May 30, 2006


Shannon at Phat Mommy has a terrific idea:
Many people’s eyes glaze over at the mention of homeschooling, as they envision a family of ten living on the homestead and wearing pilgrim-like clothing. Social misfits who’ve never heard the name Harry Potter. But alas, this is not the face of homeschooling that I know. And I often wonder if it’s the world “homeschooling” that freaks people out. ...

How do you think people would react if I said, “Oh, my kids don’t go to school. They’re learning how to think for themselves out in the world. They read and write and research their interests on the internet and at the library. They travel and take field trips and, my gosh, their schedule is just so full of social activities that they simply aren’t able to spend entire days in school! Homeschool? No, we’re not homeschoolers. We’re worldlearners!”
Shannon, count us in, and if you're making T-shirts, put us down for three kiddie sizes and a totebag for me to cart along on our travels and learning adventures.

HT to Melissa at her new blog

Decoration Day: "with the choicest flowers of spring-time"

[No, I'm not a day late, I just thought I'd get the long weekends, white sales, and pool openings out of the way]

From General Order No.11, Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic at Washington, DC, May 5, 1868, by Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan, establishing what is now known as Memorial Day:

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their death a tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan. ...

May 29, 2006

If it's Tuesday it must be Belgium

The dishwasher broke down several days ago but was a replaced by a shiny new model when the VP of appliances around here decided that after six-and-a-half years of heroic service a repair probably wouldn't cut it. Very kind and coincidental of Sears to be holding a clearance sale of this year's already outdated models (none had the child-lock which is apparently de rigueur now -- that's what I get for letting my toddlers unload the pointy cutlery a few years ago). Much as I appreciate the machine and the fact that he installed it the day after bringing it home, I'm hoping Tom is not counting this toward an anniversary present when the big day rolls around next month.

My truck broke down on Saturday night, spewing oil everywhere and frightening Tom into thinking that serious and hugely expensive engine repair bills were in our future. But it was only a tiny plug in an O-ring (thank goodness we're talking about trucks and not shuttles) and should be fixed cheaply tomorrow. Until then Tom is the the official chauffeur to Swim Club, and I'll just have to force myself to enjoy the break from my appointed rounds.

Oh, when we went back to town yesterday morning -- and it was so very much not in my plans to wake up bright and early on a Sunday morning and spend the time looking into the hood of an ailing truck -- we ended up bringing back our friends' two kids while the friends' went househunting. Good news though. Not only did all the kids have fun together yesterday (and honestly, at this point I don't even notice the addition of another two kids) but our friends have decided to postpone the househunting (scary house prices in Edmonton among other things) and think about staying here. A very very big hurray from all of us.

The last heifer calved and we have nine babies, the last one last night a little bull calf (for a total of two males, seven females, and one open heifer who will, sadly, be sold) appropriately named Rainey.

It's still raining. That makes seven days and counting. Farming neighbors and friends are starting to tear their hair out and mutter weirdly, especially since Crop Insurance requires that all crops be seeded by May 31st, which would be...tomorrow. Good luck, even with pontoons on the tractor. Tom has decided we have so little land left to seed that if necessary he'll summerfallow it. But the weather hasn't kept the kids from roaming around outside, on bike and on foot, or from building and outfitting a "fort" under some bushes outside near the side of the road. So much for my hope that this was good stay-indoors-and-get-the-schooling-done weather.

Homeschool funding paperwork due Wednesday.

Last official day of piano lessons is tomorrow (unofficially Laura has one lesson to make up next week) and piano recital is Friday evening. And I'm trying to decide what to do about music lessons because this year was decidedly uninspiring, especially for Laura. Learned on the weekend about the hint of a possibility of voice lessons, guitar lessons (classical), and another piano teacher (offering classical or jazz) in town next year. If so, may trade Laura's piano lessons for voice, and trade Daniel's piano teacher in for a more inspiring model. Davy still holding out for banjo lessons though. By the way, have not put nearly as much thought into curriculum plans as I have for extracurriculars. If this concerns you more than it does me, drop by Lynx and be comforted and amazed. I am, knowing that she has Grades 5 through 12 already sorted out for me. Thank you, my dear...

Wednesday is the last day of Brownies and Friday one of the girls in the troop is having a big party at her house since the troop isn't making it to the big Revel (think Jamboree for Girl Guides) up in Cold Lake on Saturday, a schlep of about three hours by car or truck, and they're supposed to be there at 9 a.m. No wonder all the parents said no thanks.

Local production of "The Pied Piper," modernized and musicalized and starring some friends (mother and two kids) terrific. Quickly reread Browning's poem to the kids last week because I figured Davy wouldn't remember much from last year. Definitely helped, even though the golf-playing, secretary-chasing mayor wasn't in the original.

May 28, 2006

Just enrich their lives

Roger Sutton at Read Roger has a post today worth your time, especially if you have a child at home. He's been reading through an autographed advance copy of Marni Nixon's I Could Have Sung All Night: My Story and offers the following from Miss Nixon on Leonard Bernstein, with whom she worked on his Young People's Concerts: "Lenny had the innovative and wonderful notion (to which I wholly subscribe) that if we exposed children to the best that music had to offer it would enrich their lives."

As Roger adds,
Forget about Mozart for your baby getting the kids into Harvard. Just "enrich their lives." I wonder if we will ever again learn to treat reading for children with the same simplicity.
Well worth reading the comment, too.

May 27, 2006

Summer reading list time: Canadiana

While browsing around the other day looking for an audio CD version of W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind, which seems to available through interlibrary loan only in audiocassette edition, I was reminded that online CanLit specialist Northwest Passages (based in real life in Vancouver) has what is probably the largest set of Canadian literature links on the Internet, from book, author, publisher, and literary award lists to some lovely poetry sites, author websites and more. A truly public-spirited gift.

Also, while Northwest Passages is an online bookseller, there are people there behind the computers, specifically people who know and read and love books. Which include Canadian fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, and literary criticism, with a special link on the main page for "Hockey Lit" (not to be confused with "Hockey Writing in Canada"). There are also links for "Multimedia" where you can find lots of books, including Who Has Seen the Wind, on audio cd.

May 26, 2006

Fay Wray's day

Today Cardston, Alberta, native Fay Wray was honored with her own stamp by Canada Post, as part of the "Canadians in Hollywood" series. The other stamps include Mary Pickford (who was Canada's sweetheart first) and -- I kid you not -- Lorne Greene and John Candy.

Wake up and smell the cookies

Heidi at 101 Cookbooks offers up a recipe for Triple Chocolate Espresso Bean Cookies, which I think I can smell through my computer. Give the kids some homemade chocolate chip cookies, and save these for the grownups.

Melissa has a new blog

If you enjoy Melissa's Here in the Bonny Glen, you'll be happy to hear that she has a new blog over at ClubMom (co-founded in 1999 by then not-busy-enough Meredith Vieira), a paying gig no less, The Lilting House. As Melissa writes, Bonny Glen will continue to focus primarily on literature and the living books lifestyle, and The Lilting House will focus on homeschooling, educational issues, and special needs children, with lots of overlap and intertwinings promised!

