Friday, June 24, 2016

Why I love Tapestry of Grace

Since we just wrapped up our second year of Tapestry of Grace, I thought I would share why I love this curriculum so much. I remember when I first started researching TOG, I scoured the internet looking for blogs and reviews from real moms that were successfully and happily using this somewhat intimidating curriculum. It seemed like real, personal reviews were hard to come by...so I want to share mine.  And here is why I love Tapestry of Grace.


1. History is presented as a series of interconnected events.

Tapestry of Grace submerges you into history. Year One of TOG begins at the beginning, with Creation and then moves forward through the Ancient World, all the way to Modern Times in Year Four. No event is studied in isolation. As you study history you see how everything is connected and how the events in one part of the world can and do impact the events in another part of the world.

(While studying the Ancient World we made a Ziggurat)

2. The curriculum can be (and is intended to be) used for multiple grade levels.

This is a benefit that I am just beginning to appreciate. I've pulled Benjamin into many activities over the last two years but TOG wasn't his main curriculum in kindergarten or first grade When we start Year 3 in August, Caleb will be in Upper Grammar and Benjamin in Lower Grammar. Even though their learning levels are different, they will be studying the same things. We will all learn alongside each other.

(Shields and daggers, weapons of ancient warfare)

3. The hand of God is all over history.

This is probably my favorite thing about TOG. We tend to view historical events outside of God. We don't see the forest for the trees. When you pull back and look at the whole picture and how events are connected, you can see how God orchestrates His purpose. TOG does a great job of pointing that out. A quick example would be the invention of the printing press during the Renaissance. The printing press helped power the Reformation, which led to the people standing up against the misuse of power in the church, which ultimately lead to the spreading of the Gospel. I love learning history in the light of God's plan. It's amazing to learn and study how history just lines up perfectly with the Bible. The two are not separate.

(Priestly turbans and breastplates)

4. Freedom to plan what I want.

It's ironic because the freedom to choose and plan my own schedule was the thing that scared me the most about TOG and now I love it. TOG does a great job of giving you a huge buffet of activities and books to choose from. I get to decide what we do and don't do based on the choices I'm given. I love that.
(We made Shofars while studying Jewish holidays)

5. Books!

TOG is rich with books. Good books. I love that we are exposed to so many books that I would never think to check-out on my own. We read together every single day. We read great historical fiction, non-fiction, and biographies.

(Roman soldiers carried a standard into battle)

6. TOG covers numerous subjects and areas of study

While TOG is not a complete curriculum by itself, it does cover a number of subjects. With TOG we cover history, geography (as it applies to the events we are studying), literature, worldview, vocabulary, and writing/composition (if you get the optional Writing Aids supplement). I still have to add science and math but that is about it. I love that everything is tied together in TOG. If we are studying the 13 colonies (history) then we are also working on a map of those colonies (geography) and we are working on a newspaper with articles that cover some of the main events of that era (writing/composition) and we are reading a fiction book that takes place during this time period (literature). Everything makes sense together. 

(A Viking longship)


So there you have it, you now know why I love Tapestry of Grace. If you want to know more about our journey with TOG you can click here to see every blog post I have written about this curriculum.

Stay tuned because I'm working on a "How I plan with Tapestry of Grace" post now. I know that planning TOG scares a lot of people off so I want to share the system that works for me. Look for that post in the next few weeks.

Monday, June 20, 2016

How to deal with contractures

So I need some advice on how to deal with this ongoing problem with Caleb's legs and feet. This isn't a new problem by any means, it really started several years ago after his tethered cord release. While this isn't a new issue, it has gotten worse over the last couple of years. We even did a full MRI last summer because I was convinced he must be re-tethered. Results came back stable.

This is as straight as Caleb's right leg will go. There is so much tightness at the back of his leg and knee. It took quite a bit of effort just to get it this straight. 

His right foot. 
It just kinda curls and you can't really get it to sit flat. It naturally flexes up and has gotten so tight. The look of his feet really bother him.

