• 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.

Alberta takes one step forward, two steps back

From Paula Simon’s column, “One step forward, two steps back”, on this week’s introduction of Bill 44 amending the province’s Human Rights Act, in today’s Edmonton Journal:

Under Bill 44, school boards must provide parents and guardians with advance notice any time instructional materials or courses of study that deal explicitly with religion, sexuality or sexual orientation are going to be taught. Parents will have the right to pull children from such classes.

That may not seem so dramatic. Schools already send home permission forms that parents must sign before their children take classes in sex education. Parents can already pull their children from school programs that deal with religion. I pulled my own daughter from the classroom when the Gideons came to hand out New Testaments. Parents should have their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) respected. And in our multicultural, pluralist society, we have to balance carefully, to make sure we protect both the civil rights of gay and lesbian Albertans, and the cultural rights of those who are made sincerely uncomfortable by homosexuality.

Yet enshrining parental rights in the Human Rights Act marks a dramatic departure. Before now, parents who had concerns about a teacher’s teachings might complain to a principal or school board. Now, teachers and boards could be called before a human-rights tribunal. But it goes further. On Tuesday, Ed Stelmach was asked whether Bill 44 meant parents could pull their children from classes on evolution. “The parents would have the opportunity to make that choice,” he said.

Though Stelmach tried to back away from that point in question period Wednesday, Blackett confirmed parents would have the right to opt out of evolution classes.

Does this mean schools will be required to provide advance notice, any time a teacher discusses dinosaurs, fossils, continental drift, or sedimentary rocks? You can’t possibly teach science with intellectual honesty, if you’re constantly self-censoring to avoid offending strict Creationist sensibilities.

Read the rest here.

A history of Canada in folksong

Shortly after the Music Festival wrapped up earlier this month, Laura started talking about song choices for next month.  While I was tempted to ask her to change the subject after weeks and months the practicing, rehearsing, and performing, I was happy to see her excited about the festival and interested in finding some new and different songs.

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good source of Canadian folk music, because the songs are part of my children’s heritage and because they’re such a fascinating way to study history.  But it’s not a particularly popular subject for some strange reason.  Finally, poking through the library system’s database, I stumbled across “A Folksong Portrait of Canada”, an out-of-print three-CD set of songs compiled by Samuel Gesser, the impresario and record producer who had been the Canadian distributor for Folkways Records in the fifties and sixties, now part of Smithsonian-Folkways (which has a nifty Tools for Teaching page for educators).  The songs had all appeared on such LPs as “Canada’s Story in Song” by Alan Mills and Edith Fulton Fowke, “Songs and Ballads of Newfoundland” by Ken Peacock, “Folksongs of Ontario” by Edith Fowke, “Folksongs of the Canadian North Woods” by Samuel Gesser and Wade Hemsworth.  Many of these can still be found and purchased as CDs at, or downloaded from, Smithsonian-Folkways, but for us the three-CD set through the library is an easier, more affordable option, especially after factoring in the exchange rate and shipping.

The CDs are arranged geographically, with songs of the Atlantic Provinces and of Quebec on the first disc, songs of Ontario and of the Prairie Provinces on the second disc, and songs of British Columbia & Yukon of Native Peoples on the third disc.  The three discs include 94 songs by 70 singers, including Alan Mills, Wade Hemsworth, Kenneth Peacock, and Hélène Baillargeon (the star of the celebrated early Canadian children’s television show, “Chez Hélène”).

The set (Smithsonian-Folkways, 1994) is delightful, perfect for anyone with an interest in folk music, Canadian history, and Canadian singers. Check your library when you have the chance.  And a belated thanks to Mr. Gesser, who died about a year ago at the age of 78, for his efforts to preserve, protect, and promote Canadian music and Canadian history.

And a worthwhile link, Teachwithmusic.ca. Here’s the Canadian history section.