May 25, 2006

Poetry Friday: To make a prairie

To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

By Emily Dickinson (no. 1755)

As usual, Kelly at Big A little a and Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy will have listings of the day's poetic offerings from around the blogosphere.

Everything old is new again: Personifying punctuation and saving the endangered comma

Had a call from our friendly library lady today letting me know that my interlibrary loan copies of Talk to the Hand and the illustrated Elements of Style are finally ready for pick-up. Which was quite a coincidence -- or maybe not, considering the way the publishing world works -- reminding me of the July publication of Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!, the illustrated kiddie version of Lynne Truss's adult bestseller. The pictures are by Bonnie Timmons, whose animation you might remember from the "Caroline in the City" TV credits.

According to an article in the Independent Online several months ago, Truss's original UK publisher heard from teachers eager for a version to use with their pupils. The sales and marketing director avowed that "Loads of teachers wrote in to say how marvellous Eats, Shoots & Leaves was and that they were going to use it. They were always saying that there was nothing enjoyable that taught kids punctuation. There's a real need. I think this will be an extremely useful resource for schools." Tellingly, the U.S. publisher jumped on the bandwagon first, and the UK edition won't out until September.

According to another article, Truss said she took "the lightness and humor that characterized the funny examples in the first book, and [directed] it at smaller people who are just learning that a mark can change the sense of a line of words." She added that such books used to be rather more common: "in my research I came across lovely old children's books on grammar -- a delightful 19th-century pamphlet called Punctuation Personified and a wonderful 1940s book called The Grammatical Kittens, in which a couple of kittens were given basic grammar lessons by an old sheepdog."

(Since the picture book version of Eats, Shoots has been slashed to a rather mingy 32 pages, perhaps school teachers around the world will be as delighted as I am to find that the recommended Punctuation Personified, or Pointing Made Easy by Mr. Stops (1824) is available as a facsimile edition, published by the Bodleian Library, from Amazon for only $10. The cute kittens, however, are out of print.)

The U.S. marketing blitz includes the not-so-serious "National Comma Awareness campaign" by way of a new website, Save the Comma, which should be up and running by the book's July publication date. I'm all for saving commas, just as long as they don't start reproducing like mad and running amok.

At this rate, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find later this year a 30th anniversary edition, complete with pictures, of William Zinsser's On Writing Well, or, heavens, the picture book version of Fowler's Not-So Modern but Charmingly Illustrated English Usage. Unfortunately, it looks as if Patricia T. O'Conner missed the boat with the unillustrated second edition of Woe Is I. Unless of course the publisher wasn't exactly relishing the idea of sketches for Chapter 6 ("Comma Sutra").

May 24, 2006

Road SCHOLA is here!

L. and family have surfaced on the other side of the world, and L. is already blogging here. Main page, with link for photos, is here. What else do you do when the jet lag wears off and you're up at 3 a.m.?!

Impromptu reading festival

The past seven days have been a blur, but after one rainy day and the promise of several more to come before the weekend, I'm feeling ready to relax. And what better way than with some of my favorite online blogging friends, who've come prepared with a spontaneous carnival of books! Jen Robinson's Book Page has a fun Sunday Afternoon Visits entry, chockablock with links. And assuming you had them all read within a few days, Kelly at Big A little a stepped into the breach with her Tuesday Review Roundup. Both were more than kind enough to include a link to my recent post on travel books about children's lit locations.

And I've been remiss in my erratic blogging not mentioning that the latest edition of The Edge of the Forest: A Children's Literature Monthly is up, with a bunch of articles including a review of Bodies From the Ash: Life and Death in Ancient Pompeii by James Deems, about which reviewer Liz Burns writes, "This isn't about history that is dead and buried in the past; it's about history that is alive." Liz also reviews the movie version of Cornelia Funke's Thief Lord, which was released straight to DVD. And don't miss the Kid Picks column, where every month Edge talks to group of kids about their favorite books. This month, Fuse #8, New York City blogging children's librarian extraordinaire, chats up her homeschool group at The Donnell Central Children's Room, where the kids put in a plug for Freddy the Pig, Jack London, and Jules Feiffer's A Room with a Zoo. And don't miss the link to the Multnomah County Library's website, which offers tips on how other libraries can start their own children's book discussion books. Just the sort of info a homeschooling family might want to pass along to its favorite librarian.

May 23, 2006

Long weekend report

Tom got the wheat in yesterday, and I got most of the vegetables planted, except for the potatoes, pumpkins, and zucchini, which need more room than my raised bed can afford; they'll go in our garden plot at the corrals, and I also decided that I'd make a "sunflower house" there for the kids to play in. And Tom said that he's going to cultivate the old, large "Baba" (Ukrainian grandmother) garden in our front yard and seed it to grass for a ball diamond, a very popular decision all round.

And we got everything done last night just in time to help with the second-to-last calf, whose mother was struggling a bit, and before the thunder, lighting, and rain rolled in. Always a relief to have the newly-planted seeds tucked in with some showers, which also means the kids and I don't have to water the apple trees this morning before leaving for piano lessons. More relief, especially since after piano lessons we're on to homeschool Gym Day, followed by a quick trip home, a dash back to town for Swim Club, then dinner and, for the kids at least, bed.

I'm relieved to get the main crop for the year in. There's still a bit of barley to go, but we're more than halfway done with the spring seeding. And now for the fun part -- watching everything grow.

New Latin curriculum comparison chart

Paula at Paula's Archives has a brand new page with a Latin curriculum comparison chart, gathered up from discussions at the Well-Trained Mind K-8 curriculum board. I don't frequent the boards, so I'm happy for this resource.

If you're a classical homeschooler and you're not familiar with Paula's Archives, you and your kids are missing a tremendous resource (not entirely secular, by the way). Check the previous link for an index which includes Story of the World resources; lists of literature to supplement history, living science books, movies to co-ordinate with your studies, easy chapter books, oodles of links, and much, much more. And I learned about the brand new Latin page since I'm signed up to receive e-mail alerts via Paula's Yahoo group, a very low-traffic, virtually one-way, group.

May 22, 2006

Happy Victoria Day

Today is Victoria Day, which in Canada means that this is the long weekend known as the gateway to the summer, much like Memorial Day in the US. Also like Memorial Day in the US, the reason behind the long weekend has been pretty much forgotten. Not only is the occasion now known mostly as "the May long weekend" but many folks at least in Alberta, apparently too tired from making all that oil money, have taken to referring is as "The May long," which makes me shudder.

Victoria's birthday was in fact 24 May 1819, but Canada appropriates the penultimate Monday in order to make a three-day holiday. We Albertans owe her much, not least our province's name, after her daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, herself named after Victoria's beloved Albert.

While most of our family and friends have run off to their cabins at the lake, or their rattletrap tin-can campers near someone else's cabin at the lake, we stayed put to enjoy the creature comforts of a well-stocked pantry and fridge and our own beds. All of which were much enjoyed last night after a long day of gardening (transplanting, weeding, pruning, accompanied by mama meadowlark bringing worms to her newly-hatched babies) and farming (cleaning last year's wheat for this year's seed, hooking up the air seeder). I'm off shortly to do some watering and load up the truck with all the branches and other detritus from yesterday's efforts, and then to plant potatoes, if it's not too muddy in the potato patch. We're in a race to get the seeding done before the forecasted rain for the rest of week starts.

