Tuesday, May 23, 2017

5 Favorite Homeschool Math Curricula

5 Math Curricula Favored by Homeschoolers

As promised yesterday, here is a list of additional math curricula that are beloved by homeschoolers across the country. The important thing to remember is that you are not locked into any one curriculum. If you buy one and it is not a good fit for your family, there's no reason you why you can't move on to another one. I went through several math curricula before finally finding the one that works best for us, Teaching Textbooks, which I told you about yesterday.

I ALWAYS recommend that you:
a) take the assessment/placement tests before you buy so that your kid isn't bored with lessons that are too easy, or frustrated by lessons that are too difficult, and...
b) try to purchase or borrow a gently used curriculum to try it out first. If you love it, you can then purchase a brand new curriculum with no writing on the pages for the rest of the year or next year.

This post may contain affiliate links.

Mammoth Math

Mammoth Math / Matematicas Mamut

I'm starting with the curriculum that is available in both English AND SPANISH. (There aren't many!) Mammoth Math is available for 1st - 12th grades. This program is more for traditional learning. If you want a program available as printable worksheets that you can print and go, this might be the best choice for your family. The workbooks in this series are all available as downloads, but if you prefer printed workbooks, you can also purchase most of them as such.

On their website, you'll find free assessment tests, and MORE THAN 400 FREE SAMPLE PAGES. There are five different math series. Visit the Mammoth Math website to read about the difference between each one and see samples so you can pick the one that best suits your family's needs. And be sure to watch the videos where Maria Miller (the creator) talks about her program!

Saxon Math

Saxon Math (aff)

If your child is more of a hands-on learner, then Saxon Math may be a great choice for you. I used this program with my daughter early on. I loved how it used lots of manipulatives (flash cards, tangrams, pattern blocks, bear counters, geoboards, color tiles, and more!) to help her learn basic concepts. The lessons also have you use lots of things found around your home, helping children to discover that learning opportunities are everywhere!

The lessons are not overwhelmingly long; new concepts are presented in small bits. And there is a LOT of repetition to help establish those new concepts and skills. I like that there is consistency in all of the lessons.

This program does require parental involvement in the younger grades. Students receive a workbook, but all instruction is given by parents using the teacher's lesson book.

Older students, however, get a textbook that is written directly to the student to allow for independent work.

PSST! And did you know that now through May 31st, you can save 30% on Saxon Math (and Phonics) over at ChristianBook.com (aff)? They have a great sale going on!

Singapore Math

Singapore Math (aff)

I've never used this curriculum, however, from what I understand it is very different from all of the others. So if you are looking for a program that teaches outside the traditional methods. The curriculum description on ChristianBook.com says...

"Singapore Math Primary Mathematics is a favorite homeschool math curriculum! Students learn through concrete and pictorial methods before moving into abstract thought and development. Singapore Primary Math US edition encourages an active thinking process, thoughtful communication of mathematical ideas, and engaged problem solving."

It is based on a teaching method and curriculum used in Singapore, a nation that consistently ranks at the top of international assessments of student achievement in math.

Life of Fred

Life of Fred (aff)

Available for K - 12, I'm focusing on the elementary math curriculum. Life of Fred is a series of math books that are unlike any other math curriculum. There are no boring lectures or workbooks but instead just fun stories about Fred Gauss, a child prodigy math genius. Children will be fascinated and love following along with his hilarious adventures! In each chapter, he encounters situations that call for solving math problems. The curriculum description on Educents.com says...

"The stories carry on through the exercises, leading the student through them. Many of the books have a series of quizzes called Bridges every few chapters. Passing a quiz means the student is ready for the next chapter. Some books have all the problem solutions in them, while others have separate answer keys or companions."


Math-U-See (aff)

I've not used this program, but know many homeschoolers who have and who absolutely love it. The lessons do require lots of parental involvement, but parents are told exactly how to teach each lesson via video-based instruction. Here is the description straight from ChristianBook.com...

"Math-U-See is a complete, skill-based, multi-sensory mastery curriculum for grades K-12. Designed to teach students specific skills in a definite, logical sequence, this systematic and cumulative approach will help students learn how to solve math problems and discover why they're solved in such a way.

