• 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.

Fall fun around the kidlitosphere

All aboard to Take a Ride on the Reading Railroad, the latest Carnival of Children’s Literature hosted by Charlotte’s Library. So put away the Monopoly board for now and get reading!

And a bit late (sorry…) — the September issue of The Edge of the Forest is up, with many features. I was delighted to find Kelly Herold‘s discussion of the different Anglo-American versions of Baba Yaga tales in her article, “Baba Yaga Heads West“. Lots of other good stuff, too!

Also, a reminder that the deadline for LiteracyTeacher‘s Picture Book Carnival, Part 3 is coming up. Submissions are due by Friday, October 5.

And two new blogs of note from new-to-me homeschoolers,

Learning. Living. Books!, with two posts so far, “What Are ‘Living Books’?” and “Twaddle Dee, Twaddle Dum”

A Storybook Life, KalexaLott’s thoughts on nature, children’s literature, poetry, and simple wonder.

The latest news from deepest darkest Peru

I thought it was bad enough when I heard the other day that my beloved Paddington Bear was going to get the live action treatment (just thinking of poor Stuart Little makes me shake). I went to the, erm, official website and not only was the movie business confirmed but there for all to see was the gloating about Paddington shilling for Marmite of all things. Of course, what do you expect of a beloved children’s literature figure who has become a licensing opportunity? In fact, the home page of the “official website” has four main buttons — “Paddington’s activity area”, “Mrs. Brown’s bear facts”, “Mr. Gruber’s collector’s corner”, and, in bright red lest you fail to notice it, “Mr. Brown’s company info”. That Paddington has become a company with important info to share (“For companies or individuals interested in acquiring a licence to make or sell Paddington products then you should choose Licensing Information.”) is just, sadly, a fact of modern commercial life.

But here’s the latest “Company Info”, from The Times:

The creator of Paddington Bear has criticised those responsible for putting the world’s best known duffel-coat-wearing immigrant from Darkest Peru in an advertisement for Marmite.

Michael Bond was not consulted about the advert – in which Paddington breaks a lifetime’s reliance on marmalade sandwiches and decides he “ought to try something different” – and feels that it was a mistake.

Fans have been outraged by what they see as a betrayal of the character’s integrity, many telephoning Bond to harangue him. Like them, the author feels that the advert was a mistake because Paddington’s characteristics are “set in stone and you shouldn’t change them”. The bear’s preference for marmalade sandwiches, often stored under his hat is “fundamental”, he said yesterday.

During the 1980s, when Paddington’s popularity was at a peak thanks to the television series narrated by the late Sir Michael Hordern, Bond retreated from the growing commercial operation to concentrate on writing books.

Karen Jankel, his daughter and managing director of Paddington and Company, now has final approval on all merchandising decisions. Despite strong reservations she agreed to the proposal from the Copyrights Group, Paddington’s licensing agents, because she believed the advert would lift Paddington’s profile and bring him back to British TV. But Bond would rather the whole thing had never happened.

“Now there’s no going back,” he said. “Paddington likes his food and tries anything but he would certainly never be weaned off marmalade.”

In a letter published in The Times today, Bond, 81, defends himself against allegations that he sold-out his best-loved creation. He writes of an “ill-founded rumour that I was responsible for the script of a commercial featuring Paddington Bear testing a Marmite sandwich” and “that one of the reasons may have been that Marmite paid me a truly vast sum of money.

“I should be so lucky – particularly since I didn’t write it,” he says. “Although Paddington found the sandwich interesting, bears are creatures of habit. It would require a good deal more than the combined current withdrawals from Northern Rock to wean him off marmalade, if then.”

The advert, by DBB London, features the animation format in which Paddington made his TV debut in 1975. He finds Marmite “really rather good”, before stumbling into a chain of unfortunate events. Unilever, the makers of Marmite, hope the campaign will appeal to the nostalgia of older viewers while encouraging younger ones to try the spread.

Nicholas Durbridge, of the Copyrights Group said: “Paddington has always been inquisitive. Now he has tried Marmite. It’s unfortunate if Michael’s not completely happy but Paddington will always be associated with marmalade and our client supported our recommendation to make the advert fully.”

Ms Jankel said last night: “From my father’s point of view, he’s the creator and wrote the books. The Copyrights Group are doing their job, looking to do what they think is best from the commercial point of view. I think Paddington is so strong that he will rise above all of this.”

Someone certainly needs to rise above all of this, but I don’t think it’s Paddington. And I think I need something stronger than either marmalade or Marmite to recover from all the news.

Cybils Season

It’s Cybils season again, the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards celebrating the best titles of 2007. Established and organized by Anne Boles Levy of Book Buds and Kelly Herold of Big A little a, the Cybils are ready for year two!