Almost forgot Saturday, which wasn't a very pleasant day at all weatherwise -- rainy (but which our little trees enjoyed and which softened up the ground for me considerably yesterday) and exceedingly windy. But not a problem as we spent most of the day indoors at the local museum's grand opening for the summer. Laura wore her c1900 dress, charmed all of the adults, did a marvelous job cutting the cake ("I was nervous, could you tell, Mom?") decorated with dozens of tiny icing wild roses.

And I was gifted with some lovely compliments, not just how sweet the children looked (Laura in her dress and the boys as cowboys complete with Stetsons) but how well-behaved they kids were. These last started coming so thick and fast that after some thought on the way home I realized what everyone really meant -- that three kids under the age of nine were interested, cheerful, polite, and made themselves very useful, throughout three hours at a history museum in the company of mostly adults, and senior citizens at that. A good lesson in the practical power of lots of sunshine, water, diligent weeding and patience, not to mention delighting in the dandelions as well as the roses.

The 4th Carnival of Children's Literature is up!

The Carnival is here, the Carnival is here!

In Canada, it's the Victoria Day long weekend, so unless you've been spending your days outdoors gardening putting the crops in, sit back with a cup of coffee and enjoy the fun! I'm going to skim through the Carnival quickly now, and return tonight to savor...

May 20, 2006

There is no Frigate like a Book for summer holidays

There is no Frigate like a Book

To take us Lands away ...
(Emily Dickinson, no. 1263)

One of my favorite subcategories in children's literature are those books about the locations of favorite books and stories, and it occurs to me that it's a wonderful and particularly useful niche for this time of year, for those of us (like me) who won't travel too far from home this vacation season and also for those (maybe you) who might be more footloose and fancy free.

So, whether you're planning to spend your summer vacation at home, on the porch or under a favorite tree with a pitcher of lemonade and a stack of books, or whether you have a pin poised over the map and your travel agent on speed dial, here goes:

Heidi's Alp: One Family's Search for Storybook Europe by Christina Hardyment (published in 1987); I found this shortly after it was published, in my single days in a Washington, DC, independent bookshop, years before I met Tom and long before the kids were even glimmers in my eye, and was enchanted. A family with four daughters, ages five to 11, travels from their Oxford home in Bertha, the yellow camper van, through Hans Brinker's Holland, Hans Christian Andersen's Denmark and Germany, and searches for Pinocchio in Pisa, Babar in Burgundy, and, of course, Heidi's Alp. The first chapter, "The Life Adventurous," about how the trip came to be -- fell into place, really -- is marvelous and just as good as the adventures themselves that follow. Both lyrical and practical for anyone contemplating something similar.

Where Was Wonderland?: A Traveller's Guide to the Settings of Classic Children's Books by Frank Barrett, with lovely map illustrations by John Woodcock (published in 1997); I stumbled across this one at BookCloseouts the other year and have been delighted ever since. As Barrett writes in his foreward,
But while you may never find Neverland, you may be as surprised as I was to discover that the home of the Darling family is just a short walk from a London tube station. ...This discovery made me wonder how many other children's books had real-life locations.
The answer, as Barrett discovered and then shares with us, is a great many; included in the book, with excerpts and illustrations from the books themselves as well as the story of how each book (mostly British, with a few exceptions) came to be, are The 101 Dalmations, Watership Down, Thomas the Tank Engine, Lorna Doone, The Secret Garden, The Tales of Beatrix Potter, The Sheep-Pig (aka "Babe") by Dick King-Smith, The Railway Children, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Rob Roy, Winnie-the-Pooh, Cider with Rosie, The Little Prince, Anne of Green Gables, Swallows and Amazons, and more. It's a fairly slim volume, just over 200 pages, and easy to pop in your suitcase.

Once Upon a Time in Great Britain: A Travel Guide to the Sights and Settings of Your Favorite Children's Stories by Melanie Wentz (published in 2002); this was another BookCloseouts treasure. Wentz, an American teacher, did much of the research while exploring England and Scotland with her family. While she covers some of the same ground as Frank Barrett (Watership Down, Thomas the Tank Engine, 101 Dalmations, Railway Children, Cider with Rosie, Swallows and Amazons, etc.), there are some different titles. As well, Wentz divvies up the titles into three sections, "Much-Loved Classic Stories," "More-Recent Favorites" (including Harry Potter), and "British Favorites for Americans to Enjoy". Lots of information for anyone headed across the pond. Curiously, though, the bibliography at the back doesn't include Barrett's book published five years earlier.

Storied City: A Children's Book Walking-Tour Guide to New York City by Leonard Marcus (published in 2003); this one came with us on the kids' first trip to visit Grandmama and Grandpapa in the fall of 2004. The book includes 21 walking tours through all five boroughs and features over 100 "places and spaces" from the obvious, such as the Plaza Hotel (Eloise) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler), to the considerably less so (the Imagination Playground in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, where you can find the sculpture of Peter, Ezra Jack Keats's young protagonist from The Snowy Day, Whistle for Willie, and Peter's Chair). Since Davy was not quite four years old at the time and we had only two weeks and lots to see, we didn't use any of the walking tours as scripted, but used the book to help locate and learn more about the places and spaces we came across in our travels. The book was also especially handy in putting together a reading list of titles to help the kids prepare for their first ever trip to the Big Apple; I never would have come across The Park Book, written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by H.A. Rey, otherwise. At 154 pages and about 4"x8", Storied City is a good fit for a jacket pocket or tote bag. Highly recommended, and I keep hoping that Mr. Marcus or a colleague will come up with something similar for, oh, say, Boston...

Here's another, one I haven't read, that popped up while I was writing this:

Storybook Travels: From Eloise's New York to Harry Potter's London, Visits to 30 of the Best-Loved Landmarks in Children's Literature by Colleen Dunn Bates and Susan La Tempa (published in 2002); includes some of the usual suspects as well as Brighty of the Grand Canyon and the France of Linnea in Monet's Garden.

And, because they're tangentially related to the subject of children's literature and might be nice for those families also sticking close to home this summer:

For the kiddies (best served with lemonade):

Storybook Parties: 45 Parties Based on Children's Favorite Stories by Penny Warner and Liya Lev Oertel; you can save these up for birthday parties, but so much better to trot out just for fun, for a tea party or a sunny day, or because you just inflated the kiddies' pool or finished reading If You Give a Mouse a Cookie and want the fun to continue. Lots of fun for the younger set.

Plays Children Love: A Treasury of Contemporary and Classic Plays for Children, volume II, edited by Coleman A. Jennings and Aurand Harris; we don't have volume I, but volume II includes Charlotte's Web, The Bremen Town Musicians, How the Camel Got His Hump, Pyramus and Thisbe, The Three Little Kittens, and oodles more.

