The Key to Knowledge


As I reflect on “the science of relations” – this month’s topic offered through the CMEC’s Mother’s Education Course, I am delighted that like all families that embrace education as an atmosphere, a discipline and a life (and even those who don’t because really you almost can’t run from it in family life), each member of our family discovered beautiful “relationships” this past term. And then, just as I compose this, my husband interrupted me with one he had just made. Sometimes simple, sometimes profound, it doesn’t matter. Each time I get a “window into the soul” of my sons, my daughter and my husband. (For a great post that speaks of this window read Celeste Cruz’ blog )

One child spoke to me of the story of Theseus, King Minos and the Minotaur and how that story is “so like what is happening in the book of Judges”. Terrible wrong (King Minos son murdered/ Israelites turning from God), Punishment (Athens has to send tributes to Greece for their error/ Israelites suffer from their conquerors ), contrition (Theseus recognizes that they do have to make up for what they did/Israel realizes they were wrong), and finally, deliverance (a hero arises who rescues the people). 

Another day, my daughter notices that from our reading in Luke 6 (“Bless those who curse you”) where Jesus says to win others over with sweet words, so does Petruchio win over Katherine by countering her harsh nature with sweet responses. Both kids liked that we read about Theseus and Hippolyta’s marriage and that they make a special appearance in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the play that we are doing this year.

One asked if the “Little Billie” poem by William Thackeray we read yesterday (about a little boy who is going to be eaten by his shipmates in a hilarious fashion) is based on the french song we learned last year, “It etait in petit navire” in which a little boy also picks the short straw and will be eaten starving shipmates but is saved (On tira a la courte paille, pour savior qui-qui-qui serait mange).

My own connection to this whole theme twas when I read Luke 11: 52 a few weeks ago as part of our morning NT readings: “Woe to you experts in the law [teachers], you have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered and you have hindered those who were entering.” Holy smokes! Isn’t that exactly what Charlotte Mason was talking about when she quotes from the Bible  “don’t hinder the little children”! Teachers can inhibit true learning when they hold the key of knowledge to themselves, or don’t even use it themselves – which is to enter into, to have a living relationship with ideas and people, and ultimately with the biggest Idea out there. The pharisees held to legalistic formulas, minuteness, dry facts, boring interpretations, and could not see the truth when it stared them in the face.

Have I been a teacher- pharisee? Only wanting my own answers spewed back to me? Wanting to ‘guide’ the children to parrot the facts and information that only I deem important? Jesus wanted a living faith for his followers. A parent must believe that a living education is indeed possible. When teachers hold this back, they do a great disservice. The people read the same scriptures as the pharisees but they found a great hope within, and the pharisees suppressed it. My children are reading living books – books that breath life and connect through time and space to people and places they might not otherwise get a chance to know. Who am I to tell them what may speak to their heart, or what knowledge they may dig for and delight in at these wonderful meetings of the mind? What a sobering thought! Jesus rebuked teachers for hindering this (Woe to you!)

And to leave on a slightly lighter note, just as I am thinking about all these connections, my husband walks in and plays what he just listened to in his latest audiobook Sharpe novel, “Sharpe’s Fury”. The captain references how his shipmates are just like his ships, the men have “hearts of oak”. And the captain proceeds to sing the sea shanty on his audiobook that the kids have been learning and reprising EVERY dinner (Lord help us): “Heart of Oak are our ships, Heart of Oak are our men. We are always ready, steady boys steady.” He delights in the “relation” to what his kids are learning.

If you haven’t read Celeste Cruz’s great blog post on the science of relations as relayed by her son, please do. She writes“ [CM] is warning us that we don’t have to present a carefully-constructed curriculum of connected ideas to make sure our children can learn. Their building of those connections themselves IS their education. That’s not our job as teacher; in fact, it would be overstepping our bounds. It is a web, not a string, of relationship, with the learner right there in the middle.”

Puffed sleeves and the depths of despair {pretty, happy, funny, real}



There is a type of egg decorating that is not for the faint of heart: Pysanky. I was introduced to this art by the lovely ladies of Mary House. This is an ancient Ukrainian tradition. Eastern Christians have generally tackled this fine art during the reflective time of Lent.

IMG_0419I have read that the tradition has been passed down from mother to daughter. No kidding! My daughter, even at three, has some instinct to treat the egg preciously. There may be some careful boys out there but they don’t live in my house. My egg already has a crack in it from one young man.  That’s OK.  At the time of Lent – and as these are meant to symbolize the gift of life – the crack is also is a reminder of my own flaws and how these are part of each beautiful and unique person.

Historically, as part of the decorating process, the dyes, wax and stylus were brought out at night. I am guessing because precision is near impossible with kids around and the chance to work in quietness was probably a blessing – but I can imagine the difficulty of working on something as delicate at this by candlelight. Apparently, many eggs were made over the course of Lent. One site says enough were made for “ten or twenty for God children”. Ha! I have have two God children so I guess I am going to have to figure out how to make one more…maybe next year.

The process is sort of a reverse-painting. Hard to explain. The candle is used to burn away the wax that is put on at the beginning to preserve the lovely white lines you see here.



I am always disappointed (thought not surprised) at how often these days, chain franchises and even new businesses are opened without a thought given to aesthetics. I wish there was a beauty inspector who had to sign off on a certain level of aesthetic sense. I know it can beauty can cost but other times it can be easily achieved. A new grocer specializing in locally grown and crafted (baked goods) food has opened here called “Farmer Roberts”.

