Friday, October 24, 2014

Tapestry of Grace: Unit One

When I first decided to homeschool the boys I researched and researched curriculum. I had my eye on Tapestry of Grace, I loved the idea of it, I loved the cycle through history, I loved that I could teach more than one grade level at a time....but I was scared of TOG. It seemed overwhelming and I was already overwhelmed by the thought of homeschooling. So I decided not to do TOG for our first year of homeschooling. But as I ended our first year, I knew that TOG was going to be my choice this time around. I have loved it. Absolutely loved it.

One year of TOG is broken into 4 units, 9 weeks each. We just wrapped up our first unit and I had to share some of our highlights. This curriculum has blessed me so much that I had to post about it. The curriculum starts at the beginning of human history (with Creation) and covers the Ancient World. We spent a lot of time on Ancient Egypt which was absolutely fascinating.

I tried to do several of the hands-on activities so that both boys could do things together. They loved the projects.



They built a Ziggurat; an ancient temple of Mesopotamia. 


A sugar cube pyramid.


We learned a lot about embalming and mummification. We even mummified an apple!

The boys thought this was really cool. Natron was a special salt/preservative the Egyptians used to drain all the fluid from the body. For our Natron, we used a mix of salt and baking soda. The peeled apple sat covered in Natron for a week.

Priestly turbans and breastplates.

Towards the end of the unit, we began to learn about a few Jewish holidays.
We made Challah bread, It was pretty, and yummy.

The boys also made a Shofar which is an ancient musical instrument still used today as part of Jewish traditions and holidays. The boys liked these because they were quite noisy. 

One thing that I liked, that I didn't expect to like, was the lapbook.
Lapbooks are optional in TOG and I was hesitant to do it but I'm so glad we did. At the end of our 9 week unit we had this huge completed lapbook with information about all the things we learned. It serves as a great review for the unit and it was a way for dad to see everything we learned as well. 

Obviously TOG isn't all hands-on activities and lapbooks. We read a lot of history focused books as well as literature. Caleb loves to read so this is a good fit for him. TOG also fosters independent learning which is something that Caleb needs more of. 

Benjamin's primary curriculum isn't TOG. I went with My Father's World for his Kinder curriculum but I pull him into as much of Caleb's studies as I can. TOG is so rich that there are plenty of activities the boys can do together. Benjamin is always in the room with us so he hears a lot of what Caleb and I read together. He is definitely learning alongside his brother. 

Here he is working on some Kinder activities. 

All-in-all our school year is off to a great start. Homeschooling has definitely been a blessing. I'm so thankful for the opportunity to do it. 

I know some folks like to know what curriculum other homeschoolers use...so here ya go. You can learn more about each curriculum by clicking the link. 

A very rich curriculum that cycles through history. It's a bit intimidating at first but once you get the hang of it and realize that you don't have to do everything, it is a liberating curriculum. I love it. 

This is Benjamin's primary curriculum. It is very open and go. It doesn't require a ton of planning. There are a lot of books and hands on activities as well. 

I love this program. It is mastery based and hands on when using the base 10 blocks. 

This is our first year to use this science curriculum. So far I like it. It has a very simple approach with reading and then notebooking what you learn. Plus there are experiments throughout. 

TOG has a writing curriculum (optional) that does cover some grammar to an extent. I still use First Language Lessons as a supplement. I used this with Caleb last year and I really like the simplicity of it.


Now that we have wrapped up our first unit, we are taking next week off! The beauty of homeschool people, you can take a break whenever you want!

Just minutes after I published this post, I received the following questions from Tristan. I figured I would just answer them here just in case anyone else is curious.

- Did you buy a lot of books or are you focusing mostly on using the library? Or a mix? 
Honestly, for this first Unit, I did purchase a lot of books, only because I didn't have the confidence to steer away from the recommended books. I used as much as I could from the library but there were so many books that the library didn't have and couldn't get. So yes, I spend more money on books than I would have liked. BUT, after doing one unit, I feel more comfortable with finding similar books to the ones recommended. I don't plan to purchase any books for Unit 2 unless they are books that are needed for several weeks and I can't get them from the library. I think it would be easy to supplement books from the library even if you can't find the exact book recommended. 

