Going To Say Goodbye


Today I'm flying alone up to Minnesota. 

Most trips home, I sit at the airport full of excitement and a full agenda on my mind.  But today, as I wait to board a plane that will carry me home, I'm feeling more subdued. 

The days ahead won't be filled with my usual Minnesota bucket items. My only goal: to soak up my brother. 

The boy who played Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles with me in the washer and dryer, dressed me like a tiny skater in 4th grade, and saved me from all the dark and scary things in my childhood. For a few months after my parents divorce, we shared a room. We'd lay in our bunkbeds and pretend we were Brendan and Brenda from 90210. I took my cues from him on what was cool and what wasn't. Watched him be the nicest guy ever to everyone, even the kids everyone else didn't think twice about. 

To know him is to love him, as is made so obvious by the outpouring of love and support and well wishes since he went into hospice this week.   A Facebook page full of memories displaying how much of an impact he made. And not the kind that happens all the sudden when people know someone is dying, but a genuine, real life testimony of a life lived so well. 

He's been my hero since I was old enough to know what that meant and I'm scared a my world without him in it. 

It's been hard to be miles away with Life demanding to be lived, taunting me with the way it keeps passing no matter how much I beg the moment to freeze.  The kids want to eat, laundry calls from the corner. There is little room for the crushing grief that looms right on the outskirts of my consciousness, which is a blessing and a bit of a curse. 

My natural inclination when life hands my family a steaming pile of unfairness is to pretend that if I wait long enough, refuse to acknowledge the reality, the entire thing will go away. 

Aaron will be healthy and we will be back to planning a vacation to see each other. 

He will stay. 

The ease with which I can ignore reality is what makes me the kind of person you want in the room when you get bad news. I can hold the world together while holding you up as you process the way your life was just rocked. Give you time to find your sea legs. 

I've done that a lot this year, watched others get devastating news while my own emotions swim somewhere underneath. 

But they can't be suppressed forever. 

These feelings need to be felt and it does no honor to my brother and his incredible life for me to ignore how brave and graceful he has handled his lot. 

I'm going home. 

Not for the kind of trip that restores my soul, but for the kind of trip that will forever alter the very core of who I am. 

I'm holding fast to the lessons Aaron taught me by letting me watch him live his life and chasing the light ahead. 

That light will chase away the dark. 

Love wins. 



You can read my brother's story at www.myhusbandstumor.com


Interest Led

Last week we started our new, relaxed Winter school schedule.

My goal is to free up our days to spend time exploring our new state, visit with family while they are in town, and enjoy the unbelievably nice weather while still covering the basics.  We are still doing math, reading, and creative writing, and a unit here or there, but that's it for structured lessons.  Last week we were able to wrap up table work each day within an hour, leaving an almost absurd amount of time to do as we please.  It was nice.

I have some fun field trips planned for the next few months too.

We started by hitting up Sea Life Aquarium in Mesa.

The kids have been to the Georgia Aquarium a few times, which is easily five times the size of Sea Life, but they loved this place.  I was kind of skeptical when I realized the aquarium is in a mall, but the smaller exhibits really caught the kids interest.  We spent a little over an hour exploring then attended a homeschool class on kelp.

Josie was so inspired by our trip that she stayed up late that night working on a sea creatures book.

Those who know Josie know that writing has been a struggle, so when she came out at 10 to show us her four, full page book, complete with spot on handwriting, I was pretty excited!  The next day she insisted we go to the library to get sea creature books which she proceeded to spend the next two days copying facts over into her own book.

She even illustrated some of the pages with our Draw, Write, Now books.

And not to leave her arts and crafts skills behind, she bought some felt and yarn and has been sewing her own stuffed animals.  So far she's done a dolphin, a shark, and a sea turtle with plans to add a few more to the collection.

It's been so cool for me to see all the learning she's done just because she is interested.  Since we have the time, she is free to explore and has blown me away with what she's come up with.  Lots of reading and handwriting, math when she had to figure out how much felt she could buy with her money, sewing skills, and drawing!  I'm not an unschooler by any means, but it has been fun to see that so much learning happens all the time.

the helmet.  i can't even.


TOS Review - Purposeful Design

What Is It:

Purposeful Design recently sent us a copy of their new book, Purposeful Design: Understanding Creation.  This book takes the reader through creation, day by day, with beautiful pictures and excellent explanations of exactly what that creation day entailed.  It's a hardcover book with 7 chapters, one for each day of creation.

The chapters include:
-  Creation of the Heavens and the Earth - the Foundation of it All
-  Creation of the Atmosphere and Water
-  Creation of the Dry Land and Vegetation
-  Creation of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
-  Creation of the Birds and Fish
-  Creation of the Land Creatures and Humans
-  The Seventh Day

Each chapter does more than just talk about Creation.  Jay Schabacker shows us exactly what that specific creation day gave to us.  There are experiments, scientific facts, and stunning photography.  There is quite a bit of history, not all Bible specific, but general history.  This book will get your student thinking about things in a new way.  Each chapter has countless topics that will have them asking more and more questions.  Many unit studies could come out of this book!