For the adults (best served with iced coffee, iced tea, or a G&T):

Boys and Girls Forever: Children's Classics from Cinderella to Harry Potter by Alison Lurie

Don't Tell the Grown-Ups: The Subversive Power of Children's Literature, also by Alison Lurie

May 19, 2006

Poetry Friday: Bird Talk

Bird Talk
by Carl Sandburg

And now when the branches were beginning to be heavy,
It was the time when they once had said, "this is the
beginning of summer."
The shrilling of the frogs was not so shrill as in the
first weeks after the broken winter;
The birds took their hops and zigzags a little more
anxious; a home is a home; worms are worms.
The yellow spreads of the dandelions and buttercups
reached across the green pastures.
Tee whee and tee whee came on the breezes, and the grackles
chuzzled their syllables.
And it was the leaves with a strong soft wind over them
that talked most of all and said more than any others
though speaking the fewest words.
It was the green leaves trickling out the gaunt nowhere
of winter, out on the gray hungry branches--
It was the leaves on the branches, beginning to be heavy,
who said as they said one time before, "This is the be-
ginning of summer."

We shall never blame the birds who come
where the river and the road make the Grand Crossing
and talk there, sitting in circles talking bird talk.
If they ask in their circles as to who is here
and as to who is not here and who used to be here,
Or if instead of counting up last year as against
this year, they count up this year as against next
year, and have their bird chatter about who is here
this year who won't be here next year,
We shall never blame the birds.

If I have put your face among leaf faces, child,
Or if I have put your voice among bird voices,
Blame me no more than the bluejays.

From Rainbows Are Made: Poems by Carl Sandburg, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Go to Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy and Kelly at Big A little a for the complete round-up of all the day's poetry offerings.

May 18, 2006


Because we've started cultivating in preparation for seeding, which we hope to have done by Sunday, and are up to our necks in things to do (not including a bridal shower tonight and attending the pioneer museum's grand opening in town, a big deal because of the town's centennial this year, and to which Laura has been asked to wear her period dress to help the Mayor cut the cake); and because my shopping cart yesterday in 90-degree heat included a watermelon, three water pistols, a water sprinkler, Dawn dishwashing liquid, and a bottle of glycerin, I leave you with this -- much cheaper than the ready-made stuff and, along with a box of Popsicles, guaranteed to make you universally beloved by small fry -- and hope to see you on the other side.

Bubble Formula

2/3 cup Dawn or Joy dishwashing liquid
1 gallon water
2 or 3 tablespoons of glycerin

Mix gently, and let the children loose with it.

Bon voyage,

best wishes, and safe travels to the Schola family -- L., Jorge, and the girls -- who depart Saturday, portable schoolhouse in hand, on their six-month grand adventure Down Under as they more than live up to the "ola" (Odyssean Learning Adventure) in Schola, from North Cape to the Bluff in the wop-wops. Just remember, malum est consilium quod mutari non potest.*

* from your pal Publilius Syrus. Literally, it's a bad plan than cannot be changed. Not so literally, hang loose, kids, and have a fantastic time. Keep us posted, L. (via Road Schola, coming soon)!

May 17, 2006


Tom's apprentice went home this morning with a headache so the two-person tile-laying plans at the supermarket bathroom had to be postponed. Tom came home at lunchtime and after the meal he took the kids with him to the shop at the corrals a mile and a half away to work on various parts and pieces being built for the remodel.

So I was washing eggs and laundry and changing sheets in the peace and quiet when after a couple of hours the kids materialized with three very flushed faces and an armful of buffalo beans, a pea-like plant with bright yellow flowers.

"Could we have Fudgesicles please?"
"Where's Daddy?"
"At the corrals. Could we have Fudgesicles?"
"Why did you leave?"
"It was getting hot and we were hungry and thirsty and Daddy's still working." [It was, at 3 p.m. today, 90 degrees F in the shade, which is most definitely not normal for Alberta in May.]
"Then how did you get here?"
"On Laura's bike."
"All three of you?"
"Yes, we took turns. [Gazes impatiently toward deep freeze where Fudgesicles live.] First Davy rode until we got to the yield sign, then we changed every time we came to another birdhouse. When we got hot we dipped our feet in the water in the ditch. As we walked the two who weren't riding were picking flowers for you."

I've never handed out Fudgesicles with more pride.

May 16, 2006

Not only...

was it about 80 degrees Fahrenheit today and sunny (and temps near 90 in tomorrow's forecast), but on our first trip to town today for piano lessons, we saw the first lilacs in bloom, in front of a house near the supermarket. Just last week on a walk to a friend's house, I noticed that the buds were quite purple, but still tightly furled. For me, there's something about the first lilac that's even more exciting than the first robin. And because there's always at least a week between the first blooms in town and the one's in the country, we're filled with a delicious sense of anticipation.

And tonight, while checking the varieties of our two new roses ("John Cabot" and "Alexander Mackenzie", from the very, very hardy Explorer series), Laura heard a partridge drumming away while cranes swooped slowly overhead.

Since we're home almost all day tomorrow and the weekend's rain has soaked in just the right amount, it will be a day for digging in the dirt.

Brigands and swine

I was ordering some living math books via interlibrary loan, and laughed out loud to see that The Great Take-Away by Louise Mathews, a subtraction story, is catalogued under the following subjects in our library system:

Brigands and Robbers
Swine -- juvenile fiction

Kudos to the unknown cataloguing librarian with the good vocabulary and even better sense of humor.

May 15, 2006

Red letter day for Swallows and Amazons

Came home yesterday from our Mother's Day festivities to find a phone message from our homeschooling family friends, the Smiths, inviting us to lunch today and an afternoon of play. I have to admit, I was torn -- on a Monday, with all sorts of schoolwork yet to accomplish and with an hour and a half of Swim Club in the late afternoon afterwards? Fortunately, I came to my senses (after all, the weather forecast was for sunshine and 80 degrees and in Alberta in May that's not to be sneezed at) and these doubts didn't last too long, and I quickly called to RSVP.

Just as quickly, the kids zipped through their schoolwork this morning while I prepared some of tonight's dinner ahead of time. Just before noon, we were off. We arrived at the Smith Family's acreage, which is a forested wonder. Mrs. Smith and her two kids (nine-year-old daughter and 11 year-old-son who is idolized by my two boys) emerged from the trees to beckon us to their fire in clearing, where we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for lunch. Energized by all the carbon in their systems, the kids took off for a clearing and swung on tire swings. Over the next two hours, they variously had water pistol/Super Soaker fights, danced in the sprinkler, admired the Smith kids' teepee, sailed a not particularly seaworthy raft and a much better dinghy in the rain-swollen pond, lost and found boots in the mud, drank orange soda pop, and built a giant castle in the sand only to let an even larger tsunami through. The kids were in the house only a few times to use the bathroom.

During this last, darling Mrs. Smith laid out the tastiest tidbits from her fridge and begged me to make sandwiches and snacks for the kids before heading off to Swim Club; and then she raided her candy stash and dropped tiny boxes of Smarties and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups into the bag.

I was fully expecting my kids to either fall asleep in the truck on the way to town or half-drown in the pool from exhaustion, but they're made of strong stuff and second (and third) winds. And then we came home and they devoured my belated Mother's Day dinner of grilled steak and shrimp with tomato and red onion salad, and raspberries and whipped cream for dessert. And conked out.

May 14, 2006

Apples of my eye

While I was folding laundry yesterday, Tom and the kids ran off to town for my Mother's Day present, which I learned late this morning was two eight-foot Haralred apple trees, guaranteed hardy to Zone 2 (that's to -40 Celsius/Fahrenheit for you southerners). They couldn't have come up with a more wonderful gift. Davy wants to know if there will be enough fruit for pies in the fall, though I think if we get a few each for eating out of hand it'll be a success.