The Math-U-See system features step-by-step procedures for introducing, reviewing, practicing, and mastering concepts; each lesson includes a video, and many of the lessons from Primer through Algebra 1 use hands-on manipulatives. Teachers watch the video lesson to learn the new concept and how to demonstrate it; they then present the new concept to the student using the build-write-say model; finally, students practice the new concept using lesson practice problems from the student workbook. Student-paced, teachers are given clear guidelines for determining when students have achieved mastery and are ready to move to the next lesson or level."

Monday, May 22, 2017

Teaching Textbooks: Math Curriculum for 3 - 12th Grade

Teaching Textbooks Math Curriculum

I know that for many of you, the last day of school (aka the beginning of summer) is only a week or two away. But for many homeschoolers, now is the time when lots of great sales on curricula for next school year are taking place.

So for those of you looking for new curricula, and those of you who are considering homeschooling for the first time, these last two weeks of May will focus on curricula to use either during the summer or the coming school year.

Today, I'm sharing the math curricula that currently works for us.

Tomorrow I'll share a list of others that are available. Not all math programs are created the same. The program you choose should really depend on your child's learning style.

  • Do they learn best with repetition? 
  • Do the prefer hands-on activities to learn math concepts?
  • Or do they learn better with visual examples?
  • Are you looking for traditional ways to teach math or do you want a program that teaches outside the box?
  • Do you want to teach your child yourself, or do you want an online or computer-based program?

Be thoughtful before you buy. Try the sample pages out first and see if you both like them.

Affiliate links used below. 

Teaching Textbooks (aff)

A few years ago, I switched to Teaching Textbooks for my own children. Before this, I had used several different others, but they just weren't a good fit for my kids. My kids were struggling or just hated math. So I finally tried Teaching Textbooks and it has been fantastic. I wouldn't say that my kids love math now, but there are way fewer tears and less frustration than what we had before.

It is really the only subject that we do on the computer. What I love about it is that it does not require an Internet connection; the program comes with four (or more) CDs. All you have to do is install it on your computer (it is super easy!) and assign your child a password.

Review: Teaching Textbooks Sample Problems
The computer portion is awesome. Students do a lesson each day for a total of around 115 lessons. They begin by watching/listening to a brief lecture with visual examples of a new concept, then they proceed to complete 5 practice questions and 22 problems. The questions not only cover the current concept being learned but also repeat previous concepts to keep your child's math skills sharp. Each lesson builds on the last.

The presentation of the computer program is fun and engaging without distracting the student with too many graphics or illustrations. In the top corner is a spot where simple animations take place as incentives for completing the work. The student can flip through them to select a specific theme. From Rapunzel letting down her hair to robots and penguins, every time your child gets an answer right, the mini-story unfolds until it reaches the end. It usually takes about 3 - 4 right answers to see the animation complete its story. If you don't want this distraction, you can turn it off.

Review: Teaching Textbooks Sample Problems

Review: Teaching Textbooks Sample Problems

Review: Teaching Textbooks Gradebook

The great thing is that this computer program includes quizzes and KEEPS TRACK OF GRADES for you! Parents have their own separate login and can access each child's gradebook, see how they did, which questions they got wrong, and whether or not they watched to see the right way to get to the answer. You can even edit it if needed. Here's my daughter's. I love that I can see how she does overall, and which specific lessons (concepts) she's struggling with...

Review: Teaching Textbooks Sample Gradebook

But what I like best about the program is that it also comes with a workbook with all the lessons. They are presented simply; no distractions. So if you prefer to vary the lessons by mixing both computer and paper lessons, you can do so.

I found that my daughter (in 7th grade) does really well with the computer lessons, but my son (in 5th grade) is doing better with the workbook. After a while of using the computer program, I found that my son was having trouble because he was trying to do everything in his head. He simply refused to use the dry erase board that I provided to work out the multi-step problems. And he was getting a lot of them wrong. Nothing I said helped. I also realized that he wasn't memorizing basic math concepts. Instead of knowing what 4 + 6 or 7 + 8 equaled, he just counted it out on the keypad. Yikes!!

