I often struggle with prioritizing. Sometimes I feel like there are so many things to do that I don’t know there to start. It feels like I am trying to drink out of a fire hose. But then, if I can draw some perspective and think through what exactly is worth doing, what needs to be done, what is important, I can often lessen the overwhelming flow.
How much more intense is this torrent during this season? Thoughts of Christ in Christmas are hard to come by if I don’t initiate them myself. They aren’t in the stores, the teachers aren’t allowed to mention them, the marketers would rather write fairy tales of gifts that bring happiness on Christmas morning.
So how do you keep your eye on the prize? How do you remember that Jesus is the reason for the season? How do your drink in the sweet grace of our encounter with the divine in the vulnerable form of a baby?
I would love to hear about how you and your family enjoy a Christ-centred Christmas in your home. Please comment on the blog and share your ideas with all of us!
Here are a few ideas that we have tried or heard of:
1) Make sure that your gift giving includes gifts for Jesus. We started a family tradition of celebrating Jesus’ birthday the way we would other family and friends: cake and gifts for the birthday boy! When we blow out the candles we one by one give him a gift of words of praise and then we choose gifts out of a Samaritan’s Purse or Gospel for Asia or other Christian charitable catalogue.
2) Give gifts that emphasize the thought rather than the price tag. A woman I spoke to recently said that in their family they draw names and each get a gift of a used book for the person they drew. They have so much fun finding out what the person might like, discussing their literary tastes and hunting down the special treat. A thoughtful and inexpensive way to love on your family.
3) Before accepting invitations to gatherings, events and parties, decide who you most want to spend time with over the holidays and how often you want to go out and make sure that you protect your schedule from events that won’t fit these priorities. With several birthdays in our extended family at this time of year, we find that often we have to choose to only accept invitations from family in December and plan to visit others in the New Year.
4) Give gifts that are a double blessing. Get a gift that will not only make a loved one smile but will also bless a needy person through a charity or will bless a local small business person who is trying to provide for their family (rather than a large corporation that is trying to pad their bottom line). This year many of our gifts are home made by local artisans, by our family or are supporting charitable endeavours that are close to our hearts.
5) Do less, enjoy God’s people more. I have come to realize that the only way that we will have the house decorated, the children educated, the cookies baked, the cards sent, the house clean, and the packages wrapped is if the whole family is intensely involved. When the kids were younger, this was next to impossible and even now, there is so much that we can’t accomplish in pursuing all of these traditions. So ask yourself, can we do without baking? Can we send our love in a simpler way than having to mail Christmas cards? Can our gifts consist of gifts of time to visit rather than rushes to the store with an overtired credit card?
As you prepare your hearts and homes for the celebration of the coming of Christ this season, I wish for you the opportunity to drink in the sweetness of the moments and really savour our Saviour.
As many of you know, this Maple Tree is littered with many good reads and I am constantly shipping them out from our little space. I thought I would let you know of a few good books that I have here and would love to share with you…
First our Clearance books. These are all new books that are discounted because I have more than we need even at this busy time of year.
Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series $50 (Regular $62!)
You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Dr. Ruth Beechick $12 (Regular $14)
*Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra and Life of Fred: Beginning Algebra Companion $36 (Regular $48)
*Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra and Life of Fred: Advanced Algebra Companion $36 (Regular $48)
*These Life of Fred books are being replaced by a new volumes which combine the companion into the text. In other words, these four books are now coming out as two books which will be $42 each. As far as I can tell, the content is the same.*
I also have a hard cover, “scratch and dent” copy of You Can Teach Your Child Successfully available for $10. There is no visible wear and very minimal damage.
As well, not wanting to jump into the Christmas shopping rat race, but also wanting to respond to the requests of some of my customers, if you have items that you are thinking of purchasing for your family and friends for Christmas and think that Maple Tree could help you out with them, I do very much appreciate your support of our small business from one home schooler to another. I have in stock several items that you might have on your Christmas list including:
– The Jesus Storybook Bible ($19)
– The Jesus Storybook Bible with CDs ($28)
– Jonathan Park CDs. (I hope to have the newest volume, #9, in stock in the next week to 10 days!) ($25)
– What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver DVDs by Phil Visher ($15)
Also, I am able to order thousands of other titlesthough a distributor that I am working with that supplies both homeschooling resources and many of the books and other items that you would might find at a general Christian bookstore. Please let me know if you would like me to special order something in and I will see if I can help you with what you are looking for. I plan to make an order this Thursday so please send all special orders in by Thursday at 10am. Thanks!
