My View on Life Skills - If You Wait Until Their Teens, It's Almost Too Late

My goal as a parent is to raise God-loving responsible adults. I believe children should be fully capable of being responsible for themselves before they are eighteen years of age. History has clearly demonstrated that men and women are fully capable of this at ages much younger than 18.

My children are young now. I am trying to teach them basic life skills. I intend to teach them most of the life skills I want them to learn, before they become teenagers. Then when they become teenagers, they will have the opportunity to practice these skills under my guidance and supervision, before they are out on their own.

I have a list of life skills that I feel my children will need to know in life as adults. My list has one column for each child. I can check off each skill for each child when I feel that child has learned that specific skill. Such as when my oldest son knows how to sew on a button, I can check it off for him, but not for my other children. That way when my third son is 10, I can look at my chart and know that I haven’t taught him how to sew on a button yet-A skill I don’t practice every day, but feel is important for him to know as an adult. I try to include minor things on my list that I don’t think about often, such as changing the furnace filter. I continue to add things to my list as I think of them.

My list is the same for both my sons and daughters. I believe they both need to know the same life skills. I may teach them the skills differently though. I may teach my son’s how to check and change the oil in their vehicles, where as I may teach my daughter how to check the oil, and how to know when to get it changed at a service station.

I believe it’s not only important to teach life skills to our children, but also to teach them the logic behind the skills. I feel it’s easier to do things, when we know why we are doing them. I also think my children will be more likely to remember the skills I teach them if they know the why behind the skills. And if they do forget something, they will hopefully be able to reason it out.

What’s your view on teaching your children life skills?

Red Mustang Convertible

Red Ford MustangWhen my oldest son was a baby, we would watch for Daddy to come home. We live on a busy street, so as we watched for Daddy, we would watch the vehicles go by. I would name the color and type of vehicles that passed by, such as red car or grey SUV. Being a boy, my son loved this game. We played it almost every day. By the time my son could talk, he was naming the color and type of vehicles that we saw. I believe that he knew his colors even before he could talk because of this daily game we played.

As my son grew older, the game evolved into more complicated descriptions. Instead of red car, it became red mustang convertible with a black top. At times we have added location or direction like yellow school bus by the stop light or white pickup truck going east. I believe that as this game evolved, it not only helped him learn his colors, but also develop his language.

I have played this same game with all of my children at their different levels. Now, my oldest sons play it with their younger siblings. They all love it! Even my 5 month old daughter loves to watch the cars go by and hear me talk to her. As she grows, I’m sure she too will learn her colors the same way her oldest brothers have.

What fun educational games have you invented for your children?


A Different Kind of Learning Opportunity - They’re Still Learning

When an electronic item breaks in our house, I sometimes let the kids take it apart to learn from it before I throw it away or salvage it. They love to take things apart, see what’s inside and find out how things works. I must admit, I am blessed, my children love to learn.

The case on my son’s dynamo flashlight broke beyond repair and the crank no longer worked. So, I loosened the screws holding it together to get them started and then gave them a screwdriver and told them they could take it apart. They were quite happy about this and got right to work.

Crank FlashlightAs usual, I walked away to let them learn and discover on their own and then came back to check on them in about five minutes. I noticed one of them coming back to the table with a hammer. I was a bit surprised (mostly that they had gotten it so quietly by themselves). As any mother would do, I asked what they were planning on doing with the hammer. Their plan was to smash the flashlight with the hammer to see what would happen. My first thought was “No, that’s not how you learn!” Instead of saying what I was initially thinking, I realized that they haven’t really ever had the opportunity to smash something with a hammer before. They are boys and should be allowed to smash things once in a while just for fun since it is a part of the way God created them.

So as painful as it was for me to allow them to make such a mess, I told them “Yes” they may smash it, though first they must move it to a box on the front porch (to contain the debris and prevent damage to my table). I helped them move the flashlight, went over a few use and safety guidelines of hammers with them, and then let them commence with their plan.

They took turns jubilantly smashing the flashlight with the hammer for a while. After the case of the flashlight was smashed to bits, they played with the circuit board inside. Moments later, they excitedly came running to me to show me that they had figured out how to crank the flashlight and it was now working! Seeing as it wouldn’t crank before, this was quite the accomplishment! I took a few minutes to point out some of the different parts of the now working flashlight circuit board before they went back to play with it some more feeling quite proud of their accomplishment.

