Homeschooling Encouragement with Karen Andreola

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Encouragement

There is nothing quite like that feeling when you get some unexpected encouragement from a trusted source.

It was December 2020. I had just gotten off the phone with a far-from-trusted-source: a vanity publisher. Mr. Salesman was trying his very hardest to pull out all the stops and sell me a book deal that I would have to pay for up-front! Thankfully, my husband and I talked about it and decided this kind of thing would be more of a sham or scam (you decide) than anything else.

But I was longing so badly to get my book published. I had a manuscript that I could not wait to share with someone with trained eyes and a vision like mine.

Karen Andreola, Charlottemason.com

Enter Karen Andreola. I had managed to contact her about book publishing to get some tips and put my feelers out there in case she had any leads. She is well-acquainted with the publishing world. After all, she and her husband republished Charlotte Mason’s writings in America, which is probably one of the reasons you know of Miss Mason’s name today. So, I was hopeful.

Not only did Karen Andreola take the time to listen to me and see that I had a vision to deliver a living story to the people who would embrace it; she also took the time for a phone call. She listened to what I had to say about the book. After hearing me out, she gave me her own wise take on the modern publishing industry. She reflected on my work, and gave me great words of encouragement. I left that conversation feeling refreshed and understood. I will never forget her generosity. Fun fact: Karen Andreola’s son Nigel is an illustrator and has his own business.

Karen Andreola has not only encouraged me in conversation, but also in her written words.

Book Club

Our book club is comprised of about four to five mothers of elementary aged children. We are all fairly familiar with Charlotte Mason homeschooling, but this was not the case two years ago.

In July 2020, I attended a Charlotte Mason conference in Georgia where I met a friend who would become a founding member of our book club here in North Carolina. Kate was passionate about growing and learning more about Charlotte Mason’s methods, even though her wisdom far surpassed my own. She and I met at a Panera Bread that same year, in August, to discuss what we wanted to read. We both knew that Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning was to be our first book club pick for its format (short, easy-to-read narratives), its candid and lovely tone, and its practical application of Mason’s philosophy.

So, we began our monthly meetings in October 2020 on my friend Joy’s screened-in porch, adjacent to her lovely backyard garden.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our readings and discussion. We have not rushed our book study, as we are just now about to wrap up A Charlotte Mason Companion two years (24 meetings) later!

Wisdom

I have grown and gathered wisdom from reading this gem. One of the first aphorisms I jotted down to remember in my homeschool was:

Be sure that your children each day have:

  • Something or someone to love
  • Something (worthwhile) to do
  • Something to think about

Andreola’s book encourages self-reflection and group discussion by asking questions at the end of many chapters. As I look back on my written reflections about the nature of education in response to her questions at the end of chapter three, What Is Education?, I see these notes:

“When I hear the word ‘education’ my first impression is that education used to mean more of a system-based idea. I always believed in educating the whole person, but the methods in place were insufficient, leaving me baffled.”

What is meant by we are “educated by our intimacies”?

“The things we love and hold dear to our minds will make us who we are.”

What opportunities for loving can your home provide?

“We can practice the habit of encouragement.”

Name some worthwhile things to do at home or for others outside the home.

“Visiting lonely neighbors, building LEGO creations and imagining, writing thank you notes and encouraging notes to family.”

Have you heard it wisely put, “You are what you eat?” In what way do we become what we read (with discernment and discretion)?

“The ideas of our culture’s best thinkers will shape our own ideas.”

What are three simple things to remember about educating – whatever curriculum you choose?

“Give the children something or someone to love, something to think about, and something worthwhile to do (daily).”

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Now, What?

My dear Charlotte Mason Companion will become one of my staple reference books on my bookshelf. I plan to pull it down and find that chapter on narration or vocabulary or nature study to refresh my approach and keep the methods consistent with a living education.

I will seek fresh ideas on how to enliven our afternoons through outdoor group games by turning to her chapter Ready, Set, Go! Believe it or not, I have made a more intentional habit of taking the kids out to the front yard lately to play some of the favorites: Mr. Fox, What Time is It?; Red Light, Green Light; Duck, Duck, Goose, and more.

I will go back to the first few chapters of the book: A Living God for a Living Education, What is Education, and Education is a Science of Relations when I need to get back to the basic fundamentals of why I home educate the way I do.

Andreola’s book is marked up with my notes and underlined passages. There is so much to tuck away into my memory. Are you yearning for a group with whom to discuss Charlotte Mason’s principles? Are you looking for practical ideas of ways to enjoy homeschooling with your children? I bet you could garner a lot of interest in this book should you choose to begin a book club.

Karen Andreola, author of A Charlotte Mason Companion and Mother Culture, makes Charlotte Mason’s ideas attainable, more amplified. Miss Mason’s original volumes are referenced throughout her works. If you find that reading the original volumes seems daunting, then try Andreola’s companion first. Her encouragement will go with you throughout your reading journey.

Karen Andreola Biography:

Karen Andreola is best known for her groundbreaking book, A Charlotte Mason Companion. She home educated her children K-12. Way back in 1989, Karen and her husband Dean fueled the revival of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education in the homeschool when they republished Miss Mason’s writings in America. Mother Culture is her newest book helping mothers prevent burn-out. Unique to the homeschool world, Karen also writes fiction to offer mothers a peek at a gentle and happy home life.  

Find Karen Andreola online at: Charlottemason.com

(source: Karen Andreola)

Free Homeschool Curriculum and Summer Deals

I found a great vocabulary curriculum with the Homeschool Buyers Club and want to share it with you, as well as some of my tips for building vocabulary!

Disclosure: In writing this review post, I am being compensated for my time.  All of my opinions communicated here are honest and are uniquely mine.

We are thoroughly enjoying our North Carolina summer! The cicadas’ chorus echoes throughout the tops of our pine trees on hot afternoons and continues into the early evening. Much of our summer has been spent swimming, playing, visiting with grandparents and friends, and enjoying new board games. 

Homeschool Curriculum Deals to the Rescue

As much as I love our unstructured summer time, being a homeschool mom of three, I have sought the necessary structure provided in a few short lessons in the mornings, when my son’s mind is sharp.  