- Did you get "Writing Aids"? If so, what do you think of it?
I did get Writing Aids. I like that the writing assignments tie into what we are studying. I'm not sure writing aids is necessary though. It's a little too early for me to say "yay" or "nay" on this one. I need a bit more time using it before I can give a good answer. I'll get back to you :)

- Did you go with Print, Digital, or both? 
Oh, I struggled with this too. I did get both. I knew I wanted the print because I like paper. I didn't want to have to learn how to navigate TOG using only the DE version. I think someone that is a confident TOG user would handle DE better than I would. I wanted physical paper that I could hold in my hands. I went ahead and got both just because adding digital to print wasn't much more money and I liked that I could print directly from DE and search through DE easily. I rely mostly on the printed version but the DE is nice to have. Just using DE is way cheaper though.




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Zoo Field Trip

Today the boys had a field trip to the zoo with Sonshine Club (one day a week co-op/mother's day out for homeschoolers). It was a great opportunity to enjoy the gorgeous weather and to meet some of their new friends. We had a great day.

Right when we got to the zoo there was a presentation with a few birds of prey and some other animals. I've mentioned before that Caleb is quite obsessed with birds.

 As you can see, he was very interested in the program. This is so his element. 


My boys.

 Both boys got up close and personal with some birds. I think this was a highlight for both of them.


This child is in heaven right now. He loves birds. Loves them. And he is so knowledgeable about them. He spends hours and hours pouring over his bird books, studying, learning, and marveling at their beauty. The other day he thought he saw an American Dipper bird in our backyard so I went to get his North America Bird book (it has over 700 pages people) and Caleb knew exactly what page the American Dipper was on! The exact page! It was remarkable. 

He's so handsome. He looks so grown up all of a sudden, maybe the longer hair makes him look older. He wants to grow his hair out and it's starting to curl a little. Adorable.

Benjamin loved seeing the birds up close too. 

Even Glenn made a bird friend.


All personality this kid.


Can you see the band-aid on Caleb's chin? Not so funny story: Caleb had his eyes set on the Harpy Eagle, so much so that he didn't see the huge drop off a curb in front of him. I saw it happening in slow motion and was absolutely powerless to do anything.  He went right over that curb in his chair...and landed on his face. On concrete people. Oy. How this precious child didn't break his face in that fall is a mystery to me. He managed to only scratch his chin. It could have been much worse. Once I realized he was okay....and my hands stopped shaking....and my heart settled down, I gave him a good mom lecture about looking where he is going! 




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin fun at the Arboretum

Every fall the local arboretum has this amazing display of pumpkins. Every year I plan to take the boys. Every year we don't go. Well not this year! We finally made it to the arboretum to see the pumpkins. And we got to go with our buddy Bryce, which made it even more fun.

This boy loved the pumpkins. Loved it. He was all smiles and would stop and pose for me whenever I asked. 


My boys.

"Hey Benjamin, hold this pumpkin and smile at the camera"

"Hey Caleb, hold this pumpkin and smile at the camera." 


Caleb had a ball with Bryce. These two were a mess. 


I'm not sure what this is. 

Benjamin is being cooperative and giving me a nice big smile. Meanwhile, Caleb is rolling his eyes at me. 


Shreddin' with WCMX

It's been awhile but we managed to get Caleb to another WCMX clinic last week. 

"Look ma, no wheelie bar!"

We've been letting Caleb use his wheelchair without the wheelie bar attachment. He's nine so it's about time (maybe past time) for us to ditch the bar. He has spent quite a bit of time wheeling around our house with a helmet on while he practices. He is doing amazing. It gives me a heart attack of course. I just try not to watch. He loves not having it on though because he can really wheelie far back. Plus I think he likes scaring me.


While Bubba was shreddin' on the ramps, Benjamin was running around like a maniac. This boy is pure energy folks. Seriously. 

Love him.



Caleb did tackle one rather large ramp (at least large in this momma's eyes) but I didn't get a picture of it. I couldn't watch because I was so afraid he would tip backwards without his bar on. He didn't of course. He did great...as usual. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spina Bifida Awareness Month: The One Thing

Today I enlisted the help of my rather large SB family. Some of them are living with Spina Bifida and some of them have a child with SB. I asked them to answer the following question:

"What is the one thing you wish people knew about Spina Bifida?" 


Here are their answers:


That those of us with SB are people first that happen to have a disability.

That ANYTHING is POSSIBLE!!!!

SB kids are just kids with cool gear! They love the same things other kids do!

