Under the Maple Tree


Dear Friends,

I trust that the holidays were kind to you.  For us, it was, as usual, a busy time of hustle and bustle.  We enjoyed sharing gifts with our kids, and blessing the rest of our family too.  At first, I struggled this year with even wanting to give gifts to everyone and with scrimping to spend money that was tight.  As we contemplated it, we wanted to give to Jesus on his birthday but did that mean buying lots for everyone but him? 
But then, I realized that He said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)  So we were pleased to be able to make efforts for his birthday and others did the same for us.  Some wonderful “Santa Claus” left gifts for our family at our home just before Christmas.  What a touching treat!  That experience helped me to realize that we wanted to make sure that our family, our kids know that they are our first priority in sharing the love of God. 
So in addition to our traditional stockings and gifts and turkey comas with several different family groups, we enjoyed a couple of neat activities that were new:
We enjoyed a wonderful gathering of friends in which we got to sing some old fashioned Christmas carols to get us “in the mood” to celebrate the coming of the Saviour.  That was so refreshing.  Thank you, Friends!
As well, our oldest daughter made a birthday cake for Jesus and we all sang Happy Birthday to Him.  Then each of us gave a gift of praise to Jesus and blew out one candle.  Afterwards, we each chose a gift from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue for him.  An excellent birthday party on Christmas day!

What old and new traditions highlighted your holidays, friends?

And what are you looking forward to you for the New Year?
Soon I will post some of the exciting things that I am looking forward to for 2012…  I will resume the Mother Culture posts and am getting into the readings for the next Charlotte Mason meeting…  Then, ever so quickly, homeschool conference season will be upon us and I will look forward to seeing many of you in person at one or another….
Until then…  wishing you all a (belated) Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year.

The Evening News

Tonight, as my hubby and I sat watching the evening news and flicking through the few channels that our antenna gets, it seemed that a sad theme was jumping out at us… 

*Click*  We heard about the deadly toll that the recycling of electronics takes on workers in India.  We watched both adults and children working away to provide for their families by investing both their time and health into dismantling toxic waste that we, as Canadians, ship to them as recyclable electronic waste. 

Then, *Click*, there was the story about whether we should really be using that harsh “C” word at this time of year…  Christmas!  The marketers weighed in arguing that Canada is a multi-cultural country and so “Christmas” just isn’t relevant anymore for this “Winter Holiday Season”.

Just before the news came on *Click* we caught a few minutes of a documentary about life in the mid to late 1800’s.  What a stark contrast to today!  People then has so much less, wasted so much less, threw out so much less.  These were the people who raised and taught our grandparents and great-grandparents.  They laid down the foundation for the life and families and country that we now have. 

And yet, *Click*, the commercials point out the gluttonous buying frenzy that the corporate world would encourage us to indulge in at this time of year.  This is thought of as progress. 

This is the kind of progress that has brought us other interesting phenomena like the show that friends discussed with us over dinner tonight…  *Click*: “Extreme Couponing”.  I know, I don’t have cable or a satellite so I haven’t seen a whole episode but watching short snippets on YouTube has just made me cringe. 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am about the most frugal girl there is around…  If I can get around buying something I will.  I love borrowing and lending.  Bartering is awesome and from time to time I’ve been known to clip a coupon here and there. 

But tonight I saw clips of people who had stockpiled 150 years worth of deodourant just because the coupon made it nearly free.  Do they ever wonder what they are going to do with 150 years worth of deodourant?  Or who ends up paying the real price when they are clearing out the stores for next to free?  The prices will go up!  What about the cost of devoting so much of your valuable time to shopping when you could save the same amount by growing your own food.  You get double the value by saving the money and getting fresh, organic food over processed, packaged food.  Don’t we all lose when our focus is on getting stuff and not on saving money or even better on enjoying the life that God has given us.

