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119 Reasons Why We Homeschool (Year Five)

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This fall marks the beginning of our fifth year as homeschoolers. We could never have guessed, when we started, where this journey would take us or how awesome it would be for our family. We have seen our daughter blossom and grow and we’ve all learned far more than we expected about the world and ourselves.

I’m not going to lie. Our daughter started sixth grade last year. I think I was laboring under the delusion that, removed from the drama of school life my adolescent child would poop rainbows and cry glitter. Yeah… not so much. Puberty is hard. It makes a person crazy. Parenting a crazy person is tough. Being their parent/teacher/principal/etc is nearly enough to drive a person to drink.

Did I think maybe it was time to give us a break from each other and send her back to school?

I did. Daily.

But I didn’t do it, because we had this list.

This list came about as something to cling to when the bad days come. Before we ever started homeschooling, a friend advised us to make a list of 100 reasons. “If you don’t have 100, you probably don’t have enough,” she said. “The day will come when you’ll be asking yourself why you’re doing this and you need something to look back to.”

And, really, if I’m being honest, there was maybe one hour a day that was quite stressful. It usually revolved around math.

I can put on my big girl pants and deal with one tough hour a day. Bonus: a new reason for the list (see #__).

If last year was landmark for our daughter reaching “middle school,” this year is a big deal because our son is starting kindergarten.

We’re pretty chill when it comes to kindergarten. He has school books and we work in them every day but his days are centered a lot more around playing and exploring his world than sitting at a desk, studying. He’s starting to read and understand basic math and counting skills. As long as he keeps moving forward we’re content with that for now.

It is important to me to make it understood that this list is not meant as a criticism of those who have children in public school or of the school district in which we live. I thank God that we live in a nation with CHOICES. We can choose what is best for our own families at any given time. For us, for now, that’s homeschool.

You’ll notice that some of our reasons are very serious. Some of them are quite silly. Some of them are totally focused on our children. Some are selfish on my part. They’re all reasons. They all played a part. Would I homeschool, just because I think public schools waste paper. Of course not! Read, knowing that not all of these weigh on our hearts equally.

The list has changed a little every year. Originally, there were one hundred reasons. Over the years, some of those reasons have become invalid and other reasons we’d never guessed at became important to us.

Without further ado…

100 Reasons (+18) Why We Homeschool

1.  We love spending time with our kids and would miss them if they were gone all day each day.

2. Our daughter wants to be homeschooled. Our son doesn’t know anything else.

3. We want our children to have the opportunity to explore their passions in great depth.

4. We want to teach them to choose healthy foods and eat them SLOWLY and WITH ENJOYMENT (not gobble down processed lunch during a 20 minute break).

5. We want them to have large windows of time each day to explore their imaginations and play – not just a 20 minute recess where they’re not allowed to run too fast or swing side to side due to liability concerns.

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6. As much as possible, we want to avoid having them compare their possessions to the possessions of others.

7. We think that 7+ hours of school plus and hour on the bus is too much time for a child (or an adult, for that matter) to sit and listen (as opposed to playing, questioning, exploring, etc).

8. It seems to us that homework, after 7+ hours of school, seems excessive and unproductive.

9. We want our family to be free to travel when and where we like.

10. With Handsome Hippie Hubby’s work schedule he would never see them if they were at school until 3pm each day.

11. The one meal we can eat together, as a family, every day is lunch.

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12. We want to teach them to be responsible to the environment in practice, not just through lessons.

13. We want them to learn practical skills like cooking, gardening, sewing, etc and there is little time to teach those when they’re away at public school all day and such things are no longer a part of the curriculum in our local schools.

14. Sometimes life makes you stay up late and we want them to be able to sleep in or nap when their little growing bodies needs to.

15. They watch a lot of classic movies in music class and we want to be the ones to experience those with them.

16. They watch a lot of movies in music class and we want them to actually learn to play/sing/appreciate music.

17. J-Rex can’t sit still. He can’t. It’s physically impossible for him. He wiggles and figets and taps his feet, even when (especially when) he’s totally focused. We don’t want him to feel “naughty” because he’s a busy little boy.

18. We don’t want them to have to deal with the repercussions of being in a large class with a few “naughty” children that monopolize the teachers’ time.

19. Most of their closest friends are homeschooled.

20. We hate sending them away to school when they’re feeling sick, but not “sick enough” to stay home.

21. We hate sending them into a building full of children feeling “a little sick” but not “sick enough” to stay home.

22. J-Rex’s little body struggles with vaccines and he’s behind. Putting him in public school could create health issues for him and those around him.

23. Our daughter, who is a great reader and writer, should never have to slow down to wait for other children to catch up.

24. Our daughter, who struggles with math, sometimes needs more time and attention than her teachers can give her.

25. We were unhappy with many of the things we saw or heard about happening on the school bus when our daughter was in public school.

26. We want our children to have a broader, less politicized, view of history than they will learn in public school.

27. We don’t want our child to use anti-bacterial hand soap several times a day (though we are trying to teach both of them to embrace the use of regular soap.).

28. We think it’s unhealthy that children sit in a swelteringly hot classroom in the middle of winter.

29. We live in an awesome community surrounded by awesome communities with a near infinite amount of resources to use as teaching tools.

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30. The whole family will gets to learn and grow when we’re “doing school.”

31. We want religion, spirituality, prayer and meditation to be a regular part of our children’s education.

32. We want to foster our children’s differences that they may harness them and direct them to the greatest good of their fellow human. Not just learn to be exactly like everyone else.

33. When REAL disaster/crisis/tragedy strikes (ie – the tornadoes that struck a nearby town a few years ago) we want them to know that it is not only OK but RIGHT and GOOD to drop EVERYTHING and rush to the aid of our neighbors.

34. It will make me feel like the years of my life and tens of thousands of dollars I spent on my own education weren’t a total waste.

