Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Koru Naturals

In my years on the  Review Crew I’ve had many occasions to get excited about products, but deep down I know that they’re really for my son (or rather my son’s education).  This time the items for review are for me, me, me!  I got the chance to pamper myself with two products from Koru Naturals.   In the height of dry skin season I would have the chance to try their Emu Oil and Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.

I’ll be honest, I was not familiar with Emu Oil and had to do a little browsing on the internet to see how I might use it.  I decided to test it for fine lines around my eyes and on my dry cuticles and peeling nails.  I applied it morning and evening on my right hand and eye, hoping I’d be able to notice an improvement over the left.

The dollop I applied was much smaller than a dime and plenty for both my face and hand.  And I can say that the greasy feeling you get after applying many moisturizers was quickly dissipated(according to their website, if it feels greasy you’re using too much).  After several weeks I could tell that my right hand had fewer tags of skin peeling away at the base of the nail, there weren’t any layers on the nail itself to file off, and the point where the nail meets the skin was softer.  At one point during my trial the base of my left thumb had become so dry and brittle it actually hurt so I threw the scientific method  and its need for controls out the door and applied some Emu Oil to it as well.  By morning it was much improved.  I can’t say that I noticed as significant difference around my eyes though.

I did find another use for the emu oil.  At one point my son developed a sinus infection.  My normal treatment is to apply an essential oil to his feet.  Because I remembered Emu Oil had a rapid absorption rate I used it as the carrier for the Thieves Oil which must be diluted before application.  It works as quickly as I expected and I believe it was instrumental in his quick recovery.

I had more experience with lanolin, having used it for cracked nipples while nursing my son, but this would be the first time I used it with emu oil in the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.  The balm is thicker and stickier so I didn’t want to try it on a large surface or try to smear it over the delicate skin around my eyes. The test this time would be my elbows.  I’m embarrassed to say I have extremely dry, cracked skin on the back of my elbows.  They almost look gray from the dead, dry skin—not that I notice the appearance because who can see their own elbows, but I have had people tell me that I must have something smudged on my arms.  I applied the Koolpurrie to my right elbow after using the emu oil on my hand and eye so there may have been some residual oil added to the mix.  I didn’t use a pumice stone or any other treatment on either elbow  so the only difference would be the balm. I could feel the difference whether or not I saw it, but for the sake of the review I had my husband take pictures of my elbows.

I had no idea that my husband had started using the Koolpurrie as well.  Every winter his thumbs crack and split, and it get worse if he’s been fiddling with engines and gotten motor oil and grease on them.  He started using the balm on his thumbs after he’d seen me applying it to my elbows.  Last week he not only told me what he’d been doing but that he was amazed at how much healing had occurred and how quickly.  He has several allergies and so was thankful that there were no fragrances added to either product.  Emu oil is considered to be hypoallergenic as well. 

I love finding natural products to use for personal grooming and health so we’ll keep the medicine cabinet stocked with these Koru Natural products. You need to use so little, I’m sure these containers will last us a long time.

As an amusing anecdote, whenever I used either the Emu Oil or the Koolpurrie Balm, our dog would follow me around until I took a seat and then she would lick my hand.  I suppose I tasted like a giant chicken.

Koru Naturals Review

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Review: In Freedom’s Cause Audio Adventure

You may recall that last fall I introduced my son to G.A. Henty with an audio adaption of Under Drake’s Flag.  As that review was wrapping up, we learned that its producers, Heirloom Audio Productions, were putting the finishing touches on another Henty work.  We couldn’t wait to hear what they did with the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce with the In Freedom's Cause Single Package .  In addition to the 2 CD set, we able to download an eStudy Guide,  MP3 versions of the soundtrack and the audio adventure, and a printable of the Prayer of William Wallace.

