• 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."
    Cicero

    "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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Festival report

We spent most of yesterday at the first day of the town’s arts festival. The boys each recited a poem in the morning for Speech Arts, and in the evening Laura performed her musical theater number, “I Have Confidence” from The Sound of Music.

For the past few years, the kids have entered just the Speech Arts part of the program. This year, I gave Laura a pass on that part, since her voice teacher wanted to enter her in the singing portion, and her piano teacher wanted her to enter the piano portion (tomorrow morning, with “Home on the Range”, like a good cowgirl); plus she had two speeches to give for 4H. But I feel as if we’re letting down the Speech Arts program, which yesterday had only 11 entries (down from a recent high of 26 in 2004, and, in earlier years, as many as eight days of entries compared to today’s two hours). Part of the problem is that poetry, and memorization, are no longer included in most provincial school curricula (in part because neither is included on provincial exams, which goes to prove the unfortunate importance of teaching to the test) — which no doubt explains why six of the 10 entrants yesterday are home educated — and as we see all around, there’s just not much worth nowadays, you know, in like being able to talk good and stuff. Whatever.

But the kids who came out yesterday did an amazing job. In addition to my two boys (whose archy and mehitabel selections by Don Marquis are at the very bottom), the entrants included

a seven-year-old girl reciting Roald Dahl’s “Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker”,

a 10-year-old boy reciting “Abou Ben Adhem and the Angel” by Leigh Hunt,

his eight-year-old sister doing a brilliant job with Charles Dickens’s “The Ivy Green”,

an 11-year-old boy reciting “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer,

a 14-year-old boy reciting “The Policeman’s Song” by Gilbert & Sullivan,

a marvelous rendition of Alfred Noyes’s “The Highwayman” by a 16-year-old homeschooled girl, who brought the piece to life before our eyes,

a prose recitation of Something from Nothing, one of our favorite picture books, by a 14-year-old friend of ours, who also gave a public speaking solo, her 4H speech from last month about her exchange trip to Japan. I’ll try to add links to most of the poems later.

All in all, a wonderful morning, even without Davy winning the prize for the six- and seven-year-old category (from the adjudicator’s report: “That is quite the smile! What a wonderful job you did with all of those big words! You have a very clear and easy sound. Great work!”), and Daniel managing exceedingly well with his first stab at free verse. The kids have each had a chance at winning festival awards now, and it was heartening to see Laura and Daniel so pleased for their little brother. Best of all, because the kids didn’t have classrooms to run back to as did some of the other competitors, we were free to spend the entire morning at the church hall, listening to (and learning from) all of the other recitations.

We stepped out of the church at lunchtime to unexpected heavy snow (happy spring to you, too), got home as fast as we could under the road conditions, ate lunch, relaxed as much as we dared, and an hour or so later, hopped back into the truck and drove back to town for music lessons, an abbreviated Fiddler rehearsal, and then dinner at a restaurant in town at 5 p.m. so Laura could be back at the church for the Vocal program just after 6. Her voice instructor arrived for a bit of a warm-up, and she changed into her costume. Only to discover that she had left her straw hat on her bed. Thank goodness for some dear friends, homeschoolers too, who live literally across the street from the church and saved the day with the loan of a hat five minutes before show time.

Laura and her accompanist did a terrific job — simple, appealing, enjoyable — all the more impressive since, as the youngest as the category, Laura was the first to go on. The adjudicator, the same one from Speech Arts earlier in the day, enjoyed it too, and gave Laura a very good critique. She was followed by a selection of Disney Princesses, which after L’s comment on the other day’s hot-to-trot-tot post, with this link to Off-Duty Disney Princesses (the play) from Breed ‘Em And Weep), seemed more even more disturbing than usual (relevant, L? You betcha). There was Beauty minus Beast, the mermaid complete with shockingly bright wig and homemade tail, and Aladdin’s midriff-baring princess pal, all complete with not particularly memorable — nor easy to sing or suitable for 10- and 11-year-olds — Alan Menken drivel. Why do mothers and women teachers do this to their girls? Which only made the good stuff — including the only boy’s performance of Chim Chim Cheree (the same lad who had given us Casey at the Bat earlier in the day), an 11-year-old girl performing a number from “Annie” and a 12-year-old’s “Just You Wait (‘enry ‘iggins)” from “My Fair Lady” — stand out that much more.

There followed some classical vocal solos, including oratoria, and a rousing finale from two local adult choruses. Beautiful stuff. A late night, but the kids were still singing on the way home — mostly selections from Singin’ in the Rain — and planning their entries for next year.

Today we’re recovering with a quiet, unschooly day, with plans to reread Something from Nothing, which ties in nicely with the kids’ Fiddler on the Roof production; Casey at the Bat (there are more than a few good picture book editions to choose from), and a few other stories. Tomorrow morning Laura bangs out “Home on the Range” for the piano part of the program. And we stop off at the hospital afterwards to have Daniel’s stitch removed.

Daniel’s excerpt from “some maxims of archy” by Don Marquis (from archy and mehitabel)

i heard a
couple of fleas
talking the other
day says one come
to lunch with
me i can lead you
to a pedigreed
dog says the
other one
i do not care
what a dog s
pedigree may be
safety first
is my motto what
Ii want to know
is whether he
has got a
muzzle on
millionaires and
bums taste
about a like to me

Davy’s prize-winning excerpt from “some natural history” by Don Marquis (from archy and mehitabel)

the patagonian
penguin
is a most
peculiar
bird
he lives on
pussy
willows
and his tongue
is always furred
the porcupine
of chile
sleeps his life away
and that is how
the needles
get into the hay
the argentinian
oyster
is a very
subtle gink
for when he s
being eaten
he pretends he is
a skink
when you see
a sea gull
sitting
on a bald man s dome
she likely thinks
she s nesting
on her rocky
island home
do not tease
the inmates
when strolling
through the zoo
for they have
their finer feelings
the same
as me and you.

(Yes, we talked about that last line and why it was needed for the rhyme. Ha. And about the saying “a needle in a haystack”. Both poems got the biggest laughs of the day, so it seems Don Marquis was a big hit on the prairie.)

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