Under the Maple Tree

Respite

What a busy week it has been!  With a new book coming out, two homeschooling meetings and a conference, and many workshops to share, I really felt maxed out.  I kept asking myself, ‘Have I committed to too much?”  Often there is much that is good to do but I have to ask myself if it is reasonable to do it all in light of other commitments, namely commitments to having time for my relationship with the Lord and time for my family.
Well, I made it through it all, family in tact and still keeping up with some time with my Jesus and my Bible.  And what a spectacular week!  I really thrive on those times of visiting with families that are walking the same road as me.  Don’t we all enjoy that from time to time?  I am so thankful for the chance that I had to meet so many people at Newmarket’s CHEN meeting and in my own living room at our little Charlotte Mason support group.  What a blessing it was to me to hear so many of you respond so favourable to the three workshops that I had the privilege to share at Kitchener’s KWCHEA homeschool conference though I am sad that I had to turn away some of you at the door when the room got full.  I am truly blessed and bolstered up by your kind words. 
Thank you too for the spectacular response that you have given to my new book, Working Together.  I really do hope that it will bless your family as it has ours.
As the week starts up again Friends, I wish you peace.  I wish you the moments of respite in which you can count the many blessings of living the highs and lows of the wild and crazy lives that you have.
Peace,
Cori

But What About Socialization!?!


Of course this is the most common comment that we get when people find out that we homeschool.  If it isn’t spoken, then it is often implied, “Oh! You home school!” the brow gives a slight crinkle and a momentary look of incredulity passes over those eyes that once shared camaraderie.
Sometimes I feel defiant, others resigned.  Mostly I smile and laugh and just explain that yes we do like spending time together and that we often spend far too much time playing with friends of all ages – after all, our schooling is done earlier than their child’s is and we don’t have homework in the evening.
I was thinking recently about how we started into this journey of homeschooling, how Mama thought it a good idea but Daddy was unsure.  So Mama, being the scholar that she was set up a research project, reading, weighing the pros and cons and presenting them to her man, trying to be objective.  Eventually this lead to a round of interviews with homeschoolers and public school teachers and parents who had made a variety of educational choices for their children.
The clincher for us?  One evening, over a dinner party with one of the subjects of our many case studies my hubby says, “So what about socialization?”  Gales of laughter from the other Papa.  “Do you really think that going to school ensures that kids will be well socialized?”  Light bulb!  We had this conversation in the temporal shadow of the horrific events of Columbine High School.  Of course, the events at Columbine weren’t typical of schools at all but what was typical?  Bullying, behavioural problems that plague the staff and leave many students heavily drugged, many students leaving the education system unprepared for life, cultural values being taught that often conflicted with our own family values.  No, we wouldn’t miss the socialization that schools promised.
So then I start to think… what exactly is socialization?  Is it being able to act properly in a social setting?  Having “social graces”?  Being able to interact with others in a “normal” way?  Is it spending lots of time with friends instead of just family?
Well, scholar Mama goes back to the dictionary.  “Webster’s College Dictionary says, socialization is a continuing process whereby an individual learns and assimilates the values and behaviour patterns appropriate to his or her culture and social position…..”
Hmm, maybe we need to question the need for socialization….  Do we want our kids to learn and to assimilate the values of our culture, a culture that values financial success over compassion, a culture that denies the involvement of the Creator in the cosmos?  Do I trust popular culture to tell my family the best way to act in a situation, to behave around others?  Maybe socialization isn’t a goal for our abundant life education after all.  Maybe we should be assimilating a different set of values.  Not values that come from the homeschooling lifestyle but values that come from living life according to the Word.  That’s countercultural.  Maybe we need to counter-socialize: to live a life that acts in light of eternity rather than in light of our cultures latest fads.
Do we need to homeschool in order to properly overcome the socialization monster?  No.  But it’s nice to be able to “socialize” during all that extra time that we have when school ends by lunch and the evenings are for relaxing instead of homework.
Wishing you a counter-social week.
Blessings,
Cori

Feeling my failings….

There are times when parenting is so fun, a joy.  It is then that I know that this really is the best job in the world.  Then there are evenings when I cry out and thrash about the house, “How can it be that the swimming bag still hasn’t been unloaded – almost two weeks later!”  Then one cowers and the other cries and my husband feels like I am heaping all the blame on him – which sometimes I would like to do.  After all, if I can’t be the perfect parent couldn’t someone please step up and do the job?  I’ve failed again.
I want my children to obey me when I give them instructions.  “Please put away the swimming bag.”  But what if they don’t?  I think of how Jesus told me, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”  (John 14:15)  So I turn to my children and say, “Children, if you love your mama then obey her.”  But then I notice a subtle difference. He doesn’t make an “if… then” statement.  He says that my obedience of him will be as a result of my love for him not a proof of my love.  And I look at my own sin-stained heart and think not only am I not worthy to expect the same obedience from my children that Jesus deserves but I am expecting more – a proof of their love by their actions.  How prideful of me.  Jesus doesn’t ask me to prove my love for him.  So why do I carry on in such a rant asking them to do just that.  Yikes!
Instead, when Jesus asks for my obedience, he is asking for a relationship with me.  He wants us to be closer.  He wants me to be whole, to be safe, to be all that he dreamed I would be before time began.  That’s why he asks for obedience. 
But I… I ask for obedience because of my needs: when will this house be tidy!?  And that is when I realize that I have failed again.  I can not ask my children to prove their love to me.  I could never do the same for my Jesus. 
He tells us “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  (Matthew 19:14).  My heart should be for my children to draw near both to our Jesus and to me in loving obedience not out of a desire to win my affections or out of a fear of reprisal. 
Though I know this, daily I fail and daily I am forgiven.  Jesus sees my failings and calls me a success because of his sacrifice.  I may fail but I am not a failure.  And my family too is made valuable by the same redemption.  Now, if only I could take hold of that truth and live it out.  But alas, “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  (Romans 7:15.) 
Daily I fail and daily I thank Jesus for walking me through this again and again even as I put away swimming stuff from two weeks ago.
Sigh, wishing you peace in daily turmoil friends.
Cori

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.
Cori

Work is a Blessing?!

Greetings,
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.
Peace,
Cori

Dates

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,
Cori