The Aftermath

After spending a day frequently hiding in a closet from tornadoes, the dawn of the next day brought with it reports on a battery-operated/crank radio of massive damage and additional loss of life. (See previous post for details).

An inspection of the outside of our house and yard was our first heartbreaking discovery. There was fiber glass insulation all over the roof and yard, pieces of veneered doors, pieces of plastic, and pieces of paper. It was the paper that made the biggest impact: Christmas card pieces, calender pieces, receipts, and a tax return page. All of it was part of other people’s property that had been picked up in the horrible storms and deposited at our house.

The addresses on some of the papers let us know that they were from over 80 miles away.

My husband and I decided we had better seek dry ice to keep our nearly full freezer from thawing out in the days ahead that would be without electricity. I suggested that as reports had damage to our east, west and north, we had better try to head south. My husband knew of trees across a road near our home, so we decided to take a road off to the right. We had no idea as we turned that an EF-3 tornado had passed right across/along the road.

Thankfully, there were individuals and county crews already out on the road clearing a path with chainsaws. As we weaved our way through the downed trees and wires, it was even more apparent just how blessed we truly were…we were less than a mile from our house.

It took several hours to located a store with dry ice, but we eventually found it about 100 miles south. We would buy dry ice two more times before our electricity was restored more than eight days later. Luckily, a local store was able to get and maintain a nice supply.

It has been more than three months now since the day the tornadoes struck our area. Unfortunately, other areas have been devastated by tornadoes since then.

In a somewhat ironic twist, we escaped the tornadoes without much wind damage only to have straight line winds remove parts of our roof and topple trees in our yard a few weeks later…. (We are still much luckier than some of our neighbors who lost the upper part of their house to those same straight line winds).

The area is still recovering. Tarps can still be seen on many roofs. Some buildings have been demolished. Other buildings have been repaired. Many lives have been forever changed. Many people still mourn for the lives that were lost.

We have been doing some research to hopefully return the tax return page that landed in our yard to its owners. I think we are supposed to connect with them. Why? Well, the page is from people who lived in another state and more than 80 miles away on a road with the same unusual name as our road. It appears that the parents of one of the owners was killed by the tornado that day…they lived on the road of the same name also. I don’t think it is just coincidence that the page landed in our yard…I think it was God’s intervention that brought it to us. If nothing else, it is a stark reminder of how Blessed we are…

One Day I Won’t Forget, Part 1

It has been more than six weeks since April 27, 2011 when our area and many others were inundated with tornadoes. I have debated whether or not to blog about it. It affected so many people in our region alone and then it was followed by the horrible devastation in Joplin, MO prompting me to debate even longer.

I finally decided that I needed to write about it. Although it is not as positive a topic as I would like to voice in this blog, it made a impact on our family (albeit a very small one compared to others). However, what really prompted me to write about it was the number of people who talked after that day about how unprepared they were for any tornado or other disaster.

Although our experience is very, very uneventful comparably, I just happen to write a blog. This is the first blog post about our experiences April 27, 2011 and beyond.

I awoke to the weather radio alarm sounding and heard that we were under a severe thunderstorm warning. Looking out the window, I could see the dark clouds and the wind beginning to whip the trees. I went to wake my daughter.

The weather alarm sounded again. My phone rang. I proceeded to get my daughter up and dressed.

My phone rang again. This time I answered. My husband was calling to ask if I knew we were under a tornado warning. I said no, but we were ready and heading to my daughter’s closet. As I hung up, the county’s automated emergency service system called to let us know about the tornado warning.

I picked up the dog, a flashlight, and my cellphone as we walked to the closet. As I sat there with my daughter shaking from being so frightened, I realized I had no way of knowing if the threat had passed just as electricity went out. I failed to grab the portable TV or the radio.

About a half an hour later, I thought the wind had died down. I left my daughter in the closet and went to her bedroom window. I heard birds and saw the sky was much lighter. It took some coaxing, but I then managed to get my daughter and the dog out of the closet. (The dog was asleep, not scared).

I immediately began grabbing things like the portable TV, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries, and a lantern (for the closet). I remember hearing a local meteorologist saying the day before that the projections for bad weather that day were very high. Of course, I could not help but remember they predicted it would not start until afternoon…

My phone rang again. It was my husband saying that his work was sending everyone home. Followed closely by another call from emergency services to say the local school system was dismissing.

I decide to call my sister to tell her that what happened and to get her to look up the radar on the Internet. She told me there were definitely more storms on the way. The weather report said we only have a few hours and that the storms seem to be following a very similar path to the last ones.

My husband called once again to say he was having trouble getting home because of the trees down across the roads meant the main routes to our house were closed. He would have to take a longer way home, but he eventually made it.

Not long after he arrived home, our electricity was restored, much to our surprise.
We scrambled to plug everything in that could be charged…cell phones, TV, etc. We turn on all the televisions to watch the continuous coverage of the radars and to see the next line approaching us. We discovered that it was believe two tornadoes had touched down within a few miles of our house. (It would later be confirmed that there indeed had been two EF-1 tornadoes). Unfortunately, we would also learn that the first person had died as a result of the weather.

The weather alarm sounded. A severe thunderstorm warning was issued followed closely by another tornado warning. Round two had begun.

One Day I Won’t Forget, Part 2

My daughter went to her bedroom closet as the weather alarm sounded with the tornado warning. As my husband grabbed the dog and put him next to her, he noticed that she was wearing her bike helmet. He decided it was a great idea and went to grab his hard hat. (The helmet was all her idea, but I have since learned that it is taught in some tornado preparedness training in schools…of course, we home school so I am glad my daughter has common sense).

