• 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.


We’ve been busy here, recovering from the Festival and celebrating the kids’ successes (including Laura’s big wrap-up prize for most outstanding student performing in three disciplines and going on to provincials for poetry/public speaking and musical theater), doing some more Spring cleaning (I still have a few walls to wash and all of the windows except the lovely big new one in the bedroom, but I’m going to hold off on the window-washing because we’re expecting some unseasonably cold weather — -7C — and snow), attending a 4H livestock workshop, and having the semiannual home school facilitator meeting. I’m failing miserably trying to keep up with blog reading and writing, but have found a couple of interesting links

* Ruth at Traveling Jews has a terrific post with a selected survey and reviews on Science for the secular homeschooling family. On a similar subject, Lynn at bore me to tears has The latest on science-free science curriculum.

* The kids have been intrigued by news of the World’s Longest Beaver Dam found with Google Earth, which happens to be in Alberta. A very long drive from here, but the kids are ready to sally forth.

* Nicole at Baking Bites has all sorts of tasty goodies: news of a Giant Ice Cream Cone Cupcake Pan, which looks adorable, a review of How Baking Works: Exploring the Fundamentals of Baking Science by Paula Figoni, and a recipe for nectarine turnovers, which I plan to save for summertime

* Via John at Confessions of a Science Librarian, his mention of the new Clifford Pickover book, Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them (Oxford University Press, April 2008)

*JoVE and I were writing back and forth, off blog, about the recent Lenore Skenazy article in The New York Sun, about Skenazy leaving her then nine-year-old-son at Bloomingdale’s and letting him, at his request, find his own way home. Now Skenazy has a blog (with a familar but nifty template), Free Range Kids. Not to be confused, by the way, with the nifty home schooling blog Free Range Academy. I find Skenazy’s adventures, especially the reaction to her articles on the matter, more interesting than her son’s adventure. I grew up in New York, and though the city is considerably safer now than it was in the seventies, I was riding to school on the bus from West 96th Street to East 62nd Street on my own, or with young friends, by the age of 10; and, on the way home from school, ranging along Madison Avenue with a friend stopping in at stores to add to our growing business card collections; the worst thing that ever happened was a couple of Browning boys, true upper class twits I realized years later, jumping out from around a corner to yell at us, “When did you last see your gynecologist?!” (The subway was another matter. I had a very unpleasant episode on the subway in eighth grade, going downtown during rush hour — to take the entrance exam at Stuyvesant — with my mother and some fellow with wandering hands. The memory still makes me shudder.) Anyway, as you probably already know from the green “Courting Danger” button above, over the pink zinnia, I thoroughly approve of a dash of benign neglect when raising children. Not for nothing is our unofficial family and home school motto, BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WON’T DROWN.


12 Responses

  1. Ah, you make me want to read Swallows and Amazons again!

  2. Oooh, thanks for the Skenazy link. That’s great stuff.

    At Rethinking Education last September, John Taylor Gatto said Richard Branson (the Virgin magnate) was allowed to do something similar to what Skenazy’s child did, but in London at the age of about four, according to his autobiography. Gatto’s point was that such a think would be unthinkable today but is necessary at some point so that a child learns he can rely on himself.

  3. Kris, it’s the time of year for a re-read!

    Casey/kc, relying on oneself and thinking for oneself, too. I think I remember hearing about that when Branson’s autobiography came out. He likely traveled further at a younger age than the NYC boy. I also remember something about Branson’s ma sending him off, at the age of 10 or 11, with a sandwich and a bicycle but without a map or anything to drink, on a 50-mile ride to a relative’s house. I do remember finding it odd that a 9yo NYer would need a map to get from East 59th Street to 34th Street, but that’s just me. One of these days, one of these days, I’m going to get to RE (and Texas)!

  4. Interesting. At Christmas, my godkids were over for present making and i sent the 12 year old boy to the neighborhood bakery for treats, giving him my cell phone in case he got lost. He called twice. He is the ‘baby’ and rather babied. This was something he just never does, he couldn’t even decide what to buy, as I had just told him to get what looks good and given him $10. I do think he was rather proud of himself when he got back, but I was shocked at how anxious it made him. By 12 I was bussing all over and caring for other people’s children. Do we expect less of boys? His sisters cheered me on, as they think he is not given enough responsibility for himself.

