Help for the Reluctant Homeschool Writer

help_for_the_reluctant_homeschool_writerI can already hear it coming. First, it will start with a shocked expression taking over her face. This will be followed up by a glare; then a deep breath; and then she will attempt to talk me out of the assignment… My oldest daughter loves to write; really, she does! Furthermore, she’s good at it. She has a way with words; is able to paint a vivid picture using just a few short sentences and lots of heart. Give her free time to write and she’s a happy camper. Ask her to write a report and… well, just see the sentences above.

While I would love to toss those pesky reports into the circulatory file (trash bin), she’s really at an age where it cannot be avoided. High school is ever-present and reports seem to be the thing. Sure, I could let her off, but would that really benefit her? If she plans to continue her writing career, she might want to expand her horizons beyond story telling. If she plans to attend college (which she does), she needs to be able to write a research paper.

Whether or not our children plan to be writers or attend college – we understand not all children are called to this path – teaching our children to write is an important life skill. Why? Our children need to learn the fine art of language. They need to learn how to construct a great sentence, put thoughts together into paragraphs, and connect those paragraphs to form an argument.

Perhaps you have a reluctant writer, as we do, or are unsure of where to start in the writing process? Here are a few tips and hints we’ve learned to inspire our little writers:

Start Early – Don’t wait until high school to have your children begin the writing process. make creative writing and reports a fun part of learning as soon they are ready.

Start Small – Don’t start the writing process off with a five-page research paper. Start off with little assignments. Ask your student to construct just a few great sentences and build from there.

Keep it Simple – Once your student has the concept of great sentences down, consider having them write small papers. Teach them how to construct an opening statement, the body of their paper, and then a closing statement. It doesn’t need to be long, it just needs to have all the essential components and focus on one main point.

Shake Things Up – Don’t have your student write the same type of report each time; this can quickly become boring. What kind of reports might we look for?

  • Cause and Effect
  • Descriptive
  • Argumentative
  • Definition
  • Narrative
  • Critical
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Process

Topsy Turvy – Doesn’t that sound fun? If your child balks at the notion of writing a two page report or even a 1,000 word report, consider making it a challenge. Turn your child’s perspective around and have them look at the assignment from an entirely new angle. Inform you student they cannot use more than 1,000 words to make their point. One word over and they start losing points. It changes things, doesn’t it?

Make a Point – While all papers should have a main point, not all papers mean something to your student. However, they should! Pick the type of paper your child should write for this assignment, but let them choose the topic. They might want to argue for why Legos are better than MegaBlocks. They might wish to explain what Minecraft is. It doesn’t matter what the subject of the paper is, only that they learn to write well. As they mature, so will the topics and assignments.

Join the Fun – One year, my daughter was having a particularly hard time gaining inspiration for a paper. To help her out, my husband and I joined the fun. Each of us turned in a paper on the same topic! It was fun and a great learning experience. We didn’t do this each time she had an assignment, but it helped.

For whatever reason, speech and writing seem to be the two least favorite assignments of most students. Perhaps, with a little effort and enthusiasm on our behalf, our children will learn to not only appreciate the art of writing, but enjoy it. Writing can be lots of fun!

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.”
~ Galatians 6:11

Your Turn!: Are you a writer? Share your tips with our homeschooling families on how to encourage a love of writing!

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The World is our Classroom

the_world_is_our_classroomI think most homeschoolers dream of having a place to call their own. You know… a dedicated ‘homeschooling’ space where the bulk of our learning gets done. While not all of us have a dedicated room to do our schooling in, we are fortunate to call the world our classroom. Learning takes place anywhere and everywhere!

Like most families, I’d love to have a homeschooling room. A special place set aside just for our learning materials, instead of having them nudged into a closet. A place where colorful charts, verses, and artwork could be proudly displayed on the walls. A place where, if learning isn’t finished, we can simply leave our projects to rest until later. It’s a lovely dream, but, for now, we work with what we’ve got. The world is our classroom and here is where you’ll usually find us:

The Kitchen Table – We don’t have a dedicated homeschooling room, but we do have a dedicated homeschooling place! If you happen to stop by on a moments notice, you’ll find us at our kitchen table plugging away at our lessons. It’s a good size and convenient for having snacks.