It is truly delightful and makes shopping an enjoyable experience (and not much more pricey).





We don’t have many hard and fast rules in the house; I tend to make them up as I go along. But Ian and I are in strong agreement that pets are not part of our near future. For many reasons.

Ethan is mourning the loss of a potential pet badge at cubs, so I promised to bring him to the animal shelter to walk an animal now and then.

This is Sweetie. Yes, she is sweet – even I will admit. I enjoyed looking at my children through a glass window while they fed the little puppy. I asked the volunteer on duty if we could take a dog for a walk.

IMG_0405She took one look at me with my unruly 3 year old, my distracted 10 year old, and my baby with no socks on – clinging to me in distinct fear of the little baby animals all around us -and questioned whether we could really handle a “dog that pulls”. Point taken. She gave us Sophia who was actually really lovely and helped to ease us into the art of dog-walking. She was easy, compared to the bipeds in our group.

The accommodating volunteer had attached a second leash to Sophia after Ysabeau lost it when she saw that Ethan was given the main leash. I have a feeling Sophia was shaking her head inside, knowing this isn’t the greatest idea.

Nonetheless, I still categorize this outing as generally “happy”.


When Ethan arrived to live with us he had difficulty reading for more than 10 minutes (which I think is often common for 10 year old boys). He would became visibly depressed. My heart soars because today he is reading quite easily for 45 minutes and he just completed a read-a-thon at school which asked for 10 consecutive days of reading for more than 30 min per day.


We just finished reading some books from the fantastic New York best-selling series for kids. Check out the Who Was/ Who Is series. They are the answer to what I have been looking for. The classics are great but Ethan can only handle the Queen’s English for so long. And I simply must limit the graphic novel intake. These lovely little novelettes combine interesting and understandable prose with some lovely illustrations, and (speaking to my heart) a good deal of history.

He loves to read in this chair that leans so far back he almost hits the floor. I get a laugh out of seeing him here many evenings in his “old man” robe that he insists on wearing before bed.


Each winter, a big snow removal truck comes and pushes all the snow from the surrounding roads into a giant hill in the middle of our cul-de-sac. And I mean GIANT. You can get a sense of the size from the house on the right side of the photo. It is a essentially a homing beacon for most kids in the neighbourhood. The kid who has extreme-sport parents on the other street brought his dirt bike to ride down.  My kids and the neighbour’s kids are fairly normal snow recreationalists.


But lo! One unassuming day while Ethan was at school, the dump truck and digger came – complicit in the city’s plan to eliminate any liability they may have in kids getting hurt on these mounds.

The picture below was taken from Ysabeau’s view from the window, who was excitably sending visible distress signals to the driver. She asked why it was being taken away. I explained that only in the Yukon do we enough snow that it is literally picked up by a dump truck and thrown away.

Toward the end of the snow removal process we got in the van to the rec centre and the driver of the digger pulled in close to us, rolled down his window, apologized to Ysabeau, and said that sometimes it is hard to do his job. Bless!


I was inspired by a friend who mentioned that when she has to rush out of the house because otherwise she will simply never get out – just grab the jar of PB and crackers – and presto! -instant snack at your final destination. Thanks for inspiring me. I suggest slamming down can of raisins for instant snack sophistication:)

I am glad that libraries don’t outlaw the PB.


Xav likes spaghetti.



I am of the mind that there should be a book written called The Marilla Cuthburt Style of Parenting – for all us parents who are graced with child who is an “Anne of Green Gables kindred -spirit”. These kids neither hide their disgust, or elation, at opportunity.


Ysabeau is most definitely an “Anne-girl”. As her daycare worker so aptly put it- “She has a flair for the dramatic”. I’ll say. I have endless amounts of “puffed-sleeves” and “depths of despair” moments in my future, and I take full genetic responsibility (well, half). I have no doubt I will find my daughter one day on the river reciting the Lady of Shalot in a shoddy old canoe.

For instance, what I thought was the time-old tradition of sharing the nativity story to Ysabeau at Christmas has turned into a multi-seasonal reenactment of Mary’s piety , head-covering and all (see below).

But I don’t think we give Marilla enough credit for her parenting wisdom. Her “stuff and nonsense” approach was perfect for a girl who struggled with self-control and perspective. In fact, despite their different personalities, they fall in love with one another. They change one another. Temper one one another.

So yes, I appreciate that times have changed and positive parenting styles are all the rage, but I think we can label Marilla’s style as positive (positive for children and teens prone to excessive drama and rashness) – and more importantly, one that suits her unique relationship with her foster child. I hope that Ysabeau and I were put together for a reason. I notice that I tend more toward Marilla’s style (as Anne did in some ways when she became a parent) and I hope there is some providence in that.


(For my non-Catholic friends this photo may seem quite alarming, as though someone is forcing her to do this. Believe me, she hasn’t see me do this at home and it came on totally impromptu. My friend who is travelling around Europe has a 5 year old son who is a little similar to Ysabeau, and on their visits to old churches and monasteries, he kneels down and bows over one knee like a medieval knight every time he enters a a church built before 1800. The atmosphere compels a response. Love it!).

This post was a link-up with my favorite blog at Like Mother, Like Daughter – because it’s important to maintain the collective memory.