• 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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Poetry Friday: A little trust and encouragement

An anonymous but appropriate and still fairly well-known bit of American doggerel, near as I can figure from the 1940s or thereabouts. From our small, battered copy of the Arrow Book of Funny Poems, collected by Eleanor Clymer and published in 1961 by Scholastic:

The wind riz
And then it blew,
The rain friz
And then it snew.

Spring has sprung,
The grass has riz.
I wonder where
The flowers is.

Spring has spring,
Fall has fell,
Winter’s here
And it’s cold as…heck.

Last week I promised more of the foreword by the late Cornish poet, Charles Causley (1917-2003), from our copy of The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children. Here’s the first bit again,

What do we mean by the phrase ‘poetry for children’? For me W.H. Auden, writing of the work of the great Walter de la Mare, answered this question once and for all. ‘It must never be forgotten,’ he said, ‘that, while there are some good poems which are only for adults, because they pre-suppose adult experience in their readers, there are no good poems which are only for children.’

I remember wondering, in my earliest years as a primary school teacher, why my so-called ‘poetry’ lessons invariably fell flat, although made up of what I believe to be perfectly acceptable ‘children’s’ verse of the day: simple songs and jingles, light verses about animals, comic tales of those who were judged to be ‘characters’, and the like. All these offerings were accepted politely by my captive audiences, though clearly without much enthusiasm. Shamefully, I had failed to remember the excellent advice of a wise and experienced tutor. ‘Never forget,’ he had said. ‘Feed the lambs.’

and here’s the middle part,

Then, one lucky day, I arrived before one of my classes with the wrong set of books, only one of which was of poetry: a newly-acquired selection of English and Scottish traditional ballads made by Robert Graves. I’d had no time to study it properly, and retreat was out of the question. I opened the book and began to read.

Young Beichan he was a noble lord
And a peer of high degree;
He hath taken ship at London Town,
For that Christ’s Tomb he would see.

He sailèd west, and he sailèd east
Till he came to Galilee,
Where he was cast in prison strong,
And handled cruelly.

At this point, out of sheer nerves, I muddled a turn of the pages. In the small silence while I put things right, I was startled by a boy’s voice from the middle of the class. ‘Go on, then!’ And I knew that, at last, I’d secured a genuine audience, if only of one. I also knew that perhaps, as far as my work as a teacher was concerned, I’d discovered one key to the world of poetry for children.

Beginning in this simple fashion, it became increasingly clear to me that given a little trust and encouragement, children are as capable of interpreting the signs and signals, the secret messages of poetry, as adults are venturesome enough to make available to them. It was Sir John Betjeman who defined such secret messages with wonderful simplicity as ‘tones of meaning beyond the surface one’.

Few children in this or any other age can be entirely unfamiliar with the ancient patterns of birth, love, marriage, infidelity, betrayal, sickness, old age, death. All these elements form part of the fabric of our early popular poetry, presented in a simple-seeming and undidactic manner as it reflects the ways of the world.

Who can resist a tale well told? The ballad moves with breathtaking speed and clarity (no excess of words here), the narrative leaping forward from stanza to stanza like the images in a film. The total absence of sentimentality, the lack of moralising on the part of the narrator, are all essentials in this plainly-spoken form that, with its sturdy companion the folk-song, have held their places securely in our culture over the centuries. ‘The young are a secret society,’ said the Czech novelist and playwright Karel Capek, ‘and the old have forgotten that they once belonged to it.’ It’s the business, surely then, of those of us no longer children, to try to remember.

I’ll post the final part of the foreword next week.

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect has today’s Poetry Friday round-up. Thanks for hosting, Tricia!

Poetry Friday: From the tower, for children

I was delighted yesterday to find online Alison Lurie’s New York Review of Books May 1st Rapunzel reviews and essay, “The Girl in the Tower“. Which brought to mind the delightful poem below by the late Liverpudlian painter and poet, Adrian Henri, from our copy of The Macmillan Treasury of Poetry for Children, with a foreword by the late Cornish poet, Charles Causley (1917-2003). From Causley’s foreword:

What do we mean by the phrase ‘poetry for children’? For me W.H. Auden, writing of the work of the great Walter de la Mare, answered this question once and for all. ‘It must never be forgotten,’ he said, ‘that, while there are some good poems which are only for adults, because they pre-suppose adult experience in their readers, there are no good poems which are only for children.’

I remember wondering, in my earliest years as a primary school teacher, why my so-called ‘poetry’ lessons invariably fell flat, although made up of what I believe to be perfectly acceptable ‘children’s’ verse of the day: simple songs and jingles, light verses about animals, comic tales of those who were judged to be ‘characters’, and the like. All these offerings were accepted politely by my captive audiences, though clearly without much enthusiasm. Shamefully, I had failed to remember the excellent advice of a wise and experienced tutor. ‘Never forget,’ he had said. ‘Feed the lambs.’

I’ll continue with Charles Causley’s foreword next week for Poetry Friday. In the meantime, I’m off to feed the lambs.

Any Prince to Any Princess
by Adrian Henri (1932-2000)

August is coming
and the goose, I’m afraid,
is getting fat.
There have been
no golden eggs for some months now.
Straw has fallen well below market price
despite my frantic spinning
and the sedge is, as you rightly point out,
withered.

I can’t imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately froggish.

I hope that the Three Wishes granted by the General Assembly
will go some way towards redressing
this unfortunate recent sequence of events.
The fall in output from the shoe-factory, for example:
no one could have foreseen the work-to-rule
by the National Union of Elves. Not to mention the fact
that the court has been fast asleep
for the last six and a half years.

The matter of the poisoned apple has been taken up
by the Board of Trade: I think I can assure you
the incident will not be
repeated.

I can quite understand, in the circumstances,
your reluctance to let down
your golden tresses. However
I feel I must point out that the weather isn’t getting any better
and I already have a nasty chill
from waiting at the base
of the White Tower. You must see the absurdity of the
situation.
Some of the courtiers are beginning to talk,
not to mention the humble villagers.
It’s been three weeks now, and not even
a word.

Princess,
a cold, black wind
howls through our empty palace.
Dead leaves litter the bedchamber;
the mirror on the wall hasn’t said a thing
since you left. I can only ask,
bearing all this in mind,
that you think again,

let down your hair,

reconsider.

* * *

For more Poetry Friday fun, head over to The Well-Read Child for today’s round-up.