making rotating curiosity work for YOU

I’ve always been a little jealous of people who have “a thing.”

You know, THEIR thing.

It’s the thing that they always do and are ohsogood at. It’s “the thing” that they do or create or whatever that’s just a part of them. A significant slice of their identity, if you will.

Me? I don’t really have a “thing.” I’ve always been more of a “jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none” type.

When I went off to college, I had the hardest time picking a major– not because I didn’t know what to do. No no. It’s because I wanted to DO IT ALL.

I was almost a humanities major, but I ended up not being because I heard that “no one gets a job with a humanities degree.” (I’m not sure if this is the case or not; all I know is I was kinda scared at the idea of not being able to get a job after college, so that statement was definitely a deterrent to my dabbling in all the things for four years and getting a degree in it. )

Anyhoo.

Last fall, while I was lesson planning for the speech club I coach for, I happened across the idea of rotating curiosity… and all of a sudden, my dilemma in college (and in my life, actually) started making a lot of sense.

Rotating curiosity is what happens when a brain– maybe your own– gets fascinated on an idea, project, etc. You dig in, researching all the things. Starting all the projects. Buying all goods. Painting all the paintings… whatever it is. Depending on how long your brain is fixated, you will pour time and attention into this new things for about four to six months… and then?

The curiosity starts to level out to a non-exciting plateau… that is, before another idea/project comes along and revs your brain back up.

Off to research, plan, and implement all over again!

Now, some people might rotate a bit faster than others; there’s not necessarily a “set time” to be curious on one set thing. But no matter how fast or how slow, it is there– an ebb and flow of new things to think about and (perhaps) actually do.

Once I realized that rotating curiosity is actually”a thing,” and not just some weird deficit in myself, something began to shift in me.

You see, I always felt badly that I couldn’t just “stick to one thing.” Or be an expert on a *certain* craft. Or really be proficient at a *certain* art or communication subset. I would tell myself that maybe if I would just not move on and be consistent for more than a few months, maybe I could actually become really, really good at something.

However, rotating curiosity itself seems to be a sign or symptom of a type of of people– people who love learning and who aren’t content to just pass by a hyperlink that says “for more information about <<such and such>>, click here.” One could be said that rotating curiosity makes me– and people like me– experts in the process of education: being exposed to an idea, researching it, analyzing it, applying it. Basically, we bloom taxonomy our whole lives, ad nauseam.

And yes, I just used “bloom taxonomy” as a verb. Sorry about that.

(By the way, if you just looked up or clicked on that taxonomy link… I want to say hello there, fellow rotating curiosity friend! Ha!)

I think the best thing about learning about rotating curiosity and its existence is how influential it has been in helping me accept a part of myself that I have struggled with for a long time.

So, instead of fighting it or feeling bad about it, I decided to take some time to analyze how I to use this cycle to my advantage.

Let me share some ways in the past few months I have embraced and worked with the advantages of rotating curiosity in my life… and maybe how you can use them in yours.

Allow whatever your current fixation is to anchor your day in enjoyment.

Let whatever it is that you are currently “in to” be this nice reward you give yourself throughout your day, especially if you are facing tasks you don’t like or are in the midst of a monotonous season. For instance, around Thanksgiving this past year, I started painting peg dolls. (If you don’t know what they are, feel free to go down that really cute, free-play rabbit hole.) I painted Native American and Pilgrim playsets, and then used my momentum to jump into Christmas season and paint Nativity sets. I filled my Instagram feed with peg doll accounts and loved the inspiration of seeing cute wood toys and getting ideas from different faces and animals… until I didn’t. So, I unfollowed the accounts once I got tired of pegs and put my supplies away. Right now, I’ve rotated onto crochet, and 4 baby blankets later… can feel the passion waning again. Once I’m done with my current project, I’ll put it away and move on to something else. And that’s okay. Because I’ll know I’ll be back.

That leads me to my second tip in using rotating curiosity in your favor.

Use your current fixation to go deeper into the topic and add to your skill set.

