Mother Culture: A Charlotte Mason Support Group in Bradford, Ontario *Note date change!*

** Please note the date changes below.  Thank you all for your kind words and support as our family has struggled to find health this fall.  We are pleased to report that hubby is now recovering at home after a week long hospital stay. **

I am so excited to start a new year of Charlotte Mason Support Group!  As many of you know I host this little book club for very selfish reasons as I am so energized and encouraged by the visits of like-minded mamas every 5-6 week.  You give me a boost that helps me to imagine I might survive this crazy game for a few more weeks. 

Continue reading Mother Culture: A Charlotte Mason Support Group in Bradford, Ontario *Note date change!*

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

Ripples

Hello All,

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.

Blessings,

Cori


www.mapletreepublications.ca

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

On Becoming Far-Sighted

Dear Friends,

I thought I would take a {quick} break from my planning.  I’ve spent my evening getting ready to participate in an Awana Children’s Ministry conference at the end of this month.  This will be the second time that I have been to this conference and this year I will be presenting two new workshops called “What is a Biblical Education?” and “Day by Day and Side by Side”.  Even though I do get nervous and pretty perfectionist about my preparations I am really looking forward to sharing some of the new things I have been learning and pondering.

At the encouragement of our local Awana missionary, I picked up a copy of Raising  Modern Day Joseph by Larry Fowler and tonight I got to curl up with a good book to do some “work”.  (This is one of the reasons that I love my job: reading is a requirement!)  I am only part way through it but I am feeling challenged already.

The author asked this question, “What do you want to be able to say about your children when they are thirty?”  Good question…

I think that as homeschooling parents we often consider ourselves more intentional than our counterparts that don’t spend hours mulling over lessons plans and curriculum choices.  But do we often look at our children’s education with such far-sighted lenses?

This was a great reminder to me that I really do need to remember to live beyond just this moment and to think of what the long term goals are that I have when I am educating my kids.  Charlotte Mason stressed that an education was so much more than simply the cramming of much knowledge into a little mind but that equally important was the motivation for learning and the habits that were formed along the way.

Diana Waring recently reminded me in a talk that she did (Thank you Lord for seminars on CD!) that biblical education is a blend of knowledge, piety and morality.  To be truly educated we must be assimilating knowledge in accordance with our relationship with the God of the universe and our love for Him and we must apply that love and knowledge to the world around us, learning to live in a way that is fitting for a child of The King.

I still have so much to learn in this respect but my husband and I have put some thought into what we want to be able to say about these children of ours when they are thirty and, so far, it looks something like this, “It is our hope and prayer that our daughters will become lovers of God and of their families, women of strong character who are contributors to family, church and society, who are unwavering in their faith and able to share it with and defend it to others.” 

Tall order, I know.  And I do struggle with the notion of expecting something of them that I don’t always see in myself.  I guess this is better to be called a hope, a prayer, than an expectation.  But without a plan, as we know, we will never get anywhere.  I like the quote that I read in the book this evening, an excerpt from a poem by Longfellow,

            I shot an arrow into the air,

            It fell to earth, I knew not where.

Without intentionality in our efforts to rightly guide these precious treasures in the path that they should go we can only be sure that we won’t know where they will end up. 

The path is long from finished in our journey of parenting and educating but it is my hope and prayer that, with God’s help, if we keep those long term goals in mind, we will have a better chance of answering that question with confidence someday: “My daughter is 30 today and she is all that I every imagined that God would want for her to be!”

What are your hopes, Friends, for your children?  What to you want to be able to say about them when they are beyond these intensive years in your care?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Cori

Maple Tree Publications

I Yelled at the Dog Today

I didn’t just yell, I stomped and raved and shouted about how I hated her.  I didn’t just scream at her in the privacy of my home (I’ve never been good at hiding my emotions), I took her to the park with my kids and their friends and my ever so graceful friend.  (How did you have so much grace for today Sarah?)  And the rest of my day was defined by my loosing my temper with my dog. 

Why is it that I thought it reasonable to scream at my dog for her horrible behaviour.  I never would have screamed, “I hate you” at my kids or my husband!  How is it that I reverted to the form of a two year old having a tantrum on the floor at the goading of a great big doesn’t-know-any-better-yet puppy?

Perhaps much of this is not just because of one dumb puppy’s behaviour but becasue of my own.  Staying up late at night to prepare to speak at several upcoming homeschool conferences and homeschool meetings has left me exhausted as the culmination of my work is played out in my preparation for the first conference coming up this weekend.  Sigh, have I played the fraud, pretending to be the homeschooler who can lead other homeschoolers into educational bliss?  

My consolation is this: homeschooling isn’t for perfect parents.

I have to constantly remind myself that we decided to homeschool because we thought it was the best thing for our family not because we came to some sort of realization that we were perfect parents and teachers.

I think that my only success in homeschooling is knowing that I am forgiven.  That is really the only way to hold my head up in light of all my failings.  To know that my redemption is in the sacrifice of Christ makes it easier to hold my children accountable, even as I fail.  How often do I ask them to do as I say and not as I do, since essentially we are all learning to walk in the likeness of Christ day by day and side by side.


And, I guess my learning today should include finding the wisdom to head to bead earlier so that my family, my friends, and even my dog don’t have to feel the wrath of Mama again tomorrow.

Good night, All!

Cori  

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