Snow is not a regular occurrence here in Alabama, so we get very excited on the rare occasions that it happens. Last year, our area got a nice snowfall (that shut the city down for a few days), but we were in Florida when it happened and missed it! This week, we got 8 inches of snow, which was a record-breaking amount for February. (Okay, you Northerners, you can laugh now.) As is typical, it was up to 40 degrees the next day and most of it melted. But it was pretty for a while!
Friday, February 27, 2015
I had a little fun variation this month in my typical homeschool product reviews as I and other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew got to try out various products from Koru Naturals. Koru Naturals specializes in products from New Zealand, including skin care, hair care, and even candles, teas, and honey.
The products I used were Emu Oil ($9.85) and New Zealand Pure and Simple Lanolin Cream ($8.95). I had never heard of Emu Oil before, so I spent a bit of time reading about its possible uses. Koru Naturals says that Emu Oil is a “powerful moisturizer that penetrates skin and hair very effectively.” I learned about the possibility of it reducing wrinkles, curing rashes, stimulating hair growth, and relieving pain and inflammation.
My main use of the Emu Oil was as a moisturizer. I discovered that a little oil goes a long way. A couple of drops were enough to moisturize my face. Just a small amount left my skin feeling very moisturized and soft. Any more would make it shiny. I’ve been using it every morning and evening, and while I haven’t seen any miraculous rejuvenation, my skin has been very soft and well-moisturized, even in the driest time of year. Emily even commented about how soft my face was! I also had a couple of unexpected effects from the Emu oil. My usually pale face seemed to have more color in it and the large pores on my nose have completely disappeared—even when looking in a 10x magnifying mirror. No fancy lotion or wrinkle cream has ever had that effect! I think the price for the Emu Oil is great because this 2 ounce bottle will last a long time. It’s still very full after a month of use.
I also tried the Emu Oil on my hair as a conditioner. I’ve been having trouble lately with very dry damaged ends. Again, just a few drops spread in my palm were enough to make my hair less dry looking. One day I did use too much and my hair looked rather greasy. Since I didn’t need to go out that day, I just left it alone, considering it a more heavy-duty oil treatment and washed it out in the evening.
The Pure and Simple Lanolin Cream was a wonderful hand and foot moisturizer. It had a light, but very pleasant scent and soaked into my skin without leaving it greasy. I really expected a more greasy feel, but it behaved like a high quality lotion. Emily tells me that it made a rash on her neck disappear. We’ve been leaving it out on the kitchen counter for use as needed and with the dry air this time of year, it has been appreciated! I’ve also caught Emily opening it just to sniff because she loves the scent!
I highly recommend both products. Other members of the Crew reviewed different Koru Naturals products, like shampoo, conditioner, lip balm, and Koolpurrie Restoring balm, so be sure to check out their reviews as well!
Thursday, February 26, 2015
I homeschool for several different reasons, such as a better and individualized education, more family time, and the opportunity to teach my children from a Christian worldview. When I started homeschooling, I didn’t have any major concerns about the public school system; our local schools are rated well educationally and we live in the Bible belt where many of the teachers are Christians. But as the years have passed, I have had increasing concerns about the public schools.
IndoctriNation, produced by Great Commission Films, is an eye-opening expose of the public school system, from its origins to its current agenda and practices. This 102 minute documentary follows Collin Gunn as he and his family travel the country (in, ironically a big yellow school bus), interviewing insiders and experts in the public schools.
- Violence, sex, and drugs in the schools
- Exposure to non-Christian values both from other students and curriculum
- The frustration many teachers have with the legal limitations on sharing their faith in the classroom
- The agenda of the teacher’s unions
- The history of the public school system
Some of the content of this documentary can be seen on the daily news or heard from friends and neighbors. We all know that drugs and violence are issues in many schools. We know that many children graduate with poor reading and math abilities. Some of the content is less well known, such as the specific agendas to indoctrinate children in liberal values, teaching them to be compliant citizens rather than original creative thinkers. I especially enjoyed the interview with John Taylor Gatto, a New York teacher of the year and critic of public schooling and his insider’s insight into how the system works. It’s frightening to think how much influence a teacher who is a role model for a child can have in 35 hours a week. We can only hope that influence will support and not contradict the values in the home. The stakes are high if it does not.
Did you know that 76% of parents think their children attend a good school, yet 79% of parents believe that most public schools are failing? That doesn’t add up. Three of my children spent some time in public schools and had a fairly positive experience, but there were some negatives as well.
