• 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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Thinking, thanking, rocking, and procrastinating

Now that we’re into the second half of the year and school is looming (I’m fairly certain the next month will zip by, especially with the kids at performing arts day camp and Laura’s birthday celebrations this week, not to mention the ongoing garden harvest, and farm harvest in the forseeable future), I think I had better acknowledge all of the tags and incredibly kind words of the last while. I think it was Lissa in her Lilting House, Karen Edmisten, and Red Molly at The Picayune-Democrat — thank you, each of you, very kindly — who each tapped me as a Thinking Blogger, though I think Procrastinating Blogger is more apt. And part of that procrastination, I think, has been because I find the TB logo just a wee bit creepy (is it just me?).

And thanks to Rebecca at IPSA DIXIT who tagged me as a blogger girl who rocks, and now, after you’ve all made me blush deeply with your very kind words, it’s my turn to return the favor.

I’m not going to tag so much as list (in part because at least one of these women has no idea who I am). So, aside from the entire blogroll at right, all of whom rock, swing, bop, and make me think, here are some blogging, thoughtful hepcats I’ve discovered recently, all of whom are clever, creative, warm, giving, funny, sensible:

Reluctant Memsahib

Carol at You’re Not Lost, You’re Here

Miranda at Nurtured by Love

Red Molly at the Picayune-Democrat

Rebecca at IPSA DIXIT

as well as two old blogging friends, each on a hiatus of sorts:

La Maitresse, whose blog came to an end as the home school journey did; she promises a new blog next month, so stay tuned

and Karen at lightingthefires, whose blog is private at the moment.

I’ve got brass in pocket and will be walking on sunshine for the rest of the summer — thanks to everyone!

Teacher meme

Another day, another meme, but this time I was tagged and some time ago, too. Literacy Teacher at Mentor Texts & More tagged me for a teacher’s meme, and I very much appreciate the fact that a NYC public school teacher thought of me for this one, which I find both nifty and generous. (Do I mention here that I grew up down the street from P.S. 75 in Manhattan?)

And since I’ve spent the past couple of days ordering books and curriculum — more books and other fun stuff (list to come in a future post) than curriculum (a few Explode the Code workbooks for the boys and the next level of Singapore Math for everyone) — I am getting more in a teaching mode if not mood.

1. I am a good teacher because… I try to incorporate each of the kids’ interests and passions in our studies. Because I try not to answer Davy’s questions — “How fast do clouds move?” [variation: “How fast do the blades in the blender turn?”], “What weighs more, the bull or the truck?” — with “Ask your father.” And because learning and reading are among my own greatest passions, which makes it easier than not to pass both along to my children.

2. If I weren’t a teacher, I would… still buy as many books and other goodies for the kids. But it’s nice to have an official excuse, er, reason. As for a different profession, after the kids are up and out, the weekly newspaper always seems to need reporters, not to mention editors with a good supply of sharp red pencils.

3. My teaching style is… more guiding than teaching. And following the Yeats quote beloved by so many, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” Oh, and an offshoot from my mothering: the ever-trusty method of reverse psychology. “Do you really think you could possibly read a Nancy Drew book in one short day?” said with a very worried, doubting expression on motherly face. (And guess what? Laura is now reading her way through Nancy Drew books — is there a better way to spend the last few weeks of summer vacation? — at the rate of one a day.)

4. My classroom is… everywhere from the kitchen table, where the kids do their seatwork (math, writing, penmanship, grammar, and so on); to the boys’ bedroom, where I sit cross-legged on the floor and read aloud while all three play with Lego or Tinker Toys, or draw; to the stage at the local college theater for drama; to our corrals and fields for nature study and animal husbandry; the little village down the road, where the kids have art lessons; and everywhere in between and beyond.