I want folks, including medical professionals, to not put limitations on my children with Spina Bifida. They have both far exceeded what others thought was never possible.

That people with SB are smart! That their SB does not define them they define their SB. They are normal people with normal feelings that want to go somewhere in life. They are Miracles for God!! And us parents get front rows seats to Gods miracles every day!

That the medical community needs to catch up. OB's need to know this is not as tragic as they make it seem, and adults with Spina Bifida need care just as much as the kids.

Having SB is not the end of the world. Don't feel sorry for my son. God made him perfectly just the way he is meant to be.

SB is just a journey. In life we all have journeys, and these journeys challenge each of in their own way. Spina Bifida is just another journey, and even though parts of it can and will challenge you deeply, the other side of that journey is laughter, hugs, great joys, deep friendships, experiencing a deep sense of community and the pure exhilaration of living a blessed life. Our journey of Spina Bifida has made me a better person and given me a deeper sense of compassion for people off all walks of life. I may have been terrified when I learned of my son's condition, but I wouldn't trade our journey for anything.

It's not impossible. there are good days. there are bad days...but you wouldn't know the good if you didn't have the bad.

OBs will scare you with all of the worst case scenarios, but expectant moms should know "YOU CAN DO THIS!!! And it's going to be fine. In fact, it's going to be great!"

That it's not tragic, that people with SB are more similar than different. 

People need to know that our kids are just kids. Plain and simple. This girl likes makeup, texting, and shopping just like every other teenager I know!

Spina Bifida doesn't just affect mobility. Be understanding when we have problems with shunt malfunctions, over sensitive hearing, bathroom time, or executive functioning issues.

It's not the end of a "life". I think back at when I was pregnant and how it seemed like all of my hopes and dreams for my future daughter had all been broken and burned. But you get better dreams, dreams that are worth more. I always wanted my daughter to be a ballerina- she is. And it's so much more precious to me now. And she gets more attention and captivates more hearts than I could ever imagine. My little East Texas town LOVES her.

I want pregnant mothers to know they are not pregnant with a diagnosis!

A life with SB is a life worth living! When I look at my child with SB I see happy, beautiful, smart, loving, and did I mention HAPPY!

Kids with SB teach their siblings so much, and greatly enrich their lives.

People are people first.

That there is nothing wrong with them. Often we get asked that by adults/kids. And I always have to say there's nothing wrong with my child because she was born perfect in His image.

Kids with SB can do anything they put their minds too!!

I'd want people to know there are hard moments. There are rough moments. But there is hope, there is victory, there is strength. Your family is better because of it all. And those hard moments, they are just moments. The rest goes on and on.

I wish people understood that there is no "cure". No they won't be able to "fix it". This is how he is. And he's perfect that way. Also to understand that no two SB kids are the same.

As parents we deal with a lot of emotional moments and things aren't always simple. Our kids are beautifully unique and they teach us all to see a different view of life and just roll with it!

I'd want people to know that we are not "inspiring" just by virtue of having Spina Bifida. We can ALL inspire by our actions, and just because we have a few extra challenges, doesn't mean we are more "special."

I would like people to know that life is precious no matter the circumstances. That, yes, SB is a diagnoses but the SB does not determine the person.

 I wish parents would teach their young children not to stare at our kids but encourage their child to talk to our kids just as they would any other peer.

That SB affects the entire family... in a POSITIVE way! It makes siblings more caring and compassionate,

Spina Bifida is what our kids have. It's not who they are. They are dancers, writers, athletes, actors, students, PEOPLE. They determine who they are.... Not Spina Bifida.

SB affects each kid individually--not all kids use a wheelchair, not all kids have the same learning difficulties, but regardless of the challenges each kid faces, it still provides challenges for that child & the family loving that child.

Spina bifida doesn't define a person, it's just a small part of who they are. And using a wheelchair is ok! You don't have to feel bad, wheelchairs give freedom!

SB effects more than just the legs and spine. My daughter has had MRIs, CT scans, out patient procedures, major surgeries, personal care challenges and learning struggles. She could easily use these experiences to complain and be withdrawn from people. She makes the choice to shine God's love through it all and impact the people around her. She reaches out to the "outcast" and makes them feel loved.

 I want people to know we are a family JUST LIKE YOURS.

There are days when I forget about Spina Bifida, in spite of the medical procedures that my son needs on a daily basis. Our family has bad days, just as any family would, but we have lots of great, uneventful days just like any family.

