Two Bad Ants: fun activities and the Big 4

Spring and summer is the perfect time to bring out those bug books and studies… considering we can observe them all around us again. (Guess we’ll be doing a mosquito study soon. Sheesh!)

It was on our agenda a couple of weeks ago to study ants… and as I was perusing the library shelves for some fun reads to include, I came across Two Bad Ants. What a delightful little read, and it led to really great learning and play… and curiosity! Win win win!

If you have read other learning posts of mine, you know I’ve been a classroom teacher for years– and that time has shaped how I wanted to teach my own kiddos at home. We are Charlotte Mason/Classical-based (eclectic a bit) in general, but something that I find really shapes learning time well– inside and outside of the classroom– is remembering the Big Four: imagine, encourage, educate, and enjoy. (Note: Charlotte Mason herself was not a huge fan of “lesson plans” as she believed the best education–even only education– was self-education. I don’t disagree. Think of The Big 4 as a framework to hang principles on, not a lesson plan to stick to rigidly or you fail, okay?)

With that said, let’s walk through the Big 4 with this book, shall we?


Imagine

What’s so amazing about fun, living books is that they foster imagination in and of themselves! We don’t have to “try” to make the imagination come alive. Children are born with curiosity and imagination; our biggest challenge is to not get in the way! Two Bad Ants is SO fun in this department. It forsakes familiar words with descriptive language in a way that can made the book a series of riddles for the kids to mentally answer (especially younger ones!), and the perspective of the pictures make the book so fun to “enter” in. As your kiddos are listening to the story, don’t be afraid to pause and let them get curious! My kids asked some really great questions here, like “why do the ants call the grass a forest?” and “how do we know they landed in sugar?” and “why did the ants fly through the black slits in the wall?” What great opportunities to ask them questions back and get them thinking to answer their own questions! You can even take time here to “imagine” being ants or seeing how height and angles change perspective. Crawl on the floor and observe what you see differently, now that you are lower than normal. How about standing on a stool or chair? What do you see now?  

Another way to incorporate imagination is to basically allow them to get creative.

Do they want to make up their own story about the ant?

Put on a play?

Design their own ant playground… which makes me think of Honey I Shrunk the Kids…

Draw an ant? Great! Let them! This book made my 9 year old want to grab our Natural History book and check out all the ants there before deciding to draw her favorite. Awesome!

encourage

When it comes to this principle, I take it different ways at different times. The main way I try to think of incorporating encouragement is seeing what the Bible has to say about what we are learning/observing. What does it tell us about the object we are discussing, or the character we see in the story?

The Bible actually does talk about the ants and what we can learn from them. It tells us to consider the ants and be like them. Why? (Ask your kiddos!) Because they work hard and prepare well. What are some ways we can do that? That question led to a lot of good responses, and their answers included some things that we do as a family and some that we can improve on.

Another way that I like to think about encouragement is making sure that I’m seeing where my kids are growing and improving and making a point to encourage them in that. This isn’t lesson specific, per se. But even as we doing some activities with the book, and the kiddos were asking questions, I make a point to use positive feedback: “What a great question! Let’s see what we can learn about that!” Or “That’s a good observation; you looked really closely to see that!” I want to encourage their effort without making it about me and my “pride” or happiness in it– although I am both proud and happy when they are giving great attention and adding to their own learning!

Educate

Of course, “education” is something that can happen anytime, anywhere. We don’t have to plan or force it to happen. But in the “educate” category in my head is about me figuring what tools I need to give them and what goals I have for them. Basically, it’s asking myself what plates, napkins, silverware, and ingredients are needed for the “feast” that day. And just like every “feast”/buffet doesn’t have every single cuisine represented, I don’t think we need to feel the burden/obligation of making sure every. single.learning.moment has every single type of academic “food.” In other words– if I want to focus on science/nature during that time, I totally can without including fine arts and all the other things. 🙂

Here’s what I did after reading this book: I got out salt, sugar, and our little magnifying glasses. When my buddy asked how we knew the ants landed in salt, we used the book to answer that question for us– but then we decided to take a closer look at salt and sugar itself. It’s looks pretty similar when we look at it our “normal” way– but what if we take a closer look? At closer inspection, we can definitely see that salt and sugar AREN’T the same. We talked about the differences we could see with a little magnification– which ants would have naturally, being smaller and much closer and with different kinds of eyeballs!