It amazes me sometimes how much children can learn from what seems like a silly experiment. My children were going to smash a flashlight with a hammer-not much of a science experiment. Yet, they learned so much because I was willing to let them try their own experiment their way. Learning may not always take the form that I expect. I will try to remember this in the future and consider objectively when they come to me with an unusual plan.

Please share an example of how your children have learned in an unusual way.

Enough Pumpkins Already! You don't have to do every page in the book!

My son asked if he had to color something in his math book and it reminded me of one of my earliest memories of being homeschooled. I had to color and cut out pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin. I hated coloring and cutting out things. I knew how to do it and was so bored. I didn’t understand why I had to color and cut out so many pumpkins. I wanted to do the ‘fun stuff’ (though I don’t remember what the fun stuff was) that my older siblings were doing.

PumpkinI asked my mom years later why she made me color and cut out things so much. Though I was obedient, it was obvious that I hadn’t enjoyed it. Her response was that she thought it was excessive too at the time, but since it was in the book, she assumed there must be a reason for it.

I’ve heard this view-point from others as well. I have no doubt that the people who design text books do so with a lot of thought and truly try to design the best book they can. However, as my children’s teacher, I feel the best designed book, may not necessarily be the best for my children.

I try to remember my experience with the pumpkins when I’m working with my children. I try to adapt the material to best fit my individual child and think about why he is doing it. Not just do it because the book says so. If there is something that he knows well and doesn’t like to do repetitively, I ask myself if he really needs to do it and what he is supposed to be learning from it. It may be something that he already knows. If that’s the case, I may choose to skip it or only do part of it. For example he may be really good at coloring and cutting pumpkins (he must take after me), so I may have him only do 2 pumpkins today or skip that section all together. Of course I want him to occasionally color and cut even if he knows how, so he continues to improve his skills and for obedience just because I said so. I am the teacher and parent and it’s important that he follows my directions whether he likes what he’s working on or not. We’ve all experienced this in our work-lives, children may as well get prepared for it.

I like this method because it gives me more time to work with my children on the stuff that they either need my help on or the fun stuff that they want to do. How much better would my pumpkin experience have been, if my mother had let me work on something that was of interest to me instead of repetitively coloring and cutting pumpkin after pumpkin.

Certainly not all of my childhood experiences were like this one. I have many good memories of being homeschooled. I also believe that my mother did the best she could and I don’t fault her for making me color and cut out pumpkins. We are very blessed to live in this time when there is support for homeschooling. My parents didn’t have that experience and had to figure it out on their own.

Help others out by sharing something you have learned as a teacher from an early school memory of your own.

Your Knee Bone's Connected to Your Shin Bone

Baby Holding StethoscopeWe all go to the doctor at times. With four young children, my family tends to be there often. Finding a sitter or having my husband come home from work every time is not a reasonable option for our family. So, when one of us has an appointment, I pack up all the kids in the van, and off we go.   

Doctors appointments are typically filled with a lot of time waiting, so I figure why waste all that time.  I typically have my children pack their backpacks with their schoolwork and supplies before we leave the house. I usually pack a few things in my bag too. 

On the way to the doctor appointment, I usually explain why we are going to the appointment and see if they have any questions. Usually someone asks if they are going to get a shot. I believe in being honest with my children. Sometimes, if the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘I don’t know’ (when I truly don’t know) they will get crabby and be difficult. Thankfully, most of the time the answer is ‘no’ and then they relax because they know that they can trust me. Obviously God tells us in Exodus 20 not to give false testimony, I believe it is very important for us to not only obey His commands, but to also model this behavior to our children.

Once we are in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, I usually have my oldest son start on his schoolwork while I fill out forms. I have him bring something that he can work on mostly independently.  The other children play. Then when I’m done with the forms, if there is still time I usually read to my children since I am available and they can have my full attention.

If there are any triage procedures when we get called back, I like to name the instruments that the children haven’t seen before or test them to see if they can remember what they are called and what they do like ‘sphygmomanometer’ is for checking blood pressure.  If there is something I’m not familiar with, I just ask the nurse.  Sometimes the nurses will even explain or show extra things to my boys like that there are different size sphygmomanometer cuffs for different sizes of arms.

