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The ups and downs of my homeschooling year

The ups and downs of my homeschooling year

I’ve been at this homeschooling gig for 15 plus years.  After a few turns around the sun our years started taking a very predictable course. Maybe you can relate.

August – I get caught up in the school supply sales (love me some paper products! LOL) and rah-rah of a new school year about to start.  I buy 43 more notebooks than we actually need, because hey, they are 17 cents each!  Dreaming about the year ahead, I tell myself *this* is the year I will get my act together. How can I fail? I have 50 notebooks and a bunch of shiny new homeschooling curriculum.

September – My school kids head back to school and our homeschooling gets down to business. By business, I mean denial. We do a very slow crawl into the book work, children (and one adult, ahem) struggle to get back into the swing of things, and beautiful weather beckons.  I waffle between saying “We have ALL year to learn all this, go enjoy what little good weather we get” and “Get your butts in here have you seen how blank my planner is??” (I use my planner to record what we have done, not plan out what we are going to do.)

October – The shine of the new year has worn off a little but we are actually used to getting up and getting something accomplished, so this is usually a month I can count on to plow through some work.  I plow through because I start to panic about how much there is to learn in the world and how few short months there are before summer comes again. The to-be-read book stack is not shrinking fast enough in my mind.  It takes my ever patient husband to show me just how much we have done.  “Um, Amy, James T finished an entire year of Life of Fred math already. I think you will be fine.”   Yeah, I hope you are right (Please be right, please be right…)

November – The doldrums hit. Just when I should be hitting my groove because we’ve gotten deep into everything, the days get shorter, the moods get touchier, and we are all recovering from sugar and food dye overload, which takes more weeks than you might believe to purge from.  We are all getting bored of the subjects we are studying and the books we chose to use. We see most of the year still looming before us.  Send help.

December – Can I count shopping and cookie baking as math for a middle schooler? 😉 No? Well, I’m definitely counting snow shoveling as P.E.  Luckily religion is a required subject for us and I get a lot of it in this month.  Block scheduling is my friend.

January – Most people don’t like January, but for some reason I’m happy when the holiday stress is over and life can get back to normal.  We take a lot of time off of formal schooling in December,  so even what we were using before looks newer to us.  I do take this time to switch up what we don’t like if I didn’t do that impulsively during the November doldrums.  It is cold and my kids are happy to stay inside much of the time, which makes it easier to find them and shove a book in their hands and say, “Math.”  When their choices are math or shoveling the driveway I’m happy whichever they choose.

February – This is another big doldrum month for homeschoolers, although we narrowly escape the depression by having two birthdays to celebrate, including my own.  I take this chance to look back and decide, “Hey, we accomplished a ton already if you really think about it.”  I also typically realize about now that I completely forgot about something we are required to teach, like spelling, health, or art.  Type B homeschoolers, represent! 😀

March – As soon as I start patting myself on the back for not succumbing to February doldrums, March hits, we all get sick, and I have no flippin’ idea how we are going to finish out the year, the end of which now seems both in sight and infinitely far away.  In desperation I buy hundreds of dollars of new homeschooling curriculum.  This inspires my kids for all of eight days.

April – I give up. I realize that I have been holding on to sanity by the slightest of hairs all year and it all comes crashing down on me in April. I convince myself that no one in school finishes textbooks, and that we’ve done at least as much as them, and consider it all good.  I call ourselves unschoolers now and get my yearly review done and.just.quit.

May and June – bliss.

 

July – I fear all the learning has leaked out of my kids brains in the night. They are itching for more structure although they would never in a million years admit it. It’s also hot as an oven outside with high humidity so it’s like walking through lava to go outside.  I tell myself we are going to do math and writing e.v.e.r.y day from now on (Did you hear me? Every day!) but really it’s like five times.  Which brings us back to…

August – Oooh look Staples is having a sale! 😀

 

Tell me about your year. Does this sound familiar? Drop a line in the comments or on Facebook!

A Day in the Life of a Type B Homeschooler – First Day of School!

A Day in the Life of a Type B Homeschooler – First Day of School!

(Times are approximate. I’m severely Type B, after all.)