We also did a taste test and observed those differences, too. 😉

Later that night for dinner, when we chatted about what we learned with daddy (hello, extra narration!), the kiddos were so excited to share what they learned– all on their own!

Meanwhile, I had plenty to jot down in my planner that day under “science.”

Enjoy

As I’m sure you can see, there were so many things that were “enjoyable” about what we had done so far that this “box” basically checked itself! Crawling around on the floor, tasting and seeing salt and sugar up close, and reading a fun book all felt and were enjoyable to my kiddos! However, you can always bump this up even more by pulling out any bug games you might have! We actually played a dice game called People Vs. the Ants. We played two variations of this: doubles and odds & evens.

We divided a paper in half and labeled one side People and the other Ants. The idea behind the game was that we are at a picnic and the ants are coming. If we win, we don’t have to move to a new picnic spot; and if the ants win, that means they took over our picnic and could eat all of our food. (Hello there again, Imagination!) Any time we rolled a double, we had to add them together, and that score was added to the ants side. Anytime it wasn’t a double, we added the score together and put it on the people side. Whoever got to 50 first, won! (We won, because we didn’t roll a lot of big doubles.)

We played it again with odds and evens. If the numbers rolled added up to evens, it was put in the People column, and if it added to an odd number, it was an ant score. (This game worked on head addition for my early elementary student, and my kinder boy is learning odds and evens, so he got to work on that, too!)

The kids got an extra dose of “enjoyment” because they love any kind of game… and I got something extra in the “math” section of the day.


Well friends, that’s it! That’s how I took this book and applied the Big 4 to it. If you are wanting to read Two Bad Ants and plug these ideas in, I hope you find your experience with them enchanting and delightful to your family… but more than that, I hope you see how the Big 4 are ideas that can be applied to any book and any day! They definitely help me to create an atmosphere of education in our home. 🙂



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If you want to read more about the Big Four, go here, or watch this video that I recently did about it. 🙂


A little note: the amazon links in this post are affiliate links, which means you don’t pay any extra pennies if your buy through them, but I might. Maybe. 😉

The Big 4: my education (and life) essentials

If you go back over some of my education-themed posts (in the essential learning section), you’ll notice “the Big 4” pop up here and there. As a recap, my essentials— a checklist, if you will— that I try to incorporate while we learn together at home are: imagination, encouragement, education, and enjoyment.

In this new video, I chat more about what each of those look like during my day, give an example about how I used a living book to weave the 4 together, and most importantly, the big picture as to *why* I try to place each one purposefully in our day.

If you want some sort of structure to your learning time that leaves room for wonder, try using these 4 in your own home. I trust you will find them a beautiful way to think about and shape your time together. 💛

the right instructions.

Wendell Berry once said, “You mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: ‘Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.’ I am not all the way capable of so much. But those are the right instructions.”

I don’t know about you, but there are some days that I just love where I’m at and what I’m doing. The moments seem light and joyful, and I feel perfectly placed in my life.

And there are days I don’t.

I can blame it on a lot of things: the news. My lists. The worries on my shoulders. Grief. Extra fighting from the kids. Exchanged sarcasm. The toddler climbing into bed because a storm ignited her fears… making us all restless. And squished. And sleep deprived.

But the fact of the matter is: the biggest hinderance to my own happiness is my disconnect to the command to give thanks.

You know the verse, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” We just like to slap those words on anything tricky that we need some extra diligence for… but what, specifically, is it referring to? Paul is referring to being content— in every circumstance. He says that he has learned to do it, no matter what. How? He can do it “through Christ,” who gave him strength *to give this thanks.*

What do you need to give thanks for? What gives your heart pause, just thinking about hoisting it to heaven with gratitude on your lips? I can think of a few things that I feel are just too hard, too sad, too hurtful for me to be thankful for… but fortunately, we don’t have to do it alone. We have a Helper to lift our offering high, and intercede with perfect words we have an impossible time finding.

Christ.

He will give us strength.

Strength enough to offer gratitude…

and in the doing, we are placed in the perfect position to receive His grace.

And isn’t that something we can be oh so thankful for? 💛

memories > dreams

“It’s realizing that a great dream is not as good as a great memory. The dream can be had by anyone. The memory – must be made.” Eric Thomas

I will admit to the past couple of years being one of waving grief. With so much changing, and with the promise of normalcy being pushed back further and further, I’ve lamented the fact that maybe I won’t get to make the memories I want with my family the way that I dreamed. The Swiss Alps will be my own experience, and not a shared one. Florence, Italy will be my own words, and something I can share in snapshots and story snippets… not hand-in-hand. The Black Forest is some place I can tell my kids I’ve been, and the trees won’t be something we will see together.