His left leg isn't as tight as the right but it is still a mess.


Left foot.
His toes do a weird thing on this foot.

This is the "go-to" position for his legs when he is sitting. They just draw up like this.

Same thing when he is is on his belly.

Caleb's legs never relax. Never. He has spasms in his legs regularly where they just jerk around on their own (usually the worst when he first wakes up in the morning). Even we he sleeps his legs jerk up. He sleeps all night with his legs so tight in the worst positions. Trying to get them straight is like trying to straighten a metal bar. They won't budge, they fight the whole way.

I have tried everything I can to help and I'm losing this battle ya'll. I put his KAFO's on him to force those legs as straight as I can get them. We have tried several things to use overnight while he is sleeping but because his legs are constantly fighting against begin straight, everything we have tried (night bracing, knee immobilizers, etc) all leave horrible marks on his legs and feet.

We see his orthopedic surgeon next week and I want to push for some kind of intervention. I'm tired of fighting a battle I can't win and I see how much this is starting to bother Caleb. I'm not sure what is the best thing to do here so I'm asking you guys to share your experiences. I just refuse to accept that this is just how things are and there isn't anything I can do to fix it. I'm not sure if tendon release is the way to go. I don't know if Botox will do a thing for this. 

Have any of you won the battle against contractures? Please share so I can go to his appointment next week with a plan in mind. 


Tapestry of Grace, Year 2, Unit 4

I loved Unit 3 so I was so excited to dive right in to Unit 4. This Unit did not disappoint, it picked up right where we left off in Unit 3. We spent a lot of time reading about Benjamin Franklin, learning about his inventions and his huge involvement in the starting of our country. I really had no idea he played such a huge role. We also spent time on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. I loved relearning all of this. I'm certain I studied all this many moons ago when I was in school but it just means so much more now. Plus, I love learning alongside my boys.

For some reason I have very few photos to share. I've noticed that I take more photos of Hallow these days and less and less of the boys! I do have a few to share so here goes.

We attempted to make our own letterpress but it wasn't as successful as I had hoped. I bought alphabet pasta letters so we could spell out words, ink them, and press them on paper. But the pasta came with a very limited selection of letters. We had M, T, H, N, A and I. It is really hard to spell words with just those letters ya'll! Caleb managed to spell MATH with his letters and Benjamin did I AM MN (I am McLelland). This is proof that sometimes crafts just don't work out.

Caleb drew a picture of Washington for the cover of his lapbook. He used the Draw, Write, Now books to do this.

The completed lapbook. 
I love these and plan to use them while the boys are in the grammar levels.

We had one ongoing project throughout the unit. We worked on newspaper articles each week. By the end of the unit we had a newspaper with stories from that time period. We did articles on Boone, Franklin, and Revere. Of course, Caleb had to have a Bird of the Week column. 

We wanted our newspaper to look old so we crumpled it up and soaked it in coffee. I put it in a low temp oven for a few minutes to dry it out.

It came out awesome!

We just had so much fun with this unit, with this whole year really. I love this curriculum and I can't wait to dive into Year 3 in August. 

While this is a TOG post, I do have to share one of my favorite things Benjamin did this year. He did My Father's World for first grade. Each day he had to read a story from his Bible reader and then write a summary about the story. He loves Minecraft right now and his passion for it was reflected in his drawing.

See how the pillars and trees look like Minecraft? So cute. I love that kid.




Friday, June 17, 2016

Last day of school pics, homeschool style


Today was our last day of school. Of course, I had to get some "last day" photos. The boys hate this but I force them to humor me. It's the least they can do, right?


The boys fill out this questionnaire on the first day of school, then again on our last day. They love comparing their answers and seeing how they have changed.



Look how much his handwriting has changed!! I love it!


I make the boys a certificate every year...because I'm a dork.

As a reward for all of their hard work this year, I let them spray me with silly string. Caleb loved spraying me while Benjamin chose to save his string for another time (he's a saver hoarder ya'll).


