Under the Maple Tree

The Most Challenging Part of Homeschooling….

Often times I have friends (old and new) come to me with questions about homeschooling.  Some of you are new to homeschooling, some are thinking about it (or thinking how strange it is), some have been schooling at home for a while but want insight on how others are doing.  From time to time I will post my answers to these common and (and sometimes uncommon) questions that I have grappled with.
My answers are not the end all and be all.  I hope to pepper them with the truth but the only truth that I can guarantee is from the scripture itself.  Everything else is just my musings on what happens in our cozy little spot Under the Maple Tree.
Recently a friend wrote, “What do you find to be the most challenging part of homeschooling Cori?  Would love to hear your thoughts on what you love and what is the most challenging part of your homeschooling experience.”
What a great question.  I had to think for a while about the answer to this one because I realize that there isn’t a right or wrong answer to these things.  My thoughts on the highs and lows of homeschooling might be the exact opposite to what someone else is feeling. 
I also had to stop and think, “Is this something that would bug me even if the kids were in school?”
So, my biggest pet peeves in our little homeschool are the sisterly squabbles, the sweaters left on the floor, the unheeded instructions. But all of these things aren’t as a result of homeschooling. They would be there even if the kids were in school. 
No, I think what wouldn’t be a problem if the kids were in school (but is because they aren’t :)) is the 24/7 lived in look. We live in every room of our house very intensely, something that my neighbors wouldn’t experience. They are up at 6:30 out the door to day care and school by 7:30 and they don’t get home until 5:30. Dinner, baths and at least one night out each week for activities for the kids and there isn’t nearly so much time for mess making.  We, on the other hand, have science experiments on the counter, maps on the walls, and math books on the coffee table. Sometimes, the lived in look wears on us all. 
On the other hand, my most favorite parts of homeschooling also have to do with time. Time with the kids, the chance to be there to see those “ah ha” moments – you know the moment when they learn something and go, “Hey, I get it!” The time to mold the day to fit our needs rather than everyone else’s.  (We sleep in on the mornings after the kids have been out late at Awana.)  I also love having the time to focus on working together, getting along, loving one another, enjoying one another.  I just enjoy having more time to enjoy the kids
I hope this gives you a bit of insight.  
I did the same thing when we were thinking about homeschooling, asked a lot of people questions, people on both ends of the educational spectrum. I would encourage you to do the same. Ask lots of people about their experiences but remember to stop and make the choice that is right for your family not the one that was made by others who you respect. My experiences homeschooling are merely reflective of life in our little corner of the world and will certainly differ from your experiences and so I wouldn’t want to convince you of one thing or another. 
Bless you, Friend, as you seek His kingdom and His righteousness.

Work is a Blessing?!

As I take a break from our usual Saturday festivities of catching up, getting groceries, preparing for the week that lies ahead, I thought tonight I would share with you an excerpt from Working Together, the new book that will be released on March 28th from Maple Tree Publications.  This excerpt deals with the value of work….
[Here is] one of the greatest reasons to keep a good attitude about our work.  Work is a blessing not a curse.  Our God has said that He will provide all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).  God has no shortage of glory and so He came to give us life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10).  His desire is to bless us with all good things and certainly He has – after all, He has invited us to have an eternal relationship with Him.  What could be better than that?  But he also provides for us physically, not just spiritually.  He says that not even a bird would fall without His knowing it (Matthew 10:29); He is that involved in and aware of His creation. 

However, I’ve heard a cute little saying that goes like this, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw it in the nest.”   God is providing for our needs by making us able to work to obtain His blessings.  This doesn’t apply to the spiritual blessing of salvation but it does to the physical blessing of provision.  What a blessing it is to have the physical strength and ability to do basic tasks for ourselves.  Let’s not take that for granted.  It is only by the grace of God that I am able to rise in the morning and dress myself, brush my teeth and make my breakfast.  Let us honour God by doing all that we can to be physically self-sufficient, not a burden to others and in turn we can give Him glory through our work. 

There are also spinoffs to the blessing of physical provisions that God makes for us through our abilities.  There is the blessing of being satisfied with the fruits of our labours, of being content with what we have.  We can enjoy the results of our hard work and feel good, fulfilled.  We gain confidence and feel more ready to face challenges that lie ahead.  Beyond simple physical provision, hard work is a sure delivery vehicle for the abundant life that Jesus offers. 

An important example is that of Adam and Eve.  God instructed them how to work and to tend to the Garden of Eden before they sinned.  Working for a living is not part of the punishment that we endure because of our sinful natures.  It is a privilege to have the physical capability to earn money, to make things, to do things. 

So, when attitudes are faltering about cleaning time, remind your little people (and yourself) that God wasn’t obligated to give you hands and fingers that worked, muscles to lift with, feet that are able to help you move about, balance and stand.  He did not need to give you a brain that can learn and think but He has because He was providing for your needs to take care of yourself and others.

Wishing you my friends a satisfying day as we all busily scurry about doing the things that make for living.


