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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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Highs and Lows

Well Friends, our school year has started with the usual highs and lows: our first day of school was bliss.  We usually plan a field trip for the first day to celebrate that we are doing this school thing just a little bit differently.  This year however we planned a field trip on the second day and since it just seemed so weird to just get down to work without fanfare on that first day after Labour Day, after we had done a minimal amount of work, we skipped off to the park.

We invited some friends at the last minute who were, like us, reluctant to get back to “normal” and we enjoyed a horribly rainy day which turned out perfectly.  The day was so warm that those silly kids just ran and played in the rain for most of the time but we also set ourselves up in a pavilion, started a roaring fire in the fireplace, and roasted spider dogs and s’mores.  A game of Dutch Blitz that even the mom’s got a round at and Twister for the kids, a bit of a nature walk and some identification and collection of edible wild plants.  How could anything top that?  It was at that moment that my heart was full, and I was so pleased to have had the wisdom to follow this road less travelled.

Then came day two, the day that was supposed to be our fantastic fall kick off.  We were so excited to have reserved tickets for the Creation Ministries International Home School Open House.  We’d always heard great things and were so excited to attend.  The kids were going to see the “mad science” show and Mama was looking forward to hearing Calvin Smith talk.  The displays and the shopping and the freebies…  Yummy.  It would be great.


A one and a half hour drive became a three and a half hour drive.  The roads were jammed, highways closed and the stopping and starting proved to be too much for daughter number three who threw up in the car.  (Who knew that a child could develop car sickness when they hadn’t been proned to it in the past number of years?  But this one has been challenged by long drives of late.  Sigh.)  A stop to clean up and find Gravol and a bit of water and we were delayed again.  To make matters worse this Mama has become a white knuckled driver over the years and so the stress of the traffic jams and car sickness pushed me right to my limits until I was so ragged that I finally walked in the door of the CMI warehouse and broke down and cried. 

Oh, how I wish I could turn off my emotions in public!  But there I was crying through the last half of the mad science presentation.  So disappointed, I was wondering what had made me think that I was up to the task of even driving my kids to a field trip let alone guiding them on the paths of higher learning on a day to day basis.

Yikes.  So how do I reconcile this as the journey back to that elusive “normal” that we had been missing since the summer came and chased the routine away?  Do I really want normal?  Will I ever survive the swings in my own pendulum as I hope for educational bliss and end up with car sick kids and missed field trips…

Well, those CMI folks were gracious enough to let us stay for the second session of the Open House and so after some time to collect ourselves at a local park we did our “do over” and enjoyed it much more.  Then another long but much less taxing drive homewards with stops along the way and finally we were able to crawl into our very inviting beds.

How am I going to survive 36 weeks of this!? 

Well, the days since our exhausting first days of school have been much more peaceful and I am happy to say that we are thoroughly enjoying the changes that this year’s study plan have allowed.  Lots of reading time on the couch, more trips to the park, school is starting to shape into a very enjoyable routine.  And we are all learning a lot already.

I have learned that though I had considered myself a fairly contented person I am still so easily swayed by circumstances.  The kids are learning to be patient and forgiving with their all too impatient mother.  I guess I know what will fill all of those lessons in the next 34 and a half weeks and it won’t just be the war of 1812, fishes and proper uses of punctuation.

How have your first days of school gone, Friends?  I hope that your living and learning journeys have been sweet so far.  I’m looking forward to chatting with you again through the year and sharing some of the goings on at our little place here Under the Maple Tree.  Wishing you warm and enjoyable days as we trickle in to the autumn.

Talk soon,


P.S. – I will post again soon about some of the events here in our little corner of the world.  Notably, our first Charlotte Mason Support Group meeting will be next week.  Do you want to read along with us again this year?  We will be reading Ruth Beechick’s A Biblical Home Education.  Let me know if you need a copy.  They are normally $16 but I am sharing them for $14 (tax included) so that you can save a penny or two while you join us.

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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!


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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!

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Thank you

Thank you for you many words of encouragement and your prayers for our little girl and for our whole family.  We wait and pray and try to keep all things in perspective – really, so much worse could happen!  For now, our daughter is well and we are continuing the daily struggle of fitting it all in: school and play, hiking in the woods and tidying the house, preparing for Christmas and enjoying visits from friends. 

As such, I am behind on my blogging.  I want specifically to get my next blog out on our virtual Mother Culture meeting.  This past meeting was on nurturing and discipling our kids.  We also talked practically about language arts and came up with a great resource list.

As we slog away, rather distractedly, at our reading and math lessons this fall I am constantly reminded to keep worthy goals in mind and am thankful for God’s grace which I know will sustain us.  We are also focusing on giving our kids the skills to fill in the gaps for themselves which are bound to come in any education let alone one with so much humanity interspersed into it as our little one room school house has. 

Yes, there will be ways that a licensed teacher would far surpass me in her teaching skills and knowledge – I am acutely aware of this as I, the Math Mama, am teaching an art class to a group of elementary schoolers.  On the other hand, in our home we can focus on helping our kids to learn work ethic while they are cleaning a bathroom, or to learn problem solving skills when they need to help their sister find her missing pair of runners, or logic when they have to decide how to arrange the plates on the table for the guests that are coming.  Our lessons may not always be formal but always we are teaching and our children are learningThe rest will fall into line.  I pray for that everyday.

Blessings Friends,