Teach your kids to see our similarities and to celebrate our differences!

Kids with Spina Bifida are kids first.

I want people to know that Spina Bifida does not just affect mobility but it affects nearly every part of the body (shunt, bowel and bladder, noise, learning difficulties). Also that it's not something they grow out of and that shunts and cathing are most likely lifelong issues. Also want people to know that spina bifida affects each child differently and doctors can not predict what it will look like for your child in the womb. So please do not abort SB babies. It breaks my heart that over 50% are aborted. 

We just try to remind everyone that nothing is "wrong" with our girls. While we may face struggles from time to time, our girls don't need pity, just support! Their lives are not tragic... they are full of spunk, energy, enthusiasm, creativity and beauty!

Our kids are blessings to so many people. All their achievements are what gives so many people hope for a better future.

Medical staff and hospital nurses need to have more education about what SB is, and how to treat it. I was asked by a nurse how long Tanner has had it, and how long it will take to get over SB. BUT I also want to say that wheelchairs are not scary! They are just equipment that help people with SB have a better quality of life. Wheelchairs are just that, a Wheelchair.

That they are mentally all there. People will ask me if he has any mental problems. Even after they have talked to him like any other 3 year old. It frustrating.

That life with SB is just LIFE - full of ups and downs, challenges and choices, heartache and hope. Do we not all live a life like that? Spina Bifida is a diagnosis, not a direct order to stop living your life. After all, our character is not determined by our hair color or height. DNA doesn't define who we are as human begins. What directs our lives is our dreams, determination, and the decisions we make everyday! Giving up the labels and choosing to live life as we are, with what we are given, growing daily in gratitude and grace. Showing the world who you are despite the challenges - there can be no greater goal, nor sweeter victory.

That we, as parents are grateful that our children have imperfections just like all other parents. They are our greatest joys and are as human as everyone else. I think that educating people is key, that we welcome questions and we are not afraid of what will happen to our children. Having a disability does not mean disabled. Our kids are as able as we let them be.

Spina Bifida is an amazing journey that will teach you about the incredible human spirit, the love and generosity of others and if you are given the chance, you don't want to miss it.

I would like for people to know that my daughter likes to be invited for playdates, too. She's just like any other kid, but with wheels. And who cares if you have stairs. Step back and watch her go!

Everyone with Spina Bifida is so different, just like all people are different. In fact some people with Spina Bifida do have developmental delays, like my daughter, and that is okay. She is wonderful, she is love and she can still do great things.

Hearing that your child will be born with Spina Bifida is one of the hardest things you hear. But when your child is born your realize that your child and what she or he will be like comes first and not what they were born with. And as a parent that doesn't make your special, it just makes you a parent.

People need to know that differences are good, that a wheelchair doesn't make someone less able, and that people with disabilities live normal lives just like everyone else.

 SB does not define my child. She is the light if my life!

Having challenges that not everyone can relate to is sometimes lonely. Having a community of online support and having families who love and understand each others children from afar has been a blessing. It can also be a 911 of info in the middle of a crisis. Besides having amazing children we've been blessed with amazing friendships because of Spina Bifida.

That people with SB are people. They are more similar to you than they are different from you. And having a kid with SB is nothing at all like the nightmare you imagine. It's just like having any other kid that you're madly, insanely in love with and that you would do anything for.

It's not as awful as I once thought, It certainly has changed our lives, but only for the better. We are more compassionate, thankful, thoughtful, joyful because of SB - and so is our family.

If you have questions....ask...don't stare and whisper.

That people w SB have all the same dreams of education & career & impacting the world as any other child might ... Sometimes logistically or financially it takes a little extra & you probably always need to think outside the norm -- but dreams ARE possible!

When your child is diagnosed with SB, it might feel like the end but it's just the beginning of something new and fantastic. Your child is capable of joy, of having meaningful relationships, of being independent, and of bringing more love to your life than you thought possible. It will not always be easy (parenting any child has ups and downs) but you will never-- not ever-- regret your child.

 I want people to be aware of the blessings of Spina bifida. The love that God has shown us, He has shown favor by choosing us to be their parents. Our lives are different, but only to those who aren't like us...to us we are just normal...our normal. There are many wonderful people that I have had the pleasure of meeting that I would not have if it weren't for SB. I love that about SB. We are a HUGE family and I know that I can count on them anytime!!