I’ve been meaning to add these dates to this blog for quite some time now but thought I would be able to figure out how to actually get a calendar on the page and do a few other fancy things.  Since that’s not happening, and before these events expire, I wanted to post some information and invite you to join me for a date 

March 28th: Working Together book launch and workshop at the Newmarket’s CHEN (Christian Home Educators Network) meeting.  Contact me for details if you would like to attend.
March 31, 7:30 to 9:30pm: Charlotte Mason Support Group Meeting in Bradford.  Contact Cori for details.
April 2, 8am to 5pm: KWCHEA Conference in Kitchener.  The cost is about $42 per person and is, I think, your best deal “smiles-per-dollar” as it is a one day event (no hotel room required) and includes lunch as well as dozens of great seminars and an excellent vendors hall.  Come here to hear our own Cyndy Regeling speak on Art Appreciation.  Also catch one of my workshops on Enhancing Your Math Teaching, Charlotte Mason in Real Life or Homeschooling for Newbies.  For more details check out http://www.kwchea.ca/
April 16th, 8am to 5pm: RVHEA Conference in Ottawa.  I haven’t been here before but am looking forward to meeting some new people and sharing a few workshops on Home Schooling For Newbies, Goal Setting, and Living Math.  The cost varies so check out their website at http://www.rvhea.org/ for all the details.
April 28th, 7:30 to 9:30pm: Charlotte Mason Support Group Meeting in Bradford.  Contact Cori for details.  *** Please note the date change from May 5th! ***
May 6th and 7th: OCHEC Conference in Hamilton.  This is the big conference in Ontario.  Well worth the investment of time and money.  (Registration is about $60 but again you should check out their website for full details.)  OCHEC always has a great speaker lineup and a very comprehensive vendors hall.  I will be doing two seminars here as well on Enjoying Math? and Charlotte Mason 101.  OCHEC’s website is http://www.ochec.org/Conv2011.php.
May 28th,  8:30 to 3:30: Parents Guide Conference in Barrie.  This is a smaller conference but what I love about it is that in addition to workshops and a vendor hall there is a used book sale!  Cost is $15 if you pre-register by May 14th and all the information can be found on their website at http://www.parentsguideconf.org/.  I will have the privilege of holding a workshop on Enjoying Math at this conference.
June 9th, 7:30 to 9:30pm: Charlotte Mason Support Group Meeting in Bradford.  Contact Cori for details.
June 10th, 6 to 9:30pm: TEACH New and Used Curriculum Sale at Mohawk College in Brantford.  If you are interested in getting some of your curriculum used then this is the best sale for you to get to this year.  I have always found this to be the best place to shop for a deal.  Go with a list in hand because it is easy to over-shop!  Then, whatever necessities you don’t find in the used areas you can pick up in the well stocked vendor’s hall later.  $2 entrance fee!
August 6th: Back to School New and Used Curriculum Sale in Ajax.  I am still waiting for details on this one…  I will let you know.
Many Blessings,

Working Together

Well, I’ve reached my goal of being thoroughly inconsistent in my frequency of posting on this new little blog.  I have trouble with balancing my passions and as such tend to throw myself into one thing whole heartedly and then another.  Lately it has been late nights dedicated to formatting and tweaking Maple Tree’s newest publication which will be launched in only a few weeks!
What a journey this has been but a great experience!  I know that I could endlessly improve, correct and tweak this book for you but I will soon offer it up flawed and imperfect as it is.  Actually, I can’t wait to finally share Working Together with you all and hope that you will find it a blessing to your family and in your home.  This book will be launched on March 28th at the CHEN (Christian Home Educators Network) meeting in Newmarket.  If you are interested in joining us for the evening then please let me know and I will send you further details about the meeting.  I will be sharing a free workshop on “Working Together” that evening and will have copies of the book and other Maple Tree books available for sale.  Looking forward to seeing many of you there!

If you are new to this cozy little spot Under the Maple Tree then you might not have heard of Working Together so let me introduce you….

From the back cover,
Working Together is a dynamic guide to helping your family work together to care for your home, for yourselves and for one another.  With the goal of building teamwork, learning Christian virtues, and developing life skills, Working Together aims to make the homeschooling journey more manageable for the busy household.  This is accomplished by helping everyone in your home to become part of your team so that having a home that is “lived in” 24/7 becomes a blessing rather than a burden.  Please join us on the journey to developing real teamwork at home base.”
What are parents saying about Working Together?
“You have really done well in putting this all together.  I loved your first 5 pages because you got me interested and I could relate to you and it made me want to read more.  Well done.…  I’m looking forward to reading more on how to balance learning, managing home and playtime.” – Sarina, Ontario
“It is a wonderful book, with excellent ideas for this season in my life!”Elke, Alberta
“I have been reading through it. It is chock full of wonderful encouragement and ideas. I love the scripture references as well. This is the book that I’ve been needing for this time in my life…God’s timing is perfect!”Elke, Alberta
“The first month of homeschooling has been rough but I am finding help in your book.  Thank you putting together such a needed resource for homeschooling mothers.” –
Cheryl, Ontario
Some thoughts from the book…
“We must help our children to build good habits in many areas of life and working together is a great way to develop and reinforce them.”
“Working together goes beyond simply managing the mechanics of the home.  Working together is about addressing heart matters and helping to grow young people into the young adults that God created them to be.”
Soon I will post an excerpt or two from this new book to encourage and challenge you.  Watch for it….
Until then… I want to offer you a special treat: a discount on Working Together.  If you subscribe to this blog and mention this offer when you order then I will give you $5 off of the cover price on orders placed by March 28th.  This special price won’t last as I do have a vary narrow profit margin on this book.  I do however want to be able to be an encouragement to as many families as possible with it and so am hoping to share quite a few books at this price.  Please, feel free to pass this information on to others and encourage them to subscribe as well.
Wishing you a restful Sabbath.

