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A New Season…

It is so exciting to see spring unfolding once again and so early this year!  As usual, we are excited to be out in the yard cleaning up and dreaming of things to come, preparing gardens, tidying out the garage (let me tell you: that’s a messy job this year!) and starting little seedlings.  I am not nearly so much a gardening expert as I am an aficionado, a fan, a devotee to mucking in the dirt with hopes that something yummy might spring from it.  Really I am still that kid that makes mud pies and dreams of them really being tasty treats.

In addition to these signs of spring you can also be sure to find me playing with stacks of boxes and leafing through countless books as this is also the beginning of “Conference Season”.  Maple Tree will be at several conferences and sales over the next several months and I will also have the funky privilege of chatting with many of you as I teach several seminars at these gatherings and as I visit in our little corner of the exhibit hall.  

Continue reading A New Season…

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My Book Ownership Manifesto

In this busy season of back to back to back homeschool conventions and book sales, I am running about trying my hardest to make sure all my t’s are crossed and my i’s are dotted.  As I prepare for this weekend’s conference in Kelowna, B.C (which I am SOOO excited for) and next weekend’s conference in Hamilton, Ontario I am envisioning all those wonderful books careening here and there.  Life of Fred books are currently racing up an Ontario highway towards my home from the far off land of California, other books have spanned the distance from Tennessee to British Columbia and I am hoping to wake tomorrow morning to a box from Nevada.  All these and my most treasured shipment will be one that I personally escort home from a print shop not too far from my own front door – more amazing Maple Tree publications lovingly printed and prepared practically in our own backyard.

Then, after a night like tonight, where a shipment gets stopped at the border and it would seem that all hope is lost for getting the books to the folks that ask me to bring them here, I stop and wonder, “Why am I doing this?”  A friend asks, “So, are you going to do that again?  Or will you stop ordering books from the States?”  Nope; I’m a bibliophile.  I love books too much to stop buying them.  I love these books too much.  Tonight was a challenge, a lesson to be learned.  Red tape.  Red tape can’t take away my love for books.

So, you know my weakness: books.  I’ll also tell you another secret: my hubby told me that the only way he would allow me to keep buying books was if I started to get rid of some.  Could I part with some?  Give away some?  Throw them out?  Sell them?  And so, God opened the door for me to be involved with Maple Tree Publications.  Now, my husband blesses me in all the book buying that I do because he knows that I am buying all these sweet treats for my friends – usually.  There are still a few treasured tomes that are allowed past the bookstore shelves and onto our personal library shelves.  But I do have to be careful with what I buy as I am apt to find more gems than I can store. 

So how do you deal with this problem of so many good reads, so little space?  I know that many of my home schooling friends are bibliophiles like me.  So let me share with you the Dean family’s book ownership manifesto:

First of all, when I realize that every book, even good books, if they aren’t e-reads take up space.  And if they are going to take up space, they are going to displace something else that could take up that space.  I often have to ask myself, have I got balance in my home or is this little world that I live in overly stuffed with the written word.  Do I have room (literally and figuratively) for other great things like personal space, the great outdoors, toys and games for the kids and space to love and entertain people.  And those areas that I do devote to my book collection, am I prepared to dust and tidy and maintain those areas ongoingly?  Just like budgeting time or money, I need to wisely budget my limited space and bridle my love of books accordingly. 

Now that I have carved out that little bit of space, I need to remember that it isn’t going to get any bigger without an expensive move or renovation or a reshuffling once again of home space priorities.  So it is at this point that I need to set some high standards for which precious tomes can stay and which must go.  Here are four questions that we ask when assessing whether a book should be invited to live out its life in our home:

·        Is it something that the library won’t store for me?  We have had to say goodbye to some wonderful literary works, classics and other beautiful stories that we were confident would be found at our local library.  As taxpayers, we can be content to store some of our favourite books in that municipal storage facility that we regularly pay fees to (by way of those ample property taxes): the library.  After all, ask yourself, even though Treasure Island is a really riveting story, how often will I be reading it?  It will likely gather dust for years before I reread it or someone else in the house wants or needs to read it. 

The library, however, might not carry a set of Christian novels that are popular at church but not in the general community.  Don’t stop at just looking to the library as a storehouse for good books.  Perhaps you will find these great books somewhere else and still don’t need to keep your own copy.  Many thousands of great books are available free online as e-texts or as audio books.  While we’ve been using e-resources for more than 10 years now, sites like Project Gutenberg ( and Libriviox ( are now practically household names in light of the common use of e-readers and mp3 players.   


