Monday Morning…

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.

Peace and blessings,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca

My Book Ownership Manifesto

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

*The library

*www.gutenburg.org – free online e-books in the public domain
*www.librivox.org – free online audiobooks in the public domain
*www.mainlesson.com – The Baldwin Project provides free electronic copies of classic children’s literature

*The church library

*Your friends’ houses

*Family’s houses

*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”.

Peace,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca


– with excepts from Working Together by Cori Dean copyright 2011.

Method to this Madness

I don’t usually take the time to blog during daylight hours,certainly not in the morning.  Morning is our time of concentrated learning.  We have a routine that we follow and this year we have really been enjoying our learning times in the morning.  This week is a bit more relaxed though and so I thought I would take a few minutes to write. 

This week has become a tradition in the Dean house: it’s “January Reno Week”.  Over the past few years our good daddy has booked a week off in January to be Mr. Fixit.  He usually takes the time to catch up on the “Honey Do” list and to focus on one area of the house that needs some special attention.  This year it is some much needed repairs to our basement bathroom, specifically a leaky shower.  Big job.

It’s nice that some of the girls are now old enough that they can be quite involved in the project and as such we have modified their school schedules for this week.  So, as I write, one daughter is downstairs helping with and learning about plumbing, another is writing a letter to Grandma, and another is making cookies to bring to Awana on Wednesday night.  The little one is creating her daily painted masterpiece.  Peaceful. 

As I enjoy this relaxed learning time I have been reflecting on our goals for the year.  You see, every year in the Dean home we make learning goals.  I have noticed over the past few years a divergence between our long term goals (about things like virtue, compassion, and work ethic) and our yearly short term goals (about things like math and spelling and science).  So this year we decided on four subjects that we thought would best integrate the short term and long term goals…

This year all of our learning is focused on these four topics: love for God, love for family, love for others, and love for learning.  So while writing to Grandma will fulfill the need for writing, spelling and grammar lessons, it is most importantly a means of loving others.  While painting is a wonderful creative thing for a preschooler to do, it is primarily a manifestation of the beauty that they Creator has instilled in the heart of a child.  We learn to love God by all that is beautiful in this world.  Learning plumbing is very useful life skill but is above all a method of being able to love and care for our family.

So, while not all days have this relaxed pace, and while it’s not all roses, (We have had the chance to learn about reacting with grace when our beads spill all over the floor this morning!) we are enjoying the day to day method to this madness.  It reminds me of what I have been reading in Charlotte Mason’s books lately…
“Method implies two things – a way to an end, and step-by-step progress in that way.  Further, the following of a method implies an idea, a mental image, of the end or object to be arrived at.  What do you propose that education shall effect in and for your child?  Again, method is natural; easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; yet, watchful, careful, all-pervading, all-compelling.  Method, with the end of education in view, presses the most unlikely matters into service to bring about that end; but with no more tiresome mechanism that the sun employs when it makes the winds to blow and the waters to flow only by shining.” (Home Education, p. 8)

Friends, what do you purpose that education shall effect in and for your child?  I hope that as you search out your purpose in education that you will find it as natural to learn together as a family as it is to enjoy the sun on your faces.  We continue to strive for this depth and this simplicity rolled into one.

Have a great week!

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca

32 Pairs of Socks

For Christmas my family tends to get practical things in their stockings as well as an orange and a candy or two.  Fairly predictable.  More often than not, this means that Christmas time is a time to restock on socks.  And, boy, did we need socks!  It seems that we are constantly rifling through the clean laundry looking for a pair of socks for the day.  How nice to feel like we are restocked and spoilt again in the New Year. 

But here is the catch, as I sat trying to catch up on the laundry this past week, reveling in how nice it is to be healthy again (after sharing all together in being dragged down by a horrible cold/flu virus all through the holidays), I realized that maybe I had erred in the sock purchases over the holidays.  You see, I sat for a quite moment – probably a good half hour – and sorted out half a dozen piles of “what belongs to who” and then proceeded to start the pairing…  I paired up Hubby’s socks and tucked them away, then I folded mine.  32 pairs of socks.  No, not his and mine.  I folded 32 pairs of my socks.  Really?  Do I really have 32 pairs of socks…. And that would also imply that it’s been a month since I last folded socks…  And that it will also likely be another month before I am sufficiently motivated to fold socks again.  Sigh!

