A Fresh Start

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.

Peace,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca
cori@mapletreepublications.ca

A Wild Idea…

Okay Friends,

I am going out on a limb and going to try something different this fall with the kids. I am looking for ideas, help, partners, feedback? (Please, only positive feedback as I am aware that this is a crazy idea!)

My inspirations:1) an amazing old pastor we met that has read his entire Bible every three months… For forty years!2) people who do extreme things to follow their passions like, for example, the authors of The Hundred Mile Diet who were so passionate about healthful eating that they only ate food that was produced within a hundred miles of their home for a whole year, and
3) a sweet homeschooling family that attended a YWAM training week where (university aged) students read the whole Bible in a week. The older children in this family, aged seven and nine, participated in the full week and read the whole Bible with the other, much older students.

So… I have been praying about doing something special with our studies that would embrace our passions as well and have been impressed with this idea: we would like to start our school year by reading the whole Bible together in chronological order. I don’t think we can do it in a week but maybe in two weeks or three. Our hope is to start on September 8th.

We will take turns reading corporately, will use some audio Bible and will also do some of the reading privately (for those old enough) and maybe with other friends for a bit, too.  I think we will try to make a timeline or keep our books of centuries handy as well as maps of the holy land.  I will likely have the girls do some narrative drawings or paintings while they listen daily.  I want to keep it fairly simple though.
My understanding is that it takes about 70 hours to read the Bible in full. That means it would take about 6 hours per day if done in two weeks with lesser readings on the weekend or would take about 4 hours per day if done in three weeks with lesser readings on the weekends.

What I’m looking for:1) Advice, ideas, encouragement?2) Comrades? Would anyone like to join us for encouragement, company and accountability? If you live nearby, we could meet up at a park a few days a week and read together and then take a break and play.

I am fully aware that we may not be able to fully finish this or may end up drawing it out and that we will miss many of the nuances that a slow and thoughtful read would give. On the other hand, I have found a “bird’s eye-view” very refreshing and have learned a lot from more intensive reading on my own lately.  I also realize that my younger kids will likely skip out on some reading and that’s okay, too.  I figure though that we can’t really go wrong by setting aside a special time to read the Bible intensively and that our reading, writing and ‘rithmetic studies can’t be terribly thrown off by starting a few weeks later than usual. I think that this can be a great educational experience as well a spiritual one.

Thoughts? Thanks.

Peace,

Cori

Maple Tree Publications
www.mapletreepublications.ca

905.778.9412

Seeking Discernment

We recently learned that our daughter needs to embrace a gluten free and dairy free lifestyle.  Until now I would’ve been one of the last people to jump on this band wagon that seems to be so prevalent now a days.  However, after seeing my daughter go through several months of pain and suffering and realizing that we had overlooked many symptoms before we started seeking medical and paramedical advice, my experience has changed my own skepticism. I have seen the need to change her diet validated by the evidence that has been presented.  This journey of the sceptic into dietary changes has reminded me of some of the key things that I learned as a student.

When I think back to my university days a few key lessons jump out at me.  One of those lessons was that we need to be very deliberate in our understanding and judgments because there’s often information out there that we don’t know.  I think I learned very well not to ever assume when I was in university when doing research and drawing conclusions. Very quickly I learned that if I didn’t site my sources when making statements of fact I was quickly questioned and my writing lost its credibility. When that happened, I was just a lowly student with an idea that didn’t necessarily stack up against all of the ideas that my professors had catalogued over the years.  I needed to make a conscious effort to find the proof for the idea I was arguing.

A second key lesson that I learned was that no matter what your position is on a particular idea or issue, there’s always going to be someone with an education and a research grant who will substantiate your ideas– and especially more so now that we live in this intensely digitalization world.  So I learned to constantly question not just whether I was arguing well but was I arguing truth: “What is the root of this truth, this idea that I am espousing?  Where does my reasoning find a firm foundation?”

Both of these ideas, of substantiating my claims and using right reasoning, are ones that Charlotte Mason addressed directly nearly 100 years ago and I really appreciate her words when she speaks about the way of the will and the way of reason.

She says,

“There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, which we may call ‘the way of the will’ and ‘the way of the reason.’

The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’ (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour….

The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.

In other words while me must constantly exert an effort to do and think rightly, we must also recognize that our ability to reason is limited by our own understanding and so we can, of our own volition, defend and convince ourselves of ideas that are logically flawed. 

So, there is a need, both intellectually and spiritually, to find a firm foundation.  I love it that she turns us back to our Creator for this reasoning: Proverbs 3:5,6 says “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV84). 

The way to guard against leaning to confidently on our own understanding: trust in the LORD with all our hearts! 

As I stumble through this life, there are many times when I will question the ideas that are presented to me and even worse, there will be many times that I embrace, without even realizing it, ideas that are flawed.  My best defense will always be to look to God for truth and knowledge on this crazy journey.  All the rest will fall into line.

Wishing you a peaceful day as you lean on the author of truth.

Blessings, Friends!

Cori

Drinking out of a Fire Hose

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! 

Blessings,

Cori

www.mapletreepublications.ca

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

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

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