Review: Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask

“What makes this book special,… is the fact that we want to equip you to have confidence in your decision to home educate, and we want to prepare you to defend your choice to the skeptics you will inevitably face along the way.”
~ Israel Wayne

review_answersforhomeschoolingThere are a multitude of questions homeschoolers are faced with. And while some of those questions come from concerned family and friends, there are an equal number of questions we ask of ourselves. Today, we’re excited to share with you Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask. For the critics around you, and the critic within, this new book by Israel Wayne is sure to help provide answers and offer encouragement.

Israel Wayne is a veteran in the world of homeschooling. Having been homeschooled himself, Mr. Wayne is a much sought after speaker for homeschooling conferences and the author of several homeschooling books. Helping families gain a better understanding of the how of home education, Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask systematically leads the reader through twenty-five chapters outlining the most pertinent questions homeschoolers face and gives us Biblical wisdom in answering them. Topics include “Is Homeschooling Legal?”, “How Can You Afford to Homeschool?”, “What Does Dad Do in Homeschooling?”, “Is Homeschooling Elitist?”, and more.

For those readers who might be new to our blog, we appreciate all of Mr. Wayne’s books. Thus, when offered an opportunity to preview and review Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask, we naturally jumped at the chance. In addition to a printed, paperback copy of the book upon publication, we were also given a PDF of Answers for Homeschooling so that we might enjoy the book immediately. While I had intended to read the book over the course of a week, once I began I found I had no inclination to stop. I finished the book in one sitting. For those who are new to homeschooling or perhaps struggling with gaining a better understanding of how to answer these homeschooling questions, we would recommend progressing through the Answers_for_Homeschoolingbook more slowly as there is much to digest.

As experienced homeschoolers, we were able to appreciate Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask as confirmation of what the Lord has already shown us, a refresher in how to better answer questions we face, and fascinating history on the adventure of learning and homeschooling. Of particular interest to us were the chapters “Is That How It’s Done in Public School?”, “Isn’t Sheltering a Child Harmful?”, “What About Being Salt and Light in Public School?”, and “Do You Know What Causes That?”. These chapters touched on issues we come across on a regular basis even though we’ve been homeschooling for several years. Readers will find every chapter engaging, simple to follow, and helpful.

Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask is an exceptional addition to Mr. Wayne’s selection of homeschool books. Being released this month, Answers for Homeschooling is a book we’d love to see in the hands of every homeschooling family. Whether new, struggling, or merely needing answers for those skeptics in your own learning adventure, Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask offers something for everyone. We pray the Lord blesses this book, and uses it to reach many for His glory and their benefit.

If you’d like to learn more about Answers for Homeschooling: Top 25 Questions Critics Ask and Master Books please visit them at their website, and on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube!

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Your Turn!: Which homeschooling question do you most commonly face?

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Review: Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc.

Thin_Stix_Creativity_PackI confess, amongst all the art supplies tucked away in our home, tempura paint has not made a strong play. So when we were given an opportunity to review Thin Stix Creativity Pack by The Pencil Grip, Inc. we were beyond excited.

The Pencil Grip, Inc. has been creating quality products since 1992. Amongst their lines you will find pencil grips, therapeutic products and toys, school and office supplies, and fidgets. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a twenty-four piece collection of tempura paint sticks. No water needed, you simply remove the cap, twist to expose the paint, create to your heart’s content using this vibrant set of colors, and watch it dry in seconds. Thin Stix Creativity Pack comes with primary, neon, and metallic colors. Thin Stix Creativity Pack is washable, and is egg, nut, and gluten-free.

Our family was given a Thin Stix Creativity Pack which we immediately began to use. Our daughters, aged twelve and fourteen, initially tested out colors without a project in mind. Having a better feel for the medium, both set about creating their own piece of work. Each Art_Project_1chose to work with paper, painting a picture with the Kwik Stix. Thin Stix Creativity Pack has since been used when working on nature journal entries, homeschool projects, and personal creations.