I find that I tend to rotate through creative cycles. I crochet, and then I get tired of it. I paint, and then I get tired of it. I handletter, and then I get tired of it. I embroider and felt… and then I get tired of it. You get the picture. Here’s the thing though– I always come back. It rotates back around, and when it does, I take it one step further. I learn a new painting technique. I try a new crochet pattern. I learned a new way to shape or space my letters. Take advantage of your curiosity cycle to become a little bit more knowledgable about what you are interested in each time. That way, eventually, you will become a “jack of all trades, a master in SOME.”

Third…

Find out what type of fixation is good for you to use as an anchor.

For instance, I love writing and reading– but don’t use those as an anchor of enjoyment for me right now. Why? Because I like to do both of those things uninterrupted. Once I’m in an “idea playground”– whether because I’m writing or because I’m infatuated with someone else’s words– I don’t like being bothered. In fact, I can get a tad grumpy if I’m interrupted 100 times. This tendency doesn’t serve me or my children well during the day… so I just avoid it, and leave idea playgrounds for when the children are in bed/aren’t around. Podcasts and audiobooks are also in this category. Meanwhile, I can answer 1,000 questions and crochet another row of a blanket at the same time… so that works for me.

And last, but not least…

Unleash the power of rotating curiosity on something that you are already doing… that you can’t rotate out.

Let me give you an example. Back in March of last year, I started toying with the idea of sourdough bread making– in fact, I got curious about it. <<Insert buying an authentic sourdough starter from San Francisco here.>> I read a ton of articles, got myself a basket or two– and off I went. Here’s the thing with sourdough, though. It becomes a little bit on-going. Unlike a crochet hook and a skien of yarn, I can’t just tuck it in a basket in a closet for months and instantly revive it when I feel like it. Nope– it’s a little bit like a pet or one of those Tamagotchi pets from the ’90s. You have to feed it, and deal with it’s discard. And if you forget to do either one of those things– it’s not going to make it.

So here I am, a year later… still making sourdough.

One year is a pretty long rotation of curiosity for me– and to be honest, it did start waning. But I didn’t want it to. So what did I do? I started rotating my curiosity in various ways about making bread itself. I rotated through scoring designs. I rotated through various recipes for the sourdough loaf itself. I started figuring out how to tweak it for dinner rolls. Right now, I’m fiddling with how many cool things I can make with the discard INSTEAD of just dinner rolls and boules. With each rotation, recipe, scoring design… I get a little bit more proficient. My bakes improve. My repertoire of what I can do with fermented goop discard becomes more and more useful and creative.

So there they are: 4 ways YOU can use the power of rotating curiosity to your advantage. I hope they help shape your thoughts as you use your unique gift. And if nothing else, I hope that’s exactly how you see rotating curiosity now– a gift that keeps you a curious, life-long learner.



The Big Four

Imagine: I’m not sure if you celebrate “pi/pie day”– but if you do, you know it is going to sneak in soon on 3/14! It happens to fall on a Sunday this year, so making a pie might include my husband, so that’s exciting because he’s a much better baker of desserts than I am. Maybe with his touch, we can pull off one of the creative pie crusts in this So Yummy youtube video clip! Also, I think it would be so fun to tap into your kids’ imaginations by cutting out some paper into large circles and have them design their own pie crusts and transfer that idea from paper to an actual crust!

I don’t know about you, but I simply love the “individual pie” idea around the 7 minute mark!


Encourage: If you don’t follow Jami Nato on Instagram, you should. She’s an amazingly funny and deep individual. Her stories crack me up… and her posts touch my heart. I’ve had the privilege of seeing her speak in real life, and her authenticity and humor are just delightful. She’s walked through deep waters and did not drown, and uses her experiences and stories to encourage women on their journeys in marriage and motherhood. Give her a follow and see for yourself! I particularly needed the perspective she offered in this post at jaminato about growing babies and making memories in the young, exhausting years.

Educate: Are you looking for a made-for-you lesson plan for St. Patrick’s day coming up? Go ahead and take a peek at this post from last year that I put together. It covers ideas to touch on Language Arts, Cooking, Music & Art, and even Physical Education by learning a few Irish jig steps!

Enjoy: Sometimes, a wonderful way to infuse enjoyment is by just making something you do every single day feel a little extra special. That’s exactly what Beth at charcutiesforcuties on Instagram does with her kid-friendly, fun-themed food boards. Her Dr. Seuss “green eggs and ham” idea was so very fun– and simple! Go visit her and check out her other fantastic meals!

enjoying life in the midst of no margin


I saw this quotation on Instagram this week, and my gut response was “well, work. Work is what I am doing with my ‘wild and precious life.'”

