Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Homeschool Science Fair Pictures

Just a little peek into our homeschool group's Science Fair this week!




Hey, look! There I am!

This post was linked up with other Wordless Wednesday posts at Life At Rossmont and also at Tots and Me blogs. 

April E.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Koru Naturals: Natural Skin Care with Emu Oil and Lanolin Cream

Koru Naturals Review

I think EVERYONE on the Schoolhouse Crew was hoping for a chance to review some of the natural skin care products from Koru Naturals. I know I was excited to find our name on the list! We received the Emu Oil and the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm from Koru Naturals.

Koru Naturals Emu Oil Lanolin Cream

I have to admit that I really didn't know about emu oil before this Koru Naturals review opportunity. Admittedly, it's been awhile since I looked into natural skin care and hair care, so I'm a bit out of the loop. The emu oil comes from the body fat of the blue emu. Yes, the big bird from Australia. Once it's processed, emu oil is a very light oil that is easily absorbed by the skin.

I did know about lanolin already, and have used lanolin creams in the past. Lanolin is also a natural oil, secreted by wool-bearing animals to protect their wool. It's a heavy oil, good for protecting and healing skin.

Pure Emu Oil

Koru Naturals Review
We received a little bottle of Pure Emu Oil to test. The bottle is  about 3 inches tall, containing 2 ounces of pure emu oil. It's hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. I decided to be brave and use it on my face, even though I usually use oil-free lotions for sensitive skin. It only took one drop in the palm of my hand to moisturize my face. I rubbed it gently into my face with the fingers of my other hand, and then there was still oil left in my palm to rub into my hands, as well. I usually added a second drop to finish my hands.

It spread around my face smoothly, and it didn't look oily, but it would feel a little oily if I touched my skin later. I did this every day for a couple weeks, and it didn't increase my pimples or blackheads. I still got them occasionally, but that was normal and it didn't get worse. I was curious to see if it would reduce the crow's feet around my eyes, since I had read it could reduce fine lines.

Okay, so bear with me on these pictures. Here are my baggy, wrinkly eyes, which I usually hide behind my glasses. The right side of my face was moisturized with emu oil and the left side used my oil-free moisturizer. Neither side looks oily, and both sides still show wrinkles.

Left side = oil-free moisturizer.  Right side = Koru Naturals Emu Oil.
Emu Oil. This eye always wrinkles more.
Oil-free moisturizer.

So, what did I think? The Pure Emu Oil is an excellent, all-natural moisturizer, but it isn't a miracle worker. I still have wrinkles, no matter which moisturizer I use. (The wrinkles actually looked the same, to me, but due to a lighting difference the emu oil side shows up more clearly.) It does work well on my hands and face, as well as some trouble areas like elbows and knees, but it didn't seem to be heavy enough for my cuticles or heels. The emu oil helped keep dry flaky winter skin at bay, but I definitely needed to use it each morning. I didn't need a night cream while using emu oil, which I usually do need each winter. I am not sure if I'd want to use it (or need to) in the summer months, but it works great for the winter months.

You can buy the Pure Emu Oil in 2 oz., 4 oz, or 8 oz. bottles. The 2 oz. bottle is currently priced at $9.85.

Koru Naturals Review

Koolpurrie Restoring Balm

The Koolpurrie Restoring Balm is a thick yellow ointment in a shallow tub. The ointment is an all-natural mixture of emu oil and lanolin. It is excellent for cuticle care, calloused heels and rough elbows and knees. I used it mostly on my elbows and feet, though at times I also rubbed it into my hands.

When you rub it in, it does leave your skin feeling greasy for awhile, before it soaks in. I preferred using it at night, for that reason. If I did use it on my nails or hands during the day, I usually followed it up with a little bit of hand lotion which seemed to help it soak in faster and feel less greasy. (That's probably an incorrect use, but I just wanted to minimize the greasiness.)

I tried to get my daughters to use the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm on their red, chapped winter hands, but they didn't care for the greasy ointment feeling. They prefer using a cream, and would have probably liked the Pure & Simple Lanolin Cream on their hands better than the Koolpurrie Restoring Balm.

