• 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.

Autumn links

I’m behind with some nifty links for October and November:

It’s gift buying season, and if you have children’s books on your list, the Cybils 2008 nomination list, broken down by category, is a terrific way to find current titles for the children you love.

I’m not quite sure what happened to October, so I’m going to try to get caught up with the October edition of the Carnival of Children’s Literature, “Snuggle Up with a Children’s Book”, especially since it’s better snuggling weather now.  I’m currently snuggling up with the kids and a rat, as we read through the fascinating A Rat’s Tale by Tor Seidler, illustrated by Fred Marcellino; it’s part of our NYC readathon before we take off.

The October edition of the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards, “We Be Sailin’ the Wine Dark Seas”, is up.  Eggheads of the world, unite.  And celebrate!

The New York Times explores the question, “When does a recipe become a science project?” in the recent article, Dry-Ice Martini and Electric Cake”.  For kitchen chemists everywhere.

A new Yahoo group from my online friend Suji: the secular LivingScience books group, inspired by the Living Math website.

Cybils nominations

Nominations for the Cybils children’s book awards opened on October 1, and you can head over and nominate your one favorite 2008 title in each category until the October 15 deadline:


Easy Reader

Fiction Picture Books

Non-fiction Picture Books

Non-fiction: Middle Grade and Young Adult

Middle Grade Fiction

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Young Adult Fiction

Graphic Novels

Even if you don’t have any titles to nominate — and you probably do — the lists make fascinating reading, especially if you’re looking for something new and different to read, buy, borrow, or gift…

Cybils 2008

I’ve been so distracted by elections north and south and the Great Depression looming that I’ve neglected the arrival for the third year of the wonderful Cybils kidlitosphere book awards. On October 1, next Wednesday, nominations open for the 2008 Cybil Awards, so start thinking of your favorite new books of the year.

The Cybils have a nifty new logo this year and also at least one new category, Easy Readers.

Since I now have a sixth grader, fourth grader, and third grader to teach at home; I’ve taken on some extra volunteer responsibilities with the local music festival; the kids will all start junior curling which means another evening out of the house; and I’ll have two kids in two 4H clubs this year, up from one kid in two clubs, I’m looking forward to sitting out this Cybils season, discovering new-to-me 2008 titles from others’ nominations, and reading all the wonderful reviews in the kidlitosphere blogs. Let the fun begin!

Celebrating International Literacy Day, Part I (redux)

::A repeat from three years ago, with a (very) few new additions, mostly in the “Something New” section::

(There may be some wonky links — I noticed some hiccups moving the old Blogger post to WordPress. Let me know in the comments if you find anything odd and I’ll see if I can fix it.)

How to Read (for Children and Adults) and How to Enjoy Reading

The ABC’s and All Their Tricks by Margaret M. Bishop

McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers by William Holmes McGuffey

Why Johnny Can’t Read: And What You Can Do About It by Rudolf Flesch; recommended by Flesch, and still available secondhand, is the old textbook Reading with Phonics by Julie Hay and Charles E. Wingo [I used this as a supplement with Daniel to great success, having found a copy on eBay]

The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading by Jessie Wise, co-author of The Well-Trained Mind. The WTM website also has a number articles on reading; “Games to Play with Phonics“; “Teaching Reading: Phonics Programs That Work“; “Why Whole Language Seems to Work for Some Children“; “Our Favorite Books by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer“; and “Our Readers’ Favorite Books

The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Educating Esmé: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year and How to Get Your Child to Love Reading: For Ravenous and Reluctant Readers Alike by Esmé Raji Codell; she has a nifty children’s literature website, too, Planet Esmé, and a blog.

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren; you may decide you require the study guide How to Read “How to Read a Book”, by Maryalice B. Newborn.

How to Read and Why by Harold Bloom

The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

Deconstructing Penguins: Parents, Kids, and the Bond of Reading by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Lively and Entertaining Guide to Reading Between the Lines by Thomas C. Foster

How to Read Novels Like a Professor: A Jaunty Exploration of the World’s Favorite Literary Form by Thomas C. Foster

A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel

Something Old

The SurLaLune Fairy Tale Pages

Loganberry Books’ Stump the Bookseller

Purple House Press

NYRB Classics

Flying Point Press (which I wrote about here)

Bethlehem Books

The fabulous “horizontal history books” by the fabulous Genevieve Foster

The Little Bookroom: Eleanor Farjeon’s Short Stories for Children Chosen by Herself by Eleanor Farjeon and illustrated by Edward Ardizzone

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson

A Child’s Delight by Noel Perrin

A Reader’s Delight by Noel Perrin

Onward and Upward in the Garden by Katharine S. White

Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel Chamberlain

The Reader’s Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia of World Literature and the Arts by William Rose Bénet; my old edition was published by Thomas Y. Crowell in 1948. As handy as a dictionary by a reader’s elbow, especially with little ones asking all the questions they do.

