• 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.

Poetry Friday: The scary season

by Valerie Worth (1933-1994)

After its lid
Is cut, the slick
Seeds and stuck
Wet strings.
Scooped out,
Walls scraped
Dry and white,
Face carved, candle
Fixed and lit,

Light creeps
Into the thick
Rind: giving
That dead orange
Vegetable skull
Warm skin, making
A live head
To hold its
Sharp gold grin.

From Halloween: Stories and Poems, edited by Caroline Feller Bauer and illustrated by Peter Sis (1989), one of my recent treasures from the library’s autumn book sale.

For more poetry fun, and tricks and treats galore, head over to Sylvia Vardell’s Poetry for Children for the Halloween 2008 edition of the Poetry Friday Roundup.

*  *  *

The kids and I are heading for town late this afternoon for trick or treating, and I’m delighted that we’ll still have the last bit of Daylight Savings Time left to wander about the streets in some daylight.  It’s also supposed not supposed to be freezing or snowing, which is unusual for these parts.  So we’re all prepared for a very enjoyable evening, even before the chocolate.

Our home school facilitator meeting went well, again, and the kids were over the moon with the first meeting of junior curling.  They were the last ones off the ice. Not having been raised in Canada, I find watching curling not quite as exciting as watching paint dry, but Tom loves the sport especially for the strategy.  It’s something the kids can do with Tom, whether they are playing together or watching it on TV, and it’s a lifelong sport the kids will be able to participate in when they’re old and gray and creaky.  It’s also inexpensive compared to hockey, and a part of their heritage.  And I’ll be able to catch up on my reading at the rink…

Next week should be fairly quiet around here, which is good because I’m alternately excited and exhausted by the entire election process.  At this point next Wednesday can’t get here soon enough, probably regardless of the outcome.  I just want the circus to leave town. And then we start getting ready for our NYC trip, so my blog writing and reading will continue to be light to nonexistent…

A smarter defense

Nicholas Burns, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 until his retirement in April, in Newsweek on why “We Should Talk to Our Enemies”:

One of the sharpest and most telling differences on foreign policy between Barack Obama and John McCain is whether the United States should talk to difficult and disreputable leaders like Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. In each of the three presidential debates, McCain belittled Obama as naive for arguing that America should be willing to negotiate with such adversaries. In the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin went even further, accusing Obama of “bad judgment … that is dangerous,” an ironic charge given her own very modest foreign-policy credentials.

Are McCain and Palin correct that America should stonewall its foes? I lived this issue for 27 years as a career diplomat, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Maybe that’s why I’ve been struggling to find the real wisdom and logic in this Republican assault against Obama. I’ll bet that a poll of senior diplomats who have served presidents from Carter to Bush would reveal an overwhelming majority who agree with the following position: of course we should talk to difficult adversaries—when it is in our interest and at a time of our choosing.

The more challenging and pertinent question, especially for the McCain-Palin ticket, is the reverse: Is it really smart to declare we will never talk to such leaders? Is it really in our long-term national interest to shut ourselves off from one of the most important and powerful states in the Middle East—Iran—or one of our major suppliers of oil, Venezuela? …

The real truth Americans need to embrace is that nearly all of the most urgent global challenges—the quaking financial markets, climate change, terrorism—cannot be resolved by America’s acting alone in the world. Rather than retreat into isolationism, as we have often done in our history, or go it alone as the unilateralists advocated disastrously in the past decade, we need to commit ourselves to a national strategy of smart engagement with the rest of the world. Simply put, we need all the friends we can get. And we need to think more creatively about how to blunt the power of opponents through smart diplomacy, not just the force of arms.

Talking to our adversaries is no one’s idea of fun, and it is not a sure prescription for success in every crisis. But it is crude, simplistic and wrong to charge that negotiations reflect weakness or appeasement. More often than not, they are evidence of a strong and self-confident country. One of America’s greatest but often neglected strengths is, in fact, our diplomatic power. …

America faces a complex and difficult geopolitical landscape. The next president needs to act more creatively and boldly to defend our interests by revalidating diplomacy as a key weapon in our national arsenal and rebuilding our understaffed and underfunded diplomatic corps. Of course he will need to reserve the right to use force against the most vicious and implacable of our foes. More often than not, however, he will find that dialogue and discussion, talking and listening, are the smarter ways to defend our country, end crises and sometimes even sow the seeds of an ultimate peace.

A refreshing, educated, experienced counterpoint to the “Stand up and fight” rhetoric. And of course, without sowing the seeds of an ultimate peace, there’s always work for the belligerent and bellicose. Read Nicholas Burns’ entire piece here.

Waylaid by pumpkins

I had every intention to keep blogging through last week but getting ready for our giant pumpkin carving party (the pumpkin was big at 270 pounds, though not as big as last year’s, and the party kept getting bigger as Tom and the kids invited everyone they ran into) derailed my plans, especially when the forecast called for gale-force winds and we realized we had to turn the garage into an auxiliary kitchen/living room because the day-long festivities couldn’t be held outside as planned. And all of that bumped into my big autumn housecleaning and getting ready for our home school facilitator meeting (tomorrow), the beginning of junior curling season, two 4H meetings, and a meeting with the director/writer of the new community theater production.