Of course there is a time and place for couponing but we need to make the distinction between wisely investing our money and hording.  Looking over stockpiles of cake mixes, deodourants and dishwasher detergents just makes me imagine all that is invested in these items that a cash register receipt doesn’t tally.  There’s the cost, in time, of searching and planning for these purchases – often without regard for the need for the items.  There is the cost of finding storage space for all of the stuff, buying shelving, heating garages that would otherwise be cold, mortgage payments for larger homes with extra storage space that might otherwise not be needed.  I think of the extra gas in the car as I would drive out the store again and again to get that one more deal.  Then I think long and hard of all of the impulse buys that we really get caught on when we go out to buy these treasures.  The stores rely on those!  Extreme couponing may work for some but there are certainly more costs involved.

Again, I hate having this beautiful time of year, when we anticipate the coming of our Lord at Christmas, overshadowed by so much commercialism.  *Click* (Off goes the TV.)  Someone who wisely explained the stuff monster is Annie Leonard on her short videos at www.storyofstuff.com.  Interestingly, she points out that, while we have more stuff and more luxuries than any time before in history, we aren’t happier.

One way that we like to combat the Stuff Monster at this time of year and to refocus the giving onto the guy whose birthday we are actually celebrating is by giving gifts to him.  These gifts are the ones that get to the poor and hungry since he said,

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”  Matthew 25:35-40

We love Christmas in our home so we don’t want to miss out on the food, the parties, the gifts, and the happy crooning of Bing Crosby in the background, but it must be that – background music to accompany gifts that Jesus actually gets.  Here are some places that we have bought our birthday gifts for Jesus in the past.


Happy hunting folks, as you seek to honor Him whose birthday we celebrate.

Peace and Joy!


Preparation: Advent

Dear Friends,

As the Christmas season starts to get harried by the constant barrage of things that we are told we must do and buy in order to make the right impression on ourselves and others I always tend to get introspective, wanting Christmas to be more than a long to do list interspersed with fun parties and gatherings and punctuated by a big Visa bill.  I want to show those around me the love of Jesus and my love for them and yet does it always have to be with gifts of the more traditional sense? 

This fall has been a harried time too.  One of those seasons in which I often feel like I am helplessly being tugged here and there, not really able to get at the reins of this speeding wagon. 

Why is it that the house seems eternally out of order, that the bills seem to overwhelm my pocketbook, that my ability to gently love and guide my children is there one moment and then vanishes at the first sign of the every day speed bumps in life.

Maybe you know them, the things I didn’t think I would have to deal with as a parent…

“Sister, can you come and help me?” says one daughter.  “The baby just pooped on the floor!”

“Why didn’t you say that she was throwing all the board books in the bathtub?”

“What do you mean the Christmas tree just fell on you?”

Some times real life is too much. 

As Christmas approaches again I strive to peel away all of the pageantry and to survive the daily circus and just be a part of the anticipation, the advent of the King.  I feel so unready in my messy house and my dirty track pants (‘cause the laundry is piled so high).

Then I remember the focus in our school this year… “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”.  As I journey this crazy, bumpy path, I myself need to be prepared and not to focus on the preparations of the pageantry all around me.

This fall hasn’t been a good one for maintaining the best routines; it’s been “one of those days” more often than not.  There’s a lot of room for growing, learning and improving – and I’m mostly talking about me.  But if we focus on preparing both our children and ourselves for the seasons of life we will be ready to take on the circumstances.  In the short term I want to prepare my heart for Christmas: to thrill at the anticipation of the arrival of the King.  In the longer term: my desire for my family and for myself is that we will be prepared for the path laid out before us.  If being prepared for Christmas or for life was all about managing a “to do” list it would be so much easier – even though I am so often not “managing” the way I’d like to be.  Perhaps that is why we all need to take the harder route and let the One whose words are the light for our path to lead us.

Wishing you a blessed season of advent Friends as you prepare to celebrate the arrival of our King!


Mother Culture: Nurture

Can it really be only a few days until our next Charlotte Mason gathering in Bradford?  I am very much looking forward to it but sad that I can’t squish everyone in my little living room anymore…  Sigh!  Regardless, I love getting together with all of you in person or in spirit through our virtual wanderings.  If you are reading this to brush up on what we chatted about at our last meeting then forgive me for missing so much.  I was too distracted and self-absorbed that night (and have been quite a bit since then, too.)  If you missed the meeting or are just too far away to join us then I beg your patience since I must skip over so much good stuff that we chatted about in order to actually get this little note out to you.

