• 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.

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.



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.


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!

The Country Fair is back

The sixth Country Fair is up.

My favorite post so far is from Karen, in part because I’m delighted to discover her blog, lightingthefires, by another Canadian homeschooler. Which I know because she has posted recently about a free online Canadian history program and the Sir John A. action figure that I wrote about the other month. But lightingthefires is a wealth of resources, inspiration, and reasoned thought well beyond life up north (if you don’t believe me, read this and this). Thank you, Karen.

Late summer catching up

It’s been another busy week, and besides the usual weeding of the thousand trees it’s been dry enough to start watering the garden, because the beans and cucumbers keep coming, the tomatoes have started, and the corn is on its way. On Saturday we enjoyed a wonderful party celebrating the 50th anniversary of a dear couple we know, the parents of one of Tom’s closest friends. To top it off, his close friend and family, who live in northern BC, brought us a freshly caught salmon, which we enjoyed last night, grilled, and with — all from the garden — dill, potatoes, cherry tomatoes, peas (via the freezer), and green and Royal Burgundy beans. The kids figured that the only storebought items were the olive oil, salt, and pepper. If I hadn’t spent most of the day outdoors, I would have turned some of the bag of apples from Tom’s cousin’s girlfriend’s tree into a cobbler or at least a compote, but everyone was happy with a dish of storebought ice cream. The apples will wait.

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling is up at The Common Room.

The Sixth Carnival of Children’s Literature is up at Castle of the Immaculate. And, for you early planning types (don’t look at me, I didn’t submit anythingto any of the carnivals), Carnival number seven will be hosted by Wands and Worlds next month, with submissions due by September 15th; Sheila writes, “This ‘Harvest of Children’s Literature’ will be celebrated on the equinox, September 23!” Not to be outdone, Michele at Scholar’s Blog has already advised that she’ll be hosting the Eighth Carnival on Halloween: “I invite you to start thinking about witches, pumpkins, vampires, ghosts and ghouls, and anything else that might be related to Hallowe’en.” Submissions are due October 15th. Michele also provides a handy listing with links of all the previous kidlit carnivals.

The deadline for the latest Country Fair of Homeschooling was, aack, yesterdayday. I didn’t submit anything, but I’m looking forward to reading everyone else’s offerings shortly.

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight is ready with the Late Summer Field Day, a carnival of nature study, bookended by just the right poems saying goodbye to August and hello to September.

Kelly at Big A little a is working on the August edition of the online kidlit magazine The Edge of the Forest, and it should be up on Wednesday.

Sherry at Semicolon, a homeschooling/writing/reading mother, has a fairly new feature, The Saturday Review of Books, a roundup of the week’s book reviews, complete with its own easy auto-link form. Couldn’t be any easier!

Another member on one of my Yahoo homeschooling groups mentioned the other week a new American history book for children (she had read about it in Parade Magazine), but on checking at Amazon discovered, of course, that it wasn’t yet out. So I was very pleased to find Chris’s glowing review, complete with list of links, of the book, The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History by Jennifer Armstrong (who has a blog and a website, though the latter is still under renovation). The blog in particular has some of the book’s beautiful illustrations by Roger Roth. Very nice. Publication date for those of us who don’t usually receive advance copies is — ta-da — today! Great good luck to Ms. Armstrong and Mr. Roth, and am very much looking forward to getting my mitts on a copy.

I’m so far behind that some of these titles reviewed by the prolific Fuse #8 predate her recent summer vacation. Worth noting is Fuse’s review of Counting on Grace, historical fiction from Elizabeth Winthrop (the kids adored her Castle in the Attic when we studied the Middle Ages the other year), about young Grace who works in a New England cotton mill and meets photographer Lewis Hine. Fuse calls the novel “remarkable,” which is good enough for me. A good companion book would be Russell Freedman’s Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor.

Also recently reviewed by Fuse is what I think might be Albert Marrin‘s first picture book, Oh, Rats!: The Story of Rats and People. So now while you curl up with your copy of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan, Junior can snuggle up next to you with his own version. Much as we here at Farm School like to curl up en famille with our Mark Kurlansky fish books: Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World for Tom and me, and the picture book The Cod’s Tale for the kiddies (both highly recommended, by the way).

A new blog, from children’s author Anne Bustard. It’s a birthday-by-birthday list of mostly picture book biographies (and some compilation books, such as those by Kathleen Krull). Definitely a fun way to learn history through the year. In a similar vein, I recently found Days to Celebrate: A Full Year of Poetry, People, Holidays, History, Fascinating Facts, and More by Lee Bennett Hopkins with illustrations by Stephen Alcorn, at BookCloseouts, as a fun addition to our schoolwork.

