• 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.

Trip report, part 5: NYC, Lego and lights

At FAO Schwartz, the boys were delighted to find another giant Lego sculpture, but had to wait for lots of adults to get out of the way before having their own picture taken,

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On Thursday evening, we went to see the Metropolitan Opera’s lively production of “The Barber of Seville” at Lincoln Center, Tom’s and the kids’ first live opera. The production was very, very good and the kids, and Tom, enjoyed themselves. Joyce DiDonato was especially good.  There weren’t many kids in attendance, and other audience members seemed truly delighted to find children — especially those who weren’t the seat-kicking and when-is-this-over kind — there.

Tom and Laura loved the Sputnik chandeliers in the opera house,

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A reminder for summer vacation

from author Michael Chabon, writing in the current issue of The New York Review of Books:

As a kid, I was extremely fond of a series of biographies, largely fictional, I’m sure, that dramatized the lives of famous Americans — Washington, Jefferson, Kit Carson, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Daniel Boone — when they were children. (Boys, for the most part, though I do remember reading one about Clara Barton.) [I would think this is the COFA series.] One element that was almost universal in these stories was the vast amounts of time the famous historical boys were alleged to have spent wandering with bosom companions, with friendly Indian boys or a devoted slave, through the once-mighty wilderness, the Wilderness of Childhood, entirely free of adult supervision.

Though the wilderness available to me had shrunk to a mere green scrap of its former enormousness, though so much about childhood had changed in the years between the days of young George Washington’s adventuring on his side of the Potomac and my own suburban exploits on mine, there was still a connectedness there, a continuum of childhood. Eighteenth-century Virginia, twentieth-century Maryland, tenth-century Britain, Narnia, Neverland, Prydain — it was all the same Wilderness. Those legendary wanderings of Boone and Carson and young Daniel Beard (the father of the Boy Scouts of America), those games of war and exploration I read about, those frightening encounters with genuine menace, far from the help or interference of mother and father, seemed to me at the time — and I think this is my key point — absolutely familiar to me.

The thing that strikes me now when I think about the Wilderness of Childhood is the incredible degree of freedom my parents gave me to adventure there. A very grave, very significant shift in our idea of childhood has occurred since then. The Wilderness of Childhood is gone; the days of adventure are past. The land ruled by children, to which a kid might exile himself for at least some portion of every day from the neighboring kingdom of adulthood, has in large part been taken over, co-opted, colonized, and finally absorbed by the neighbors.

Chabon writes at the end about the consequences of losing this land:

What is the impact of the closing down of the Wilderness on the development of children’s imaginations? This is what I worry about the most. I grew up with a freedom, a liberty that now seems breathtaking and almost impossible. Recently, my younger daughter, after the usual struggle and exhilaration, learned to ride her bicycle. Her joy at her achievement was rapidly followed by a creeping sense of puzzlement and disappointment as it became clear to both of us that there was nowhere for her to ride it — nowhere that I was willing to let her go. Should I send my children out to play?

There is a small grocery store around the corner, not over two hundred yards from our front door. Can I let her ride there alone to experience the singular pleasure of buying herself an ice cream on a hot summer day and eating it on the sidewalk, alone with her thoughts? Soon after she learned to ride, we went out together after dinner, she on her bike, with me following along at a safe distance behind. What struck me at once on that lovely summer evening, as we wandered the streets of our lovely residential neighborhood at that after-dinner hour that had once represented the peak moment, the magic hour of my own childhood, was that we didn’t encounter a single other child.

Even if I do send them out, will there be anyone to play with?

Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted — not taught — to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories, of literature itself?

Read the entire piece here.

Back when Chabon had a website, which I remember a year or two ago, he had a very good piece on kids, Lego, and imagination.  Here’s where it was, in 2006.  Will have to see if I can use the Wayback Machine to get a better link. Aha.  Try this.

(By the way, Chabon is married to Ayelet Waldman, author of the recently published Bad Mother)

Darwin 200: Day 2: Highly evolved toys

Some educational, others just for fun:

Toys for the young and young at heart

(I haven’t ordered from any of the following companies so you’re on your own)

If you or your kids get inspired by Project Beagle and want to build your own — ship, that is — you can, with the HMS Beagle plastic ship model kit (1:96), made in Germany by Revell; “features detailed hull with gunports, deck with hatches, masts, yards, 2 anchors, stairways, sails, railings, wheels, cannon, lifeboats with oars. Also included is yarn for rigging, flag chart and display stand with name plate. Measures 16″ long and 11 3/4″ high.”