And then I promptly felt grumpy. 😆

You see, I know it’s not true. I know I have accomplished and am accomplishing and will accomplish way more in my life than doing laundry and being on hold with the IRS to figure out where in the heckie heck my 2019 refund check is just to be hung up on EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. (Yes, we filed on time. No, they haven’t given us a refund. Yes, we have it on autodraft. Yes, they received it.)

Things like that make me feel like my life is happening TO me, and I have no choice but do do things that corrode my soul.

And again, I know that’s not true.

But knowing something and feeling something are two entirely different things.

I know that when I start feeling this claustrophobic feeling of soul drain that I need to do two things:

1) Respect my lack of margin. This means saying no to extras. It means not accepting invitations to be a special speaker or teach new things or basically do anything extra than what I’m currently doing that will take up my time or headspace. Not until margin returns.

2) Infuse easy fun in my life. I don’t like feeling like life is all work and no play. No one does. One of the saddest phrases in the world to me is ““Life is hard. Then you die. Then they throw dirt in your face. Then the worms eat you. Be grateful it happens in that order.” I don’t know about you, but that motivational speech really makes me want to get up and at ’em in the morning.

The conundrum is that sometimes, I feel like I have to plan the fun. Go to a park. Plan an activity. Make plans in the evening. And all of the planning takes… you guessed… margin. Also, the weird thing on running low with margin is that you don’t exactly know when it is going to bottom out. I might make plans to go out… but then on that day, a bunch of drama happens that eats into energy. And then I regret making the plans. It’s weird.

So, how can I– or you– respect both truths? How can we respect both the lack of margin AND the need for fun?

Claim the little moments.

Let me list a few things that happened recently that respected both principles and lifted my spirits this week.

  • Night soccer: My 5 year old boy got a little air-soccer ball for Christmas. It’s rechargable and lights up. One night, we turned off the lights downstairs and stood in the entrances of the kitchen and hallway and living room and pretended they were goals. No scores were kept and no one won or lost. It was 10-15 minutes of impromptu fun, laughter, and a little talking smack and was the perfect way for the evening to end.
  • Baking: As you know, our family learns at home… and most of the time, we don’t need much coaxing to gather together and read some stories and continue our learning in the afternoon. But one day this past week, it just seemed that everyone was on edge, and I just knew that coming back to our agenda once the toddler was napping wasn’t going to go well. I didn’t have time to go into all-out baking mode… but I did find a cake mix stuffed in the back of my pantry. A couple of eggs, some oil, and essential oils for extra zing (instant lemon vitality cake!) and we had an impromptu learning tea party. The kids were excited about the surprise cake and that trickled over into the the things we needed to accomplish.
  • “Tickle zone”: I am not a morning person. And neither are my kids, really. I mean, they like to get up earlier than I do, but at the same time, don’t wake up super peppy. Well, neither of my girls do. My middle male kiddo, J, does– and this actually creates conflict. He wants to get in E’s and L’s faces and insist on playing right away. They don’t return his enthusiasm. 😆 I regularly ask him if he wants to climb up and snuggle for a bit– to give the girls some space and to give me a few more minutes in bed. He often doesn’t want to rest anymore. So this week, I happened upon the “tickle zone.” The only way he activates the “tickle zone” is by climbing up in bed next to me and lying down. Then small little tickles start and gradually grow. (He LOVES being tickled.) The tickle zone keeps him with me and away from the girls. The day starts with laughter instead of fighting (which is VERY margin-depleting when I’m running low anyway). It takes no prep and infuses fun. It’s a win/win.
  • Funny filters: These are SO great to whip out with no prep to lighten the mood. Big eyes, squeaky voices, animal faces. They are ridiculous and silly and always bring giggles. Giggles are so much better than afternoon cranks– for the kids and for me. 😉
  • Remembering and sharing funny memories/times: This last one is for me, and is not connected to the kids and their needs and moods at all. When I get super busy and overwhelmed, the thought of making plans to connect with friends adds to the load. I tell myself all the time it shouldn’t be that way, and that I’ll feel better if I make the effort to reconnect. But when I have little margin, it’s just hard to even push myself to make plans and get out of the house kid-free. Just in the past couple of days, I taken a few minutes here and there to Marco Polo a couple of my dearest friends. It started out just exchanging a couple of “remember when…” stories, and turned into other topics, like conversation does. But just seeing their faces and making touchpoints with them– especially as our day-to-day lives don’t do that so often anymore– has just been mood-lifting. 1) No planning respects my margins. 2) Connecting and sharing life and stories increases my fun.