L. at Road SCHOLA, aka Suzy Homemaker, wrote about a new-to-me recipe blog, Bakingsheet. Yummy.

And to end with a laugh, Greg at GottaBook has been considering famous authors and the children’s books they’d write. Don’t miss my favorites, Coulter and Faulkner.

And now we’ve got to get ready for the “end of summer” swim at the pool, sponsored by our local homeschool support group. Everybody in the pool!

I am trying very hard not to drool on the keyboard

because I discovered tonight that The Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich which I find so wonderfully delightful and delightfully wonderful was released in June as an unabridged audio CD; while my ideal audio version would include narration by a grandfatherly Viennese gentleman, the prospect of Ralph Cosham seems promising.

This it strikes me would make a marvelous back-to-school present for your favorite child, especially since it’s a bargain at under $15. And if you don’t have the book already (though you really should), you could give it to the lucky child as a set.

Homeschooling meme

I’ve been tagged for a homeschooling meme by Lissa in her Lilting House, and though we’re still enjoying summer — it’s still warm, hurray, and I’m still battling weeds in the shelterbelt trees and now a sneaky mole in my raised bed vegetable garden — the project seems like a good way to start making some back to school preparations, since we’ll begin the day after Labor Day.

One homeschooling book you’ve enjoyed:
Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson, who wrote this back when he was a public high school teacher. As lyrical as you would expect from the author of Snow Falling on Cedars, even on the subject of democracy and education, but also thoughtful and well-researched. And entirely secular, which is refreshing considering the subject.

The first title that occurred to me was Marva Collins’ Way: Returning to Excellence in Education, but then I remembered that it’s not really a homeschooling book. But it can most certainly be applied to home learning and it’s wonderfully inspirational, especially when it comes to confirming one’s thoughts about what motivates and challenges children.

One resource you wouldn’t be without:
A CD player, or three.

The boys received one for Christmas last year, Laura has had one in her room for the past few years, and the best one is in the kitchen. We listen to all kinds of music, audiobooks (particularly useful for stretching out storytime when Mom’s voice gives out), book and music combinations (the Classical Kids series, the Naxos Audiobook’s “History of Classical Music”), and foreign language instruction. Some of the audiobooks are just for fun, others for learning, most are more than a bit of both; at the moment I’m waiting on the delivery of Jim Weiss‘s “Thomas Jefferson’s America” and “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America” discs. Laura has recently discovered the library’s selection of unabridged recordings of classic literature from Recorded Books, reading and then reading and listening her way through Little Women (17 cds!) and A Little Princess (only 7 if I remember correctly). A sort of layered approach to literature, not to mention great practice for listening skills that I’m hoping will come in handy for college lectures.

One resource you wish you had never bought:
Not as dire as the question makes it sound, but I wish I hadn’t spent the time and money on Modern Curriculum Press’s Spelling Workout, despite its recommendation in The Well-Trained Mind. Fortunately, Laura used it for only a few months in first grade before I realized she wasn’t retaining anything and that SWO needed the old heave-ho. Ever since, Laura has been happily using and retaining Avko’s Sequential Spelling.

One resource you enjoyed last year:
Story of the World: Early Modern Times (volume 3), which we get to enjoy again this year, because I’ve added in enough early (through 1850) U.S. and Canadian history to make 1600-1850 a two-year study.

One resource you’ll be using this year:
Write with the Best by Jill Dixon, recommended by my friend L. of SCHOLA and Road SCHOLA fame and recipient of of some intriguing reviews. I was looking for a composition program that uses imitative writing and follows the progymnasmata, offers a variety of examples and activities (I’m fairly certain of headbanging at best and a full-scale writing mutiny at worst if I offer Laura nothing but fables or Homer for an entire year), and is a good deal (not only is it $26 CAN, but also it can be used for kids from grades 3-12).

After some digging, I found that the only Canadian source for WWTB had been A + Books Canada in Ontario, and while WWTB wasn’t currently in stock, the new owner was more than willing to bring it in, along with a few other things — such as the Jim Weiss CDs mentioned above, not carried by either Chapters.ca or Amazon.ca for some reason — to encourage some one-stop shopping. So now the publisher, the vendor, and I are all happy (well, I will be when it arrives, which should be soon). Moral of the story: it pays to ask, and that goes for asking publishers about Canadian distributors as well as vendors for bringing other items in. If you want it, chances are someone else will, too.

One resource you’d like to buy:
I’m tempted by several things from BrimWood Press, especially their new coloring book, Color the Western World: An Artful Journey through 5,000 Years of History; it’s hard to resist items called “Tools for Young Historians”. And knowing that Circle of Quiet includes the Brim family in her circle of friends and recommends some of their other “Tools” is a lovely, more than reassuring surprise.