Thank you all for your grace in my silence when I promised to share some notes from our gatherings.  Here’s my little bit…

We discussed chapters 3 and 4 from Educating the WholeHearted Child: “Home Nurture: Shepherding Your Child’s Spirit to Long for God” and “Home Discipleship: Shaping Your Child’s Heart to Love for God”.  Practically, we also looked at the first part of chapter 11 on Language Arts which I will try to summarize that in a later posting.

Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up [nurture them] in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Nurture is more than just checking off your spiritual teaching from a daily checklist of “educational things to do”, more than filling your day with praiseworthy things and activities.  When we make the decision to homeschool, I think that we all struggle with wanting to help our kids to have a proper Christian education and yet we don’t want to minimize faith to a subject in school.  What are some ways that you, Friends, help to take spiritual development beyond being a simple subject to learn?

We talked about making sure that Bible reading time wasn’t just done during school hours, that we needed to model for our kids both our devotional time and that we serve others as a manifestation of our faith.  But biblical nurturing is more than that.  Biblical nurturance of our children must be a constant and ongoing investment in the growth of and caring for the faith of the children that we have been entrusted to raise!

The Clarksons write (on page 47), “If the purpose of biblical nurture is to feed your children with God’s life, then it must involve more than just doing Christian things at home.  Biblical nurture opens windows for God’s life-giving grace to enter your children’s hearts.  God does this by way of His Word (“Scripture is grace in print”), prayer (“Prayer is grace in words”), and Fellowship (“Fellowship is grace in person”).

Then they went on to give a model of home nurture.  (Good, I needed some concrete instruction!)  Their model follows the acronym GIFTS and show five key areas that we should work to develop as we nurture our children in the training and instruction of the Lord.  Note that the different areas span the spectrum of desire at one end to ability at the other.  In other words, to nurture desire for God we focus on heart issues through Grace and Inspiration, whereas we use our abilities in Training and Service to develop the hands that do.  All of this is anchored together in the centre at the heart with faith:

Grace: “The gift of grace is the desire and ability to relate personally and purposefully to God and people.  The gift of grace prepares your children to become channels of God’s grace and love to other people.”

Inspiration; “The gift of inspiration is the desire and ability to view all of life in the light of God’s sovereignty and purpose.”  Inspiration helps your children to live with hope in a fallen world.

Faith; “The gift of faith is the desire and ability to study God’s word and apply its truths to every area of life.”  Faith is the heart of these gifts.

Training; “The gift of training is the desire and ability to grow in Christian maturity in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  This is more than just training in right conduct or knowledge but also in choosing what is right to do and doing it.

Service; “The gift of service is the desire and ability to minister God’s grace and truth to the needs of others.”

Some action points (A muddle of ideas that we chatted about and suggestions from the reading):
*Visit elderly neighbours, family members or church family to help and encourage them.
*Practice hospitality.
*Make meals for families with new babies or who are struggling with illness.
*Shovel the neighbours driveway or plant some flowers in their garden.
*Have a weekly family games night in which you practice good sportsmanship.
*Have regular personal and family devotions.
*Read the biographies of Christian heroes.
*Share answers to prayer with one another.
*Discuss questions of faith and belief.
*Learn together about biblical truths, history and wisdom.
*Allow kids to hear the scriptures and to understand them themselves without having to “dumb down” the language or to be given the moral of the story.
*Practice godly disciplines like tithing, good stewardship, submission to authority.
*Develop your own list of family values.
*Get involved in service projects.
*Keep a garden of blessings (the produce of which goes to a food bank or other food distribution agency).

Please, Friends, share some of the ways that you keep the faith alive in your home…

Talk soon,


Thank you

Thank you for you many words of encouragement and your prayers for our little girl and for our whole family.  We wait and pray and try to keep all things in perspective – really, so much worse could happen!  For now, our daughter is well and we are continuing the daily struggle of fitting it all in: school and play, hiking in the woods and tidying the house, preparing for Christmas and enjoying visits from friends. 