All it takes is about fifteen minutes.  My son sits with me on the couch, and we practice building words to improve his grasp of vocabulary.  With third grade right around the corner, I found this area to be one in need of some practice. 

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

If you’re looking for some summer learning opportunities that take just a few minutes’ time, check out the Homeschool Buyers Club!  They are featuring many FREE  products right now, as well as running amazing deals across their siteTo see the three free gifts you can get with the purchase of any product, scroll down to the end of this post.  If my son was older, I’d check out Vocabulary Quest (see below), as it is appropriate for fifth through twelfth graders. 

Free Products from Homeschool Buyers Club:

1. Thinkwell Free Trial

2. Reading Skills Assessment Ongoing

3. HomeSchoolPiano Trial

4. Code Avengers Free Trial

5. Monarch

6. Kids Guitar Academy Trial

7. Mr Henry’s Music World Freebie

8. Nessy.com Free Trial

9. Mark Kistler Art Lessons

10. Creta Class 7 Day Trial

11. Math Mammoth PDFs

12. Brilliant.org

13. Reading Eggs

14. Doodlemaths

15. Smile and Learn

16. History Alive Grades 6-12

17. History Alive Grades 1-6

18. Vocabulary Quest

19. Dynamic Earth Learning (Aquaponics Course)

Word Building Lessons

I could see that my second grader needed some extra help with vocabulary this past school year. I started looking at Homeschool Buyers Club and their engaging language arts resources.  I ended up finding a GREAT deal on the Word Build Online Program.  

My son loves his word building lessons!  It only takes fifteen minutes a day.  His little sister even joins in on the challenge.  Since I adhere to a classical approach to learning, I know the importance of teaching vocabulary first and foremost in the context of good, living books

I list a few other ways to teach vocabulary below.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Engaging Ways to Teach Vocabulary

  1. In Context: find the words ahead of time and write them down in a notebook for your child to review the word structure, synonyms and definitions throughout the week (pick about 3 words a week). Karen Andreola in A Charlotte Mason Companion  explains, “A vocabulary workbook that includes interesting text where the meaning of a word is derived from its use in context may be helpful.  But since there are so many delightful children’s books available these days, wider reading is to be preferred.” When we read our history and literature books this year, my son will have a composition book where he will write down interesting words, in their appropriate alphabetical sections.  He can do this with his independent reading, also.
  1. Interact with a Vocabulary 4-Square: Simply put, fold a piece of 8.5” x11” paper into fourths.  In the upper left rectangle, write the word you are studying, being sure to underline any prefix of suffix.  In the upper right rectangle, write a definition and synonym for the word.  In the lower left rectangle, use the word in a sentence.  Lastly, in the lower right rectangle, draw a picture of the word in an appropriate context. 

Look for ways to use the words in poems by looking at my Poetry 4-Square.

  1. In Conversation: Use words that you hope to solidify in your memory by using them in conversation.
  1. Using Morphology: WordBuild Foundations 1 (online) is described as such: “The Foundations series comprises three levels and focuses on prefixes and suffixes, having students add them to words they already know so they can understand how the meaning, spelling, and/or part of speech is changed by the addition of that prefix or suffix. They will then be able to apply this knowledge to new words as well.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide)
  1. Teaching Greek and Latin Roots: Did you know that teaching Greek and Latin roots benefits children in learning the meaning of many words?  If you are looking for an approach that emphasizes Latin and Greek roots, check out WordBuild Elements: “The Elements series, also three levels, focuses on Latin and Greek roots, the real foundation of academic English, the vocabulary that dominates all texts from about sixth grade on. Just as with prefixes and suffixes, students will gain enough experience with a given root to be able to apply it to a new word and figure out its true meaning based on the meanings of its parts.” (source: WordBuild Online user’s guide). 

A Look at WordBuild in Our Home

Over the course of about five days, a WordBuild Foundations (1) online unit looks like this:

Warm Up (pre-assessment)

Lesson 1: Affix Square -place a root word with the prefix OVER-, write a new definition of the new word, then select the best use of the word from the options. (Matrix)

Lesson 2: Attach the prefix OVER- to the root word, write a new definition, then select the best use of the word from the options as it appears in a sentence. 

Lesson 3: Look at the Matrix and match the definitions to the appropriate OVER- word.

Lesson 4: Fill in the blank with the correct OVER- word in different sentences. 

Summer Learning Success

My son responded very well to the WordBuild Foundations 1 exercises.  I did not help him in answering any of the questions, but did help him with operating the computer (keyboard class will be next, I suppose)!  We loved this time together.  Even his little sister joined us for many of the lessons.  I will gladly recommend this specific method of reinforcing and learning new vocabulary to anyone.  

One activity that was particularly engaging was the affix square.  My son loved it because he got to choose the root word that he would “affix” to the prefix OVER-.  He also enjoyed the mastery aspect.  Any time he completed a lesson, he would receive a “Daily Reward”.  He received 5 Daily Rewards before moving on to the next unit.  

One way I know my son enjoyed WordBuild is the fact that he would never complain about doing it.  I also think the fact that it was on the computer helped, too, since he hardly ever gets on the computer.  Novelty is a powerful thing.  Would he continue using WordBuild? Yes! As a mom, I like to see my son engaged in making meaning of new words and using them regularly in his everyday conversation and composition.  

Enjoy Up to 3 Free Gifts

I was really pumped to find out that with any purchase, we can enjoy up to three free gifts (a $38 value)! Check them out! 

Moms Are Persons, Too: Why I Attend This Retreat

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask? A retreat. Read more to find out why.

The homeschool life is a glorious life, but sometimes it can get overwhelming, like anything else.

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much.

I know you are enjoying the togetherness, as am I. However, by Week #6 or 7 of summer break, our family is ready to recharge and reset. What about you?

One of the best ways I have found I can reset and recharge in a more purposeful way is by packing my bags. Where am I going, you ask?

Why, to the Charlotte Mason Together Retreat, of course! Held in the wooded lakeside Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort, the retreat is aimed at refreshing moms who are homeschooling or teaching other people’s children under a Charlotte Mason philosophy.

