• 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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Banned Books Week: Day 4: Boo

A recent addition to the book challenge lists is one of the popular Ology books, Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin by Dugald Steer.

Last year and this year, the book has been challenged at the West Haven, Connecticut, Molloy Elementary School Library “because the book exposes the children to the occult”. According to the May 2007 issue ALA’s Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom,

A book in a West Haven elementary school has outraged a mother who claims it has exposed her young daughter to the occult. On February 9, she brought the book back to school to ask other parents’ opinion and to confront the principal.

Wizardology: The Book of the Secrets of Merlin was checked out of West Haven’s Molloy Elementary School library by Cary Alonzo’s eight-year-old daughter.

“Well, it has pentagrams in here. It has how to cast spells with actual spells to say and recite,” said Alonzo. The book even has a few tarot cards. With the popularity of Harry Potter, this book is apparently also a hot item. Alonzo says it teaches an alternative religion that’s potentially dangerous.

“If I cannot go in this library and pick up a Bible or a Koran, I don’t think this should be there either,” said Alonzo.

Showing the book to other parents at Molloy’s movie night, she enlisted support. “Books like that shouldn’t be in the schools. If the parents want to get the books, they should get them on their own,” said Joe Vecellio of West Haven.

Others aren’t bothered a bit and say this kind of attention is a black eye to an otherwise outstanding school. “Things like this put a bad name to the school where it’s a school where teachers work hard, the assistants work hard, the principal works hard,” said Rosemary Russo of West Haven.

“I looked at it, you know, I guess everybody’s different, there are some items that could be taken the wrong way,” said Molloy principal Steve Lopes.

Lopes says Wizardology was ordered through Scholastic magazine and is a part of a series that did go through a selection process. It has now been pulled off the shelf and will be reviewed. That is not enough for Alonzo, who says if one slipped through, there may be others.

“At this level, they’re young, they’re very impressionable,” said Alonzo.

I wasn’t able to find anything online about the status of the school’s review, or whether the school has by now, as it should have, added copies of the Old and New Testaments, and the Koran, to the library shelves; I’d also recommend a copy of The World’s Wisdom: Sacred Texts of the World’s Religions, edited by Philip Novak, but I realize I’m pushing here.

I did, however, find an interesting discussion of wizards in children’s literature over at the Rutherford Institute website; the discussion is an interview with Connie Neal, author of both What’s a Christian to do with Harry Potter? and The Gospel According to Harry Potter and Wizards, Wardrobes and Wookiees: Navigating Good and Evil in Harry Potter, Narnia and Star Wars. Some excerpts from that interview:

Was it the popularity of Harry Potter that fanned the flames of disdain in these certain Christian circles?

…I first heard about the books from a fellow mother of voraciously reading children, and she told me about this great series where an orphan went to a boarding school to learn all about being a wizard and using magic. Any concerned parent would raise an eyebrow at this. The whole setup of a story about wizardry raises antennas, but when you really look at the books, what is the difference between them and the Chronicles of Narnia? For me, it is the age we live in where kids can go from a Harry Potter fan website in three clicks to a web site where actual witchcraft is discussed. This was simply not the case when C.S. Lewis released his books. Parents are so busy and there are so many more options for their children to get into trouble with; parents think they are too busy to police their kid’s activities. They are scared.

Right off the bat with the Harry Potter phenomenon, the most aggressive opponents have come out of a personal involvement in the occult. They can’t read Harry Potter as we can and enjoy it; their situation is much like an alcoholic going into a restaurant and waiting at the bar for a table—they can’t do it. These attackers with an occult background have helped create this fear and hatred of Harry Potter, but they haven’t realized that not everyone is going to respond as they have and so have ruined the experience of reading Harry Potter for others without their background. These people have a particular weakness, and instead of their background being investigated in Christian media, their views were blindly accepted. With the Christian retailers returning my books and big Christian radio networks stonewalling me, they are killing free speech in the Christian community. This is a much bigger issue than Harry Potter or witchcraft in these books. If this free speech that we have worked so vigorously for is something we take away ourselves, then we have already lost. Both sides of the story need to be told and responsible journalism needs to occur, in the secular media as well because all they like to show are the zealots and their book burning, and that does not represent all Christians. …

Have you found that the Harry Potter detractors you run into have read the books, or more often do they rely on hearsay? And if they have read the books, did they ever give the books a chance?

Sure, there are some who come up to me and tell me how horrible the Harry Potter books are, but their response to my question of “Did you read the book?” is that they saw a quote about how bad they are and they don’t need to read them. There are 64 real references to witchcraft in the first four Harry Potter books, but you have to see them in context to know they are not teaching witchcraft or sorcery. Many of the detractors who have actually read the books already have made up their mind that Harry Potter is evil before they read. They have taken a magnifying glass and picked at the books, using literary reductionism to find what they want to find. You can pick up Dicken’s A Christmas Carol and do the same thing that these people have done with Harry Potter; it is ridiculous. …

* * *

“This is my tutor Merlyn, a great magician.”

“How-de-do,” said the King. “Always like to meet magicians. In fact I always like to meet anybody, you know. It passes the time away, what, on a quest.”

“Hail,” said Merlyn, in his most mysterious manner.

“Hail,” replied the King, anxious to make a good impression.

They shook hands.

“Did you say Hail?” inquired the King, looking about him nervously. “I thought it was going to be fine, meself.”

“He meant How-do-you-do,” explained the Wart.

“Ah, yes, How-de-do?”

They shook hands again.

“Good afternoon,” said King Pellinore. “What do you think the weather looks like now?’

“I think it looks like an anti-cyclone,” said Merlyn.

“Ah, yes,” said the King. “An anti-cyclone. Well, I suppose I ought to be getting along.”

At this the King trembled very much, opened and shut his visor several times, coughed, wove his reins into a knot, exclaimed, “I beg your pardon?” and showed signs of cantering away.

“He is a white magician,” said the Wart. “You need not be afraid of him. He is my best friend, your majesty, and in any case he generally gets his spells muddled up.”

The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White, 1939

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