ages seven and up. Noggin is a Canadian company but has some other interesting games, including ones based on the American Revolution, Creatures of Myth & Legend, and Ancient Civilizations.

Growing with Grammar 4 is here!

Great good news from my friend Tamy Davis at Growing with Grammar: she’s finished with Growing Grammar 4, for fourth graders! Laura enjoyed using GWG3 this past year, and is looking forward to the next book. My Farm School review of GWG3 is here.

Don’t forget, Canadians can find GWG at Academic Distribution Services (ADS) in B.C. The new volume was only just released, so ADS may not have it just yet.

I don’t get any commission for spreading the word about Tamy’s new series — I just get a solid, grammar program for my kids, one that independent readers can use more or less on their own, and one that even reluctant writers won’t find too taxing. And it’s secular, too, which means you can spend your time teaching and learning instead of tinkering. Thanks, Tamy.

Speaking of education

Here’s the latest in edumacation news in our fair province, where money is gushing out of the ground faster than brains can think:

  • According to the Alberta School Board Association, nearly half of the province’s school boards are reporting annual deficits, four times the number in financial difficulty five years ago. Because I tend to think that what’s wrong with education in Alberta (and likely elsewhere in North America) isn’t a money problem — which means that more money isn’t the solution — I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel with the finance minister’s recent announcement of a surprise, and record $8.7 billion budget surplus, even if the government does decide to give the schools more moola. Locally, for example, the schools go on frequent computer upgrading sprees, clearing ever more books out of libraries to make room for monitors, so they can teach second graders how to make Power Point presentations. However, high schoolers are expected to make collages instead writing essays.
  • Throwing more money around, Alberta Education is spending $400,000 to find out why so many high school students are dropping out. The current “high school completion rate” is 77.4 percent, but the educrats would like to see it at 90 percent. The Edmonton Sun reports,

    [Education Minister and former teacher Gene] Zwozdesky said one idea might be to take students on more field trips to see various workplaces or to use computers and videoconferencing to bring close-up views of possible careers into the schools.

    “I think it’s important for students to realize that the future is very much around a knowledge-based economy,” said Zwozdesky. “The better paying jobs and the higher paying jobs and the jobs that provide great opportunities for personal growth are largely predicated on at least completing high school and hopefully more. There’s a great value in education.”

    For considerably less, I’d be happy to give the Minister an answer and save him some money: why waste time and money getting a high school degree when you can earn big bucks in the oil patch, or even serving coffee and doughnuts at Fort MacMurray (for around $14 an hour)? This is, by the way, what happens when people are taught, in high school and elsewhere, to confuse value with money, to value money, and to confuse an education with career training.

  • From The Globe & Mail:

    A battle for the moral high ground has erupted in Calgary, where the city’s influential Roman Catholic bishop has issued a damning indictment of the local school board’s decision to continue to use gambling as a source of fundraising for its cash-strapped schools.

    In a letter sent this week to each of the 97 schools in the Calgary Catholic School District, Bishop Fred Henry threatened “blacklisting” of schools that engage in “immoral fundraising, as well as stripping them of their Catholic designation, and announced that he won’t preside at the liturgy to open the school year.

    “It is morally wrong for a Catholic institution to formally co-operate in an industry that exploits the weak and the vulnerable,” he wrote. “The end does not justify the means.”

    Although I don’t agree with some of Bishop Henry’s other opinions, I’m with him on this. Every year, organizations across the province from playschools to elementary schools to libraries submit applications to work at bingos and casinos (the booming Ft. MacMurray is a very hot prospect, with hall those oilfield workers eager to be separated from their cash) and to receive lottery funds. Interestingly, about $83 million annually from the Alberta Lottery Fund goes toward the budget for Alberta’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), which also covers gambling. AADAC’s own website points out that “An estimated 5.2% of adult Albertans have a gambling problem” and “An estimated 3.9% of adult Albertans are moderate risk gamblers and 1.3% are problem gamblers.” And there’s a lot of talk both at AADAC and the provincial Ministry of Gaming (bet you didn’t know we had one of those) about “Social Responsibility”. Though not the same kind the Bishop is talking about.

Carnival Time

over at The Lilting House, where Melissa and her daughter Jane have done a wonderful quotefull job. Archives for previous Carnivals of Educations are here at the archive. And next week’s Carnival of Education will be hosted by NYC Educator; officially, you’re submit your posts to nyceducator (at) gmail (dot) com by 6 pm NYC time on Tuesday, July 4th, but do yourself and NYC Educator a favor and have it in early.

The Steel Magnolias at The Homeschool Cafe are hosting this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling. The weather’s getting kind of steamy in that part of the world, so Natalie has moved the festivities indoors to the air-conditioned Cafe.