As such, I am behind on my blogging.  I want specifically to get my next blog out on our virtual Mother Culture meeting.  This past meeting was on nurturing and discipling our kids.  We also talked practically about language arts and came up with a great resource list.

As we slog away, rather distractedly, at our reading and math lessons this fall I am constantly reminded to keep worthy goals in mind and am thankful for God’s grace which I know will sustain us.  We are also focusing on giving our kids the skills to fill in the gaps for themselves which are bound to come in any education let alone one with so much humanity interspersed into it as our little one room school house has. 

Yes, there will be ways that a licensed teacher would far surpass me in her teaching skills and knowledge – I am acutely aware of this as I, the Math Mama, am teaching an art class to a group of elementary schoolers.  On the other hand, in our home we can focus on helping our kids to learn work ethic while they are cleaning a bathroom, or to learn problem solving skills when they need to help their sister find her missing pair of runners, or logic when they have to decide how to arrange the plates on the table for the guests that are coming.  Our lessons may not always be formal but always we are teaching and our children are learningThe rest will fall into line.  I pray for that everyday.

Blessings Friends,



Dear Friends,

I have been silent for a while.  Waiting.  Trying to find peace in the middle of a storm. 

In the quietest moments I put my ear up to my little daughter’s chest and listen to the bump-bump of her little heart as it keeps time.  It’s not the thrum of her rhythmic living that I am listening for.  I wait for the silence in between, holding my breath.  It seems like it is only in those tiny little snippets, those fractions of a second when I can hear the still small voice of my creator whispering to me that he is the one that keeps the rhythm of life moving, that I don’t need time to stop to hear him.  I get so caught up in the noise, in the busyness of all that is going on around me but he is there keeping the planets in motion and this mother’s heart from bursting.

I don’t know about you but it seems that when one thing goes wrong, everything seems to go wrong.  I get caught up in the frustrations that don’t matter and can’t see all that is still going well, all that is still functioning to the rhythm that God set it in motion with.  So I’m agitated that my daughter lost her iPod.  (Thank you Lord that they called from the bookstore to say they’d found it.)  I wonder why the bills are so much more regular than the paycheques.  I am bugged that the plate for the microwave got smashed on that merciless ceramic floor that seemed like a good idea at the time.  I am irritated that that horrible big box retailer is stalling at getting me my money back because they sent me a light cover instead of a turntable plate.  “So very sorry, ma’am.  That’s our mistake but I don’t deal with returns and yes, their phone lines are down again today.”  It almost seems therapeutic that the dishwasher went caput and it was so comforting that a kind acquaintance offered to try to fix it but it wasn’t worth the cost of the parts.

On the other hand, my children are happy, we have food and clothes and a warm home.  We have a hope and a future.  And even in all of my grumpiness we have been able to help a friend to find a much needed bed.  I count my blessings realizing that I’ve never wanted for a bed and yet need of a bed hasn’t made this friend nearly as grumpy and sullen as I.  Self pity is exhausting.

So, I bring myself back to the silent moment with my ear up against my little girl’s chest.  If only I could count the blessing of every heart beat knowing that the Lord doesn’t owe me a single one more than he has already given.  It isn’t the beats that I am listening for but the silence in between because at a routine check up a few weeks ago the pediatrician mentioned something about a murmur and a cardiologist.  A few days later the cardiologist said things like heart block and pacemaker and it seemed as though my own heart had stopped.  How could such a happy and healthy little girl as my own princess be broken hearted?

Over the next few days we learned that he had decided that the need for the pacemaker wasn’t as immediate as he had prepared us for.  He does expect her heart to deteriorate and then they will tear my heart open even deeper as they operate to repair hers.  Until then I am striving to live each moment thanking God for the rhythym, not waiting for the silence even though I know that he will still be whispering to me in those moments…

“When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, your consolations delight my soul.” –Psalm 94:19

Wishing you Peace in all of your moments Friends.