• 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.farmschool@gmail.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)
  • Categories

  • Archives

  • ChasDarwinHasAPosse
  • Farm School: A Twitter-Free Zone

  • Copyright © 2005-2016 Please do not use any of my words or my personal photographs without my express permission.

Over the river

Over the river

and through the woods

and over another river

and over the the newly-renamed bridge

to Grandmama’s and Grandpapa’s

Upper West Side apartment we go!

Happy Thanksgiving!

*  *  *

A Boy’s Thanksgiving Day
by Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
To Grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood –
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose
As over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
To have a first-rate play.
Hear the bells ring, “Ting-a-ling-ding”,
Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!

Over the river, and through the wood
Trot fast, my dapple-gray!
Spring over the ground like a hunting-hound,
For this is Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood –
And straight through the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
It is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood –
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

New York: Autumn 2008

We’ve decided to head to NYC to spend American Thanksgiving with my parents. We haven’t seen them in a year and a half, and we’re all excited to spend part of the holiday season in NYC, where we haven’t been for four years.

I’m using this page to keep track of some of our readalouds etc. in preparation for our trip, and also some sites/sights we’re planning to visit and revisit.


Storied City: A Children’s Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City by Leonard Marcus; found at BookCloseouts a few years ago and bought on a whim. I just wish there was a book like this for most cities.

The New York Chronology by James Trager, a great big doorstop of a book (for adults and older children), found not too long ago at BookCloseouts and still available there

The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden; we read this four years ago, but Daniel, who was five-and-a-half, remembered little, and Davy, who was four, remembered nothing.

Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride by George Selden

This is New York by Miroslav Sasek

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg; same as Cricket — the boys remember little to nothing.

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

A Rat’s Tale by Tor Seidler, illustrated by Fred Marcellino

The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Brian Selznick; also very good for chapter one of SOTW4 (about Queen Victoria and the Crystal Palace)

On This Spot: An Expedition Back Through Time by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Lee Christiansen; also good for prehistory/evolution

My New York by Kathy Jakobsen

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman and Robin Glasser


Miracle on 34th Street with Edmund Gwenn and Natalie Wood

On the Town with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Vera Ellen, and Betty Garrett. And Comden and Green and Leonard Bernstein.

My Sister Eileen with Betty Garrett, Jack Lemmon, Bob Fosse, Tommy Rall, and Janet Leigh

A Night at the Opera with the Marx Brothers and Kitty Carlisle

Life with Father with William Powell, Irene Dunne, Elizabeth Taylor, and Edmund Gwenn

It Should Happen to You with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon

Guys and Dolls with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Jean Simmons

Bell, Book and Candle with James Stewart, Kim Novak, and Jack Lemmon; somehow it’s just not a NYC movie without Jack Lemmon…

An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr

The World of Henry Orient with Merrie Spaeth, Tippy Walker, Peter Sellers, Paula Prentiss, Angela Lansbury, and Tom Bosley

Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif

King Kong with Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, and Bruce Cabot

West Side Story with Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn

Splash with Tom Hanks, Daryl Hannah and John Candy

The Muppets Take Manhattan

American Experience: New York directed by Ric Burns

“The Odd Couple” with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman

Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts


Free 90-minute walking tours of the Flatiron District, starting at 11 am every Sunday

Museum of the City of New York, especially the exhibits on NYC theater and my childhood favorite toys (including the dollhouses for Laura) and the fire engines

New-York Historical Society, especially the new exhibit on the Hudson River School, “Nature and the American Vision”; and Audubon’s incredible watercolors for his “Birds of America”.  And, good timing for our current Civil War studies: “Grant and Lee in War and Peace”, the new exhibit at The New-York Historical Society; particularly good along with the NYHS’s the permanent exhibit “Slavery in New York”

American Museum of Natural History, especially the new Horse exhibit; and the Planetarium/Rose Center

The Maxilla & Mandible shop near the Museum of Natural History

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade; the parade itself and the balloon blowing-up the night before, on my old block (West 77th Street)

USS Intrepid/Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum for Daniel

South Street Seaport — the museum, not the shopping (oy). Some interesting looking family programs on Saturdays, free with admission.