Intermittent blogging ahead

I’ll have to admit right now that I’m just not spending enough time by the computer, or even indoors, to do much blogging and I don’t think that will change much in the next while, especially with Canada Day, two weddings, and the fair in our future. So you’ve been warned.

We’ve had hot, dry, sunny weather for the past week or so (and desperately in need of rain once again — some of the grass is turning white and the leaves are starting to fall off the alfalfa, which needs cutting), and we’ve all been outside, tending the vegetable and flower gardens (finishing the radishes and starting in on the new spinach), admiring the new peony that burst into blossom, traipsing through the public cemetery for Tom’s uncle’s interment (which the minister kept referring to as an internment), buying and eating Fudgsicles, Creamsicles, and ice cream sandwiches, playing cowboys and Indians in the tall grass, hilling potatoes, reading under the rhubarb, weeding half of our baby trees (that would be about 700 saplings, in double rows, with hoes, the push rototiller, the rototiller attachment to the tractor, and by hand), watering same little trees, fashioning cages out of page wires to keep the deer from eating any more leaves off my Mother’s Day apple trees (that was at 11 o’clock last night), eating watermelon with seeds, going to the homeschool end-of-year swim party, playing softball, attending the annual neighbors’ picnic at a friends’ farm, discovering a killdeer nest in the middle of our smallest nest and making a ring of rocks around it to make sure no-one drives over it, and trying to figure out how to move the nest that a determined but misguided bluebird built in the swather tube.

Far down inside the six-foot long swather tube. What made Tom think to look inside the tube yesterday before hitching the swather to the tractor is a mystery, but when he looked, there she was, sitting on her nest. One small egg was out of the nest, so she must have thought something was wrong with it and kicked it out. We can get Laura or Davy to reach in and rescue the egg (the perfect addition to our home nature museum) but the nest is beyond the reach of even a long, skinny, young arm. Tom is thinking of fashioning a sort of “pizza peel” to slide the nest out, and is also trying to find something a similar shape to the swather tube — four inches in diameter, square — in which to relocate the nest. And then the haying can start.

My deal of the week

Possibly of the month. Found at the Loblaws supermarket this afternoon: MGM’s The Frank Sinatra Collection of three wonderful movies in nobody-wants-it-but-us-
anymore-video-format, for a grand total of $1.33 each. Even in U.S. dollars that’s a steal. It sure beats $10 for a collection of Pink Panther cartoons on DVD; we love PP around here, but only on deeply discounted video.

That’s $3.99 total for “Anchors Aweigh” (with Kathryn Grayson, from the kids’ favorite Kiss Me Kate! Gene Kelly, too! Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry the Mouse from Tom & Jerry!); “On the Town” (more Gene Kelly! And the Museum of Natural History and Miss Turnstiles and Ann Miller, also from Kiss Me Kate! Not to mention Leonard Bernstein and Comden & Green and Stanley Donen), and “High Society” (Grace Kelly! Celeste Holm! Louis Armstrong! Cole Porter!). I know, I know, “The Philadelphia Story” is better, but if you were going to make a musical version and in the fifties, this is pretty darn good.

That’s it then. Give us back our Stanley Cup…

From The Guardian:

The author of what has been described as the definitive dictionary of slang is gobsmacked, gutted, throwing up bunches, honked, hipped and jacked like a cock-maggot in a sink-hole. A North Carolina school district has banned the dictionary under pressure from one of a growing number of conservative Christian groups using the internet to encourage school book bans across the US.

The book is the revised edition of Cassell Dictionary of Slang by Britain’s leading lexicographer of slang, Jonathon Green, and it joins five other books formally challenged by the Wake County school district, including The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Junie B. Jones, Some Sneaky, Peaky Spying by Barbara Park, Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds, and In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak. According to the Guardian, school officials acted after pressure from a local Christian activist group, Called2Action, whose website asks people to “join our E-army today to take your place on the front lines of the battle for our children’s future.” Not surprisingly, they’re not wild about Harry Potter either.

Perhaps the group and school board confused the Dictionary with another one of Mr. Green’s collections, The Big Book of Filth: 6,500 Sex Slang Words and Phrases.

Green is quoted as saying, “I’m very flattered. It’s not exactly book-burning but, in the great tradition of book censorship, there never seems to be the slightest logic to it.”

Special occasions demand special things (so said Mrs. Bird)

“Oooh,” said Paddington, “is it really for me?” He stared hungrily at the cake. It really was a wonderful cake. One of Mrs. Bird’s best. It was covered with sugar icing and it had a cream and marmalade filling. On the top there was one candle and the words: TO PADDINGTON. WITH BEST WISHES FOR A HAPPY BIRTHDAY — FROM EVERYONE.