35. I learned advanced math. I NEVER used it (I told you so!). And forgot every bit of it. But no one ever taught me how to balance a checkbook or calculate the interest on a mortgage  and I don’t want my children to have that same experience.

36. Public schools in our district have cut resources for art teachers, and we believe in the power of artistic expression.

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37. We want to know IMMEDIATELY if our children are struggling with a problem or social situation – not after it has reached a crisis state.

38. We think people learn more by experiencing something (ie. a visit to a farm is more memorable than a lesson about “where veggies come from.”) and it’s not reasonable to expect a teacher to schlep 35 kids all over the countryside several times a week.

39. We think intuition is a valid and valuable tool in the human mind that is suppressed by “institutionalized” learning.

40. Homeschooling forces me to be a more organized person.

41. Seeing my organizational skills, my children will learn to be organized. (It’s a great theory, isn’t it?)

42. Some days, watching the morning news together, and then having the time to discuss it, can be a more valuable education than an entire day in a classroom learning to figure the degree of angles in a triangle.

43. We believe strongly in the implied power in the sciences of noetics and quantum physics and this isn’t taught in public school.

44. We believe a child should have the opportunity to ask every question they can and public school teachers don’t have time to deal with that, so curiosity gets suppressed.

45. One of the smartest, most accomplished scientists of all time said, “imagination is more important than knowledge,” but public schools focus almost exclusively on the development of knowledge at the expense of imagination.

46. We want our daughter, who has a very entrepreneurial spirit, to have time and energy to experience the creation of business and the power of free enterprise.

47. We believe a child should be free to express themselves in all sorts of silly, crazy, creative ways through their play and dress and public school places a great many restrictions in these areas.

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48. With internet and virtual learning, they learn from a much more culturally, philosophically, educationally diverse group of teachers than they would encounter in a local public school.

49. We don’t like putting our child on a bus every day. But especially on days that are foggy, snowy, icy, etc.

50. Many of the people we respect most in the public school system have told us that, if they had young children, they would not put them in public school.

51. Public school teachers, no matter how good, smart, loving, patient, etc must conform to the state standards no matter if they agree or not.

52. Sometimes our children are “naughty” and teachers have neither the time nor authority to properly discipline then and/or the teachers’ definition of “naughty” and the accompanying discipline are different from what we teach at home.

53. Public school in America is designed to create success in an industrial age economy, but the industrial age is over.

54. EVERY study done shows homeschool children achieve higher academically.

55. EVERY study done shows that homeschool children are better socialized (fit into society more successfully).

56. EVERY study done shows that homeschool children have a greater sense of civic responsibility.

Click here for some interesting homeschool stats.

57. We want our children to learn how to use a computer to do more than play games.

58. We want our children to know how to do things without a computer.

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60. We feel it’s more important for our children to know how and where to find information than to memorize facts for a standardized test.

61. We never want our children to go through the experience of “feeling stupid” for not understanding something without a little help.

62. We are able to introduce foreign language studies at an earlier age as homeschoolers.

63. We don’t want our children exposed to sex, drugs, violence, etc any earlier than necessary.

64. Time is valuable and public school wastes time (bus rides, moving between classes, waiting in line, etc).

65. We think it’s a bad idea to “stop learning” for 3 months out of the year, but a good idea to have lots of fun experiences all year long.

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66. Some of the most mature, intelligent, respectful, strong-minded teens and young adults I know have been homeschooled since early childhood.

67. We want our children to know that being a dancer (painter, musician, house-wife) is just as valid as being a doctor (teacher, accountant, etc).

68. In the event of a crisis (tornado, fire, etc) our children would be with us and we could make sure they’re as safe as possible.

69. We want our children to be able to think for herself and know how to question authority (even us) without being disrespectful.

70. Our children are unique individuals and deserve a uniquely designed education.

71. As parents, want a greater say in what our children do and do not not learn.

72. Some teachers are burnt out and just putting in their time and we don’t want our children to be “just put up with.”

73. We want to put the money spent on school supplies, field trips, etc to go toward those items we believe will be most beneficial for our children.

74. I really hate packing lunches and snacks every day.

75. We want to be the ones to teach our children how to appropriately deal with bullying, harassment, etc.

76. Homeschooling gives the whole family the opportunity and motivation to explore nearby (and sometimes far away) museums, gardens, parks, historic buildings, etc.

77. By homeschooling we are not doing things the “normal” way but we are teaching our children that there can be more than one good way to achieve a good end.

78. There are sometimes abusive adults in positions of power and we want to protect our kids from that as much as possible for as long as possible.

79. We want our children to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and all the innocent, magical parts of childhood for as long as she can.

80. We want to avoid exposure to the annual outbreak of lice in the public school system.

81. The world, society, and technology are very different than they were 50 years ago but the style of teaching in public school is much the same.

82. In homeschool band, our daughter has had the opportunity to learn five different instruments so far, and she is playing music the public school doesn’t play until high school.

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83. The government has screwed up most everything they have ever touched, so why would I trust them not to screw up the education of my child?

84. Hitler said, “The State will take youth and give youth its own education and its own upbringing. Your child already belongs to us. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing but this community.” “Let me control the textbooks and I will control the State.”

85. US Federal Judge Melinda Harmon said, in 1996, “Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school.”

86. Shopping for classroom supplies is more fun when you know you get to keep them and use them.

87. Our child has a passion to be in community theater and their rehearsals run very late at night.

88. My husband and I both hated school and did the bare minimum to get through and we don’t want our child to feel the same way.

89. Public schools require “lock-down drills” due to the very real threat of gunmen and/or terrorists in the building.

90. The cheapest time of year to go to Disney (and many other places) is October.

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91. Homeschooling is “green.” There is less transportation, less utility use, less paper…. way way way way way less paper.

