• 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.