Technically, the first day of school was supposed to be this Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. That was the day my other kids started high school outside the home so it made sense to me.  However, some day in July it made sense to me to make a long doctor’s appointment for my son on Tuesday.  Not sure what I was thinking…but it worked out in the end.  It was even a good visit – we don’t have to go back until December, and his joints are looking good! (Thanks to lots of horrible drugs /insert scowly eye roll here).

So Wednesday rolls around and I figure I can’t put off starting school forever just because I missed what would have been the perfect first day. I did think about it though! “Maybe we should start NEXT week.”  No Amy, just do it. So a day late and half a curriculum short, and here we go.

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6:30 ish AM – I hear people banging around outside my room and know it’s time to get rolling. The school girls are getting ready. So I lie in bed for a long time scrolling through Instagram. I’ve become an Instagram Stories junkie lately.  I’m secretly thankful it wears my battery down too fast or I would do it more often, when I should be doing other things. Like getting up and starting my day. Ahem.

7 AM – I say goodbye to dh and the girls and go shower.  Today is the first day of homeschooling! I’m going to be ready. Well, at least I’m going to be clean…”ready” is saying a bit too much.  I haven’t shopped for this year, I have vague plans…. yeah, “ready” is a little optimistic. But I’ve had a horse in this race for *gulp* 15 years now, so I’m just going to roll with it.

8 AM – the youngest two are up  (they are 12 and almost 10… 7th and 4th grade) and getting ready. Getting ready means, hmmmm, not much.  They sleep in shorts and t-shirts. They do school in shorts and t-shirts, LOL.  They brush their teeth.  I make snacks!  This is not an every day thing but something nice for the first day.  Belvita Bites, crackers, chai, tea, veggies.  Shocked that they eat the veggies before the Belvitas and crackers. Make a mental note to put out veggies more often. Dip is a lifesaver.

9 AM – School starts!  Find the kids. They are excited for their first day. I *know* that will not last, but it is nice for today.  We gather on the couch, our only soft place to sit…we moved this summer and can’t afford more furniture until we sell our old house. 🙂  I suggest we start with a prayer.   It was awkward but heartfelt. I never know what to say!  “Thanks God. Help?!?!” LOL

After a prayer blessing our year I open A History of US Volume 1.  My daughter has asked to learn about Native American history and cultures, and my son has no opinion right now, so Native Americans it is. (An aside:  I’m agonizing over how to refer to them…Native Americans? Indigenous North Americans? Something else? Even a google search brings up interviews where no one is in agreement of what they call themselves. Usually prefer their tribe name. Which doesn’t help me name them as a whole for blogging and discussion purposes. So Native Americans it is…with an explanation of all this to my 12yo LOL) (Yes I’m an overthinker, why do you ask?)

9-10 AM – We read from A History of US, 2 chapters. This hour is a great example of my teaching style. Discussion based and all over the place.  A History of Us starts with a poem, “This Newly Created World (a Winnebago Indian poem)”.  We are doing “history” but stop to discuss the poem.  There is some great imagery and metaphor…we discuss it and what a metaphor is. I don’t beat the poem to death, I just say a few things until it starts feeling unnatural, and then I move on. I know there will be another poem at some point to talk about something else. We talk about Winnebago and wonder about the name and where they lived/live.

The  next few pages have several quotes, and we read them. They discuss the meaning and importance of history and my kids have opinions on it they share.  There are brief discussions on who some of the people quoted are. We look a few things up.  I’m happy nothing started us singing Hamilton songs because then we may never have fully recovered. 😀   We did sing the preamble to the Constitution when it came up in the text. I cried when we were done, trying to explain to my kids how cool it was that they were singing the same song I learned from Schoolhouse Rock when I was young.  I am *always* crying during read alouds so they might as well get used to it now.

We have a little side discussions about: math/physics/physiology (the size of mammoths and length of tusks vs their legs), geology, evolution, vocabulary they didn’t know, what a theory is vs. things we know as absolute facts, weaponry, whether it’s OK to eat animals. We are about 18 pages into the book…and have covered history, math, geology, physics, biology, ethics, and language arts.