Finally, as it is my goal to give gifts that are doubly beneficially this year, I also wanted to pursue items at Maple Tree that could be doubly beneficial. As such I have started to carry a few titles by talented Canadian independent authors. These books are a wholesome treat to have in your home and your purchase can also support independent Canadian authors and small businesses.
· May I introduce to you a beautiful children’s picture book by Janis Cox called Tadeo Turtle. Mrs. Cox is a very talented artist and has filled her book with amazing watercolour paintings. The book is a story and learning opportunity about painted turtles and other animals and has a sweet moral to it about how we are all special because we are different. There are many activities and learning extensions included in the book. It retails for $13 and for Christmas I am shipping it for free! (These books are so new to Maple Tree that I don’t have them on my website yet but you can preview them here: http://www.janiscox.com/information/)
· Carolyn j Morris is another independent Canadian author whose stories have been a treat in our home. She has published three novels entitled Mourning Dove, Barn Swallows and Pine Warbler. These novels are suitable reading for about a grade four level and up and can easily be enjoyed as a read aloud by younger children as well. In the first story, the main character, Billy, is dealing with the recent loss of his father. In this and all the stories the reader becomes acquainted with rural Canadian life as Billy spends a lot of time on his grandparents farm. You will laugh and cry at the tender moments in these stories but will also learn some of the ins and outs of life on a farm in Canada. A real treat. These books also retail for $13 each but I have an introductory special of $12 each or all three for $30 plus shipping. (You can read more about these books here: http://www.railfencebooks.com/books.php)
I hope that these few volumes will be of use to some of you. Please let me know if I can help you with any of these titles or with a special purchase.
It was one of those mornings here. I was frustrated, feeling inadequate. I set my alarm early to get the best start: to read my Bible and do a bit of planning and maybe even do a bit of exercise before the masses required my involvement. Suddenly though it was 9am, breakfast was still in the works, the kitchen a mess and the dining room table strewn with bits of oatmeal, a dry half of a sticky bagel and several school books, including my lesson planner! Who got into that? Well, my diligent older students had looked through the planner and were asking for work that I hadn’t prepared yet. My younger more playful kids were trying to figure out how to sneak out into the new snow before they had to attack their work without me noticing.
Do you ever feel like there’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start? That was my morning. In fact, I often feel that way.
Then a sweet friend texted. She reminded me to pace myself, that I wasn’t expected to get it all done before noon on Monday. I don’t expect that of the kids; I don’t expect it of anyone else. Why would I expect it of me? In fact, I get over excited about all that I want to get done so often and with so much more than just school assignments. I wish I had blogged more, I want to fix so many things on my website, I want my storage room to be at least passable, if not somewhat tidy. I have so many ideas about how I could better serve the Awana programme which I run at our church. Sigh.
But then, I remember that there are 25 hours in a day on Mars. If God wanted us to fit more into a day he would have made us Martians.
I am reminded that there are a few things that I do need to do a better job at fitting into my overcrowded schedule. I need to take the time to prioritize, to play, to pray.
God, in his infinite wisdom, ordained 24 hours for each day that I am alive. He wants me to spend those 24 wisely each day, to prioritize. I need to respect that limitation that He has placed on me and make sure that I am a good steward of that gift of time that I have been given. When I think of it that way, I realize that I have often misspent my time. Have I spent it on useless things, or on things that have eternal value? On running myself to exhaustion or on taking care of own body, getting the rest, rejuvenation, and nourishment that I need to be able to care for my family and others? On connecting to Him and His life-giving Word or on things that might be very good but aren’t necessarily the right things for me to pursue right now?
It’s often hard for me to stop and play. I know that I tend to be driven. I know that it is a common personality trait for us homeschooling moms. I get up in the morning with a long to do list and am not good at taking the time to stop and take in a new card trick or piano tune that one of my young performers wants to share. Why do I sigh and reluctantly sit for a game of Skipbo when the world isn’t going to end if the chores get put off a bit longer? If I put my time into perspective and start to pursue God’s priorities, I know that relationships are far more important that lessons checked off on a planner or chores completed to perfection. The moments that impact my family are the ones that draw us together, and play timeis a key part of that.
Finally, I need to pray more. I need to pray in the moment; I need to pray in private; I need to pray when I am perplexed or happy or upset. I need to take the time to quiet my heart so that I can wait on the Lord and learn His priorities so that I can pursue what He wants me to run after and have confidence in cutting out so many of the busying activities that only serve to pull me away from what I should be doing.