Review: Teaching Textbooks Sample Problems

So I essentially decided we needed to change how we used the program and had him start using the workbook instead of the computer. It forced him to work out the problems and I am delighted to report that now it is not unusual for him to get 100 percent of the problems correct. After he completes each lesson, he calls out his answers to me and I check them in the Answer Booklet. If he gets any wrong, we work it out together. But if I didn't know how to help him or show him the right way, I would simply pop in the disk, go to that lesson, enter in his answer, and then click on the button to see the solution.

He loves the little animations of the computer, though, so as a reward for his hard work, I allow him to use the computer once a week to complete his work. But I didn't agree to this until he had completed 25 lessons in the book first and we had established a routine.

I've heard some parents say that the program wasn't challenging enough for their children. I haven't found this to be the case with my own children, but maybe if your child is a math genius, this might not be the program for you. I do encourage you to visit TeachingTextbooks.com to try their sample lessons and see for yourself. REMEMBER: It's okay to skip ahead a grade or two if you need to! In fact, their website has placement tests to help you figure out which grade level would be best for your child.

I buy the curriculum here on ChristianBook.com, though, because they frequently have great sales.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Free Printable from Kinder Bilingüe

Kinder Bilingüe

I've been getting a lot of messages lately about homeschooling preschool and kindergarten. One of the main questions has been where to find bilingual materials. So I'm excited to share with you today, a new independent store online: Kinder Bilingüe!

The store may be new, but the materials aren't. They've been created by Juliana Suarez for the last few years. Juliana is a bilingual ed teacher who made these printables for her own students and decided that she would offer them to other teachers who were looking for similar materials.

Her products are designed specifically for K - 2nd grade. The activities are so fun and are visually engaging with lots of illustrations.

For example, this bilingual monkey diary is a great way to get your kids writing about their adventures with their new (or old!) friend...

Bilingual Monkey Diary

Or maybe you want to teach your kids money concepts, including personal finance and addition and subtraction? Then check out her bilingual Mini Mall that helps you set up a classroom (or home) store!

Mini Mall Activity

Are you looking for morning work downloads in Spanish? Juliana has packets available for every month (September through June) or one comprehensive bundle with over 300 pages that has all of the months combined for a discount.

Morning Work in Spanish

Don't know what morning work is? It is basically a review of concepts that your students are learning in class. Each morning, they'll complete a worksheet that helps them master specific basic concepts. Here's a sample page:

Morning Work in Spanish

So far, Juliana has focused on writing and reading materials that may be used year round, especially this summer. But she has many others that she is in the process of uploading so be sure to check out her site regularly.

Bilingual Reading Log

A Free Download!

Juliana was kind enough to share a free download with MommyMaestra readers! Her bilingual reading log is a good way to kick off the school year because they're so much fun to color and fill out.

Thanks, Juliana!

So if you are looking for high-quality educational materials for your students/kids in K - 2nd, I highly recommend Kinder Bilingüe! You'll take comfort in knowing that you're not only helping your child to learn, but also supporting a Latina teacher. 

Remember, the more you buy, the more products educators are encouraged to create. :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WOW in the World: NPR's New Podcast for Kids

This morning, we started our homeschool lessons off doing something totally different; We spent the first half hour listening to stories of mysterious planets, seaweed, and gratitude - and then discussing everything we just heard. We had the BEST time!

The podcast we listened to was the first episode of "WOW in the World," NPR's first weekly podcast for kids. It's hosted by Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas, who are certainly the most animated, child-friendly radio hosts I've heard. (Don't worry, they don't go so overboard that parents want to throw up.) They are engaging and full of informative trivia that fascinated my kids.

WOW's intended audience is children ages 5 to 12. My kids are on the older end of this spectrum. Actually, my youngest is 11 and my oldest is 13. (Yes, my 13 year old enjoyed this podcast.) So in this first episode, my kids learned about three things: an opportunity in which they could join the search for the mysterious ninth planet, about the cerebral cortex and how seaweed affects our brain, and how showing gratitude is a form of mental exercise (loved this!!).

Mindy also interviews kids on the show, which I think is fun for young listeners, too. She challenged one to make up a story on the spot about a grandma and a panda bear and seaweed. And she asked others what they thought of some of the information they just learned on the podcast. The answers were hilarious!

At the end, I went to their website and clicked on the link above their podcast to see their conversation starters and we used them to talk about what we heard. They also included links on their site to an article or website that allows you (the parent) or your older children to learn more about each subject.

