Under the Maple Tree

Mother Culture 2011-2012 “Up-dates”

Dear Friends,

I need to take a brief break from our virtual meeting to come back to the reality of the live meetings that we are having here north of Toronto.  I needed to update things here for you since we have had a couple of changes in our physical group. 

First of all, I am pleased to share with you that our little group will now be meeting in two locations: Bradford and Woodbridge!  Corinna Duguay has expressed an interest in welcoming folks into her home and I am so excited that someone with her experience and enthusiasm is willing to house some of our crowd. 

Secondly, I have had to make a small change to the schedule: our next meeting was to be held at my home in Bradford on October 27th but will now be help in Woodbridge on that night and in Bradford the following week, November 3rd.  Thanks for your patience with me and my mistakes in scheduling.

So, the meetings will continue to be on Thursday evenings from 7:30 to 9:30 pm.  We will continue with the same reading list that we began with.  (I am really enjoying the snippets of reading I am getting of the next few chapters!)  The meeting continues to be a parents’ only meeting though nursing babes are always a treat and welcome to come and be involved.

The Woodbridge meetings will be held at the home of Kevin and Corinna Duguay.

They are at:

7551 Huntington Road
Woodbridge, Ontario
(Near Highways 427 and 7).

Please contact Corinna at 1-416-613-8110 or corinna.duguay@gmail.com for more information about their meetings or to RSVP.

Meetings in Bradford will continue to run at my home.  HOWEVER, we have the option of meeting at a local church (thank you Becky!).  While September’s meeting was overflowing with all of us enthusiastic homeschoolers the feed back that I have had since has been mostly that we would like to continue to meet in a homey setting but if size necessitates then we will move to the church…. 

SO! I am asking that you please RSVP to me and let me know if you will be coming.  If it seems that we will have 20 or more in attendance again then I will move the meeting to the church.  I would like to make this decision a week or so ahead of time if I can so the sooner that you can tell me if you are coming the better.  Thank you all for being flexible on this and please be sure to check your emails before you come to confirm where the meeting will be.

Please contact me, Cori Dean at 905-778-9412 or mapletreepublications@sympatico.ca for more information about the next meeting or to RSVP.

Meeting Dates:

1.         September 22

2.         October 27th in Woodbridge ****PLEASE NOTE: I have had to change the date/ location for this meeting as I scheduled a conflict.***
            November 3rd in Bradford .  ***Originally had planned the meeting to be on October 27th in Bradford .  Please change this in your calendars.  Sorry!***

3.         December 1st in Bradford
            December 8th in Woodbridge

4.         January 12th in Bradford
            January 19th in Woodbridge

5.         February 16th in Bradford
            February 23rd in Woodbridge

6.            March 22 in Bradford ONLY (as the following week is the OCHEC conference!)

7.                  May 3rd in Bradford
            May 10th in Woodbridge

8.                  June 7th in Bradford
            June 14th in Woodbridge

The reading list can be found here 

Looking forward to seeing many of you again in November!



Mother Culture: Bringing Faith to Bible Learning

Now that we have given the academic study of the Bible a thorough glossing over it is imperative that we don’t forget to address the heart as well.  In reading Chapter 10, “Discipleship Studies Methods: The Study of the Bible” from Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Whole Hearted Child, we talked not only about teaching our kids the basics of Bible doctrine and stories but also about finding that balance between the rules and the stories.  It does our children no good if they think that Christianity is merely a set of rules to live by nor can we successfully teach them by only highlighting feel good stories and neglecting to give them guidelines to live by.
So how do we help Bible learning time to go beyond an academic subject and become a matter of the heart that relies on real faith and a relationship with Jesus?  Here are the few suggestions that we gleaned at our little gathering.  (Please share your ideas with the group here too!)

  • Do devotions as a family at meal time or bedtime.  We can devote ourselves to reading and studying God’s word and praying both during our structured school day and at other times too.
  • Live your life expecting your children to learn from your own excitement and passion about your faith.  Share faith stories, let your kids see you having your private Bible reading times.  Model your faith day by day and side by side.
  • Remember that Christian books and activities don’t make a home “Christian”.
  • Serve together.  Serve intentionally.  Some ways that you can serve is to write letters to family, friends or missionaries, shovel snow, bring food to a neighbour, sort at a clothing exchange or food bank, collect food or money for the same, create a garden of blessing, the produce of which is given to members of the community that need it.