As of October 1st, you’ll be able to leave your nominations for the different categories — picture books (fiction), picture books (nonfiction), poetry, middle grade & young adult nonfiction, middle grade fiction, young adult fiction, graphic novels, and fantasy & science fiction. It’s time to start reflecting on your, and your children’s, favorite new books of the past year.

I’ve started going through our interlibrary loan titles from the year to put together our own list of favorite new books of 2007, and a few of the very best the kids are still talking and talking about. Though we don’t have a bookstore in our nearby town, everyone in the family gets very excited walking into the library to see the goodies glittering on the new arrivals table, or reading reviews in the newspapers and blogs and adding them to our wish lists and shopping carts.

If you’re not familiar with the Cybils, you can read about last year’s finalists here, and last year’s winners here.

And lastly, a special thanks to Kelly and Anne for letting me participate again this year. I’m on Jen Robinson‘s middle grade and young adult nonfiction book panel, which I’m very much looking forward to.

(Sneaking back to the fields now…)

Erm, no thank you

Dangerous Book for Boys to Hit Screen: “Disney has snapped up the rights to the bestseller after a fierce bidding war.” It will be more than interesting to see how the folks at Disney plan to make a movie of a politically incorrect how-to-book that includes instructions on skinning a rabbit.

We’ll stick to the print version. And the UK edition at that.

Fun with gunpowder

Last summer I wrote about my brief thoughts on The Dangerous Book for Boys (American website here); I said at the time I thought that for our purposes Daniel Carter Beard‘s classic, The American Boy’s Handy Book, was a better book for our purposes.

Now, with the news that my father is sending a copy of The Dangerous Book to Daniel for his eighth birthday, coming up this weekend, and after reading a piece on the Iggulden brothers, Conn and Hal, in the current issue of Vanity Fair magazine (which I like for the articles and the pictures), I’m prepared to admit there is room on the shelf — the one devoted to old-fashioned children’s pastimes — for The Dangerous Book as well. The main difference between the two books is that while The American Boy’s Handy Book includes only projects, The Dangerous Book includes guides to proper English usage, as well as a series of “Extraordinary Stories”, such as “the one on the exploits of World War II R.A.F. fighter ace Douglas Bader*, who racked up the fifth-highest number of kills in the Royal Air Force despite his flying with prosthetic legs”:

As Conn explains, it’s really not about the penknives and air rifles, “it’s to do with the way children are raised and what they consider important.” Which is why he considers “Extraordinary Stories” vital to the book. “If you put in a story of incredible endurance or courage, you are saying these are impressive values,” he says. “[Boys today] don’t get heroic stories in the way I did. And I think they’re desperately important.”

Somewhere, quite rightly, Charlotte Mason is beaming. And the folks at Flying Point Press who are bringing back the Landmark books should be smiling, too.

I was particularly heartened to read, while the Igguldens were expecting some British backlash because of activities involving “power tools, penknives, and — in the case of a procedural on rabbit-hunting — an air rifle and entrail work”, the backlash never came, since the book struck a chord with British families. The authors may not be so lucky in the US, where the publication of an American edition next month — next Tuesday, in fact — no doubt inspired the VF feature. Publisher’s Weekly interviewed one of the brothers, who, in response to the question “What do you think it is about this book that’s resonating with today’s kids, who clearly have a lot more than a book on how to tie knots vying for their attention?”, answered,

A lot of parents are getting fed up with an overly restricted attitude for their children, much of that coming from their government. Paper airplanes are being banned in the schools for fear of someone poking their eye out. That sort of thing is slightly annoying and really isn’t good for children, especially boys. They have to learn where their own limits are. We’re taking about managed danger here. We don’t want them running out under cars. But if they don’t [learn what their limits are], God knows what sort of pale, white, fat adults they’ll become.

To which both PW commenters so far unsurprisingly took exception (should one even bother to point out that what Mr. Iggulden was referring to were pale, white grubs? You know, the kind that live outdoors, in nature, under logs. Heavens, get those commenters out from under their logs and away from their computers for a bit of fresh air and sunshine.)

And then there’s this recent wire service article from various online North American news websites,

Exuding the brisk breeziness of Boy Scout manuals and Boy’s Own annuals, “The Dangerous Book” is a childhood how-to guide that covers everything from paper airplanes to go-carts, skipping stones to skinning a rabbit.  It spent months on British best-seller lists, has sold more than a half-million copies and took the book of the year prize at last month’s British Book Awards.

The book will be published in the United States May 1, allowing American boys — but not their sisters — to learn how to play marbles, make invisible ink, send Morse code and build a tree fort. …

It’s possible to see a less wholesome side to the book’s nostalgia. Girls are discussed, in a single chapter, as something akin to another species: “They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room. Treat them with respect.”