92. We want our children to understand that learning can be done anywhere, any time, at any age and be self led or assisted. It doesn’t only take place in a classroom with a teacher.

93. We have the feeling that our children have important things to teach us. “Unless ye be like a little child…..”

94. We believe that people absorb the energy of a place and public school, very often, does not have a positive energy.

95. We want our children to have “Bible” as a school subject.

96. We want our children to embrace failure with enthusiasm, and learn how to use it to move forward. School punishes failure.

97. Our daughter learns a little more every time she helps her brother learn something new. Our son learns every day when he hears us teaching his sister.

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98. Our family is always happiest when we are together.

99. If we know what our children are learning about, we can integrate that into life in so many ways for a more well-rounded and memorable learning experience.

100. We are pretty sure we’re doing OK with this homeschool thing.

101. Through the homeschool association they can take all kinds of lessons (music, sports, theater, etc) we wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.

102. Through the homeschool association they have multiple opportunities to visit with and be of service to the senior citizens in our community.

103. We travel for business often. As homeschoolers, there is much less conflict between our trips and our children’s schooling.

104. Our five year old is learning some subjects at a far younger age, because he is around when we are teaching his sister.

105. Planting season is before school lets out for summer and harvest doesn’t finish until well after the new year begins.  They would miss both if she was in public school.

106. Boys. We know we can’t shelter her forever but…

107. We’ve learned that our daughter puts up fierce resistance to certain parts of schoolwork. No one was telling us that before, but now we can work on breaking down some of those barriers and help her learn a healthier approach to dealing with the less pleasant chores in life.

108. Our daughter’s base of friends, after four years of homeschooling, includes a much wider age range of people. She is learning to interact appropriately with those much younger and much older than herself in a healthy and positive way.

109. Homeschooling has helped our whole family learn to be better stewards of our time and resources.

110. Homeschooling has given us extra opportunities to share some of our favorite books, movies, and music from our childhoods with our children.

111. Our children has had great opportunities to participate in classes with people of a wide range of ethnic, racial and regious backgrounds through homeschooling – far more so than in public school in our tiny community.

112. Our daughter loves to participate in National Novel Writing Month in November (National Novel Writer’s Month – visit Nanowrimo to participate with us!). She would struggle with the time to do that if she were in public school.

113. There are no snow days in homeschooling so we don’t need to spend half of the lovely summer making up for classes missed when it was too cold to leave the house.

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114. As homeschoolers our children get to help deliver Meals on Wheels throughout the year and we love that they have the experience of serving their elders in that way.

115. You know those statistics about, “only 1% of people with a cold get hospitalized.” That’s our son. Homeschooling gives us some (admittedly small) amount of control over what gets dragged into our house.

116. Our daughter loves playing on the homeschool volleyball team.

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117. Our children are becoming very adept at figuring out how to learn something on her own when she has an interest or need.

118. Our daughter often attends meetings and conferences with adults and interacts with them with amazing maturity. She would not be able to go to such events as often if she were in school all day.

119. Homeschooling isn’t marriage. It’s not a life-long commitment. We can opt out if/when it stops working for us.

120. Life’s too short for all work and no (or little) play. Homeschool days are always full of play!

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Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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My Homeschool Kids, Socializing

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If you even mention homeschool, you hear it.

“I would be afraid to homeschool. My child needs social interaction.”

“Don’t you worry about them learning to socialize?”

“How will they learn to carry themselves in the real world if they’re with you all the time?”

If you have homeschooled for any length of time you’re totally over this question.

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If you’re new to homeschooling, or just considering it, or terribly worried about your grandchild who is going to grow up to be a weird unsocialized homeschooler… this is for you.

I’d like to share the experience I had last weekend at the Kerrytown Book Festival in Ann Arbor, MI.

Source: mlive.com

Photo Source: mlive.com

My best friend invited my children and me to attend the festival with her. It sounded like a fabulous way for a car full of readers to spend a cool, sunny afternoon. We grabbed gigantic purses to hold the treasures we knew we would find and headed out into the world.

There were dozens of tables with books of every conceivable type. There were coloring books and antique books, novels of every sort and enough non-fiction to fill a library. Each table was staffed by an author, a publisher, or a representative from a book store. It was a bibliophile’s dream.

We started wandering among the tables, each of us on our own mission. I was excited to find a great fantasy or two. My BFF is a big fan of young adult fiction. T-Rex wanted to find some, “awesome boy books.” Sweet Hippie Daughter was hoping to meet some authors.

As we moved through the crowd, my children were rarely at the same table as me. They stayed close enough that I could keep an eye on them, but they had their own interests, which are different from mine. T-Rex, age four, was looking for bright colorful pictures. He was asking people about their shoes and showing off his new Kobe Bryant sneakers. (He’s a little obsessed with shoes this week.) Sweet Hippie Daughter, age ten, was speaking with fellow writers, asking what inspired them, who their publishers were, and what advice they would offer an aspiring young writer.

She booked a tentative book reading for her homeschool group with an author who’s table I’d not even seen yet.

She’s ten.

When we got home, she called one of her girlfriends and invited her to come see her new books and play computer games. They spent the next few hours scaring themselves half to death with Five Nights At Freddie’s videos.

Do you see what I’m getting at?

My child was able to spend a day SOCIALIZING with adults. Then she spend the evening socializing with her peers. People socialize. It’s just a human sort of thing to do.

Forcing a child into a room with thirty other children of the exact same age is not socialization. Not even if you make them play together at recess. Think about it. Have you never met a public school graduate who is socially awkward?

Socialization happens when a child is given the opportunity to spend time being an active member of society.

