The Importance of Scientific Literacy

I think most people would agree that literacy – knowing how to read and write – is important. But, I think there is less agreement/acknowledgment/awareness that scientific literacy is also important.

Scientific Literacy is important - and helped us go to the moon! What is scientific literacy? Well, I could tell you my own definition, but I rather like this one:

Scientific literacy is the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity. It also includes specific types of abilities. . . . .

Scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena. Scientific literacy entails being able to read with understanding articles about science in the popular press and to engage in social conversation about the validity of the conclusions. Scientific literacy implies that a person can identify scientific issues underlying national and local decisions and express positions that are scientifically and technologically informed. A literate citizen should be able to evaluate the quality of scientific information on the basis of its source and the methods used to generate it. Scientific literacy also implies the capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence and to apply conclusions from such arguments appropriately.

Individuals will display their scientific literacy in different ways, such as appropriately using technical terms, or applying scientific concepts and processes. And individuals often will have differences in literacy in different domains, such as more understanding of life-science concepts and words, and less understanding of physical-science concepts and words.

Scientific literacy has different degrees and forms; it expands and deepens over a lifetime, not just during the years in school. –National Science Education Standards (1996)

Is it worth it to buy organic? Can an amber necklace really be an effective pain reliever? Does that politician know what he’s talking about? Are microwaves safe? Is it a good idea for our community to get involved in? What does the data say?

Because don’t get me wrong – while data is not the be all and end all of everything – it can certainly help us to make informed decisions. In this day and age, literally, anyone can put anything on the internet. I, myself, have been putting things on the internet since I was 12 (man, that’s almost 15 years of internetting!). But, you can’t treat all sources equally. Some sites are more reputable than others and understanding how science works or knowing to look for people to cite their sources can help you distinguish between credible ideas and not-so-credible ideas. Along with that, the scientific literacy definition mentions “understanding articles about science in the popular press.” This is very important, in my opinion, because often times the popular press picks something up and runs with it in a way that’s not actually factually accurate. As it says in the next line, understanding this science we see in the media will allow us “to engage in social conversation about” it. To talk and discuss like intelligent people.

The “capacity to pose and evaluate arguments based on evidence” is another important factor. Arguments that are just opinion, they can go round and round, but I feel the way that we can have intelligent conversations is not just to think about our opinion, but to really dig deeper and get behind the why of things.

To me, it’s important to raise my kids to be scientifically literate – and it’s important for myself too. I used to think I hated science. However, now that I’m older, I’ve come to realize what an important tool science can be. How it can be one tool in my toolbox. And just how neat and cool science is. I don’t think science is the be all and end all, but it has offered us many important things. Knowing how germs work lead to handwashing which lead to a decreased rate of mortality, for an example. Vaccines for another example. How to clean our water from dangerous pathogens, for another example. Science allowed us to go to the moon! Science is not perfect, but it has allowed us to make many advancements. I think that being scientifically literate can be very useful as well as allow you to be a good citizen.

Two days ago, I wrote about chemicals and a long time ago, I wrote about evaluating scientific studies. But, beyond those two links, for further reading/additional resources, I recommend:

As my little science obsessed boy reads a book about storms nearby, I am reminded that he still thinks science is cool. I am also reminded that it is up to me to give him the tools that will allow him to grow up into a scientifically literate adult. I take this job, like all my jobs in raising kids, seriously.

Do you feel you are scientifically literate? Do you feel this is an important area to keep growing in? Do you feel this is an important skill to teach to our children? 

I Like Chemicals

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Today, I’m writing this post in defense of chemicals. Why? Because I like chemicals.

In this day and age, there is a big push to “go natural” and to be “chemical free.” If you google (or Swagbucks in my case – referral link) you’ll get a plethora of hits. They promise things like chemical free living and a chemical free home. Chemical free personal care and chemical free mattresses. Chemical free cleaning and even chemical free paper. Chemical reactions - an important part of the chemicals I like

But, these things are simply impossible. If you really had something that was chemical free, you would have literally nothing.  Everything that you can taste and see and hold is made up of chemicals. The air we breathe is made up of oxygen (and nitrogen and a few other stuff), but thankfully that chemical oxygen is there to keep us alive.

And let me tell you about my favorite chemical of all.

Dihydrogen Monoxide.