Gramercy Typewriter Co. for Davy

New York Doll Hospital


Bronx Zoo

Watching Jacques Torres make chocolate


“Drawing Babar: Early Drafts and Watercolors”, at the Pierpont Morgan Library and Museum from September 19, 2008 through January 4, 2009.
The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street
New York, NY 10016
closed Mondays


New York City’s new Rat Tracker website, officially known as the “Rat Information Portal, complete with a searchable map of rat inspections and violations”; via the Associated Press

From Serious Eats/New York:
The NY Times covers cheap sandwich spots in downtown Manhattan
A Guide to the Best Doughnuts in New York
The kids are intrigued by the idea of $1 meat on a stick under a bridge, especially the hot dog flower. Less so the octopus…

Chocolate egg creams (and BLTs) at Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, and just egg creams at Lexington Candy Shop luncheonette

Black and white cookies and chocolate eclairs at the Glaser Bake Shop, 87th and First

Economy Candy on Rivington Street

Remembrance Day 2008

Library and Archives Canada, in conjunction with Veterans Affairs Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), has an online exhibition, Oral Histories of the First World War: Veterans 1914-1918 featuring audio interviews and written transcripts, as well as photographs.  The exhibition is organized into seven “interview themes”: Second Ypres, Vimy Ridge, War in the Air, The Somme, Trench Warfare, Passchendaele (Third Ypres), and Perspectives on War.

The exhibition is based on the CBC‘s 1964-1965 radio broadcasts In Flanders Fields, a series of interviews with veterans of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The Library and Archives Canada website includes a number of other online virtual exhibitions, including The Battle of Passchendaele, Canada and the First World War, and Faces of War.

Also online: The Canadian Letters and Images Project, a virtual archive of the Canadian war experience, from the Riel Rebellion and Boer War to World War I, World War II, and the Korean War (one letter).  The project began in 2000 at the Department of History at Vancouver Island University. In November 2003 the Project was very pleased to bring in as partners the History Department at The University of Western Ontario.

The following is a letter in the collection written by Flight Sergeant Harry Hansell of Vulcan, Alberta.  He was 19 when he enlisted with the RCAF in 1942. He was 20 years old when he and his crew were shot down on a raid over Germany in September 1943.

May 21st, 1943

Dear Dad:

I received your letter of the 20th and was very glad to have got one. I haven’t received any letters yet for about 2 weeks. I am glad that Mary got my picture. I have never met a girl that could stand up to her yet, and I don’t think I ever will.

I can’t tell you what l am doing, but I am not in the tail, but in the mid upper turret. I might say I am in the front line now, please don’t worry.

I received mother’s letter and got the address but I only had 5 days’ leave and that was taken up by travelling to the next station. I wish mother would send me some parcels. All the lads are getting them but me. I found my kit bag just as I was leaving the other station. So I got all my personal belongings. It’s all just about dirty laundry. I haven’t stayed in one place long enough to get it all done. I have a very fine crew of fellows. They are all Sgt. just as I. There is seven in the crew all together. I hope my picture turned out all right in the paper. I sure want to see it.

I am not going to write to Mary so much because you can’t tell what may happen, but I will nevertheless continue to write very often. I sure am very proud of her. By the way, I would like to know why Ruth is quitting school. I am doing my part so that she can have the privilege to go to school. I wish now that I was still in school. You tell her that she can’t quit school just as she likes. What do you think the war is for? You tell her she just can’t do as she likes along the lines of education. I realized too late about my education and I don’t want her to do the same. Well, there is no more paper.

I will write soon.
Love to all,


Half of Sgt. Hansell’s file includes family and government letters after his death.  One RCAF letter three years later finally gives the complete details of the fate of Sgt. Hansell and his crew:

The aircraft crashed on the night of 27th September, 1943 about 1.5 miles South of Eberholsen in a forest. This town is located approximately 22 miles South of Hanover, Germany. The aircraft exploded when it hit the ground and unfortunately individual identification of the crewmen was not possible. Your son, together with his crew, were laid to rest in the Town Cemetery at Eberholsen in a Communal Grave located in the North East corner of the cemetery. The grave is nicely kept and marked by a cross upon which is inscribed the names of the crew.

Previous Farm School posts marking the day:

Remembrance Day 2007

Poetry Friday: Remembrance Day Edition (2007)

Remembrance: “Nothing forgotten” (2006)

Remembrance Day II (2005)

Remembrance Day 2005

“A language with roots”

James Wood, in the current issue of The New Yorker‘s “Talk of the Town”, on talk:

A theatre critic once memorably complained of a bad play that it had not been a good night out for the English language. Among other triumphs, last Tuesday night was a very good night for the English language. A movement in American politics hostile to the possession and the possibility of words — it had repeatedly disparaged Barack Obama as “just a person of words” — was not only defeated but embarrassed by a victory speech eloquent in echo, allusion, and counterpoint. No doubt many of us would have watched in tears if President-elect Obama had only thanked his campaign staff and shuffled off to bed; but his midnight address was written in a language with roots, and stirred in his audience a correspondingly deep emotion.