The retreat usually runs Friday to Saturday, with a pre-retreat on Thursday. Historically, I have attended all of these days. Held the second-to last weekend in July, the timing of the retreat is perfect – right before school starts back for many, but also a time when many families like to vacation together. I have friends whose husbands and kids will do something touristy during the day, while they attend the retreat.

I thought I would gain new ideas and inspiration when I first signed up in 2020 to attend my first retreat. I gained so much more – I gained friends. I gained a renewed love for my family. I even regained a joy in worship! The worship time on Saturday morning is priceless.

I am still here at the retreat as I type this.

My highlights have been:

  1. Meeting Karen Glass, author of In Vital Harmony, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition, and Know and Tell: The Art of Narration.

I came up all giddy-like. I was just tickled to meet the author of some of my favorite education books, to-date! Karen and I chatted about the classical thinkers and their influence on two of Charlotte Mason’s principles (“Education is the science of relations” and “Children are born persons”). A great chat, from which I left feeling quite inspired to continue teaching the Charlotte Mason way.

2. Amber O’Neal Johnston, also known as “Heritage Mom” on her blog and social media, has been teaching me about using living books as “windows” into the lives of others. Using books as windows is a wonderful thing, but how about using books as “mirrors”? Knowing one’s own heritage and identity helps him or her appreciate the culture of another. That is Amber’s premise and mission: to curate an inclusive culturally rich home education.

Well, I got to meet Amber last year, and I reconnected with her today. Between yesterday and today, I have really been enjoying these extraordinary homeschool moms who are as dedicated to the nurturing and teaching of their children as I know you are.

Not to mention, Amber is about the most down-to-earth homeschool mom I’ve met. She is a lovely soul!

Her session today was entitled “Belonging Together: Managing the Seasons of Community and Fellowship”. I learned so much about the workings of a co-op from listening. Amber took us through the steps of a co-op, from exploring the idea to initiating the concept, to living it out, to excelling and growing, to moving on.

Her new book is finally here! A Place to Belong: Celebrating Diversity and Kinship in the Home and Beyond has been added to my list of books to read in the coming year.

3. I was able to go line dance last night in the conference ballroom. Sonya Shafer and her daughter were also in line. We all had a wonderful time!

4. The sessions on portraits of a homeschool parent were so encouraging and convicting, if I’m being honest. Sonya Shafer delivered the session, which was full of truth and grace. We do not do this alone, and there is so much to learn from Charlotte Mason on parenting, believe it or not.

When I spoke with Sonya later, I asked her where to start in Charlotte’s volumes, if I am looking for a good parenting read. She recommended starting with Volume 2: Parents and Children.

5. I attended a session on using technology well with Doug Smith. He drove home the point about technology as a tool to be mastered. Charlotte Mason wrote about the elaborate models of “appliances”, or what we could call “tech” in today’s vernacular. These tech models are not to be the basis of our learning, and are to be introduced progressively.

Would you give a five-year-old child a calculator before teaching him the principles of math? The same concept applies here with technology.

Technology can be a wonderful gift when used appropriately.

Doug talked about all kinds of technology, like LEGO bricks and snap circuits. How he described himself as a child made me think of my own son, who loves tinkering, taking apart and putting together, and building with all kinds of things, including LEGO bricks and wood. I gained some inspiration and thanked him for including LEGO in a Charlotte Mason education, as I wrote an article on this back in January!

6. Lastly, and possibly my favorite part of this retreat has been making new friends and reconnecting with the old friends of retreats past. I cannot tell you how much it warms my heart to know there are kindred spirits miles away who are in my corner, as I am in theirs!

So, do I attend this retreat for rest and renewal of mission? YES.

Do I attend to grow and connect with others? YES.

Do I come back a better mom? YES.

Would you consider going with me next year?

Make Morning Time More Beautiful

What is the beauty loop? It sounds kind of like a skincare regimen if I really think about it. While I do not take credit for the term, I know I have used the term now for about two years.

For those of you familiar with Charlotte Mason’s idea of education, you might recall this quotation from Towards A Philosophy of Education: “We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can” (Vol. 6, p. 183).

The feast is dispersed throughout the school day, even the school week. For a detailed blog post describing scheduling, you might want to read over “A Weekly Homeschool Schedule: Simple as 1-2-3” .

I think that spreading the feast out is a great way to alternate between various subjects of different sorts, as well as expose children to the “abundant and delicate feast” Charlotte Mason describes.

For my family this year, we have found that spreading out the feast occurs best at the beginning of the school day, during what we call our “morning time”.

Morning time usually begins right at the breakfast table, once dishes have been brought over. We sing and pray. For a few morning time blog posts, peruse these.

A beauty loop is the component of morning time that occurs right after our doxology, hymn and prayer, after the kitchen is fully cleaned. The beauty loop is a rotation of four days of subjects, each occurring on a different day of the week. I label them Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, and Day 4, so they do not have to be relegated to a specific day of the week (too much pressure!).

Follow this link for more:

  1. information on the beauty loop
  2. a FREE resource that I made to show you how you can plan your beauty loop
  3. PLUS an editable template

Without morning time, our days would lack a little luster. Let me know if you have any morning time stories, and I’d love to incorporate them in some way over here!

Mom of Multiple Children: Have You “Lost Yourself”? Don’t Despair!

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these parenting resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

Mom-ming It

“I am not sure I know what I’m good at anymore,” she says, voice cracking, eyes filling up with big tears. 

“I question if I am even cut out for this thing,”  another one says, anger welling up inside.  “Why, God, am I here at home, with these kids?”  

“I just stay at home,” I caught myself saying once to a new acquaintance.  

What in the world is going on here, moms of multiple children?  Have we lost our identities?  Are we feeling like we are just stay-at-home moms, as if that is some kind of badge of shame?  As if that is all we are?  As if we have no other roles or identities?

Feeling lost, mom of multiple children?  I have been there.   In fact, I have felt that way recently, and will continue to fight against that feeling that creeps into the dark recesses of my heart when I start gazing at what I wish I had or what I wish would change about my life.

I know I’m not the only one who has questioned my purpose and my calling. 