It makes the world a bit sadder, and heaven a bit sweeter.

And it’s true— that my grief might all be for nothing and the cloud of COVID and all the junk surrounding it will lift, and we will have the most amazing field trip in the world when they are older.

But the point of this post isn’t really a lament… so let me get back on task.

The point of the post is exactly what the quotation says in the beginning… that memories made are more valuable, precious, deserving because they have existed beyond the walls of our imagination. We have made something real and weaved it in the fabric of our lives and our story— and the stories of the people that were with us.

Our little family was late to the mountains this year— we couldn’t escape earlier for several reasons. We bought apples in bags instead of picking them off trees. But that didn’t damper the beauty of the leaves around us, and the wonder of a random bamboo forest, the sweetness of fall treats, and the laughs over goofy pictures with street bear statues.

(On a side note, how are my children growing so fast?! I’m afraid to blink and breathe anymore.)

Here’s to dreams: that they become memories. But here’s to memories: that we make them in our backyards and slightly beyond… and delight in the simplicity and joy they bring to our moments.

Big Feelings. Bigger Help.

Last week, we chatted a bit about clearing clutter to make room to parent well.

I want to continue that conversation this week.

Let’s start with an “incident” with my oldest.

I won’t go into details, because first, they aren’t that important… and secondly, they are more her details than mine to share anyway.

But let’s just say, E was feeling some big feelings, made a poor choice that shocked ME, which then made me have to take a step back before dealing with the situation. Because without that space for a minute or so, my own big feelings would not have handled the situation well at all.

I think any parent can appreciate what I’m talking about.

In the past, I probably would have just called the problem what it was and go ahead and dish out/allow for the consequence to come on in… but not this time.

This time, I followed some of the talking points that Dr. Becky mentioned in some posts/stories on Instagram. And it played out surprisingly well.

We started off talking about feelings… and how there isn’t such a thing as a “bad” one. Saying this point blank to my daughter made her mouth drop a bit. We talked about how feelings can FEEL bad, and how we can do wrong things with them… but the feeling itself? It is a messenger. It is something our bodies and beings have to let us know that something doesn’t feel right or isn’t right about a situation. Maybe something we believe is important isn’t happening. Or maybe something we feel shouldn’t be happening is. Our bodies let us know. Our feelings come up to tell us something is off. They tell us to pay attention– and it serves us to listen to what they are saying.

More specifically, our feelings conversation focused on anger– because that was the big feeling that provoked the choice that shouldn’t have been made. And whereas anger itself isn’t bad, because even JESUS was angry, we can choose to use that feeling to hurt ourselves and other people– which isn’t right. We talked about how, the next time her big feelings get too much, she should find me and tell me and we can figure out what to do with that big feeling together.

(Pain point: I soveryoften feel my children’s feelings and take them on myself, so that makes big feelings suuuuper hard for me to work through with them. But that’s my own thing to work through and clear out.)

My 8 year old isn’t the only one in the house who has been on the struggle bus recently.

<<cough>>

This 30something has been having her own big feelings recently.

Lots of big stressors makes it easier for my personal triggers to be mashed and throttled. And Lord bless them, my kiddos can mash and throttle those buttons. What normally I feel I have the grace and ease to handle, with big stressors… I don’t anymore.

Right now, we have been hitting car troubles, financial troubles, family issues, etc., + the whole “the pandemic still isn’t letting life get back to normal and it’s been a whole stinking year now and can’t this thing just stop already” thing.

All of the big things hitting at once, merged with the chronic pandemic fatigue, taps on an underlying lie that I fall into the trap of believing all the time: that if I have hope, or have gratitude, or take a breath or rest or really feel happy– somehow, it invites bad things to happen.

Now, I KNOW that’s not true. I KNOW it’s bad theology and my Jesus doesn’t work that way. But it’s a struggle.

All of this conversation and thinking and processing brings me to Thursday. I’m driving E to piano and she brings up an incident where she had a big feeling. And we started talking it through and pulling it apart a bit. As we finished the conversation, she heaved a big sigh and said, “It was a big feeling, and I didn’t like feeling it.”

“But did it show you something?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “And what it showed me, I guess that was good.”

And it was behind that steering wheel, as I was getting into a median for a left turn, I heard it. 

That Still Small Voice that whispers in your soul Epiphanies so beautiful that a breath escapes your body.