An Education in Crisis

This week the Dean family experienced a crisis.  My grandmother, my children’s dear G.G. (Great Grandma), breathed her last and found peace.  The rest us were thrown into turmoil trying to grasp the reality of a life without someone who has been so strong and active and stable in all our lives.  With this shock, of course, came several aftershocks, as suddenly I was thrown into being actively involved in the nitty gritty of planning a funeral, sending off a great woman.  Obituary, eulogy, flowers, clothes.  This was my “to do” list this week.  Not language arts, math, vacuuming, grocery shopping.  So our education plan was thrown into crisis. 
Instead, this week our education was about how to deal with a crisis, not about spelling and piano lessons as I had planned.  But it was that education, that commitment to the day to day which prepared us for this week. 
When I suddenly left in the middle of the day in a flight to the hospital the children were able to prepare a meal, to pick up the next morning and do some of their school work, to help dad with the packing of bags and the preparations needed to leave the house for a few days.  This is a testament to their education.  They behaved in a mature and rational manner despite their anguish and fatigue.  When staying with family, what a joy it was to have them take the occasional opportunity to do the dishes without being asked, to make a bed, even if it wasn’t their own, to help with farm chores that they had never been acquainted with. 
It warmed my heart to have my cousin, a long time teacher, say that she had never seen four children behave so well.  I am so thankful that I have the privilege to spend time with my kids in the day to day so that we can learn to better show our love for one another and for others.  I’m not specifically talking about home schooling but about the influence that every parent has on their children in their every day interactions with one another.  What an awesome responsibility.
I think that it is this commitment to the needs of the family that my children have reflected this week, something that has been passed down to them from a very special woman that we had to say good bye to this week.  What a legacy to leave.  It was a week of crisis, but a time of deep learning for our hearts.

Education is a matter of the spirit.

When I read any of Charlotte Mason’s writings I often can only get through a page or two before I have to stop and digest.  So many wise thoughts in such a small space.
Tonight she quotes to me from an earlier author, “Education is a matter of the spirit.”  I stop, and think.  So true.  It’s too often that we look at our children’s education, at our own education as a matter of increasing one’s money making potential.  But there is so much more to it. 
If we believe that every person is a perfectly made creation of God then we must also know that we are more than the sum total of our earning potential.  God made us, each and every one, to live that abundant life that he came to provide.  There is so much more to life than our career paths.  Life is loving, knowing, experiencing.
Education therefore must address those deep heart issues and not just our external selves.  Miss Mason likens it to trying to nourish hungry and growing bodies by smearing food on the outside, applying a compress so to speak and hoping that all of the vital essence will be absorbed. 
If we limit our learning to that which prepares us for a job then we miss a vital part of the training for living.  We also set our children up for a life of finding worth in these cosmetic features: grades, skills, jobs, earnings, “success”.
When I think of this practically, with my own little tribe, I think of what my goals are for my students.  Yes, I hope that by the end of their days of tutelage under my direction that they will be fluent in many subject areas, that they will be well spoken and be able to think rationally and reason logically.  I also hope that they will become adults of great virtue, that they will walk closely with the Lord and that they will bless all who they come into contact with.
In the short term I fail though.  I plan geography lessons, grammar lessons and I read to them great literature but am I making goals for their moral and spiritual upbringing?  Too often these intangibles are pie in the sky hopes but something I don’t make a part of our curriculum. 
If I am going to take seriously the deeply spiritual nature of education then I need to make it my goal to teach my children attention by letting their baby sister wander through our classroom when it is inconvenient.  I need to plan to allow them to regularly clean their rooms and participate in chores so that they will learn to choose right attitudes that come from practice at doing things that they need to do but would rather not do.  I must set aside time for them to help people outside of our family so that they can learn to value hospitality and charity.  I have to give them time daily to quietly reflect, to rest, to read, to pray.
Education is matter of the spirit and as such it must be much more than a set of lesson plans and timetables.  Education must be a full out seeking to know God.
Wishing you an abundant education your whole life through,

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