We spent a beautiful day outside, the perfect antidote to two rainy days (especially Friday, with thunder, lightning, and hail), here and at Tom's parents' house, and were so tired on arriving home 7 p.m. that we opted for leftovers and an early night instead of the planned Mother's Day feast of grilled steak and shrimp. Which means that the holiday will now last for two days instead of only one. Hurray! Especially since we've been invited for lunch and an afternoon of water pistol fights by some of our favorite homeschooling friends.

Mother's day

I found this poem in the small weekly newspaper during our seven-month stay in the West Indies three years ago. It made me smile because usually after dropping off Laura and the gardener's son at school -- a small private one where Laura was in Kindergarten -- the boys and I, one on my hip and the other holding my hand, would wander through the island's one big town, perhaps over to the market on the day when the "market ladies" arrived with their fruits and vegetables from neighboring Dominica or to the library or the merry-go-round that is the supermarkets, where you may find ketchup one week, but good luck the next...

Her Little Shadows
by Barbara Burrow

I saw a young mother
With eyes full of laughter
And two little shadows
Came following after.

Wherever she moved,
They were always right there
Holding on to her skirts,
Hanging on to her chair.
Before her, behind her --
An adhesive pair.

"Don't you ever get weary
As, day after day,
Your two little tag-alongs
Get in your way?"

She smiled as she shook
Her pretty young head,
And I'll always remember
The words that she said:

"It's good to have shadows
That run when you run,
That laugh when you're happy
And hum when you hum --
For you only have shadows
When your life's filled with sun."

A very happy Mother's Day, and all best wishes for lives filled with sun, to Grandmama and Nana, and to all of my mother friends, who love, nurture, sustain, and support*.

*Not least those who mummify chickens, build soapbox derby cars, chant Latin in the car, pursue the Holy Grail of the perfect math or grammar or science curriculum, or take the time and trouble to post links and book reviews, and share with the rest of us what works for you. You know who you are, and I'm glad I do, too.

May 13, 2006

Poetry snowball

JoVE at Tricotomania was sweetheart this week to send me a subscriber-only article from The Chronicle of Higher Education; for you lucky subscriber types, here's the link.

The article, by Kevin Detmar, a professor of English, entitled "Garrison's Pretty Good Poetry," discusses the Prairie Home Companion host's role as a champion of "good" but not great poetry, and how, "While no one was looking, Garrison Keillor has quietly become the nation's Dean of Poetry":
It would be as churlish to complain of Keillor's success as it would to complain of Oprah's. The comparison isn't just a convenient one: What Oprah has done for American fiction and creative (sometimes very creative) nonfiction since starting her hugely influential book club, Keillor is now doing for poetry, with the same great reach and same built-in limitations. Oprah sometimes seems interested in just one kind of narrative, the narrative of "recovery"; Keillor seems interested in just one kind of poem. Actually, though, that's a bit unfair: It's not that he "seems" interested in only a narrow range of poetry; he explicitly professes to be. He's for the plain-spoken, heard-not-read, low-to-middlebrow poem that hasn't been tainted by association with the scholars. Keillor claims to know the meaning of poetry, and it is singular: "The meaning of poetry is to give courage. A poem is not a puzzle that you the dutiful reader is [sic] obliged to solve. It is meant to poke you, get you to buck up, pay attention, rise and shine, look alive, get a grip, get the picture, pull up your socks, wake up and die right."
Detmar closes by writing, "Those of us who care deeply about poetry have largely abdicated our responsibility to teach regular folk how to read, understand, and appreciate poems, while apparently reserving the right to carp about it when someone like Keillor takes on the job we've shirked. "What we have loved,/ Others will love, and we will teach them how": Those lines from Wordsworth's The Prelude, appropriated for an essay on teaching by the great contemporary-poetry critic Helen Vendler, suggest that lovers of poetry — difficult, challenging, unsettling poetry — have some work to do."

So then I tried Google for a link to the essay, only to discover Say Something Wonderful, Eric Selinger's "blog about teaching, poetry, and teaching poetry, by the Project Director of the NEH Summer Seminar Say Something Wonderful: Teaching the Pleasures of Poetry"; his January post on Vendler and Pedagogy; and also his first wonderful thing to say, from April 2005,
Like physics or chemistry instructors, that is to say, we must be able to explain both results and method, to show our students why certain questions make a poem more instructive or delightful, while others set blinders on the reader’s eyes. We need an informed and confident sense of how to introduce poetry to our students—its nature, its pleasures, its difficulties—and of how to read a poem closely without (as Billy Collins infamously warns) “beating it with a hose/to find out what it really means.” Above all, I guess, we owe it to our students to model how reading—reading closely, reading aloud, reading in bed—can bring poems to life, in every sense of that fine phrase.
Which comes 'round nicely to the Chronicle of Higher Ed article.

Don't miss Professor Selinger's four Lesson Plans for high school teachers at Poetry Out Loud which I mentioned here; speaking of Poetry Out Loud, if you'll be in the Washington, DC area on Tuesday, head over to the POL National Finals at the Lincoln Theater at 7:30 pm; admission is free, but tickets are required.

Also not to be missed -- Prof. Selinger's link in the blogroll to Language Is a Virus where you can find such swell games as Cut Up Machine, Madlib Poem, Magnetic Poetry, Automatic Poetry Generator, Text Collage, Haiku-a-Tron, Poem Engine, and Title-o-Matic (you find the links, it's getting late here).

Or the link in an early post to Teaching the Art of Poetry. All wonderful stuff.

An entrance place of wonders

Jabari Asim's run-down of poetry books for children in tomorrow's Washington Post Book World section includes a review of Entrance Place of Wonders: Poems of the Harlem Renaissance, selected by the aptly-named Daphne Muse:
Any collection of poems from the Harlem Renaissance is likely to include certain familiar names such as Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson. They are all here in The Entrance Place of Wonders (Abrams, $16.95; 9-12), but it's to Daphne Muse's credit that they are not represented by the same ol' poems. Sure, Hughes's "Dream Variations" is here, but so is the less-familiar "To You" and "Winter Sweetness." Ditto for the repertoires of Cullen and Johnson, from which Muse has chosen judiciously. Even so, the most refreshing selections are from nearly forgotten poets such as James Alpheus Butler Jr. and Alpha Angela Bratton. The latter's "Slumber Song," rich with historical resonance, is also a lovely lullaby. "See how the big moon dips and swings," she writes, "Shaking the stars from its silver wings." Charlotte Riley-Webb's splashy illustrations are wonderfully exuberant, as is "Rhapsody," by William Stanley Braithwaite, the poem from which Muse takes her title. Braithwaite's thoughtful gratitude is a fitting coda for the collection itself: "I am glad for my heart whose gates apart/Are the entrance-place of wonders, Where dreams come in from the rush and din/Like sheep from rains and thunders."
Entrance Place of Wonders, indeed. And since's price for the book is only $6.38, compared to the list price of $15.95, you almost can't afford not to buy it, as opposed to borrowing. Might be interesting and worthwhile, too, to compare it to poet Nikki Giovanni's Shimmy Shimmy Shimmy Like My Sister Kate: Looking At The Harlem Renaissance Through Poems.