Skeleton Illustration

Once we are in the exam room and the nurse leaves, I look around at the walls and tables (I don’t snoop in the drawers) to see what educational opportunities are available to us. Usually there are posters or models. These are opportunities that I don’t have available in my home, so I like to take advantage of this time to teach biology and health. I like to discuss anatomy with my boys from the posters or models and relate it to their own bodies. “See the spinal bones on this model. Now feel your back here. Those bumps are your spinal bones.”  or “This muscle is the bicep muscle.  Can you find your biceps?  What happens when you flex your biceps?”

If I have exhausted all of the learning opportunities in the room (or if my children really aren’t interested that day) then I have them work on their schoolwork that they brought with in their backpacks or I read to them.  For my younger children I often bring crayons and let them draw on the paper on the exam table.  They love this!  It usually keeps them busy for a long time and my older children try to finish their work quickly so they can draw on the exam table paper as well.

I usually pack and have ready a special snack so when the doctor comes into the exam room, the kids can have snack time. This gives them something to look forward to and it helps them stay quiet while the doctor is talking to me. They are also more likely to listen and learn something from what the doctor is saying. I try to teach them to be polite and not interrupt the doctor or me and to save their questions till later. Obviously this takes a lot of practice and is still a work in progress, but my efforts do seem to be paying off. I also like to use this time to have them practice being kind to their sibling that my not be feeling well or has to have an uncomfortable procedure or test. I want them to show love to their siblings and offer to help each other. I think doctor appointments are a great time to practice this.

One more thing I like to do at the clinic is talk about the different employees that we see at the clinic, what their jobs are, and how they work together as a health care team. Also, that they are real people too and sometimes they get sick like us, that’s why we had to reschedule our appointment recently.   

On the way home, I like to discuss things the Doctor talked about, and make sure that my boys didn’t misunderstand what the saw or heard.   

I like to make the best of my opportunities, and though real world experiences may not always be convenient, they can certainly be educational for my children. 

What are your tips for going to the Doctor with kids in tow?

Don’t throw that away so fast: Junk is a Learning Opportunity

We had a broken shake mixer recently. We rarely used it and I didn’t really want it cluttering up my house, so I wasn’t too sad when it broke. I was going to throw it away, when I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity for my children. I realized that my curious children would probably love to see what’s inside it and probably had no idea how it worked. So I decided to let them take it apart. Now I have to be honest here, I didn’t let them take it apart right away. I actually saved it in the basement for about a month until a more convenient time.

Of course, safety comes first with any experiment. So, the first thing I did was cut the power cord so they couldn’t plug it in and accidentally hurt themselves. I told them why I did this and that appliances can be dangerous if not used properly. I also informed them that they were not to take mom and dad’s things apart unless we directly tell them to do so. I really didn’t want them taking the blender or oven apart and possibly hurting themselves in the future.

Then, I set them up at the table with an all-in-one screwdriver. I showed them how to use a screwdriver and how to change the bit. I showed them the difference between a regular bit and a Phillips bit. Then I told them to experiment and walked away so they could try it on their own.

I hadn’t allowed my children to take an appliance apart before, so they were a bit surprised when I not only allowed them to take the shake mixer apart, but told them that they were supposed to take it apart. My 3-year-old had a huge smile on his face and grabbed the screwdriver to get started right away!

After a few minutes, I came back to check on them. They were struggling to open the mixer housing, so I helped them a little. Then they went back at it, pulling it all apart and playing with it. When they started to get bored, I came back again and explained the basics of how a motor works. I’m talking real simple basics like the cord plugs into the wall and the electricity comes in through this wire here that leads to the motor here so when you move this switch here, the motor converts the electricity into energy that causes this rod here to spin which is attached to the beater here that mixes the shake. My children are young, so I just wanted them to have an intro into basic mechanics and electronics at this age.

As my children grow, I’m sure we will have another broken household appliance and then we will go more in-depth into mechanics and electronics and learn more at that time. I may have to do a little learning myself before I explain things to them. That’s okay, I like to learn. It’s one of the great things about homeschooling. When they are old enough, I can have them look things up themselves and then explain it to me to show that they understand it. Either way, we all learn together.