The Office – My husband has a ton of books, supplies, and inspiration all packed into his little office space. Sometimes you’ll find us crowding his space to do a little learning.

The Backyard – The great outdoors, filled with greenery and fresh air. If we can, we try to get outside on occasion.

The Park – Sometimes the backyard doesn’t do it. We need some leg room to run around, swing from trees, and rough-house with our friends. What better place than the park? Plus, they have basketball courts, volleyball courts, tennis courts, and more!

The Library – If we can’t be at home, this is where we prefer to be. Our favorite place on earth. Books, games, research materials, and more!

The In-laws – Who else is going to teach us how to garden, cook, crochet, cross-stitch, craft, sew, and more? Being at my in-laws is always a treat.

The Animal Shelter – We love this special time working with local volunteers and professionals in the field of animal care. We do everything from clean the shelter, care for the animals, socialize with the animals, help with local events, and more. This even extends into fostering at home!

Hiking – There’s nothing quite like the great outdoors. You’ll find us all over our state, discovering new trails and getting dirty.

On Field Trips – Museums, galleries, music centers, and more; field trips are wonderful and we take them as often as possible.

No, we don’t have a dedicated classroom, which I would truly love, but we do have the world at our fingertips. Now, if I could keep the kitchen table clean!

“Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you,…”
~ Isaiah 55:3

Your Turn!: What is the most unusual place you’ve ever done ‘school’?

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I Can’t Homeschool: A Series Review!

I_Can't_Homeschoo

Homeschooling can seem like a daunting journey, especially for those who are new to the concept. We are unsure of where to start, overwhelmed by the notion of taking on our children’s education, and feel as if we are not enough.

Join us in this series of encouragement, as we share reasons families think they can’t homeschool and offer support for those unsure of the adventure called homeschooling.

…..

I Lack Self Control
They Won’t Listen
I’m Uneducated

I’m Unorganized
I Need ME Time
I Have Too Many Kids
My Kids Are Too Big
My Family Will Disapprove
I’m A Dad!
My Kids Have Special Needs

God didn’t call us to homeschool because we had it all together or because we were such incredible people. He called us to homeschooling because He wanted this for our children and He asked us to be faithful. He isn’t asking us to be perfect, He’s asking us to be obedient to His call.

Each of us is still a work in progress, being molded by our Creator into something better. Allow God to use your imperfect self to bring Him glory. Step out in faith, knowing He will see you through. You can do all things in Christ!

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus”
Philippians 3:12

Your Turn!: Do you already homeschool? Help motivate other families by sharing previous doubts you may have had about taking on the adventure of homeschooling, and how the Lord helped you overcome for His glory and your family’s benefit!

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Is Happiness a Factor for Choosing Homeschooling?

factor_for_homeschoolingI suppose there are many reasons to homeschool, some more pressing than others. One of the most recent arguments I have heard is that homeschooling brings happiness. Of all the reasons we have chosen to homeschool, happiness is not among them. Why, do we not want to be happy? Of course we do! But what happens when the momentary happiness is gone?

As much as we would all like to project the image of well-rounded kiddos, perfect houses, brilliant minds, and endless talents, the truth of the matter is there are days when life is just plain hard! Kids don’t always get along, the house can’t seem to stay clean, and life just keeps interfering with our well-laid plans. If we homeschool because ‘it brings us happiness’, we run the risk of burn out during those moments which are less than cheerful.

Don’t get me wrong, I often experience moments of happiness while learning with my children. Our family is, generally speaking, a happy one. That does not mean this is our reason for homeschooling. We homeschool to have better relationships within our family, to disciple our children, to further their education, and to encourage a love of learning. Most importantly, we homeschool because this is what God called us to do.