My challenge to you this week is plan some fun in your day. OR if your margins don’t allow for that right now, find small, simple moments to infuse some fun in. It doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. For me this week, it was some tickles and lemon cake tea time and a few Marco Polos.

Those few extra moments of enjoyment made my life feel a little more wild and precious.

Find moments for you feel like your life is wild and precious, too.


This Week’s Big 4

Imagine: This week coming up, we are bringing out the Brush painting/lettering again this week. I’m actually going to play around with using the brush techniques to make Valentines while the kiddos do their thing. We’ll see how it goes.


Encourage: I’m loving this book the kids and I are reading together in our Morning Basket time. I’ll drop my Instagram post about it here.

Educate: The Inauguration this week allowed us to have the once-in-a-4-year opportunity to see and talk about the transition of power of our nation. We looked at a photo collage of all the presidents so far, and E (my 8 year old girl) asked why there weren’t women in it. We talked about how our new Vice President is a woman, and that women did and can run for president, but hasn’t been one yet. She said that the next time a woman ran for president, she would vote for her because she was a woman. *That* led to an interesting conversation about why we should vote for someone, if gender should be a part of that reasoning, and how we have to consider the ideas and laws someone supports when we vote. We came up with laws we would want to pass if we were president. It was a great conversation!

Enjoy: Because Bernie is trending in the light of the Inauguration, I just couldn’t help myself. You know, since we mentioned margin. 😂

Decide once.

“Decide once.”

I first read this phrase when I opened my birthday gift to myself– a copy of The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi.

The principle should be pretty self explanatory in its simplicity, but I’ll add a few words anyway. Basically, instead of reinventing the wheel all the time, decide once about the things that can be decided once about… and then lather, rinse, repeat.

Truth be told, I have done this in several areas of my life. For instance, lesson planning. I teach part-time both college and high school, as well as homeschool my own kids. During the day with my kids, I try to have these 4 things in some way: imagination, encouragement, education (obviously. We homeschool.), and enjoyment. I want all 4 in my day, and try to actually think through and plan those out. More on that in another post.

I also try to incorporate each of those principles in my communication lesson plans via activities, one-on-one, discussions, projects, etc. It’s important that students get creative, feel confidence, learn something, and have fun. Those things are what matter to me.

However, I will admit to not being so awesome at deciding once in my home life. I don’t like feeling “tied down”/committed to something when I don’t want to be. For being married with three kids, I’m a bit of a commitment phobe. (I don’t even have a yearly plan for my cell phone people.)

As much as I love NOT feeling tied down, the stress that comes when I don’t know what’s next with certain things is NOT fun for me. When it was just me and my husband working full time and I didn’t know what was for dinner? We both said, “NO problem!” and went out to eat. Fast forward 10 years and 3 kids later, and that decision isn’t feasible anymore. It costs way more to eat out, and then schedules get all thwarted, and kids have meltdowns in public, etc. You get the picture.

So, thanks to budgets and routines, dinner needs to be home most nights. And around the same time, too.

Funny thing is, I actually love cooking and meal planning and trying new recipes and foods. But here’s another thing: right now, it isn’t worth the extra time. I don’t want to re-invent the wheel every week… especially when my kids are at the age that extra time in the kitchen to learn and try new recipes just ends up stressing me out. (Hello toddler, pulling your diaper off in the middle of the kitchen and peeing on the floor while my hands are in raw meat… I’m looking at you.)

The answer for me right now: decide once.

Let’s chat about what that looks like.

Tuesdays and Thursdays, our family has music stuff until, basically, 5. This tight turn-around makes dinner prep nigh impossible. Answer? Tuesday/Thursdays are either slow cooker/instant pot/ or kid friendly charcuterie board nights. Right now, we are doing a lot of soups and a roast occasionally.