10ish – we hit the end of a history chapter … not a pre-planned stopping point, just a good one… so move to our read aloud: Prince Caspian. We finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the end of last year, so this was an obvious choice. 🙂  I read and they listen and draw and snack.  There are a few side discussions but not like with the history book.

Getting on my soapbox: I don’t “ruin” a book I’m reading aloud by asking comprehension questions.  Asking comprehension questions while reading doesn’t teach kids anything, it is just *testing* them over and over.  If a kid has comprehension problems I would address that separately, and probably pick easier (and very engaging) books as my read alouds with them.  I know my kids are following for the most part because I’ll talk about what I like about the plot, or ask them if they remember where we left off yesterday, and they can usually converse pretty well about it.   We cover a few new vocabulary words as we hit them. “Do you know what _____ means here?”  I read a few chapters until my throat starts hurting.

I’ll pick a paragraph I like at some point next week for copy work, especially for my youngest. He had arthritis in his right hand for years and so I didn’t force handwriting.  He’s doing well now, but his grip is weak and he needs practice.

11 AM – Time for math!  They are both doing Life of Fred this year. We are in Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics for my 7th grader and Kidney (LOL) for my 4th grader, although so far it seems easy.  Meaning, he is understanding the concepts, not necessarily remembering all his math facts right away or the steps to long division. I walk him through problems, and it will come with time. (Methotrexate Fog is a a real thing).   I read to my son as my dd does hers on her own, surprisingly in the same room. She usually wants quiet.

Life of Fred works much like our other curriculum in that the author brings in random topics that send us down rabbit trails.  Some people hate it but it really works for us. So today we talked about idioms, which is great because they showed up several times in our other work, music, alphabetizing, and fair salaries.

Does this take a long time? YES! But it seems to all balance out in the end.  Because now, when we hit “idioms” in whatever language arts program I might use, they already know about it, and we can skim or skip. And they learned it in a more natural manner, so it seems to stick better than if it’s taught just because we happened to hit the “idiom” chapter in our book.

L.U.N.C.H.T.I.M.E!

12 – Yay! So it’s about 12:00 and I know I, at least, am seriously hitting my wall for continuous interaction. We fend for ourselves for lunch and when they are done I put on a video.  Lydia wants to learn about animals and asked about bird behavior, so we find Beaks and Brains on Netflix and watch that in my room on my bed together.   Did I know we would watch this today? No, but I knew Netflix had a ton of animal videos and we would find *something.* We talk about it while watching, I throw in a few facts I know, it’s all very casual and fun. It really was fascinating learning how smart these birds are! 🙂

Before they are “dismissed” for the day to do whatever they want, they do some chores. We’ve introduced a new chore system that is working really well so far.  I will go into it in more detail in another post, but here is a sneak peak (which you already have seen if you follow me on Instagram).

So that is it!  We were done by 2, and it was by far the best first homeschooling day ever.   I mostly read aloud and talked and discussed, and kept my expectations low.   This works for us.  I know it doesn’t work for everyone, it didn’t even work for everyone in my own family which is why two of my children are in high school right now even though I have gone through high school by homeschooling a different child.   Let me clarify…I think it may have “worked” to educate them had they tried it for high school, but they *prefer* a much more structured, school-like atmosphere.  It is a good fit for them.

I hope you liked this little peak into our first day. If you have any questions or want more detail on anything just drop it in the comments!

 

They all rolled over and one fell out…

They all rolled over and one fell out…

Well hey hey, look at that I’m actually blogging. 😀

The upcoming start of a new school year has energized me to want to blog again. I finally feel like I have some things worth sharing! So much emotional turmoil over the summer kind of left me tongue tied (I’m sure I’ll talk about it eventually), but the promise of new books and school year fun is always nice to chat about.

This year my homeschool feels like the song “There Were Ten in the Bed.”  Three years ago Emma went off to high school outside the home, two years ago Elizabeth went off to college, this year Juliet joins her sister in high school, and Lydia and James T are my only homeschool students left.

