• 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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Time for delurking

Kris Bordessa, who blogs at Paradise Found, home schools, and writes nifty nonfiction for kids, says it’s Delurking Week so I believe her. Having made so many invisible friends through this blog, and from leaving comments at others’ blogs, I like the idea of meeting, and getting to know, new readers. Now’s your chance, before I break into song like Deborah Kerr and Marni Nixon.

So whether you’re a regular reader (in which case, thank you, thank you, thank you) or the people looking for answers to “what to do when somebody steels your account on stardoll” or “what would you do if your farm was taken away after world war 2” (I’m sorry, I don’t have any suggestions for either situation) or the person at GreekGoogle looking for “the golden book of chemiSTRY experiments DANGER” (leave a comment below with your email and I just might be able to steer you in the right direction) or the folks from Rancho Cucamonga and Alamo, California; Brooklyn and Bangor; Regina and Saskatoon (why, you’re nearly neighbors!); not to mention Cyprus, Costa Rica, Warwickshire, Milan, Tokyo, the Netherlands, Belgium, Dubai and Durban, please stop in and say hello.

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Lockdown

If we lived around Edmonton and if the kids were older and attended public school, we might be dealing with the following situation next week, as described in this excerpt from a letter from the principal sent home yesterday with students:

An Important Notice to the [School] Community

Five weeks ago, a student reported to a teacher that he had read a graffiti message in one of the school bathrooms. His recollection of the message was that it said – December 18, 2007 Massacre. Following the report of the incident to the school administration, the student and two of his friends were interviewed. They indicated that they had seen the message on the inside of a bathroom stall. When taken by the school administration to the washroom in question, the writing was no longer there. The police were notified and an investigation ensued.

At the same time as the police investigation began, the teachers were notified of the details above and directed to report any incidents, information or student conversations related to December 18th.

To date there has been no evidence uncovered either by the RCMP or by the school staff that would suggest any danger to students. Over the last four weeks, the RCMP and the school administration have followed up on three occasions where teachers have reported students introducing the subject in class. Each time the students involved appeared to be engaging in the retelling of what they have heard from others and the stories appeared to have no substance.

However, many students seem to have become aware of a story related to the writing. I have heard some of these and they represent significant exaggerations based on the full investigation conducted by the RCMP and the school administration, yet the seriousness of the concern demands action on the part of the school.

On December 18th, we will be undertaking the following:

  • Students will be entering the school through only the two front doors
  • Students will not be allowed in hallways during classes
  • Teachers will be locking their classroom door[s] throughout the day
  • Outside doors will be locked all day
  • Students will be asked to leave their back packs in their lockers
  • An increased RCMP presence will be in the school all day.

I must repeat, there has been no evidence of any real threat to the staff and students … since the writing in the washroom was reported.

The precautions above represent a level of response that the staff at [the school] and the RCMP believe is necessary. Together we believe the safety and comfort of all concerned is our primary goal and is best served by the precautions outlined above.

Precautions or no precautions, I rather doubt I’d be sending even a 16- or 17-year-old Laura, Daniel, or Davy to be locked in a classroom for most of the day, with doubtlessly armed RCMP officers patrolling the halls.

Latest from art lessons

Laura’s been taking art lessons for about a year and a half now, and Daniel since September. Since I’m playing with the digital camera, I thought I’d try my hand at their latest efforts, completed this month:

Cowboy and horse by Daniel
This is his second or third project since September; he
used a grid and acrylic paints, copying a photograph from
an old calendar I saved.


Snow leopard by Laura

Pastels and charcoal; she copied freehand from an old
Ranger Rick magazine.

Relief

1) The cold snap seems to have snapped and we’ve enjoyed two days so far, with the promise of a few more to come, of very mild winter weather. Which here means around 32F, a far cry from the 0F to -40F we’ve had for the past month or so, along with howling winds and bitter wind chills. In fact, not only was it warm enough to do chores without gloves this morning, but the air was beautifully still. And we can even spend enough time outdoors to enjoy all the snow, an early Christmas present considering that we’ve had quite a few years of snowless Decembers, not to mention “brown (or green) Christmases”.