I look forward to hearing your suggestions! 

Well, I thought I could summarize our last meeting in just one or two postings.  I guess that we really did cover a lot.  And now I am racing to get through the reading for the next meeting.  Read ahead with me: the next meeting of our little groups will focus on chapters 3 and 4: “Home Nurture” and “Home Discipleship” as well as the first part of chapter 11 on “Language Arts”.  What I’ve read so far has already given me a lot to think on. 

Also, look for a new meeting and reading schedule to be posted soon as we are fortunate to add another group to the mix.  Corinna Duguay has been kind enough to offer her home as another meeting place on alternate Thursdays to house those who couldn’t make it to Bradford or who find Woodbridge closer or more convenient to drive to. 

Are you interested in taking this virtual group and bringing it alive in your home with some like minded homeschoolers and a good book?  I’d be happy to help you to set up your own meetings starting with the same reading list and a similar schedule to our own.  Please let me know if I can be of some help.  Support is so essential in this line of work whether it be virtual gatherings like this or real life meet ups for some “professional development”.

Talk soon!



Mother Culture: Resources for Teaching About the Bible

While reading the Bible should be the primary learning tool for “teaching Bible” in our homes there are a lot of age appropriate suggestions and resources that can be used.  Today we will look at some of these resources as we continue our discussion on Chapter 10 of Clay and Sally Clarkson’s Educating the Whole Hearted Child, the chapter on teaching the Bible.

The first resources that we have always used in addition to our regular Bible reading are the materials supplied by our local Awana program to learn to memorize Bible verses as well as to pursue spiritual disciplines like serving, tithing, praying, and more.  It is a fun and systematic programme for all ages that is very rigorous.  (Cubbies books are for children in JK and the year before JK.  Sparks have three books: HangGlider, WingRunner and SkyStormer for kids in SK to grade 2.  T&T has four books for grades 3-6 starting with Ultimate Adventure 1 and 2 and finishing with Ultimate Challenge 1 and 2.  Trek materials are for junior high students and Journey takes students through high school studies.  You can order these materials at http://www.awanacanadastore.ca/servlet/StoreFront.) 

As well, for all ages, we have used the FREE Bible League Day Planners which include a variety of Bible reading plans which we encourage the older kids to choose from to study.  I usually carry these in August and September but now you can get them at http://www.bibleleague.ca/scp.php. 

For younger children, a good Children’s Bible is a great supplement.  The Clarkson’s mentioned a few but one in particular that some mom’s in our little gathering had experience with and which they felt was quite good was, The Jesus Story Bible, as they said that it relates every story to Jesus Christ.  (I am interested in getting my hands on it so I think I will order some in to Maple Tree.  It is quite economical at $18.99 and you can get a deluxe edition for $27.99 which includes the complete audio recordings.  Anyone interested in ordering one with me?)

For older children, we are encouraged to start to teach them to not just read but to study the word on their own so it is wise to start to teach them to use resources like concordances, commentaries and Bible dictionaries.  In our home, we have started with a concordance.  There are online concordances but they just aren’t any substitute for the information that you can get from the real thing.  I do use “You Version’s” IPhone app which has many different versions of the Bible and some limited search abilities.  In our house, while we do use several different versions of the Bible we have two chosen concordances, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance (KJV). 

Paired with this is a good Bible dictionary.  Unlike a regular dictionary a Bible dictionary is defines words as they have been translated from the Hebrew and Greek and so gives more background, and can define words within their context in the Bible by comparing different passages with the same word and giving lists of where the word appears in the scripture.  Bible dictionaries are a great help in understanding biblical ideas.  Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has been an essential tool in our home since my university studying days.  Another good dictionary is The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary. 

I have been searching around for good resources that will complement our Charlotte Mason education and am excited about this resource as it includes both Strong’s concordance and Vine’s dictionary: The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  I think I might add this one too to Maple Tree’s shelves.  (Let me know if you’d like to order a copy.  They are, of course, cheaper for one book than my original concordance was on its own let alone buying the dictionary too.  Book prices are so great lately!)

As well, study bibles and commentaries are useful.  In our house, my hubby and I use Life Application Study Bibles and we have the classic Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible to refer to on our shelves. 