*singing* There were three at the desk and the little one said, “Move over! Move over!” So they all moved over and one fell out…and rolled all the way to high school leaving us wondering where everybody went. LOL

Considering one of my homeschool struggles was getting stressed by multiple students all needing different things at the same time, I think having only two students will be good for me this year.  My adrenals are shot, my thyroid is messed up, and I need to reduce stress in a big way.  Having only two students…go me! 😀

My plan is to combine them for science and history. James T is in 4th grade this year, but is very close to the cut off so could almost be a 5th grader, and Lydia is in 7th. I think James can handle anything I’d throw at Lydia in the science and history department, as long as I accommodate for the major brain fog his arthritis drugs cause, and his lack of writing instruction compared to his sister. The amount of brain fog his Methotrexate and Humira cause cannot be underestimated. I’ve seen the difference when we increase just .1ml a week. Isn’t that crazy? But even other professionals saw it and knew from experience that’s what was happening.  I’m SO glad he’s homeschooling right now.  He’s really a smart kid under all that medication, but has trouble thinking straight when on it.

Lydia is interested in learning in depth about animals this year, and also indigenous cultures of North America so I see a lot of great reading and activities in our future. If you have any resources you love, please share!  Right now I’m just putting a million things in my library’s list page to remember.

Math will continue to be Life of Fred – James is on Kidney (such weird names for these) and Lydia, I think, has made it to Pre-Algebra 0 with Physics. Maybe some Teaching Textbooks thrown in for fun.

I won’t keep you all on this first day of school for many…just wanted to pop in and say hi, and hope to be back here much more regularly in the coming days. We’re off to go on a field trip – a poorly scheduled rheumatologist appointment! 😀

2016-2017 School Year Update

2016-2017 School Year Update

So hey.

I can’t believe it’s been months since I utterly destroyed accidentally wiped out my site.

I’ve ached to come back here and at the same time have been completely tongue tied.  Sometimes I love Facebook and Instagram for the “one sentence and done” availability of updating. Doesn’t fly so well in a blog, although I’ve thought about blogging how I used to so many years ago – simply telling a joke, or writing a short paragraph, interspersed with much longer posts of substance.  I think it’s more like real life, and more like how my head works, but not exactly “how blogging is done” these days.  Maybe I’ll be a trailblazer again. 😀

There’s also a million “life things” I want to update on, but I’m going to leave that for another post…to many Big Serious things to tack onto a post about curriculum, ykwim?

And what did I ever do before internet acronyms and emojis?  😉  This is how I think. 🙂

Halfway through our 2016-2017 school year, and I’ve shaken a few things up. I’ll explain what I was using and what I’ve moved to where that is the case.

This is the first year I won’t have my oldest on my homeschool curriculum posts!  She’s off at college, doing excellently I might add (*pats self on back for being such a great homeschool mom*)

Ahem.

Seriously though, she is doing great. God’s been with her, some strange happenings have made things so much easier on her than they could have been.  She got a scholarship she didn’t even apply for with a lower GPA requirement than the one she was given by the school.  Such a load of worry off her back to not have to keep a super high GPA.  She did well enough that it didn’t matter, but anxiety makes her studying suffer, so this was better overall. Also, she never got a roommate! The girl never showed up. This has allowed my dd to keep an early sleep schedule that has worked really well for her, plus she has all the quiet study time she needs and doesn’t have to take everything to the library.  My dd makes friends very easily so there’s been no worry of isolation.

DD #2 is a junior, happy at her school, studying for ACT/SATs and planning her college choices.  I can’t believe I have a junior and a kid in college.

(I was 12 when I had them.)

Moving along, on to my homeschool sweeties.

Juliet is in 8th grade and will most likely be going to the school dd #2 goes to next year.  So her work is more textbook oriented and school-y to prepare her for life in high school. This was as much her choice as mine.

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Math: We started with Algebra Structure and Method Book 1 and worked in it until mid-term time at my other daughter’s school.   I’m decent at algebra but brain fog has been an annoying companion and I couldn’t always articulate more difficult concepts. Their descriptions didn’t help.   Nor did I like the flow of the book.  My high school daughter said her teacher had them skip all over the place but didn’t remember in what order. Ugh.  So when I saw Holt Algebra at a friends house, I fell in love.  OK, well, not really, but I liked it’s clearer descriptions, good flow of concepts from easy to hard, and standardized test practice. The chapters themselves cover similar topics, and we are starting near the beginning of the book (because our current book was so backwards, lol) so it should work to switch into this book pretty seamlessly.