Without this chemical, we wouldn’t be alive. I am personally grateful for a tall refreshing glass of dihydrogen monoxide during the hot summer months.

Dihydrogen monoxide, you see, is just another name for water. But it sounds scary. And it sounds like a chemical. Well, that’s because it is a chemical. Chemicals are everywhere around us and there is nothing inherently bad about them. Yes, there are chemicals that harm you, but there are also lots of chemicals that we need for living.

However, clever marketers have played on people’s fears and introduced to them the idea of chemical free. That certain things must be better because they contain “no chemicals.” What they usually mean is that they contain only things found in nature. But the idea of those things not being chemicals is 100 percent false.

I mean, there are inherent problems with nature/natural equaling good and better for you, but I’ll discuss that in a different post.

But the bottom line is that “chemical free” is a misleading marketing ploy designed to get you to buy into whatever they are selling you that is supposedly “better” for you. So don’t fall for it! Do your research and find out if those “bad things” are really all that bad or if those “good things” are really all that good, but don’t worry about whether or not it’s made up of chemicals or not. Spoiler alert: it is! Even if it claims to be chemical free.

For further reading I recommend What Is – And What Isn’t – A Chemical and The “Ingredients” in Organic, All-Natural, Fruits & Eggs Are Not What You’d Expect.

Are you afraid of chemicals? What’s your favorite chemical? 

photo credit: Tom Simpson A delightfully gruesome reaction! via photopin (license) No changes made.

Recovering from Attachment Parenting

Sometimes a selfie is all you need - recovering from attachment parentingI have two things to say right off the bat before I start this post. First, it has taken me a long time to write this post because I’m so afraid of people’s reactions, so please be kind. Second, I have friends and know people for whom attachment parenting works beautifully and I love that it works beautifully for them! This is me sharing my experience with it, as promised in the parenting buffet.

So, let’s dive in shall we?

When Dominic was born, I sort of fell into attachment parenting. It was a pretty easy thing to do. As you are probably aware by now, I am the kind of person who researches and reads everything. So, when I was pregnant, all of my research lead me to attachment parenting as “the best” way to parent.

Attachment parenting promised me wonderful things. Your child will be securely attached, it said, and have the confidence to go out and explore the world. It painted all other methods as causing insecure attachment, where your child will be clingy and too afraid that you are leaving to have confidence. It paints attachment parenting as the way that children are meant to be raised. So of course, with all these good things, it is hard to go against.

Actually, I read the Dr. Sears discipline book (copyright in the 1990s, though there must be newer editions by now – which may or may not claim the same things) and he promises such wildly outlandish things such as if attachment parenting had been practiced earlier, the Holocaust never would have happened. And that attachment parenting can prevent ADD/ADHD. I don’t know if later editions promised such things, but this early one certainly did. I wish I had saved pictures but I already sent the book off on Paperbackswap (referral link) before writing this post. Actually, I may have taken pictures, but I have so many pictures, it’s impossible to find them without remembering approximately when I took them.

Anyways, I digress, I don’t want to get into too much of the problems with attachment parenting, which I think I will save for another post.

No, in this post, I want to focus on how attachment parenting made me feel. I also want to talk about why I describe myself sometimes as a “recovering attachment parent.”

For me, personally, attachment parenting brought me one thing.

And that thing it brought me? It was guilt. And fear.

It brought me fear that if I ever for a second did any of the things that attachment parenting said was bad, that I would ruin my kids. That they wouldn’t love me or be securely attached to me. And the guilt them came hand in hand with that. When I left Dominic, I felt enormous guilt when I left him. I felt as if my leaving him for a few hours could undo all of our attachment. This was part of the reason that I didn’t leave him with anyone other than Nick until he was 5 months old. It was the fear that leaving him would break our attachment and he would be an insecure and anxious child.

There is more that I’ll get into in later posts. But, short story: eventually, I realized that attachment parenting wasn’t right for us. Sure, I still took some things from it (I still babywear Allen! for an example) as part of my parenting buffet, but I no longer identify as an attachment parent.

So, why do I call myself a recovering attachment parent? It’s because the guilt and fear stuck with me for a long time. It’s only in the last year that I’ve been able to move beyond that in a real and meaningful way. I can see that my children are securely attached to me. I can let go of a lot of that guilt and fear. Though, to be certain, it still comes from other places occasionally.