When students have learned to use these tools they can then move on to learning with them to do first topical studies and then inductive studies.  More on these another time.

Further to this we also looked at ways to make studying the Bible more than just an academic subject.  More on this in the next Mother Culture posting…



Mother Culture: Teaching Bible

It seems bad grammar to title this “Teaching Bible” but really we do need to talk about much more than “teaching the Bible” or “teaching from the Bible” or “teaching about the Bible”.  That’s why I am generalizing: so that we can look at this most important and foundational subject from many aspects.

One of the key things that we grappled with in talking about teaching the Bible as a subject in school was dealing with the fact that we don’t want it to be pigeon holed as just a subject in school.  We need our kids to know that reading and learning from the Bible is not simply an intellectual pursuit but that it is a pursuit of the heart as well. 

So where to start?  Yes, learning from the Bible should be a regular subject in our school schedules and we need to make efforts to expand it beyond the academic.  Let’s first look at the academic though. 

While there are a lot of good children’s Bible story books out there, there is no substitute for just reading the Bible with your children.  If you are reading along with us in Educating the Whole Hearted Child, you know that the Clarkson’s suggest that you chose a specific version that your family will learn and study from just for continuity but didn’t suggest one in particular.  Then just taking time to read and discuss passages from the Bible should be the foundation for Bible learning. 

Their suggestions remind me of a time that I was sitting in a home schooling seminar about how to teach the Bible to our children in school.  The speaker first asked how everyone was currently teaching the Bible.  One woman responded that in their family they simply read the Bible together and that now, her teenaged son read on his own out of devotion and without the need for prompting because of the habits established.  The speaker went on to tell about how we can liven up the scripture lessons by using puppets or dressing up as Mary Magdelene but the real light bulb that went on for me that day was in what I learned from the mom in the front row.

So I took the idea home.  We read the story of David and Goliath.  When in the past I would have taken out a children’s story bible that told how God was looking out for the little guy, instead I read directly from the Bible and asked the kids what they had learned.  My then six year old daughter answered, “David killed Goliath.  Killing is bad but God loved David anyway.”  What a true and wonderful lesson that we wouldn’t have learned if the story had been moralized through the teaching of a children’s story.  Given the opportunity to think about the passage, our children are able to grasp big ideas without us having to chew them up and predigest them first.

While I usually ask the children to narrate the Bible reading both right after we read and the next time that we open up the Bible as a review, some moms said that they liked to do the Bible reading and not ask for a narration until they’ve had a chance to sleep on it and to mull over the ideas they learned.  

There is nothing like simply reading the Bible in order to learn about the Bible.

More on other resources for learning from and about the Bible in my next post tomorrow.



Happy Thanksgiving

Dear Friends,

This morning in church, our pastor, of course, preached on thankfulness.  I so appreciated his reminder: “It’s called Thanksgiving Day and not Thankful Day!”  We are not choosing to celebrate a day when we are thankful but a day in which we give thanks for all the Lord has given us to be thankful about. 

Too often we wait for a feeling to come over us in order to feel able to give thanks.  This morning was not one of those mornings.  My husband and I had yelled at one of the kids, we were late for church and I was fretting that my brother had once again been admitted to the hospital with serious health concerns as well as over the health concerns of a friend.  I wasn’t feeling thankful. 

How humbling it was to be reminded: give thanks anyways!  As we had the opportunity to share in our church family the reasons that we had to give our thanks I realized that there were so many reasons to take this day and thank the Lord.  I am thankful for my children, my “job”, for kids at Awana who have no trouble in listing things that they are thankful for, for my health, for the support of many friends in trying times.

But if giving thanks isn’t meant for a specific situation or circumstance then the things that I have to be thankful for are not also limited to the circumstantial.  I am thankful for the love of God, for Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross, for God’s divine written word, that he continues to pour out his blessings on me even when I respond so poorly, that he loves me even more than I love myself. 

I am reminded that thankfulness is never a product of our circumstances: even those with the most ideal situations (beautiful homes, functional family relationships, jobs that are fulfilling and well paid) often feel a sense of deep dissatisfaction.  On the other hand, we can all remember fondly people in desperate circumstances that were able to sing of the goodness of God and how blessed they felt.

