• 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."
    Cicero

    "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.

Le chapeau, or, living geometry

What the boys did for their summer vacation: help build the roof for the tower. I don’t think they’ll complain as much about there being no real life, practical applications for the math they’re learning.

I’ve started researching steel roofing because it will take about two weeks to arrive. About 10-15 years ago, when we first needed to reshingle our current house, I said no to steel roofing because it looked too commercial and industrial. Now the industrial look has grown on me, as well as the desire to spare my husband and kids the need to reshingle a two-story house with tower sooner rather than later . It’s a Goldilocks process, with black and dark brown too dark and hot, gray too cool-toned, white and ivory too light. So we’ve been weighing the lighter browns, which should go with what will ideally be a mossy green siding.

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The “gap” or hole you can see toward the top, under the peak, is to allow for a handhold in

 

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Wall week

The crew began the week building walls for the second story.

The telehandler is invaluable for getting the lumber up there,

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Before the walls were erected,

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One of the completed walls,

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Shop class,

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The rough window assemblies to make up the tower,

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And up they go,

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The telehandler is even more useful for lifting/standing up walls; this is the back of the house, with the dining room nearest the telehandler,

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The dining room from the other side,

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The 16-year-old running the telehandler,

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Finally on to the fourth side,

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The 14-year-old securing the temporary brace (until the interior walls go up),

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The white painted piece of lumber is salvage, when the grandstand at the fairgrounds was replaced years ago,

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Moving the top plate/cap plate assembly out of the tower to erect the wall pieces,

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I got distracted by a tiger swallowtail on the lilacs,

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Putting the top plate/cap plate in place,

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Removing the GoPro from the GoPro pole,

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A productive afternoon!

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Math milestones

As I just wrote over at Melissa Wiley‘s blog, Here in the Bonny Glen, I can’t keep up with with Boing Boing no matter how hard I try, so I’m glad she picked a few to highlight, including Mark Frauenfelder’s recent brief review of the latest Clifford Pickover book, The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics. As Mark writes, “I have to get rid of most of the books that come in my door (I get several a day sent to me). This is one I plan to keep.”

I’m a big fan of Clifford Pickover, whom I last mentioned here, with his 2008 title,  Archimedes to Hawking: Laws of Science and the Great Minds Behind Them (Oxford University Press).

If you hop over to Dr. Pickover’s website page for the new book, you’ll see that he has an autographed book giveway on Twitter.  And also this blurb for the new book from the great Martin Gardner,

Clifford Pickover, prolific writer and undisputed polymath, has put together a marvelous reference work. Its 250 short entries provide a veritable history of mathematics by focusing on its greatest theorems and the geniuses who discovered them. Topics are chronological, starting with the calculating abilities of ants 150 million years B.C. and ending with Max Tegmark’s recent conjecture that our universe is not just described by math, it is mathematics. Dr. Pickover’s vast love of math, and his awe before its mysteries, permeates every page of this beautiful volume. The illustrations alone are worth the book’s price.

Holiday discount for Farm School readers

I thought I’d better move up and out Kathy Ceceri’s kind offer from the comments in yesterday’s Butterfly post, for any Farm School reader wishing to take her up on it:

As a special holiday thanks, I’d like to offer Farm School fans $5 off my book Around the World Crafts. Go to https://www.createspace.com/3349559 and type in the discount code A6HDVH92.

Kathy’s new book, Around the World Crafts: Great Activities for Kids who Like History, Math, Art, Science and More!, strikes me as a great holiday gift or a wonderful way to begin your studies again in the New Year.  By the way, Kathy writes the “Hands-on Learning” column for Home Education Magazine.

Many thanks for the generous offer, Kathy.

Multiplying with wood

New from Instructables is a series of instructions to make your own set of Napier’s Bones to help with multiplying and dividing.

And more on the inventive Scottish mathematician John Napier and his Bones here, here, here, here, and here.

Speaking of new books…

Kathy Ceceri, who blogs at Home Chemistry and writes for a variety of magazine, including the “Hands-on Learning” column for Home Education Magazine, announces the publication of her new book, Around the World Crafts: Great Activities for Kids who Like History, Math, Art, Science and More!

As Kathy writes on the website:

Learn about different times and places as you make authentic-looking reproductions that really work!

Over 15 projects for home, school or youth groups using everyday, kid-safe materials.

Basic concepts in science

John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts, part of the ScienceBlogs group, is putting together a handy dandy list of blog posts on basic science concepts, including mathematics, philosophy, logic, and computer science. You can suggest posts, too. Stay tuned for the possibility of a dedicated wiki or blog.

Via GeekDad

Grammar resources

I’ve been remiss in not posting about the latest Growing with Grammar program by my friend Tamela Davis, for Grade 5. More good stuff for home educating families looking for more choice. And more Growing with Grammar posts and reviews (for Grades 1&2, 3, and 4) here, here, and here.

I’m a big fan of Patricia T. O’Conner‘s Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, which I consider an essential reference, but wasn’t much impressed by the recent Woe Is I Jr.: The Younger Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English, which I found tried too hard to appeal to kids, overly laden with references to popular children’s culture, from Shrek to Lemony Snicket and, of course, Harry Potter, with Garfield the Cat thrown in for good measure, as if to recognize that yes, grammar is indeed a vile thing (though not vile in a good sense like noxiously flavored jelly beans) and like broccoli must be dressed up with Cheez Whiz. My Spidey sense/hip-trendy-ironic parent alert started quivering as soon as I read Garrison Keillor’s “This is, like, cool” on the cover. Oh dear. Borrow it from the library, but to buy for your son’s or daughter’s desk I’d definitely consider handing anyone age 12 and up a copy of O’Conner’s original Woe Is I. While you’re at it, add a copy of her Words Fail Me: What Everyone Who Writes Should Know about Writing, too. Both breezy and informal and not at all overwhelming, And not twee, either.