Oxford Companion to American Literature by James D. Hart; I knew my edition was old (1941) but I didn’t realize it was a first edition until I checked for this blog entry. Makes me like it even better.

Something New

The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body by David Macaulay (Houghton Mifflin, October 2008). By the way, did you konw that Houghton has an online page of Homeschool Resources?

Arthur of Albion by John Matthews (Barefoot Books, September 2008)

Louise, The Adventures of a Chicken by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Harry Bliss (HarperCollins, September 2008); Susan, head’s up!

Peter Pan: A Classic Collectible Pop-Up by Robert Sabuda (Simon & Schuster, November 2008)

Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer (Simon & Schuster, October 2008)

BakeWise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley Corriher (Scribner, October 2008)

Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer: A Golden Treasury of Classic Treats by Jane Brocket, a cookbook inspired by children’s literature

The “kidlitosphere” is new, at least since I first wrote this post. I was looking around for a comprehensive list and discovered this list of children’s book related links — from Bound To Stay Bound Books, which is, according to the website, the world’s foremost prebinder of juvenile books as well as a third-generation family-owned business. I was surprised and delighted to see that Farm School is on their blog list, too — for which, many thanks.

Something Borrowed

Quotations about libraries and librarians

Access to the New York Public Library for non-New Yorkers: for Readers & Writers; for Children

The Library of Congress

Library Elf

Burnaby, B.C. Public Library Children’s Literature Page, with lots of links

Multnomah County (Oregon) Library’s book lists for readers of all ages; if you live nearby, sign up for their Read the Classics discussion series

Library Mouse by Daniel Kirk

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Please Bury Me in the Library by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Kyle M. Stone

Our Library by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Maggie Smith

The Library by Sarah Stewart, illustrated by David Small; new in paperback this month

When I Went to the Library: Writers Celebrate Books and Reading by Deborah Pearson

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

Library: An Unquiet History by Matthew Battles

Free printable bookplates from Anne Fine’s nifty website

A Passion for Books : A Book Lover’s Treasury of Stories, Essays, Humor, Love and Lists on Collecting, Reading, Borrowing, Lending, Caring for, and Appreciating Books by Harold Rabinowitz

Patience and Fortitude: Wherein a Colorful Cast of Determined Book Collectors, Dealers, and Librarians Go About the Quixotic Task of Preserving a Legacy by Nicholas A. Basbanes; and just for fun, here are the real Patience and Fortitude as well as Nicholas Basbane’s website

The Librarian of Basra written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter

The Book on the Bookshelf by Henry Petroski

Something Blue

Peter in Blueberry Land by Elsa Beskow

Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow

Uncle Blue’s New Boat by Elsa Beskow

Blue Trout and Black Truffles: The Peregrinations of an Epicure by Joseph Wechsberg

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? by Robert E. Wells

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery

Book Lists

The New York Review of Books Children’s Collection

1,000 Good Books List for Children, arranged by reading levels (K-12) and by author, from the Classical Christian Education Support Loop; not entirely secular but great good stuff

Searchable Database of Award-Winning Children’s Literature

Caldecott Medal & Honor books, 1938-Present, awarded to the artists of the most distinguished American picture book

Newbery Medal & Honor books, 1922-Present, awarded to the authors of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children

Horn Book Magazine’s annotated reading lists for children

Waterboro Library’s complete list of book lists and bibliographies, for adults

Waterboro Library’s complete list of book lists and bibliographies, for children

The Good Books list, from The Great Books Academy

The Baldwin Project: Bringing Yesterday’s Classics to Today’s Children

The Well-Trained Mind K-4 Reading List

The Well-Trained Mind High School Reading List

Junior Great Books/Readalouds (from Mortimer Adler’s Great Books Foundation)

Junior Great Books, Grades K-8 (from Mortimer Adler’s Great Books Foundation)

The Great Books; also GBF’s/Penguin Book’s free online discussion guides for various classics

Miscellaneous “Great Books” sites and lists

Project Gutenberg: Fine Literature Digitallly Re-Published

Bartleby.com: Great Books Online

Banned Books Online

Reading List for the College Bound, compiled by the Center for Applied Research in Education and online courtesy of St. Margaret’s School, Tappahannock, VA; for more, get this from your library

Five in a Row’s Book Lists

Online version of Clifton Fadiman’s New Lifetime Reading Plan (4th edition)

A state-by-state book list for children (not comprehensive but still some good things and a dandy idea); this is one of the only times you’ll find a link on this blog to anything at the NEA’s website, so enjoy it…