You may recall that I am an avid reader.  While I make my son read for school, in his free time he prefers audio formats (so he can keep building with his Jenga blocks).  The week In Freedom’s Cause arrived it was his turn with the sinus infection we’d been passing around the family.  Since I was making him stay in bed, the least I could do was let him battle vicariously for two and a half hours through Ned Forbes.  Now if you’ve read the book you’ll know the protagonist is called Archie.  It seems the producers are going to start each drama with two English boys (Ned and Gerald) visiting Mr. George who proceeds to tell them a tale about a boy or boys with the same names so I think we’ll always be dealing with Ned and Gerald in upcoming stories.

And since we’re dealing with differences, let’s mention a few other ones from the original book:  the book’s Wallace doesn’t carry a Celtic Knot or his Psalter (Bible) and [SPOILER ALERT] Allan Kerr dies much earlier so there is no reconciliation between the brother in-laws.  I however, found the changes/additions  improvements to the original story. 

It’s a good thing I was only asking my son to rest in bed, not fall asleep because I just don’t think that’s possible with an audio adventure.  That term was coined by Heirloom as a way to describe their “fast-moving stories designed to keep the listener captivated…Quickly paced and Plot-rich…”  It’s hard to fall asleep with the sound of swords clashing and catapulted rocks apparently hitting just on the other side of castle walls.  For myself,  I’d put the MP3 version on my Sansa Fuze and listened as I jogged during homeschool gym.

goat-woo-warning

When my son was recovered we listened to the story again, this time using some of the downloadable tools (NOTE: apparently Heirloom Audio was being generous with the reviewers, some of these items may only be available if you buy the 4-pack).  First you’ll want a copy of the Cast & Character Guide which lists everyone you’ll encounter in the order of appearance.  There are at least four “Sir John’s”  and I needed a guide to keep track of who was who.  Next we had our Study Guide.  Be sure to read  Some Notes on the History of Scotland first (even though it appears at the back).  This will help explain why the throne of Scotland was in question in the first place and why King Edward of England was ruling the land. 

The majority of the study guide is filled with questions about each track on the CD (NOTE: the MP3 version is not broken into sections).  It is a little awkward to stop listening every six to twelve minutes for question time, especially if the break occurs at a cliff hangar so you may want to listen to the whole thing through at least once. The Listening Well questions are the auditory equivalent of reading comprehension—each short answer can be heard: What is the date of the Battle of Falkirk?  What news does Kierley bring from Robert the Bruce?  The Thinking Further questions often require you to suppose why characters said things or acted as they did.  This is a much hard task for my Aspie son but we did try to tackle a few or I’d  just give him my reasoning because he needs to learn to understand how we NT’s think.

Once again the production quality was top notch from a full symphonic score to the voice actors to the sound effects.  The actors include the likes of Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), Joanne Froggatt (Downtown Abbey), and Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia).  If you’re stuck indoors because of the weather or taking a long car trip these CD’s are a great way to pass the time.  You may have some concern about whether the story is appropriate for little ears, especially if you’re familiar with how William Wallace meets his end.  The narrator mentions that he was hung but cut down while still alive, no other details are given. His death takes place “off camera” as it were although you can hear him crying in Latin in the distance with Ned translating in the crowd.  There is a scene where Ned has been captured and brought before King Edward who orders his death in the same manner but it isn’t as drawn out or foreboding as the scene with the Spanish Inquisitor from Under Drake’s flag.  King Edward dies moments later and Ned escapes in the confusion.  My gentle son didn’t find anything too frightening.

If you’re interested, you can click on the title to see my review of Under Drake’s Flag.  Heirloom Audio’s next project will be With Lee in Virginia.

In Freedom's Cause Review

Monday, February 23, 2015

Review: IndoctriNation

I have to confess that this review of Great Commission Films DVD, may be one of the hardest I’ve done in over six years of being on the Homeschool Review Crew.  IndoctriNation  follows one homeschooling family on their cross country journey to interview parents, teachers, historians, and others as they study the history of public education and extrapolate just where that yellow bus might be heading.  My difficultly is how to separate my opinions of and experience with the product from my opinions and experiences of the subject of the documentary: public schools and the call to withdraw our children from them.  I’m a homeschooling mom after all, so it’s pretty obvious which side of the debate I’ve chosen.