It’s a wrestling match.  Certain weeks I know I get caught up in thinking there is so much more I could be doing if I didn’t teach and keep children all day, homeschooling and parenting my three young children.   

On the flip side, I catch myself comparing and thinking that the Christian woman who homeschools a gaggle of kids under the age of eight and homesteads is the more pious one, the one I should be like. News flash: there are women who have many more children than I have. There are also women who are just gifted homesteaders.  


I wrestle to get that image out of my head.

Do you track with me? 

If so, here we are: caught in between the lies that our station in life lacks purpose and that if we embodied certain outward characteristics, we would be “better” people.  

First of all, I think many women who stay at home do so by choice.  In many cases, this implies a monetary sacrifice of money for time with family.  In other cases, it’s just a personal choice based on principles.  

Whether we do this by choice or not, it is a great thing.  It is a station packed with purpose.  Hear me out, though: it is not any more pious or good than the choice to be a working mom who has her kids in the daycare or the school.  I know, I’m a homeschooling mom.  Shouldn’t I be advocating for homeschool?  Of course.  My family has its reasons for homeschooling.  The purpose of my post is not to address our reasons as much as it is to address the INHERENT VALUE I have as a person, and guess what: it is NOT based on my decision to homeschool!!! Praise the LORD for that!

Now that I think I’ve made it clear that my decision to stay at home doesn’t make me a better or worse person than the next mom, let’s talk identity. 

Identity

The heart is at the root of my words, actions and thoughts. When I speak of “heart”, I am referring to my morality.  Morality refers to “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior,” (Oxford Languages).  The heart is also referring to the springs of life that flow out of us (Proverbs 4:23, para.).  

 I am inherently sinful, so my heart cannot really produce anything good without the invasion of the Holy Spirit.  

Even though this Spirit of God dwells inside me and seals my salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14, para.), I know I have a flawed perspective. My identity has been a major object of Satan’s attack.  Identity is knowing who I am.  Of course, I know how to dwell on my likes, dislikes and talents.  These do make up my identity, as I have been created in the image of God (the Imago Dei) to have talents, affections, and work that I love. After all, we were created in His image and He is a creative God.  Of course we are people who like to think thoughts, create creations, and work (and play) in purposeful ways.  As moms, we can carry out our God-given abilities and passions!  We can!  You can!   It just might look a little different in seasons of life that are demanding.

However, there is something much more critical when I speak of identity.  

Identity is knowing to Whom I belong.  I am not my own. I was created and given breath by God the Father.  My identity as a stay-at-home mom who homeschools is not even scratching the surface of my truest identity.  Homeschooling and stay-at-home parenting is simply a station that I’ve been given.  The vocation, the station, is where I find my tasks each day. I can evaluate the worthiness of each “task”, but that is futile.  Identity is truly not what we DO.  It is who we ARE.  If I AM made in the Imago Dei, then I have a spiritual aspect to my being that I MUST address.  As I stare down my tasks for the day, I realize that my station is where I do the work of saying “yes” to the God who loves me.  

We Are At War 

That irritation that wells up when the kids fight for the twentieth time of the day?  The sibling fight is simply a circumstance that requires a bigger, spiritual force to intervene and get to the heart.  If the spiritual is ignored, then it becomes a mere behavioral modification, an appeasement scheme.  I hate appeasement.  Appeasement is the opposite of love.  LOVE intervenes to the heart. It casts out fear and fights the fight I cannot handle on my own. 

Spiritually-speaking, we are not fighting a war against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness (Ephesians 6:12, para.).  When we yield to the Spirit, we draw closer to God Himself, as we take shelter and depend on His power to act in accordance with His character.  We are empowered by the Spirit to respond to anything that comes our way.  We boast in Him, because He is the one doing it. 

My point is, these seemingly mundane tasks: intervening to help siblings work through a conflict, the dishes, the laundry, the clean ups, the planning, the cooking, the teaching… the list goes on… are merely our stations.  They are our battle stations, if you will. Yet, we are not truly fighting the war.  God Almighty is fighting for us.  He is fighting the lies that rage within.  The lies that whisper, “you will never get past this” and “this is all there is” and “your worth is wrapped up in what you do”.  There is an opportunity to take hold of the power He can only give and use it for His kingdom because no matter your station, there is an opportunity to draw closer to God and bring Him glory!

A Word From Ephesians

If I remember I am safe and secure in my identity as one created in the Imago Dei and I have the Holy Spirit living inside me, then I can remember that I am also secure in my identity in Christ Jesus.  

If you are a mom struggling with identity, please read Ephesians 1.  Here are some truths you can tuck inside your heart:

-We are adopted daughters through Jesus Christ. (Eph. 1:5)

-We are daughters that have been blessed with His grace in the Beloved. [Jesus] (Eph. 1:6)

-In Jesus, we have redemption through His blood.  (Eph. 1:7)

-In Jesus, we have forgiveness of our trespasses, according the riches of his grace. (Eph. 1:7)

-God has lavished his grace upon us. (Eph. 1:8)

-God is making known to us the mystery of His will. (Eph. 1:9)

-In Christ, we have an inheritance, having been predestined (chosen) according to the purpose of God. (Eph. 1:11)

-When you believed the gospel and believed in Jesus, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit. (Eph. 1:13)

-The Holy Spirit is the guarantee (or down payment) of our inheritance. (Eph. 1:14)

Knowing these truths from the Word Himself, how can we doubt His plan and purpose in creating us and giving us our stations?  I think sometimes I whine and look at my situations, pointing out how “crappy” they are.  What do I really want – empathy, acknowledgement, and… dare I say it… appeasement with niceties and pep talks from well-meaning people?  I think there is a difference between what I WANT at that moment and what I NEED.  I need the truth, in love.  The truth is that I am not enough.  The truth is that in griping about my situation (which might legitimately stink) I am complaining against the One who gives my lungs breath.  I need to humble myself and realize that I can get understanding and wisdom.  But humility precedes wisdom and honor (Proverbs 15:33).