How have you turned a broken or obsolete household item into a learning opportunity?

Without My Consent: Keeping Immunization Records in a State Database

This week I took my son to the doctor for his 2 year checkup and an interesting thing happened involving his medical records. I noticed that my son’s vaccination record was inaccurate. The record stated that my son had received a vaccination that he had never actually received. I notified the nurse and she notified the doctor and she notified the site supervisor. This was a big deal. I was glad that they were taking it seriously. They didn’t know how this had happened. They didn’t know whether or not he had actually received the vaccine (I know he hadn’t). They promised to look into it and get back to me about what happened.


Later in the week, I received a call from the clinic supervisor stating that my son was a part of MIIC. I had never heard of MIIC before and was not very happy to find out that my son had been enrolled in a state controlled program without my consent. The clinic supervisor then told me that another clinic had wrongly entered the vaccine information into my son’s MIIC record. And that the supervisor’s clinic had pulled that information and entered it into my son’s chart against their clinic policy. I asked the supervisor if I could opt out of MIIC. She didn’t know but said she would look into it and get back to me. I looked into it myself right away.

MIIC (Minnesota Immunization Information Connection) claims to be a program among health care providers, parents, public health agencies, and schools aimed at preventing disease through immunization. MIIC claims to use a confidential, computerized information system, also known as an immunization registry, which they claim contains a complete and accurate record of a person’s immunizations, no matter where they got those shots.

Hepatitis B VirusAs you can see, what MIIC claims and what is actual are two different things. MIIC claims that their records are confidential yet in my son’s case, someone went against clinic policy and entered information into my son’s chart. MIIC claims their records are complete, yet they are only as complete as those clinics that choose to participate. MIIC claims their records are accurate, yet in my son’s case, they were not. MIIC’s user agreement states that all authorized users of MIIC agree to “Prominently display informational materials about MIIC that notify individuals of their option to not participate.” I have been going to my clinic for more than 3 years and have never noticed such materials prominently displayed. MIIC is exempt from HIPAA’s privacy regulations. I feel that enrolling my children into a state controlled registry with out my knowledge is a violation of my parental and my children’s health care rights.

I want every parent to be aware of this state controlled registry. Your child is probably already a part of this registry without your consent. I encourage you to seriously consider whether or not you want your child to continue to be a part of this program that you didn’t consent to enrolling them in. As for my children, we have chosen to have them opted-out. Per MIIC’s web page, this simply means that “The record is locked and not deleted... After the opt out, there is no subsequent disclosure of the demographic and immunization information to any other authorized users querying for that record.”

If you choose to have your children opted-out, you can contact the Minnesota Immunization Information Connection (MIIC) coordinator in your region or by calling 800-657-3970.

If you would like more information on MIIC visit the MIIC page on the Minnesota Department of Health website.

If you are concerned about your health care freedom you may be interested in Citizens’ Council for Health Freedom.

My curriculum choices 2011: 3 year old doing kindergarten work

Part 1 of My Curriculum Choices discussed the choices for my 6-year-old. This time I'll tell you about my kindergartener.


Bob Books” set 1 by Bobby Lynn Maslen: These books are very short and simple and designed for beginning phonic readers. We plan to obtain the next set later in the year.

A Beka Book “K5 Readers”: I have these readers on hand from my oldest son. They are simple and progress in difficulty as my son learns more phonics rules.

Alpha-Phonics” by Samuel L Blumenfeld: It is very simple. The lessons are very short which is important since my son is so young. It is reusable.


A Beka Book “Writing with Phonics K5” & “Numbers Writing Tablet”: These books are easy to use. They teach “ ball and stick ” style of writing which I prefer over some of the other choices. There are examples of how to write the letter on each page and then room to practice. They worked well with my oldest son.

I also plan to have him copy Bible verses that I want him to memorize.


A Beka Book “Numbers Skills K Arithmetic”: I have used A Beka Book math with my oldest son and it seems to work well. I like the convenience of having a workbook that my son can write in. I like the style of how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I plan to also incorporate the use of flashcards.