Girls are explicitly — and, some argue, unnecessarily — excluded by the book’s title. …

Though why North Americans can’t figure out that girls, and women, are most welcome to pick up the book and make use of it, is a mystery.*

Danger on American shores, Will Robinson, danger!

*I will admit, however, to more than a bit of discomfort, however, at the Igguldens’ UK website’s shilling of The Goddess Guide, especially since it seems geared more toward women than girls. I apologize for any retching sound you may hear coming from my direction. I’m willing to bet my collection of pocketknives confiscated while doing the laundry that the mention is there by order of HarperCollins, who should give the decision a bit more thought. Especially since they made sure that the “Girls” page didn’t make it to the US website.

UPDATED to add: Just learned that earlier this month The Guardian‘s The Bookseller section included the following item:

The runaway success of The Dangerous Book for Boys has inspired Penguin to start a list of “boy’s own” classics. Six end-of-empire adventure tales are being given nostalgic covers, aimed squarely at the Father’s Day market in June. They are: The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; She by H Rider Haggard; The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope; The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers; The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan; and The Man Who Was Thursday by GK Chesterton. A dashing collection for any middle-aged boy’s bookshelf.

* If you happen to discover on TV the 1956 British movie Reach for the Sky, starring Kenneth More as Bader, watch it with your kids. Not on DVD in North America any more, though you can find it in the UK.

Keeping it clean

Thanks to Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, I just learned about a new blog, Deliciously Clean Reads, from Emily at Whimsy Books, where she writes “about picture books, motherhood, and writing”. Emily, who’s looking for contributors for the new blog, describes its mission this way,

All reviewed books at Clean Reads must be free of swearing and sex (including thinking or talking about sex in an explicit manner.) I know that profanity is a bit subjective. A book may qualify as a Clean Read if it has less than five “strong words found in the Bible” (i.e. da** or he**). Any curse words besides these “strong words found in the Bible” automatically disqualify the book for Clean Read status.

Essentially, if books were rated as movies, we’d only accept reviews of G and PG books (and yes, even some PGs have more swearing/innuendos than we allow here at Clean Reads). If you aren’t sure if a book is Clean Read material, you can email me at any time and note any passages in question that may render the book inappropriate for our site.

Clean Reads can be from any genre of novel-length fiction. Please include a recommended age group after your review. (i.e. Recommended Readers: 12 and up)

Over at Whimsy Books, Emily also notes,

I’m the kind of person that hates conflict. And I’m sure a few of my readers will think this is a bad idea and may even call it a subtle form of censorship. But I’m not starting cleanreads.blogspot.com to keep people from reading anything. It is meant to be a resource for those who choose to read clean books.

The new blog already includes some reviews, for current and out of print books — including a few for books that would definitely be of interest around here (A Shooting Star: A Novel about Annie Oakley by Sheila Solomon Klass — which does still seem to be in print in surprisingly inexpensive library binding — and the new Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis) — and, on the sidebar, Lists of Clean Reads, including the Squeaky Clean and Books That Don’t Make You Blush. In addition to Emily, there are four contributors at the moment, among them a few book blogs, two Beckys, and at least one home educator. Not yours truly, though, who has been known to make truck drivers blush and to let her young children watch The Magnificent Seven, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Getaway, the last two on Christmas Day 2005 and 2006, respectively. And who actually stopped to wonder about any possible overlap between the Bible’s five strong words and George Carlin’s seven dirty ones. I blame too much Easter chocolate.

It strikes me that Deliciously Clean might be quite helpful for a) families with several kids, who want to make sure that the chosen readaloud is suitable even for the youngest listener, and b) parents of voracious and/or precocious young readers.

At the other end of this similar vein, Sherry at Semicolon has a straight shooting review of Nick and Norah (no, not that Nick and Nora), with a thoughtful comment by Camille of Book Moot.

March issue of The Edge of the Forest

has been out now for a bit. Hurray, and thanks to Kelly Herrold and all the contributors. Features that have caught my eye so far, since I just started reading through it:

Liz‘s interview with Kirby Larson, author of Hattie Big Sky (historical fiction set in 1918 Montana, and a 2007 Newbery Honor book)

Nonfiction reviews of Diego, a picture book biography (1994) of artist Diego Rivera conceived and illustrated by Jeannette Winter, with text (in English and Spanish) by Jonah Winter; and John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement, a picture book biography (2006) for older children

Sherry at Semicolon surveys a group of homeschoolers at her bowling alley for the latest Kid Picks column

This month’s In the Backpack features an interview with author Elizabeth Bluemle, who is also the co-owner of the independent Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont, one of my favorite towns

And there’s oodles, just oodles, more.