We don’t want it.

This morning, my girl and I had a chat.

Goodness, as if talking about racism and privilege and protests and rights and equality and riots isn’t hard enough for adults… where do you begin with your 7 year old? Her mouth dropped open when I told her about George Floyd and the atrocity that happened and the why behind it… and I know her shock is proof of privilege.

We talked about how she will hear about people protesting— and how all people have the right to peacefully protest. To let their voices be heard. To make signs and march and tell the world that something is wrong and that things need to change.
She asked if protests make windows smash. And that led to tricky conversations about what riots are. And I told her that just because riots happen, that doesn’t change the fact that all people have the freedom of speech and right to protest.

I loaded the dishes in the dishwasher, noticing my girl had gotten out a marker and construction paper. She came to me once she was done.

“It’s my sign, momma,” she said.

“What is it that you don’t want?” I asked, reading her print.

“I don’t want meanness. It’s wrong to be mean like that to people, and I don’t want it. So I made a sign to let people know.”

Oh girlie. I pray you will always use your words and have a heart to speak up to stop the meanness around you.

If only everyone was so brave.

If only everyone in my generation and your generation and all the ones to come look at what has happened and is happening, declare “we don’t want it,” and do something about it.

Song on repeat this week:

Because the world groans. The world weeps. And He is still worthy.

My prayer for everyone.

Trust in the silence.

Every once in a while, I come upstairs when my husband is working on an extra project and just watch and listen to him work. He’ll hum a few notes to himself, click the mouse, play a chord or a melody line. It sounds so disjointed, honestly. There doesn’t seem much rhyme or reason or anything musical about it. Just an audible snippet here or there that might clue you in to a measure of a song or a taste of the melody. It seems like a dab of random with a whole lot more silence than what you’d think making an entire orchestration would be. But when he is done, and he pushes the button, suddenly it’s there: the entire song, with strings and brass and woodwinds. Percussion. The whole gamut.

But all you heard?

A hum or two.

My word. Isn’t that the way life is?

You want to trust the Orchestrator… but try as you might, you don’t get to hear the music in his head. You get dazzled by a pretty chord that escapes the keys, or distracted by a weird note that gets clicked in. But more than anything, you wonder how any beautiful music can come from long, long stretches of silence. It’s unnerving.

I think we all long to hear the music. To see how all the measures are going to play out. To see if there are some nice themes and repeating parts. I know I do. We want to hear all the parts together.

It’s hard to be patient with the process of creation.

It takes trust. Trust that the Orchestrator hears and knows it all in his head… and that each note is deliberately placed. The tempo is strategic.

It is so comforting to know that one day, we will finally get to hear the final piece… and we are even the music itself. We will be awed, not just by the song, but by the One who placed every. single. note. in it.

So listen closely. Catch what you can.

But rest in the fact the music will not be silent forever.

Gather ‘Round Oceans Unit Study Playlist: for pre- and early readers!

Hello there, fellow Gather ‘Round users! Although I don’t used GR for our main curriculum during the school year, I LOVE using it for our breaks. We loved the Christmas unit, and decided to use the Oceans for “summer” school this year. I find our family works best with some “structured” time during the hot months– and this Oceans unit study seems like it will fit the bill so nicely!

We just finished our first lesson, and are already loving it!

Before starting Oceans, I did hit Thriftbook.com and an Usborne party to snag some great picture books, etc. (You can check those out in my saved “Oceans” Insta Story!)

I would normally head to the library to snag most of these, but since libraries are closed right now (thanks, Covid!), these links are the next best thing!

These videos are in no particular order, but all of them are recommended in either the pre- or early reader levels, and both ages are close enough to enjoy them together in my opinion. 🙂

Here we go!

The Dolphins at Daybreak Chapter Book Links

There you have it!

Hope these links help you and your kiddos enjoy your Oceans unit even more!

my thoughts on a Persuasive Pandemic

I’ve been in the world of persuasion and debate a LONG time.

I debated in high school and college. I started traveling as a debate judge and coach in grad school as a part of my teaching assistantship. I continued traveling as full-time college faculty member, and was the faculty advisor for our intercollegiate debate association. I have taught public speaking on the collegiate level— which included large units on persuasive discourse. And I have continued to teach debate in my community to high schoolers while I educate my own children, and run a business from home.