Let’s start with the facts….the main movie runs 102 minutes and was originally released in 2011.  You may view it in English or Spanish with subtitles in both languages.  The film has been broken into 19 segments that you can access through scene selection.  A warning appears at the beginning of the film for parental discretion and I’d take it seriously.  I waited until my son was spending an afternoon with his grandparents to watch the film alone.  Advice: watch with a pen and pad of paper handy if you’re interested in this issue.  The graphics introducing many of the speakers includes books that they’ve written for your further study.

The first half of the film shows the current state of public schools:  a recent graduate shares  just because a parent opts their child out of Sex Ed doesn’t mean they won’t learn everything later on the playground. Several teachers professing to be Christian say they try share their faith through example since they can’t talk about it openly.  One former math teacher is highlighted since he lost his job for mentioning Jesus in the classroom. 

I was particularly taken aback by the scene where a teacher assigned the class to organize into small groups and discuss whether or not the government should not allow a man to marry a man (the date on the chalkboard in the background was 1994 so it was still illegal).  The children in the class were much younger than my son (he’s 12).  I’d like to believe that at their age they were only thinking in terms of playing house and not what was going on in the bedroom, but who knows what else they were being taught when the cameras weren’t rolling.   In my day we didn’t even have the “health” talk in school until sixth grade and then we were segregated: boys with the principal and girls with the school nurse just to learn how our bodies would be changing—not the physical act we would someday be doing.  

I realize that most of the examples are anecdotes and that it’s easy to pick and choose stories that will back your agenda.  And yet most of what I heard reminded me of similar situations I’ve been made aware of in my on community.  We live in a rural county—most towns have a population of less than 10,000.  Our schools are supposed to be “safer” than those in urban/suburban neighborhoods but here are the facts:  In 2012 our neighboring town (pop. 4000) had 3 high school students commit suicide.  A new mother to homeschool co-op shared with me that her daughter had been expelled for taking mom’s prescriptions to school and selling them.  The purchaser was in a coma for three days.  The girl was in Jr. High, but the town is so small elementary students share the same campus and would be exposed to the same risk.  Our youth pastor shared at dinner one evening that there was a lot of sexual experimentation going on in the high school, including homosexuality.  Which leads me to a point made in the film, 70+ percent of Americans say there is a problem with the schools but nearly the same percentage say that their own school is just fine. 

In the second half of the film is a drive through the history of public schooling with the yellow bus stopping to take on passengers from time to time: Robert Owen, Horace Mann, Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, G. Stanley Hall, Ivan Pavlov, John Dewey and others.  Don’t know all those names?  You should.  They are the men who shaped the public education system we have today.  Very few of them had the children’s best interest at heart.  Take a look at some of these quotes (FYI: I superimposed the words on screenshots from the movie).

 

 

 

So who should watch this movie?  I don’t believe there’s any point showing the film to non-believers.  They have no reason to care if morals are being taught in school without mention of God’s absolute standards.  The movie is definitely for a Christian audience and the creators believe all Christians should take action by withdrawing their kids from government schools.  Unfortunately, there are many families that couldn’t make it on a single income.  This may lead them to feel guilt-stricken (they’d like to make a change but can’t) or become defensive (are you implying I’m not a good enough Christian or parent because I haven’t taken that radical step?).  Nor do I believe you should take a copy of the film to the next school board meeting or parent teacher conference.  The guests/cast of the film include enough well recognized names that any public school official would be likely to discount the entire message as hate-mongering and scare tactics. 

You’re probably not going to lead many to Christ by thumping them over the head with a Bible and saying “Here, you need this.”  Likewise this movie probably shouldn’t be shared until you’ve developed a strong relationship with the person you’d like to view it.  When they ask “Why did you make the decision to homeschool?” invite them over to watch the movie with you.  Be prepared to pause it and answer questions or share personal stories.

As for myself, the film couldn’t have come at a better time.  At the beginning of the year my husband’s company cut his pay by 40 percent.  That’s quite a blow for a family trying to make it on one income anyway.  Thanks to this film, the one option that was never on the table was to put my son on the yellow bus so that I could find a full time job.  I did find a part time job with flexible hours and with my parents help we will continue our homeschool journey.