Joy is a byproduct of a well-lived life serving the Lord. I would pray each of us be filled with joy. However, I would caution anyone from pursuing homeschooling because they assume happiness and joy will naturally flow due to this choice of lifestyle. Joy stems not from circumstances, which might change, but is a gift which we openly acknowledge comes from God. When they are following His leading, joy simply emanates. More importantly, we are walking righteously.

“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”
~Psalm 16:11

Your Turn!: Was happiness a motive when you were deciding whether or not to homeschool?

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I Don’t Need This

The following article was written for our monthly PSP newsletter. With permission from our principal, we are sharing this with you; praying you are blessed by the heart of his message. Enjoy!

….. 

School Logo“I Don’t Need This!” How many times have I uttered those words? Probably more than I can count, certainly more often than I recall. The chapter of the old year has closed, and a new chapter in our lives is just beginning. Many of us tend to look back at the past year, either rejoicing, or thanking God it is over. I am no exception. As I look back at the year, I too am glad, in a sense, that it is done. In truth, some chapters are darker, scarier, or less cheerful than others, to say the least. In my own case, the second half of the year was definitely in the trials category.

James tell us to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

To be honest, I struggle with verses like these at times, particularly those hard times. But in light of God’s Word, I have to conclude that my opening question does indeed have an answer. That answer is, “Apparently, I do.” If I truly believe that my Father is in control, is sovereign, and has a perfect plan for my life; and if I trust that, like Job, nothing can come my way that hasn’t been okayed by Him first, then I must conclude that my trials, however unpleasant, weighty, or dark they may seem, have been allowed by Him for some reason, likely more than one. I can only conclude one thing from this: God uses trials to work on me.

God has a LOT of work to do in me, so maybe that is why I seem to have so many trials? Back to James. It says to “count it all joy… knowing that the testing produces patience…” My first inclination, whenever things get difficult, is to immediately cry out for relief, strength, and praise to God for His wonderful sustaining grace… NOT!! Sadly, my first inclination is to complain, bemoan my circumstances, and wonder, “When will this end?”

I am not, by nature, a very patient man, just ask my wife and kids. My Father, however, is working on that. His ultimate goal is not my creature comforts, but that I may, personally, be complete, lacking nothing. In order for that to happen, I need to learn patience, because, at least according to James, patience has a work to accomplish. That work cannot be accomplished quickly, easily, or without trial, because patience is only needed when one has to wait. If all of my trials ended in a split second, when would patience be built up?

According to Paul, I am supposed to rejoice in the Lord always. (Php. 4:4) James said to count it all joy. This does not mean that I am supposed to enjoy the trials, there is nothing pleasant about what we are enduring, but I am supposed to rejoice in Him during it. The fact that He is working on me is a joy, because He is working toward a perfect end, and the fact that He is working on me at all proves that I am His.

Not only am I impatient, but my natural tendency is also to wander, roam, and get distracted. I am like the little boy whose father is constantly saying, “Come here, stay close to me.” Every time a trial comes along, I run back to my Father because, like that little boy, I am afraid, overwhelmed, intimidated, or perhaps simply had some sense knocked into me. This being the case, I can also conclude that God uses these trials to keep me close to Him, which is where I need to be.

In the words of a contemporary Christian artist: “Now, I don’t want to sound like some hero, ’cause it’s God alone that my hope is in, but I’m not gonna run from the very things that would drive me closer to Him; so bring it on.” (Steven Curtis Chapman, “Bring It On”)

As I put this all together, I am coming to understand a key fact: It is one thing to praise God during a trial… it’s not always easy, in fact, it rarely is… but it’s another thing entirely to praise Him for the trial, which is where I need to go if I am to count it a joy when I fall into one. May the blessing of the Lord abound in this new (learning) year as you stay close to Him.