If I look at my insecurities and insufficiencies and forget that Jesus gives me an identity that is truly amazing… then I will just be looking at myself and forgetting the God who is so much better.  I forget Him, and I make myself the sovereign one.  I boast in myself when I just see my own insufficiencies and do not look to the One who is everything I could ever ask for or hope for.  I might not be boasting in the same way we normally think of boasting, but it’s like I’m saying, “I am all there ever was and is and ever will be”.  I am living like an atheist, functionally-speaking.

Safe and Secure In Christ  

Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there.  We have hope.  Yes, we believe lies and fight against insecurity, bad circumstances and horrible attitudes all the time.  We do not have to flounder so badly if we are depending on Christ.  

The truth is, mom of many kids: God hears you and sees you.  You have not been forgotten.  Jesus knows your struggle.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in EVERY respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin,” (English Standard Version).  Jesus was tempted to be discontent with his station, since we are told he was tempted in every respect, albeit without sinning.  Jesus also humbled himself in His station, even though He was fully God.  By humbling Himself through the incarnation, we have this picture of humility.  He humbled Himself, but was exalted.  This will be true for us, if we are in Him!  Psalm 10:4 promises, “Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor.”

We know that apart from Christ, we can do nothing that is worth doing.  But what grace we have in being united with Christ.  

“But he gives more grace.  Therefore it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,” (James 4:6).  

Grace enables us to move forward to the next day, hour, minute.

So when you are doubting the truth: 

You are SAFE and SECURE in Christ.

You are LOVED no matter what.

You are CALLED and CAPABLE.

You are RESPONSIBLE for your [own] actions.  

Believe first the truth that you are safe and secure.  Your identity is in Christ, not in all the things that will become dust one day.  You are so much more, in Christ!  Walk humbly in your station, whatever it may be, armed to fight the spiritual darkness, with Christ’s Spirit enabling you.  Know that your work is more meaningful than you could ever know.  One day, all these things will become apparent.   

Photo by Athena on Pexels.com

Action Steps

  • When tempted to despair, BREATHE IN…”Because Christ is enough,…”  BREATHE OUT…”I am secure.”
  • Let your body tell you when you are getting overwhelmed and falling into despair.  Tension in muscles, increase in heart rate, more shallow breathing, clenching teeth, flushed face and general uneasiness are all indications that we are starting to crumble into despair.  Fight the despair.  Look to the WORD and remember to breathe.  Make a quick escape (if it’s safe to leave the kids) to a safe place and pray to God.  Listen to some music that is full of truth and love.  Dwell on Ephesians 1.  
  • Make a list of all the ways God has given you identity in His Son, Jesus.  Who does the Bible say that you are in Christ?  Make that list and thank God He has adopted us!

Books on Parenting Humbly

Loving the Little Years by Rachel Jankovic

Are My Kids on Track? by Sissy Goff, David Thomas, and Melissa Trevathan

Gentle and Lowly by Dane Ortlund and Crossway

Instructing A Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

The One Year Book of Hope: A 365-Day Devotional by Nancy Guthrie

The Wisdom of God: Seeing Jesus in the Psalms and Wisdom Books by Nancy Guthrie

Happy New Year! My Favorite Posts of 2021

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

This is my 30th post! Making it to a round number is celebratory. I wanted to share some of my favorite posts from the past year (2021) with you. I hope you find them helpful in your homeschool.

My Top Posts

1. The Reason (Why We Homeschool)

This was the very first post I wrote on My Little Brick Schoolhouse. If you are curious about our reason, I think you should read it. “My family is just one tiny dot in an ocean of homeschooling families. I know we are nothing special, and there are so many wiser people who have come before. But I do have a song to sing. Can I share it with you?”

2. Resources for the First Half of Classical Conversations Cycle 1

Here is the booklist I compiled to align with the first twelve weeks of Classical Conversations Foundations Program, Cycle 1 (Ancient History). I hope it serves you in some way. Even if you are not in Classical Conversations, the list is subdivided by content areas: math, fine arts, geography, history and science. Anyone can find some titles on the list that are enjoyable to read with family!

3. Tea Time Discipleship

I love tea time. This is how we have incorporated tea time into our homeschool days.

4. My Kids Know that I like them (just because we can days!)

I am feeling a February slump coming on… fast! So, I have already put our next JBWCD on the calendar. I hope you find freedom in the fact that we can enjoy our kids for an entire day, no strings attached or agendas to fulfill!

5. A Living Story: Ole Kirk Kristiansen and LEGO®

LEGO®  is a trademark of the LEGO® Group, which does not sponsor, authorize, or endorse this website.

This Danish man’s legacy amazes me. Read more about the founder of the LEGO® company here.

6. How I Plan A Homeschool

I wrote this in May to give you all a glimpse into the process I take in homeschool planning for the year. I hope it helps you in some way!

7. Garnering Wisdom As Our Year Ends

Even though I wrote this from an end-of-the-school-year vantage point, I could definitely take some time to do a midyear evaluation. What am I learning now, in January? What do I need to do differently?

The Newsletter

If you’d like to keep updated on our homeschool journey, receive updates on my book, and be privy to exclusive resources that pair with the booklists I create, then please sign up for my newsletter!

A newsletter is a better way for me to connect with my special readers than social media, if I am being honest. Although I see the merits of social media, the conversation gets much more robust in the newsletter. Maybe you would like to reframe some ways of thinking and start looking at life from a different perspective. Well, that’s what I’m working on, too! I would love to share more about that with you in the newsletter, so do not miss out!

What Narration Is and What Narration Is Not: My Opinion

In my humble opinion, narration is quite misunderstood. One of the newer habits I have aimed to introduce into our home education is the art of narration. I once read that an art is something practiced, but it is not a system to be mastered.

In my humble opinion, narration is quite misunderstood.  One of the newer habits I have aimed to introduce into our home education is the art of narration.  I once read that an art is something practiced, but it is not a system to be mastered. 

My oldest narrating the Frog and Toad story, “Down The Hill”. He recreated the scene by designing the sled in the story.

My go-to book for the art of narration has been Know and Tell: The Art of Narration by Karen Glass. It is a resource I have referred to from time-to-time.  At the same time, I have found a look at Your Questions Answered: Narration by Sonya Shafer to be helpful in coming up with alternatives to the question, “What did you read about?”.   I also designed a narration matrix to provide a variety of ideas you can implement to practice the art of retelling. It does not have to be boring!