One resource you wish existed:
An enormous warehouse within a half hour’s drive containing each and every one of the books, programs, CDs, DVDs, manipulatives, etc. I’ve ever considered purchasing, where I could see, read, touch, and listen to them.

One homeschooling catalogue you enjoy reading:
Tree of Life from New Brunswick; not secular but lots of goodies for the classical homeschooler

One homeschooling website you use regularly:
I can’t think of a particular homeschooling website, but I’m a regular and frequent visitor of our library system’s page for placing online ILL requests. And on a related note, another plug for Library Elf, which keeps me from spending more time than necessary at the library website searching out due dates for our oodles of items. And the Elf needs only one visit to its own website, after which you get handy dandy reminders in your email inbox.

For the final item I’m supposed to tag five others, but as usual I’ll just leave it open, and if you decide to play along let me know in the comments, please!

Happy birthday, Laura dear

who is a very nifty nine today. May all your dreams, with and without horses, come true.

He stopped again.
“Would you tell me what you want most in the world?…Would you tell me that?”
He was looking at her.
“Horses,” she said, “sir.”
“To ride on? To own for yourself?”
He was still looking at her, as though he expected more.
“I tell myself stories about horses,” she went on, desperately fishing at her shy desires. “Then I can dream about them. Now I dream about them every night. I want to be a famous rider, I should like to carry dispatches. I should like to get a first at Olympia; I should like to ride in a great race; I should like to have so many horses that I could walk down between the two rows of loose boxes and ride what I chose.”

from National Velvet by Enid Bagnold

Book meme

I saw this first at Rebecca’s Gypsy Caravan, and then Kelly’s Big A little a and decided to play since it’s cool and cloudy today and I need a break in between washing the kitchen floor and cleaning the fridge. And this reminds me that I owe LaMai a book meme, too, which I’ll have to dig out (sorry, LaMai!).

One book that changed your life:

The Well-Trained Mind. While I’ve tweaked it and deviated from it considerably since starting to homeschool — it is, after all, just a guide — and while academic reasons have come to be only part of the reason we homeschool, the book was instrumental in helping me to realize (and to convince Tom) that we could teach the kids at home and give them the education we want.

One book that you’ve read more than once:

Pride and Prejudice, which I feel compelled to read every spring (it’s a wind-changing, Mary Poppins sort of thing)

And, in my childhood, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books; these two series probably also changed my life considerably in that I developed such a love of pioneer life and of Canada that when presented with the option, upon deciding to marry Tom, of moving to a farm in Canada, it seemed the answer to a dream. And I’ve never regretted the choice (especially when I discovered that I could have almost any book sent almost to my door through Chapters.ca, Amazon.ca, Abebooks.com, or Powell’s).

One book you’d want on a desert island:

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery. Not only is it chock full of useful information for homesteading situations, but at over 800 pages, it would keep you in reading material for quite some time.

One book that makes you laugh…

out loud, every time:

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough.

One book that made you cry:

Vichy France and the Jews by Michael Marrus and Robert Paxton

One book that you wish had been written:

Even More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin, who died much too young.

One book that you wish had never been written:

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Disney’s Princess Storybook Collection

The Sesame Street Treasury

Oh dear. Is that more than one?

One book you’re currently reading:

The Winds of Change by Martha Grimes

One book you’ve been meaning to read:

With the kids, The Star of Kazan by Eva Ibbotson (I’m planning to give it to Laura for Christmas) and for myself, Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud by Peter Watson

I’m not planning on tagging anyone, but if you want to play, let me (or Rebecca or Kelly) know…


Updated to add that Kelly at Big A little a has more on more kidlit meme links here (and I’m not the only one who finds LYF creepy twaddle).

Carry on…

We’re making the most of the last of the season, enjoying summer (and summer must be enjoying us, too, because we’re having another heat wave). My sister-in-law and her two little boys are here for a visit, the garden is exploding, the chicks and ducklings and other farm babies are getting bigger and eating more every day, we made a quickie run to the to the little city (instead of a big trip to the big city) where we stocked up briefly on artists’ pastels and anklets for Laura (but didn’t have time to look at the also much needed bigger Mary Janes or proper sketch pads), and went here on the weekend for a fine old time, so at most all I’ll be posting in the next while are some links and probably a poem for Friday as usual. But don’t hold your breath. Eat a Creamsicle instead and run through the sprinkler.

Zero tolerance, indeed

Thanks to JoVE at Tricotomania for the head’s up on this article from yesterday’s Globe & Mail:

It could be the most costly piece of punctuation in Canada.