And do your kids a favor and add some companion books: for older children, say, ages nine and up, Harlem Stomp! A Cultural History of the Harlem Renaissance by Laban Carrick Hill, and Harlem, a Caldecott Honor book by Walter Dean Myers, illustrated by his son Christopher Myers. For the younger set, the picture books Shaky Bones: A Story of the Harlem Renaissance by Pamela Dell, about Simon Brocade, whose dancing leads poet Countee Cullen to nickname him "Shaky Bones"; and Visiting Langston by Willie Perdomo and illustrated by Bryan Collier.

And with the money you saved on Entrance Place, you can go to BookCloseouts and buy yourself, and your older child, a "scratch & dent" copy of The Portable Harlem Renaissance Reader, edited by David L. Lewis, for only $4.25. I bought this myself the other month, to add to our growing shelf of Viking Portable Readers, which I hope will come in quite handy for the logic and rhetoric stages.

May 12, 2006

The weekend's endeavor

Just had word via a Canadian homeschool sale/swap board advising that the book I was hoping for, Mathematics, a Human Endeavor: A Book for Those Who Think They Don't Like the Subject by Harold R. Jacobs, second edition (1982), is still available for $10 CAN plus shipping from British Columbia; the seller will let me know the cost of shipping on Monday.

Since the current edition (1994 -- the fourth edition is expected out next year) bought new from is $95 CAN, and the next cheapest alternative I can find is the second edition used from the friendly folks at Powell's for $25 US, I'm delighted with the news. Yes, the book would be for me -- and I'm finding I like, understand, and appreciate math better and better the further the New Math recedes -- and not for the kids just yet.

Poetry Friday

A little May Sarton for Poetry Friday, Spring, and Mother's Day...

An Observation
by May Sarton (1912-1995)

True gardeners cannot bear a glove
Between the sure touch and the tender root,
Must let their hands grow knotted as they move
With a rough sensitivity about
Under the earth, between the rock and shoot,
Never to bruise or wound the hidden fruit.
And so I watched my mother’s hands grow scarred,
She who could heal the wounded plant or friend
With the same vulnerable yet rigorous love;
I minded once to see her beauty gnarled,
But now her truth is given me to live,
As I learn for myself we must be hard
To move among the tender with an open hand,
And to stay sensitive up to the end
Pay with some toughness for a gentle world.

from A Private Mythology, 1966


Check later today with Liz B at A Chair, A Fireplace and A Tea Cozy and Kelly at Big A little a for a round-up of the day's poetry offerings.

May 11, 2006

Classy Mad Libs: Where I'm From

Writing and Living had a beautiful post yesterday entitled "Where I'm From". I was surprised to find that the idea came from a template a la Mad Libs, but with considerably more lyrical results. It's all inspired by a poem which in turn was used as a class writing assignment. Though the grade level wasn't specified, this is something I'd like my kids to give a whirl, especially since it's something that lends itself well to sitting outside on the deck with a picnic lunch when I just can't keep them corraled at the kitchen table any more.

Where are you from? If you decide to give this a try, post a link to your blog in the comments below so I can read the results, please!

Update: Just occurred to me over lunch that this project is a good pairing with word clouds. If you didn't see them when they were making the rounds several months ago, here's the Farm School version, of where I am now,

By semi-popular off-blog demand...

here are the kids' newspaper contest entries...

Rules were 200 words max, and based on an actual classified in the paper.

"My Red Quad"
by Davy, age 5-1/2, Kindergarten, dictated to Mom (technically ineligible for the contest so he's biding his time until first grade); based on a classified of a red quad for sale

I wanted a quad [all-terrain vehicle] for Christmas, a big red one. I wrote to Santa but I didn’t get one. I didn’t get one for my birthday either.

And then I saved up all my money to buy one for myself. I found money on the sidewalk and sometimes there were pennies on the floor in the supermarket. Nana gave me a toonie [Canadian two-dollar coin] because she loves me. I picked bottles for Dad. I won prize money at the Fair for my crafts. It took me a long time to save up lots of money, five years. Then I was 10 years old.

I saw an ad in the paper for a red quad, just like the one I always wanted. I bought it. Then I bought a helmet. Now I go for rides all the time. I am very happy. My quad goes fast.


“My Own Cattle”
by Daniel, age 6-3/4, Grade 1 (first prize in the Grade 1 section); based on a classified of bulls for sale (in real life the father of Daniel's friend)

Last year when I was 12 years old, I decided that I wanted to have my own cattle. I got the idea from 4H, which I started when I was 9, and also from our family’s farm. We have cattle and grow grain but I wanted my own animals.

I had seven cows and their calves but needed a bull. To get the money to buy him, I helped my dad with carpentry projects and he paid me. I saw that my friend’s dad had an ad in the paper for bulls, so I phoned and talked to his dad.

The next day, my dad and I took the truck and trailer to their place. I looked at all of the Angus bulls and with my dad’s help I think I picked a good one.

We took him back to our farm and put him in with the cows. I’ll find out next year if I chose the right bull.

The End.


“Curious about Our Town in 1906?”
by Laura, age 8-1/2, Grade Three (first prize in the Grades 2/3 section); based on a classified advertising a local history book about pioneer times

I was sitting in the nursing home reading the newspaper when I saw an ad for the history book about my town. I smiled and thought, I don’t need a book. I remember when I was a girl in 1906.

I was born in 1898 in Manitoba after my family came from the Ukraine. My big brother, two sisters, and I all helped Papa build our new log house on our homestead. While it was being built we lived in a sod house. It was very dark and it got very wet when it rained. We were all glad for the new house, especially Mama.

I remember one summer day when we were feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs. My brother saw a vixen behind the henhouse while the chickens were scratching around outside. She suddenly grabbed Mama’s best layer by the neck and ran away. We ran in the house to tell
Mama and Papa, and we were all sad because we would miss the hen’s nice fresh eggs. But Papa said, “You know, the fox had to do it because she has lots of hungry mouths to feed too. So don’t be too mad at her for doing what she was made to do.”

May 10, 2006

Little winners

We learned late yesterday, after carting the mail around in the truck unread for most of the day -- first to piano lessons and then to Swim Club -- that Daniel's and Laura's story entries had won for their categories (Grade 1 and Grades 2/3, respectively) in our local weekly's writing contest, as part of a bigger event, "Write On" (ugh), sponsored by the provincial weekly newspaper association. Local winners have their work and photos published in their town paper -- and oh the fun they had just seeing their names in print yesterday -- and then advance to the provincial level, where five grand prize winners will be selected (for grades 1-3, the prize is $100 and attendance at the big banquet at the association's convention in September) and announced at the association convention in the fall. None of my kids are as interested in the prize money ($100 each for their level) as in the possibility of being gifted with a free hotel stay and attending a banquet dinner.

