Beauty in the Mess,  Ezra,  Family,  Homeschooling,  Little Brother,  The Preschool Years,  Travel

SPACE X LAUNCH and our fun astronomy homeschooling science unit

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2020 held some of the highest highlights of my entire life. They vary from silly to personal to beautiful to those with eternal significance. I’m sharing these moments and blessings over the course of the next few posts. You can view the links to all the posts here: My 20 Top Moments & Blessings of 2020. This post is about our fun homeschooling space and astronomy unit.

In our homeschool, we are slowwwwwwwwwly working through the seven days of God’s creation for our first year(s) of homeschool science. We are using Adventures in Creation, God’s Design for Life for Beginners, Creation, and God Made the World and Me from Masterbooks. (You can see how we combine these curricula here.) We’ve done deep dives on light and rainbows, the water cycle and earth’s atmosphere, botany, astronomy, birds and fish, animal features, and anatomy. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to cover so many aspects of science in such a short long amount of time. It hard to pick a favorite unit, but I think certain aspects of our astronomy study were made more interesting and enjoyable because of the timing of the unit and what was going on in our family, our country, and the world at the time.

We started our astronomy unit the first week of February in 2020. We were just getting going when we left town (taking our library books with us!) to visit my parents. During that visit, I broke my leg and had to have surgery. This meant that homeschooling had to be done from the couch or the bed I was in on the first floor.

When I returned home, I remained couchbound until May 8th. We ended our first official school year on May 31st. Because school was so very lax in those first few weeks of injury and coronavirus quarantine, we stretched out our space unit until the end of May. That meant we spent four months in space!

First off was our trip to the Adler Planetarium in downtown Chicago (pre-injury and pre-coronavirus)! This was a very hands-on museum and worth a trip (once they reopen), if you ever have the chance!

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium

Adler Planetarium

We spent most of the time in the “Planet Explorers” section, designed for kids ages 3-8. The highlight here was, of course, the space toilet!

Adler Planetarium Planet Explorers

Adler Planetarium Planet Explorers space toilet

Adler Planetarium Planet Explorers

Adler Planetarium Planet Explorers

While I was recovering from my injury, my mom bought some Colorforms for Little Brother to work on while he sat with me:

space colorforms

space colorforms

While I was laid up, my mom took Ezra out to a park to run off some energy. There was a patch of sandy soil, and Ezra wrote Neil Armstrong’s famous quote, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” into the ground. He also drew an American flag. While I was not there to witness this in person, it made my heart happy to see the picture and see him acting out the things he was learning about in his education.

A huge highlight of our space unit was learning about space twins Mark and Scott Kelly, and reading their books. I checked out several of their books from the library, without any prior knowledge of who they were or their personal history.

If you are unfamiliar with Mark and Scott Kelly, as I was, they are identical twins who both made it into NASA and ended up working and living on the international space station. Their being identical twins allowed them to participate in studies regarding how time in space alters and impacts people with identical DNA.

Mark and Scott were energetic children. (Funny story, when I pulled up the article I mentioned earlier about ice dancer Zachary Donohue, I was thrilled to see that Scott Kelly was also listed in the article as a hero for kids with ADHD!) The Astrotwins books are fictionalized stories based on the pre-teen lives of Mark and Scott, who are the main characters of the books. Their quirky, energetic personalities definitely comes through in the books. There has never been a read-aloud that engaged Ezra as much as the Astrotwins books. We ALL laughed. While they may have been directed primarily at middle schoolers, they were still tame enough to read aloud to both of my boys (except for the occasional use of the highly offensive insults like “stupid” and “egghead” – #sarcasm). When the fictionalized twins were launching into space, Ezra was literally squealing during their final countdown. The books also contained a hefty amount of actual science, such as Newton’s laws of motion.

Astrotwins by Mark Kelly
Ezra working on a space notebooking project during read-aloud time

THEN, (thank you CORONA!), when celebrities began hosting live story times for children, Mark and Scott Kelly joined the craze and went live for story time on their Instagram pages. It was so great to hear these men – real live astronauts! – reading to MY kids, telling them to work hard in school and do their chores.