Homeschooling isn’t something that happens for a specific number of hours each day. It is a lifestyle. The vast majority of homeschool families I know bring their children into “adult” activities at a very young age. Children are encouraged to set up entrepreneurial endeavors, join mixed-age study groups, take the lead on shopping trips, conduct interviews with experts in the fields they are interested in learning about, and take responsibility to help those younger than themselves.

In short, they are encouraged to be social.

I’m curious – what are your thoughts on homeschool kids and “socialization?”

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on Twitter or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

Visit my author page for all the latest info on the Heaven And Earth Series!

Five Questions That Make This Homeschooling Mama Crazy (Nablopomo Day 9)

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*This post is Day Nine of the January Nablopomo 30-day blogging challenge hosted by BlogHer.

5 Questions That Make This Homeschooling Mama Crazy | LazyHippieMama.comI don’t mind when non-homeschoolers ask me questions about our choices. I know that the vast majority are coming from a place of genuinely seeking understanding about a lifestyle they are unfamiliar with. I get it. It’s kind of fun to share and, often, I get ideas from the input of others.  But there are a few questions that make me want to bang my head on my non-existent teacher’s desk in our non-existent classroom. I try to be polite but… seriously…

1) What curriculum do you use?

What I think: Why do you care? Do you even know the difference? What curriculum does your public school kid use? I bet you don’t know! Do you even know what they taught your child in public school today? Who uses just one curriculum, anyway?

What I say: We use Khanacademy.org for math. In other subjects we vary our resources, according to our needs.

2) How many hours a day do you do school?

What I think: How many hours a day does a public school kid actually DO school? Maybe 3? 4? Assuming it’s not a holiday, or a snow day, or the day before a holiday when all the kids are wound up, or the day after a holiday when no one is in the rhythm, or someone’s birthday…

What I say: Some days are longer than others. We focus more on meeting goals than keeping track of hours.

3) Are you confident that your child is where they should be, academically?

What I think: Who came up with the idea that a person of a certain age should know a certain number of facts, anyway? Is every public school kid on the same page, academically? Does no one ever fall behind in one subject or excel in another?

What I say: I’ve seen my daughter really grow and flourish in exciting ways since we started homeschooling.

4) Do you worry about your kids getting into college?

What I think: I have one child who is in training pants at night and one who is still little enough to think that “fart” is the funniest word in the English language. I’m not too worried about college just yet. Are you worried about your public school kid knowing how to think for themselves when they graduate after being taught to conform for 13 years?

What I say: As they get older, there are a number of resources to help them prepare for continuing education if they choose that path.

And MY BIGGEST PET PEEVE QUESTION (directed at my child):

5) Do you know _______ insert random quiz question here ____________? (ie. Who the first 5 presidents are? What 1/3 times 1/8 is? The capitals of all 50 states? The name of the leader of Denmark? What year the cotton gin was invented? The moral of the book “Of Mice and Men?”)

What I think: Do YOU know any of those things?! Do you quiz EVERY child that comes across your path or are you specifically targeting MY child for some reason?

What I say: Baby girl, maybe you could go play with your brother while Mommy talks to this nice man.

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

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If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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The Empathy Way – A Review

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I believe that humans, from an extremely young age, have an extraordinary capacity to be empathetic. I can remember my own children, as tiny infants, being upset when I was upset or calm when I was calm. Of course, the other side of that coin is that we can be very selfish creatures. My preschooler will snatch a toy he has never seen before out of the hands of another person and simply declare, “this is mine!” Having spent more than a few Sunday mornings with him and his peers in the church nursery I’ve seen that that’s pretty much a common trait among the preschool set. So, when I was asked if I would like to receive a copy of The Empathy Way books by Anne Wessels Paris and Marian Brickner I happily agreed to take a look. I love the idea of introducing this powerful word and concept at a young age and incorporating ways to encourage little ones to examine the situations they find themselves in from the point of view of the others involved.

The Empathy Way - A Book Review | LazyHippieMama.com

 

The Empathy Way books tell stories of the every day interactions of the bonobo apes at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida. The full page photographs are gorgeous! They show the apes in every day situations that any child would be able to relate to: They are playing, dealing with illness, frightened or meeting new friends.

What do you do when you encounter someone who seems scary because they look different? How can understanding a bully help you deal with the way the treat you? How can empathy help us make our friends feel better in hard times?

The Empathy Way - A Book Review | LazyHippieMama.comThose are lessons that anyone, of any age can benefit from learning!

The book series comes with a teacher’s guide and would be a great addition to any classroom or homeschool program. There are discussion questions and some simple crafts to help children remember to follow “The Empathy Way.”

The material says that it’s appropriate for grades k-3. I thought it was great but I would suggest that it’s more appropriate for the younger end of that spectrum.  T-Rex, at age 3 1/2 thought these books were wonderful. He caught on right away and, pointing at the pictures asking, “is she scared? Is he sick? Are they laughing? They think it’s funny?” The comments he made as we read showed that he understood the concept of empathy, even though he had never heard the word before being reading these books. The language is simple, but never simplistic.

If you have a young child at home or if you are a teacher who works with this age group I would strongly encourage you to visit The Empathy Way website. The books are available there as are some really great videos and resources.

In a society where too many news stories are about children and adults who have been hurt lashing out at the world that hurt them we could all use a little more empathy!

The Empathy Way - A Book Review | LazyHippieMama.com

Are you, too, seeking to save the earth, promote world peace and raise productive citizens without expending too much effort?

Why not follow LazyHippieMama on WordPress, by email or Facebook to get all the updates.

If we work on our goals together, they may be a little easier to achieve!

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Then And Now: How Being A Public School Kid Turned Me Into A Homeschool Parent

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My best friend will tell you that public school cheated her out of a real education. Her husband will say the same x1000 and, in his case especially, I think he may be right. He’s a remarkably bright guy and a quick and eager learner that got marginalized for all the wrong reasons.  As for myself, I never really felt cheated.