How to compete with the oil patch

The real value of an Alberta education

Interesting to wonder what happens to attendance when and if the dealership quits donating cars to the school…


One of my favorite lines from the terrific independent Canadian movie Wilby Wonderful (2004), which I watched again the other day,

“Well, you can like the backwards way, but the backwards way can’t be better because the backwards way is wrong.”

A beautiful little ensemble piece (not a comedy, as some reviews mention, but incredibly funny and also moving) starring Canadian gems Paul Gross, Maury Chaykin, Rebecca Jenkins, Sandra Oh, Callum Keith Rennie, Ellen Page, and James Allodi. Written and directed by Daniel MacIvor, who makes the most of his role as the mayor’s bumbling brother-in-law.

(Not for kids, by the way, at least not for mine, no matter how much they adore Benton Fraser and New Burbage…)

How to read your way out of a crisis

Charlotte Higgins, The Guardian‘s chief arts writer* picks her comfort reads.

* author too of the new Latin Love Lessons: Put a Little Ovid in Your Life

A telescope in every pot

New to me today, via CBC Radio’s “Quirks and Quarks” science show, hosted by Bob McDonald:

The Galileoscope, an International Year of Astronomy 2009 Cornerstone Project, US $15 each plus shipping to just about anywhere in the world.

You can also win a free Galileoscope in the Quirks and Quarks astronomical limerick contest, but I figured what the heck and just ordered one for each child.

Penny wise, pound foolish

Today’s news, entirely too close for comfort:

A report for the provincial government says a nuclear power plant could be in uranium-rich Saskatchewan’s future.

Examining the potential of power generation from uranium was among 20 recommendations in a $3-million report on how the province could develop its radioactive resource.

The power plant recommendation was evaluated in what the report authors described as a “high-level economic and technical analysis,” which concluded that “nuclear could be a competitive power-generation option for Saskatchewan.”

The report identifies nuclear power as a long-range project and suggests that Saskatchewan team up with Alberta to consider “a common power-generation solution for the two provinces by pooling their power needs.”

A nuclear power plant was also viewed by the report authors as a generator of economic activity.

“In addition to providing affordable low-carbon electricity for the province’s residential, commercial, and industrial users, a nuclear power plant would create 700 to 800 long-term jobs,” the report noted.

The report also suggests focusing on further exploration and mining of uranium, as well as more research and development.

The report specifically discourages Saskatchewan from pursuing two value-added ventures related to uranium: producing reactor fuel and converting uranium ore into various subcomponents. Market conditions make those activities not worth investing in, the report said.

In releasing the report, Lyle Stewart, the minister responsible for Enterprise Saskatchewan, said public consultations will take place before a final policy is announced.

“I can assure you that no decisions have been made,” Steward said. “The input received will be considered by the provincial government as part of the decision making process.”

The recommendations were released Friday in Saskatoon. The 136-page report was prepared by a government-funded panel and has been in government hands since March 31.

Kazakhstan poised to surpass Saskatchewan

The panel, chaired by Richard Florizone, the University of Saskatchewan’s vice-president of finance, included nuclear science experts, CEOs from the nuclear industry, as well as representatives from labour and First Nations.

The 12-member group also included a co-founder of the activist organization Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, who is currently associated with a consulting firm.

The panel was asked to make specific recommendations on how to develop Saskatchewan’s uranium industry beyond its current focus on mining.

According to the province, Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer of uranium, with an output of more than 11 million kilograms of ore per year.

The report recommends Saskatchewan work to ensure its position in the marketplace is maintained. It says the province should encourage more exploration, particularly in light of the emergence of significant competitors.

“Forecasts indicate that Kazakhstan will overtake Saskatchewan as the world’s largest producer this year — and that Australia could overtake it next year,” the report notes.

Also on Friday, Stewart unveiled the schedule for nine community consultation meetings, which would begin on May 19 and end on June 5, 2009.

Alberta doubtless will not be far behind now.

The National Film Board movie, “Uranium” (1990)

“Will CANDU Do?” in The Walrus, September 2006