2) I have a working keyboard. I still don’t have my new Mac Mini hooked up (the blasted young salesboy neglected to advise that new Mac Minis don’t have integral modems even though I told him I’m out in the boonies on dial-up, so now I’m waiting for a new modem to go with the new Mini, keyboard, and mouse), but even in my Luddition figured out that I could hook the new keyboard to the old ailing laptop. Ta-dah.

3) And we’re going on a hayride tonight. Yahoo!

Boo! II

The spooky and scary children’s author Neil Gaiman in today’s New York Times (should work without the free registration; otherwise try Bug Me Not):

When I was growing up in England, Halloween was no time for celebration. It was the night when, we were assured, the dead walked, when all the things of night were loosed, and, sensibly, believing this, we children stayed at home, closed our windows, barred our doors, listened to the twigs rake and patter at the window-glass, shivered, and were content.

There were days that changed everything: birthdays and New Years and First Days of School, days that showed us that there was an order to all things, and the creatures of the night and the imagination understood this, just as we did. All Hallows’ Eve was their party, the night all their birthdays came at once. They had license — all the boundaries set between the living and the dead were breached — and there were witches, too, I decided, for I had never managed to be scared of ghosts, but witches, I knew, waited in the shadows, and they ate small boys.

I did not believe in witches, not in the daylight. Not really even at midnight. But on Halloween I believed in everything. I even believed that there was a country across the ocean where, on that night, people my age went from door to door in costumes, begging for sweets, threatening tricks.

Halloween was a secret, back then, something private, and I would hug myself inside on Halloween, as a boy, most gloriously afraid. …

Fear is a wonderful thing, in small doses. You ride the ghost train into the darkness, knowing that eventually the doors will open and you will step out into the daylight once again. It’s always reassuring to know that you’re still here, still safe. That nothing strange has happened, not really. It’s good to be a child again, for a little while, and to fear — not governments, not regulations, not infidelities or accountants or distant wars, but ghosts and such things that don’t exist, and even if they do, can do nothing to hurt us.

And this time of year is best for a haunting, as even the most prosaic things cast the most disquieting shadows.

Ever eager to help separate Gentle Readers from their money…

If you or your kids are keen on good quality colored pencils, the fine folks at the Canadian company Lee Valley, who sell some nifty woodworking tools, hardware, and garden tools have an even niftier autumn mail order special, not available at any of their stores; I get no kickbacks, discounts, or other remuneration. Just a nice warm glow, now that I’ve ordered enough for our own use and have determined that the Lee Valley warehouse has an adequate supply on hand for everyone else.

The Goldfaber watercolor pencils from Faber-Castell that Laura enjoys so much have been discontinued in favor of a new style with grip dots and triangular handles. So Lee Valley is selling off the old sets of undotted, allegedly less grippy pencils — though we’ve never had any problems with them sliding out hands onto the floor — for very good prices. The tin of 12 pencils is now $10.15 CAN (formerly $14.50); the tin of 24 is now $19.25 (formerly $27.50); and the tin of 36, which comes with a brush, is now $27.65 (formerly $39.50).

For reference, the new, more grippy sets are priced at $14.95 CAN for the tin of 12, $29.50 for 24, and $39.50 for 36 (the website can convert to U.S. dollars for you).

While you’re at the website, take a peek at their Gifts selections, and request the print catalogue. The gift catalogues around Christmas always have some gems. Something for everyone, especially with the holidays much too close at hand, and always excellent quality and value for the money.

"Do you home school?"…

asks Jennifer Armstrong, author of the new children’s history book, The American Story, I mentioned on Tuesday, the date of publication:

I’m going to make sure that when my new site is up and has the classroom history contests it makes provision for a home school family or group to participate. Maybe a homeschooling family would even like to share some of the ways they plan to use the book. I’d love to hear from you.

Howzabout them homeschooling apples? Many thanks to Ms. Armstrong for recognizing a serious history-loving and book-buying segment of the educational market!