I love how interactive it was for us to listen and then discuss what we heard on the show as part of our morning routine. I'm thinking that this would be a great way to kick off our homeschool lessons every week: just start off listening to the previous week's episode!

What's especially great about this show is that if you're a parent with kids obsessed with tech, and limiting screen time is a constant challenge, here's a great way to give them a tech fix while still teaching them something without their staring at a screen. They can listen to the podcast anywhere: in the car, on the couch, at the grocery store, in a hammock...

But you don't have to take my word for it! Listen to their first podcast yourself here, or by clicking on the play arrow below...

Monday, May 15, 2017

Homeschool Enrollment for the Pizza Hut Book It! Program

Did you know? Homeschool enrollment for the 2017-18 program year is officially open!

The Pizza Hut Book It! Program is a literacy incentive program for students in K - 6th grade. This free program is simple and flexible, but you do have to register in advance. It runs during the 2017-2018 school year, so beginning in October you set monthly goals for your student(s) and by meeting those goals, they can earn a free personal pan pizza each month through March. Those goals can be the number of books, chapters, pages, or minutes your child is expected to read each month...YOU decide!

If you are a homeschool FAMILY with children in K-6 grade, you are eligible to participate. And, YES! The program is also available in Spanish! If you select "Printables" under the TEACHERS option in the drop down menu at the top of their website, you can view all their Spanish printables.

This is the last year that my son will be eligible to participate, but it is such a great initiative, I just registered. And so should you!!

Friday, May 12, 2017

PBS KIDS Plug & Play

Did you know that this week, PBS KIDS launched the first ever kid-safe TV and playtime streaming stick? Now I'm not promoting increased screen time for your little ones, but I do advocate that when your child is watching TV, the content be child-friendly AND educational!

The PBS KIDS Plug & Play device is pre-loaded with exclusive sing-alongs, games and more, which can all be accessed without Wi-Fi (I love that it doesn't eat up my data!!). This allows kids to navigate through the interactive playtime experience, in an entirely kid-friendly environment, with access to nothing but kids content.

When connected to Wi-Fi, the Plug & Play’s features expand, offering free access to PBS KIDS’ 24/7 channel and livestream, and over 100 hours of on-demand videos, with no subscription required. 

So let's say that you let your little one watch TV for one hour three times a week. With this device, you can rest easy knowing that they will have over 33 weeks of quality, educational content in videos alone. That's not including the sing-alongs, games and other stuff. So when you put it all together, that's basically one school year!

And that's a parenting win-win.

The PBS KIDS Plug & Play will be available for $49.99 in Walmart stores nationwide by May 24 and other retailers later this year.

Disclosure: I am a PBS KIDS ambassador, which essentially means I learn about new programs and products to share with my readers on a regular basis. I did not receive any compensation for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

MommyMaestra's Teacher Appreciation Sale

It's Teacher Appreciation Week!

And teachers remain some of the most dedicated and caring figures in a child's life. I can still remember many of my favorite teachers from grade school through college. I love them for making learning fun and for encouraging me to be my best. I also include parents and grandparents in this because they are without question a child's first and often longest-lasting teacher.

So if you are a school teacher, a homeschooler, a parent, or a grandparent, I want to offer you something special to show my gratitude and help you keep up all the great work you are doing with your children.

I'm throwing a sale! TpT is having a site-wide sale in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week. All of my products are on sale for 28% (the maximum they allow). You can click here to find my store.

But if you are a parent who may prefer not to sign up on TpT, I do offer most of my products for sale here on MommyMaestra, too. So you can click on the "My Shop" tab at the top of this page, or just click here to view my products on MommyMaestra.

This is a great time to stock up on no-prep activities and games to wind up the end of the school year, or to keep your kids busy learning in a fun way during the summer!

The sale is good through May 10th (tomorrow evening).


Monday, May 8, 2017

Free Download: Restaurant Conversation Activity in Spanish

It's MAY, my friends! And do you know what that means? For most of us, the end of the school year is in sight!!

Now's the perfect time to wind down your year of Spanish learning with a field trip to your local Mexican(?) restaurant so that your students can practice their fabulous Spanish-speaking skills. Or maybe you are stocking up on materials to start Spanish lessons with your kids this summer.