Thin Stix Creativity Pack is a unique product. We had not previously worked with tempura paints in stick form, and were excited to see how they faired compared to paint and brush. Our initial reaction to the Kwik Stix was one of surprise. Considering the name, we anticipated a fine tip to the colors. Instead we found the tips to be as wide as my middle finger. While this did not initially complicate matters, we learned Kwik Stix were better suited for larger projects not involving detail.

Working with the Kwik Stix was easy and clean. The tempura paint went on smoothly leaving texture similar to a crayon. While Kwik Stix are advertised as drying in ninety-seconds, we found ours dried much sooner. Kwik Stix are indeed vibrant in color. What impressed us most was the ability to overlay a light color paint over a dark color without Art_Project_2any issues. No color rubbed off onto our paint sticks and the top color retained its bright hue. We did note neon colors tended to be lighter in opacity, working similarly to a highlighter. Metallic paints did have a glittery undertone to them, but were not as strong as our kids would have hoped.

Overall, we were pleased with the Thin Stix Creativity Pack. We would recommend their use in large projects which do not require detail and for use with little hands. Our kids enjoyed this experiment with color and creativity. Having added Thin Stix Creativity Pack to our supply closet, we’ll definitely continue to use these for larger projects and with friends who come to visit.

If you’d like to learn more about Thin Stix Creativity Pack or The Pencil Grip, Inc. please visit them at their website and on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest! To read helpful reviews like this one, and gain more insight into what Thin Stix Creativity Pack has to offer, please visit The Homeschool Review Crew!

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Your Turn!: Do you have a favorite color?

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A Homeschool Mom’s Favorite STEM Books

AHM_STEAM_ReadsFollowing our list of favorite nature books, we thought it would be fun to share the few books we check out on a regular basis which relate to a STEM or STEAM line of study. As we feel our general course of learning does a great job of covering these areas of education fairly well, the list is not terribly long. But, you know us, we’re constantly looking and continually adding.

We know a multitude of books cover this topic. The list you find below is by no means exhaustive. Give is a look and see what we might be missing:

A moment of truth here… I find the acronym STEM, or STEAM, a bit frustrating. After all, doesn’t STEAM cover pretty much everything our children are supposed to be learning? One or two subjects aside. I’m confused over how this term is at all special. I was under the impression we’d been teaching these things all along. I know our general course of curriculum covers science, basic engineering, mathematics, and art. Even technology is discussed and explored over the course of our learning. I would even argue that literature and history are taught using this model as well, as we read about the history each genre. They are in our household. I’m going on the assumption most other homeschoolers are as well. How is STEM different from what we’re already doing? Something to think upon further.

While our normal course of study does a wonderful job of covering STEAM to a good degree, it is fun gathering additional reading materials which bolster these topics for our children. The few books we check out on a regular basis are favorites, and ones we’ll continue to enjoy again and again.

“Great are the works of the LORD; They are studied by all who delight in them.”
~ Psalm 111:2

Your Turn!: Share your favorite STEM/STEAM books! Which would you recommend we read?

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App Central: Our Favorite Learning Apps and How We’re Using Them

App_CentralThere are many apps on my device. I’m happy to inform you very few are games. Why is this? Our learning apps take up the bulk of our space, and we couldn’t be more pleased with this decision. Today, we’re sharing our favorite learning apps and how we use them in our adventure called homeschooling.

Grab your reading glasses, we’ve got quite the list! And each one is well-used…

Calculator + – While a standard calculator app came pre-installed on my device, Calculator+ far outshines any other we’ve come across yet. We use this with Algebra helps and Geometry. It’s a lifesaver.

Dictionary (Merriam-Webster 1828) – We own a physical dictionary, but having a dictionary app on my device is a help while on the go. We’re big believers in looking up new words when we come across them, searching out new vocabulary is always a treat. The app includes a word of the day and weekly challenges.

Hiking Project – As we’re continually looking for new places to hike, this app is a lovely resource to have on hand.

