I ordered this box of felting supplies from a small business in BC. They ship all over Canada and the US, but I wanted to shop local, which is how I came to make my purchase there. Then... Look how it arrived!!
Just look at that!! It wasn't just a box of gloriously colourful natural felty goodness, it was a box of love from a person I'd never met! It nearly brought me to tears, as I was reminded of the early years of my Dad's toy shop, when my step-mother made waldorf dolls to sell there, and my little sisters helped with the stocking and packaging (and endless cash-register and typewriter practice!) This kind of heartfelt family business practice is rare, now, but maybe with the pandemic can shine a little more.
My heart was so filled by the care and personal attention put into this package that I wrote back to the woman who owns the business to tell her how much it meant to me. And guess what! She's an unschooler! Well, surprising and not-surprising, I guess. Unschooling is about living life like every little piece of it matters, and that's exactly how Jenn conducts business at Maplerose.
|Charlotte, Walt, Mark and Jenn out for a picnic.|
Meet Jenn. She and her husband Mark live with their kids Walt and Charlotte in the Kootenays, where they live life to the fullest, and Jenn conducts the business of bringing natural and Waldorf-inspired products to families. Why Waldorf? "I love wool, wood and wax," Jenn says. "I find them beautiful materials and I've always tried to surround my children with simple, beautiful, natural things. I wouldn’t consider us absolute Waldorfians, but I do like a lot of Rudolf Steiner's ideas. We wear lots of wool, love the smell of beeswax, and that lines up so nice with what Maplerose was about when I bought it."
And what Maplerose is about is also family. Her father was an entrepreneur, so taking a chance on running a business was a natural choice for Jenn. It wasn't as easy as she expected, though, she says. "I had no idea how challenging entrepreneurship was - I thought my dad just knew what he was doing. I realize now that he didn't and that having your own business is so much about taking calculated risks. I had no idea it would be this hard but unlike past businesses I'd tried to run when I was single, having children depend on you is very motivating. Those sweet faces watching you as you flounder and struggle and then loving you anyway. Even if I feel I've made mistakes in my business they still love me so much and reassure me that it's going to be okay. One of the biggest challenges is finding the balance between putting energy into my business and attending to my children."
|Charlotte and Walt on an Equinox lantern walk|
Like so many unschoolers, Jenn's family tried out school, first. She thought she and Charlotte would have a great time bonding when Walt was away at school. "That fall, though, when Walt went off to school (two days a week) Charlotte was not happy. She had never known life without Walt in it and she was not happy that he was gone. It really made me rethink how I saw our family and the importance of us being together and maintaining that safe place that they had known so well. And Walt missed being with us. So this year, we decided he wouldn't go back to the kindergarten and we'd just see what happened. For the most part it's been great. Walt and Charlotte learn so much from each other in so many ways. And I wouldn't want to miss any of it either. I love being with them. It's really an honour." The kids' father, Mark, has a corporate background, but also some experience with teaching, music, yoga and writing. Jenn has a BFA, and is a writer and illustrator. She says that "talking about the idea of teaching our kids at home it seemed that we could provide them with a very dynamic education and so many opportunities to learn. There's so much to be learned just by doing the things we love with our children."
And yes, the kids help out with the business of running Maplerose! True to the principles of self-directed learning, they're never coerced into helping, but have nevertheless found ways to get involved. "They have put labels on kite paper and other stickering jobs, measuring and weighing packages but their main job now is as toy testers and book readers, until they let me know otherwise. I love seeing what they are and are not drawn to. Lately Walt has been playing with the block crayons arranging them into unique rainbows of colours of his choosing. And then he'll build robots out of them and make up a story. I love open-ended play and it reassures me that what I have at Maplerose works and is useful and helps children grow, learn and express themselves. They often just hang out with me in the studio and do their own thing and I'll explain different stuff and just see what lights them up."
|Walt testing a beginner woodworking set|
You might be wondering, in these times, if buying from Maplerose is covid-safe. So I asked about that. Jenn, Mark, and their children live in a small community, where they remain isolated, except for one other family who they share a social bubble with. Maplerose products are shipped in from a handful of suppliers in Canada and Europe, all of whom Jenn knows personally, so she feels pretty safe about the situation. Then they're lovingly packaged up and shipped to customers, or left in a contactless pick-up location for local customers. By the time my beautiful box of felting supplies arrived in my home, the contents had been quarantined for the duration of the shipping time. Because I am ultra-careful about what I bring into my home, I wiped down the outside of the box with alcohol, and felt completely safe opening it to enjoy the contents.
I was grateful to Jenn for answering my questions between all the Maplerose work, mediating for her kids who began squabbling, and shoveling reheated noodles into her mouth in a meagre effort at feeding herself, too. "Running a business amongst the fullness of motherhood is a challenge. As much as I do it for myself - to contribute, to create, to learn and to grow I’m doing it for my kids," she says. And I know how that is. My own kids are older now, and one of them is making our dinner in the kitchen as I write this article. It takes a whole lot of love, constant creative problem-solving, and some little bit of taking "calculated risks", as Jenn says, to raise a family that's all wrapped up and involved in each other's business. And that's just wonderful.
Maplerose website: https://lovemaplerose.com/