• 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.


I just read Tim Rutten’s “The Perils of Palin” in the LA Times, from which:

Although she supports the teaching of creationism in public schools, [Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee] Palin thinks it should be presented alongside, rather than instead of, evolution. “Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both,” she said during her gubernatorial campaign. “I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. … Don’t be afraid of information, and let kids debate both sides.”

Well, no. There is no debate, only “teach the controversy” pull-the-wool hucksterism from the Discovery Institute’s “intelligent design” campaign which belongs nowhere near a science class — though certainly in a religion or current events class — or anyone running for US federal office.

Just in case, here’s a back-to-school refresher for all of us, including science students and teachers from Alaska to Hawaii to Alberta, about the word “theory” from editor-in-chief John Rennie of Scientific American:

Many people learned in elementary school that a theory falls in the middle of a hierarchy of certainty — above a mere hypothesis but below a law. Scientists do not use the terms that way, however. According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), a scientific theory is “a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.” No amount of validation changes a theory into a law, which is a descriptive generalization about nature. So when scientists talk about the theory of evolution — or the atomic theory or the theory of relativity, for that matter — they are not expressing reservations about its truth. In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution. The NAS defines a fact as “an observation that has been repeatedly confirmed and for all practical purposes is accepted as ‘true.'” The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling. All sciences frequently rely on indirect evidence. Physicists cannot see subatomic particles directly, for instance, so they verify their existence by watching for telltale tracks that the particles leave in cloud chambers. The absence of direct observation does not make physicists’ conclusions less certain.

Poetry Friday: Poems for peasants

I fell off the Poetry Friday bandwagon with a loud thump at the beginning of the Summer, when it seemed as if we were always gone, or getting ready to go somewhere, on Fridays (and sometimes Thursdays). But with school starting next week, I’m ready to haul myself back up; in fact, that’s me above, at left in the pointy hat.

After I’d decided that this would be the week of the big climb, I had a note from Susan Thomsen at Chicken Spaghetti letting me know that the Poetry Foundation article she had mentioned earlier this year is now up at the PF website: “Home Appreciation”, subtitled, “Homeschoolers are turning a million kids on to poetry — through fun, not homework. Here’s how you can do it too.” I’m tickled to be mentioned in Susan’s article, along with other home schooling mums Karen Edmisten and Jenny at Little Acorns Treehouse, delightfully encouraging librarian Adrienne Furness at Homeschooling and Libraries, and Julie Bogart of Brave Writer. Thanks so much, Susan. By the way, don’t miss Susan’s Poetry Friday article at the Poetry Foundation, if you haven’t read it yet.

If you’ve found your way here from the PF article, welcome to Farm School. The Poetry & Broccoli post mentioned by Susan is here. More Farm School poetry posts are here, and can also be found if you scroll all the way to top of this page (well past the bandwagon) and to the right and click on the tab that says “Poetry”. You can also try the similarly titled “Poetry” WordPress tag, which has everything here I’ve slapped with the tag, including all of the Farm School Poetry Friday posts.

I’ve dithered long enough, so here’s my poem for the day, which, I admit, I love especially for its first line and the word “earlily”, and which I dedicate to the sweet poets visiting our fields, pastures, and gardens all Summer.

Wild Bees
by John Clare (1793-1864)

These children of the sun which summer brings
As pastoral minstrels in her merry train
Pipe rustic ballads upon busy wings
And glad the cotters’ quiet toils again.
The white-nosed bee that bores its little hole
In mortared walls and pipes its symphonies,
And never absent couzen, black as coal,
That Indian-like bepaints its little thighs,
With white and red bedight for holiday,
Right earlily a-morn do pipe and play
And with their legs stroke slumber from their eyes.
And aye so fond they of their singing seem
That in their holes abed at close of day
They still keep piping in their honey dreams,
And larger ones that thrum on ruder pipe
Round the sweet smelling closen and rich woods
Where tawny white and red flush clover buds
Shine bonnily and bean fields blossom ripe,
Shed dainty perfumes and give honey food
To these sweet poets of the summer fields;
Me much delighting as I stroll along
The narrow path that hay laid meadow yields,
Catching the windings of their wandering song.
The black and yellow bumble first on wing
To buzz among the sallow’s early flowers,
Hiding its nest in holes from fickle spring
Who stints his rambles with her frequent showers;
And one that may for wiser piper pass,
In livery dress half sables and half red,
Who laps a moss ball in the meadow grass
And hoards her stores when April showers have fled;
And russet commoner who knows the face
Of every blossom that the meadow brings,
Starting the traveller to a quicker pace
By threatening round his head in many rings:
These sweeten summer in their happy glee
By giving for her honey melody.

* * *

John Clare (1793-1864) was the son of a farm laborer and an English poet. In his lifetime he was known as “the Northamptonshire Peasant Poet”, he died in a lunatic asylum in obscurity, and today is considered England’s foremost nature poet. His works are also subject to a bizarre copyright battle.

