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Work is a Blessing?!

As I take a break from our usual Saturday festivities of catching up, getting groceries, preparing for the week that lies ahead, I thought tonight I would share with you an excerpt from Working Together, the new book that will be released on March 28th from Maple Tree Publications.  This excerpt deals with the value of work….

[Here is] one of the greatest reasons to keep a good attitude about our work.  Work is a blessing not a curse.  Our God has said that He will provide all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).  God has no shortage of glory and so He came to give us life and to give it more abundantly (John 10:10).  His desire is to bless us with all good things and certainly He has – after all, He has invited us to have an eternal relationship with Him.  What could be better than that?  But he also provides for us physically, not just spiritually.  He says that not even a bird would fall without His knowing it (Matthew 10:29); He is that involved in and aware of His creation. 

However, I’ve heard a cute little saying that goes like this, “God feeds the birds, but He doesn’t throw it in the nest.”   God is providing for our needs by making us able to work to obtain His blessings.  This doesn’t apply to the spiritual blessing of salvation but it does to the physical blessing of provision.  What a blessing it is to have the physical strength and ability to do basic tasks for ourselves.  Let’s not take that for granted.  It is only by the grace of God that I am able to rise in the morning and dress myself, brush my teeth and make my breakfast.  Let us honour God by doing all that we can to be physically self-sufficient, not a burden to others and in turn we can give Him glory through our work. 

There are also spinoffs to the blessing of physical provisions that God makes for us through our abilities.  There is the blessing of being satisfied with the fruits of our labours, of being content with what we have.  We can enjoy the results of our hard work and feel good, fulfilled.  We gain confidence and feel more ready to face challenges that lie ahead.  Beyond simple physical provision, hard work is a sure delivery vehicle for the abundant life that Jesus offers. 

An important example is that of Adam and Eve.  God instructed them how to work and to tend to the Garden of Eden before they sinned.  Working for a living is not part of the punishment that we endure because of our sinful natures.  It is a privilege to have the physical capability to earn money, to make things, to do things. 

So, when attitudes are faltering about cleaning time, remind your little people (and yourself) that God wasn’t obligated to give you hands and fingers that worked, muscles to lift with, feet that are able to help you move about, balance and stand.  He did not need to give you a brain that can learn and think but He has because He was providing for your needs to take care of yourself and others.

Wishing you my friends a satisfying day as we all busily scurry about doing the things that make for living.

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An Education in Crisis

This week the Dean family experienced a crisis.  My grandmother, my children’s dear G.G. (Great Grandma), breathed her last and found peace.  The rest us were thrown into turmoil trying to grasp the reality of a life without someone who has been so strong and active and stable in all our lives.  With this shock, of course, came several aftershocks, as suddenly I was thrown into being actively involved in the nitty gritty of planning a funeral, sending off a great woman.  Obituary, eulogy, flowers, clothes.  This was my “to do” list this week.  Not language arts, math, vacuuming, grocery shopping.  So our education plan was thrown into crisis. 
Instead, this week our education was about how to deal with a crisis, not about spelling and piano lessons as I had planned.  But it was that education, that commitment to the day to day which prepared us for this week. 
When I suddenly left in the middle of the day in a flight to the hospital the children were able to prepare a meal, to pick up the next morning and do some of their school work, to help dad with the packing of bags and the preparations needed to leave the house for a few days.  This is a testament to their education.  They behaved in a mature and rational manner despite their anguish and fatigue.  When staying with family, what a joy it was to have them take the occasional opportunity to do the dishes without being asked, to make a bed, even if it wasn’t their own, to help with farm chores that they had never been acquainted with. 
It warmed my heart to have my cousin, a long time teacher, say that she had never seen four children behave so well.  I am so thankful that I have the privilege to spend time with my kids in the day to day so that we can learn to better show our love for one another and for others.  I’m not specifically talking about home schooling but about the influence that every parent has on their children in their every day interactions with one another.  What an awesome responsibility.
I think that it is this commitment to the needs of the family that my children have reflected this week, something that has been passed down to them from a very special woman that we had to say good bye to this week.  What a legacy to leave.  It was a week of crisis, but a time of deep learning for our hearts.

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Education is a matter of the spirit.