Growing up in public school I always felt like I was learning. I still remember specific lessons and when I started college I had the tools I needed to keep up.

I never felt like school was all bad.

On the other hand, I was bored.

So. Very. Bored.

What school looked like for me...

What school looked like for me…

I remember clearly the first moment it hit me. I was in the first grade and we were reading out loud in groups around little round tables that I loved because they were just the right size for me.  I read my paragraph of “Run, Spot, Run,” and then the next kid went and it was just painful. She had to sound out every letter and syllable. She didn’t pronounce the words right. She didn’t do the little inflection thing that the teacher had told us goes on the end of a question. It took FOREVER. When she was done, I breathed a sigh of relief. Then the next kid started and, God help me, he was just as bad!

I couldn’t take it so I started reading ahead. I needed to know where that dog was running to, darn it, and I didn’t have all year to find out!

The sweet grey-haired teacher who actually wore denim jumpers with little apples stitched on the pockets, reached over and put her hand on mine. “Don’t read ahead, dear. Stay with us.”

And that was the beginning. “Don’t move ahead. Stay with us.”

It was a constant battle. If we hit a chapter of the science book that was especially interesting I wanted to read the whole chapter. I wanted to know everything and then learn more but, no, that’s not how it works. The class is ONLY working on page 12 for the next 3 weeks. Just page 12. No other pages. For THREE WEEKS.  I’m not making that up. That actually happened once.

In high school my algebra teacher said some beautiful words. “I’m giving you homework as practice to help you understand how to do the work so you can do well on the test.”

*Just a little sidebar here: Note that, in his wisdom, he did not say, “practice to help you understand these concepts so you can apply them to every day life.”

Then And Now | LazyHippieMama.com

AH! Great! I already understood, so I didn’t need to do the homework. I took the test. I got an A. I got an A on EVERY test in that class. And then, when I got my report card I was failing. My mother, who felt anything less than a “B” was completely unacceptable in any circumstance was furious. A meeting was held.

“She hasn’t done any homework,” the teacher said.

“You said I didn’t have to!” I practically screamed.

“I said no such thing!” He said.

I explained my reasoning.

“Well… you still have to do the homework.” He insisted.

“Why?! If I understand well enough to ace every test, why in the name of God do I need to spend an hour of every night IN ADDITION to the hour I spend every day in your classroom practicing? I clearly understand the material!”

He just sat there for a moment, flustered. I thought maybe I’d won. But then he said, “You need to learn sticktoativeness.”

WHAT?!  THAT’S NOT EVEN A WORD!

To this day my lip curls when people use that “word.”

Then and Now | LazyHippieMama.com

And school was a social nightmare for me.

I’m not terribly shy, but I am an introvert. I don’t make new friends easily and I’ve never been head cheerleader material.

I had a few great, close friends without whom I would have been lost. To this day those people are my great, close friends without whom I would be lost! But God help me if they weren’t there for some reason. Where do you sit at lunch when your friends aren’t there? If you’re me, alone in the bathroom. Better to go hungry than to face the lunchroom without backup.

Being teased, as kids usually are at some point, didn’t teach me to be stronger in a harsh world. It taught me to curl up and become invisible, to keep my voice inside and never ever put myself out in front of people if I could help it.

We all graduated and everyone was weeping over “the end of an era.” I had my bags packed and one foot out the door. I had better things to move on to. I was over it.

It’s been 20 years and I recently skipped my reunion. I’m still over it.  I had no desire to re-live “the good old days.” Those days were sort of a wash, at best, in my book. There was some good. There was some bad. I survived. I’ve never been happier in my life than I am now so I’ll just live right here in 2014. Thanks, anyway, for the invite.

I say all that to say this:

There are a lot of reasons why we homeschool. Handsome Hippie Hubby and I came up with 115 of them this year. (You can read them here.) But I’d be lying if I said that my decision wasn’t shaped, at least in part, by my own experience.

My children are bright and curious (as pretty much every child I’ve ever met is). They are strong readers and quick learners. I don’t want them to ever have to sit on page 3 for an hour while someone else tries to sound out words. I still don’t see the point in doing homework if you clearly have a strong grasp of a subject. You get it? Great! Let’s move on. Life is to short to dilly dally in the world of mediocrity.

What school looks like for my daughter.

What school looks like for my silly daughter.

Conversely, I see that there are certain subjects where my children struggle a little. Homeschooling gives them a pressure-free environment where they can spend as long as they need to finding their way. No teasing. No impatient girls, tapping their foot and sighing because they’ve been stuck on page 3 for an hour.

My daughter is the kind of child that is utterly crushed by harsh words. When she encounters life’s inevitable bullying situations as she plays on various sports teams, attends co-op classes and so forth, she isn’t left all alone to try to figure out how to deal with it.

Public school was not horrible for me. It wasn’t perfect, but I survived. I came out with what I feel was a decent education and a few great friends. I homeschool, in part, because I don’t want “I survived” to be part of how my children feel about their youth. I’m realistic enough to know that, regardless of the choices we make, our children will look back and see some good and some bad. I’m hoping that, by homeschooling, we will be tipping the scales a bit in favor of the good.

I’m curious to know how your own childhood experiences have shaped the choices you’ve made for your children. I’d love for you to share in the comments!

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Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2)

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Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? | LazyHippieMama.comIn Part One of this post I talked about what Virtual School is and a traditional method of homeschooling I refer to as “curriculum-based homeschooling.”  That is how our own homeschool adventure began but, in time, we moved on to a more eclectic approach.

Eclectic schooling is taking bits and pieces of everything and creating a unique style for yourself.

I imagine our school year like a cross country trip. We’re in Michigan now. We need to get to California. The goal is to get there by June, but there’s always some leeway if needed. We can drive, walk, bike, fly or sail. We can go fast or slow. Take breaks or do marathon stretches.  We can veer north, south, east and west and visit as many stops as we like along the way… as long as we eventually get to California.