At the end of April, Ezra had a writing assignment that was very overwhelming to him at first. I was so proud when the lightbulb went on in his brain and he wrote out a beautiful paragraph about the Kelly brothers:

Besides all of the books by the Kelly brothers, we read a lot of other great books. Once I was able to move around a bit better, we visited some of our favorite Little Free Libraries, and came home with a bunch of great space books. It’s tiny gifts from God like this that may seem insignificant, but kept me counting our blessings during the hard year that was 2020.

free outer space books

free outer space books

This book was a pleasant surprise. Not only does it take the reader through the phases of the moon, it also takes the reader on a trip around the world, visiting landmarks and natural wonders on all seven continents! The boys had fun guessing the locations based on the silhouette. It was also a very PRETTY book with lots of purples.

During our read-aloud time, Ezra enjoyed his sticker mosaic books, including this rocket:

Another book (which Ezra read on his own), gave us a bit of a surprise treasure. It still had the old library check-out card in the back, with dates pre-dating the moon landing!

Over the four months we studied space, the boys watched all ten “seasons” of Ready Jet Go! with our Amazon PBS Kids subscription. There were some fun, space-themed crafts to be had:

marshmallow constellations

As we neared the end of our first “school year” homeschooling (June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020), the Space X launch was scheduled for Wednesday, May 27th. What an exciting way to end the year!

In preparation, I bought the boys matching moon t-shirts and space shuttle LEGO sets from Target and had them hidden in my closet. I felt like the boys deserved an end-of-the-year gift for all of their hard work during our first year adjusting to homeschooling.

Our end-of-the-year pictures:

moon phases tshirts

moon phases tshirts

moon phases tshirts

The LEGO sets came in handy as a consolation gift when the first scheduled launch was scrubbed 16 minutes before lift-off. (Ezra cried!)

space shuttle LEGO set

space shuttle LEGO set

space shuttle LEGO set

The historic Space X Launch was the first time men were launched into space in nearly a decade. It was also the first time in history “NASA astronauts have launched from American soil in a commercially built and operated American crew spacecraft…”

The wait was well worth it. Ezra’s reaction was so intensely joyous that it actually frightened Little Brother, who needed consoled!

_____

March 8, 2020 was a full moon. In the wee hours of the morning, when I was in the ER having my fracture evaluated, Ezra was at home on the couch at Grandma’s house. He looked up and saw the light filtering around the moon in the shape of the cross. Here’s a paraphrase of what he told Grandma:

“It was like a cross around the moon, and I think I that’s a sign from God that He is still with us. I was mad, and I didn’t know why God did this. But remember Daddy’s shirt? ‘God is good even in this.’ And I knew that’s true.”

The shirt to which he refers is one that I had designed for Russ a few years ago, using a phrase that is special to him:

You can buy this design on Zazzle.

In July, when Russ and I were laid up with COVID, Ezra again referenced this event (in the journal he sometimes dictates to me) as having a huge impact on him.

I’ve been through a lot since I last wrote. Mom broke her leg but got better. And then, I found out about the coronavirus. It was a world-wide outbreak, and boy was it Bad! It’s still here with us, but it’s starting to go away. Our family has been sick with it, but we’re recovering…

We’ve moved on in our Creation Study from Day 1 to Day 2 to Day 3 to Day 4 and now we are in Day 5: birds and fish. IBT (in Bible terms) air fowl and water fowl.

You might be wondering how Mommy broke her leg, so I’ll tell you: 

We went to Grandma Jeannie’s. We stayed there four days, and then it was time to go home. Mommy was carrying me down the stairs, and then fell off the stairs with me still on her. I banged my head on the fridge in the garage. And Mommy was like, “Ah! Ah!” and I got off her real darn fast. And I was nervous, and shouted, almost screamed, “Dad! Mommy needs help!” and Mommy was put in an ambulance and taken to the hospital.

And all through the night, I couldn’t sleep. And during the night, I saw the moon as a full moon. And there was a cross around it. And Grandma took a picture of it and set it to Mommy and Daddy. 

I had no intention of our days of Creation study lasting as long as they have. (Currently, we are wrapping up day 6!)

I so often look at my curriculum plans with angst. We should be further along. This is taking forever. We are never going to move on! We are so behind!

And yet, as I look back on this unit that began with a trip to the Adler Planetarium a week before they closed due to COVID and ended with the Space X launch literally on the next-to-last day of our first official school year, it seems so obvious to me that God’s timing is perfect. This was not coincidence. This was not serendipity. This was God revealing Himself to our family – and to our children – in a beautiful way.

 

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