It had been Mrs. Bird’s idea to have a birthday party. Paddington had been with them for two months. No one, not even Paddington, knew quite how old he was, so they decided to start again and call him one. Paddington thought this was a good idea, especially when he was told that bears had two birthdays every year — one in the summer and one in the winter.

“Just like the Queen,” said Mrs. Bird. “So you ought to consider yourself very important.”

from A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

And this year, their summer birthday celebrations fell on the same day, today! Here’s Her Majesty’s version. And, in another coincidence, both Her Majesty and Michael Bond are 80 years old this year. Many happy returns times two to all, and marmalade sandwiches and cream-and-jam cakes all ’round!

Poetry Friday: The long, the lovely day

Somehow my E. Nesbit poem disappeared. Blame Blogger. Will repost as soon as I get a chance (probably sometime after our 17 hours of daily sunshine disappear).

Speaking of fairs…

Melissa at The Lilting House has a great roundup of the current (home) learning fairs, festivals, and carnivals, but my new favorite has to be one post down at Lilting House, Dawn at By Sun and By Candlelight‘s terrific idea of a Field Day, a veritable “carnival of nature study”. Dawn would like to post the Early Summer edition on Thursday, June 29, so please send her your submissions by next Tuesday, June 27; for details and particulars, see the previous link. Looks like lots of fun!

And another reminder: Melissa will be hosting the June 28 edition of the Carnival of Education. Send your submissions to her by 6pm on the evening of June 27 (have a heart though, the woman has five children — one of whom is only two months old — and almost as many blogs, so send your entry early if you can!) at her email address, which you can find in her roundup post; Carnival of Education archives are here. Now for some rainy days and long evenings to get all that writing and reading done!

Homeschooling Country Fair: First Day of Summer edition

What better way to celebrate the longest day of the year than at the Country Fair?

Head over to Doc’s for a variety of articles tucked everywhere from the Pavilion to the Grange Hall to the midway to the livestock pens. She’s done a blue-ribbon job putting it all together!

The next Country Fair will be out the third Wednesday in July. Posting guidelines and archives for the previous fairs are here.

What we did on our first day of summer vacation

from formal homeschooling. Yesterday was a gorgeous June day, complete with deep blue sky and big, fluffy clouds, so we

— picnicked by the dugout [Western Canadian term for a manmade pond) to watch the mallard pair, the coot family with its redheaded babies, a Sora rail, and assorted sandpipers

— (this is an “I” and not a “we” item) backed the truck up over the (only belatedly realized too muddy) ditch to help our aging, arthritic dog hop in, only to get the truck stuck in the mud, good and “we need the tractor and a tow rope” stuck

— walked home through the pasture, finding the first yarrow, and one leftover buffalo bean from last month

— made a survey of all the wild roses that have just started blooming; the wild rose is the provincial flower, and while most are a rosy pink, some are white and some are a very dark pink, almost fuschia, with bright yellow centers

— startled a deer out of her daytime nest, which startled all of us. The kids were surprised to see how big her patch of matted grass was.

— were delighted to see the cavalry (aka Tom) riding to the rescue, on his way home briefly to pick up more tools for work; My truck was quickly pulled from the brink, and the boys rode off with Tom, while Laura galloped about bareback while I fed the chickens and the bull, and pulled some rhubarb stalks for another crisp.

Our timing yesterday was perfect. This morning I awoke to rain, goldfinches in the spruce tree, and a daughter with an eye infection and a general malaise, so it’s time for a quiet day at home, with some new library books: Birds: Nature’s Magnificent Flying Machines by Caroline Arnold, very carefully illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne; Year of the Barn Owl inspired by the lyrical but realistic illustrations of Terry Riley and written by John Andrews (this is a beautiful book, English and out of print but worth tracking down at the library, though not worth the nearly $80 asked by a nutty Amazon used bookseller); the new An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston and illustrated magically by Sylvia Long.

The Well-Upholstered Couch

The other day hornblower wrote a post called The Well-Decorated Home, which was wasn’t really about home decorating or even home schooling, but a few hours later the kids and I walked to the mailbox where I collected the latest issue of Canadian Home & Country magazine. Paging through it later that evening, hornblower’s article must percolated through or pickled my thinking, because as I read one of the features about a rustic house on Prince Edward Island (which frankly didn’t look all that rustic to me), I kept thinking how much decorating has in common with homeschooling.

Maybe I’m finally in a planning mood for September — I’ve even thought of some books and CDs to buy for next year (will post a shopping list another day) — or maybe it’s just rained too much, but the more I thought about it, the more sense the comparison seemed to make.

Here’s part of a Home & Country article, and see if you don’t think the principles could be applied to curriculum, too. And if you can’t, well, nuts to the squirrels. And thanks, hornblower, for getting the percolating started.