Your Turn!: During your summer break, in what ways are you being purposeful in drawing closer to the Lord so that you might be refreshed for the coming adventures in learning?

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How MY Home Schoolers Measure Up

how_my_homeschoolers_measure_upWhew! I could breathe a sigh of relief. Looking over that clever diagram of how home schoolers are measuring up, I could tell we were doing fairly well and I felt encouraged by how successful home schoolers are doing as a whole. Then, a thought occurred to me… This isn’t why I chose to home school. What matters is how my home schoolers measure up. Not to someone else, not to a diagram, and not to a standardized test. Rather, how they measure up to their own capabilities.

I can see how this diagram, and others like it, come in handy. There are people who need to see the numbers before they will believe that home schooling truly is and can be a success. Others need encouragement, seeing the evidence of their hard work. I could see myself using diagrams like this, presenting it to those who might have questions or doubt the outcome of learning at home.

I need to issue a cautionary note though, more to myself than anyone else. My advice is this: ” Self… this is not the measure of your child!” There, I said it. The minute I start spending more time focusing on whether or not we meet someone else’s standards for my family, rather than on what they need, that is when I lose my way. This isn’t a competition between them and anyone else; they are to achieve at their own pace and in their own 2-homeschooling-by-the-numbersway.

May we also point out that while the stats and information are helpful and interesting, this tool should not be used as a means to bash our public school friends over the head. Homeschooling is a calling. While we have chosen not to put our children in public school for various reasons, we understand and respect not every family has the ability to make this choice; nor the desire to do so. Let us not use this information as weapon, but a means of communicating the value in what we do.

Diagrams can be helpful and fun. However, they are not a guide for living. I will not panic if my child is a little below the “standard” and I am not going to get puffed up with pride if my child “excels”. I am going to accept my children for what they are, helping them to become the best they can be. After all, the measure of my child’s success is not going to be found on any chart. But in a life well lived.

“But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.”
~Galatians 6:4

Your Turn!: What do you use to help measure your children’s achievements?

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Review: The Great Escape by M.J.Thomas

https://thehomeschoolmomblog.wordpress.comIt’s here. It’s finally here! You’ll forgive us if we’re jumping for joy and ridiculously excited to share with you The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (Book #3): The Great Escape, the newest release in The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series from M.J. Thomas and Worthy Kids/Ideals. Our copy arrived a few days ago and we can’t put it down.

Worthy Publishing Group is an established book company whose mission is, “To help people experience the heart of God.” Of their five distinct imprints and vast selection of titles, Worthy Kids/Ideals creates vibrant children’s literature including The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls. The series began with THESE two amazing stories, and is followed by The Great Escape.

“Join Peter, Mary, and their dog Hank as they discover ancient scrolls and travel back in time to stories in the Bible. They find a world filled with wonder, adventure, and danger. They must search for clues to solve the secret of the scrolls … or they will be stuck there forever… Perfect for emerging readers ages 6 – 9, homeschooling families, and lovers of adventure, The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls brings beloved Bible stories to adventurous life.”
~ Secret of the Hidden Scrolls

In our newest story, The Great Escape, Peter, Mary and Hank find themselves transported to the deserts of Ancient Egypt where they meet the Pharaoh’s daughter and experience firsthand the ten plagues God brought upon the land in order to free His people. Along the way they meet an old enemy hiding behind a new identity; one who will stop at nothing to prevent the children from completing their mission and returning home. Together the children discover, “GOD IS POWERFUL AND WILL SET YOU FREE”! Hidden Scrolls

I’ll be honest. One of the main reasons this mama is so excited for the release of Secret of the Hidden Scrolls: The Great Escape is that now my eleven-year-old son can stop asking me – every. five. minutes. – when his book will finally be here. While the official release date was the first week of April, an advanced copy was kindly sent our way just a tad early. Thus the minute the calendar said March, the mailman’s deliveries were met with anticipation. The moment it arrived he pounced on it and barely let it go long enough for his mum to read it herself. What a fantastic problem, don’t you agree? I love watching my children enjoy good, Bible based literature and Secret of the Hidden Scrolls is everything lovely.