Our “California” is based on the Michigan State Grade-Level Expectations.  We will use some online tools and games, library books, local clubs and classes, Khan Academy has been a lifesaver for us when it comes to math so we will stay with them again this year. Our daughter will continue her music education through the homeschool association’s band and she will also be taking band as a “drop in student” at the local public school (one of those perks of living in Michigan, I mentioned earlier). She’s in a theater class at a nearby college and she’ll do archery through the local conservation agency. Art and volleyball are through the homeschool group. No doubt there will be numerous field trips. Those are always the whole family’s favorite days.

There is a ton of freedom in eclectic schooling. Our daughter drives her own education. We set some parameters and goals for her and provide her with the tools she needs but she figures out how she wants to get there.  If she wants to read, she can read. If she wants to watch documentaries that’s OK too. If she decides halfway through the year that she has a burning urge to learn about the human skeleton she is welcome to follow that bunny trail as far as she would like.  Last year she spent November writing a book (which she actually published!) and then caught up with her other subjects again in December. She hates worksheets.  HATES them. Loathes may be a more appropriate word. So she does her math online and on scraps of paper.  You know what… she can multiply and divide and has a basic grasp of fractions. As long as she keeps moving forward I couldn’t care less if she never fills in another blank for the rest of her life.  Whatever works.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) | LazyHippieMama.com

My best friend has a wild passion for color coded spreadsheets and 3-ring binders. I’m pretty sure that she would absolutely lose her mind trying to school her child the way I school mine.  And that’s OK.  The joy of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides to create the ideal educational environment for YOUR family.  Keep in mind, as I said in part one, that each state has its own requirements regarding testing and reporting. In some places you may find that the further you move away from the more conventional models the more difficult it is to provide the proofs of education that the state requires.

Our eclectic school definitely has one toe in the unschooling pond, though we are not “true” unschoolers.

Unschooling is allowing your child to learn through living life. Period. You don’t provide a curriculum or lesson plans. You don’t make them sit down and do math lessons.  They choose what to learn and when to learn it and your job is to help them find the tools they need to teach themselves the skills they wish to have.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) | LazyHippieMama.com

Look at a child from infancy through pre-school. In those 4 years or so a person learns an extraordinary amount of information and they master new skills almost daily, even though there is no formal instruction. The idea behind unschooling is that people will continue to learn in just that way if you don’t put artificial boundaries on them.  As the student grows and develops and their academic needs become more complex, so does their desire to learn and so they will seek out knowledge and teachers and find ways to learn.

It sounds counter-intuitive to everything we consider “normal” in our society but, in 2012, Dr. Peter Gray did a large-scale study*, published in Psychology Today, of grown unschoolers. The concept first became a trend in the 1970s so those children are now adults with families of their own. Of the Unschoolers surveyed, 83% went on to some form of higher education. Most of those who went to college did so beginning at a Jr. College around age 16.  Dr. Gray notes that, “The most frequent complaints were about the lack of motivation and intellectual curiosity among their college classmates, the constricted social life of college, and, in a few cases, constraints imposed by the curriculum or grading system.”

In the same study, Dr. Gray shares that, “we found that most of them have gone on to careers that are extensions of interests and passions they developed in childhood play; most have chosen careers that are meaningful, exciting, and joyful to them over careers that are potentially more lucrative; a high percentage have pursued careers in the creative arts; and quite a few (including 50% of the men) have pursued STEM careers.  The great majority of them have pursued careers in which they are their own bosses.”

These men and women, schooled in an unconventional manner, often went on to unconventional careers. They became circus owners, aerial wildlife photographers, Greenpeace organizers, owners of engineering companies, inventors, community organizers and more.  Interestingly he notes that almost none of them worked in “middle management.”  They earned a living on their own terms. They became creators and bosses, hardly ever “regular” employees.

I’m sharing all of this because, of all the homeschool routes, my experience is that unschooling is the most misunderstood and widely criticized.  There seems to be a belief that it’s just lazy parenting.  The reality is that unschooling parents are just as much, if not more, involved in their children’s lives than other parents. They are constantly aware of the environment they are creating – and that creation is very intentional.  I’ve heard unschooling parents talk about “strewing:”  Purposely leaving something such as a Monopoly game on the table so that the kids will find it and say, “Hey! Let’s play this!”  All of a sudden their children – through their own choice and with no text books involved – are learning to count and add, make change, read and so on.

In it’s most “radical” form, unschooling reaches into every part of life. The child eats what they want, when they want. They sleep when they are tired and get up when they are rested, etc.  They will learn to wake to an alarm when there is an activity they want to participate in that requires them to do so. They will learn to eat healthy when they realize that a carton of ice cream gives them a belly ache.

Again, just as with the other types of homeschooling, those who unschool rarely fall into the “all or nothing” categories.  Most homeschoolers have SOME aspect of their lives that is “unschoolish.”  Only a tiny fraction of unschoolers fall into the “radical” category.  I indicated that my own family “dabbles” in unschooling. Our lack of designated curriculum and willingness to follow the lead of the children’s’ interests are distinctly an unschooling thing.  Forcing our daughter to do math even though she hates it… not so much.

At the beginning of this whole series I made the statement, “Ask 100 homeschoolers what their day looks like and you’ll get 100 answers.”  When trying to figure out what YOUR homeschool is going to look like, keep that in mind.  It’s YOUR homeschool.  You need to make it work for your family.  Does your child crave structure? Test boundaries? Love to be around other people? Thrive under pressure? Crumble when pushed?  What about you? Are you the kind of parent who takes great joy in finding cool craft projects on Pinterest and then sitting at the table and showing your little ones how to re-create those projects? Do you love to dialogue with your kids about what they are seeing or experiencing? Do you enjoy reading to them?