All my life, I’ve heard it, and if you are a Christian, you’ve heard it, too… so let’s just all recite Romans 8:28 together:

“All things work together for good…”

We know it’s true because God says it true. And we might even know its truth more personally, versus in the abstract. I do. I’ve seen it. Some of the hardest road and trials I have personally faced I can look back at now and see God’s Hand in it– though it looked invisible at the time. 

But that life experience doesn’t change the fact that I still wrestle with my faith sometimes. I’ve never really had a hard time believing that God is Sovereign. But His Goodness? THAT’s what Satan and the fallen world likes to cast shadows of doubt on.

But you see, it is His Goodness that is my Epiphany.

Maybe, just like feelings aren’t necessarily good or bad… our circumstances are, too. We are so quick to label big circumstances that make us feel “bad” as bad themselves and rush to write off the value in them. We silence them and push them away because we don’t want to “feel” their “badness”… and instead, miss why we have them in the first place.

What if circumstances, like feelings, are messengers? And what if, instead of fighting our feelings, or rejecting and regretting what’s happening in our lives, we accept it all for what it is, know it has a purpose… and trust that when we have a hard time (because we will), we can and should reach out for Help.

What’s so wonderful about that Help, is that unlike our feelings and circumstances which come and go, ebb and flow…

Help is Ever Present.

The Big Four

Imagine: This week’s creative outlet isn’t connected to the kids. Note: the Big Four are just as necessary for mommas and caretakers. In fact, the term “mother culture” hits on this, and I’m a big fan. This week, I’ve taken a few minutes here and there to learn and practice a new crochet stitch and am making it into a blanket. I’m almost out of skeins, so will need to grab a few more this week. Read why making blankets is actually an anomaly for me, and why I’m glad I’m actually enjoying it this time.

Encourage: As this post has touched on, the main way I’m encouraging my kids is by working through my own Big Feelings and helping them handle theirs better. If you haven’t checked out Dr. Becky, I totally encourage you to!

Educate: We are starting a unit on fairy tales, and I’m super excited. We read East of the Sun to the West of the Moon this week, and it was the first time *I* had ever read it. E loved it. I read it aloud and do voices and all that (thanks, speech degree!), but here’s a video/reading of the story from the Blue Fairy Book. As with most fairy tales, there’s some things that strike adults as kinda weird, but kids are like, “no big deal.” Life’s funny.

Enjoy: To celebrate a new unit, we got a new game! We haven’t played it yet, but I’m heard great things about this one! Can’t wait to break it out tomorrow!


Making room to parent well

Relish Kitchen Organizing - Lake Zurich, IL, US 60047 | Houzz
(Not my actual kitchen. But it’s pretty, isn’t it? One day… one day…)


The kids were finally asleep and I meandered into the kitchen.

The next day was baking day, and since we do sourdough bread that needs some extra time to do the whole “natural leavening” thing, I decided to make the dough so it could rise while we slept.

However, before getting all the flour out and the starter and bowls down from the cabinet, I do what I always do before I make bread:

Clear the counters. Wipe them down.

It isn’t lost on me that in order to do something well, you have to clean up the clutter first.

I mean, you don’t technically have to, I guess. You could just put the ingredients down and around the dishes that need to be put away and the garbage that didn’t make it to the trash can yet.

But baking that way is stressful– it takes twice as long and adds way more problem-solving. Good luck not having to move 1,000 things to get to the measuring cups with doughy hands. It seems like the more you avoid cleaning, the more mess you actually make.

As I was wiping the counters down, it dawned on me.

Parenting well requires the same kind of effort.

People didn’t tell me that parenthood is basically re-realizing all the triggers you have carried from childhood. Maybe you were braver than me, or smarter than I was, but as I turned into an adult, I just kinda stuffed these memories and triggers away, thinking that since I was “grown-up,” I didn’t have to deal with those pesky thoughts and feelings anymore. I dug a hole and buried them deep, people.

So imagine my surprise when, as a parent of small persons, I find those thoughts and feelings resurfacing, cluttering up my mind and meddling in my own emotions… all while wanting to help guide my own kids through how to handle their own big feelings and hard things.

(It doesn’t help that I have a hard time just letting their feelings be THEIRS instead of turning them into mine as well… #workingonthat.)

I’m guilty of wanting to make them and shape them into what they should be– when I’m finding I have no room to do it well. My own clutter and junk are in the way.