Charlie’s Playhouse: “We make games and toys that teach kids about evolution, natural selection and the work of Charles Darwin”, including a giant timeline floor mat, giant timeline poster, ancient creature cards, and a great selection of t-shirts

Thames & Kosmos Milestones in Science kit

Evolving Darwin Play Set, more amusing than scientifically accurate

Charles Darwin bobblehead

Charles Darwin finger puppet

Charles Darwin “Little Thinker” plush toy

Charles Darwin and friends in the Oddfellows Scientists Collection

Charles Darwin fridge magnet

Charles Darwin jigsaw puzzle

Yet more CD jigsaw puzzles

Highly evolved Lego: model of the HMS Beagle, Darwin aboard ship, the man, the man in the lab, Origin of the Species

Wrapping

I’m wrapping presents for Laura’s birthday on Saturday:

The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis

The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer (An Enola Holmes Mystery)

Beware, Princess Elizabeth by Carolyn Meyer (Young Royals series)

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Mythology, edited by Dugald A. Steer, from Candlewick’s Ology series

Practical Quilling by Anne Redman, found on sale at BookCloseouts

Hello, Cupcake! by Karen Tack & Alan Richardson

And a new grownup Timex watch, a Sarah Harmer CD, and dolls for her American Girl dolls (both bought on sale the other year).

Still to wrap —  a Lego set because her brothers always seem to get all the Lego. Though I could have done without the bit where Toys R Us sent me the small 8″ square box with another woman’s order of baby bottle nipples instead of the rather larger Lego box, and the subsequent 45 minute phone call to sort things out and have the correct order sent out, and ASAP on Toys R Us’s dime, to arrive in time for Saturday.  I hope.

Awarding creativity

Via GeekDad, news of Lego‘s second annual Creation Nation Creativity Awards: “Designed to encourage lifelong curiosity and creativity, the LEGO Creativity Awards are an opportunity an opportunity for budding inventors, explorers, creators and dreamers of all kinds to gain recognition for the imaginations that will make them the ‘builders of tomorrow’.”

The contest is open to children in the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec) between the ages of six and 13; they submit a written essay that demonstrates creative ways of thinking their way around everyday challenges. The deadline is Friday, May 23, 2008. Five finalists will win $5,000 each toward their creative endeavors.

Beowulf and Grendel

rendered in Lego

by MicahBerger at Brickshelf. Click each thumbnail for a larger view.

This turned up in my “Beowulf” GoogleAlert…

How can you resist "the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery"?

It turns out, according to The Telegraph, that the Forbidden LEGO book I looked at the other month is a “surprise Christmas bestseller”* (no, I decided against it for Daniel this year — in my head I sounded like Ralphie’s mother: “You’ll put your eye out” — instead biting the bullet and trying Sploids, which join Lego and K’Nex, though I still haven’t heard from anyone I know who has actually used them; and at this point, they’re winging their way northward, so if you have them and don’t like them speak up before I stuff them in a stocking); the book,

dubbed “the Anarchist Cookbook of the nursery”, is topping the Santa Claus wish list for naughty children and their parents all over the world.

Forbidden Lego, Build the Models Your Parents Warned You Against subverts a playroom favourite since 1958 to provide detailed instructions on how to turn the ubiquitous plastic building bricks into unauthorised working devices.

A toy Gatling Gun, a continuous-fire ping-pong ball launcher and a catapult siege weapon are among the designs featured.

The manual, created by two former top Lego research scientists at the Danish company, is mirroring the success of books like The Dangerous Book for Boys to put danger and creative risk back into playtime.

Ulrik Pilegaard, a one time senior designer at Lego and Mike Dooley, a former director of development, told the Danish media that the book allowed them to share all laboratory models they created but were unable to convince company risk assessment teams to let the public play with.

“When I worked for Lego, every once and a while we created some really cool things that couldn’t get approved,” Mr Pilegaard told the Copenhagen Post.

Mr Pilegaard and Mr Dooley, published by the self-styled “geek” publisher No Starch Press in San Francisco, aim to get both young and older Lego users “to try inventing their own rule-breaking models”.

“The Lego Company has its official (and sensible) rules for building that include no cutting or tampering with bricks, creating models that shoot unapproved projectiles, or using non-standard parts. Well, toss those rules out the window,” they write.

“You’ll learn to create working models that Lego would never endorse.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly Lego has responded cautiously to the book that promises to reveal blueprints for “high velocity aircraft launchers” or “a high voltage Lego vehicle” among other dangerous sounding devices.

“When we heard the title, we thought the authors were revealing the secrets of our products,” said Trine Nissen, a spokesman for Lego.

“But once we found out what it was about, we were much more at ease.”

The book has been enthusiastically welcomed by online reviewers and YouTube postings of rapid-firing Lego guns — with the plastic bricks acting as both the construction material and as ammo — have driven meteoric sales.

Andrew Liszewski, writing on OhGizmo.com, confessed that as much as he loved his “army of G.I. Joe figures and armada of Transformers” most of his time was spent with Lego.

“Like any kid tired of engineering my own miniature town I occasionally built a Lego gun or rifle but unfortunately they never actually worked,” he said.

* I checked, and it’s #410 at Amazon.com and #334 at Amazon.uk. Curiously, not available from Amazon.ca but Canadians can find it here.