In short, narration helps one to practice sifting through a reading.  A student beholds knowledge for herself as she sifts through and articulates her own relationships between the subjects and herself. 

I’ve found that our readings of The Story of the World (Ancient Times) captivate my seven-year-old son’s attention and engage us all.  The subjects in the history stories come up at mealtimes, during car rides, and within questions at bedtime.

I am not a purist, and I’m learning to do this thing called narration, however imperfectly.  I know I’ve been lacking in some areas, and I haven’t consistently kept up the habit of follow-up discussion after narration.  I’m going to keep up narration, though!

The texts from which I usually ask my seven-year-old son for a narration:

The Story of the World (Ancient Times)  (after he listens to me read)

Independent reading books, like Frog and Toad All Year  and Sharks (after he reads aloud)

If you don’t know where to start, just remember that oral narration is usually NOT practiced before age six.  Written narration happens a lot later – at earliest, age nine.

“The Corner”, from Frog and Toad series. Narration by drawing.

Narration is NOT Memorizing

Rote memorization is not about building relationships with the subjects in a book.  Narration is about building relationships.  No matter how basic or flawed, a child’s oral narration can give him enormous benefits of synthesizing information.  He doesn’t extract rote sentences he has memorized from the story. He puts together the pieces of the story, recounting them, simultaneously making meaning. Children are given mental food, i.e., books.  It is their job to assimilate it for themselves.  Think of the books we give our children as a feast.  We do not give them just one kind of mental food during their feast.  Neither do we chew the food up for them and feed to them like they are baby birds (GROSS!).  Rather, we feed them the right quantity and variety, and they assimilate it into their being.  Giving a narration is like digesting the mental food.  Yum!  If narration were merely memorizing, it would be like looking at the mental food, knowing about the mental food, but never eating nor digesting the mental food.  Are you familiar with Bloom’s Taxonomy?  It’s like a hierarchy of thinking skills.  It goes from most basic, knowledge, to-comprehension-analysis-synthesis-and finally, evaluation. The most basic tier of the thinking skills is knowledge.  Memorization is an exercise in acquiring knowledge, BUT it is the most basic of thinking skills.  Karen Glass reminds us in Know and Tell: The Art of Narration that “narration gives us an opportunity to reclaim those higher-thinking skills for the next generation and even to develop them for ourselves” (2018, p. 25).  Agree with this statement, and you probably realize that narration is different from memorizing.

Narration is NOT Only Oral

Narration can take the oral form as early as age six.  However, around age nine, when hand muscles and reading skills have developed, written narration can begin. I love how Glass puts it so frankly here, in Know and Tell : “Too often we attempt to address the symptom of poor writing rather than the disease of weak thinking” (2018, p. 25).  So, she seems to say that weak thinking causes poor writing.  Perhaps.  If we start narration in the written form and fail to give children the chance to narrate orally first, then we are not exercising the muscles of critical thinking.  We must start orally, get the feel for synthetic thinking, then allow that same thinking process to flow out as words on paper.  I have not started written narration with my own children, but hope to be able to in the future, as they approach the recommended age.

Narration is NOT Formal Rhetoric Instruction

This is interesting.  There are different camps regarding how people best develop written language.  One camp believes it is prudent to learn formal rhetoric (i.e., a modern-day grammar and composition program) to be able to write eloquently.  Another camp believes that good rhetorical practiced can be achieved more naturally, through narration of good, living books.  For example, Augustine wrote:

And, therefore, as infants cannot learn to speak except by learning words and phrases from those who do speak, why should not men become eloquent without being taught any art of speech, simply by reading and learning the speeches of eloquent men, and by imitating them as far as they can?  And what do we find from the examples themselves to be the case in this respect?  We know numbers who, without acquaintance with rhetorical rules, are more eloquent than many who have learnt these; but we know no one who is eloquent without having read and listened to the speeches and debates of eloquent men.

 (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/augustine/doctrine)

So the question still remains: are formal grammar programs and composition instruction necessary?  Well, I do not know.  I believe they still probably have their place in education, BUT I am also apt to believe the efficacy of narration goes far beyond just developing thinking skills.  Since thinking skills are required in order to write well, I am in agreement with Glass that, “narration becomes the key that builds our relationship with knowledge, develops our thinking skills, and gives us the power to collect our thoughts and relate them accurately and effectively, both in speech and in writing” (2018, p. 12).  Yes, my homeschool will be focusing more on narration in these younger elementary years than on formal grammar and composition. 

Narration is NOT Done In Isolation

If we fail to give some context for what we are reading, it may cause frustration when the child is trying to give a narration.  Giving the children a little context about “what we read about last time” before jumping into the “what happens next” of today’s reading is suggested.  A discussion after narration cannot hurt, either.  The narration itself is not a discussion.  It is the child’s hard work assimilating knowledge to be conveyed in his or her own way, perhaps even in the same style as the author’s. The teacher leaves the children to do the work.  The teacher is not to interrupt and ask, “What’s his name?” or anything like that.  Remember, it is the child’s knowledge to behold, and he is working on developing this muscle. 

Narration is NOT Done In Response to Empty Books

As always, narration is to be done in response to literary books that convey a variety of ideas.  In other words, the books we read together must be captivating – not entertaining – rather, wholesome, substantial, and well-written.  Living books are those written by an author who is passionate about the subject, are well-written, fire the imagination, and engage the emotions.  If these criteria are met, then chances are, the book will be captivating to children. 

Narration is NOT Original to Charlotte Mason

Narration has been around for centuries.  The early Greeks “formalized the study of rhetoric, and narration was one of the earliest exercises, appropriate for beginners” (Glass, 2018, p. 13).  In the Greco-Roman world, the simpler topics of rhetoric practiced by beginners was called the “progymnasmata”.  Narration was one of these topics, and it was meant to give practice in telling something that occurred.  The thinking skills a student would have to employ are varied: paying attention to matters of definition, classification, differentiation from similar forms, and etymology.  How interesting!  We know the Ancient Greeks were advanced for their time, so this idea of narration is one to which we can pay attention.  Charlotte Mason paid attention, too!  She recorded the narrations of many of her students, aged six to eighteen. 