  5. Yes, I heard about all the kafuffle when I watched a 1 hour discussion with Barbara Coloroso and others last week on TVO. It’s not only courting danger, but it’s the underlying “learning to think for oneself”, as well as the ability to undergo “rites of passage” on the way to adulthood. It says something, certainly, that so many people are up in arms about it.

    Wanted to ask you, Becky, if your kids have read Little Britches (and subsequent books) by Ralph Moody? I loved these when I was a kid and just had the library order in the first one.

  6. Mary Lou, I don’t even want to know how far away the bakery is! Parents think they’re helping their kids, but I don’t think they realize (or remember from their own childhoods) the importance of that sense of pride and self-confidence that come from independent accomplishments. Not to mention the fact that parents don’t have to worry about abililities/skills (or lack thereof) when the kids are finally on their own.

    Jen, I’d be interested on Coloroso’s take. My “Courting Danger” label is tongue in cheek, by the way : ). What many parents consider dangerous nowadays — from subways to pocketknives to unsupervised activity — are just the things previous generations did use, as you write, learn to think for themselves and take yet another step closer to adulthood. Not for nothing, as you mentioned too, are so many up in arms or do so many adults nowadays strain to hold on to childhood — what Robert Epstein called (referring to John Taylor Gatto) “the artificial extension of childhood” in his last year’s book, “The Case Against Adolescence”, which I wrote about here last summer,


    And yes, Ralph Moody is a friend of ours. The boys especially adore the first few books, and find the series an “antidote” to the Little House series!

  7. Barbara Coloroso’s take is consistent with what she’s always said about parenting…”teach kids how to think, not what to think”. The TVO special was on “Are We Overprotecting Our Kids”, to which she predictably answered “Yes”. Giving children age-appropriate choices and giving them the opportunity to learn from those choices (starting from a very young age)…all part and parcel of her “six critical life messages” to give our children, 3 of which are: I believe in you…I trust in you…I know you can handle this. (Of course the riding the subway bit is all relative…a good choice for a 9 year old that lives in NY, but not necessarily for a visiting kid from rural BC. :)) But if we’re to be “turning out” adults that can competently make their own choices, they’ve got to have the opportunity to be responsible for themselves as children…and make “mistakes while they’re cheap”, as Barbara would say. I’m paraphrasing and perhaps nutshelling more than I should, but she’s nothing if not consistent in her message for the last 20 years! :)

    I haven’t read that piece by J.T. Gatto, but I have read G. Neufeld’s take on “stunted” psychological maturity in many young adults these days (i.e. the “Gamer” generation)…very interesting.

    I haven’t read more than a few chapters of Little Britches this time around…but what I do remember striking me as a 10 year old reading them, was that I thought the kid was “lucky” in a way, to be able to be so depended upon at his age…even though it involved his working so hard! :)
    Which is why I thought of the books again, as they run along these same veins of discussion.

  8. Thanks for the mention :)

    And, I’m really enjoying the interesting conversation here.

  9. Jen, thanks for taking the time to write it all out and letting me know — I love the paraphrasing and nutshelling : ). It’s heartening to know that these ideas seem to be becoming part of the mainstream. Yes, for me “Little Britches” is all of a piece with other rural memoirs, including “Little Heathens” which I think I mentioned in the blog post, “All roads lead to home and hard work”, I linked to above. I have another post around here about self-confidence vs. self-esteem, about the confidence derived from doing well and working hard; that feeling is hard to beat, especially when you’re young.

    Lynn, you’re very welcome, and glad to hear that!

  10. I’ve heard good stuff about “Little Heathens” all over the place (including from your old posts), but I haven’t had a chance to read it. It’s too new for our library to be able to order it in on Interlibrary Loan…I’ll have to a bookstore and buy it, I guess…or be patient awhile longer. :) I do agree that the feeling a child (or anyone) gets from having accomplished something difficult by his/herself (especially if the road was “long” and it took some planning and/or good thinking to reach the end) is irreplaceable. I do remember reading that post about self esteem vs. self-confidence, and from what I recall, you remarked that self-esteem is outer-imposed, and self-confidence comes from within. (Did I nutshell accurately, there? :)) I agree.

    Fun, fun stuff.

  11. Jen, I ended up buying it because, as I feared, the title is “too American” for our libraries’ collections. Argh. But I’m so glad I bought it, it’s definitely a keeper. You’re nutshelling is right on the mark!

  12. I love your motto! We are reading Swallows and Amazons right now, and we had to google “duffers” to figure out that saying. Now we are using it as family slang.

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