Places to “Store” Good Books

*The library

* – free online e-books in the public domain
* – free online audiobooks in the public domain
* – The Baldwin Project provides free electronic copies of classic children’s literature

*The church library

*Your friends’ houses

*Family’s houses

*Book exchanges like

*The second hand store (if you found it there then send it back as soon as you are done and bless both the second hand store and the next reader)


·        Do I need to use it constantly?  There are a few reasons that you might want to keep a book that would otherwise be found at the library.  Take, for example, books that you will be reading or using over a long period of time or which you will use for several years with different students in your home school.  Text books and reference books fall into this category as well.  You can’t be running to the library every time that you need an atlas or dictionary and hard copies can’t always be replaced by the computer and good websites. 

·         Is it hard to find in print?  This is the case with much good Christian literature – like good Christian fiction or classic works of theology and thought – as well as reference books: concordances and Bible dictionaries.  There are also books that are beautiful or useful or out of print: perhaps your Grandmother’s Bible that she wrote in.

·         Is it such a good book that I want to keep it in my lending library?  There are some books that are just so influential or striking that you really should share them with others.  These books are worth keeping just to reread and to lend out to others.  Beware of falling in love with too many good reads though.  I have to constantly look back and evaluate whether I still want to keep one spectacular book or another for my lending library.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to bless a friend with the book permanently so that they can be in charge of lending it out from here on.  Then they can also be the ones who are trying to remember to whom the book was last leant out.

Well, Friends, as you prepare to go to a conference and do some shopping or as you search around online looking for the best deals, I want you to know that while there are literally thousands of books that I would like to share with you, I have chosen, for now, only to carry books that fit the above criteria.  If there is something that you need that I don’t carry then, by all means, ask me and I will see if I can get it in, but for now – with a limit to the size of my bookstore shelves and to the depths of my bookstore pockets, I hope that I can help to meet your needs with my little collection and as economically as possible. 

Looking forward to meeting you “Under the Maple Tree” either virtually or at a book sale or conference over the next couple of months.  Until then, I hope that you too can find a quiet place for a bit of reading time just as I hope to in my little retreat “Under the Maple Tree”.



– with excepts from Working Together by Cori Dean copyright 2011.

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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!


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New Stuff!

It’s been a while since my last post since we officially entered “conference season” at the end of March and I have had to spend more time in the “real world”.  I wanted to send you all a quick note though, before I head out to Ottawa for this weekend’s RVHEA conference, to let you know a bit of what is going on here Under the Maple Tree. 

For more than a decade, Maple Tree has been committed to bringing you spectacular homegrown Canadian homeschool resources.  In the past few years though as I have been out at conferences and enjoying many yummy chats with all of you we have often talked about wonderful books that weren’t on our publication list.  After a chat about one great resource or another the inevitable question was, “Can I get that from you?”  I was pleased to be able to point my friends to where they could seek out some of these yummy resources but have decided to stream line the process for you (and to work harder at paying for our own piano lessons rather than at padding some other retailer’s bottom line). 

So, in light of the fact that we love the principles of Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy of Education, we have expanded out product line and now carry many of the essentials of a Charlotte Mason education

I do plan to send you some more info in the near future on these products but, in short, we can now provide you with:

– Life of Fred Math
– Learning Language Arts Through Literature
– Mystery of History
– and Apologia Science

As well as many Charlotte Mason style Bible and parent resources.  We have been slowing adding products to the website so check back there as we continue to make updates but also feel free to email or call for more information.  I’d be happy to try to help you find the resource that you are looking for.  For now, our product line is fairly simple (though it is a big and exciting change here in our little corner of the world) as we aim to provide at least some essentials of a Charlotte Mason education.

Don’t forget that Maple Tree was founded on amazing Canadian resources that we continue to provide: Working Together, Come Sit By Me and the Great Canadian ArtPak to name a few. 

Please stop by our virtual store as you plan to visit your local conference or to order books for you next school year.

And if you are going to be at one of the remaining conferences that I will be at (Ottawa, Hamilton, Barrie, Brantford, or Toronto) please come and say hello!  I’d love to chat with you in real life!



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Why We Deliver Newspapers

Okay, by now you know that I am one of those life is learning and learning is life types of people but I still do firmly believe in the need for structured learning.  Our school day does require a lot of routine – though I do shudder at strict scheduling.  I guess I am still trying to find the happy medium after all these years.  Underneath all of the second guessing and the “planning for success” though, my hubby and I have confidence in our underlying goal as parents for our kids education: it is our desire to raise our children up to be all that God made them to be, vibrant well-educated women who have a passion for God and a love for people and who use their unique gifts and talents to both pursue that passion and love but also to provide for the needs of their own families now and in the future.