And much as I enjoyed Lynne Truss‘s Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, the illustrated children’s versions so far — last year’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference! and this year’s The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage without Apostrophes! — have left the kids and me a bit cold. Though I have no doubt that Penguin/Putnam is enjoying parceling out the ideas from the original in 32-page picture books; I believe the hyphen is up next. Stay tuned. As an aside, Laura (age 10) has found the Eats, Shoots & Leaves 2008 Day to Day Calendar, meant for adults I think, more intriguing and appealing than the picture books.

The grammar reference book that seems to get the most use around here by the kids is The Usborne Guide to Better English by Robyn Gee and Carolyn Watson; it’s what Usborne calls a “bind-up” of its three books on grammar, spelling, and punctuation, and like some of the publisher’s books it’s also “Internet-linked”. It doesn’t seem to be in print in the U.S. anymore, though it is in Canada; perhaps check with your friendly Usborne rep. A book this good and helpful should certainly be more widely available. It is, indeed, included on the Plain English Campaign suggested reading list.

Americans will find in the Usborne Guide some noticeable differences — in some of the spelling and terminology (what we call a period the British call a “full stop”, which does make good sense, especially when you’re teaching youngsters to read) — but nothing insurmountable. Lighthearted without being silly or goofy, and illustrated with small cartoons and comic strips, the book is full of easy explanations and handy dandy tricks; Davy particularly appreciates the following in the section on nouns: “Nouns can usually have the, or a, or an in front of them. Try putting the in front of the words on the right to find out which of them are nouns.” (saucepan, finger, happy, rocket, sometime, heat, daffodil, never, sky, have)

New Math + 30 (Years) = Reform Math = Still Fuzzy After All These Years

Squeaking in before the end of Math Awareness Month….

As a former victim of the old New Math — I still remember my father the Oxford graduate looking over some incomprehensible homework and telling me, “You’re on your own, dear” — I’m a bit sensitive when it comes to math and arithmetic instruction, knowing full well the ramifications of a lousy, fuzzy job. It was the subject I spent the most time researching when we decided to homeschool Laura two years ago, because I knew I wanted a program that would give her, and then the boys, a solid foundation in the basics. After looking at Saxon Math, the choice of many homeschoolers but a tad heavy-handed for Laura at the time, I ended up choosing Singapore Math, with a bit of Math-U-See thrown in from time to time. Not for nothing that in my spare time I read books like Knowing and Teaching Elementary Math by Liping Ma or track down Canadian vendors of Developmental Math.

Which is why Joanne Jacobs’s post, “Mathless in Seattle”, about a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article last week, “Seattle’s teaching of math adds up to much confusion: Where 2+2 gets sticky”, got my attention.

Like many Seattle schools, [Rick Burke’s] daughter’s school was teaching “reform” math, a style that encourages students to discover math principles and derive formulas themselves. Burke, an engineer, worried that his daughter wasn’t learning basic math skills.

And, shades of the Alberta Program of Studies,

Reform math also emphasizes estimating and being able to analyze whether the answer derived is correct and reasonable. Students are urged to use calculators from an early age, “because as adults, that’s how we do it — we either do mental math or use a calculator,” said Ruth Balf, who teaches fourth and fifth grade at Olympic View Elementary.

Not so coincidentally, according to The Post-Intelligencer, “Colleges have been seeing a rise in the number of freshmen who have to take remedial math courses, feeding into the growing concern that the United States is losing its edge in math.” And it’s not just the United States, my friends. If you don’t believe The Post-Intelligencer, believe erstwhile college math instructor, MoebiusStripper, who blogs at Tall, Dark and Mysterious. Read it, especially this and this, and weep. MS is particularly scathing on the subject of calculators in elementary and high school, to which I can say only, huzzah.

What saddens me is that educrats have gained precious little understanding, conceptual or otherwise, from the results of the first go-round of New Math, and even less since the 1989 release of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) standards. These standards have concerned responsible, right-thinking mathematicians, math teachers, parents, and more than a few states for over 15 years, and yet “the math wars” continue. The good news? According to The Post-Intelligencer, “In Seattle, schools have a lot of autonomy in how they teach math. The district has adopted textbooks and provides guidelines and timelines for teachers to follow, but doesn’t require them to do so. In fact, the district doesn’t keep track of what style of math teachers are using.” Some Washington State parents with a beef with Reform Math have banded together at Where’s The Math?, and a particularly informative article on their website is “A Brief History of American K-12 Mathematics Education” by David Klein. Great good luck to the families in Seattle, where textbook adoption has been postponed until next January. May the new year bring some not-so-New Math.

But let’s not forget the possible bad news — sitting around in nursing homes, waiting for our pension and Social Security checks administered by dolts who can’t function without a calculator (here’s hoping their computers never crash and their batteries never wear out), not to mention living at the mercy of doctors and nurses who didn’t quite master the math. “Hmmm, how many cc’s of morphine was that supposed to be?” Let’s just hope they learned to read with phonics instead of whole language and can tell “Morphine” apart from “Motrin” on the label.

Additional reading: check the the Article Index for Where’s the Math? and the Site Index for Mathematically Correct; Mathematically Correct’s list of Web Links of Interest alone should keep one busy until that room at the nursing home is ready.