Garden Answers – Simply take a photo of the plant you’re looking at and this app will identify it for you. Garden Answers is helpful for those of us who are not experts and/or desire immediate answers without time for much research.

Aniscience – An adorable science app for littles, discovering laws of nature and basic plant and animal species. It’s too cute for words, and a great app for beginners.

Snapseed – We use this photography editing app on a daily basis. The options available are incredible and help the children explore creativity while learning the fundamentals of good photography.

Splice – While used less often, Splice is helpful for making photo/video collage of our adventures. We create quick slides to share with family and friends, learning skills such as Ken Burns effect, slide transitions, and more.

Stop Motion – The title tells you what the app is for, but it doesn’t explain how fun this app really is. Stop Motion is a great tool for the kids to explore film making.

Podcasts While not directly an app for learning, and a pre-loaded app on the device when purchased, this app has proven to be instrumental in learning. There are so many excellent podcasts to enjoy. HERE‘s our current list, which keeps growing continually!

LibriVox – While I’m sure most of you have heard of this app before, we would be remiss in not mentioning it. We use LibriVox quite a bit, downloading reads for the road or to listen to while making meals.

Red Herring – I am not a big player of games, but when I find apps which help feed the mind as well as entertain, I’m hooked. Red Herring is a visually basic game; there are no bells or whistles. What you will find is a challenging word association game which will stretch the knowledge of your vocabulary. Given a list of words, can you determine how to categorize them properly based on what they have in common?

KAMI 2 – Here’s another game which is not high on graphics, but excellent on mind bending and thinking outside the box. You’re given a geometric image and a pallet of colors. You then have a limited number of “taps” to clear the board so the entire image is now one color. It’s more challenging than you think. As a bonus, players can create their own geometric images to challenge friends and family.

Word Cookies – I’m sure by now everyone has heard of this game. We’re addicted and are constantly one-upping each other to see who’s on the higher level. On the off-chance you haven’t heard of this game, each level consists of cookies shaped like words which you need to string together to complete the word list. Each level has new letters and an entirely new set of words which you need to find.

Capitals – Another fantastic word game. Capitals is a two-player game which has you building words using letter tiles in order to clear the board and dominate your opponent.

Piano Tiles 2 – I had reservations about this game at first. How could tapping piano notes be at all beneficial. I was entirely wrong. Piano Tiles 2 – not the original version – consists of only classical music, which the children learn by tapping their device screens. My children now know more about classical music than I, and will quiz each other frequently to name the piece within a certain number of notes. My favorite feature is the history given on each piece, including composer and country of origin.

Professor Astro Cat’s Solar System/Galactic Genius with Astro Cat – I bought the book. Then discovered there was an app. The rest is history. This entire Astro Cat series is genius.

First 5 – This Bible app was recommended by another homeschool mom, and I’m so glad I took the time to download it. It’s a great start to the day.

Bible (YouVersion) – This app was another recommendation, and I love it. There are many Bible study courses you can download for free, along with Bible reading plans. My current plan is 5x5x5 Discipleship Journal. I’m not going to lie… My favorite thing about this app is the ability to select audio; I can have the Bible read aloud to me all throughout the day while doing mindless chores or cooking meals.

Whew! Looking back, this is quite a long list. I’d tell you this is all I’ve got loaded on my kids’ devices, but that wouldn’t be true. Right now, I’ve an entire folder dedicated to chemistry apps for the coming school year. It’s becoming an addiction these free apps. There are many more which come and go, along with apps for purely entertainment value.

For the most part, the apps we download are meant to stretch the mind as well as entertain. While I’m not opposed to playing games, I wish to limit the amount of time blankly staring at a screen. The above list helps keep learning fun, increases our skill, and adds to the adventure called homeschooling.

“The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.”

~ Matthew 6:22-23

Your Turn!: Share your favorite learning apps with us so we can partake in the fun!