IndoctriNation DVD Review

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Rescued Book #34 Roanoke

The last rescued book I shared, Lost Colony, was about the mystery surrounding the vanishing of the colony of Roanoke.  Well as I scoured the bookshelves for another title to read I found I had another rescued book on the very same subject.  This book was a nominee for the Mark Twain Award (winners are selected by Missouri schoolchildren in 4th through 6th grade).

Roanoke; a Novel of the Lost Colony

Levitin, Sonia, and John Gretzer (illus.) New York: Atheneum, 1973213 pp.

The author has again chosen to make our story circle around one of the children/teens from the Roanoke Colony list.  While Lost Colony’s hero was a noble escaping a boring life at court, young William Wythers is a runaway apprentice whose master also believes  stole some silver.  A strong and talented woodworker, William was quickly granted passage to the New World by Governor White. 

We meet many of the same named characters as well:  Manteo, the friendly Native American,  Ananias & Eleanor Dare, and George Howe.  This book seems to include many more of the other colonists including the Widow Jane Pierce.  Her matrimonial state may be presumption on the author’s part, but there are no other passengers with the same surname, and I can’t help but think what spunk for a single female to undertake such a journey.

Roanoke seems to include a lot more more about every day life—how long church services were, how the new arrivals needed to rebuild the shambled buildings from a previous colonizing attempt, the colonists debating whether a headstone would honor the dead or just lead the savages to a body to mutilate.  Of course, the story of Roanoke wouldn’t be complete without the birth of the first European in the new world, little Virginia Dare.  There is another first included in the narrative—Manteo was the first Native American to accept the Christian faith and be baptized.

As for the mysterious disappearance of the colony, the author seems to have taken a little from several different theories.  Some colonists dies in the wilderness looking for treasure, others were killed by unfriendly natives, some died from an outbreak of measles and some starved to death.  The remaining few traveled to Croatoan.

I think I preferred this Roanoke story to last week’s version although my son was disgusted that this was “a kissing book” to borrow a phrase from The Princess Bride.  I rescued my copy at the YMCA’s book sale fundraiser.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Rescued Book: Lost Colony

It’s no secret that one of my favorite book collection is the Winston Adventure Books.  It doesn’t get the attention of homeschoolers like the Landmark books but I always think of the motto “We’re number 2 so we try harder” (was that from an old commercial?).  It’s only fitting that this less publicized series deal  with important, but less publicized events.  Take today’s book…before there was Plymouth, MA and even before there was Jamestown, VA there was a struggling little colony known as Roanoke ---and it totally disappeared!  To this day, no one can say for certain what happened to the 100+ men and women left there in 1587.

Lost Colony: The Mystery of Roanoke Island.  Bothwell, Jean, and Edward F. Cortese (Illus.) . Philadelphia: Winston, 1953. 182 pp.

Of course this is a fictionalized account since we don’t know what happened to the colonists.  The author as much as says so in the introduction.  She chose to focus the story on one child –Thomas Humphey (spelled Humfrey in actual records).  There are no adults with that surname so Bothwell  makes him a runaway who chose to leave court life in England for the chance of adventure with his friends Ananias & Eleanor Dare (the mother of the first European born in the New World).

Thomas’s new companion is George Howe (another real colonist). In addition, Thomas interacts with two Native Americans: Manteo is a Croatan, a friendly tribe and Towaye who resents the arrival of the English.  His tribe had been burnt out by the Governor of an even earlier English colony who’d believe they’d been responsible for stealing a silver cup.

Before Gov. White sails back to England the cup is found and the granddaughter Virginia is born.  It becomes clear that a showdown is looming between Thomas and Towaye. Thomas recovers the silver cup (you won’t believe who stole it) and offers to send it back to England to restore the honor of Towaye’s people but the warrior rebukes the gesture of friendship.  He still seeks revenge on the whole colony as a vote is taken on whether they should leave the island to join Manteo’s tribe.