This brings to mind the example of a common problem in the Dean home.  Perhaps you have seen it before?  A troupe of otherwise happy children is confronted with the opportunity for something new, something more, something exciting.  When that opportunity disappears, instead of going back to the previous happy, go-lucky state that they had been in before the item of their affection appeared they become a sad and irritable bunch.  This happened recently at the dentist: four young girls had seen the dentist, had their teeth cleaned and checked and had been given a clean bill of health.  All were smiling.  Then the dentist brought out her treat basket of “ten for a dollar” party favours and, before the Dean family walked out the door, three of four girls treats had broken and they were in tears.  Another round of party favours brightened the day but really, those four girls would have left just as blessed and well cared for if they had never seen the party favours and they would have been happy.

Think that this is a childish problem?  Well, try this exercise: stop reading the fliers in the local paper.  It is amazing how quickly we develop a long list of needs and wants that we didn’t know existed until we see the local store fliers.  Along with other strategic changes, we stopped reading fliers several years ago and our level of contentedness increased in a disproportionate amount to our circumstances!

As our pastor said this morning, “If you say, ‘___ is a barrier between me and thankfulness,’ then you give it too much power in your life.  If we realize this then we can engage in the giving of thanks not because of where we are in life but because of who God is.”

Wishing you moments to give thanks despite the circumstances of the day,


P.S. – Here’s a cute little poem I’ll also paraphrase from this morning’s sermon.  (Sorry, I don’t know the title or author.)

To live above with the Saints I love,
Now that will be the glory,
But to live below with the Saints I know,
Now that’s a different story!

Mother Culture: Christian Education

Well, it has taken me a good week to get caught up on the day to day happens: my husband and I were blessed to have our first weekend away without children in several years.  After Thursday evening’s {most excellent} Charlotte Mason meeting here at my home we trundled off to bed so that early the next morning we could head out.  I think it was more difficult for me to leave my technology behind than my children as I knew that they were in good hands.  Because of this though, I blissfully spent many hours just resting and reading and enjoying the company of my hubby – without a computer on hand and am only just now reaching the summit of mount o’launder-us and taking a few minutes to reflect.

As I look back over the reading and discussion that we did, I think that there was far too much that we covered to get it all on one blog posting…  So I am going to try to pick out a few highlights and then post again soon. 

Please feel free to enter the discussion by posting a comment orquestion and become a part of our virtual support group.  If you have the book then read along with us, this past week we read and discussed chapters 1, 2, and 10 of Educating the Whole Hearted Child by Clay and Sally Clarkson. (If you’d still like to join the discussion and would like a copy of the book, I do have a couple of extra copies available.) 

The underlying theme of these chapters and the book is that real education does not start with an academic paste that is adhered to our students.  Instead the foundation of a Christian education truly is relationship with Christ.  All of our efforts and teaching should grow up out of this goal.  As we have always said, “It is far more important to us that our children grow up knowing and loving Jesus and striving to be the women that he individually designed them to be than that they ever learn to read….  And they WILL learn to read.

Key to the discussion is the realization that having a Christian home or a Christian education really involves much more than adding Bible verses to the subjects that we study, reading Christian books, attending Christian activities or even making sure that we have a daily Bible reading time.  True Christian education comes out of a lifestyle of living daily in relationship with Christ.  We realize that it is only by modeling for our children the Christian life, including how we deal with our own failings, that we can lead them to go beyond an academic study of God and on to a true lifestyle of faith.

One of the core ways that we do this is by making education a day by day and side by side activity, not one where the teacher stands as the bearer of all truth and must disseminate their knowledge by lecturing and testing.  Instead, when we realize that our children are just as valuable and able as we are, though less grown and knowledgeable, then we acknowledge that we are on a journey with them rather than acting as a polished tour guide for them.

As such, our job is more hefty than simply being the bearer of knowledge.  Our job is to instill in our kids our values, to give them a sense of their heritage, their lineage both in a general sense as the Church of God but also in a personal sense as we share with them the value of who they uniquely have been made by the power of the Creator God.  We need to teach them to serve, to love others, to understand how to learn, to have a passion for learning and for God, his people and his creation.

These are some of the foundational principles in Christian education.  Please enter the discussion.  Next, I will post some of the more practical ideas that we chatted about with regards to teaching the Bible to our children.

Talk soon,


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