5. My lesson plans… are minimal, in part because the kids will be in second, third, and fifth grades. Some of our programs and texts — math (Singapore), spelling (Avko Sequential Spelling), grammar (Growing with Grammar), composition (Write with the Best) — incorporate lessons, minimizing the planning for me. Other subjects, such as history, where we mostly read books and discuss them; and science, which this year will be more experimenting and observing and (gasp!) less reading and writing, are very light on the lesson plans.

I’ve also found — surprise, surprise — that the more I plan, the more life gets in the way. Such as the all-planned-out October several years ago, when we suddenly and delightedly found ourselves in NYC with my parents for several weeks. No plan, but great fun and tremendous amounts of learning.

6. One of my teaching goals is… for the kids to learn to think for themselves and to work more independently each year.

7. The toughest part of teaching is… not passing on my own biases and prejudices to the kids, especially when it comes to math and science, which were my least favorite, and least successful, subjects from about fifth grade. Mostly, it was the way the subjects were taught, from the philosophy and structure (New Math, anyone? Even my parents didn’t understand my homework) to the methods, such as textbooks and dry delivery for the most part.

The revelation of home schooling has been that science and math taught properly can be engaging and exciting, for the kids and for me. I revel in this lucky second chance to learn more about both subjects, in many cases to understand a good number of concepts properly for the first time.

8. The thing I love most about teaching is… watching my kids make connections, and come up with ideas, thoughts, and questions I’ve never considered (how fast are those blades in the blender turning?).

9. A common misconception about teaching is… that Tom and I aren’t teaching when school is officially out for the summer. Instead, it’s when we enter one of our unschooling, low tide phases of the year. Again, not so much planning, but an awful lot of learning.

10. The most important thing I’ve learned since I started teaching… is never to underestimate a child’s abilities and interests.

This is a busy time of year for teachers of all stripes, so I’ll leave the tag open for anyone who wants to play. Leave me a note in the comments if you do. And thanks again to Literacy Teacher, with all best wishes for the upcoming school year.

* * *

Just a quick reminder that Literacy Teacher hosted the very first Picture Book Carnival earlier this month. If, as I did, you missed it, you have another chance — the second Picture Book Carnival will be up no later than Saturday, September 1; deadline for submissions is Wednesday, August 29, and the suggested theme is picture books good for readalouds.

Homemade gift exchange

Via JoVE at Tricotomania, via Kim at Relaxed Homeskool, a homemade gift exchange meme, because I can’t possibly resist the promise of a homemade gift from the self-styled Tricotomaniac.

Here are the slightly abbreviated rules from Kim’s blog:

If you are one of the first three commenters on this post, then you are in. I send you a homemade gift sometime, er, soon. When inspiration and time collide for me (usually 2am). In return, you go to your blog and make the same offer. So, you’ll be making 3 things and receiving one.

FAQs here at Kim’s post.

I will warn you mention that I am decidedly not a home schooling knitting mother, or even a knitting home school mother. I don’t sew, either, and unlike JoVE I’m not particularly inclined to mail anyone homemade pickles; I’m still scarred from a childhood vacation involving a leaky bottle of Croatian olive oil, a suitcase, a transatlantic flight, and a surprised customs officer. In fact, I reserve the right to press my artistic and crafty children into service, and to turn the homemade gift project into a back-to-home school project once we get going next month.

Jumping J, for JoVE, to see if it can be done…

Because I can’t resist a challenge (there, another fact/habit about me...)

1. Famous singer/band: Jo Stafford, especially her album Jo + Jazz

2. Four letter word: jute

3. Street name: Jermyn Street, London

4. Color: jade green

5. Gifts/presents: jewels, or (more cheaply) jewel cases with favorite CDs and DVDs

6. Vehicle: jitney

7. Items on a menu: jicama with jerk chicken

8. Boy Name: James

9. Girl Name: Jane

10. Movie Title: The Journey (1959), Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner; 1956 Budapest, and Ron Howard’s movie debut. Sadly not on DVD yet, but I still have my homemade video.