Added up, that’s going on 20 years of experience— over half of my life.  And while there are people who have definitely done debate longer and have a more impressive persuasive CV, I don’t consider myself a stranger to things such as analyzing persuasive communication and wading through research and statistics to create a perspective.

The purpose of this post isn’t to convince you that our current situation is overhyped or not being presented as dire enough.  The purpose is to get you to consider the information that you are absorbing by asking it some pretty important questions before “accepting” information as evidence of what is true.

Before we continue, a word about truth.

At the risk of sounding “postmodern” (for those who view that scary), can we all agree that NO ONE knows what the truth really is in this situation— and maybe any situation?  The experts don’t know, the law makers don’t know, the press doesn’t know.  You and I definitely don’t know.  We don’t really know how the virus works, who it will affect, why some countries are hit super hard and others aren’t.  We don’t know how long it is going to stick around.  We don’t know how many people have it, how many don’t, how long it has really been here.  We don’t know how it will affect our economy long-term… or how it will affect our own little family units.  We don’t know.

We predict, project, and speculate.  And then predict, project, and speculate some more. 

And then we all act on those predictions, projections, and speculations— you.  Your family.  Your community.  Your country.

So, I’d say it’s pretty important that we hold the information we are using to gauge our actions to a pretty high test, since it affects our actions so significantly. 

“But the statistics!,” you might be saying. “Numbers don’t lie!,” you might argue.

Oh, if only THAT were true.

Anyone who has worked with numbers and heard statistics regularly knows that there is always another way to crunch the numbers.  There is always another valid statistic out there that can argue the opposite of the position that is “proven” by other numbers.  Once you really start realizing how fallible numbers and the interpretation of them can be, you really start questioning how anyone can prove anything. (It goes to show you that believing a certain statistic over another contradicting one is an act of faith versus one of logic in a lot of instances.  But that’s another post for another time.)

To paraphrase, lots of people have the pretense of knowledge— but we are lacking in actual wisdom.

With that, let’s me jump into some pretty important questions you should be asking to any post, article, news story, graph, chart, etc., that you are seeing right now.

  1. Who is telling me this information, and what do they profit by giving it to me? 
  2. Is the information being presented ethically?

The answers to these questions are telling, and should affect how much “space” you give these sources in your head and in your decision-making.

First, who is telling me this information and what do they profit?

This lesson is one of the first ones I teach when I start teaching my students how to find and use evidence. If the source you are drawing from profits from you believing their information— in power or money— you should take their data with a pretty big grain of salt.

Does this mean that they will be inaccurate and that the information is always false?  Not necessarily. But the more that they profit, the more you should question the accuracy.  The bigger the profit gain or loss, the bigger the incentive to coerce information to their perspective.  Ask yourself if other, less-biased sources have similar findings.  

Something to consider is that, in times of crisis, both the mainstream press and the political arena are good at profiting off of extremes— making something seem way worse or way better than it is.  Why?  Because extremes grab exposure.  Headlines never say, “Nothing to see here.”  There is both power and money in widespread capturing of people’s attention.  We have seen this time and time again.  

A question to ask would be, is this happening now?

Who are you getting the most of your information from?  How much of the information are they actually giving you?  Do they give you a few soundbites, and spend the rest of the time interpreting parts of the whole?  What is the purpose of their message?

What emotional, versus logical, response is it asking you to have?

That leads us to our second main question.

Is the information being presented ethically? 

Your follow up question might be, “how would I know?”  If the article is asking for an emotional response over a logical one I mentioned above, that is a pretty big giveaway.  

If a story, etc., is laced with emotionally-charged language, little red flags should be going off.  Unless it is labeled as an opinion piece or a human interest story, we should see be seeing denotative language over connotative.  

The source definitely should not be employing questionable propaganda tactics to lead their audience to a polarizing “us vs. them” conclusion by the end of their article.  

As a small tangent, let’s talk a second about propaganda.  Propaganda itself isn’t a bad thing.  It’s neutral.  You can use it for bad or for good— but it IS a PERSUASIVE tool, not an informative one.  Also, there are many types of propaganda, but two are universally seen as unethical, although many are neutral.  Those two questionable kinds are name calling and card stacking.  

Name calling is intentional use of offensive names or language to win an argument.  Card stacking is a purposeful manipulation of the audience perception of an issue by emphasizing one side and repressing another.  