I feel, however, that if I had not believed so strongly in attachment parenting at the outset that I would not face so much fear and guilt. Attachment parenting blogs and facebook groups had me convinced, convinced, that to do anything else would ruin my children. So when I realized that it wasn’t a good fit for me and my kids, it was hard to let go. I still had the feeling that somehow, I was ruining them, even though I could see that I was not. It has taken me a long time to undo all of the ways that it had gotten into my head.

Anyways, there are more posts coming on this subject because I have strong feelings. However, like I said, I didn’t write any of this to people who find that attachment parenting is working well for them. I mainly wrote this for myself, as a way to process. I also wrote this for other people who might feel the same way I do, to let them know they are not alone. Again, this is only my experience, as I know for some people attachment parenting is great.

Please recognize that I am making myself vulnerable by putting this out there. In light of this, please be kind if you choose to comment. This is me eating a big old slice of humble pie that I should have eaten years ago. I’m also sorry for everyone I judged when I thought that attachment parenting was the only right/good way to parent. That was wrong of me. I know that now.

Have you ever got caught up in something you regretted? How do you feel about attachment parenting? (Can of worms, that question right there, I know 😉 )

Lessons from Our Time as a One Car Family

As many of you know, we were a one car family for six years! It’s only recently, less than a year ago, that we’ve become a two car family. As you may imagine, I have a lot of thoughts on being a one car family. Well, I have a lot of thoughts on most things, but today this is what I’m talking about.

Because, to be honest, there are pros and cons to having one car. Yes, there are actually things I miss about having one car. In the end, I still feel the benefits to two cars outweigh the benefits to one car, but that was a simpler time I do miss.

So, here are the things I miss about being a one car family.

It was easier to say no.

There are so many awesome and amazing opportunities nowadays. Especially living in a big city, if I wanted to, I could be doing something with the boys every single day of the week. This, however, is a recipe for burnout. Even if all those things are good things. Saying no to the good things was easier when I thought about how much of a time commitment it was to take Nick to work. Was doing something for 20 minutes worth the extra time taken out of my day? Which overall was just under 2 hours. Often it wasn’t. So having only one car really did help me to weed out the difference between things I wanted to do and things I felt obligated to do. One car family

Dedicated talk time

In the car, there’s not a whole lot of options for what to do. This is especially true for me since I get car sick if I read or do things on my phone. So I would often talk to Nick or the boys. When we picked Nick up from work after a co-op day, the boys would get to tell Nick all about co-op. I do sometimes miss this time where we could just talk without anything else going on, with fewer distractions.

My kids are really good in the car.

Okay, so I can’t prove that this is the case because I’m aware that correlation does not equal causation, but my kids are pretty chill in the car. Even though we often had to wake them up early to get in the car, they never once complained about it. I was the one doing all the complaining. They seem to take riding in the car in stride and while I definitely can’t prove that it was because they were frequently in the car, I am sure that it didn’t hurt.

On the flip side, here are things that have improved since we have had two cars.

I have less anxiety.

I don’t know how many of you know or remember this, but when I was in college I was involved in a car accident. I fell asleep at the wheel and rolled my car. It was terrifying and traumatic and even though that was 8 years ago, I still have some underlying lingering anxiety about driving, especially driving while tired. Now, don’t get me wrong, my anxiety has gotten a lot better. But, when we were a one car family and we were having to be in the car so early in the morning (when Nick started work at 7) and then I was doing so much extra driving because I had to not only drive to and from wherever we were going, but to and from Nick’s work as well, I was having a lot of anxiety about it. On nights when I had to be up early to take Nick to work, I would often have trouble falling and staying asleep because I was worrying. Since having a second car, I’ve noticed my anxiety has decreased a lot. I’m sleeping better and this makes me a better mom, parent, and person.

It is easier to say yes to things.

This is the flip side to the one above, but before, saying yes to things required a massive amount of coordination. I could never just say yes to something. I had to think about the schedules. I had to think about if the thing coincided with Nick’s work times. Even if someone was picking me and the boys up, I had to make sure that car seats got out of the car before Nick left for work. Saying yes to anything took a lot of pre-scheduling on my part and I could almost never be spontaneous. Now, I can be.

I have more time.