11. Drink: juice

12. Occupation: jack-of-all-trades

13. Flower: Jacob’s Ladder (I have taller ones with white flowers, and shorter ones with blue flowers, and both varieties smell heavenly)

15. Magazine: Jack & Jill, one of my favorite magazines as a child

16. US City: Jackson Hole, Wyoming

17. Pro Sports Team: Utah Jazz (NBA)

18. Reason for Being Late for Work: jail

19. Something You Throw Away: jetsam (and flotsam)

20. Things you shout: In a Viennese accent, “Jesus, Maria und Joseph!”

21. Cartoon character: Jerry, of Tom & Jerry

Eight things meme, and an extra

Camille at Book Moot tagged me some time ago for the Eight Habits/Things About Me meme. The taggee is supposed to list eight facts or habits about him- or herself, and, Camille explains,

The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Eight (not particularly interesting) habits/things about me, then:

1. I like lots of milk in my coffee (a friend in college used to ask me if I’d like a little coffee with my milk) and I drink it slowly. Which means it’s almost always cold before I’m finished drinking. This is a trait I apparently inherited from my mother.

2. I sleep with socks on for most of the year.

3. Some items from my childhood scrapbook (before scrapbooking became a competitive sport): ticket stubs from the circus (Ringling Brothers, April 6, 1974) and a Mets game (vs. San Francisco, July 7, 1974); a pressed and dried edelweiss flower, a present from relatives after their trip to Europe; an autographed notes from Ezra Jack Keats (“It’s been a pleasant sharing this afternoon with you”) and Ben Lucien Burman (“with warmest good wishes from all us critters at Catfish Bend“), both of whom came to speak at my Puffin Books children’s club meeting); and autographed photographs of Jimmy Cagney, Mae West, and Gene Kelly.

4. I can’t fall asleep without reading a bit.

5. I don’t have enough bookcases or bookshelves. I doubt that I ever will.

6. I miss Eugene T. Maleska.

7. For years until the kids were born, I had the same lunch every day — a tuna sandwich and an apple. Then I decided it might be helpful to demonstrate that variety and moderation in all things are good.

8. I haven’t used an ATM machine in the past twelve-and-a-half years.

I think most folks have been tagged, so I’ll skip that part. But if you want to play along, go ahead, and leave the link in the comments, please.

Since I was so late with this one, I’ll add an extra meme, Scattergories, that I haven’t been tagged for, and that I’ve seen over at Frankie’s Kitchen-Table Learners and at Karen‘s blog; the versions are a tad different (I opted for the one with flowers instead of celebrities, thereby avoiding bald Britney). Using the first letter of your (blog) name, come up with answers for the following categories:

Name: Becky

1. Famous singer/band: The Beatles.

2. 4 letter word: book

3. Street name: Broadway

4. Color: blue

5. Gifts/presents: books, to give and receive

6. Vehicle: boat

7. Items on a menu: Bananas Foster

8. Boy Name: Benjamin

9. Girl Name: Beth

10. Movie Title: The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); starring Myrna Loy, Frederic March, Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Harold Russell, Teresa Wright, and Hoagy Carmichael. Directed by William Wyler. A World War II homecoming.

11. Drink: beer (Big Rock Pale Ale, from Calgary)

12. Occupation: bean counter

13. Flower: buffalo beans, one of my favorite Alberta wildflowers. They’re coming to the end of their season now. Other wildflowers coming into bloom now — bastard toadflax, pincushion beardtongue, northern bedstraw, field bindweed, blue-eyed grass, viper’s bugloss, bunchberry, and butter-and-eggs.

15. Magazine: The Beaver, the magazine about Canadian history

16. US City: Boulder (and here’s a Canadian one — Brampton, Ontario)

17. Pro Sports Team: Boston Bruins (NHL)

18. Reason for Being Late for Work: Bushed. Or bushwacked.

19. Something You Throw Away: broken bits

20. Things you shout: Blast!

21. Cartoon character: Bugs Bunny.