Under the Maple Tree

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,

Living the Life…

I often lament the slow plod of our days.  I start off each week with big plans, each day with a long list: school work to be done, chores that need accomplishing, tasks to tackle.  But how often am I really able to check everything off in a day?  Not often.  Then I cry, “We didn’t finish our reading lesson; the laundry is piling up again.  Yikes! We have to get that present before the birthday party!”  But in the end, as I look back, I have to remember that there is so much more to life than checking things off of a to do list.
When thinking of our little homeschool and the lessons that my children have been learning I need to realize that there is much more to the educated life than reciting facts and digesting information. 
This is the substance of our chat at this past week’s Charlotte Mason Support Group: atmosphere. 
Miss Mason says that ideas are the substance upon which our minds feed, the stuff of education.  If we provide our children with a bountiful diet of ideas, then they will grow and thrive educationally.  And how do they acquire these ideas?  She maintains that there is much more to gaining an education than just having information thrown our way.  Atmosphere is a key ingredient to a vibrant education.  It is through our atmosphere that we show our children our values, we help them to love learning, to have compassion, to practice patience, to solve problems. 
Listen to what Miss Mason says about atmosphere: “a child draws inspiration from the casual life around him.  The thought of any of our poor words and ways being a daily influence on a child should make the best of us want to hold our breath.  Sigh, she knows my thoughts.  I wish that my kids were gleaning positive lessons more often.  No, more often than not it is exasperation, frustration, impatience that they soak in.  My list!  When will we get to my list?  But alas, “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15.
So how do I find hope?  Just as I will never have a house that would pass a white glove test, so will I constantly fail and be the wrong influence on these children I have been entrusted with.  There is another way.  My hope lies in knowing that my priorities are wrongly placed when I make the outside charm in either my home or the lives of my children or me the paramount cause.  Instead I can gain real value in knowing that it is the inner relationship that counts, knowing Jesus and his priorities.  Will I ever get through all of my to do list?  No.  But if I look at what it is that really counts, knowing and loving Jesus and people then I can reorient my measurements of success.
So the list will live on but I commit myself to measuring the quality and success of my children’s education by the depth of relationship that they have with Christ and the way that they are able to love those with whom they are in contact.  Our education is about continuing to live the life of captive pursuit of Jesus.
Wishing you success in Jesus’ eyes.

Come, have a visit “Under the Maple Tree”

Dear Friends,
Over the past few years, as I have had the privilege to meet so many people at conferences, home school meetings and online through my involvement with Maple Tree Publications, the one thing that I have enjoyed most is hearing your stories, getting to know you.  Of course, I love the products that I sell – I know that I am not much of a sales woman and so I could never represent a product that I didn’t believe in.  I also love to teach so the chance to engage the minds not only of my young students at home but of the willing adults that sit through my seminars is so much fun for me.  By far though it has been the community that I have had the honour of being a part of and the people that I have gotten to know that have been the greatest delights in this work.
As such, I thought I would take the opportunity to expand the newsletter that I have been able to send to so many of you and to invest in this new world of blogging.  Over the past couple of years I have really enjoyed being able to connect with people through their blogs and so hope that this sight might be an encouragement to you and yours and might be a way to get to know more of my unique, interesting and vibrant readers.
This blog will be a mishmash of many things….  Hopefully the commonality is the usefulness of information and the encouragement that you will receive.  Please look forward to receiving here thoughts and ideas on home education, book reviews, encouraging notes, answers to some of the questions that friends and readers write to me with, excerpts from Maple Tree books, information about upcoming book launches, conferences, specials, and other events, and more….
Please subscribe now.  Then, when you have a chance, pour yourself a cup of tea and come back often.  I very much look forward to your company and to the chance to get to know you better.
Peace and Blessings,

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