This book really deserves a special place in the house, it's gorgeous!

How We Used It:

Exploring Creation was written for elementary aged kids, but is really a great resource for any age.  There were parts that were way over my 7 year old's head and parts that worked perfectly for my preschooler.  Depending on how in depth you want to go, you can adjust this for pretty much any student.

We've done unit studies on creation before, but this book gave us a lot of information that we hadn't covered.  For instance, the chapter on the creation of the sun, moon, and stars, there is an excellent section on how the sun's rays change with the seasons.  We've covered seasons before, but this was an excellent explanation that really stuck with Josie.  There were also pages on solstices and details on the tilt of the Earth that she wasn't as ready for yet which makes this a book we can go back to a little later.  Love that!

The creation of land and plants chapter was really fun for Gabe.  We talked about how plants help people and did some fun apple projects.  Again, the pictures were so well done, that alone captured their interest.

There are also science experiments with really good explanations.  One of my biggest gripes with most science experiments is that they are fun, but don't explain in a way that my young kids can understand.  This ice floating project was just one example of how well rounded the chapters are.

Bible verses are scattered throughout and of course there is a heavy Christian influence, but there are so many awesome facts and pictures that make this more than a Christian book.  I'm excited to use this book to pull together some great unit studies on our world and how it works together.

Product Details:

Purposeful Design Website
Purposeful Design: Understanding Creation - $18.95

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TOS Review - IXL

What Is It:

Christmas Book Review

IXL is an online program offering practice for students in Pre K all the way through the 12th grade in math and language arts for those in 2nd through 8th with more grades coming soon.  The program is available online and in an app making it a great way to get in some on the go practice.  IXL doesn't teach skills, but provides awesome practice.

IXL is a focused approach to practice.  They have taken out any distractions without taking out the fun.

For this review, we were given one year access to both math and language arts for up to five students. 

How We Used It:

I reviewed IXL last year and it wasn't a good fit for us.  Josie just wasn't into computer learning and Gabe was too young to really get anything out of it.  When it came up to review again this year, I decided Gabe was probably ready and he really loves getting to be on the computer, so I decided to try it again.

I am so glad I did!

I decided to download the app instead of using my computer.  I wish I would've done this last year because I think we would've gotten a lot of use out of it.  The interface is much easier to use.  Rather than having to log in each time, when you open the app they just had to pick their name and grade and it would take them to their level and document their work.

This program is meant to be a practice for kids.  Meaning it doesn't teach them.  If they get an answer wrong, there is a pop up that will explain what they did wrong and how to correct it.  You just need to be sure to pick levels that they have all ready learned the material.

For Gabe, we started with Pre K and I sat with him for his computer time, which he did 4 times a week.  At Pre K, math is the only subject.  Some of the topics include number recognition, counting to 20, simple addition, and comparisons.  There is a button that will read the question to the child, but since I was sitting with him I just read them to him.

He had no trouble with this level at all.  I'm still having him work through the levels just to make sure we cover it all, but he will bump up to kindergarten by the end of the year which is kind of fun.

For 2nd grade and up, kids can practice math and language arts skills.

I'm not sure what exactly changed since last year, but this go round, IXL has been a perfect fit for Josie.  I had her spend 15 minutes a day doing math and another 15 minutes practicing a language arts skill.  For math, I picked what level I wanted her to practice and she watched the timer to see when she was done.

This was an awesome way to get her a bit of extra practice on her math.  She got to get excited about getting them right and if she got them wrong, it explained it to her so that I didn't have to get involved.  Since this wasn't her actual math lesson, I was ok with staying out of it.

I really loved the language arts portion of the program.

We are using an excellent program for grammar, spelling, and phonics but it isn't neccesarily going by what she's required to do in 2nd grade.  I'm going to have her take the standardized test at the end of the year to see where we fall, so I think it's important to be at least touching on what will be on the test.  IXL is great for that.

For this, I sat with her and explained the lesson.  Most of them have dealt with the parts of speech, sentence structure, and punctuation so I've been able to explain it to her then go through the questions.  We are going back and redoing a few that she's had a hard time with, but she's picking it up pretty fast.  I'm so glad we have this simple way to make sure she's getting the information she needs.

Another thing I love is the reports that are emailed to me.

When they master a skill or do a certain number of questions, I get an email.  I also have my own tab at the log in so that I can see how many they are getting right and nail down any things that we really need to work on.  Since I'm with them during parts, this has only really been helpful with Josie's math.  Next year when Josie is able to do the practicing by herself, I will use this feature a lot.

I also love that the pages with the questions aren't busy.  It's the score and the question and that's it.  Nothing distracting.  After meeting certain milestones they get a badge on a separate page, but even that isn't very flashy.  I'm glad the focus is on the questions and surprisingly the kids really don't mind either.  They get the work done and are excited about the work they did.

My Opinion:

I am now a IXL lover!  We will continue to use this throughout our schooling as a way to practice skills in a fun way.

Product Details:

Yearly Membership - $79
Monthly Memberships also available

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