I saw the ad announcing the contest when we returned from our trip in February, and like all good homeschooling parents saw a good opportunity, not to mention what I hoped would be a fun writing assignment. Aha! I thought, something for the old portfolios and the facilitator meeting. I wasn't the only one, because out of the four local winners, three are home schooled kids. I was particularly pleased to see that the contest rules specified that "All students registered in Alberta's public, separate [Catholic], private schools and home schooling are eligible..." since the sad fact is that homeschoolers are usually overlooked for things like this, and organizers respond to questions by looking frazzled and harried and muttering, "Hmm, we never thought about it. Maybe next time." Kids in Grades 1-3 had to write a "Creative Classified," an imaginative story based on a real classified ad. Daniel chose an ad about bulls for sale, and wrote about buying a bull to start his own farm; Laura chose an ad for a local pioneer history book, and imagined herself a young girl arriving here 100 years ago with her Ukrainian immigrant family. And while Daniel at first had trouble coming up with something near the 200 word limit, Laura's first drafts had to be slashed considerably, and she was as pained as any published author to see her words cut.

Needless to say, Davy expected to enter the contest too, even though the contest was open to kids in Grades 1-12 and as a kindergartener he was officially ineligible. But he dictated his story to me, about saving up to buy a red quad, and the woman at the newspaper who accepted his envelope made a great big unofficial fuss over his efforts. I gave him a lollipop and told him I hope he can write another wonderful, possibly prize-winning entry next year, when he'll finally be old enough.

Onward and upward...

What would a country fair be without goats?

Doc has managed to get the second Homeschooling Country Fair up today -- taa daaa! -- despite laboring mightily with mightily laboring goats. If you click the link, you'll get not only the fair but a sweet picture of new mama and kidlet.

Lots of tempting links and post descriptions, which I'll try to get through in the next week, before next Wednesday's installment of the next Country Fair. If you're interested in submitting, read the Fair FAQs and call for submissions for the particulars.

Now we're off to find Laura's cat, who wasn't particularly happy to be moved a mile and a half from around our house to our corrals, far away from the giant litter boxes raised bed gardens...

May 08, 2006

"Filling a void where Schoolhouse Rock left off in the 70s"...'s a punk/rock-n-roll romp through U.S. history with Professor Presley History Rocks, an "educational American history CD". Thanks to both Fuse #8 and Warren at Children's Music That Rocks, Donnell colleagues and some of NYPL's finest bloggers, for the tip. Enough to make most curriculum-mad homeschooling parents drool, and I'm not even talking about Ramones pal and confidante LaMai.

Professor Presley, aka Bill Reynolds, a Fender-playing, award-winning middle school social studies teacher in Encinitas, California, has put together an album that covers early American history to Reconstruction (Chris, heads up!). According to the website, "Professor Presley History Rocks helps students learn (and teachers teach) some of the basic lessons of U.S. History in a fun and entertaining way while listening to rock- and punk-influenced songs. The song topics are taken from the California Social Studies History Standards for 8th grade U.S. History" and include
1. The English Heritage: "about key documents that have an influence on the United States such as the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the Mayflower Compact";
2. A New Constitution (see the liner notes and lyrics);
3. Ham N Jeff, about the beliefs of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson, and the birth of political parties in the United States;
4. War of 1812;
5. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, about the War with Mexico;
6. Find a Cause, about the Reform Era and various reform movements of the 1800's;
7. A Dividing Nation, about the events that led to the Civil War from the Missouri Compromise up to the bombing of Fort Sumter;
8. The Civil War; and,
9. Reconstruction Rock

You can have a listen here, and if you like what you hear, order here ($10.00 plus $3 for shipping; there's also a Teacher's Tool Kit, with two CDs and other goodies for $45.00) and know that Professor Presley and company -- including vocalist (and daughter of Chef Emeril) Jillian Lagasse -- are in the studio as I type working on volumes two and three, "World History Rocks" and "Science Rocks".

Rock on, Professor P.

By the way, for any Canadians looking for Northern history set to music (albeit without the punk influence), you can try Mike Ford's Canadian history songs and Sara Jordan's Prime Ministers of Canada CD. Mike Ford highly recommended here at Farm School.

A Benjamin Franklin Education

on the occasion of his Tercentenary.

(Not to be confused with A Thomas Jefferson Education; here on TJE are the terrific trio of L. at Schola, Lynx, and Poppins.)

Camille at Book Moot the other week found a nifty article about Benjamin Franklin's lost library and continuing the efforts to catalogue the titles:
Franklin's collection [of 4,276 volumes] was one of the largest private libraries in America at the time and took up the entire second floor of an addition he built on his Philadelphia home... . When Franklin died in 1790, the books were scattered among a number of institutions and relatives. Most were bequeathed to [Ben's grandson William] Temple Franklin.

The grandson, though, had no interest in the library and "looked on it as an asset to exploit" ... By 1794, Temple Franklin had sold his volumes to a man who ended up going bankrupt four years later.

The books then ended up in the hands of bookseller Nicholas Dufief, who sold them off between 1801 and 1803 to buyers including then-President Thomas Jefferson. A deal fell through for the Library of Congress to acquire the remainder of the collection. Though Dufief had published catalogs of the titles, those lists were lost as well.
How some determined folks tracked down the missing titles makes a better and more interesting story than, say, that DaVinci Code business. And, in the coming months, the Library Company of Philadelphia* ("the Mother of all American Subscription Libraries") and the American Philosophical Society** (the nation's oldest learned society), both established by Franklin, plan to publish a catalogue of titles comprising almost half of his lost collection.

According to the research, Franklin's original library included manuals on the mechanics of printing and the making of apple cider, as well as Don Quixote, The Odyssey, Two Treatises of Government by John Locke, Opticks: Or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections and Colours of Light by Isaac Newton; and a 1556 edition in Latin of the Magna Carta.

And, thanks to The Stingy Scholar, I now know that Learn Out Loud has released their most recent audiobook of the month, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, tucked away at the bottom of the Schola portable schoolhouse (just for fun); as L. wrote just about a year ago of the Autobiography, "the description of his education is a virtual blueprint for autodidacts and homeschool teachers."

The audiobook version would be just the ticket to listen to while strolling about the Benjamin Franklin: In Search of a Better World exhibition, which has moved on from its very successful stay at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, where it was the centerpiece of the city's tercentenary celebrations. It now heads to St. Louis (at the Missouri Historical Society from June 8, 2006 to September 4, 2006); Houston (The Houston Museum of Natural Science, October 11, 2006 to January 21, 2007); Denver; Atlanta; and, finally, Paris, at both the Musée des Arts et Métiers and the gem that is the Musée Carnavalet from December 4, 2007 to March 30, 2008.

If you can't get away, the official tercentenary website offers an online version of the exhibition, in English as well as en francais and en espanol. And don't miss the website's educational resource page, which offers Ben Across the Curriculum ("a set of interdisciplinary lesson plans...that explore Franklinian themes across elementary, middle and secondary level curricula), and a downloadable Teacher's Guide to the exhibit, with suggested activities before, during, and after your visit.

