• 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.

A new point on the reading compass

“Books are like neighbors, and your personal library is your neighborhood. Take a look at your bookshelves. What kind of neighborhood are you living in? Are you in a slum or in the suburbs? Who are your neighbors? Are they trash talkers or shrewd sages? If you live next door to Socrates, then invite him to dinner every night. If you live next to Dan Brown, then put your house on the market. …

A book is a friend who’s always ready with a story or some advice. And if your friend is named Tolstoy or Shakespeare, then the stories are going to be transforming as well as entertaining. If your friend is named Plato or Aquinas, then the advice is liable to be life-changing.”
from ROMAN Reading by Nick Senger

The other day, someone in one of my Well-Trained online groups forwarded a link for a new, free eBook on reading and literature, ROMAN Reading: 5 Practical Skills for Transforming Your Life through Literature (see this post too for additional download information) by Nick Senger, a reader of great literature and eighth grade teacher, who blogs at Literary Compass (“Reading the Great Books from a Catholic Point of View”) and at now at RomanReading.

The ROMAN in the title, aside from a reference to faith, stands for Read, Outline, Mark, Ask, Name (no mention of religion in the text, by the way); as Mr. Senger writes, “With these five skills you can read any book, no matter how difficult”, which would seem to make the brief book (73 pages, and short ones at that) a useful guide for those just beginning their literary careers. I think Laura, who’ll be starting fifth grade in the fall, would be able to digest most of the information well, and the ideas in the book would certainly give her something to think about as she moves from the grammar stage to the logic stage, and as the focus in some of her reading — no longer just for pleasure or for information — begins to change.

An online friend with whom I’m supposed to be having a conversation about Great Books, and I would if only milkmen and matchmakers left me alone and the washing machine’s spin cycle would reappear as dramatically as it disappeared, calls ROMAN Reading “a simpler and more contemporary version of [Mortimer] Adler’s How to Read a Book“, which strikes me as bang on. Not only will How to Read a Book make more sense in a few years, and possibly be less head-bangingly difficult, but you can probably avoid the need for How to Read ‘How to Read a Book’ if your kids start off their middle school years with ROMAN Reading. My only quibble so far is Mr. Senger’s preference for taking notes in books with green pen; I like pencil better, and can still read my old college notes from 25 years ago. You can’t go wrong with a Mirado Classic Black/HB 2.

Also worthwhile at Literary Compass, for Catholics and non-Catholics alike:

101 Essential Web Sites for Readers of Literature

Nick’s Great Books reading list (which is also an appendix to the eBook): Introduction, and Parts I and II

Nick Senger’s motive for sharing the book for free is is mission to change

lives one page at a time. I want to make the world a more literate place, a place where people think for themselves, learn about their world, and share their ideas with each other.

A literate world is a world of peace, tolerance and vision. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

A most worthy mission. Many thanks.


St. Patrick’s Day: One thing leads to another, and the mist that do be on the bog

Last year’s more conventional entry

This year’s less conventional one, from ‘Tis by Frank McCourt, which I’m rereading while awaiting the arrival via ILL of his Teacher Man:

I walk through Woodside to the library to borrow a book I looked at the last time I was there, Sean O’Casey‘s I Knock at the Door. It’s a book about growing up poor in Dublin and I never knew you could write about things like that. It was all right for Charles Dickens to write about poor people in London but his books always end with characters discovering they’re the long-lost sons of the Duke of Somerset and everyone lives happily ever after.

There is no happily ever after in Sean O’Casey. His eyes are worse than mine, so ad he can barely go to school. Still he manages to read, teaches himself to write, teaches himself Irish, writes plays for the Abbey Theatre, meets Lady Gregory and the poet Yeats, but has to leave Ireland when everyone turns against him. He would never sit in a class and let someone mock him over Jonathan Swift. He’d fight back and then walk out even if he walked into the wall with his bad eyes. He’s the first Irish writer I ever read who writes about rags, dirt, hunger, babies dying. The other writers go on about farms and fairies and the mist that do be on the bog and it’s a relief to discover one with bad eyes and a suffering mother.

What I’m discovering now is that one thing leads to another. When Sean O’Casey writes about Lady Gregory or Yeats I have to look them up in the Encyclopedia Britannica and that keeps me busy till the librarian starts turning the light on and off. I don’t know how I could have reached the age of nineteen in Limerick ignorant of all that went on in Dublin before my time. I have to go to the Encyclopedia Britannica to learn how famous the Irish writers were, Yeats, Lady Gregory, AE and John Millington Synge who wrote plays where the people talk in a way I never heard in Limerick or anywhere else.

Here I am in a library in Queens discovering Irish literature, wondering why the schoolmaster never told us about these writers till I discover they were all Protestants, even Sean O’Casey whose father came from Limerick. No one in Limerick would want to give Protestants credit for being great Irish writers.

Poetry Friday II: A new(ish) resource for literature

With many thanks to the person on one of my Sonlight groups for posting the link to the American literature page at AOL@School (with some interesting looking literature guides), which led me to these Emily Dickinson links (here, here, and here). Though I wonder what Ms. Dickinson would think about her modern transformation.

And AOL’s page on World Literature has a section with “World Poets”, featuring links for Dante Alighieri, Goethe, Homer, James Joyce, Lucy Maud Montgomery, Pablo Neruda, and Yeats (and, yes, I’ve already written to AOL about the typos I’ve found on the page). For tomorrow, scroll down the page for the little corner on “Irish Literature”.

Joyful influences: More thoughts on poetry and literature for children

this time from Willa at everywakinghour in this post (I’m still catching up on my blog reading as you can tell). Some of the highlights, but go read the entire piece:

Children aren’t born knowing what we consider “accessible” to them. They find it out based on their experience of what’s around them, what we let them have access to and what they make of it with their own minds and hearts. Sometimes adults can expect both less and more of the child than he is capable of. They can give him material that Charlotte Mason would call “twaddle” and then expect him to be able to work with it on a level more suitable of an older student. A lot of teaching errors come from one or both of these mistakes.


Probably the bottom line is that children aren’t dumb. They are as intelligent as we are, but their intelligence works through their hands and senses and creativity. So we don’t have to dumb down things to make them accessible. Perhaps we think that letting them explore with their hands and imaginations, and “play” with the experience, is dumbing down, but that’s just because adults have a limited idea of what intelligence is.

Lovely to read about Willa’s daughter, now a teenager: “Obviously she wasn’t [at age six] comprehending the full story but Shakespeare and Tolkien have continued to be big and joyful influences on her life.”