Photo Jan 30, 1 40 58 PM

Science:  All three of my homeschooled children spent a summer geocaching and learning about foraging and survival skills with me.   We played this game and these cards, and looked through and learned from the Idiot’s Guide to Foraging and  Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook.  The last one is a little scary and graphic in places so I read and passed along ideas on certain “light” topics.  My youngest two are especially sensitive, so I didn’t want to scare them.  It was more of a fun “let’s pretend we are lost in the woods, what should we do” kind of thing and not “the world is ending we are all going to die in a heap what should we do” kind of thing.  🙂  Now why *I* was learning it, I’ll leave up to your imagination. Or more like my over active imagination, LOL.

To round out Juliet’s year  we are doing selected chapters from Environmental Science.  Why did I pick this one over other textbooks? I think it was because one of the reviewers said it was “on the easy side” for a high school text and that is exactly what I wanted for my 8th grader.  I’m not teaching an AP class here, I’m just trying to introduce her to the subject because it’s not something we’ve really covered any other time.

Language Arts:  I think this is my favorite thing this year. She is doing Oak Meadow’s Introduction to Literature and Composition: The Hero’s Journey.  I love how Oak Meadow brings art and creativity into things and allows for choice of topics and projects, while still remaining a solid course. That being said, I saw this at a friends house (the same enabler who showed me the Holt Algebra, LOL) and thought it was really great for a textbook. I bought a few levels to look at and will most likely incorporate one or more next year in some way.  When your brain is fried, sometimes a textbook can be your best homeschooling friend.

Photo Jan 30, 1 39 59 PM

Social Studies: We are doing Geography this year with an old Oak Meadow high school world geography syllabus.  I thought geography would go well with the environmental science and foraging studies.  I like teaching along a theme. 🙂

Spanish: She’s doing Visual Link Spanish that I had left over from my now college girl and watching the Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids videos with my younger two.

Extras: In our state we need to do “health.” I have no idea what we are doing yet! I’ll pick something and do an intensive unit on it.  We are always cooking, talking about medical issues, nutrition, taking care of oneself, but we need something to show for it.   Music has been church choir and an almost constant singing of the Hamilton soundtrack, LOL.  Art is a class a friend is teaching, plus things like crocheting and designing sets for their many impromptu plays.

 

**I think this is a good place to say that when I say I’m using a textbook or syllabus, I’m using IT, I’m not letting it use ME.  We never do everything, and we bring in other things spontaneously as we see fit.**

Didn’t want anyone to think I was losing my relaxed homeschooler vibe. 😉

 

6th Grade: Lydia

Math – Reviewing pre-algebra concepts with Teaching Textbooks. She used Saxon last year for the same level but does not feel confident. Saxon was a bad fit for both of us.  She’s also fallen in love with Life of Fred so is reading those (from Fractions on up) in her spare time.

Photo Jan 30, 1 42 17 PM

Science – She was part of our geocaching/foraging/survival crew, and is now working from library books on animal behavior and habitats

Language Arts and Social Studies – Lydia loves Oak Meadow and chose their combined Ancient History/English 6th grade syllabus.   (looks like they are not selling it anymore at OM, I did NOT spend this much…yikes)

Spanish – Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids with James T.

Extras – Just like with Juliet (and James T.) I need to pick something for health!  She’s doing art with our friends, choir with Juliet.

Last but certainly not least: James T. – 3rd grade

Math – Right now we are doing Life of Fred Elementary Series.  We will probably be done in about 3 weeks, and he wants to go back to Beast Academy for awhile because things are getting hard.  I don’t think he remembers how hard Beast Academy was! 🙂

 

Language Arts – He’s reading for fun and doing My Catholic Speller Level C and Wordly Wise Level A.

Science – What Lydia is doing more or less. Same with most of the rest of it!

Honestly though, teaching James T. this year has been hard.  Arthritis and life and medications and their side-effects have turned the two of us into more of an unschooling pair. More on that in my next post. :/

 

I guess that is it, although it doesn’t at all paint a picture of what life is like here on any given day.  Just picture Juliet doing her work (while singing Hamilton lyrics, LOL) diligently like a good little school child and the rest getting exponentially less schooly as you get down to James T. 🙂

 

How we are doing Spanish this year

How we are doing Spanish this year

I have to admit, fitting in a foreign language had been low down on my priority list in the past.