A Benjamin Franklin bibliography, or, a random selection we've enjoyed of Frankliniana, for children and adults:

Benjamin Franklin: Autobiography, Poor Richard, and Later Writings, the Library of America edition, edited by J. A. Leo Lemay

Benjamin Franklin: Silence Dogood, The Busy-Body, and Early Writings, the Library of America edition, edited by J. A. Leo Lemay

The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin

A Benjamin Franklin Reader by Walter Isaacson

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin By His Good Mouse Amos by Robert Lawson

Benjamin Franklin, the picture book biography by Ingri and Edgar Parin d'Aulaire

The Many Lives of Benjamin Franklin, written and illustrated by Aliki

Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia, the Landmark classic by Margaret Cousins

The Story of Benjamin Franklin, Amazing American by Margaret Davidson

Poor Richard in France by F.N. Monjo; a beginning chapter book through the eyes of Ben's seven-year-old grandson on the occasion of their trip to France seeking support for the American revolutionaries.

Poor Richard, written and illustrated by James Daugherty

What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz with illustrations by Margot Tomes

How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning written and illustrated by Rosalyn Schanzer

Benjamin Franklin's Adventures with Electricity by Beverley Birch with illustrations by Robin Bell Corfield (part of Barron's well-done "Science Stories" series)

The Ben Franklin Book of Easy & Incredible Experiments: Activities, Projects, and Science Fun, a Franklin Institute Science Museum Book

Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares by Frank Murphy with illustrations by Richard Walz; a Random House "Step into Reading (+ Math)" (Step 4) book. How Ben battled boredom with a precursor to Sudoku; especially fun for kids who enjoy the modern math puzzles.

And two new ones for kids I haven't seen yet:

Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin by Gene Barretta

John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith


Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Walter Isaacson's entertaining, bestselling biography

The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by H.W. Brands

Benjamin Franklin by Yale professor emeritus Edmund S. Morgan, a thoughtful biographical consideration, focusing on Franklin the diplomat and politician

A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America by Pulitzer Prize winner Stacy Schiff; a not always lively but important telling of the diplomatic efforts that helped to win the war.

* New on the Library Company's website: "The eminent Franklin scholar J.A. Leo Lemay [see above], the H.F. du Pont Winterthur Professor of English at the University of Delaware, has recently published the first two volumes of his projected seven-volume biography, The Life of Benjamin Franklin. The second volume, titled Printer and Publisher, 1730-1747, includes a chapter on the Library Company that is the most comprehensive treatment of its founding by Franklin in 1731 and its subsequent history over the next several decades. Through the courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Press we have been able to place this chapter on our website" (for downloading).

** The Museum of the American Philosophical Society, in Philosophical Hall, is currently hosting the exhibition, The Princess & the Patriot: Ekaterina Dashkova, Benjamin Franklin, and the Age of Enlightenment; for those in and about the City of Brotherly Love, the Museum offers invites you to join them for Second Sundays, "family-friendly hands-on art and science activities inspired by the objects in the The Princess and the Patriot exhibition".

Words to live by

"It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up firmly."

Anne Shirley to Marilla, from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Come to the fair: a call for submissions

This morning the roads were lively with people driving to the Fair, and in Malone the crowds were thicker than they had been on Independence Day. All around the Fair Grounds were acres of wagons and buggies, and people were clustered like flies. Flags were flying and the band was playing. ...

The sun was high now, and the day was clear and pleasantly warm. Streams of people were pouring into the Fair Grounds, with a great noise of talking and walking, and the band was playing gaily. Buggies were coming and going; men stopped to speak to Father, and boys were everywhere. ...
from Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Send your submissions by Tuesday, May 9th (6 PM Pacific) to the second Homeschooling Country Fair, opening this Wednesday. Submissions can be left as a comment in the most current post, or emailed to Doc at doc2be40 (at) hotmail (dot) com.

Weekend report

Nothing fancy and no links right now, just a quick report.

Friday: We got a bit of a late start to Edmonton because Tom had to set up his apprentice for some tile work in the bathroom of the big supermarket remodeling project. So he was rather concerned that he'd miss the lot with the mini Komatsu trackhoe, and so the kids and I missed getting dropped off at the museum in Edmonton proper and were whisked away to the auction sale just beyond the city's western border. Four hours later -- fortunately, I had brought a book and packed lunch along with various treats and snacks, and the kids had stuffed their backpacks with things to color and read, and were happy exploring the grounds with Tom -- the lot finally came up, but the trackhoe sold for $4,000 more than the $10,000 limit Tom had set for himself. Great disappointment all round, especially because all three kids had hatched a plan to add a mini loader and mini tractor to the proposed purchase, so that they'd each have something to drive around. Though I don't think the plan included money to buy these things...
Followed by a bit of shopping where I found birthday presents for a niece and nephew and a wedding shower gift for next month, and a tasty dinner near the Coliseum where the Oilers play.

Saturday: The museum cleaning took only about three hours with some determined effort. Laura got points before we even left the house for suggesting that we bring extra dustcloths, and Daniel wrestled our vacuum cleaner into the back of the truck. One of the other board members cleaned all the windows and glass display cases, Tom vacuumed and cleaned a couple of the outdoor display buildings (holding antique and vintage farm machinery), the officially hired cleaner for the day did a bit of everything and mopped floors, and the kids and I dusted. They very much enjoyed the officially sanctioned chance to handle things ordinarily marked with "Do Not Touch" signs. The other board member even allowed the boys to try on a c1930 Boy Scout brown felt hat with wide brim, and Laura a couple of millinery confections from the 1920s. And when they finished work, as expected, they disappeared to "play store" and "play school" in the two displays.

After a quick picnic lunch on the grounds and a change of clothes, we headed to the high school for the Beckie Scott rally. She was her usual gracious self for adults, and charmed the kids. Unfortunately, though the event was held at the local high school, few kids over the age of 12 in attendance. After the presentations and speeches, Beckie sat a table in the foyer and signed autographs and gave everyone a chance to feel her gold and silver medals. The kids obviously dazzled and pooped on the way out.

Sunday: Tree planting goes much more easily and quickly with a mechanized tree planter than a shovel. Fortunately, at lunchtime yesterday, we got word that we could have the tree planter, and zipped over to collect it. It hitches on to the back of a small tractor, with two old tractor seats mounted behind two wells for storing the trees, and has a disc and plow for making a furrow, and while it makes the furrow it makes another impression for planting the tree and then covers it up and tamps down the soil. Tom's dad drove the tractor, I teased apart roots and handed trees over one by one, and Tom stuck them in the ground. The kids alternated riding on the back with a shovel (the tractor was going about a mile an hour) and would hop off when directed to right a tree or fill in a spot where we missed on. Tom's mother and two other kids walked along behind making sure everything was okay and keeping pace in the pickup truck with all the other trees, bundled in water in five gallon plastic pails. In the end, we managed to plant a shelterbelt around the perimeter of two fields, a large one where until last year we had a tired stand of alfalfa, and a smaller one where we plant potatoes and would like to build a new house when the time comes.

Most of the little saplings don't look like much, especially the lilac, larch, and chokecherries, which resemble nothing more than twigs stuck in the ground. But the white spruce and Scotch pine are beautiful, tall and green and surprisingly bushy. After a quick late dinner at home, the kids and I helped Tom water trees until about 9 pm. Then my MacGyver-like husband rigged up a "watering arm" on the back of the water tank trailer: he attached a two-by-four with two clamps, replaced the regular long hose with a shorter length and tied it to the two-by-four with some wire, and off he went on his own while I got everyone clean and ready for a well-deserved sleep. Best of all, it's cloudy this morning with rain in the forecast for later on. Keep your fingers crossed.