So how does that translate into the nitty gritty of the day to day?  Well, of course we want for our kids to learn to read and write and do their ‘rithmetic.  We want them to be versed in sciences and history and geography but we also want more.  We want them to have strong characters, to be able to work hard and to work smart.  We want them to graduate from this homeschool not only with academic skill but with life skills.

Hence the newspaper route, a rather routine part of our week but a key learning time, too.

First, the things that we dislike about it.  The biggest downer is the sheer volume of junk mail!  It is indicative of a society that bases values on what you can get rather than what you have to give, that makes success equal to having more toys.  It is also so wasteful and a horrible travesty in term of the environmental bludgeoning that each newspapers delivers.

Secondly, I live with a house full of readers and players and creators – but not terribly athletic folks.  We love to be outdoors, but for some young souls that doesn’t mean being out doors with a cart full of newspapers.  The work is hard and it isn’t all that much fun.

In comparison to these though there are many great reasons that we have embraced that have helped both parents and children to overcome the negatives of the newspaper route.

We, like many homeschoolers, live on a rather restrictive one-income budget, so we told the kids when they were all very young that when they started to wanting expensive toys that they’d better get themselves a job.  For our oldest that came at nine years of age.  She wanted a video game player and so she got a job delivering newspapers and earned the money she needed for the toys she wanted.

Having a paper route has been a great way to get physical exercise that aspiring cooks, mad scientists and generally non-athletic types have needed.  My kids are getting paid to be physically active rather than me having to pay for them to do so.

It gives a much needed breath of fresh air even on those rainy days when we would have hidden inside.  We only deliver two days a week but it’s nice to know that there are those required days to get out in the most dull weeks when it is easier to just get cooped up.

The kids have spending money that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to have when mommy and daddy are trying to stay within a missionary budget.

No only that, they have learned first hand about giving, saving and spending, key principles that aren’t as easy to internalize when the money you are giving away has been given to you to give.  They have learned to tenderheartedly share from their own resources and to plan for the future as well.

They have learned work ethic.  We’d rather that our children learn, while they are young, that they need to submit to the authority of a boss than to struggle with the idea later in their adult years when their income is no longer discretionary.  Not only that but they are learning that, even on the days that you don’t want to do it, you still need to get the job done on time.  They are learning stick-to-it-iveness.  They are learning the value of a job well done. 

They are also learning valuable character qualities as they strive to “do all things without arguing or complaining”.  They are learning to work together on tasks and to get along and to help out, to love and to be gentle and to be kind as they work side by side.  They are learning, albeit slowly, to sing a happy song even when their heart feels grumpy.

They are learning to smile and to look adults in the eye rather than to avert their eyes and turn up their iPods as so many young people are apt to do while out and about.

They are also learning to be safe and smart.  As they get older, each of my children earns the ability and privilege to do more in their little business, going from being the youngest, two year old, who gets to take newspapers from our dining area to the front porch and under Mom’s supervision to the front door of each of our next door neighbours, to the oldest who is able to go door to door out of Mom’s sight, walking on the road without supervision.  They are learning how to stay safe when they meet up with people they don’t know.

I guess the minor part of their learning would be the opportunity to think logically about optimizing the walk on their route, the calculating and planning that they do as they earn and save for special purchases, the reading that they do while they should be stuffing fliers. 

Newspapers are much more than a chance to make a buck or two in our house – though that doesn’t hurt either.  Newspapers are a key part of our educational journey.

I hope that you enjoy the ever so routine moments in your days this week Friends!



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Hello Friends,

A few upcoming dates in my little world…  Will you join me for a few of them here or there?  I’m excited that “conference season” is just around the corner as I will be able to see some of my virtual friends in real life.  If I don’t see you in a seminar, be sure to some and see me in the vendor hall and say hi. 