Both of these can be outright or implied, but if they are in an article, you should definitely begin to question the legitimacy of the message they are asking you to accept.

How do we apply this in this situation?

Does a news source you are reading call— or even imply— that anyone that disagrees with it is absurd or immoral in some way? Are they purposefully repressing and disregarding anyone that might think differently?

I *know* I have seen these tactics from both sides over the past week or two.  People even suggest that society should open up soon, and they are cast as money-grubbers, willing to sacrifice the elderly on the alter of our economy.  On the opposite side, people who are advocating for shelter-in-place or more stringent social distancing are portrayed as weaklings who are willing to rip up our rights as Americans and gladly become a communist country.

I would like to say that my language in the above paragraph is exaggerated for dramatic effect, but I’ve basically read those very words recently. I have seen them implied WAY more— not just in the comment sections of people’s posts— but by people and entities that are supposed to be representing facts.  

Those sources cannot claim to be unbiased in their reporting while simultaneously using questionable propaganda techniques to help support their conclusions.  But they are.

What’s worse? These articles are being shared. And shared. And shared again.

There’s one more facet to this “ethics” question that I’m going to mention here.

Let’s go back to debate. 

While making and arguing cases and points, good debaters use a lot of evidence.  Some of it can get deep and honestly, hard to listen and process— which can be a problem when you are wanting a judge to understand your point at one listening.  So, debaters do this thing called “tagging evidence.”  Basically, it’s a one sentence summary of what the judge can expect to hear in the evidence coming up.  Think of it like the evidence’s thesis statement, if you will.

Now, here’s the thing.  Some debaters want the judge to believe something, but can’t quite find the data to prove exactly what they want the judge to believe.  So, they will mis-tag the evidence, with the hope that the judge will write down and accept the tag without actually analyzing the data in the evidence itself.  It’s definitely a no-no in debate, and the other side can call out the misidentification and call into question the ethos of the team using those tactics.

So why risk this credibility blow?

Because a lot of times, it isn’t caught by the opposing team or the judge.  The team gets away with it and might even win the round because of it.  

What is very frustrating to me is that I see this “mis-tagging” happening over and over and over in news articles.  The titles of the articles have this attention-grabbing “fact” in it… but when you click the article and read it?  You find the information in many articles don’t actually say what the title suggested it should.  You realize that the article includes disclaimers and details that neutralize the sensationalism that the headline suggests.  

We don’t realize that right now, we are in the middle of a huge debate round as well as pandemic. We are the judges, listening to evidence come at us in such uncomfortable speeds by people who want us to believe them, that we just remember the “tags,” and don’t have time to dive deep into the details of all the information being shared with us.  So, we use the tags to convince us, one way or the other, of which side to believe. 

And ultimately, which side to act on.

There’s so much more I actually want to say, but heavens.  This post is already a novel. 

We are living in a time where it is easy to grow fear— of the unknown or of a virus or of losing jobs and freedoms.  Our fear actually makes it harder to analyze what we are reading and hearing, but it is more important now than ever.

I’ll be honest. I’m tempted to fear. I don’t like it when experts contradict and stats aren’t consistent, and logic isn’t easy, and people resort to name calling and card stacking to get points across. 

I don’t like knowing the truth about everything that is happening, either.

But I keep coming back to some bigger truths that sooth my soul, even when nothing else makes sense.  My faith grows clearer when facts become more elusive.

I know that I’m not supposed to have a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

Making sure that I’m reading and sharing things that are as factual, unbiased, and not needlessly creating fear is doing my part in having “a sound mind” in the middle of a restless world.

At the end of the day, I ultimately know that there is One who knows the truth about all of this.  About all of everything.  

And that belief in the midst of crazy provides the soundest mind of all.

St. Patty’s Fun!

Want a little St. Patty fun tomorrow… but don’t have time to print a bunch a stuff out or prepare a lesson plan?

Here’s a handful of ideas to throw together a great day of Irish-themed learning!

Language Arts

Irish Storyteller Michael R. Kasony-O’Malley of Columbus, Ohio shares “Bridgette and the Lurikeen,” an old Irish folktale about a girl and a leprechaun. Fun storytelling and Irish culture combine in this fun retelling!