When I read any of Charlotte Mason’s writings I often can only get through a page or two before I have to stop and digest.  So many wise thoughts in such a small space.
Tonight she quotes to me from an earlier author, “Education is a matter of the spirit.”  I stop, and think.  So true.  It’s too often that we look at our children’s education, at our own education as a matter of increasing one’s money making potential.  But there is so much more to it. 
If we believe that every person is a perfectly made creation of God then we must also know that we are more than the sum total of our earning potential.  God made us, each and every one, to live that abundant life that he came to provide.  There is so much more to life than our career paths.  Life is loving, knowing, experiencing.
Education therefore must address those deep heart issues and not just our external selves.  Miss Mason likens it to trying to nourish hungry and growing bodies by smearing food on the outside, applying a compress so to speak and hoping that all of the vital essence will be absorbed. 
If we limit our learning to that which prepares us for a job then we miss a vital part of the training for living.  We also set our children up for a life of finding worth in these cosmetic features: grades, skills, jobs, earnings, “success”.
When I think of this practically, with my own little tribe, I think of what my goals are for my students.  Yes, I hope that by the end of their days of tutelage under my direction that they will be fluent in many subject areas, that they will be well spoken and be able to think rationally and reason logically.  I also hope that they will become adults of great virtue, that they will walk closely with the Lord and that they will bless all who they come into contact with.
In the short term I fail though.  I plan geography lessons, grammar lessons and I read to them great literature but am I making goals for their moral and spiritual upbringing?  Too often these intangibles are pie in the sky hopes but something I don’t make a part of our curriculum. 
If I am going to take seriously the deeply spiritual nature of education then I need to make it my goal to teach my children attention by letting their baby sister wander through our classroom when it is inconvenient.  I need to plan to allow them to regularly clean their rooms and participate in chores so that they will learn to choose right attitudes that come from practice at doing things that they need to do but would rather not do.  I must set aside time for them to help people outside of our family so that they can learn to value hospitality and charity.  I have to give them time daily to quietly reflect, to rest, to read, to pray.
Education is matter of the spirit and as such it must be much more than a set of lesson plans and timetables.  Education must be a full out seeking to know God.
Wishing you an abundant education your whole life through,

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Living the Life…

I often lament the slow plod of our days.  I start off each week with big plans, each day with a long list: school work to be done, chores that need accomplishing, tasks to tackle.  But how often am I really able to check everything off in a day?  Not often.  Then I cry, “We didn’t finish our reading lesson; the laundry is piling up again.  Yikes! We have to get that present before the birthday party!”  But in the end, as I look back, I have to remember that there is so much more to life than checking things off of a to do list.
When thinking of our little homeschool and the lessons that my children have been learning I need to realize that there is much more to the educated life than reciting facts and digesting information. 
This is the substance of our chat at this past week’s Charlotte Mason Support Group: atmosphere. 
Miss Mason says that ideas are the substance upon which our minds feed, the stuff of education.  If we provide our children with a bountiful diet of ideas, then they will grow and thrive educationally.  And how do they acquire these ideas?  She maintains that there is much more to gaining an education than just having information thrown our way.  Atmosphere is a key ingredient to a vibrant education.  It is through our atmosphere that we show our children our values, we help them to love learning, to have compassion, to practice patience, to solve problems. 
Listen to what Miss Mason says about atmosphere: “a child draws inspiration from the casual life around him.  The thought of any of our poor words and ways being a daily influence on a child should make the best of us want to hold our breath.  Sigh, she knows my thoughts.  I wish that my kids were gleaning positive lessons more often.  No, more often than not it is exasperation, frustration, impatience that they soak in.  My list!  When will we get to my list?  But alas, “what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” Romans 7:15.
So how do I find hope?  Just as I will never have a house that would pass a white glove test, so will I constantly fail and be the wrong influence on these children I have been entrusted with.  There is another way.  My hope lies in knowing that my priorities are wrongly placed when I make the outside charm in either my home or the lives of my children or me the paramount cause.  Instead I can gain real value in knowing that it is the inner relationship that counts, knowing Jesus and his priorities.  Will I ever get through all of my to do list?  No.  But if I look at what it is that really counts, knowing and loving Jesus and people then I can reorient my measurements of success.
So the list will live on but I commit myself to measuring the quality and success of my children’s education by the depth of relationship that they have with Christ and the way that they are able to love those with whom they are in contact.  Our education is about continuing to live the life of captive pursuit of Jesus.
Wishing you success in Jesus’ eyes.