Winston Adventure Books are hard to come by, but I managed to pick this copy up at a YMCA book sale.  I wouldn’t give this book to my son and log it as “history” but if we’re studying Roanoke anyway, this book may tweak his interest in the mystery of the Lost Colony.

You can see all my rescued books by clicking here.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A New Page: Homeschooling & Working Outside the Home

Since we moved to Missouri over seven years ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom and only need to focus on the house and homeschooling.  For reasons I won’t go into, this year I needed to find a paying job.  That story is worthy of a post on its own, but I will say that God’s timing was perfect:  the day after we determined our income needed boosting I learned that our local library was hiring.  I had two days to polish up my old resume and turn it in before the deadline.  One week later I had an interview, one week after that I had the job—part time with flexible hours so I can still homeschool.  I know that’s nothing short of miraculous in our present economy. 

So with two weeks under my belt, let’s look at the positives and negatives so far….

Positive

  • Our school time is much more focused and organized.  We have to start early so we’re wrapped up when it’s time for me to leave. I do allow my son to take his reading assignments with him to his grandparents.  Schnickelfritz also gets his schoolwork done before lunch or play at their house.
  • I’m at the library three days a week so I can always pick up a book or video to go with our studies and return them before they’re due.
  • My parents are getting to see Fritz’s studies and their impressed!  Too be honest, they’ve always supported our homeschool but it’s nice to hear someone else say they can’t believe how thorough the lessons are and how much he’s learning.

Negative

  • Dinner is not working out so well yet.  Twice now I’ve forgotten to put food in the crock pot before leaving the house.  Once I managed to pressure cook the dish when I got home and get it on the table on time, the other time I hit the drive thru which isn’t in the budget.
  • I’m realizing I’ve turned into a procrastinator.  When I was at home all day I could think I’ll get to it later but I don’t have that same luxury.  My hubby, the Toolman, had to go without salad dressing because I forgot to stop at the store two days in a row.
  • Fritz’s evening activities outside the home, currently three nights a week, seem especially draining now.

 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Baby Steps to Better Health

I mentioned last month that I don’t make resolutions since by definitions they’re almost meant to be broken.  I do make goals though and one of mine is to improve our families health and eating habits.  I’ve been taking everything in baby steps.

1. I replaced our plastic storage containers with glass.  Although Tupperware now claims to be BPA free, my stuff was all over a decade old.  They also had scratches and places that could potentially hide bacteria.  Now we’re using mason jars and glassware as I’ve found some on sale or at garage sales.

2. We bought an electric tea kettle to heat hot water rather than relying on the microwave.  Last year while watching a DVD on Understanding Child Brain Development I saw microscopic images of how a water molecule is distorted/damaged in a microwave.  I’m trying to avoid reheating food in the microwave, but now I can definitely avoid it to make tea or morning oatmeal with my kettle.

3. I’m adding fermented food to our diet.  I’ve been making kefir for breakfast smoothies for several years now.  Last fall I started brewing kombucha to drink (although I’m the only person willing to do so currently) and I’ve just started keeping sourdough starter for baking.  Sometimes slower is better I’ve found.  This week I started a part time job with our library and don’t get home until 5pm, but Tuesday is still pizza night in our home.  If I started my traditional yeast crust in the bread machine at that time, dinner would be delayed until 6:30 or later.  I was able to start the dough souring on the counter all day and it had a nice rise in the bowl when I got home. 

Areas that still need work:

1. I need to exercise consistently.  Last May I went through a Couch to 5K program and I managed to stay motivated to do my jogging three days/week following the regimen.  Then my Achilles Tendon become so sore I hated to touch it.  I’m able to walk without pain, but only do that on Wednesdays when my son is at homeschool gym (I walk on the track above the basketball courts). That’s simply not enough exercise.

2. I need to add more vegetables to our diet—something beyond potatoes, corn and green beans.  I’ve got plenty of recipes.  I guess I’ll just have to try one each week and everyone has to at least sample it and will see what’s appealing.  I don’t simply want to hide vegetables behind cheese and cream sauce though.

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