Feel free to ask your kids to narrate the story back to you, ask them their favorite part, or even to reenact it to check their understanding and attention. 😉

For those kiddos who are older and might want try their hand at some creative writing, have them try writing their own limerick! According to britannica.com, “the origin of the limerick is unknown, but it has been suggested that the name derives from the chorus of an 18th-century Irish soldiers’ song, “Will You Come Up to Limerick?” So, definitely some strong Irish roots there!

Cooking (and math. and science. and snacks.)

Make a whole Irish meal! Or just pick one or two! Snacks are good, too!

What’s great about being in the kitchen is that it can cover soooo many subjects! Measuring? From counting, to fractions, to multiplying (if doubling or halving a recipe), it’s math.

Wanna dig a little deeper about why and how bread actually becomes bread? That’s science, my friend!

Music & Arts

Traditional Irish music is so fun! This video pairs some pretty photographs of Ireland with The Chieftan’s recording of O’Sullivan’s March.

Learn how to draw a leprechaun! This is such an easy step-by-step for several ages.

Physical Education

And last but not least, grab your kiddos and learn how to do a little Irish jig… all while getting your exercise in!

Hope that this offers a fun, St. Patty-shape to your time at home!

Introducing Essential Speaking

For those of you who don’t know, prior to becoming a homeschool momma and having an at-home wellness business, I used to teach. You know… like, outside my house.

In fact, I still do. One day a week, I get the major blessing of teaching some pretty amazing homeschooled highschoolers speech and debate. They work hard, learn a lot, and go out and actually compete with their communication skills. I’m pretty proud of them. 🙂

Before that though, I taught communication courses in storytelling/performing and public speaking on the University level. I traveled as a debate coach and judge in colleges and universities from SC up to PA and through the midwest. I was the faculty advisor for our collegiate debate program. I was crazy busy, but it was so fun and rewarding.

Since then, I’ve exchanged road trips with college students for field trips with my own kids… and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve been asked so many times if I can tutor speech and debate, but I don’t want to spend my all day trying to arrange and remember tutoring slots.

Instead, I’ve come up with the idea of an online communication coaching “club” of sorts. There are lots of perks for a very reasonable price. Space is limited, however, because of me wanting to keep things in balance over here with my own kiddos and responsibilities/privileges.

If this resource seems like something you’d be interested in, read all about it by clicking here.

Fine Arts Fridays, Flies, and a Neat Resource

As the instagram post below mentions, my kiddos and I had fun this week reading the Vietnamese folktale, The Fly. It opened up a lot of fun conversations about how to be clever with words and use them in creative, problem-solving, even funny ways.

Language Arts is such a GREAT way to sneak in some of those Big Juicy Conversations that we love to have over here… but you know something else I love to use Language arts for?

As a springboard for Art… art.

Today, staying in theme of flies, we decided to draw them.

Now, we do have a separate, more “classical” art curriculum that we use and enjoy. It officially covers things like shape and light and balance.

But there’s a time and a place for all types of learning, right?

If you don’t already know about, please check out Art for Kids Hub on Youtube. My 7 year old, especially, could watch several of their videos and just draw her day away!

Now, their channel isn’t an art curriculum, per se. But there is definitely value in learning basic things like step-by-step instructions, watching how people make and do certain techniques, etc. It’s nice to see a demo and to be able to pause and rewind if they need to see something again. There’s also a more immediate “look at this!” pride that comes from doing these little videos and being able to draw something in just a few minutes.

Art Hub has SO many videos of all different types of things to draw (and even simpler ones for pre-school ages) that you can more than likely find a video to incorporate in whatever you are learning about. (Hello there, unit study activity!)

With easy resources just a click away, there’s no reason to not incorporate a drawing or two on a Friday.

Or any other day that ends in Y.

Nightschool… and how it works for us

Nightschool came about by accident.

An impromptu remedy.

We do a LOT of “together learning” over here, so one would think that all the kiddos would be okay with breaking up and rotating through some one-on-one time for individualized language arts and math. But no…

Anytime I just needed to work with my 7 year old for a few minutes, the 4 year old and 18 month old would interrupt 24,301 times… drawing our simple 15 minute individual lessons WAY TOO long. Frustration would grow, and it just wasn’t happy. So, I started saving those quick lessons for 7 o’clock at night– after the two youngers went to bed. Uninterrupted, we breeze through the lessons, especially since E is excited that she gets to stay up “late.”After we finish the “leftoevers” from the day, I let her choose something she wants to learn with me. Sometimes, something from our learning from the morning inspires it… sometimes, it’s just her and her amazingly random interests.

