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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.



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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.



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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.



Maple Tree Publications

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Counting Our Blessings…

Dear Friends, 

I wouldn’t normally forward you a letter that I had already sent to a friend privately but I hope she will excuse me as I thought it the best way to share my heart and our circumstances with you…

Crazy days! Our recent days have been dominated by a weekend in the hospital for our youngest daughter (and I – Cori). She was experiencing chest pains (and still is a bit) but was otherwise healthy and happy which made it much more bearable. We realized on Friday morning that her complaints were consistently about pain in her chest. Before that we’d thought that we were responding to the usual bout of two year old nicks and scrapes. So, (on Friday morning) I called her paediatric cardiologist and asked for advice. He advised seeing our family doctor who wasn’t available. We knew that, regardless of where we went, saying to any doctor, apart from him, that our two year old with a heart condition was having chest pain would get us sent to the ER. So we went to the ER and were soon admitted. They decided to do 48 hours of monitoring. Really they didn’t have the right equipment needed to monitor her specific condition or someone with expertise on her needs. So it was a lot of calling Sick Kids in Toronto for advice and such. In short, our little girl’s heart rate is irregular and low which they said was not critical right now but is consistent with someone with her condition.

They released us today and we were home early after noon with the plan to get to see her paediatric cardiologist tomorrow (please pray this will happen) so that he can properly monitor her and can compare her condition now to his previous notes on her. He is a good Christian man but rather tight lipped with information and obviously very busy so hard to get a hold of. (We are really hoping and praying that he will monitor her now rather than in six weeks when he is supposed to see her next.)

So, again we covet your prayers for our girl.

Otherwise, we are in good spirits, not wanting to compare ourselves but having seen so many kids recently in much worse shape. I’ve been inspired by a family who’s daughter has been a the brink of death since before Christmas and the way that they praise God daily in their Facebook updates.

Our children are God’s and not our own and as such he doesn’t owe us another day with them but trusts us with their upbringing. Amazing, eh? In addition to that it was just so nice to have time to just spoil my girlie and to cuddle her lots and to play only with her, not something we do often. As well, we have just been so blessed by friends and family and neighbours who took the kids, shoveled the drive, fed us, walked the dog, delivered the newspapers, brought tea for us and activity pages for the princess when she wasn’t allowed to move. Amazed by God’s provision in only 48 hours.

So anyway, we request your prayers for the days ahead and will keep you posted. Pray that we will be able to ride this storm with strength (physical, emotional and spiritual) and faith.

“You, O Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light.” Psalm 18:28

Many blessings,

Cori and the rest of the Dean Clan

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Busy Days

You know some days I think that I have some sort of mommy superpower.  That happened just yesterday.  I kept all of the juggling balls in the air without flinching.  At one point I was loading a computer programme onto the computer, while cleaning pee off the floor (yes, the toddler is still struggling with this concept) and giving spelling dictation all while discussing the concept of reducing fractions with my oldest student.  I could see my cape fluttering in the breeze behind me though it did of course have little baby boogies on the shoulder and a tear that will wait for years to be mended.  It fit though.  Yesterday.

Today was a different mess all together.  I found myself wondering what my little cherubs must be destroying in the basement when they should have been listening to good books on the couch.  The reason why they were on their own covert operations: I was sequestered in my room trying to make my own clandestine moves and schedule a dentist appointment that one daughter in particular is terrified to deal with.  Because I didn’t want her to hear what atrocities I was planning for her, something that looked like a nuclear bomb was in the midst of going off in the basement.

It occurred to me then that not only are days like this not ideal school days but they are so counter productive.  In those 10 minutes yesterday when I was supermom, in tights (that of course didn’t accentuate the curves that were out of place) and a cape, we probably got about an hour and a half’s worth of work done as everyone industriously multitasked, all working in coordination, all doing their part and contributing to the family unit as a whole and to health and well being of us all.  Five people, each working away for a good fifteen minutes, and all was bliss. 

Then today – not only did they not get the science fair project worked on nor the chapter of Robin Hood read to them nor the last story told in the book on New France, but, in the time that they should have, I also didn’t make any lunch and someone made a huge mess in the basement.  Yesterday, 10 minutes got 90 minutes of work tucked away and today 10 minutes charted out enough work to do for the rest of the day – now there is a mess to clean, assignments that aren’t done, and the usual gamut of tidyings and helpings out that had been neglected.  Oh yeah, and all that after the squabbling pair has to take the time to expresses their love for one another and their horrible regret at what was said and done while Mamma was on the phone.

Sigh, some days are better than others, aren’t they?  I really do love my job – partly because of days like this.  It is good to be learning right along side of my girlies like this.  They are a forgiving group.  Tomorrow, I hope for a better day.  Knowing that God is good is good enough.  All the rest will work itself out in the wash (even if I am eight loads behind.)

May the Lord bless you with Peace, dear Friends, as you seek quite moments in your busy days.

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Preparation: Advent

Dear Friends,

As the Christmas season starts to get harried by the constant barrage of things that we are told we must do and buy in order to make the right impression on ourselves and others I always tend to get introspective, wanting Christmas to be more than a long to do list interspersed with fun parties and gatherings and punctuated by a big Visa bill.  I want to show those around me the love of Jesus and my love for them and yet does it always have to be with gifts of the more traditional sense? 

This fall has been a harried time too.  One of those seasons in which I often feel like I am helplessly being tugged here and there, not really able to get at the reins of this speeding wagon. 

Why is it that the house seems eternally out of order, that the bills seem to overwhelm my pocketbook, that my ability to gently love and guide my children is there one moment and then vanishes at the first sign of the every day speed bumps in life.

Maybe you know them, the things I didn’t think I would have to deal with as a parent…

“Sister, can you come and help me?” says one daughter.  “The baby just pooped on the floor!”

“Why didn’t you say that she was throwing all the board books in the bathtub?”

“What do you mean the Christmas tree just fell on you?”

Some times real life is too much. 

As Christmas approaches again I strive to peel away all of the pageantry and to survive the daily circus and just be a part of the anticipation, the advent of the King.  I feel so unready in my messy house and my dirty track pants (‘cause the laundry is piled so high).

Then I remember the focus in our school this year… “Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child”.  As I journey this crazy, bumpy path, I myself need to be prepared and not to focus on the preparations of the pageantry all around me.

This fall hasn’t been a good one for maintaining the best routines; it’s been “one of those days” more often than not.  There’s a lot of room for growing, learning and improving – and I’m mostly talking about me.  But if we focus on preparing both our children and ourselves for the seasons of life we will be ready to take on the circumstances.  In the short term I want to prepare my heart for Christmas: to thrill at the anticipation of the arrival of the King.  In the longer term: my desire for my family and for myself is that we will be prepared for the path laid out before us.  If being prepared for Christmas or for life was all about managing a “to do” list it would be so much easier – even though I am so often not “managing” the way I’d like to be.  Perhaps that is why we all need to take the harder route and let the One whose words are the light for our path to lead us.

Wishing you a blessed season of advent Friends as you prepare to celebrate the arrival of our King!