I didn't take pictures of my heels or elbow callouses, because I didn't take a starting picture to compare with where they are now. They're doing much better than they usually are in the winter, but my heels are always a problem area, so they still aren't exactly pretty and soft. I should have done a before and after shot, but I wasn't thinking far enough ahead.

So, what did I think, in a nutshell? We own other products that are similar in feel and healing benefits, but they have a much longer list of non-natural ingredients. The Koolpurrie Restoring Balm is an excellent, all-natural healing balm, with only two ingredients. It works well, though I prefer it for treating calloused and very dry areas. Its greasiness makes it more of a night-time treatment, in my opinion. I can't put it on my hands and then sit down to the laptop without putting on gloves first.

Koolpurrie Restoring Balm is sold in 1.4 oz. tubs, which currently are listed at $12.50. First Class shipping from Koru Naturals is free for orders over $35 to the US.

If you're interested in learning more about the uses of emu oil and lanolin, you can find helpful information at the Koru Naturals website, as well as finding great ideas on their facebook and pinterest pages.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - His Last Day!

Today is B's "last day" as a 1 year old! He's not really a baby anymore, but he'll always be the baby of the family.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

This post has been shared on Wordless Wednesday Link-ups at Life At Rossmont and Tots and Me blogs. You can find other Wordless Wednesday posts linked at both blogs.

April E.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Crew Review: In Freedom's Cause Audio Drama from Heirloom Audio

G.A. Henty is a name familiar to many homeschool families. His historical fiction novels are classic and highly recommended, especially for boys. Unfortunately, my boys are reluctant readers and I have not been able to convince them to actually read any of G.A. Henty's books. When I heard that Heirloom Audio Productions is making audio dramas of some of Henty's books, I was definitely interested. I hoped this would interest my boys in reading more of his books.

We were thankful to be offered the chance to review the  In Freedom's Cause Single Package from Heirloom Audio Productions. Their audio drama of Henty's book, In Freedom's Cause, is exceptional!

In Freedom's Cause Audio CD Review audio drama

The In Freedom's Cause audio drama is 2.5 hours long, with 8 tracks each on 2 separate compact discs. They are packaged in a cardboard tri-fold case.  The drama is performed by renowned actors, including Joanne Froggatt of Downton Abbey, Billy Boyd of Lord of the Rings, Skandar Keynes of Chronicles of Narnia, and James Cosmo of Braveheart. The audio drama is also filled with sound effects and a musical soundtrack that make it seem more real and interesting.

The Single Package sells for $29.97 (plus shipping & handling) and includes:
  • In Freedom's Cause 2-CD Set
  • In Freedom's Cause Study Guide (digital download)
  • In Freedom's Cause Soundtrack (MP3 download)
  • Printable copy of The Prayer Of William Wallace (digital download)

The Study Guide that we downloaded includes history notes that help listeners understand the setting of the drama, and its main characters: William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. Each chapter also includes Listening Well questions to help students remember and focus on what they've heard. After that, there are Thinking Further questions to help the listeners dive deeper into the subject. Each chapter also includes vocabulary words for the student to study. At the end of the Study Guide there are three short Bible studies, which use a multiple choice method to select which is the correct Bible verse address for the Bible truth stated in the question. These are most useful if you are listening to one chapter each day, taking time to complete the Study Guide before moving on to the next chapter.

ElCloud Thoughts: 

The In Freedom's Cause audio drama is exceptionally well-done! The acting was wonderful and the voices fit the time period and location. The sound effects and music enhanced the story and made it come alive. I was very impressed with its quality!

We listened to the audio drama in our living room one morning. The background history and the short biographies of G.A. Henty, William Wallace, and Robert the Bruce provided in the Study Guide were very helpful in understand the setting of the story. I had to remind myself and the kids that Ned Forbes was fictional, because I kept wanting to look for more information on him and Lady Marjory.