As a member of the Schoolhouse Crew, I was asked to write this review. No compensation was received.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
We were recently privileged to review In Freedom's Cause : The Real Story of Wallace and Bruce, produced by Heirloom Audio Productions. This two hour radio drama adapts G.A. Henty’s novel of the same name into an action-packed, exciting adventure for ages 6 and up. The star-filled cast is quite impressive, including Joanne Froggatt (Downton Abbey), Billly Boyd (Lord of the Rings), Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia), and James Cosmo (Highlander, Braveheart). The In Freedom's Cause Single Package ($29.97) includes a CD set, digital download study guide, downloadable soundtrack, and a printable copy of The Prayer of William Wallace.
In Freedom’s Cause is the story of Ned, who grows into manhood against the backdrop of Scotland’s fight for independence against England in the 14th century. He is a Scottish young man whose father was killed by a wealthy landowner who is loyal to England. He is inspired by the great figures William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, fights in battles, and wrestles with issues of loyalty, revenge, and forgiveness.
We enjoy audiobooks, but this recording is much more than that. It is a true radio drama that is enhanced with sound effects and music that pull the listener into the story. We put the cd’s the car and listened to them whenever we were driving around town. If I forgot to play the story, Emily was sure to remind me! She says:
“I really enjoyed listening to In Freedom’s Cause. I like it when stories are made into audiobooks because if feels like you’re right there with them. When wars were being fought, I had this exciting feeling and I felt like I could just be right there in that battlefield. I like books, but I like the thrill of audio books a little better!”
She is now begging for more audio dramas in this series! There’s nothing I like better than a great story that makes learning fun and effortless!
The accompanying study guide was nice addition to the recording.
The guide includes background information on Scottish history, G.A. Henty, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce. Each section (chapter?) of the story has vocabulary, “Listening Well” and “Thinking Further” questions. After we finished the story, I picked some of the questions, particularly the “thinking further” ones to discuss with Emily. We found them thought and discussion provoking, going well beyond simple comprehension questions.
A Bible study can be found at the end of the guide. This consisted of lists of Bible verses that reinforce the various themes of In Freedom’s Cause, such as “I will fear no evil,” “justice and vengeance,” and “freedom.”
Because we listened to the recording more for enjoyment than for a history lesson, I didn’t fully use the study guide. We’re currently studying 20th century history, but if we had received this a year ago when we were in this time period, I certainly would have used the guide extensively. I did really wish there had been answers to the study guide questions, however. There were some questions that neither Emily nor I could answer. Most likely, if we had used the guide as we listened to each section of the story instead of afterward, our memories would have been better, but I always do like to find a teacher’s key to help me out!
I’m looking forward to hearing more from this great series from Heirloom Audio Productions.
Two more radio dramas will be produced in 2015, the first being With Lee in Virginia, a tale of the American Civil War. You can keep up with the progress of this project here:
Monday, February 23, 2015
After months of studying cells and microscopic creatures, we’re finally getting to the study of animals in our biology class. And animal study means….dissection!
Last week, we embarked on our first dissection project, the earthworm. Most students were squeamish, but we fortunately had a few who were willing to jump in. (Note to self: buy gloves before the next project.)
The students all had a turn helping to cut the earthworm and identify its internal parts. Then they made detailed drawings in their lab notebooks.
We had sea stars in our collection of specimens so, although we didn’t have time to do a full dissection, we did have a few minutes to examine the sea star externally and do a very abbreviated dissection. The students found that a sea star is very very hard to cut! I know they enjoyed identifying the external parts with a magnifying glass, though.
Saturday, February 21, 2015
I recently signed up for the Teach Them Diligently conference in Nashville (March 19-21) and am so excited! I’ve been to homeschool conferences before, although it’s been a few years, and loved attending. This will be my first experience with Teach Them Diligently, though, which has an emphasis on discipling children as well as on homeschool techniques and even includes kids and teen programs. While I’m listening to speakers and shopping the vendor’s booths, Emily will be having fun with other teens and growing in her own faith. On top of that, it is held in the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, which I hear is fabulous!
Prices go up on March 4, so if you have interest in any of the Teach Them Diligently conferences, jump to their site to find out more.
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Monday, February 9, 2015
We spent the better part of two lab classes working on food webs. The students worked in groups of two or three to make a food web poster. One group chose an ocean habitat and the other chose forest. They had access to some reference books and the internet to find out what the predators and prey of various creatures were. I had them mount each picture on colored paper to represent each organism’s place in the food web:
- yellow-primary consumer
- blue-secondary consumer
- red-tertiary consumer
They connected the organisms with arrows depicting the flow of energy from producers on up.
It didn’t take them long to discover how complex even a simple food web could be. Some organisms could vary in their classification of primary, secondary, or tertiary consumer depending upon what a particular meal consisted of. The arrows sometimes wound around the poster connecting an organism with several different prey and predators. The ocean group in particular learned quite a bit about ocean life as they researched various creatures.
This project took much longer than I had expected, but turned into a great group project!