“Susan’s tips for taking old treasures and reinventing them for a new space:

  • Try not to be sentimental. If the piece was once used in a formal setting, dress it down for a casual new purpose with a slipcover or a coat of paint.”

You have to be unsentimental about books and programs as well. If it worked for your eldest but it’s not a good match for kiddo number two — or if a friend raved about it but it’s not for your family — tweak it or pitch it. It’s easy enough to sell curriculum, and there’s no point in hanging on to something trying to get your money’s worth if it’s not a good fit.

  • “Remove furnishings from their original context to see them in an entirely new light.”

You don’t have to use a book or program as the author or publisher intended. If you want to use all of First Language Lessons or the Explode the Code workbooks orally because it suits your child better, do it. If you want to supplement Singapore with Miquon or Math-U-See rather than using Singapore as is, go ahead (though ratcheting up your selections to include three different math programs, as some families do, doesn’t exactly promote a love of math in the kids or sanity in the parent). If you want to use just the Handwriting without Tears workbooks without the expensive wooden letters, or make the letters yourself out of fun foam, be my guest!

And, it’s not a bad idea to look at particular methods of homeschooling, or just a particular method, as a Chinese restaurant menu, choosing one item from column A and two from column B. If you follow The Well-Trained Mind, which is after all subtitled “A Guide to Classical Education at Home”, as a mandatory set of requirements, you will tear your hair out; however, if you consider it as a framework or guide, and the books and programs mentioned as simply suggestions — not to mention remembering that even Susan Wise Bauer doesn’t follow the plan to the letter (and she has her mother, who homeschooled her and co-authored the book, living right next door), you and your kids will have a much easier and more pleasant time of it. After all, when you take a trip, you certainly don’t stay in every hotel, eat in every restaurant, or visit every site recommended in the guide.

  • “Invite a second opinion. Someone less emotionally attached may have a different vision for your favourite chair.”

If you’re following a particular homeschooling method, say, WTM or unschooling, you might find something worth borrowing from the Charlotte Mason approach, for example, short lessons or nature studies instead of a full-blown life science curriculum.

Or, if you are following, say, WTM, don’t hesitate to look beyond that book for book and curriculum suggestions. There are a wealth of suggestions to be found from other homeschoolers you know, and online at various Yahoo groups, blogs, and websites; some are listed on the sidebar at right and there are oodles more.

  • “Push the boundaries: many contemporary pieces work beautifully in a simple country house full of honest materials and finishes. Likewise, the odd period piece can add interest to a spare environment.”

Like the idea of classical and unschooling? Combine them! It’s definitely possible, as various homeschoolers, from Doc to Faith at Dumb Ox Academy to EveryWakingHour, have shown, and in great detail. Do you want to skip science or Latin in the grammar years while still following a more classical approach? It’s up to you. Would you prefer to move your studies around a more traditional, Latin center? It’s eminently possible. You can even abandon all the labels and methods and go for an eclectic approach, choosing whatever books, programs, or methods that appeal to your family, regardless of style. This, fortunately, works much better in your figurative homeschool than in your literal living room, where a wild array of styles might give you a headache.

The beauty of homeschooling is that, like furniture and home decor, it’s not only flexible but should reflect your family and its tastes. As the article states, what you’re meant to do is take “old treasures and reinvent them for a new space,” make them fit their new surroundings, which is your own home school. Don’t be afraid to try that lamp on the other side of the room, add a little Latin to your life, paint the kitchen purple, unschool science, whitewash everything — walls and furniture — (this idea, however, tends to give my husband the shakes), or try a new and different couch history book that’s not recommended in the magazine book.


I completely forgot about Farm School’s anniversary/birthday last Friday. I was reminded this morning when I read Chris Barton’s anniversary post (congratulations, Bartography!).

I have no idea and don’t much care about Farm School’s Sitemeter stats (which tend to make me nervous, truth be told), or its status in the blog zoo and stock market. I don’t even know how many posts I’ve written, though it’s easy enough to check. What I do know is that I’ve very much enjoyed the additional writing I’ve been able to do, having a readily accessible place to park lists and other information and to share all the bits and pieces, and most of all, making and continuing new friendships. Now that’s worth celebrating.

Call for submissions for the 4th Homeschool Country Fair

Heads-up from Doc:

For the summer season, one carnival a month will be published, on the third Wednesday of each month. The next carnival will be published June 21st (first day of summer, if you need a writing prompt!). Submit your entries as comments here, or email me here [I’m not sure how to link to an email address so find Doc’s address at her blog]. See you at the fair!

THAT WOULD BE THIS WEDNESDAY. Come on, send me something. Write a summer haiku.

Update and warning: I’m going to be going through every blog on my blogroll and looking for an entry. (I’ll ask for permission of course, to publish). Why make it hard on me? Just submit your favorite for me – you know you want to.