Specifically targeted for 6-9 year olds, homeschoolers, and those who love adventure, our family has found Secret of the Hidden Scrolls to be a perfect fit. Our son was able to finish his first read-through in approximately one hour. (I say his first because, since, he’s read through it several more times. Which goes to show just how much we love this series!)  We were especially blessed to find we received a signed copy of the The Great Escape, which meant the world to my son. As with the first two books in the series, we appreciated the inclusion at the back of the book complete with specific references to Scripture covered and notes on the story itself.

Hidden+Scroll+Activity+Sheet_ScrollStealerIn addition to enjoying this fantastic read, we made sure to visit The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls‘ website. There we were able to sign up to be part of the Secret of the Hidden Scrolls Club. We just know it’s going to be fun! We were also able to enjoy the Activities page and read the Story Behind the Story. (For those just discovering this series, Secret of the Hidden Scrolls website is also the perfect place to preview each story or order a set for the family!)

We are absolutely excited about this book, and the entire Secret of the Hidden Scrolls series. Now, just like Mr. Thomas’ son, Peter, we’re anxiously awaiting another one! We’re not sure when it’s coming, but we feel certain another read is on its way. Until then, it looks like we’ll just have to re-read and be patient.

If you’d like to learn more about The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls by M.J. Thomas or WorthyKids/Ideals please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!

FTC Disclaimer

Your Turn!: In The Great Escape, Peter and Mary discover firsthand what it must have been like enduring each of the ten Egyptian plagues. Given the last plague as the worst, which of the other nine plagues would have affected you most?

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Conquering the Wandering Mind

Conquering_Wandering_MindsI’ve called his name four times now, hands waving before his book work. The boy is smart. He could complete this lesson in two minutes flat – if only I could divert his attention to his work. He comes back to the present only for a moment before returning to his imaginings. With each ticking of the clock, I wonder what I’m doing wrong and how I can help my child conquer this challenge.

Understandably, this situation is just as frustrating for our son as it is for me. Being the last one to finish lessons, and constantly having to hear your name is irritating. We’re doing our best to work through this struggle together and learn keys to succeed in this area. Diet, exercise, routine, and using essential oils is helping. How we homeschool has been reviewed as well. Less independent work is in order; being replaced with one-on-one lessons with a parent sitting close at hand verbally offering encouragement.

Do any of your children battle this on a daily basis? We’d love to hear your thoughts regarding this area of homeschooling!

  • Are there clear symptoms of when your child’s mind has gone wandering?
  • What helps you remain calm and help meet your child’s need when this becomes a daily/hourly concern?
  • Have you identified the cause of their distraction? How have you done this?
  • Do foods affect your child’s focus?
  • Will routine and/or exercise help focus increase?
  • Do you find this more prevalent in your sons than daughters?
  • What helps your child to better focus?
  • Are there essential oils you’re using to help your child focus?

We have by no means conquered this challenge. There are days we cruise through without any difficulty, and days when keeping eyes on the page leads to anger. Through God’s grace we’re moving forward, learning what works for his body and mind. Amidst the frustration, it helps to remember this not personal or purposeful. Our son is not being rebellious, his mind is merely occupied elsewhere. Together we’re discovering fun, meaningful ways to redirect his attention to the present and offering grace when a momentary whim takes his mind on a journey elsewhere.

There is beauty to be found in these moments, even those taken in the imagination. May we have patience to find it, wisdom to see learning opportunity everywhere, and gentleness in leading our children through daily responsibility.

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,…”
~ Ephesians 1:17-18

Your Turn!: That’s quite a list of questions we’ve asked… Don’t feel as if you need to answer every one. Pick one which resonates with you, or one in which you’ve seen growth, and share with us!

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Easter Fun Series!