Read the rest here.  The entire issue is devoted to the election and well worth reading, from Roger Angell on “A new start for the Greatest Generation” to George Packer on “The New Liberalism”.

(And if you need a break from politics, try Joan Acocella’s book review/article in TNYer on the rise of “overparenting” , and the morality and socioeconomics thereof. Not for the faint of heart.)

Brains are back, or, Even when no-one is looking

From Nicholas Kristof’s NY Times op-ed column, “Obama and the War on Brains”, today:

Barack Obama’s election is a milestone in more than his pigmentation. The second most remarkable thing about his election is that American voters have just picked a president who is an open, out-of-the-closet, practicing intellectual.

Maybe, just maybe, the result will be a step away from the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life. Smart and educated leadership is no panacea, but we’ve seen recently that the converse — a White House that scorns expertise and shrugs at nuance — doesn’t get very far either. …

At least since Adlai Stevenson’s campaigns for the presidency in the 1950s, it’s been a disadvantage in American politics to seem too learned. Thoughtfulness is portrayed as wimpishness, and careful deliberation is for sissies. The social critic William Burroughs once bluntly declared that “intellectuals are deviants in the U.S.”

(It doesn’t help that intellectuals are often as full of themselves as of ideas. After one of Stevenson’s high-brow speeches, an admirer yelled out something like, You’ll have the vote of every thinking American! Stevenson is said to have shouted back: That’s not enough. I need a majority!)

Yet times may be changing. How else do we explain the election in 2008 of an Ivy League-educated law professor who has favorite philosophers and poets?

Granted, Mr. Obama may have been protected from accusations of excessive intelligence by his race. That distracted everyone, and as a black man he didn’t fit the stereotype of a pointy-head ivory tower elitist. But it may also be that President Bush has discredited superficiality.

An intellectual is a person interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity. Intellectuals read the classics, even when no one is looking, because they appreciate the lessons of Sophocles and Shakespeare that the world abounds in uncertainties and contradictions, and — President Bush, lend me your ears — that leaders self-destruct when they become too rigid and too intoxicated with the fumes of moral clarity. …

… as Mr. Obama goes to Washington, I’m hopeful that his fertile mind will set a new tone for our country. Maybe someday soon our leaders no longer will have to shuffle in shame when they’re caught with brains in their heads.

Read the rest here, and comments at Mr. Kristof’s blog here.  By the way, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Mr. Kristof writes of President Bush “I can’t think of anybody I’ve ever interviewed who appeared so uninterested in ideas.”

Speaking of science books

Chris Barton at Bartography is giving sneak peaks of his new science book, The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer’s Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors, illustrated by Tony Persiani, to be published by Charlesbridge on July 1, 2009.

Here’s the cover, and here’s a two-page spread with a deliciously retro illustration by Tony Persiani of the Brothers in their lab (with a background of books).

Chris, do I get to be the first to say that I hope The Day-Glo Brothers receives a host of glowing reviews?!

Anatomy for children

I’ve been trying to catch up on my blog reading before I unplug myself in the middle of next week and just discovered that my online friend Kathy Ceceri recently reviewed David Macaulay’s new The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body:

Kathy’s review at the Geekdad blog

Kathy’s related post on Human Anatomy Books Old and New at her blog Home Biology (“for homeschoolers and anyone else who wants to learn about life science without a lab!”).  By the way, some of my family’s favorite old and new human anatomy books:

My Body by Patricia Carratello from Teacher Created Materials; Laura had great fun our first year, and the boys subsequently, making life-size body patterns complete with organs, photocopied and colored in from this reproducible book.  We used it to go along with, among other titles, one also mentioned by Kathy — From Head to Toe by Barbara Seuling and Edward Miller

The Human Body: What It Is and How It Works (A DeLuxe Golden Book) by Mitchell Wilson, with illustrations by Cornelius De Witt (1959).  Out of print but well worth tracking down.  A large, profusely illustrated, hardbound volume, with the text and color illustrations based on Man in Structure and Function by Fritz Kahn. 140 pages, with a glossary and an index.  (Another aside: more on Fritz Kahn here and here.)

The How and Why Wonder Book of The Human Body.  Out of print; I grab any book in this series that I come across.

Dover’s Human Anatomy in Full Color book, “within reach of grade-school-age children” according to Dover

Dover’s Human Anatomy coloring book

*  *  *

Kathy’s Home Chemistry blog

Kathy’s Crafts for Learning website

Kathy’s Family Online blog

Kathy, I owe you at least one email and I’ll try to get it out in the next few days!