I wish we'd had a working CD player in our van, because I think my children would enjoy this more on a long trip. At home there are just too many other interesting things they'd rather be doing than listening to an audio drama. We usually only listen to things like that in the car, though we haven't been able to do that for awhile.

I do think that breaking the audio drama down into just one chapter at a time would help. If they knew they only had to listen for 15 minutes instead of 2.5 hours, they'd engage better in the story. Instead I had my 14 year old son listening while doing other things, multi-tasking, and my extremely active 11 year old son only listening half the time. When he did tune in, though, he asked a lot of questions and seemed very engaged. My 14 year old said it was good, but he didn't really have much else to say. He's in that stage. This isn't an issue with Heirloom Audio Production ... but a symptom of my own children's preference for visual stimulation.

In Freedom's Cause  by Heirloom Audio Productions is an excellent rendition of the G.A. Henty book. I enjoyed it a lot and my sons moderately enjoyed it. However, if your child doesn't enjoy audio books, prefers movies and video games, and turns his nose up at classic literature ... don't expect them to devour the story and beg for more. I realize this makes us a "bad example" of a Christian homeschool family, but it's the truth. My boys are more into video games than classic literature. The next time I try an audio drama from Heirloom Audio Productions, and there WILL be another time, I will break it down into one chapter per day. And In Freedom's Cause will definitely make an encore appearance on a car trip once our CD player is repaired.

April E.

In Freedom's Cause on Facebook
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Monday, February 23, 2015

Crew Review: IndoctriNation Documentary on Public Education

Great Commission Films has created a thought-provoking documentary on the state of American public education and Christianity. Originally published in 2011, IndoctriNation seeks to answer questions about the origins of the public school system, its current moral and philosophical status, and its spiritual effects on American culture. More importantly, he asks the question: Are our children safe (physically and spiritually) in the public school system?

IndoctriNation DVD Review Christianity and Public Education

The back cover of the IndoctriNation DVD begins with a very accurate warning. "If you're not ready to take a hard look at the true state of public education, you will want to avoid this unflinching and highly controversial documentary. But that would be a mistake!" IndoctriNation is an extremely well-made and challenging documentary on public education.

In this 102 minute film, Colin Gunn loads his family onto a retired schoolbus and travels around the United States to interview public school teachers, students, administrators, and parents. He also speaks with influential Christian leaders and renowned educator John Taylor Gatto. Gunn includes documentation, quotes and film-footage that is proof of the anti-Christian atmosphere of the public schools and its administration.

This trailer for IndoctriNation will give you just a taste of the wealth of information and testimonies in the documentary.

ElCloud thoughts:

My husband and I enjoyed viewing IndoctriNation. The documentary was a good reminder of all the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place. It helped to strengthen our resolve to continue homeschooling our children, even when the big yellow bus seems to be the easier route. I confess that I needed to view this right now.

However, as soon as we finished watching the movie, I told my husband I have mixed emotions about it.  I fully agree with the information presented in the DVD, but I worry it will seem too negative for many Christian parents of public school students. There is a very strong homeschool bias to the documentary; the entire point of the documentary is to convince others that Christians should withdraw from public schools. However, my husband felt the documentary was provocative, in a good way, meant to challenge people to re-think public education.

I wish Colin had presented a more balanced list of pros and cons, sharing interviews that represent a wider variety of experiences and opinions. I think that families who are already involved with the public school system would receive Colin's message better, if they felt the intricacies of their situation were given better representation. Even though Colin Gunn found educators who were willing to speak out about the difficulty of being a Christian and a teacher, he didn't provide a very well-balanced viewpoint. He didn't present any evidence or personal interviews from Christian teachers who have found a way to live out their faith in the school system. He only spoke to Christian parents and students who had negative things to share about the public school system.

As I said, my husband and I enjoyed the IndoctriNation documentary. We found it to be extremely well-made and very encouraging for us as homeschoolers, but it isn't a DVD I would just hand out to all my family and friends. I will recommend it and share it with those who I feel are actually ready to consider it and hear the message. If someone is wondering if public schools are the right place for their children or not, this would be a very helpful documentary!