Friends, as we embark on another day, I wish you moments to play and to pray and the wisdom to seek His priorities for your days. I wish you peace that transcends the usual Monday morning rush.
It’s been a while since I got to spend some time in my virtual home here Under the Maple Tree. I have been rather absent this season, just like at this time last year, because I have been out in the real world more often seeing so many of your encouraging faces at homeschooling conferences and other events. It was such a busy time as I worked and spoke at more conferences than ever this year and had the opportunity to travel across the country to meet even more amazing parents who are walking this crazy homeschooling road with me. What a treat it has been.
Throughout this season, one small lesson has resonated with me. Perhaps it is because it takes so many repetitions to get through to such a thick head as mine or maybe it is just something that the Lord wanted me to learn. I think it’s a bit of both.
On our first family weekend camping trip of the year the weather was beautifully warm though the water at the beach was still quite chilly. The kids played the days away in the water while I just tiptoed in and out around the edges of the water when I got overheated, the water rippling around my shivering knees. It was a peaceful reprieve, watching the water moving out in tiny waves from the places where my toes displaced it.
You see, midway through the season, conference season (which used to be called spring in my world), my precious Nana died. It was sad. It was hard. But at the same time, we were relieved for her, hoping that she had finally found peace after a very long battle with Altzheimer’s disease. She had long since left us and it was only her body left that finally gave up. It was, of course a time of tears and of memories and of telling stories of old. I, being the talker in the family, again got to share a eulogy for a grandparent. I remembered her in her big moo-moo dresses, rubber boots, winter coat, slacks and straw hat in her garden growing more food than the whole family could eat. I remembered family celebrations with KFC, kielbasa and cabbage rolls because my uncle didn’t like turkey. After the funeral, when we came home that day it seemed the most fitting tribute to eat KFC and spend the rest of the day in the garden. Ripples. Her life cascading into my own.
Most recently we have cried many hours with friends as they have suffered loss, the results of many years of ripples rocking their boat, influencing them in ways that they weren’t aware of until they capsized.
Ripples. They have become a focal point even in the smaller events, seeing how our decisions affect our children’s decisions, their demeanor, their values. I’ve also noticed that so often we are affected by what is rippling out from someone else’s life, their ideas, their actions. So often I want to think that homeschooling my kids will allow them to come only under my influence but that is so often proven wrong, and often to their benefit. I don’t always make the right decisions, say the right things.
The lessons I have been learning this spring are of how powerfully we are influenced and how we also influence others in ways that we may not even imagine in this lifetime. It makes me afraid to dive into my roles, scared that I may unknowingly be the source of someone else’s undoing. I think, too, how often I suppose to speak with authority about something and really I am just flapping my gums, sharing an opinion that may or may not be founded.
As we formally wrap up another year of schooling I, as usual, am taking some time to look back and see where we have come from. I see that we have learned a lot, but have we learned the right things? I also look forward and anticipate. I know that the unknown future holds many waves that will rock my boat, waves that will rippleout and threaten the sunny happy days that I desire for my kids to live under. But rather than praying for a smooth ride, I am praying for a strong boat, for a firm foundation, and for waves that will propel them towards their Saviour rather than sink them in a mire of uncertainty.
Wishing you, Dear Friends, strength and perseverance as you ride out the waves that shake you in this season.
In this busy season of back to back to back homeschool conventions and book sales, I am running about trying my hardest to make sure all my t’s are crossed and my i’s are dotted. As I prepare for this weekend’s conference in Kelowna, B.C (which I am SOOO excited for) and next weekend’s conference in Hamilton, Ontario I am envisioning all those wonderful books careening here and there. Life of Fred books are currently racing up an Ontario highway towards my home from the far off land of California, other books have spanned the distance from Tennessee to British Columbia and I am hoping to wake tomorrow morning to a box from Nevada. All these and my most treasured shipment will be one that I personally escort home from a print shop not too far from my own front door – more amazing Maple Tree publications lovingly printed and prepared practically in our own backyard.
Then, after a night like tonight, where a shipment gets stopped at the border and it would seem that all hope is lost for getting the books to the folks that ask me to bring them here, I stop and wonder, “Why am I doing this?” A friend asks, “So, are you going to do that again? Or will you stop ordering books from the States?” Nope; I’m a bibliophile. I love books too much to stop buying them. I love these books too much. Tonight was a challenge, a lesson to be learned. Red tape. Red tape can’t take away my love for books.