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Podcast Central – Our Favorite Feeds & Why We’re Listening

Podcast_CentralThe kids are loaded. The bags are packed. It’s going to be a long drive. Do we listen to tunes? Possibly. These days, more often than not, our listening pleasure leans toward podcasts. With the excellent selection currently available, who can blame us?

Until recently, I don’t know how much attention I’d ever given podcasts. Now, we have a lovely list of choices at our fingertips and we couldn’t be more pleased. Here’s our favorite feeds and why we listen:

At Home – At Home is hosted by the sweetest group of homeschool mammas. They tell it like it is, no holds barred. Each podcast discusses the reality of homeschooling: what’s worked – and hasn’t – in their families, resources their loving, and helpful tips to get us through our homeschooling year. Each topic is carefully chosen, with thought-provoking questions peppered throughout the session. This is one of my personal favorites.

Encounters – A family selection… Each episode features a different creature of God’s creation. We’re encouraged to listen carefully, with ample opportunity given to hear what each sounds like in various situations. There’s a multitude of podcasts already available; we’ve only begun to enjoy this series. For those desiring in-depth materials regarding each podcast, visit their website (link provided) for additional links and lesson plans.

Myths and Legends – Another of our family choices. Truthfully, this is probably our top podcast choice. It’s funny, educational, and simply delightful. Each episode covers a different legend, exploring its historical context and from where the legend itself derives. Be forewarned, some of these legends are quite violent. While there is nothing inappropriate in any of the episodes (at least none we’ve listened to thus far), blood and gore are mentioned.

Your Morning Basket – Designed more for parents, YMB discusses various choices added to morning reading selections and why each has value. Several of the podcasts are interviews with homeschooling families; we’re given a glimpse of how they handle morning basket and what they’re reading. You’ll also find an occasional interview with professionals in the field of literature.

Read-Aloud Revival – Another parental selection, RAR focuses on the joy of reading aloud to our children no matter their age. Mrs. Mackenzie covers a multitude of literature her family enjoys, and encourages families to revisit this lost art. Most episodes are interviews with various authors and experts in literature.

Wild + Free We love Wild + Free’s focus on exploring the great outdoors and education outside-the-box. Why study science, history, or arithmetic inside when you could be learning through hands-on experiences? The podcast is delightful, as is their website and published materials.

Risen Motherhood For mama’s who need a moment of encouragement and edification, Risen Motherhood is a Godsend. Biblical perspective of parenting and womanhood abound.

A Delectable Education While we haven’t specifically chosen a Charlotte Mason approach to learning, we’ve greatly appreciated learning more about this method of education. We’ve learned a great deal, some of which we’ve begun to incorporate into our learning routine.

Listening to great music is always a win. But, we’re jazzed to change-up our schedule with something a little different. These podcasts keep us informed and learning something new. We’re blessed in being able to enjoy such pleasures!

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. “For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:16-17

Your Turn!: Is there a podcast you recommend?

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The Case of the Missing Pens!

The_Case_of_the_Missing_PensI didn’t want to do it. It goes against every Mom grain in my body. But, they’ve pushed me to a limit and I need to take a stand. What happened, you say? Well, you see, it all started with the case of the missing pens…

Rrrrr… Am I the only one who’s tired of things going missing? I buy a box of pens, place them in a location where everyone can access them; then, magically, before I reenter the room, they’ve all disappeared. Yeah. How can four kids possible need twenty pens all to themselves?

If it were just the pens, I might – might – be able to move on. (OCD and all that.) But, it’s not just the pens. Paper disappears, rulers vanish, glue runners seem to run off in the night. Where are they hiding it all?

All joking aside, this is a dilemma. I don’t want to go on a treasure hunt just to write a note. I need a supply closet which remains intact. Resources which stay in place, allowing me to get jobs done. Thus, I’ve come up with a solution. The kids have their own supplies, and mommy has hers.

The kids’ supplies get restocked every quarter, but until then, they are inspired to make the best use of their resources. If pens go missing, they know to start hunting them down amongst themselves. Mommy doesn’t have them, and she is not going to buy more until next quarter.