February 16 – Charlotte Mason Meeting in Bradford, Ontario. 7:30-9:30.  Please let me know if you plan to come!)
March 22 – Charlotte Mason Meeting
March 31 – KWCEA Conference, Kitchener.  See you at Rockway Menonite Collegiate, 110 Doon Road, 8:30am to 5pm.
   Workshops that you might join me for?  (See the descriptions below)
            Goal Setting And Planning Your Next School Year
           Homeschooling for “Newbies”
            Single Income Living In A Double Income Culture
April 14thRVHEA Conference, Ottawa.  Will you be at this one?  It’s at Kanata Baptist Church, 465 Hazeldean Road, Kanata, 8am to 5pm.
   Workshops that you might join me for?
         Enhancing Your Math Teaching
         Charlotte Mason in Real Life
         In Search of the Secret: The Practical Road to Contentment
April 27 & 28 – OCHEC Conference, Hamilton.  Please come and say hello if you are around in Hamilton.  Hamilton Convention Centre, 1 Summers Lane, Hamilton.  
   Workshops that you might join me for?
          Working Together
          In Search of the Secret: The Practical Road to Contentment
May 3 – Charlotte Mason Meeting
May 7 – Speaking at New Tech Homeschool Group.  This is a local homeschool group meeting on a Monday evening.
           Charlotte Mason in Real Life
May 26 – Parent’s Guide Conference, Barrie.  I will be spending my day in the vendor’s hall; if this one is closer to your front door then please come visit for a bit.  Barrie Free Methodist Church, 284 Cundles Road East, 8:30 am -3:30 pm.
June 7 – Charlotte Mason Meeting
June 8 – TEACH New and Used Curriculum Sale, Brantford, Mohawk College Campus, 6-9:30.  There aren’t any seminars at this one but if you are looking for bang for your buck – this is an awesome used books sale.  (I’ve always shopped for used books here and then been able pick any other books that I needed in the vendor’s hall.)
July – Newby Meeting **Stay tuned for updates**
August – New and Used Curriculum Sale, Ajax
August – Newby Meeting **Stay tuned for updates**
(Interested in a Newby Meeting in your area.  Drop me a note, I’d love to visit for an evening with new homeschoolers in your area!)
So, now you know where to find me in the next few months…  I will look forward to seeing many of your soon.

2012 Homeschool Workshops 

In Search of the Secret: The Practical Road to Contentment. – Do you ever wonder what is it that you are searching for, what would make you truly happy?Living in a homeschooling family is a countercultural lifestyle just as being content is a countercultural value nowadays.In this seminar, we will search out the secret of the true meaning of contentment and how it is that we can practically work towards this ever elusive paradise in a home that is lived in 24/7 and on a limited income.Looking at our goals and expectations, our priorities, our stuff, our money, our relationships, we will set out on a journey that will prepare us to not only endure the trials of everyday life as a home educating family but to thrive and to be truly content.

Working Together – Working together as a family is an essential learning goal of every homeschool both for growing students and for the sanity of the mom who wants to conquer the laundry mountain.In this workshop we first look at the biblical basis for teaching our children to work together then discuss the basics of working together in order to develop self care skills, hospitality skills and a servant’s heart.Because Working Together is framed around acquiring practical life skills this seminar also includes how to set up a routine that will get the whole family involved in the essentials of running a Christian household. *** Note: I have an exciting new publication, Working Together: Teamwork Starts at Home Base that corresponds to this seminar.***

Goal setting and planning for your next school year – Preparing for the next school year can be a daunting task.  Where do you start?  How do you decide what to study and when to study it?  Are you planning too much? Or too little?  How do you know if you are making SMART goals?  Do your long term goals for educating your children match your short and medium term goals? This workshop will walk you through how to plan for each of your children for an entire school year from writing a vision and goals to finishing with a workable schedule.
Single Income Living in a Double Income Culture Choosing to homeschool makes your family countercultural for many reasons. Living by a different economy is one of those reasons. As homeschoolers, we have to learn to live more on less. This seminar looks at how it is that we can not only survive on less but thrive on one income. We will look at ways to save money in our homeschools and how to invest what we do spend wisely. Cori will also share about ways that their family has turned their home educating efforts into opportunities to earn money for the kids and for small business income that has helped the family’s bottom line by paying for homeschool costs.
Homeschooling for “Newbies” – Just starting out or considering taking a homeschooling adventure?  This workshop will address some of the top questions that new homeschoolers ask: Do I need to contact my local school board?  What resources and supports are available to me?  How do I choose curriculum?  What should a typical school day look like?  What about socialization!?!   – With lots of time built in for questions and answers you will have the chance to get specific answers to specific questions.
Enhancing Your Math Teaching.  In this seminar we will look at ways to enrich the basics that you are studying in your math curriculum so that your family can move beyond the theoretical study of a pure science into the realm of everyday life through practical application.  Enhancing teaching through the use of games, literature, activities and manipulatives as well as through unit studies, and various subjects, such as science and art, are just starters to helping your family enjoy their math studies.
Charlotte Mason in Real Life – Every family homeschools for different reasons and from a different perspective.  Likewise, we all have different styles.  This workshop looks at ways to integrate beneficial aspects of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy without necessarily becoming a dedicated “Charlotte Mason” family.  This workshop starts out with an overview of the Charlotte Mason Philosophy and goes on to explore simple ways of incorporating beneficial principles like “living books”, narration and developing relationships with subjects into any homeschool no matter which way you approach home education.