Clare worked alongside his father from a young age, but was sent to school for three months each year until he turned 12. He published his first volume, Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery at the age of 27, followed the next year by The Village Minstrel, and Other Poems, both to great acclaim. He cut as dashing a figure as his fellow Romantic poets, but outlived them considerably; however, Clare spent his last years — more than 20 of them — in the Northampton General Lunatic Asylum, where he continued to write poetry, including his most celebrated work, I Am, until his death at age 70. He also has a blog, and a luscious David Austin rose.

* * *

Charlotte at Charlotte’s Library has today’s Poetry Friday round-up, where you can find lots of poems to get you through the Labor Day weekend and into the school year. I’m also looking forward to catching up with Charlotte’s Summer posts.

Travelling light

Slow and steady seems the way to start our travels once again this year.

In the past week or so, I’ve seen a few emails go by at online home schooling groups about parents in a tizzy about their families’ first day back to “school”, and some of them are experienced home educators. Once again, I think I’m missing some of the important home school genes — I lost the I-have-to-go-to-the-HS-conference gene a few years ago, and I am definitely missing the planning/scheduling one; of course, I’ve learned from our experiences that my best laid plans get shoved aside by last minute adventures, and that we do tend to work best just by doing the next thing. Prompted by phone calls from guitar and voice teachers, I had thought we’d start up our formal studies, as usual, right after Labor Day — though it seems to be arriving awfully early this year — but beyond that hadn’t given much thought to just what we’d do that first week.

As I’ve written before, the first day the kids get to start the morning by exploring their goodie bags, with fun school supplies, some new books and audiobooks, and such. And then…

Well, I could have planned a full day for everyone, starting with seatwork around the kitchen table — math, spelling, grammar, and such — followed by readalouds in the afternoon. Then I realized, while sitting in the middle of the garden yanking out carrots, that for me planning is much like packing for a trip, or the way I’m supposed to pack for a trip, and this is most certainly a voyage of learning. Rather than trying to pack every last thing in that suitcase — I have a tendency to pack for every last eventuality, and I suppose to carry on the metaphor that would mean scheduling to avoid educational gaps — I have to remember what the experts say: pack your bag, then remove half.

So I’ve decided that we’ll start as we have for the past few years, removing the first half of the day, the seatwork, and once the kids are done admiring their new things, we’ll start off with readalouds. In fact, I think we’ll spend our entire first week reading aloud — history, literature, science, and probably even some math. I’ll add math in the next week, and English the week after. That gives everyone including me a chance to get used to the new schedules; it doesn’t help that next week brings the first music lessons since May, and my first library board meeting since June.

Now if only I can follow my own advice the next time I’m faced with a suitcase.

(PS For others who like to Travel Light — highly recommended.)

The Perils of Progymnasmata

taken too far.

Mickey Mouse and natural selection

Interesting article in The New York Times on science education and learning to talk about, and teach, evolution in Florida’s public school system, and the benefits of learning to pull one’s punches.

And more from Lapham’s Quarterly

“The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity but the one that removes the awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.”
— Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind

Just received the latest newsletter from the editors of Lapham’s Quarterly, which I wrote about last week. From which this in a recent “Déjà vu“, the Quarterly’s online feature:

we couldn’t quite keep away from the presidential race entirely, and we pose the question of whether or not Alexander Hamilton would have deemed pastor Rick Warren’s Saddleback Forum, held some ten days ago in Lake Forest, California, constitutionally appropriate.

And this on the forthcoming issue:

On the print side of things, Lapham’s Quarterly Volume I, No. 4, “Ways of Learning,” is due in bookstores and newsstands on September 16. Contributors include Helen Keller, Allan Bloom, Anna Politovskaya, and Stanley Fish, with some of A. J. Liebling’s so-called “Boxiana” thrown in for good measure.

Mark your calendar.

And since I always seem to post something only to stumble across yet another mention of the same person or same subject, I’m not surprised to find that journalism and sociology professor Todd Gitlin, whom I mentioned just in the previous post (look down), is Lewis Lapham’s guest this week on the very worthwhile radio program The World In Time. You can listen to all but the most recent interviews as podcasts and at Lapham’s On Air archives; interviewees include Kenneth C. Davis, Tom Brokaw, Anthony Lewis, David McCullough, Tariq Ali, Bill McKibben, Diane Ravitch, Victor Davis Hanson, Cullen Murphy, Eric Foner, Simon Winchester, and Stephen F. Cohen. And more, many many more.

More on the American paradox

From Terrence McNally’s (no, the other Terrence McNally) recent interview at AlterNet with Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason:

That’s really the American paradox. For example, there is no country that has had more faith in education as an instrument of social mobility. No country in the West democratized education earlier, but no country has been more suspicious of too much education. We’ve always thought of education as good if it gets you a better job, but bad if it makes you think too much.

Similar to the quote from Todd Gitlin I quoted the other month: “Here lay a supremely American paradox: The same Americans who valued the literacy of commoners were suspicious of experts and tricksters.”