We didn’t take Nick to work every day. However, on the days we did, that was a serious chunk of time out of my day. Almost two hours. There are a lot of things that I can get done in two hours. Not to mention, it disrupted the flow of the day often. I’d have to wake the boys up, either from night sleep or from napping. We’d be in the middle of something and we’d have to drop it. Things like that. It has been so freeing to have that time back. Of course, one could argue we filled it with other things and to some extent, that is true. However, I still like to think that I keep a good level of balance between going out and staying home.

So, these are my pros and cons of being a one car family. Do you have experience with being a one car family? What was it like for you? Or, what are some reasons you would never consider being a one car family? 

The Parenting Buffet

The Parenting Buffet: Yes, you can babywear and sleep trainOnce upon a time, when Dominic was first born and I thought I knew everything (hahahahahahaha, oh how I laugh at my younger self. I hope everyone that I was a total jerk to forgives me), I held fast to a certain parenting philosophy (more on that in another post).

What this philosophy was wasn’t important, but I now regret it. I held on so tight to this parenting philosophy as if it was a holy grail. And while I don’t want to get too much into that today as I’m working on another post that will talk more about that, what I do want to talk about today is the philosophy I embrace now.

You probably won’t find any parenting books or blogs about this, because if they exist I haven’t found them. But I embrace what I’ve come to call the parenting buffet or if you prefer, Smorg parenting. Though I don’t use the word smorg as often as I do buffet, so I thought for clarity’s sake, I would call it the parenting buffet.

Simply put, I no longer believe there is one overarching parenting philosophy that will raise the best kids (this will also be another post later) but that there are many good ideas from all walks of life and most parenting books and philosophies.

Now, I still like to read and take in information.  Then I can make a decision for myself about what I think will work for my kids.

I am sure that to some of you this may sound like a ‘No duh!’ realization, but for me, I really feel best when I have instructions to follow. I don’t think admitting this about myself is a bad thing. Sometimes this is a strength and sometimes this is a weakness. In parenting, this is definitely a weakness because there are no instructions out there for parenting. Of course, the vast number of books out there would try to convince you otherwise.

Realizing that I could take parenting advice and pick and choose from it like it was a buffet was a huge shift for me. Don’t like green olives? That’s fine, in the buffet you don’t have to take them. Don’t like some parenting advice? That’s fine, in the buffet of parenting advice, you don’t have to take it. But vice versa, you can pull separate parts of different schools of thoughts and bring them to work together. Like french fries and cream cheese frosting, not all combinations that work well together seem obvious from the get go.

Yes, you can babywear and sleep train. You can feed your kids organic and also go to McDonald’s sometimes. You can give your kids choices and also give them things they have to do sometimes. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing. This isn’t a restaurant where they serve you one thing and one thing only and you have to eat it for the rest of your life. No, you can make the combinations you want because it’s a buffet.

I hope that you stuck with me to the end and that this post made sense to you. This was a freeing concept for me and I hope that it might be for you too.

How would you describe your parenting philosophy? What do you think of my buffet approach? 

Tiny Polka Dot

Disclaimer: I received Tiny Polka Dot for free as I am a part of Timberdoodle’s review team for the 2017-2018 school year. I’m excited about the opportunities this brings me to my blog and very excited to showcase some neat products for you. I hope that you’ll find these reviews enjoyable and helpful as well! As always, this blog will only ever be my 100 percent honest opinions. 

Tiny Polka Dot size reference pictureAs you may know, in our house, we play a lot of games. For as long as I can remember, I have loved board games and card games of all kinds. My family even has our own card game. So, it has been my great delight to be able to pass that love onto my children. We play together frequently.

But we don’t just play for fun – we also play because games are a great way to build so many skills. There are skills that they teach that can’t be measured. These are things like taking turns and learning how to be a gracious winner and loser. Then, there are other skills that can be quantified more easily, like math, which is the main skill focus on Tiny Polka Dot.

I assumed from the name Tiny Polka Dot that it would be small. However, it was a lot smaller than I expected. Which is great! I love small games because they travel so well. This game is a great size to toss in a bag. We frequently bring games places we might have some downtime. You can see from the picture that it’s easily held in one hand. Allen playing Tiny Polka Dot

Don’t let its small size fool you. With 66 cards in six suits, it also includes 8 rule cards which have instructions for 16 different games. Plus, that doesn’t even touch the number of games you could invent with the cards on your own. Dominic loves to invent games. After we had played a few of the games, he was already wanting to make his own.