Narration of “The Corner” from Frog and Toad series with modeling clay.

Narration is Relationship-Building, NOT Contrived

I love this Karen Glass quote from Know and Tell:  

Everything will be connected and presented in some way that has required the narrator to think: to order and classify, to structure and formulate, and finally to articulate her thoughts in adequate sentences and vocabulary.  In short, the deceptively simple act of narration incorporates all the powers of the mind and exercises them in a coordinated way, just as tossing a ball requires the coordinated efforts of the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems, which are energized by the digestive and endocrine systems. (p. 19)

So, narration connects mental processes, for sure.  Does it connect anything else?  For me, anecdotally, narration has allowed us to continue the conversation beyond the reading time.  We discuss the ideas and events found in our history at the dinner table.  The kids recount a scene from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis in their imaginative play together. So many ideas are being tried on and masterfully woven together during a narration and afterwards.  For us, narration has been a way to step into another person’s world.  Instead of asking questions like, “how does this passage make you feel?”, the narrator is asking more about a time and place and character that is outside of himself.  I think that is a good thing.  While introspection is good and has its own place, narration is not that place.  Let’s be the outsiders looking into another person’s world.  Mirrors can be good, too, but windows are paramount in narration.  I think that mirrors will occur, no matter what.  Identifying oneself with another character is a natural process that takes place while reading. Yet, the narration exercise takes more looking outside than looking inside. 

Narration is NOT Self-Centered and Introspective

Narration is certainly not spouting off facts as if they are just there to be spouted off and that’s it.  No.  Narration is thoughtfully describing the experience of another, the series of processes happening in the natural world, etc.   And narration helps us see things in relation to each other as they all rest under the unity of knowledge that only our trinitarian God provides.  I once read in Jen Wilkin’s book, Women of the Word, that one fallacy we tend to gravitate toward when reading the Bible is to look for OURSELVES in God’s word.  While we can certainly find out about ourselves by reading the Bible, our aim is better placed in finding out more about God Himself – His character, His relationship with us, His will.  The Bible is, after all, about Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Jesus was even referred to as “the Word made flesh” in John 1:14.  Mirrors are important, but if they do not reveal a greater Purpose and Power, the mirrors are empty. Narration is like this.  Narration takes looking into another person’s window much more often than looking at one’s own reflection in a mirror.

Want to talk more narration?  Let’s chat!  Email me and the conversation can continue. In the meantime, check out these fun resources I developed:

Narration Matrix

The Big Maine Basket

Until later, friends!  Have fun reading (and narrating) with your children.

December 2021 Morning Time

Disclosure: As an Amazon associate, I may collect a small portion from the purchase of some of these morning time resources, at no additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your support!

What IS Morning Time, Again?

Morning time has been a staple of our day.  I like to call it the “coffee” of the day, because not only does it warm us and sustain us, it seems vital to getting the day going, if you know what I mean.  Cindy Rollins, author of Morning Time: A Liturgy of Love , defines morning time with a beautiful quote: “What is morning time?  It is capturing the hours of your day before they flit away.  It is making sure the most beautiful things happen first.  It is impossible to regret that.”

How can I disagree with Rollins here? She has hit the nail on the head, for our family.  If we did not dedicate about half an hour to an hour of our day to this sacred time…school would definitely be more about checking things off a list. What’s so bad about checking things off a list?,  you might be thinking.  If that’s you, well you can decide if there is something missing from your home life.  Are you missing out on connection?  Morning time is for you, friend!  These are referred to as “mornings without measure”, yet small habits lead to profound outcomes.  Ask someone who has done morning time for FORTY years!  Cindy Rollins is your gal.  She will speak to the profound impact morning time has had on her family in her appearance on the Thinking Love podcast (episode: “The Art of Morning Time”).  She raised and homeschooled nine children.  NINE.  How many morning times do you think they had all together over the years?  Although every one of her children are grown and out of the house, she still has her own morning time.  This liturgy of love, as she calls it, gets deeply engrained.  It becomes a way of worshipping our Lord.  It becomes a way of noticing the true, good and the beautiful. 

Morning time is an ART to be practiced.

Morning time is NOT a rote system.  It is NOT something that has to be thematic or “matchy-matchy”.  Connections will be made, regardless of which hymns, Bible passages, poems, or other elements you select.  It is more of a chance for ALL present to marvel at God’s creation and truth.  It is less about the homeschool parent getting up to “teach her children something moral or good”.  It is more about taking this all in together.  The focus is on the content, the subjects, the works of art. 

Connection.  If we had no morning time, we’d be missing out on connection. Morning time lends itself to connection.  Connection in the sense of relationships, yes.  However, connection reaches beyond the necessary relational connection with children.

Charlotte Mason holds to the idea that “education is the science of relations”.  It is a principle of her famous “twenty”.  Miss Mason called this the guiding principal of education.  Why “science” of relations, you might ask?  I am reading In Vital Harmony: Charlotte Mason and the Natural Laws of Education by Karen Glass.  Glass purports that the term “science”, when used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (the industrial era), was simply a buzzword.  So, maybe Charlotte Mason could have used a different word, but “science” spoke to so many of her contemporaries at the time.  It was THE word. 

We can look at the next part of the statement, “Education is the science of relations”.  We see the word “relations”.  Miss Mason divided knowledge into three categories – knowledge of God, knowledge of man, and knowledge of the universe. All realms of knowledge are bound together, whether we perceive it or not.  Finding the relationship between the realms of knowledge is the key to education.  This is the science of relations. All knowledge, of that which is observed and abstract alike, is bound together. Doesn’t this sound a lot like classical education?  I digress.

My point is that morning time is something I plan to carry out with my students for as long as I homeschool.  Hey, even if I didn’t homeschool, I would still find a way to have “morning” time with my kids.  It would just not take place in the morning. There are just too many connections to be made to give it up!

What Does Morning Time Look Like Now?

Morning Time Part I in the kitchen

Breakfast

Sing the Doxology

Sing a hymn together:  Singing the Great Hymns

Pray together

Clean up together: my seven-year-old boy sweeps, I hold the dust pan for him, my little girl washes dishes, and I help her.