So, you know my weakness: books. I’ll also tell you another secret: my hubby told me that the only way he would allow me to keep buying books was if I started to get rid of some. Could I part with some? Give away some? Throw them out? Sell them? And so, God opened the door for me to be involved with Maple Tree Publications. Now, my husband blesses me in all the book buying that I do because he knows that I am buying all these sweet treats for my friends – usually. There are still a few treasured tomes that are allowed past the bookstore shelves and onto our personal library shelves. But I do have to be careful with what I buy as I am apt to find more gems than I can store.
So how do you deal with this problem of so many good reads, so little space? I know that many of my home schooling friends are bibliophiles like me. So let me share with you the Dean family’s book ownership manifesto:
First of all, when I realize that every book, even good books, if they aren’t e-reads take up space. And if they are going to take up space, they are going to displace something else that could take up that space. I often have to ask myself, have I got balance in my home or is this little world that I live in overly stuffed with the written word. Do I have room (literally and figuratively) for other great things like personal space, the great outdoors, toys and games for the kids and space to love and entertain people. And those areas that I do devote to my book collection, am I prepared to dust and tidy and maintain those areas ongoingly? Just like budgeting time or money, I need to wisely budget my limited space and bridle my love of books accordingly.
Now that I have carved out that little bit of space, I need to remember that it isn’t going to get any bigger without an expensive move or renovation or a reshuffling once again of home space priorities. So it is at this point that I need to set some high standards for which precious tomes can stay and which must go. Here are four questions that we ask when assessing whether a book should be invited to live out its life in our home:
· Is it something that the library won’t store for me? We have had to say goodbye to some wonderful literary works, classics and other beautiful stories that we were confident would be found at our local library. As taxpayers, we can be content to store some of our favourite books in that municipal storage facility that we regularly pay fees to (by way of those ample property taxes): the library. After all, ask yourself, even though Treasure Island is a really riveting story, how often will I be reading it? It will likely gather dust for years before I reread it or someone else in the house wants or needs to read it.
The library, however, might not carry a set of Christian novels that are popular at church but not in the general community. Don’t stop at just looking to the library as a storehouse for good books. Perhaps you will find these great books somewhere else and still don’t need to keep your own copy. Many thousands of great books are available free online as e-texts or as audio books. While we’ve been using e-resources for more than 10 years now, sites like Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org) and Libriviox (www.librivox.org) are now practically household names in light of the common use of e-readers and mp3 players.
Places to “Store” Good Books
*www.mainlesson.com – The Baldwin Project provides free electronic copies of classic children’s literature
*Book exchanges like
*The second hand store (if you found it there then send it back as soon as you are done and bless both the second hand store and the next reader)
· Do I need to use it constantly? There are a few reasons that you might want to keep a book that would otherwise be found at the library. Take, for example, books that you will be reading or using over a long period of time or which you will use for several years with different students in your home school. Text books and reference books fall into this category as well. You can’t be running to the library every time that you need an atlas or dictionary and hard copies can’t always be replaced by the computer and good websites.
· Is it hard to find in print? This is the case with much good Christian literature – like good Christian fiction or classic works of theology and thought – as well as reference books: concordances and Bible dictionaries. There are also books that are beautiful or useful or out of print: perhaps your Grandmother’s Bible that she wrote in.
· Is it such a good book that I want to keep it in my lending library? There are some books that are just so influential or striking that you really should share them with others. These books are worth keeping just to reread and to lend out to others. Beware of falling in love with too many good reads though. I have to constantly look back and evaluate whether I still want to keep one spectacular book or another for my lending library. Sometimes the best thing to do is to bless a friend with the book permanently so that they can be in charge of lending it out from here on. Then they can also be the ones who are trying to remember to whom the book was last leant out.
Well, Friends, as you prepare to go to a conference and do some shopping or as you search around online looking for the best deals, I want you to know that while there are literally thousands of books that I would like to share with you, I have chosen, for now, only to carry books that fit the above criteria. If there is something that you need that I don’t carry then, by all means, ask me and I will see if I can get it in, but for now – with a limit to the size of my bookstore shelves and to the depths of my bookstore pockets, I hope that I can help to meet your needs with my little collection and as economically as possible.
Looking forward to meeting you “Under the Maple Tree” either virtually or at a book sale or conference over the next couple of months. Until then, I hope that you too can find a quiet place for a bit of reading time just as I hope to in my little retreat “Under the Maple Tree”.
– with excepts from Working Together by Cori Dean copyright 2011.