How often is my life like this?  I invest time, or energy, space, or money in something that is meant to help or simplify life and yet makes no difference or a negative one.  I was thinking this when I considered other things in my little world too.  How often have we “needed” a new book or curriculum that only seemed to make us busier but not smarter?  How often have I stuck with an old activity while adding a new one on to our already busy schedule and hoped to be able to fit it all in? 

I know that New Years is a time for resolutions and reflections but I don’t tend to like to follow the crowd and don’t want to make these grand commitments to change just because everyone else is.  I do however want to continually be striving to be all that God created me – and my family – to be so New Years is as good a time as any to strengthen my resolve.      

So I am strengthening my resolve to strive for the purpose and simplicity that we set out for so long ago in our family life.  I want to constantly question why we do things and how we could do them better.  In our school this year, that has meant lightening some of our work load to be able to focus on other things.  Namely, we chose to take a break from reading and writing curriculums so that we could spend more time just reading and writing.  Sounds simple, I know, but it has been revolutionary.  The kids and I are so enjoying just reading a lot together.  It’s been fun to take the time to make cards, write letters, to teach them to blog and to write out their thoughts on the things that they are learning, to listen to a beautiful poem or Bible verse or saying and to set it aside for later to be copied and kept.

Now, as I try to jam my 32 pairs of socks into a too-small drawer, I am reflecting on other ways to keep it simple in areas that I tend to invite the complicated, ways to redeem wasted moments that could be used more wisely.  I think that one thing we will do is to read our Bible more, to simply enjoy it as literature with our other readings rather than parsing the meanings to death.  Teaching my children to view the world through a biblical lens can only be enhanced by reading the Bible more and discussing all of life in light of the living word of scripture.  It seems to me like a spectacular way to continue to “throw off everything that hinders” so that we can “run with perseverance the race that is marked out for us” knowing that to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1,2) will only bring us closer to that ideal that we strive for.

Blessings, Friends, as you strive to be all that you were created to be in 2013!

Happy New Year,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca
mapletreepublications@sympatico.ca
905-778-9412

Christmas Blessings

Dear Friends,

I have finally dusted off my laptop to send you a few words of greeting over these beautiful holidays.  First I want to send my wishes that you have had a spectacular Christmas with friends and family and to wish your New Year will be filled with God’s richest blessings.

I have to admit that I have been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately.  We are finally starting to see the end of a horrible bout of cold and flu that has been with us for more than three weeks.  I have been stuck in the past wishing for a White Christmas and a repeat of the idyllic holidays of many years gone by but these days Christmas has been a visit to his mom’s and then my mom’s and then my dad’s and … well you get it.  This year, it’s been a few of us visiting with one pocket of loved ones or another hoping tentatively for peace and having to leave one or more sickies at home. 

This holiday has taken an extra striving to recall the point of it all.  It is so easy to lose the sound of the still small voice of the baby in the manger.  But we have found our Christmas in the moments.  Friends, I hope you have found your moments as well. 

We loved the moments of our advent readings even if, yes, we didn’t finish them all.  I was touched by my husband’s reflections and patience when I was too stressed with lists and cards and bills to see through to the Jesus who had made it all so special.

I enjoyed discussions with my daughters about the gifts that they had for Jesus.  So neat to walk my seven year old through why Jesus didn’t take the beautiful card that she made for Him and set under the tree.  “Where does Jesus live daughter?”  “In heaven.”  “Where else?”  “With us, here in our house, in my heart.”  “So, he kept his precious gift here where he lives.  No?”  We discussed how he says that when we do for others we are doing for Him.  We discussed the gifts that we gave especially to Him when we gave to others.

Another special moment with Jesus was in a new tradition that we started last year: a cake, candles, and “Happy Birthday” to Jesus.  My oldest daughter loves to bake and makes wonderful cakes.  This year she really wanted Jesus to have a cookie monster birthday cake.  We put six candles in and after singing to Him we each blew out a candle and gave him a birthday gift of words, “Thank you Jesus for giving me my family!”  “Thank you Jesus for taking care of us.”  “I am so glad, Jesus, that you are so much smarter than I am.”  Last year we chose out gifts for Jesus on Christmas day from the Samaritan’s Purse catalogue, each giving of their own money.  This year, we pooled our resources and were able to give to Jesus in another fun and creative way.  What a treat!