CG_Easter_logo

“On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed [is] the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. And Jesus, when he had found a young ass, sat thereon; as it is written, Fear not, daughter of Sion: behold, thy King cometh, sitting on an ass’s colt.“
~ John 12:12-15

Aside from Christmas, Easter is the most significant holiday for Christians. This is more than just an opportunity collect eggs, wear cute bunny ears, and hoard candy. Easter is amazing, redeeming grace. For our family, this is a time to put aside outside responsibilities and simply focus on the true meaning of this holy week. From this Sunday till next, we will focus on all things Easter.

It is our desire to use this week not only for encouraging our family, but to learn from yours! Join us as we focus on the true meaning of this special holiday. We hope to share some of our favorite games, activities, crafts, and recipes which all point towards Christ and His love for us.

Easter Fun: Easter Week Begins
Easter Fun: Resurrection Eggs
Easter Fun: Books
Easter Fun: Egg Decorating
Easter Fun: Resurrection Garden
Easter Fun: Resurrection Rolls

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,”
~ John 11:25

Time to Chime In! : What is your family’s favorite homeschool resource for learning the true meaning of Easter?

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Do You Feel Like a Ping-Pong Ball?

do_you_feel_like_a_pingpong_ballOur neighbors have five kids. At one point they homeschooled all five, each child having completely separate curriculum. I learned a lot from our afternoons together. One basic lesson l learned was that having five kids took a lot of work. I could bounce around like a ping-pong ball all day or find a better way to make this happen. For our family, the best method of tackling the concern of teaching four kids is to do as much as possible together, as a group. If we can learn something as a family, that is what we do.

While there are some areas of learning which require individual study, mainly grammar and arithmetic, there are just as many – if not more – we can do together. Bible, history, science, geography, economics, and logic are all areas of learning we not only do as a group, but have more fun doing so. Thus, we spend the bulk of our day learning together.

How can all four of our kids, who happen to all be two years apart in age, learn the same material when they aren’t the in same grade? Good question!

Grade, Smade – Exactly who determines what gets taught at each ‘grade level’? Why can’t a five-year-old learn biology and a fifteen year old study life science? What’s important isn’t the ‘grade’ our child is in, but that the material being covered is done thoroughly and in such a way our child understands. I would also encourage us to challenge our children in their learning. This might mean a higher level for our younger kids and a more basic for our older; each child should be taught at their level, not their ‘grade’.

Middle Ground – To help all our children follow the lessons (the littles not being overwhelmed and the older ones bored), we try to reach for the middle. By teaching to the average, the littles are slightly challenged, but not lost in the mix. This also allows for the older children to participate in the bulk of our group activities, while additional assignments and projects are given to increase their learning in this area.

What, Again? – Once you’ve been homeschooling a while, you start to notice something. History repeats itself; so does science, literature, grammar, and almost everything else. We cover certain aspects of science in first grade, right? Guess what. We covered them again in second, with a little more added. Oh, and we did it again in third, then fourth, and yet again in fifth. Perhaps we should stress less about skipping a ‘grade’ with our kids, missing out on material, and just focus on them learning the concepts we’re teaching now. Odds are, whatever we didn’t get this year is going to be covered again next, and the year after that.

What about high school? Not much has changed. There is no reason our eight year old can’t learn a little biology along with our big girl. He might not participate in all activities, but he’ll have projects of his own. Our big girl might have a few additional projects tailored just for her, but this will teach her to work independently. There is no reason the bulk of our studies can’t still be enjoyed as a group, it just takes a little imagination and dedication. In the long run, it’s still less work and more financially feasible.

Do I still have days when I feel like a ping-pong ball? Absolutely! That’s bound to happen when you have four kids, homeschool, run a business, and a household. However, we like to keep the bouncing to a minimum and do as much as we can together. It’s less work for mommy and, frankly, it’s just plain fun!

Your Turn!: I used ping-pong as an illustration of what my day can sometimes feel like. If you had to compare your day with a game, which would it be?

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