To help you prepare, here's a new download from MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You! This month's printable focuses on a restaurant conversation. Your young Spanish learner will discover new vocabulary related to a restaurant visit with this fun activity.

This printable 4-page activity comes with an audio file for learning proper pronunciation. The game includes vocabulary cards, a vocabulary practice sheet, a dialog sheet, and a menu and order ticket.

Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Free May the Fourth Download

May the 4th be with you! 

Since I am my kids are Star Wars nuts, you know this is one of our favorite days of the year. And so I wanted to remind you that I have a free set of printables based on the series available for you to download!

It's my little gift to you in honor of the day.

Grammar Force helps your kids strengthen their grammar skills with fun pages that focus on:

• Common nouns
• Proper nouns
• Contractions
• Adjectives
• Prepositions/Prepositional phrases

Note: This file is available in English only!

You can download it on TpT or here on MommyMaestra from my Shop.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

MamaLingua Language-Learning App Now on Android

Summer is the perfect time to teach your child Spanish or English. Better yet, learn together as a family!

I know that a lot of MommyMaestra readers are non-Spanish speakers who may have their children in a dual-language or immersion school setting. Maybe you'd like to continue to reinforce your child's Spanish speaking skills over the summer but are worried you can't because you don't speak it yourself?

Some of you are Latino families who follow along for the cultural activities that I share. Maybe now is the time to explore or expand your child's Spanish vocabulary? Or maybe you want to start introducing English to your little one?

And some of you are bilingual educators who are looking for resources to share with your ESL students or yourSpanish learners and their families over the summer break.

If any of these sounds like you, then you'll enjoy today's resource. MamaLingua is finally on Android! I know that most MM readers are using Android devices. So you'll definitely want to check out this awesome app that contains more than 900 words and phrases in Spanish and English. It covers 18 categories and uses an easy-to-read phonetic system. Don't know how to pronounce the words? No problem. It has an audio pronunciation. You can even customize your learning with the Favorites tab and use the in-app Community tool to see daily posts, free content, and tips and inspiration for learning.

I received a copy of the app for review purposes, so I downloaded it to my son's iPhone and he used it while we were in Spain.

With MamaLingua, you’ll learn Spanish or English vocabulary and phrases you can use every day with your kids...

HURRY!! Big Sale: $1.99! 

To celebrate their Android release, MamaLingua is lowering the price of the app for a limited time. Hurry and get your Android or iOS app today for just $1.99! It normally retails for $7.99.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

The following is a guest post by Stacie Servantes Farias, a Mexican-American mom of 4 who does not blog because she is too busy reading other blogs to write one of her own.

Stacie’s Story: Homeschooling Children with Learning Differences

If you would indulge me for a moment and allow me to say something very important: I am blessed to be homeschooling. Seriously. Homeschooling my children is absolutely my calling in life and it is my pleasure, my honor, and my privilege. I mean it! As a military family, homeschooling has been a tremendous blessing and the answer to prayers I did not even know I prayed.

All that said, homeschooling is HARD. Homeschooling my children has been frustrating, annoying, heartbreaking, confusing, and exhausting in every way imaginable. Why can my son memorize math facts one week, then forget them the next? Why does my daughter scan the page when she reads, looking at the pictures for clues? In no way am I an expert on homeschooling children with special needs, but there are a few of things I have learned while homeschooling my dyslexic/dyscalculic son and dyslexic daughter and if sharing them helps you in any way, I am happy to help.

Listen to the voice.

You know THE voice. It is the same internal one that said you should give homeschooling a shot. That voice will keep nagging until you finally allow yourself to think there is something more going on with your child. Maybe it IS more than, “well, I guess my kid just going to be a bad speller.” You will probably hear other voices too, most likely from professional teachers (the ones who paid), or pediatricians or family members that will say the following regarding your child’s struggles, “if your child was in ‘real’ school…” or the very popular “maybe your child needs a ‘real’ teacher.” If the words are said in judgment of you and your family’s choice to homeschool, please do not take them to heart. There are compassionate, wonderful, lovely people who want to help you and your child and who understand your struggles. Their words will encourage you and inspire you. They will NOT judge you.

Talk to other homeschool moms.