Still wrapped in the busyness even last night (since you can’t finish Christmas cards when everyone is sick for three weeks in December and we are finally starting to catch up on some of those visits that we cancelled) I received another sweet gift from my Saviour: a note from a friend.  It is such a blessing to have friends who are there at just the right moments.  So neat to see that Jesus is there to bless me in so many ways: through little thoughtful notes, and through the huge sacrificial gift of coming as a vulnerable boy to be my Saviour from all that I deserve.  It’s so hard to comprehend.  Perhaps that is why I can only handle it in small moments.

Friends, I hope that you have had that idyllic time of Christmas wonder and enjoyed this amazing time of reverence for our Jesus but if you have been, like me, seeking at least the little moments, may this magical time between Christmas and New Years be a time of you to rest in Him and to know His peace in a new way.

Happy New Year, Friends!

Cori

Perspective

So many of you have asked about our daughter that I realize that it is time to update you. 

Just reading over my musings of a year ago, I realize how I still get so relentlessly caught up in the mundane and overwhelmed by things that are so transient.  (This week, in addition to life’s everyday blunders and the usual financial frustrations, we have been dealing with BOTH fleas and lice in the Dean household.  When will “normal” arrive, please, Lord?!)

I have been feeling sorry for myself, wishing someone would step up to this plate that I have been given and run the race for me for a little while.  My husband and I have spent the week going to bed sore and exhausted, hoping for relief the next day but finding a new set of challenges with each morning: the dog gets out of the yard AGAIN, a computer crashes and people treat us like we are carrying the plague.  I think that it is the stress of it all that made us turn our backs on the fact that that nasty cold was creeping into the house as well.  Par for the course. 

Yesterday, in the midst of it all, we were brought back to the basics.  (We will conquer the fleas and the lice.  I’ve never dealt with fleas before but have with lice, it’s a lot of work but we know how to overcome it.  The colds will move on, eventually the bills will be paid and our friends won’t be afraid to see us.)  On the other hand, there we were on the floor of the little girls’ bedroom dealing with a tantrum, not the everyday grumpiness that you occasionally encounter but a full out kicking and screaming 3 year old.  And then she went pale, her eyes rolled back and the screaming eased.  My baby nearly fainted.  Now to most this would be happy justice for a kid that had cried it out.  For us fainting can be life threatening.

Suddenly lice, fleas, colds, and harsh words from friends didn’t seem so important.  Surviving the moment was all that we had. 

Now, as soon as the spell overcame her, she started to recover.  She certainly had lost the wind in her sails but she came back to us.  The normal procedure for days like this with a girl with a heart condition like ours has been to see the doctor immediately (get to the ER!)which has resulted in one weekend stay at the hospital so far.  The thing is that our most recent visits to our local paediatric cardiologist and to Sick Kids confirmed that our prayers are working, her heart is holding out and is more stable than they had originally anticipated.  Praise the Lord!  That being the case, we are now told that the pacemaker won’t be inserted into her heart until they see some quantifiable difference in the testing that they do or until this “starts to affect her quality of life”, meaning until dizziness leads to actual fainting.  We do hope to see our doctor this week but for now are closely monitoring her and seeking your prayers.

All of this has brought back some much needed perspective: God is in control.

            “I am the LORD, and there is no other;

            apart from me there is no God.
            I will strengthen you,
            though you have not acknowledged me,
            so that from the rising of the sun
            to the place of its setting
            men may know that there is none besides me.
            I am the LORD, and there is no other.
            I form the light and create darkness,
            I bring prosperity and create disaster;
            I, the LORD, do all these things.” – Isaiah 45:5-7

He allows us to go through the things that he does because He trusts that we will come out on the other side closer to Him and more able to be all that He wants us to be.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.  Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4

Friends, my family and I have so appreciated your kind words, your prayers and your inquiries about our daughter that show that you care.  They have made such a difference to us.  Please do continue to keep her in your thoughts and prayers as we journey along this crazy road.  It has made a difference as she had gone a full year now without need for pacemaker surgery and we hope that she will be able to go longer and grow more in order to better be ready for the hardware that is best suited to her needs.

Thanks,

Cori

Maple Tree Publications

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