A grammatical blunder may force Rogers Communications Inc. to pay an extra $2.13-million to use utility poles in the Maritimes after the placement of a comma in a contract permitted the deal’s cancellation.

The controversial comma sent lawyers and telecommunications regulators scrambling for their English textbooks in a bitter 18-month dispute that serves as an expensive reminder of the importance of punctuation.

Heavens. Get those lawyers a copy of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves. The illustrated children’s edition — subtitled “Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!” — if necessary.

Filched shamelessly…

from Rebecca’s Gypsy Caravan, where she writes about her family’s recent afternoon at the Cleveland Botanical Garden, including the special Children’s Garden, outside of which is a stone with the following from the great American horticulturist Luther Burbank engraved upon it:

Every child should have mudpies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hayfields, pinecones, rocks to roll, sand snakes, huckleberries and hornets. Any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his education.

Domesday for the new millenium

The Domesday Book is now available online, and is searchable and downloadable as well, thanks to the National Archives of England, Wales, and the United Kingdom. Many, many thanks indeed.

Worthwhile too, though not as new, is the National Archives’ Learning Curves website, a free online teaching and learning resource that follows the History National Curriculum. The Learning Curves section on the Domesday book is here.


L. and her family are back (still Down Under) and better than ever at Road SCHOLA. And I can now see every last word of the posts, hurray! Am now off to read them, double hurray!!

Late links

Here are some late links — for books, curriculum, and other things — that I’m only now, post-fair, getting around to posting:

Nicola’s Canadian history reading list is back up but at a new home, thanks to Jyl;

Melissa suggested it in her Charlotte Mason post, and Amy ran with it: the new Charlotte Mason blog, in Miss Mason’s own words;

News from Camille at Book Moot: author Jean “I Spy” Marzollo “has started a new series of books about the Greek myths. This is the second one. The first was Little Bear, You’re a Star!: A Greek Myth About the Constellations, 2005 and a third, Pandora’s Box, is due in September 2006.” The new one, reviewed by Camille, is Let’s Go, Pegasus! They both sound like great go-along for Story of the World, volume 1, not to mention first grade astronomy;

Jen Robinson‘s list of Cool Boys, at minimum 175 strong, and A Year in Reading‘s list of Cool Teachers. Jen is hoping for 200 boys to match the girls, and Year in Reading is hoping for 100 teachers. Put on your thinking caps…;

Kelly‘s children’s book reviews wiki contains a wealth of information;

Galore Park‘s So You Really Want to Learn French Prep I and Skeleton French complete with CD are definitely, and reasonably, available through Amazon.ca. I know because my order has arrived and I now have the books in my hot little hands;

wisteria on grammar resources for children, including a review of the illustrated edition of Strunk & White’s classic Elements of Style (spring for the hardcover — trust me). And, in a similar vein, The Magic of Books has a brief review of the children’s illustrated edition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss;

Some science items:
From the World’s Fair at Scienceblogs.com, a round-up of “children’s books that are dear to you, either as a child or a parent, and especially ones that perhaps strike a chord with those from a science sensibility”. And more on books and science, and science books, from the World’s Fair here;

Science songs from old LPs, definitely predating Schoolhouse Rock;

Fuse #8 has a review of Kathleen Krull‘s latest in her “Giants of Science” series (including last year’s Leonardo da Vinci), a picture book bio of Sir Isaac Newton;

Thinking Physics: Understandable Practical Reality by Lewis Carroll (really) Epstein, recommended on one of my WTM lists.

Country fair report

It was a wonderful time at the fair, including the day before it started (last Wednesday), when Laura and I helped with the fairground preparations (accepting and sorting exhibits for the bench show plus buying up all the blue and black stamp pad ink refills in town), got a sneak peek at the prizes in the exhibit hall, and set up Tom’s barn-shaped 6′ by 6′ shadow box full of old fair memorabilia; Sunday, when we had a mini-family reunion with some of Tom’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and their kids, and then had some visiting friends and their kids over for dinner; and yesterday, when the whole family participated in the fairground cleanup — mostly cleaning straw and shavings out of various pens in the various livestock barns.

Here’s a not so quick rundown:

Thursday, first day of the fair: Headed into the fairgrounds early to drop off the kids’ pen of five chickens (Barred Rock rooster and his harem). The grounds were crazy busy and we barely made it out in time to get to the parade ground for the judging of the floats. We won first prize in the Seniors Division, since the museum float — the whole museum, in fact — is headed up by oldsters. Our family definitely moved the average age down for the day. Kids and Tom were dressed in period costume — the boys as voyageurs in their new coonskin caps carrying gopher traps; Laura in her c1905 dress complete with mutton-chop sleeves, buttons all down the back, flowered hat, and parasol; and Tom as a dandy along with a top hat, cane, and pocket watch.