For me as the mom, one of the things that I most appreciated about the game besides its small size was the durability of the cards. They will hold up well, though they will bend if you are being too rough with them. I also appreciated that the cards weren’t just numerals. Actually, the six suits have different visual representations of numbers. There is the traditional dice representation, but also a grid representation, a circle representation, and more. The dots are great for one on one correspondence, which I am working on with my youngest Allen, who is 2. But this game is incredibly versatile and can really grow with your kids as they grow up. With the same set of cards, we could play games that were easy enough for Allen, but also challenging enough for Dominic, who is 5. Tiny Polka Dot CollageMy kids definitely enjoyed this game. It helped Allen to slow down and really count the dots. Frequently when counting he just rattles off numbers rapidly. But this game is definitely helping to teach him to actually count. Dominic was having so much fun I don’t even think he was learning different ways that you can add up to 10 or 15. He found the blue dot cards which have the numbers in a grid of 10 especially helpful. These cards allowed him to easily see how many were left that he needed in order to be able to add up to ten. When I asked him about Tiny Polka Dot, he told me it was cool. He also said he liked how many different ways you could play it.

The only downside that I could see to this game is that I felt like a few of the instruction cards weren’t clear. However, with so many ways to use it, you are still having a fun time with your house rules. You don’t need to play it 100 percent the right way to have fun or to learn. Overall, I’d highly recommend Tiny Polka Dot, it’s a really great bunch of games in a tiny package and a reasonable price point! It would definitely be a great addition to any home or classroom.It’s also a new addition to the PreK kit from Timberdoodle, which we used last year and loved. I think this is a solid addition to that kit in the math department.  This is especially true since it will definitely grow with your kids. You will be able to use it in PreK and well beyond as well.

Have you ever played Tiny Polka Dot? What are your math struggles? What are your favorite math games? 

Weird but True: The Kentucky Meat Shower

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

The Kentucky Meat Shower happened on an ordinary farm, just like this one

Today, I’d like to take you back in time to a weird but true part of American history that I recently heard about. The Kentucky Meat Shower.

Now, you may be asking yourself. What in the world is a meat shower?

Well, it is, in some ways, exactly what it sounds like. Meat, raining from the sky, like a rain shower. It happened in March of 1876 in Kentucky, when flakes of meat fell from the sky. Some pieces were big, other pieces were merely like snowflakes. It was witnessed by a woman making soap in her front yard and her husband.

And I know what you’re thinking, it’s a hoax! But actually, it was reported on as being serious by several major sources, including the New York Times, so it’s unlikely that it was a hoax. (The New York Times article, by the way, is delightful in only the way that old style reporting can you. You have to read it.)

Nobody is quite sure what kind of meat it is, though some people who tasted it said it was either mutton or venison. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t think I would have been brave enough to try mystery meat that fell from the sky with no apparent explanation. Some also said that it was beef or even bear meat.

Scientists even came to collect samples and they thought it might have been lung tissue either from a horse or a human infant. Now, it sounds like those two things would be hard to mix up, but you have to remember that this was 1876 and things were not the same for science as they were now. For context, the meat shower happened about a week before Alexander Graham Bell made his first successful telephone call. So for it to spread as far as it did and for as many people to hear about it as they did is kind of remarkable. Imagine if there was a meat shower today and how fast that would be all over Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

However, they were able to further back up that these samples were muscle, cartilage, and lung tissue, even though they didn’t know what kind of animal they came from.

For a while, they thought it was Nostoc. Which apparently you can eat, but look at that, who would want to? There was also, briefly, a theory that like the asteroid belt, there was a meat belt in space. I mean, we know this to be completely impossible, but I find it highly amusing to imagine.

Now, do you want to know what caused it? The most likely theory?

Vultures. Yup, those carnivorous scavenger birds. Apparently, they will vomit when they are scared or need to take altitude quickly. Definitely reason number two not to eat strange falling meat from the sky because it could be vulture vomit. But, then you ask, how come no one saw the vultures? Well, apparently, some species of vultures can fly at 40,000 feet.  That’s taller than Mt. Everest, so I understand that that might not be visible to the human eye.

Have you ever heard of the Kentucky Meat Shower before? What’s your reaction to this strange but true history? Do you have any great alternate theories about what caused it? 

Sources:

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