April E.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

All the little moments ...

It is the middle of winter. It's cold. We're sick. I've had interrupted sleep more nights than I want to think about. The holidays seem distant and so does Spring. The kids are cranky, and the house is cluttered. Homeschool doldrums have hit and every day is a struggle to get my boys to focus on their schoolwork. Many days go by where I feel as if I'm  too busy with the mundane details of living to really make a difference.

But all those little moments ... the ones that seem insignificant ... really do matter. They build upon each other to instill love, security and faith in God within my children's hearts and lives.
  • Sitting and holding the cranky 1 year old yet again
  • Looking at the fourth drawing my 6 and 8 year olds have handed me in half an hour
  • Playing color and shapes bingo with my preschooler
  • Reading that book one more time
  • Listening to my older children talk through their futures, their worries, their daily updates
  • Watching that movie with the teen who just HAS to share it with you
  • Preparing meals. every. single. day.
  • Breaking up sibling squabbles
  • Correcting inappropriate behavior ... again
  • Reminding and reminding and reminding
  • Scheduling appointments and ferrying kids back and forth 
  • Keeping track of clothing needs
  • Finding lost items
  • Counting blocks with a preschooler while I'm cooking supper
  • Tucking children in at bedtime
  • Putting bandaids on invisible owies
  • Listening to my boys talk, even when I have no idea what their video game is even about
  • Admiring the way each child is growing up and changing and telling them
  • Taking the time to smile at the sweet little face looking up into yours when you're trying to finish a project
This is what being a Mom is. This is the love in action that gives my kids peace and security. Loving them well isn't always pleasant ... they sometimes claim I hate them when I have to be firm or impose consequences on them. But every time I remind them of the appropriate behavior, I am reminding them to treat others with love, to be respectful, to do what is right. It may seem like it's not sinking in, but it has to be ... just a little.

Every hug, kiss, and story fills them with comfort, security and love. Every time I listen to their story or look at their project, I validate who they are and their thoughts and creativity. Every time I make them do the responsible thing, I'm working to shape them into a responsible adult someday. Every time I answer a Bible question or redirect their conversation back to a God-honoring place, I'm building the foundation that their faith will rest on.

It's hard to remember that in the middle of the day as I'm rushing from person to person needing me, with no idea what I'm going to cook for supper, and a toddler clinging to me. The kids don't always make me feel loved or appreciated as I direct them through their days. I feel as if I'm getting nowhere when my husband asks me when the last time we vacuumed was or I realize I can't find that shirt because it's buried at the bottom of my laundry hamper still. I get grouchy, they are grouchy, and my perspective gets out of whack.

No one notices what Moms do every day, especially those outside our home. But if we didn't do it ... if we didn't love our family through diligent service every single day ... our families would suffer.

I'm trying to remind myself that all these little things are actually very important things. I'm trying to be aware of the times when my kids do show their appreciation. I'm trying to really notice what they are like NOW, because next year they will be different. I'm trying to get through the rest of this winter without giving into the blahs, and it helps to remember that every little thing I do actually does matter.

What about you? Are you fighting the winter homeschool blahs, too? Are you feeling like you're just a maid, taxi driver, and babysitter?

You're not. You're a mom and you're very important. You're building healthy children, training future adults, and filling their emotional needs. You matter. We both do.

Just keep loving them well.

April E.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Free Valentine's Printables from Homeschooling Hearts and Minds

These were actually posted by my friend Susan last year, at her Homeschooling Hearts and Minds blog. I should have posted the link sooner, but our Valentine's fun has been overshadowed by overlapping layers of sickness this week. Blech!

Susan created a printable with 6 Valentine Hearts, but the words on them have more meaningful messages than "Kiss Me" and "You're Cute!" If you still need some Valentine printables or crafts for this weekend, maybe you can use these.

Homeschooling Hearts and Minds Valentine Printables

Happy Valentine's Day!
April E.