I don’t like having separate supplies. It makes me feel selfish. But, it’s become necessary in order to function without losing patience. If the kids truly have a need, it’s filled. If they borrow something, I let them. As long as things are returned. I’m reasonable like that.

It’s amazing! Suddenly, pens no longer go missing. Pencils are where they’re supposed to be. Rulers are returned. Order has been restored! Thank goodness.

“But all things should be done decently and in order.”
~ I Cor. 14:40

Your Turn!: What is one resource you can’t seem to keep in stock for homeschool days?

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The Care and Keeping of Nature Collections

care_keeping_nature_collectionsJust one more shell. One more stick. A special collection of leaves and acorns which must come home with us. I readily agree. Then we get home and reality sets in. What are we supposed to do with all these items? While I love and appreciate my children’s desire to begin a nature study collection, I tend to hesitate.

We’ve tried collecting sea shells, but without proper storage they chip and break. Bug collecting hasn’t been pretty. Should we really save leaves? As in every other area of learning, if we’re going to make a success of this, it might be time to put a plan into practice. It’s time to organize the care and keeping of our nature collection.

Cleaning Specimen – Not every item we bring home needs a good scrub down. However, certain specimen require care before being put into storage or on display. Thankfully, the National Park Service offers helpful information on care of both herbarium and mammal specimen.

Labeling Specimen – If we can, snapshots are taken of our nature find’s name placards while we’re out and about. At home, Audubon and other guides are pulled to fill in missing information. Small tags are attached, or placed under, each item with pertinent information.

Studying Specimen – Outside of labeling our specimen, nature journaling is of benefit. We might take time to water-color an item or two, taking a moment to describe with our senses the specimen before us. What does it smell like, feel like, and look like? Are there memories attached to this item we wish to document?

Storing Specimen – This is the hard part, especially when limited on space. We’re still struggling to find ways of making a home for our finds. The ideal would be a mid-sized, wooden cabinet with multiple drawers for storage. Until that comes along… For proper storage of delicate items, again the National Park Service offers helpful ideas and tips.

Reducing Specimen – Because we are so limited on space, we can only reasonably store so many of our items. This means some things will need to be placed in the green bin of our trash, with as many items as possible being given to interested friends. (Nature Pal Exchange is a great resource for this.) We’ve even found nature exchange locations which allow our children to turn in their finds for ‘points’ which can be accumulated and exchanged for purchasing other nature items.

For now, we’re having fun going wild, and adding pages to our field trip field guides. With the additional excitement of creating a nature study collection, science is delightful. With a plan in place, caring and storing our specimen has never been better.

“But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you; And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you. Or speak to the  earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you. Who among all these does not know That the hand of the Lord has done this, In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?”
~Job 12:7-10

📢 Chime In!: Does your family have a permanent display for nature study finds?

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A Little Old Fashioned: The 8mm App

8mmI don’t know about you, but I’m always bugging my kids to smile for just one more photo. Standard equipment for field trips, my device is always in hand. In fact, it’s pretty much always by my side. You never know when you’ll want to document some awesome activity or moment with the kids. Every once in a while, the kids snag my camera and the real fun begins…

Nexvio’s 8mm Vintage Camera app is a fun addition to our homeschool resource list. 8mm Vintage Camera captures the beauty and magic of old school vintage movies right through your viewfinder. Dust and scratches, retro colors, flickering, light leaks, even frame shakes. All can be instantly added with a single tap of the finger. Shoot directly with 8mm Vintage Camera, or import existing videos for added fun.

