Well, how has your first week of school gone? It’s so neat to hear from so many of you on Facebook at our new page, “Maple Tree Publications”, and to see your excitement over new books, new routines, new lessons. September is a clean slate, a new start. I have even heard from some of you who homeschool throughout the year and still there is that air of turning over a new leaf.
So, I decided that we had to participate in the fervor and to take pictures so I could post pictures of the shining faces of my little cherubs. My kids had to search for the number of their grade while we walked idyllically around the Toronto Zoo on our first day of school. We only found a number one. We saw the gorillas and panda bears and also saw the komodo dragon being fed and talked to the zoo keeper because no one else was there to chat with her. We took a fun first day of school picture on the bronze statue of the komodo dragons. It was the continuing of a tradition started a dozen years ago: if we are going to do this education thing differently, we will do it different from the start and always take a field trip on the first day of school. All in all we had a great day.
The drive home was quite peaceful despite the city traffic we had to drive through. Dinner and the evening were just fine. Then 1 am rolled around.
My head had finally just hit the pillow after staying up late to make sure I was ready for the next morning and almost simultaneously two girls stumbled bleary eyed out of their bedrooms, a bit of panic in their steps… Sick! It was a long night. Our hopes of a positive start on Wednesday were dashed. No back to normal then or Thursday. Sigh!
I get overwhelmed at times, wishing things went better, that I was a better teacher, more organized, less impatient, less irritable, wanting to deal with kids who were always enthusiastic, who listen the first time, who don’t leave wet towels on the floor in their rooms until they stink. Sigh. My plans just don’t always work. I feel like I am failing my kids. But then when I step back and look at things with far – sighted glasses I see how far we have come and I also see so much that we have to look forward to. It’s then that I am reminded that it isn’t worth getting worried about the daily grind. There is always time for a fresh start.
So tomorrow, we will try again for the anticipated gentle startup that we had hoped for. I think it’s going to take us a few weeks at this rate to settle in. I had hoped we would be off and running by the end of this week or at least by early next. Sigh! One of my sickies did perk up and voluntarily did two of her math lessons this evening. Hopefully it’s a sign of good things to come.
I am realizing that our real lessons are learned when the going gets tough, not so much when we get to see the Komodo Dragon keeper impart all her wisdom about her charge. Its learning to juggle sick kids and all the other things that the day throws at me without giving up and crying…. Too often. It’s my kids learning to help one another out when there are two of them sick and only one of me to be the nurse. The ones who aren’t sick (yet!?) learn to step up and help with newspapers or make the meal or empty the dishwasher. They have learned a lot this week. They’ve practiced skills we’ve been honing for years.
So even if I had done the best of planning for this new school year, I would not have been able to plan these lessons. I would have avoided them. But learning to work together in these small adversities has been a greater lesson for these first few days than if we had got all the language arts and math lessons going. – Though I am hoping that tomorrow will be the day to tackle those lessons, finally!
A word of wisdom that my pastor imparted a few weeks ago has been rolling around in my head: Courage, true, biblical courage, is never cultivated in comfort.
Mamas (and Papas and others): know that your struggles are not in vain. You are building a lasting legacy so be strong and courageous! Wishing you all the best today as you build. 😉 And for many days after.
Well, the theme for my life lately has been balance. I feel as though I am always struggling for balance. Am I making sure that we get an appropriate amount of school done without making my kids feel like I am a slave driver? Do I get enough time away or do my kids feel like I’m always gone? Have I got enough rest and still got mount o’launder-us under control? Are we all eating well? Exercising? Balance seems so elusive and yet I see that there are times when it is more smooth sailing than others.
In the last two weeks, I feel like I’ve been completely toppled off of my teeter –totter. Preparing for the great and crazy “conference season” always does that to me. This is part of the balancing act, too: expecting to be knocked off kilter during seasons when the wind is blowing particularly hard and there is much to be done. I have to remember to just get back up again.
A thought to share: it does get easier, this habit building thing. The more I practice, the more I can find a groove that is slowly being dug in the tracks of my well-worn road of life. I am reminded that Charlotte Mason writes a lot about building good habits and how they keep us from being run off of the rails of our lives. I am still learning! My kids are still learning.
Are you striving for balance? Keep up the fight! It will become easier as time goes on.Remember that the bigger the chunk is that you bite off, the longer it will take to digest it. If you want to gain more balance in your life, start with little bite-sized chunks and be content to make small gains. Do you want to be healthier? Start by adding exercise to your school routine once or twice a week. Do you feel over-run by the noise of your busy home? Set a timer once a day for 15 minutes of mommy time that can’t be interrupted so that you can read. (When my little cherubs interrupt this sacred pause, I often reset the clock.) Know that we are all in this struggle together. For me, right now, the struggle for health centres around getting a better sleep routine. Conference season = drinking out of a fire hose of intensity so I need to learn to turn it off by 11pm. That’s not been happening lately! (So I’d better wrap this musing up soon.)
But first, I want to wish you all well as you strive for balance in your own life and the season you are facing.
And if you find yourself at a homeschool conference in the near future, check and see if Maple Tree is there and come have a little visit Under the Maple Tree. It’s always so much better to see people in real life rather than virtually. I can’t wait to share with you some of the exciting new books that we have and some of the yummy seminars that I am pumped up about sharing with you. I’m sticking to conferences in Ontario this year (= struggle for balance, remember?) so if you are out of my range then feel free to call or drop me a note to chat about life or books or homeschoolish kind of things. All that is for later though – I’d better get some rest!
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.
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.