The cats followed me to the bedroom and curled up next to bed…just like they had done in the first round of storms. As I reached the closet door, my phone rang. It was our local emergency service calling for the fifth time that day. This time it was telling of the second tornado warning of the day.

I turned on the portable TV in the closet and watched the continual coverage by the local station while wishing digital television had not been invented as the reception made it difficult to watch.

The closet became very stuffy by the time the storm passed to our north. Everyone was happy to get out of the closet this time.

We had lost electricity after sheltering in closet a few minutes. This time I knew it was going to be off for days.

We would have another break between the nasty lines of storms. We took the time to look for damage. We found a county crew just up from our house cutting a tree that had fallen from the middle of the road. They had apparently been down the road as the last storm hit and now had to cut their way out…it did not take them long.

We ate an early dinner of leftovers from the refrigerator…leg of lamb, ham, salad…trying to use as much of what we could before it could go to waste. We also added more blankets to the top of the chest freezer to retain as much of the cold as possible.

It did not require a formal thunderstorm or tornado warning to tell us that it was going to be bad this time, the sky gave it away.

What you can’t tell in this photo is just how green the entire sky gets. It was the greenest sky of the day.

When I turned on the portable television in the closet, I heard the announcer say that the he could not believe the storm was traveling at the 90+ miles an hour it was saying on their equipment. He did say that he did believe that the 140+ mile an hour wind was correct. Then they saw the first debris balls on the radar, I knew this was by far the worst one in the area yet. As I watched, a second tornado formed and the first one diminished. It was headed directly for us…then we lost the television signal. After cursing digital television, I tried to regain the signal to no avail. We listened as the rain (and it turns out some debris) hit the roof. Eventually, things outside seemed to die down. My husband left the closet first to check. Although it was still raining, the worst had passed.

There would be one more tornado warning for us that night…a couple of hours later…we saw hail, but no tornado in our immediate area. However, we would not know of the warning until the next day as our weather radio never went off for anything more than a thunderstorm warning and our cell phones were without service at the time.

Unfortunately, the strongest and deadliest tornadoes for the area hit just after our county’s last tornado. There would be two EF-4 killer tornadoes within an hour. One community even had two tornadoes near it at one time (and EF-4 and an EF-2).

The last tornado in the area was the same strength as the first, an EF-1. It touched down just after 9:30 pm more than 13 hours after it all began.

A Great Math Resource,

The Time4Learning curriculum has been a fantastic program to use as part of homeschooling Kindergarten. My daughter and I love it. However, after finishing the math curriculum for Kindergarten and a few workbooks, I still was not convinced that my daughter had “mastered” all of the math skills that she had learned. I had plenty of books she enjoyed for her practice reading, but I was sorely lacking extra, engaging math problems. Thus, I started a search for another resource.

When I was searching for curriculum before starting home schooling, I discovered a program called IXL. Although I thought it was a good math program at the time, it was not the general curriculum program needed at the time. However, I did bookmark it just in case…boy, am I glad I did.
It was just what we needed.

What is IXL?
IXL is a web-based math practice site for students in Pre-K through 8th grade. (Their site says they are going to add more advanced math for the high school grade levels as well). The practice is designed to help meet a child’s individual state standards for each grade level. IXL provides the common core state standards as well as individual state standards. This makes it great practice for standardized testing…yes, many of us home schooling still must deal with standardized testing.

What I really like about IXL:

  • Skills are specifically lined to the state standards of all 50 states.
  • Clearly defined learning objectives.
  • Encourages students to participate through rewarding performance with medals, awards and even printable certificates along the way.
  • Comprehensive, detailed reports for the teacher and/or parent that track  progress in real time.  Reports are even given for areas needing work as well as progress.
  • Cost: A very reasonable $9.95 per month or $79 a year for the home schooling or supplementing parent. (There is a $2 per month or $20 a year additional fee for each additional child). The cost seems even more reasonable after pricing many books and other curriculum that provide a limited number of questions.
  • Unlimited amount of practice.
  • Questions adapt with student’s ability.
  • “Mastery” does not come until a student has answered many questions practicing a given skill.  Although  a 100 “Smartscore” is needed to achieve all skills, the program adjusts the score if a student misses a questions, thus giving the student more practice.
  • Can practice before any purchase.
  • Access to other state standards – not just the state you live in.
  • Audio available for Pre-K through Grade 1 practices.
  • Standardizing testing prep.

What IXL does not do:

  • Teach the math concepts.  Okay, it does teach by allowing the students to practice and adjusting the questions to their skill level, but it does not explain the concepts behind the problems.  It is simply not what this program is about.  You need other resources to teach the concepts.
  • Have a strong audible interface.  The Pre-K through grade 1 student must click on a speaker icon to have each question read.  Although this is easily done by my Kindergarten student and allows for better individualized pacing, it is not the most user friendly icon and position for students working solo, i.e. a multiple student classroom. I think it would be easier if  a student was able to click the speaker or the question in order to hear it.

I am now confident in my daughter’s “mastery” of  the math skills that she has covered in our home schooling.  The added practice has just reinforced those skills. Also,  I have more reports from another web-based program to add to her portfolio.  However, the biggest bonus may just be that she loves doing the practices :)

This is a fantastic program for students of all grade and skill levels to practice their math skills.  If you are considering using it, I would suggest doing some and having your student(s) do some of the practice questions for free before buying then purchase a single month to make sure this program is a good fit for your needs and expectations.  If you want to continue, the yearly rate is by far the best value.


Disclaimer:  The opinions and experiences expressed hear are just my own.  I have not been solicited or compensated by IXL for this article.