Yay for another successful year of homeschooling! I can't believe this was my third year to homeschool. It goes by so fast ya'll. I'm so blessed to be able to do this. It isn't always easy and I get frustrated and question my ability to do this. But then I remember that God called me to do this. And I do believe He called me to do this. Homeschooling was an answer to prayer, an unexpected answer, but an answer nonetheless. Since God called me to do this, He isn't going to just let me fail. When He calls us to do something, He gives us what we need to do it. I have to remind myself of that often. I truly feel blessed and grateful for this time with my boys. I love that I get to spend each day with them, teaching them and learning along side them. I love that we get to have conversations all through the day that I might miss out on if they were in public school. It's a good gig this homeschooling thing.

With another year behind us, we will take the next 6 weeks off and then start back up August 1st. This is my first year to follow a more year-round, flexible schedule and I think I like it. I just felt less pressure to get it done by a certain time. I love that we can take a week or two off when we need to. I love that we can take all of December off. October is a crazy month for us, so it is nice to know I can take time off if needed. Flexibility is freedom.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Canine Companions for Independence Graduation, Lonestar Chapter

The Lonestar Chapter of CCI had their graduation last Friday. Even though we have had Hallow since February, we were invited back to participate in the graduation ceremony. Hallow's puppy raiser, Joan, flew all the way from California to be here for the graduation. We were so excited to meet the woman who raised Hallow for the first 18 months of her life.

Graduation day started with a brunch.

We got to meet Joan in person for the first time. It was so fun to sit with her and go through Hallow's puppy book together. Hallow was Joan's 4th puppy to raise for CCI. She is raising puppy #5 now! There were people at the brunch that have raised as many as 18 puppies for CCI! Puppy raisers impress me so much. They give 18 months of their lives to a dog that they will eventually hand over to someone else. That is a beautiful act of love and generosity.

Joan was so kind to bring gifts for Hallow and the boys. Benjamin loved the Coast Guard coin she gave us.

The graduation ceremony was sweet and emotional. They showed videos of all the graduates with their dogs. Each puppy raiser meets the graduate on stage as they hand over the dog to the deserving recipient. It is very moving and caused a number of tears. They had boxes of tissues on every row.

The whole crew with Joan. We were so thrilled to have her here. It was such a blessing to meet her and Hallow was so excited to see her. It was quite the reunion. 

Love this.

Earlier in the week we had to head up to the CCI training center for interviews.
We did an interview for a local news story as well. I swear, I am becoming pro at interviews.
As far as I know, the story hasn't run yet, but I'll post the link once it does.

It was a great day and we were so blessed to meet Joan and to be there to witness other kids and adults receive their CCI dog. I can't say enough about Canine Companions for Independence and all they do. They are truly a great organization with some really great dogs. We love Hallow and can't imagine life without her. 



Monday, May 09, 2016

At MeMe's for Mother's Day

We took advantage of an activity-free weekend by heading to MeMe's house. It has been a while since we have been down to see her and we were anxious for her to meet Hallow....oh and see her great-grand kids as well.

One of the first things we saw in MeMe's back yard was a Heron.


All smiles at MeMe's house.

Our sweet Hallow enjoyed the big back yard. She made herself right at home.


I realized this weekend that I officially take more photos of the dog than I do the kids. Oh well, we have plenty of pictures of the boys right?


Benjamin had fun walking along the bank and collecting shells.


Pretty sure Caleb is thinking about pushing Benjamin in.

MeMe has the best backyard every.

Most of Sunday morning was spent at the kitchen table, coloring.

Enjoying some early morning time outside. 

Pretty girl with a pretty collar. 


The FreeWheel was such a help over the weekend. We love this thing and highly recommend it. If you missed my full review of the FreeWheel (plus a coupon for $100 off) click here.

Being a mom isn't easy but it is good. I'm stressed, but blessed and my heart is full.

Happy Mother's Day.



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