• 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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Announcing the Cybils shortlist for Middle Grade/Young Adult Nonfiction

The official announcement has been made over here, at the Cybils blog. You can find the remaining short lists up today, too, including Nonfiction Picture Books, one of our family’s favorite categories.

In alphabetical order:

Marie Curie (volume 4 in the Giants of Science series) by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Boris Kulikov; Krull’s Isaac Newton made it to last year’s short list
Viking Juvenile

The Periodic Table: Elements With Style! created (and illustrated) by (Simon) Basher, written by Adrian Dingle
Kingfisher

Smart-Opedia: The Amazing Book About Everything, translated by Eve Drobot
Maple Tree Press

Tasting the Sky: a Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (from the Scientists in the Field series) by Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sís
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Who Was First?: Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman (whose Freedom Walkers won this category last year)
Clarion

Getting down to brass tacks now is the Judging Panel, comprised of

Tracy Chrenka at Talking in the Library
Emily Mitchell at Emily Reads
Camille Powell at Book Moot
Alice Herold at Big A little a
Jennie Rothschild at Biblio File

* * *

It was a wild ride. Five panelists, one newborn baby, a couple of holidays over several months, and 45 nominated children’s nonfiction books published in 2007 — on the subjects of history, science, mathematics, reference, biography, memoirs, humor, how to, essays, popular culture, music, and more. Much more.

What an absolute delight to work on the MG/YA nonfiction nominating panel alongside Susan at Chicken Spaghetti, Vivian at HipWriterMama, Mindy at Proper Noun Dot Net, and KT at Worth the Trip, all under the leadership of master wrangler and organizer Jen Robinson. The other panelists made the job of distilling the 45 nominated titles down to seven as easy as possible under the circumstances, and I continue to be amazed at how smoothly our negotiations and jockeyings went. Thank you each, thank you all for several marvelous months.

While we had a fraction of the books some of the other panels had to read (though more than I had to deal with last year on the poetry panel), our hunting and gathering skills were put to work tracking down titles for which review copies weren’t furnished. So I’d also like to thank the patient and quick-working libraries in our system that sped books to me, often shortly after processing. And lastly, a big thanks to my kids, who put up with a good deal of questioning, poking, and prodding about what they liked and didn’t about the the books they read, with and without me.

And special thanks, again, to Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold for coming up with the idea of the Cybils and organizing everything.

One of the reasons I wanted to serve on this particular panel is that for our family, and so many other home school families we know, high quality nonfiction titles are the backbone of our curricula, as well as our some of our children’s favorite free-time reading. I wanted, through the Cybils, to be able to publicize some of the best of the bunch, so you and your kids can include these new gems on your “to read” lists.

The other reason is that I realize, sadly, that for many non-home schooling families, nonfiction children’s titles are considered the second rate, second tier, B List, utility grade, inferior choice when it comes to children’s books, and I wanted to be able to use an opportunity like the Cybils, with such a terrific short list of books of marvelous depth and range, to show that children’s nonfiction is not only chock full of superior choices, but every inch the equal of fiction.

I’d like to encourage other readers and fans of children’s nonfiction, especially those who are concerned about what children’s nonfiction author Marc Aronson calls “nonfiction resistance”, to keep up with the subject on Marc’s blog, Nonfiction Matters.

And one final note — a raft of terrific children’s 2007 nonfiction titles didn’t make it to the list of nominees to be considered for the above short list. If your favorite wasn’t nominated, it’s because you didn’t speak up for it. Don’t let that happen next year.

Following up on David McCullough

I ran out of time yesterday, and wanted to add this list of suggested readings to go with my post yesterday about David McCullough’s new 1776: The Illustrated Edition, the illustrated and abridged edition of Mr. McCullough’s original 1776.

All of the children’s books listed below are narrative histories and overviews of the period, rather than books about a particular element of the American Revolution (which means the list doesn’t include any biographies or the terrific Jean Fritz books, such as And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?). And interestingly, all are illustrated (the first two are picture books) and by authors who have written extensively for children about history, especially American history.

For children (ages 8 or 9 and up/younger as a readaloud):

Liberty or Death: The American Revolution: 1763-1783 by Betsy Maestro with illustrations by Giulio Maestro, from the Maestros’ wonderful “American Story” series

George vs. George: The American Revolution as Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer (useful for Canadians and other Loyalist types)

For children (ages 10 or so and up):

Give Me Liberty: The Story of the Declaration of Independence by Russell Freedman

For children (ages 12 or so and up):

The Real Revolution: The Global Story of American Independence by Marc Aronson; nifty free teacher guides at Marc Aronson’s website.

"Island Story" at LibriVox

While discussing Charlotte Mason, Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall, and other history books for younguns with a new internet friend the other day, I stumbled across the news that Our Island Story is now available, since September, as a free audiobook from LibriVox; part one is here and part two is here.

Rather more economical than the pricey (around $30 a pop), though no doubt gorgeous, professional alternative from Naxos Audiobooks, which is offering the unabridged story on CD in three volumes and as a one CD abridged Best of Our Island Story collection.

Proud mother moment

Had word over the weekend that seven-year-old Daniel’s story about the Charter Oak had won author Jennifer Armstrong‘s first writing contest just for homeschoolers; the contest had been the kids’ writing project for the month of September, a way of easing them back into school and writing with a fun assignment. The prize is an autographed copy of Jennifer’s new book, The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History, which makes all of us here very, very excited. Daniel, my hockey fan, is especially thrilled that Jennifer promised to mail the book from Detroit, home of the Red Wings. Thank you, so much, Jennifer! This is the second writing contest Daniel has won this year, and a big boost for a boy who most times would rather be outside with a penknife rather than a pen.

Jennifer has been busy lately; besides two new books and all of the associated travelling, which you can read about at her main blog, she has revamped her website and started a new blog just for contests (bookmark and Blogline it!) with the promise of new contests each month.

Reading your way through American history with picture books

Kids’ author and home educating dad Chris Barton (husband to Redneck Mother, too) the other day posted his most recent American history picture book reading list for children, for 1925-1975, along with — and this is the very, very good part — all of the previous lists and their wrap-ups, from Prehistory-1621 (list and wrap-up) to 1975-the Present (list and wrap-up).

Makes a great Master List for a fun family project, and if you start now you just might make it to the Pilgrims in time for Thanksgiving! Thanks very much for sharing, Chris.

Eminently suitable

I don’t know what JoVE thinks yet about The Voice since she’s still travelling, but our complete unabridged audio CD edition of Sir Ernst Gombrich’s Little History of the World just arrived, and I’m thrilled to find that The Voice of Ralph Cosham is just right, which isn’t always the case with audio versions of beloved books. My reservations have been dispelled after listening to the first two discs. Well done, Blackstone.

A wonderful addition — dare I say a must-read and must-listen — for any home’s world history shelf.

Homeschool contest: Tell your favorite American history story

and you just might win a prize!

If this sounds like a fun way to kick off your family’s new school year, not to mention a nifty writing assignment for the kiddies, Jennifer Armstrong, author of the new history title, The American Story, wants you. Details of Ms. Armstrong’s new contest just for homeschoolers are here, and as she writes, “Have fun! Writing about history is a blast!” Ten winners will receive an autographed copy of the book.

And did you notice that Jennifer Armstrong’s new blog is called Just for Homeschoolers? Color me impressed.

UPDATED to add: I’m feeling even more colorfully impressed this morning.