If you don’t find a rhythm that works for YOUR family then you aren’t going to succeed. Also, keep in mind that what works when you are teaching one first grader is probably not going to work when you are teaching 2 middle schoolers and a 4th grader.  Your homeschool will need to evolve as your family moves forward and your children grow.  Don’t be afraid to be flexible and change and “try on” different styles.  You may be surprised what you fall in love with!

* This is the link to the post that I originally read from Dr. Gray. Some of the statistics mentioned came from the other posts he released, based on the same study. All links are available within this article.

Homeschool, Virtual School, Un-school, Co-Op: What does it all mean? (Part 2) | LazyHippieMama.com

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Homeschooling With A Side of Public

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Homeschool with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.comTwo years ago, we thought long and hard about pulling our daughter out of public school. When we’d lived in the city we had a lot of choices as to where she could attend but when we moved to a small town the choices dried up. There was the local public school, there was the option to drive her 15+ miles one way every day throughout the Michigan winters, or there was homeschool. At first, we chose public school and it really wasn’t a bad experience.  Most of the teachers and the staff were super kind and loving folks, some of whom became personal friends. They were very skilled at their job and worked hard to give our child a great education. But…

we just felt it was a flawed system. Too few teachers, too many government restrictions, not nearly enough time for a kid to be a kid. We had lots and lots of small frustrations that added up to a big deal.

We started seriously considering homeschooling. A friend told us, “Make a list of 100 reasons. If you can’t come up with 100 you’re not serious enough about this. If you can, keep the list because there will be days (months, years) when you are asking yourself, ‘why in the world am I doing this?’ and at those moments you’ll be thankful for the reminder.”

It seemed a daunting task but we sat down to do it and, to our surprise the first 80 or so simply rolled off our tongues, one after another and the rest were quick to follow.  (Our list can be viewed here). One of those reasons was that our daughter had a passionate desire to learn music.  Music curriculum had been all but scrapped from the local elementary school and band didn’t start until 5th grade (she was in 3rd at the time).

Of course, many children study music through private lessons but we didn’t feel like we had time for that when she was in public school and we really didn’t have the money, either.  As a homeschooler, she could join the National Homeschool Music Ensemble and begin learning an instrument right away.  The cost was a fraction of what it would be to enroll her in private lessons. We jumped on it.

Homeschooling with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.com

She began with the clarinet, but switched to trombone a few weeks in and she spent one year with the homeschool beginning band, learning the basics.  The second year she moved to the concert band and Handsome Hippie Hubby began playing with her. Parents are welcome to play with NHME, which creates a very cool environment where it’s not unusual to see a 7 year old instructing a 40 year old on proper finger positions.

Homeschool with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.com

At the end of the school year her director approached her and said, “I remember in the beginning what you really wanted to play was French Horn.”  She nodded, enthusiastically. She’s wanted to play French horn since she saw one as a 3 year old but they are terribly expensive instruments. We didn’t have the means to buy one and the band only had 2, both already being used by older students. He told her to go look in the closet and, there it was: A shiny brass tangle of pipes with her name on it. Joy of joys! A double French horn just for her!  She was one happy kid!

Homeschool with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.com

So the plan was hatched: she could play French horn with the beginning band and trombone with the concert band for the duration of 5th grade and, when she gets to 6th, we’ll determine which direction we are going to go.  But then…

Musical Cousin marched in the Rose Parade.

rose parade

It was beyond cool. We all sat around the TV watching for him and crying proud tears, texting and Tweeting with family far and wide.  His band did an extraordinary job.  Not long after that we were able to see his band’s award winning field performance.  The kids had worked for hours, nearly every day for months and it showed. The performance was jaw-dropping.

Sweet Hippie Daughter, wide-eyed, said, “I WANT TO DO THAT!”

carmel

Handsome Hippie Hubby and I glanced at each other. The homeschool band is a concert band. They don’t have the numbers, the space or the money to support a marching program.  Our local public school, however has a stellar marching program. Smaller than Musical Cousin’s set-up (the difference between a suburban school that graduates thousands each year and a rural school that has about 1,000 students in K-12 combined), but extremely well done and well supported by the community, none-the-less.

We discussed it for a while. We love homeschooling. It may not be right for every family, but it has been a super fit for us.  One of the things we love most is the ability to let our children spend as much time as they like pursuing those things that spark their passions most.  If that means our school weeks end up revolving around learning 3 different instruments then so be it. She can play trombone with the concert band, French horn with beginning band and percussion with the public school band. Math work can be done in the car on the way to rehearsal.

We contacted the local band director and asked him if he would be willing and able to allow us to participate in his program under Michigan’s “Revised School Code.”  This law says that, if you are homeschooling in Michigan (not virtual schooling or attending a charter school), you have the right to request permission from your local public school to attend any non-core class.

The teacher was very helpful and, with the help of the school administration, we figured out how to make that work.  So, beginning just after labor day, Sweet Hippie Daughter is headed back to public school. Sort of. For an hour a day, a few days each week.  She won’t learn to march in 5th grade, but she’ll be laying the foundation to move forward within that program in the future, if she chooses to do so.

Now we are homeschoolers with a side of public school and I think I’m OK with that. I am very aware of how rare and wonderful it is to live in a time and place where we have so many options for educating our children and I am humbled, as always, by the kindness and willingness of others to help us find the path that works best for our family.

Have you ever tried anything like this, as a homeschooler?

I would LOVE to hear about your experience!

Homeschool with a side of Public | LazyHippieMama.com

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Talking To Kids About 9/11 – A Book Review of “Eleven” by Tom Rogers

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***This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission from products purchased via these links.***

It’s hard to imagine, but school-aged children today either weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened or they were too young to remember it.  How do you talk about such a tragedy with young kids?