I made vats of chili, dozens of gingersnaps, we grilled oodles of hot dogs, and the party festivities included carving the giant pumpkin and various smaller ones, pressing cider, a treasure hunt, and games including guess the weight of the big pumpkin. Tom and the kids had decorated with square straw bales, pumpkins and apples everywhere, streamers, and the odd spider.  A good time was had by all.

Tom and junior helpers contemplate the design,

The finished face,

One of the smaller pumpkins, carved by someone who didn’t bother with the gutting first,

The big pumpkin on its straw bale, in front of the house. It was a dark and stormy afternoon,

Illuminated, at night,

Rescue, and a moose

I just received a digital card reader from my father in civilization — thanks, Pop! — so I could salvage the last batch of photographs from my dead or dying Kodak EasyShare; I didn’t even realize such things existed. It’s a little marvel — I put the camera’s card in the reader, the reader in the Mac Mini, and all of a sudden here are my missing photographs. I’ll probably post them in a few installments.

The moose we saw in a farmer’s field on the way to the pumpkin festival at the beginning of this month,

Tom thought we should take a closer look, but the moose thought otherwise,

He finally got away from us by running into a stand of trees.

More wildlife, this time a muskrat on the driveway, on its way to deeper water across the road in which to spend the winter. It’s been dry enough for the past few months that many of the ponds and sloughs have dried up.

Still twisting in the wind

Here’s a bit of friendly advice to the Canadian Liberal Party: It’s not about more money. You can’t buy vision with more money. More money will not guarantee that the leader listens to advisers, or has the savvy to make hay out of unforeseen circumstances. Money also won’t buy a party united behind the leader; I could hear Michael Ignatieff grinding his teeth all the way across the Canadian Shield.

Announcing this afternoon that he is stepping down, Stéphane Dion said, “I still think that if we would have been equipped to explain why I’m fighting for my country, what kind of leader I would have been, what kind of prime minister I would have been and what kind of policy we’re proposing, we would have won this election and we would have today a much better government than the one we have,” and “It has been a mistake to go ahead with the Green Shift because we are not equipped to explain what it was”.

By “equipped” M. Dion means more campaign funds. But he had the attention of the Canadian media, and a number of bloggers for five weeks. In our household, we heard news reports just about hourly on CBC radio about each of the parties, including the Liberals. The nightly news, CBC and CTV, covered each of the parties, including the Liberals. All of the news outlets had strong online presences with up-to-the minute updates. Did M. Dion make the most of the free coverage? Honestly, no. Indeed, it was a mistake to go ahead with the Green Shift because the Liberals weren’t able or equipped in any sense to explain what it was.

However, if by “equipped” the Liberals mean instead a vision and a clear message, and the ability to stay on message, as well as flexibility and being able to think on their feet when presented with the virtual gift of an economic crisis and an incumbent Prime Minister who’s not nearly as warm and fuzzy as he thinks he is, then they just might be on to something.

And that advice, my friends, is free.

The value of art, even in troubled times

Carol Vogel at The New York Times writes about lean days ahead for museums, but ends on a hopeful note:

And some directors argue that museums are not simply a great escape, but good value compared with a movie that can cost about $12 and end in two hours. At a museum, many said, visitors can spend an entire day and often take in a movie, too.

Then there’s the more cosmic view. “Art doesn’t lose its emotional or artistic value,” [Michael] Govan [director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art] said. “That doesn’t change no matter what the economy.”

So go to a museum, and shop at Target too, if there’s one near you.  While some corporate sponsors of museums, such as Lehman Bothers, have disappeared, The Times reports that “discount retailer Target, for instance, continues to finance 1,500 free days a year at more than 70 museums across the country even though it reported that its sales are down 3 percent from this time last year.”  At MoMA in New York, for example, admission is free for all visitors during Target Free Friday Nights, every Friday evening, 4-8 p.m.  More Target-sponsored museum programs and schedules here.

Semi-radical, unacademic, and too much fun

The New York Times covers “Anti-Schoolers”, a piece on the growth of home education in the Big Apple:

Benny’s parents [“with two PhDs and an MD between them”] aren’t home-schooling in the traditional sense, by hewing to a curriculum, nor are they strictly “unschooling,” that is, following the teachings of John Holt, a progressive educator who promoted a child-led learning movement that is a wildly democratic subset of the home-schooling world. Rather, theirs is an ad hoc, day-by-day exploration into what it means to be a stay-at-home parent and child in an accelerated culture like New York. In a city where the race to be on top can start in infancy, the disconnect between these parents’ choices and the New York City norm is vast, as Ms. Rendell [Benny’s mother] learned recently.

Read the rest here.

Most interesting to me, aside from an engaging look at home schooling and “out-in-the-world” families in NYC, was the comment from Ms. Rendell’s editor at a “hip online magazine” for which Ms. Rendell wrote about her family’s home educating adventures: ” ‘what got people going,’ was a sense that these readers ‘were being out-hipped or out-cooled,’ as [the editor] put it, that they were ‘feeling jealous on some level that Joanne had the opportunity to stay home with her son’.” Because I’ve found that many of the stronger anti-home schooling sentiments seem to come from those who find that our family’s very personal educational choice makes them feel defensive about their own choices. As Ms. Rendell herself notes in the article, “one’s choices, if different from another’s, can seem like an affront.”