• 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.

Poetry Friday: A unicorn for spring

Laura, the one child who isn’t reciting anything in the speech arts part of the arts festival next week (because she’s up to her eyeballs in 4H public speaking), selected this because “it makes me think of Spring”:

by Anne Corkett

Unicorn, Unicorn,
where have you gone?
I’ve brought you some silver dew
out of the dawn.
I’ve put it in buttercups
for you to drink
and brought you some daisies
to wear round your neck.

Silver and gold
and petals so white,
these are the colours
saved from the night.

Unicorn, Unicorn,
where have you gone?
I’ve brought you nine sunbeams
to wear for a crown
and made you a blanket
of new thistledown
embroidered with lilies —
O where have you gone?
Unicorn, Unicorn,
I can’t stay long.

Petals so white
and silver and gold,
these are the colours
that never grow old.

From Til All the Stars Have Fallen: Canadian Poems for Children, selected by David Booth (author of Even Hockey Players Read) and illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, recently available in paperback as a Scholastic school book club edition, perfect for handing out to your nieces, nephews, and children’s friends who need some more Canadian children’s poetry in their lives.


My own kids have had a bit more trauma than poetry in their lives this past week. First, Laura’s voice teacher almost ended her festival season before it started, thinking to yank her because, having left it too long, he couldn’t find an accompanist for her. Tuesday evening, after class, after had he told her (in costume as mini Maria in “The Sound of Music”) that he’d be making the call in the morning to pull her out, her face quivered and her shoulders sagged but she was stoic, I made phone calls as I made supper, and finally located an acquaintance who agreed to give it a try. They rehearse together this afternoon before art class. “I Have Confidence”, indeed.

Daniel’s trauma involved a trip to the hospital the other afternoon for a stitch near his right eye, and I was as surprised as anyone to learn that it didn’t happen during the boys’ two-hour outdoor hockey game on ice and concrete. The doctor on call at the emergency room, a genial and capable young man, a locum on loan to our little hospital from Edmonton, in turn was surprised to learn he didn’t need to talk me into a suture. I explained that this was the fifth occasion for stitches between the three kids (though two of the three occasions never received them — one incident overseas with a very small nose was treated by Tom with tape to avoid a larger scar, and a two-year-old’s thumb, the one that was nearly cut off, was neatly mended with magic purple glue at the doctor’s suggestion) — and I don’t drive into town just before suppertime (especially when there’s a roast in the oven) unless it’s for something I can’t manage on my own. And I draw the line, for now at least, at stitching up my own kids.

But all trauma has been forgotten while enjoying the first DVD in The Mr. Wizard’s World collection from Zip.ca. The kids are entranced with Mr. Wizard’s version of a volcano, which involves not namby-pamby vinegar and baking soda but a match and a fuse. Which I suppose sounds like a recipe for some more home doctoring.


Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy has the Poetry Friday/Saturday roundup, not to mention a passionate Celtic love story, for the week — thanks, Liz!

Back-to-school goodie bags

I have to admit that while I can’t stand the provincial public school system, I love the idea of school. In fact, I think I wrote recently that one of the reasons we pulled Laura out to homeschool is that Tom and I each loved school so much (I used to cry on the last day of school because I was so sad to find it over) that we wanted our kids to feel the very same way about school, education, and learning. Not all the same, but all good things in their own ways.

I love school supplies, and to me the excitement of a new beginning in September has always been better than anticlimax of the post-holiday new beginning in January. Call me crazy. And part of that crazy excitement bubbles over into new books, art supplies, CDs, and movies I can share with the kids. By the way, even though the CDs and movies are put in individual bags, it’s understood that they’re all for-sharing-with-the-whole-family items. I’m nuts but I’m not that nuts.

For Davy, five-and-a-half and in 1st grade:
all first graders around here get a Timex learner’s watch (this one has a dinosaur design) and a good quality set of colored pencils (Laurentian “Studio”, new this year and so far so good);
small Lego “Racers” kit, with small car (since Lego counts as both a science kit and a math manipulative around here);
Lentil by Robert McCloskey (for music appreciation);
George Shrinks by William Joyce (to make new reading lessons fun);
Look at the Sky and Tell the Weather and Eric Sloane’s Weather Book, for my weather nut who was wearing out the library’s copies, and because anything by Sloane is wonderful
American Tall Tales audio CD by Jim Weiss, to go along with our continuing American history/SOTW3 studies
stickers/tracing paper/notebook/cardmaking bits and bobs

Daniel, edging closer to seven-and-a-half, 2nd grade:
“Building Big” DVD series by David Macaulay, definitely a big ticket item and one that’s been on my Amazon wish list for years, both for Tom and for the kids. Based on our first viewing tonight, I’d say it’s a big success, too. Ten thumbs up. Even if I can’t expense it for Tom’s construction work…
Burt Dow, Deep Water Man by Robert McCloskey
Emma’s Strange Pet by Canadian author Jean Little, an I Can Read book for my lizard lover and new reader
Lego “Racers” kit, with small car (see above)
Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America audio CD by Jim Weiss (see above)
stickers/tracing paper/notebook/cardmaking bits and bobs