Canadian literature links, from Northwest Passages bookseller

Reading with your eyes closed (or while you’re driving) (but not both at the same time, please)


Kiddie Records Weekly, to take you back to your childhood, for free

Just One More Book! children’s book podcast

CBC Radio’s “Between the Covers” podcast and “Writers and Company” podcast

BBC Radio’s “Book Panel with Simon Mayo” podcast and “World Book Club” podcast

Poetry Speaks and Poetry Speaks to Children, both edited by Elise Paschen

Poetry Archive, “the world’s premier online collection of recordings of poets reading their work”

Storyteller Jim Weiss’s audio books/Greathall Productions

Odds Bodkins, another storytelle

And finally

For my father, and in honor of the Rev. James Granger


Don’t forget Part 2 of Celebrating International Literacy Day over here, with quotations about books, reading, libraries, and librarians.

Cybils: “And the winner is…”

The Cybils children’s book winners for 2007 have been announced. Congratulations to all of the winners, and to the organizers too for another fine job! Many thanks to everyone who participated. Spending the past few months surrounded by children’s books is an absolutely delightful way to pass the winter.

Another busy (and er, dare I say it, snowy) day, so I’ll keep this short and sweet, starting with my own category:

Nonfiction, Middle Grade/Young Adult: Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat

Nonfiction Picture Book: Lightship by Brian Floca

Fiction Picture Books: The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County by Janice N. Harrington, illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Poetry: This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski

Novel (Middle Grade): A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban

Novel (Young Adult): Boy Toy by Barry Lyga

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Elementary/Middle Grade): The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

Fantasy and Science Fiction (Young Adult): Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Graphic Novel (Elementary/Middle Grade): Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano and Paolo Lamanna

Graphic Novel (Young Adult): The Professor’s Daughter by Joann Sfar, illustrated by Emmanuel Guibert

Announcing the Cybils shortlist for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

The official announcement has been made over here, at the Cybils blog. You can find the remaining short lists up today, too, including Nonfiction Picture Books, one of our family’s favorite categories.

In alphabetical order:

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Boris Kulikov; Krull’s Isaac Newton made it to last year’s short list
Viking Juvenile

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything, translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman (whose Freedom Walkers won this category last year)

Getting down to brass tacks now is the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

* * *

It was a wild ride. Five panelists, one newborn baby, a couple of holidays over several months, and 45 nominated children’s nonfiction books published in 2007 — on the subjects of history, science, mathematics, reference, biography, memoirs, humor, how to, essays, popular culture, music, and more. Much more.

What an absolute delight to work on the MG/YA nonfiction nominating panel alongside Susan at Chicken Spaghetti, Vivian at HipWriterMama, Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net, and KT at Worth the Trip, all under the leadership of master wrangler and organizer Jen Robinson. The other panelists made the job of distilling the 45 nominated titles down to seven as easy as possible under the circumstances, and I continue to be amazed at how smoothly our negotiations and jockeyings went. Thank you each, thank you all for several marvelous months.

While we had a fraction of the books some of the other panels had to read (though more than I had to deal with last year on the poetry panel), our hunting and gathering skills were put to work tracking down titles for which review copies weren’t furnished. So I’d also like to thank the patient and quick-working libraries in our system that sped books to me, often shortly after processing. And lastly, a big thanks to my kids, who put up with a good deal of questioning, poking, and prodding about what they liked and didn’t about the the books they read, with and without me.

And special thanks, again, to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for coming up with the idea of the Cybils and organizing everything.

One of the reasons I wanted to serve on this particular panel is that for our family, and so many other home school families we know, high quality nonfiction titles are the backbone of our curricula, as well as our some of our children’s favorite free-time reading. I wanted, through the Cybils, to be able to publicize some of the best of the bunch, so you and your kids can include these new gems on your “to read” lists.

The other reason is that I realize, sadly, that for many non-home schooling families, nonfiction children’s titles are considered the second rate, second tier, B List, utility grade, inferior choice when it comes to children’s books, and I wanted to be able to use an opportunity like the Cybils, with such a terrific short list of books of marvelous depth and range, to show that children’s nonfiction is not only chock full of superior choices, but every inch the equal of fiction.

I’d like to encourage other readers and fans of children’s nonfiction, especially those who are concerned about what children’s nonfiction author Marc Aronson calls “nonfiction resistance”, to keep up with the subject on Marc’s blog, Nonfiction Matters.

And one final note — a raft of terrific children’s 2007 nonfiction titles didn’t make it to the list of nominees to be considered for the above short list. If your favorite wasn’t nominated, it’s because you didn’t speak up for it. Don’t let that happen next year.