Saturdays are pizza and movie nights. Most weekends, we make our pizza at home… but every once in a while, we will Papa John it.

Sunday nights are breakfast-for-dinner nights.

This leaves MWF “open.” One of those nights will be a steak and caesar salad night. We get all of our beef from Butcher Box and love how tasty their grass-fed food is! Also, caesar dressing is SO easy and tasty to make from home if you follow this easy hack: fish sauce instead of grinding sardines. (GAG) I got the idea and my initial recipe from vietworldkitchen. (After making it several times, I just eyeball all the ingredients in her list and don’t look it up.)

That leaves 2 days a week for me to plug in a family favorite or try something new or have my 8 year old choose and make dinner.

Or have wiggle room for special occasion nights.

That amount of flexibility is perfect for me.


This week’s Big 4:

Imagine: I would have liked to have done more here this week– something a bit more original that “just coloring” or “just doing playdoh,” but that was what we did this week. We are still recovering from Christmas, coming in from out of town, unpacking, being hit hard with meetings/speech competitions, and physical limitations this week. This next week, I’m thinking about having the kiddos make a map to go along with the travels we are reading about in the Pilgrim Progress adaptation, Dangerous Journey. They also really love watching other kids’ “plays” of stories, so once we are done, we will have movie time with this video.

Encourage: The kids and I are memorizing Romans 8:31-39 this quarter. Saying the words each morning, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” encourages my heart– especially as some personal trials seem very much “against” me right now. I love this reading of the passage, and listen to it each morning as well.

Educate: We are learning about different Native American tribes for history right now… and I’m using the Family “jeopardy” app on our Apple TV to make a game out of what we are learning. Both my 8 yo girl and 5 yo boy are LOVING learning about the different cultures, and my daughter can’t wait until we get to Cherokee, as Papa (my grandfather) was half. I remember going camping in the reservation and getting to see tribe members dress in their dance regalia and just being mesmerized. I’d love to take a field trip up to the Oconaluftee Indian Village once we can!

Enjoy: We bundled up on a sunny day and hung hammocks that the two “bigs” got for Christmas outside. The kiddos stared at the sky through the branches of the trees and looked at the clouds. Made me wish I had gotten a hammock, too. But it was so nice to just watch them enjoy it. Isn’t that parenthood, my friends?

Zesty Lemon Bars (HFLC/Keto/GF)

It’s been a while since I’ve tried from-scratch desserts in the kitchen that take more than 3 seconds… but this summer has seen me begin to do so again, with fruit-based, refreshing favorites.

I posted recently on Insta about a yummy lemon bar that I tried, adapted, and made… and how great it turned out.

And I’ve been promptly asked for a recipe. 😀

This isn’t a cooking blog, so I don’t have a fancy shmancy recipe card template or a fabulously long and nostalgic story about the significance lemon bars have had in my life, HA!

I hope that doesn’t deter you from trying these. 😉


the recipe

ingredients
1/2 c butter
1 and 3/4 c almond flour (fine)
1 c sugar substitute (xylitol/erythritol blends are good)
juice from 3 lemons (or bottled lemon juice equivalent)
3 eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
salt
powdered sugar substitute (for dusting)
Lemon Young Living Vitality EO

directions
1. Preheat an oven to 350 F. Mix melted butter, 1 cup of almond flour, ¼ cup sugar sub and a pinch of salt together in a small bowl. Combine and pour into an 8” x 8” pan lined with a sprayed pan.

2. Bake for 20 minutes and then let it cool while you mix step 3.

3. In another bowl, combine the lemon juice, eggs, ¾ cup sugar sub, ¾ cup of almond flour, a pinch of salt, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 4 drops of lemon vitality. Whisk together very well to incorporate the eggs.

4. Pour the filling onto the cooled crust and bake for 21-23 minutes. Allow the bars to cool in the refrigerator for several hours until firm enough to cut into squares. Dust with additional powdered sugar sub to decorate. Keep stored in the fridge.


I will fully admit to cutting these and eating one while they are warm because I’m impatient. They were okay warm… but MY LANDS. They are AMAZING once you actually let them cool. Both the textures and flavors are ON POINT if you are patient.

<<sigh>>

Patience.

It’s a virtue, they say.

Anyhoo, give the recipe a go and let me know what you think!

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.

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.