Laura, nine years old, 4th grade:
School Smarts planner from American Girl, discovered by Laura in a summertime AG catalogue, and upon reflection decided upon as a way of moving her to more independent work, with (first) reading and then writing assignments. I’m hoping yesterday’s excitement about the planner and extra responsibility continues;
Kaya’s Story Collection by Janet Shaw (which Laura is enjoying immensely)
“Living Adventures from American History” CD from Eye in the Ear, another companion resource for our two-year SOTW3 studies, and something I’m eager to hear myself after reading the write-up in the Chinaberry catalogue several years ago;
The Burgess Seashore Book for Children by Thornton Burgess, to take along when we visit my parents in the West Indies in the new year;
Thomas Jefferson’s America audio CD by Jim Weiss (see above)
“Handwriting by George: Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company & Conversation”, a cursive writing workbook to take advantage of Laura’s American Girl/colonial America fixation (I’m sure you’re noticing an AG trend here in my Canadian girl); that’s George as in Gen. Washington;
The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson, which I’m hoping Laura will let me read aloud to the three of them;
a few bookmarks I made with a line for the day’s date and “I need to read ____ pages by _______” to keep track of her new independent reading assignments; we’ll see how this works and I’ll keep you posted;
stickers/tracing paper/notebook/cardmaking bits and bobs

Since Saturday

Finally made it to Staples on Saturday for our fun school supplies, mostly for Davy, who is overjoyed about starting first grade: oversize (5″x8″) index cards with primary ruling for beginning writers; Laurentien’s new best quality “Studio” colored pencils (not as pricey as Prismacolor Juniors which are more than Davy needs right now, but better than the usual store brand — even he noticed a difference, and Laura our colored pencil expert said they compare favorably to the Prismacolors); Crayola IQ Sketching markers; oversize index tabs long enough to peek out beyond the plastic page protectors; yet another package of aforementioned page protectors; new binders for Davy (orange, because purple and green have already been claimed); stickers for everyone (Hot Wheels x 2, and farm animals x 1); a new Mead “Upper Class” student planner for me (where I can write each day what they actually did for the day rather than what I planned for them to do); the Staples “house version” of the Desk Buddy (Desk Jockey? Desk Buddy?) with 10 slots (three of each — how did they know I had three kids? Plus the one extra in the middle for my own stuff) that will make it easy for us to keep pencils, rulers, erasers, etc. on the table and corralled while the kids do their seatwork; and an impulse buy from the Teacher’s Aisle, a $10 Multiplication Songs CD.


The leaves and the sun, sadly up later and down earlier, not to mention the geese and ducks gathering together in droves, are all saying “autumn”, but the air temperature, still near 90, is saying “summer”. Rather a nice if unusual combination for the prairies, all in all. No rain either, good for harvesting and for leaving sneakers on the deck, but the trees are starting to get pretty thirsty again.

Tom decided to celebrate Labor Day and the good weather by inviting some family and friends to say goodbye to our incubator-hatched wild ducks — once and for all identified as blue-winged teals. After chores on Monday morning, he and I boxed them up, and then we all drove over to our pond, where we released what I still think of as my eight babies. I suppose I expected them to waddle out of the tipped over cardboard toward the water, but as soon as the lid was lifted, all of them took flight and circled around the dugout, practicing their takeoffs and landings. The kids gasped and giggled and said their goodbyes. For the past few mornings, the kids and I have taken part of a loaf of bread to feed our former babies, and while we can’t tell which ones of all the ducks swimming around are “ours”, they all seem to be more than happy with the treat. We wish them goodbye and goodspeed, literally and figuratively, in evading the arriving hunters and heading south.

We ended the day rather differently, by the side of the road 10 miles north of home, the kids and I standing by in the dark with pails of water, a shovel, and a fire extinguisher while Tom welded one of the bearings that had piled up (this is apparently a technical term) in the swather, the part on the tractor that cuts the grain stalks and lays it in a tidy, erm, swath. All the fire precautions, including moving the tractor out to the side of the road from the field, were to prevent a stray spark from the welder causing a fire in the ripe grain, which is after all just dry grass. Think tinder. Tom finally got everything fixed by 9:30, and if the kids hadn’t needed showers before we left the house, they certainly needed them on arriving home. So much for my grand plans of an early bedtime before our first day of school.


All the more reason, along with our early harvest, to start yesterday’s back to school efforts gently, and with lots of coffee. The day began with the “goodie bags” I started a couple of years ago, when I realized that I didn’t really want to squirrel away the really fun books, art supplies, and CDs I had found over the summer: the American Girl Kaya story collection and the AG school planner for Laura, a few Jim Weiss CDs, some DVDs, a Timex learner’s watch with the dinosaur strap for Davy, a couple of Robert McCloskey books for Daniel, a couple of small Lego kits for the boys. The kids each did one lesson of Singapore math and some penmanship, we looked after the animals, then headed to town after lunch for the first music lessons with new teachers, piano for Laura and Daniel and voice for Laura. Both of the teachers seem personable and pleasant, and I needed to make some changes to keep Laura interested and inspired in lessons.

Today we did some more math, penmanship, and managed to read aloud some of the goodie bag books (George Shrinks, Lentil) before Tom spirited the kids away to work on the new-to-us grainaries at the corrals. This morning Daniel asked for a spelling test, so we may start spelling tomorrow, then grammar and history in next week, and science the week after that.


I’m predicting a pretty slow day tomorrow too. Tom didn’t get in with the kids until almost eight, and after a quick dinner and necessary baths, they’re all unwinding by watching the “Bridges” volume from the goodie bag DVD, “Building Big” with David Macaulay (did you know that there’s an activity/experiment with the kids from “Zoom” at the end of “Bridges”? I didn’t). Or I could just consider that the science lesson for the day and go ahead and check it off my list, knowing full well the kids will attempt the activity on their own tomorrow…