*I* really like languages, but with all the Other Things That Must Be Done, I often let foreign language slip the way of my formal music and art lessons…i.e. “out of sight out of mind.” Add in the fact that my state doesn’t require it, and ugh…it was such a struggle.  I knew it was a good thing, but like many other good things I couldn’t seem to make time for it, or even remember it as an option when we did have some down time.

Finally, last year, after Emma went off to high school, I realized that the other elementary schools in the area were teaching foreign language, some as early as kindergarten.  My daughter wound up being at a disadvantage when she entered school with very little experience. Sure, there were students who switched to a different foreign language in high school and therefore needed a beginner level like my daughter, but even they had had years of language learning under their belt.

I needed to up my game. So we tried a few different programs, but I just couldn’t get into any of them, and my kids weren’t really responding well either.  They were OK, but I  needed more than OK to get past my usual disorganized homeschooling style and into something we are happy to pick up regularly.

*cue dramatic music*

Enter Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids.  I heard about Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids through another homeschooling mom on Facebook.

Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids currently has 40 Spanish lessons. You can either buy the DVDs or use the monthly subscription option to access online videos, like we are doing.  They also have online and print workbooks, flashcards, and a game you can buy.  Here is their product page.

 

When we first started a few months ago, we watched one lesson per week, and returned to it a few times that week.  Quickly, though, we had more fun binge watching (they take after their mother, LOL).  The kids wanted to watch many “weeks” worth of videos, then go back and watch the ones they had done before.  We do this maybe once or twice a week and they are picking up the vocabulary well.

 

The videos feature mostly children and teens. They speak only Spanish, but the phrases and sentences are usually short and there is enough repetition to ensure understanding. You can use the flash cards and workbooks to help cement the learning.

 

My favorite part about the videos? The kids act like real kids.  Yes, it’s scripted and they are talking in single words and short phrases often, but outside of that they are being silly and sometimes just like real siblings (you know, along the lines of “he’s breathing on me!”).   They make us laugh and we even bring up little vignettes as inside jokes in our own family – like handing each other an apple saying “manzana…MANZANA” just like the boy in the video.

 

It has been a fun, engaging, relaxed and entertaining way to learn (or relearn) Spanish, for all of us. I think it’s a great introduction to the language. Best of all, my kids ask for it, so it gets done!  Win-win.

You can also find Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids on Facebook and Twitter.

Disclaimer – I received a free subscription to this online program in exchange for a review. The thoughts expressed are true and completely my own.

Homeschool Interview Series

Homeschool Interview Series

 

Did you ever wonder what other homeschoolers think about homeschooling and how they run their days? Well, Amanda from Sicily’s Heart and Home is doing a great Homeschool Interview Series and today is my turn!

Head on over to today’s post to hear me ramble on some more about our crazy homeschool, successes and failures, burnout, and a typical day. Honestly, I could go on and on about it here, but apparently I went on and on about it over there, so I will spare you.  😉

Hope to see you there! Have a wonderful day!

Homeschool Standout

Homeschool Standout

 

I’ve just started reading Standout 2.0 by Marcus Buckingham. It’s supposed to be about “winning at work,” and honestly, I got it out of the library to take a peek at for my older daughters. They are both wondering–at 16 and 18–what the world holds for them career wise.

While I got it for my kids, I was immediately struck by how applicable it is for homeschooling moms.

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How to Create Activities for Any Book

How to Create Activities for Any Book

We love books, and we love learning through books here. Picture books, chapter books, encyclopedias, anthogies, whatever!  But being the perfectionist that I am, I’m often less than enthused by curricula that’s designed to tell me what I should be doing with each book we read.  It just always seems thin, and sort of forced.

After buying several such books, I realized that I was not following 80% of what they were telling me anyway – I was designing my own ideas.

Today I’m at My Joy Filled Life talking about just that!  Come on over and stay awhile, Sarah has a fantastic blog.

Here’s the link to my post –

How to Create Learning Activities for Any Book

See you there!

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