Recently, I was asked to write an honest review in return for a free copy of the young adult book, Eleven, by Tom Rogers.  I agreed, thinking that it might be a good book for Sweet Hippie Daughter to read in September, as we get the school year rolling.

The book has 40 chapters, many only a page or 2 long and it’s a quick read. I finished it in 2 days. It moves quickly and never loses your attention for a moment.

The story is told from the perspective of Alex, a little boy who is turning eleven on September 11, 2001.  For the most part, the entire book is about that one day in the boy’s life.  I think that most any young reader would find Alex to be an extremely relatable character. He wakes up, the morning of his birthday, full of hopes and expectations. He struggles a bit to listen and follow the rules the way he knows he should. He encounters bullies and friends on the way to school and then he’s sent home early for reasons none of the kids understand.  He finds himself swept into a series of events as he realizes that The World Trade Center has been attacked and his father, who works there, might never be coming home.

Along the way he meets and befriends Mac, an elderly man whose son also works in the Twin Towers and Radar, “The World’s Best Dog.”

I felt the author did an extraordinary job of presenting the human side of what happened on that day. You can almost feel the confusion of the children as they are sent home from school for “no reason,” the fear of the parents when they send the kids out to play in the yards with a strict “no TV” rule, and the powerful bonding of the citizens of New York as they came together to face something unlike anything they’d known before.

The book is honest in depicting the violence of what happened and the reader, at more than one point, finds themselves in the midst of the destruction, surrounded by the wounded, dead and dying. That said, at no point was the story overtly gory or sensationalist. The focus was put on the thoughts and feelings of the survivors, their will to help one another, and their longing to get home and embrace their families.

There is little, if any, mention of politics. It is the story of what happened on that one day and, if memory serves, on that day none of us really knew or understood why the bombers carried out their acts of terror.  We only knew that we’d been attacked and we were frightened and seeking answers – just like the characters so vividly brought to life in the book.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Eleven to anyone for themselves or their child. It’s an interesting book to read but I think it would also serve as a great platform for opening up a discussion about 9/11 and all that led up to it and followed it.  I intend to have my 5th grader read it this September.

Talking To Kids About 9/11 - A Book Review of "Eleven" by Tom Rogers | Lazy Hippie Mama

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Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 2

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Learning Chemistry, Physics and Math in the Garden – Part 2 | LazyHippieMama.comAgriculture is science. If you’re growing something – whether flowers in a pot on the windowsill or vast fields of vegetables – you’ve got a ready-built classroom.

There are some obvious lessons: What does a seed require to sprout? How do plants “eat and drink” from the soil? Which animals are harmful/helpful to plants? Etc.  But there are other things that can be learned in the garden as well.  A good gardener has a grasp on chemistry, physics and math.

This post is the second in a series of three. If you’d like to read the first to get some ideas on garden chemistry and earth science you can click here.  Part three will be available next Friday, April 25.  These two are a few of my most favorite because they’re both bound to be extra fun!

Trajectory & force

image source: letterstonature.wordpress.com

image source: letterstonature.wordpress.com

We discovered this lesson out of necessity.  Rather than one large garden, we have several small garden plots around the yard.  There are 2 that can’t be reached by the hose.  We needed to figure out how to “shoot” the water further to reach those spaces.

Start by turning on your garden hose, with no attachments on the open end.  The water will just sort of fall out.  What happens if you make the opening smaller by covering part of it with your thumb? What happens if you angle the hose up or down?

Greatest lesson ever on a hot day!

Simple machines

image source: school-for-champions.com

image source: school-for-champions.com

In gardening you often find you need to move heavy objects.  For all of our wonderful modern technology it is still the simple machines that often turn out to be the best tool for the job.

Levers – Stick a long-handled spade deep into the dirt. Have the child sit on the ground and try to move that piece of earth by grasping the handle at the very base. Now do the same thing using the middle and the end of the handle.  Discuss why it’s so much easier to lift the soil with the end of the handle.

Wheel and axle – next time you need to move a big bag of mulch ask your child to carry it. When they see how heavy it is, put it in a wheel barrow and have them  transport it that way. Point out the simplicity of a single wheel with an axle through the center and note how much easier that makes it to move something.

Other simple machines include the wedge (an axe or log splitter), screws, inclined planes (ramps), and pulleys. As these come into use in your gardening, take the time to show your child what you are using and explain why it makes your task easier.  Understanding these basic ideas creates a great foundation for understanding the much wider world of Newtonian physics.

Don’t miss next Friday! We’ll talk about how the garden can help teach some of the trickier parts of math.

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“123 Tracing” Review – A Great App For Preschoolers

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123 Tracing Free - A Review of An Educational App For Preschoolers | LazyHIppieMama.com*This is a sponsored post. I was compensated to offer my honest review of this product.

I am a big fan of keeping young children outdoors and encouraging them to move their bodies and play.  I’m also a realist.  We live in an electronic world and our children need to grow up knowing how to use the technology that is developing at an astounding rate all around them.  For that reason I don’t mind letting my kids – even my youngest – “plug-in” at times.  I consider it extra bonus points when they can have fun playing and the game is teaching them a valuable skill.

I downloaded 123 Tracing Free from the Amazon AppStore onto my Kindle Fire and Toddler-saurus Rex took to it instantly.  He loves anything electronic and he loves to read and count but, at 2 1/2 he hasn’t shown much interest yet in trying to write with a pencil.  This app allowed him to use his fingers to trace the letters and he was absolutely thrilled with it.

The colors and images were bright and clear and simple and the game was easy and instinctive for him.  He was delighted with the praise it gave him.  The hardest part was trying to console him when the battery died on the Kindle!

If you’re looking for a way to introduce the concept of tracing numbers and letters to your child I would highly recommend this one! You can get by following this link to the AppStore.

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