Right now, I’m in the midst of reading about feelings and parenting and re-parenting. I’m hearing things for the first time about how to actually handle feelings– both my kids and my own– instead of stuffing or shaming them away.

I actually had a bit of an epiphany about feelings and circumstances and Sovereignty the other day. But I’m still processing that; hopefully, it will find some words and come in another post soon.

This week, I simply want to lay the groundwork for that bigger thought by encouraging you, whether you are a parent or not, to analyze what mental and emotional clutter is making it harder to accomplish what you need to.

Throw away what what doesn’t serve you anymore. Clean up and put away what you need.

It’s the only way to have room for what is most important now.

The Big Four


imagine: A big part of imagination for us is doing something creative… and this week we started a new handicraft! E has been wanting to work with knives and carve stuff… and I’m just not ready to jump into wood blocks and super sharp objects with littles around. So, we got some fun clay tools and handmade soap and began soap carving! It lays a good foundation to both wood working and sculpture for the future, and is useful now– because we like to wash hands a lot around here! Might as well suds up with a cute elephant, rights?

encourage: I’ve recently discovered Dr. Becky at Home on Instagram. Although I don’t agree with everything she says, her work and words has brought soooo many ah-ha moments for me recently. I’ve walked through some of the things that she has suggested with some “big feelings” over here, and am amazing at how they are starting to reshape the conversations I’m having with myself and with my kids– especially my oldest right now. If you haven’t checked her out, please do! I’ll link her here!

https://www.instagram.com/drbeckyathome/

educate: If you have kiddos who might be interested in soap carving, I’m going to drop some helpful links that might get you going. You can totally do the soap carving with the things that are mentioned in the videos themselves (paperclips, etc.), but my kids just LOVE tools and I know I’m going to use them for clay in the future. A lot of the videos call for Ivory soap because it’s soft, etc., but I opted for a natural handmade soap because we do our best to stay away from synthetic stuff over here. So, here you go! Stuff is hyperlinked below!

The tools we got
Soap Carving video: Teddy Bear, Butterfly, & Turtle
Soap Carving video: Bunnies (this video is my girlie’s goal for spring)


enjoy: Bouncing off of the Bernie meme from last week, I did my own homeschool mom version of the “kombucha” lady meme. I’ll go ahead and drop it here, for those who haven’t seen it.

Brittany Tomlinson, Kombucha Girl Blank Template - Imgflip

Here’s my version from this past week. 😂

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.

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.

My Fall Mother Culture Event Line-up!

I don’t know about you, but in the middle of doing the mom/wife/work/homeschool thing, it can be too easy to forget that we women need community and learning of our own.

It’s the whole “can’t pour from an empty cup” thing.

I’ve said this before, but before I learned about Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy, I came across her advocacy for “Mother Culture” and…

I. was. sold.

Because it can be hard to find something in the community to fit my schedule for me to come to, I’ve started making small events in my home for others to come and attend. As a result of this time, I find motivation I need to tie up cleaning loose ends around the house (ahem…), learn something new, feel the fulfillment of seeing a project/event “completed” (versus chores, etc., that never stop), and opening my home to both my friends and any friends that *they* have… which allows me to meet new people at the same time.

I’ve just spent some time plotting out the fall classes, and can’t wait to get started prepping for them.

If you are in the upstate SC area and happen to come across this blog post, please connect! RSVP to one of these events and come on over! I’d love to meet you!

For those of you who are interested in doing events like this for yourself and want some tips on how to get something like this started, shoot me an email or leave me a comment! I’d love to chat and walk you through the process! It really is easier the more you do it!

Without further adieu, my upcoming Mother-Culture-inspired Community events!


(Click on pics to read more details!)

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Consider yourself officially invited to our Beanie & Brunch event! Grab yourself some thick, soft yarn and come learn how easy it is to knit with a loom!

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Are you a fan all things fall, pumpkin, and latte? Me, too!

I’m planning a small paint, sip, and sniff event at my home, and would love to see some old friends… and make some new ones!

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Did you know that November 14th is National Pickle Day?

In preparation for this amazing new-to-most-of-us holiday, come join us to learn an amazing new pickle recipe, packed with fresh veggies, herbs, and even some essential oils!


Fellow momma teachers, do yourself a favor…

If going to or planning events isn’t your thing, no worries. But please DO something for YOU.

As you plan a lesson for your kiddos, or sign them up for some class or extracurricular, make a commitment to invest time– and even money?– in your own enrichment, too.

YOU are worth it!