After the parade, a picnic lunch and then off to the fairgrounds. We’d had a quick peek at the kids’ entries the night before, so we knew that they had done quite well, with a bunch of first, second, and third prizes for their paintings, handmade greeting cards (we’ve been sucked into the Stamping Up materials…), drawings, sheaves, mounted/pressed/dried leaves/flowers/weeds, Daniel’s Lego balloon-powered rocket car, Laura’s sweet peas, and more. All very well pleased with their efforts and results.

Our first stop was the chicken show, where much to our surprise, the kids’ pen won Reserve Champion (second prize). The whole show is a lark, not at all serious like the other livestock shows at the fair — light horses, heavy horses, sheep, hogs, cattle — though the prizes are mostly serious: a check for $150, an invitation to a special catered dinner that evening, commemorative ball caps embroidered “Reserve Champion Pen of 5 Chickens” and “Agricultural Society – 100 Years”, a certificate, and, not so seriously, a chicken cookbook. Then off to the 100-Man Threshing Crew at the old-fashioned threshing demonstration. Three wagonloads of grain went through the old threshing machine, and Tom in his top hat and the boys each had a turn (Laura didn’t want to climb up in the wagon or wield a pitchfork in her dress); Daniel especially did a terrific job forking everything in, and at the end we collected another certificate and more commemorative ball caps. Then over to the John Deere pedal tractor pull for kids seven and under, where Daniel pedalled for the last time and Davy still has two more years. Everyone there wins a prize, an Ertl (Matchbox-style) small John Deere toy tractor. After our “chicken social” dinner we decided it was time to take our prize-winning pen of chickens home, as well as Sugar the ginger cat whom we adopted from Old MacDonald’s Barn/petting zoo, and also a box of about 15 newly-hatched chicks; for every day of the fair, the Ag Society hatched out one incubator of eggs, and because no one else wanted the chicks (no one else seems to be set up for babies), we offered to bring them home. Then back to town for the grandstand show and home again around 11.

Friday, second day: The kids spent most of the day on the midway on the rides, with those “ride all day” wristbands, with friends and cousins. I went with them on the Tilt-a-Whirl (not as stomach churning as previous years, I’m happy to report), successfully avoided the Ferris Wheel that goes backwards fast, bought several rounds of mini doughnuts and cotton candy, and watched Davy gleefully measuring himself to ensure that hse is now at least 42″ tall and can go on a good number of the rides by himself. And Daniel is pleased to be tall enough to go on the bumper cars unaccompanied. Spent some more time at Old MacDonald’s Barn with the baby animals, and the sandbox outside the door, which had been salted with 100 loonies (dollar coins). Went home that night with 40 more baby chicks.

Saturday, day three: Tom attended the modified tractor pull (gah…), the kids went back to Old MacDonald’s Barn and sandbox, and I went slowly through the trade show booths and all the exhibit hall displays. After dinner, we collected all of our exhibits and everyone’s prize money which I confiscated for bank deposits so the kids can’t blow it on Lego, Schleich animals, or caps for their pistols. Then off to the Grandstand Show where Laura was called on stage by the singer/impressionist who followed the magicians to participate in a singalong, and then fabulous centennial fireworks at 11.

Sunday we slept in, did chores quickly, and made it to Tom’s aunt for a mini family reunion with aunts, uncles, cousins and all of their children, then hurried home to blitz-clean the house before two sets of friends and their families came over for a bbq dinner. A very late night visiting — one of the families lives in BC now and we hardly ever see them — and yesterday we were back at the fairgrounds for the cleanup, where I learned that the last incubator of eggs didn’t hatch because someone sometime early on Saturday morning had turned the thermostat up to 120 degrees F. Now we know that the controls need to be locked away from intervening hands… Poor baby birds.

Aside from that last bit, it was, as always, tons of fun, and the kids had a grand time and learned lots — Laura had seen a sign last month that said “Volunteers Make It Happen” and turned to me the other day and said, “Now I understand what that sign means” — though it’s a tiring pace to keep up for six days in a row, especially when you’re home just long enough to feed animals, sleep, and change dirty clothes.

Now back to real life: a garden full of peas, beans, raspberries, and beets to be picked; more weeding all around; a funeral tomorrow for a dear, old family friend who died on the weekend; laundry; and trying to figure out when and how I can get to the big city and the little city for some back-to-school clothing and school/art supply shopping.