Please don't hush your children who want to ask questions. It happens all the time. Also, I want people to know that children with Spina Bifida have siblings who are equally as valuable. Many times I have watched well intentioned people shower my son with Spina Bifida with attention, kindness, and even gifts while his brother stood in the background and later asked why they didn't "give him a piece of candy, too." Hard for little kids to understand. However, all in all we are all better people for living with Spina Bifida. Something you can't explain!

People with SB are enabled not disabled. Sometimes you are more "disabled" by not knowing hardship. Our kids are normal, amazing little people.

Kids with SB are kids FIRST. SB is only a part of who they are.

Spina Bifida always keeps you wondering and guessing what will come next. It is a diagnosis that is so full of unknowns. However, the love for your child IS known. The amount of joy they will bring to your life IS known. SB is a diagnosis, but does not define your family's life.

Loving a child with a disability is no different than loving a child without one!! It comes just as easy!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Spina Bifida Awareness Month

October is SB awareness month. I love this month. I love that people are talking about SB, sharing photos and stories. It's awesome. We are only 8 days into SB awareness month and already our SB kids are everywhere!

You have to watch this video of some awesome kids (and a couple of adults) with Spina Bifida shakin' it to Taylor Swift's song "Shake it Off". This video will bless your socks off. Caleb isn't in it....I was too lazy to send in a video clip but many of his buddies are. Take a look.


These next couple of stories aren't necessarily about SB but they do feature Caleb and his awesomeness, plus a little blurb about SB. Last week I was contacted by Today.com; they wanted to run a story about wheelchair costumes for Halloween. Click the link to see the story.


After the Today.com story was posted, I heard from a couple of other news sites that wanted to run a similar story about Caleb. Here is a link to a story that ran on several different ABC news sites across the country.


From what I can tell, the feedback on these stories have been pretty positive. I admit that I was a little hesitant to share Caleb and his costumes with the world, given what happened to one of his photos a few years ago. But, I decided that I didn't want one fool (or a handful of fools) to keep me from sharing Caleb's story. Part of SB awareness month is sharing the lives of those living with SB. I decided to share Caleb. Hopefully I made the right choice. I think I did.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Mobile Stander

Most of you know that Caleb had tethered cord release surgery in April of 2012, so it's been about 2 1/2 years since his detethering. Most of you also know that prior to the surgery Caleb was standing and walking very well with just his AFO's and walker. And you also know that Caleb pretty much lost all function from the waist down after TC and it has been a long hard road of therapy and rehabilitation. Caleb still isn't where he was....and he may never be...but he continues to get stronger. I really wanted a way for Caleb to be upright for longer periods of time. He has KAFO's that he can stand in but he does fatigue quickly so I wanted something that would allow him to stand and move freely. I present the mobile stander!


This is a loaner that we received through our local SB clinic. Basically Caleb is strapped in and supported in a standing position. It allows him to be upright and mobile at the same time. Now this isn't our first time using a mobile stander....but as you can see, it's been a few years. :)

Oh my. I can't stand the cuteness of that chunky 18 month old on the left! When did he get so big? I blinked and he was nine. Seriously. 

Caleb loves the mobile stander. He's spinning circles in this pic. I think he just loves being so tall and mobile at the same time. 

Little bro had to hitch a ride. 


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Basketball, feeding ducks, and a pigeon attack

Wheelchair basketball is officially in full swing these days. While I miss the lazy, let's sleep in a bit, Saturday mornings...I love watching Caleb play. I love seeing all of the kids and coaches. It really is a blessing, even if it is at 8:30 Saturday morning. Yawn.


I've seen so much improvement in Caleb recently. He is getting stronger, faster, and closer to making a basket. I can tell that his confidence is growing too. 

After practice we headed outside with some friends and fellow teammates to feed the ducks. Our intent to feed the ducks rapidly turned to a plague of pigeons. We were surrounded. Wings flying everywhere. It was a bit unnerving. 


Of course Caleb (my obsessed bird lover) was in heaven. Pigeon heaven. 

Seriously, the kid was crazy happy over these pigeons. 



Caleb and Abby are 2 peas in a pod. I have so enjoyed watching their friendship grow over the last couple of years. 


Hmmmm....what's Abby writing?

"C heart A"
Can't stand the cuteness people. 

Can't stand this cuteness either. 



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