• 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

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    "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"

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    English architect CFA Voysey (1857-1941)

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    Cicero

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    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"

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    Walter Wriston

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    "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

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    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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Sister Bernadette’s Barking Campaign, or, Hot air, baloney, and twaddle

We classically home educating types are known to enjoy diagramming sentences, so JoVE sent me the recent Slate article by Kitty Burns Florey, “Diagramming Sarah”.

Why do we attach such importance to sentence diagramming? Because, as Ms. Burns Florey, author of Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences, explains, “diagramming a sentence provides insight into the mind of its perpetrator. The more the diagram is forced to wander around the page, loop back on itself, and generally stretch its capabilities, the more it reveals that the mind that created the sentence is either a richly educated one — with a Proustian grasp of language that pushes the limits of expression — such an impoverished one that it can produce only hot air, baloney, and twaddle.”

From the article,

One thing we can’t learn, of course, is whether [Sarah Palin’s] words are true or make sense. Part of the appeal of diagramming is the fact that just about any sentence can be diagrammed, even when it is gibberish. Cats chase mice and Mice chase cats present the same kind of entity to the diagrammer. So does Muffins bludgeon bookcases. If it’s a string of words containing a certain number of parts of speech arranged in reasonably coherent order, it can be hacked and beaten into a diagram.

Once we start diagramming political sentences, the diagram’s indifference to meaning can be especially striking. Stirring words like “I have a dream,” the magisterial Declaration of Independence (a staple of diagramming teachers), bald-faced lies (“I am not a crook”), and crafty shadings of the truth (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman”) can be diagrammed with equal ease. But some politicians—our current president included—offer meanderings in the higher realms of drivel that leave the diagrammer groping for the Tylenol (“Families is where our nation finds hope, where wings take dream”) or the gin bottle (“I remember meeting a mother of a child who was abducted by the North Koreans right here in the Oval Office”).

Read the rest, including more diagramming, here.

And good news — Ms. Burns Florey has a new book coming out in the new year, Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting, on January 23, National Handwriting Day and John Hancock’s birthday (there’s also a new novel). Which makes me very glad I decided over the summer to practice handwriting along with the kids, thanks to my own home educating purchase.

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4 Responses

  1. I love this. I hadn’t thought of diagramming politics. Unfortunately, I doubt either of my children are up to diagramming her gibberish.

    We use another book for diagramming, but this one looks better. Thanks for the tip.

  2. This article looks priceless! I am a grammar aficionado, but I never thought of diagramming as a tool for unraveling political rubbish.

    http://momofmonkeys.wordpress.com/

  3. I always LOVED diagramming sentences. I have been so busy I have the slates piled up in my inbox. Thanks for this. My lost skill comes in handy!

  4. Wisteria, “Sister B” is more of a history of diagramming than a how to, more of a supplement to whatever you’re already using

    mom, and if can’t be unraveled, it’s definitely rubbish.

    Mary Lou, I am not surprised to find that in your (yarn) bag of tricks : ).

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