It is so fun, sitting together, looking through resources, using keywords on Google to find articles. Of course, YouTube comes in super handy, too. (Depending on what she is wants to look up, I’m a little more careful about videos. Sometimes innocent-looking videos suddenly can throw language or content in there that I don’t prefer for her at her age.)

Here’s a sample of how nightschool looks for us most nights.

I honestly love what we are starting here. I love the collaborative feel of the last hour together. I love being free from distractions and just concentrating on her– my oldest. I love learning beside her, and fanning the flame on her interests. I hope she learns a lesson that is more important than spices or mummification or cricket or whatever it is that strikes her fancy– that learning doesn’t stop at a certain age.

That life itself is learning.

We just need to take whatever tools we have at our fingertips…

And become our own teacher.

Super Simple Pumpkin Unit: another easy Halloween add-on!

Another simple halloween lesson, for those who want some #easyenchantment while reading, playing games, doing math, covering science, and a craft. It’s raining here, so our outdoor fun is a little limited today.

We read the Vanishing Pumpkin by Tony Johnston. If you don’t have the book, they have several youtube clips that have people reading it. Here’s one!

Then, we played The Vanishing Pumpkin by making a spoof off of Doggie Doggie Where’s Your Bone and Hide and Seek. One kiddo would sit in a chair, and another kiddo would get up, “snitch the pumpkin,” and hide it in the room.

Then we’d sing “Happy Halloween, Happy Halloween, you’re pumpkin’s been snitched./ Happy Halloween Halloween, was it me or a witch?” (Do your own thing here, cuz we just made it up and sang it to the tune of “Happy Halloween” from the Nightmare Before Christmas. Which incidentally, my kids have never seen, but are familiar with the tune, just by hearing it here and there.)

After that, we did some math by playing the “Roll a Pumpkin” game! We rolled two dice and followed the rules laid out by Happy Home Fairy’s post.

Our pumpkins definitely were… creative. 😀

We had to add the dice together to play the game, and since we have a preschooler and a first grader, it definitely counts as math for us. In fact, covering simple addition in a fun way? Yes, please.!

Still to do today:

1) a video that covers the anatomy, life cycle, picking, types of a pumpkin, and treats you can make with pumpkin…

AND…

2) painting pumpkins!

Happy Halloween! Enjoy enchantment today! 

Super simple skeleton unit: an easy Halloween add-on!

Want to sneak in some reading and science/anatomy, disguised as a Halloween unit?

Behold, our “halloween” themed impromptu morning time we did this morning!

We started by snuggling on the couch and reading Skeleton Hiccups.

If you have the book, awesome! If not, snag it from amazon (linked above), or here it is to read/watch at home.

After we read, we got up and danced “the skeleton dance.” The 1 year old boogied, the 4 and 6 year old giggled through it, and I’m counting it as exercise for the day. #winwin

After that, I pulled out an anatomy book, and we talked about how the

Then we pulled out an anatomy book, and talked about how the skeleton couldn’t have REALLY had hiccups, because muscles (specifically the diaphragm) controls hiccups. But… it’s a cool story anyway.

(Side note: LeapReader has a Human Body game that covers the skeletal system that would be fun to incorporate. We were going to, but our pen wasn’t charged… #cantthinkofeverything)

Then, we went over the real names of the bones on our skeleton picture in the book (vs. “hip bone and leg bone” like the song), and listened to this song to reinforce:

And finally, we finished off our impromptu lesson with the Scishow Kids show about our Super Skeleton! It’s chock full of neat information that older students could spring board off of, if you have upper elementary/middle school needing to flesh some ideas out more. 🙂

My almost 7 got a lot out of the video, but my 4 yr old was even fascinated. He lifted up his arms and went, “I didn’t know my bones made blood!!!” 

We had other things planned for math today, so we went ahead and did that, but you could easily add that to a skeleton unit by counting the vertebrae in the back, subtracting how many bones babies are born with by the amount of bones adults have, or check out this blogpost for several different skeleton math worksheets, etc.

Hope our little impromptu skeleton lesson this morning makes it easy for you to snag an idea or two that makes school on Halloween more fun for you!