For the rest of the subjects concerning my kindergartener, I will use a multilevel teaching approach and utilize some of the same materials that I am using with my oldest son.

As you can see from my curriculum choices this year, I am trying to teaching with a more connected approach by tying some of the subjects together such as Religion and Reading instead of having a separate book for each separate subject. I’m also trying to teach more subjects using a multilevel teaching approach. My goal is to make learning easier and more natural for my children and at the same time easier for me. I also want to make better use of our time and add meaning to our work such as writing Bible verses that I want them to memorize for handwriting instead of just writing meaningless sentences. I feel this minimizes the quantity of schoolwork without reducing the amount of learning.

You may have also noticed that I don’t have a curriculum choice listed for each MN required subject. My children are not yet of the MN mandated compulsory attendance age and I therefore do not need to have a formal instruction for each subject. This does not mean that I am not educating them in these subjects, but that I have simply chosen to not have a formal curriculum for that subject.

I’m really looking forward to teaching history this year with the new style I have selected. I think my boys are really going to enjoy it also. What is your favorite new curriculum choice this year? Please leave a comment and let me know.

My Curriculum Choices 2011: 6 year old doing 2nd grade work

In this first part of a two part series I'm sharing my curriculum choices for our 6 year old who is doing 2nd grade work.


NIrV Read with Me Bible” Illustrated by Dennis Jones: I feel it’s written at the right level for my son’s current reading ability. We want to instill in him the daily habit of reading his own Bible.

Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books for reading and obtain them from our library. This guide will make it easier for me to select books at the proper reading level for my son that are safe from non-Christian biases.


A Beka Book “Language 2” workbook: We used A Beka Book “Language 1” last year and it seemed to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains the language rules and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

A Beka Book “Writing with Phonics K5” & “Numbers Writing Tablet”: I chose to use the K5 levels for handwriting because the lines are larger. My son still struggles with handwriting and I feel this will be easier for him until he develops more fine motor coordination.

I also plan to incorporate practical application writing often. By this I mean having him write notes to Grandma, labeling things I put in the freezer or making a grocery list for me.


Honey for a Child’s Heart” by Gladys Hunt: See the section on reading.


A Beka Book “Arithmetic 2”: We used A Beka Book “Arithmetic 1” last year and it seemed to work well for my son. I like the convenience of having a workbook that he can write in. I like how it explains things simply and then gives opportunities to practice them and review them throughout the book.

I plan to also incorporate the use of flashcards.


Apologia “Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures” by Fulbright: I chose this book because it is written from a creation perspective and I can use it with multi-level teaching. It is also more in-depth than many other science books that I have looked at, which I feel will work well for my analytical son.

History & Geography

All Through the Ages” by Christine Miller: This is a resource guide for me from which I plan to select books on Creation and Early History, Ancient Near East, and Ancient Egypt, and obtain them from our library. This book also directs me to select passages from our Bible to compliment the books we choose from the library for this time period. This guide will make it easier for me to select quality books from these historical time periods for my son that are safe from non-Christian biases. This is a multi-level teaching approach.


Human Anatomy in Full Color” by John Green: This book has beautiful pictures of anatomy. Since my background is in Bio Med, teaching health comes very naturally to me in our daily life. I wanted a book with good pictures and little text to aid in my natural teaching.

Before I was Born” by Carolyn Nystrom (God’s Design for Sex series): I like to review this book yearly with my son to encourage a healthy Christian perspective of sex education.


NIrV Read with Me Bible” Illustrated by Dennis Jones: See the section on reading.

Bible Fact Pack” (Junior Bible Quiz) cards: These cards have a lot of basic information about and from the Bible that We would like our son to learn. It’s presented in an easy to learn and fun way.

Next week I'll tell you about the choices I've made for my 3 year old who's doing kindergarten work.

What do you think so far? What are you doing with your kids at this age and level?

I’m So Overwhelmed - Where to Start

When my oldest son was preschool age, we were considering homeschooling. At the time, we felt overwhelmed about where to start. I like to break overwhelming tasks into smaller chunks, so I decided to break the homeschooling starting process down into steps.