With all the technology put out to improve film quality why would we want to take a step back? (I mean, have you seen those horrid orange-tinged photos sitting in old albums.) Don’t let new-fangled film fool you. There are plenty of lessons to be had from gazing into the past:

  • History Lessons – There are a variety of time periods and genres represented in the 8mm app. Explore each time period, noting famous films created during that era. Who were the famous directors? What was happening around the world to affect film making and movies itself?
  • Science Lessons – How are cameras made, and what advances have been developed over the years to increase film quality? Is digital better than film? Explore the science behind this fantastic artistic field.
  • Film Classes – Do our children notice the difference in film quality between centuries?  What might have been the original cause for these issues, and what was done to fix them? Film is nothing without sound! This would be a perfect opportunity to explore the importance of the soundtrack.
  • Exploring Memories – This is the perfect time to dig out our own photos from the past. Can our children see the similarities between our photos and the simulations in the app?

We love when new resources can be pulled into our learning routine, adding spice to life and livening up our lessons. 8mm Vintage Camera is tons of fun to explore. Better yet, it’s a lovely way to launch a world of exploration.

📢 Chime In!: What is your favorite photography app, both for yourself and the kids?

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Show Me a Story

“As America’s industrial might grew, so did the conviction that the time had come for American illustrators to rise to the challenge of matching, or even surpassing, the high standard set by artists from across the Atlantic.”
~ Show Me a Story

Show_Me_Book_ReviewBeing married to an illustrator, I have the unique privilege of seeing behind the scenes. The difficult clients, the multitude of changes a project can go through, and the reward of a job well done never cease to amaze. I am very proud of my man and love sharing in his world. So when I spotted this book at our local library, into my basket it went.

Show Me a Story is a set of compelling interviews by the acclaimed Leonard S. Marcus. Twenty-one top authors and illustrators reveal their inside stories on the art of creating picture books. Max and Mickey; Miss Nelson; Pack, Quack, and Mrs. Mallard; Pigeon; Sylvester; John Henry; and a very hungry caterpillar – these are just a few of the beloved picture book characters discussed. We read about each artist’s childhood, their inspiration, their determination, their mentors, their creative choices, and more.

While this entire book is well worth reading, I especially enjoyed reading about each author/illustrator’s childhood. I wanted to learn about the creative and learning environment each artist experienced as a child. I also appreciated reading what inspired each artist. As a parent, perhaps there was something I could learn.

Many of the artists I had heard of previously and read many of their books. However, there were a few which were new to me. It was a pleasure to discover new works of literature to share with my children.

I will say I would like to see a sequel to this book; perhaps a series. There were many illustrators I was surprised were not included in this volume; artists such as William Joyce, Scott Gustafson, Tony DiTerlizzi, Brian Lies, and more. It would be great to hear from them as well.

This was a great book. I look forward to reading more works by Leonard Marcus in the near future. Learning and exploring the world of illustrators is a joy.

📢 Chime In!: Does your family have a favorite illustrator?

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Welcoming in the 2016 – 2017 School Year

Course_LogoHave I mentioned I’m one of those crazy, weird moms. The ones that don’t take the summer off? After a short breather, we’re back in action and ready to get the party started.

To kick the year off right and keep a digital record of our fun, here’s a quick rundown of coming attractions. A glimpse of when all the craziness takes place. A hint of the daily action. What we’re using at the table, and more.

Our 2016-2017 Yearly Schedule
A quick overview of what our year looks like. Our school days, many breaks, and holidays which demanded a day off. There’s never a dull moment here.

Our Routine
We don’t believe in strict schedules, but life without a routine would fall to pieces. Here’s what’s worked for us, and the many ways it’s changed over the years.

Our 2016-2017 Curriculum
From Bible to Oceanography; from the littles to the bigs. Here’s what we’re using and where we find the best deals.

As homeschoolers, our learning never stops; not really. We’ve been known to take field trips on weekends, learn new skills on Sunday afternoons, and study well into any given evening. It just makes sense that our ‘school’ year takes place all year round.

Through the Lord’s leading, each year has been a unique blessing. With Him guiding our family, home, and learning we can’t go wrong. May this year be focused entirely on God and His call upon our lives. May we emerge steeped in Scripture, filled with wisdom, and stronger in the faith.

📢 Chime In!: When is your summer break over?

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