Come back together for Morning Time Part II in the living room.

Beauty Loop (4-day rotation): joke book (Highlights), picture study (The Stuff They Left Behind: Ancient Egypt), composer study (Bach), poetry (various)

Math Mini Lesson: As of late, this exists to gather all kids to practice our Classical Conversations skip counting.  They listen to the song, and place the numbers on laminated grid paper using wet erase markers.  Prior to this, I was practicing different skills by the month with the kids.  In October, we learned how to round whole numbers to the nearest ten, so I taught a short (5 minutes maximum) lesson on “the rounding hill” and made it fun with a car and math word problems about our ancient history.

Ancient Times Study Loop (3-day rotation): read aloud and students narrate- read aloud the remaining portion and students narrate –coloring page and map work

We are using The Story of the World: Ancient Times.

Advent Morning Time

The basic rhythm of our morning time has stayed the same, except we are now just focusing on our Advent resource for Part II of morning time.  We have paused everything else, to date.  Whether I layer in the beauty loop, math mini-lesson, and ancient times study will depend on our day.  However, I think whenever you introduce something new to morning time, it is good to start small, then slowly add on. 

Right now, we are enjoying reading the devotions and singing the songs from The Advent Jesse Tree .  We are going to begin our Christmas School the week before Christmas, and it will pair well with The Advent Jesse Tree. Our Christmas School resource has scripture readings included already, so we can just focus on our Joyful Feast and drop The Advent Jesse Tree, if it’s too much scripture reading during morning time. We can move the Advent readings to the evening, right at the dinner table, since Daddy will be home then. 

I will keep you updated regarding the flow of morning time in months to come! 

Looking Ahead to January

I cannot wait to begin our Picture Study Portfolio: Michelangelo for our new picture study in 2022!

One thing I have learned from this morning time journey is to not add too much at once!  Once we start Michelangelo picture study, we will be shelving our Ancient Egypt picture study. 

Another thing I’d like to incorporate somehow in the spring months is nature study and nature notebooking.  Although our Charlotte Mason co-op has a built-in nature study time, it would be lovely to step outside in the early spring air around 10:00 am each morning to just sit and observe God’s glory displayed in a North Carolina springtime.  Even taking a walk down the block as part of morning time would be a refreshing way to start the day. 

Morning time takes on different forms as the seasons change.

You are never too far along to begin a morning time with your older kids.  Pam Barnhill has some great wisdom and tips regarding this topic, morning time with multiple ages. 

Likewise, you are never too young to begin morning time with your babies.  A song, a prayer and a short nursery rhyme, repeated as often as possible throughout the week, can begin a lifelong habit.

I wish you well on your journey! If you have made morning time a practice, what has worked well for your family?

All Saints’ Day

Did the candles stay lit very long? You tell me!

Yesterday was All Saints’ Day.

In the morning, we remembered our Christian brothers and sisters who have gone to eternal life. We specifically lit candles to remember just a few:

🔥Perpetua (look up her story), a Christian martyr under Rome

🔥Jim Elliot, missionary

🔥Stephen, one of the very first martyrs

🔥Hannah, my husband’s sister

🔥Andrew’s great Aunt Dot

🔥my grandfather, Papa

🔥my great Aunt Becky

🔥Martin Luther

We listened to “Behold, A Host Arrayed in White” and thought about our friends. We say friends because we feel we know every one of these people as friends, from taking in their stories through the living Word and living stories.

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World
solas copy work

Resources: First Half of Classical Conversations Cycle 1

https://mylittlebrickschoolhouse.com/booklists/booklists-2/#week-12#week12

Disclosure Statement: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a small commission from the purchase of these favorite picture books and read-alouds.  Thank you so much for your support!

First Twelve Weeks

In case you have missed it, I would love to share my take on a Charlotte Mason approach (READ: living books) to Classical Conversations Cycle 1, Weeks 1-12. We are currently enjoying some of the books on this list! In case you missed any, I have linked the list here. The page will take you to Week 12, so scroll up the page if you need to find a previous week.

Also, if there are any living books you have found particularly helpful during CC Cycle 1, please do not hesitate to comment here, or let me know! I love getting ideas from you all.

Life is Full!

I wish I could update you on all the things we have been able to enjoy this year so far, but alas! I have to keep up with life. If I get off the treadmill mid-stride, I will surely trip and fall. I do not like that analogy, but for now, it will have to do.

A few of the things we have been up to the first 10 weeks of our school year:

  • starting a new Charlotte Mason co-op
  • reading aloud The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (the kids and I are loving the full-color edition)
  • teaching each other watercolor painting. I (Holly) am taking this on as a thing for myself, really
  • continuing our Charlotte Mason book club (moms only) we started last summer
  • returning refreshed from a week in the NC mountains
  • reading about Martin Luther for Reformation Day
  • watching the Torchlighters Series together on Redeem TV
  • nature study in the sunshine, reading about frogs and trying to find them at our local lake (using Pond and Stream Companion)
  • getting dressed up and going to friends’ homes, where we have enjoyed crafts, games, and food
  • discovering the piano and learning to build the habit of practicing

Our lives have been full! If you’d like to stay updated in a more personal way, I invite you to sign up for our newsletter. It’s still there for you- to encourage you, give you ideas, and foster community. If you want to contribute to a future issue of the My Little Brick Schoolhouse Newsletter, make sure to sign up. I will be involving some of my readers over the next few months. Collaboration can be wonderful!

A moment in time – the family at High Falls

Cheering You On

I sincerely want to cheer you on. You are doing a great job. I trust God is using what you have and doing what He does: making a feast out of our five loaves and two fish. If you feel like a slump or burnout is coming on, you are not alone! Find something life-giving. You are making your plan work for you, not the other way around. Whatever needs to GO in your schedule, after consulting God and His wisdom, make that change. Also, if you have children and you are entering the holiday season, make the time to have some down time with your family. Events will fill up the calendar. You know it. Carve out time to just play and read and have fun together with the family, without expected deadlines or meet-ups.

I love hearing from you and look forward to the next chapter we have together!

XO,

Holly

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