Step 1: Research the homeschool law

I decided some research would be a good place to start. The first thing I decided I needed was the law. I was familiar with what homeschooling looked like having been homeschooled myself. Since I grew up in Wisconsin and now lived in Minnesota, I didn’t know if it was legal to homeschool in Minnesota. Well it turns out it is legal, not only in Minnesota, but also in all 50 states. However, there are different legal requirements for each state. So I familiarized myself with the Minnesota homeschool law. My favorite resource for this is Home School Legal Defense Association or HSLDA for short.

Step 2: Research homeschooling in general

I was homeschooled myself for 12 years, but unfortunately that doesn’t make me an expert at homeschooling my children. There are many homeschoolers out there that are older and wiser than me and there is a lot that they have to offer. I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes when I can, rather than making my own. So, I went to the homeschool section at the library and checked out piles of homeschooling books. One of the books that I found was most encouraging is “So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling: Fifteen families show how you can do it!” by Lisa Whelchel.

Step 3: Connect with other homeschoolers

I needed encouragement and support from fellow homeschoolers, as well as people that I could ask questions and glean ideas from. We became part of our local homeschool group, Home Educated Youth (HEY), and am fortunate enough to have developed a close friendship with another homeschooling family from our church. We also became members of Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators or MACHE and attended their conference.

Step 4: Determine my teaching goals

The reasons why my husband and I homeschool our children, influence our teaching goals. Sometimes I think of teaching as mentoring or discipling. I like this perspective because it helps me keep my focus on the end game of raising a well-rounded, Godly adult, which requires more than just academics. This helps me prioritize and determine my shorter term goals for the year. Some of the things we wanted our son to learn in kindergarten were the 10 commandments, how to count to 30, and the phonetic alphabet. Two of the books I found most helpful in determining my goals for the year were “Home Learning Year by Year” by Rebecca Rupp and “What Your Kindergartener needs to Know” by E. D. Hirsch, Jr., and John Holdren (Core Knowledge Series).

Step 5: Choose my curriculum

This is one of the steps that I found most overwhelming. There are so many good choices out there and so many different styles. During the preschool years for my son I used workbooks that we picked up at local stores (including the dollar store). I decided to continue with these books for his kindergarten year and build upon that with my own homemade “Letter a Week” curriculum. Then after he finished my own curriculum, I freaked out a little thinking that maybe I hadn’t done enough and we needed a formal curriculum. I chose to go through the A Beka K5 curriculum with him. He breezed through it very quickly to end his kindergarten year. The next year, when my eldest son was in 1st grade, we chose to go with A Beka’s 1st grade child kit because making my own curriculum had been a lot of work and I was still overwhelmed with the choices. By my eldest son’s 2nd grade year, I had done more research into curriculum choices and picked and chose different curriculums for the different subjects. I have since discovered the book “100 Top Picks for Homeschool” by Cathy Duffy. This would have been a helpful resource starting out. I also feel that going with a traditional child curriculum kit, such as A Beka or Bob Jones, for the first year of homeschooling, is an easy way to alleviate some of the overwhelming feeling. I recommend this choice.

Step 6: Design a schedule

I started by determining when I wanted to start and finish the school year and how much time I wanted off for things like Thanksgiving and Christmas vacation. In future years I also had to consider such things as the birth of another child. Then I calculated how many school days I would have. From there I looked at each subject and determined how many pages of a book or assignments in a subject to do how often. For example in 1st grade for math we did 2 pages of the workbook per day, 1 test per week, 1 speed drill per week, and flash cards at least once a week. For other subjects, like social studies, I broke them down differently and did 1 section 2 times a week only during the fall quarter and then did a different subjects during the winter and spring quarters. I gave my self a little leeway for sick days or if we got too busy. This was too much for me to remember so I then made a daily schedule for each quarter of the year.

Step 7: Start teaching

We decided to start slow. Rather than start everything on the first day, I chose to start only handwriting and phonics. The next week I added the rest of the subjects I wanted to teach.

Step 8: Keep Records

Keeping records is not only a legal requirement, but I also see it as a benefit to me. I like to be able to look back on the year and determine what worked well and what didn’t. This helps me when I choose my curriculum for the following year for the same child and also in future years for my other children. I also like to keep notes when I see something I might like to use in the future. This helps make each year a little bit easier than the year before.

How did you get started? Add a comment and help others out.

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