You are probably thinking, “How is that advice? Talk to other moms. Really?” Yup. Talk to other homeschool moms. Throughout your homeschooling journey, you will find there are many families who have decided to homeschool because conventional school systems, educational professionals, and even medical professionals have failed their children. If you suspect or know that you have a child with special needs, there is a homeschooling mama (or dad) that has been through exactly what you are going through. Guaranteed. Sometimes this kindred homeschooling mama will be in your city or state, or maybe you will never meet them except you happen to be in the same homeschooling-related Facebook group. If you open up about your struggles with your special needs child, the homeschooling community will reach back and enthusiastically provide guidance, encouragement, whatever you need. The reality is you cannot get us to shut up about curriculum, therapies, strategies, pedagogy, etc. We. Don’t. Stop. Talking. About. It. EVER!!

Your homeschooling style is whatever your child needs it to be.

Don’t get me wrong. It is helpful, useful, and even a lot of fun determining what kind of homeschool style suits you. Classical, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, traditional, Montessori, unschooling…I could go on. Every style has elements that are beautiful and inspiring. The question you should be asking yourself as a homeschooler to a child with special needs is, does this suit MY child? If you are homeschooling a child with dysgraphia, there might lots of tears when trying to do the copywork recommended by the Charlotte Mason method. If your child has ADHD or ADD, they may experience great difficulty sitting for the workbooks used in more traditional “school-at-home” type programs. A child with dyslexia may not find the amount of reading recommended through classical programs mentally exhausting. So what do you do? You have fallen in love with a certain style, read all the books, subscribed to the blogs, created new Pinterest boards dedicated to that style. Don’t panic. Just adapt. You are the teacher and expert on how your child learns best. You CAN be a Charlotte Mason homeschooler to a child with dysgraphia, just hold off the copywork until you have found a handwriting program to remediate. You CAN be a traditional homeschooler to a child with ADHD, you may just need to take a lot of breaks in between subjects. You CAN be a classical homeschooler to a child with dyslexia, just read out loud for them. Maybe you need a particular curriculum or program that does not follow the pedagogy but works well with your child’s specific learning needs. So what?! Who is going to make a fuss? The curriculum police? Make your style whatever your child needs it to be.

I have one final disclaimer. My mother is a retired public school teacher. I have more relatives that work in the public school system than work in every other field put together. I have a profound respect for professional teachers and what they try to do. But my husband and I made the decision to homeschool because we believe it to be what is best for OUR children. If keeping your child with special needs in school is what you believe is best for your child, then wonderful. But let it be YOUR choice because it is YOUR child and whether you realize it or not, you are already their teacher. Here is a quote from someone much smarter than me, who said it with way more eloquence than I could ever hope to muster. It is my hope that it comforts you as much as it comforts me.

“If family education rediscovers the pride of its leadership, many things will change for the better, for uncertain parents and for disappointed children. It is time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile – for they have exiled themselves from bringing up their children – and to fully resume their educational role. We hope that the Lord gives this grace to parents: not be to exile themselves from the education of their children. And this can only be done with love, tenderness, and patience.” – Pope Francis, in his address to the general audience. May 20, 2015.

Here are some of my favorite resources regarding dyslexia:

photo credit: © fidelio

Stacie Servantes Farias is an Army wife and mom of 4 with a “very healthy” obsession for Snoopy, Disney movies, Audrey Hepburn, Dr. Pepper, Whataburger, books, and homeschooling. Originally from Mission, Texas, Stacie and her high-school sweetheart hubby live with their kids and dog in a different home every few years, because that is the military life. She has big plans to write a book exploring her theory that La Llorona drowned her children because they would take their socks off all over the house and then would complain that they never had clean socks! Stacie also thinks she is really funny, but she is mostly lame.    

Friday, April 28, 2017

Cinco de Mayo Printables

It's hard to believe that Cinco de Mayo is next week! My printables have been selling like crazy, I think it's because they all focus on the REAL history behind the holiday and not just the stereotypical sombrero, piñata, margarita that most people associate with it.

So if you are looking for some fun printables to help your children or students learn about the impact this holiday had on U.S. history, (did you know that the outcome of the U.S. Civil War could have been very different if it weren't for the brave men and women of Puebla?) check out one of my products. They are available for a variety of ages!

Cinco de Mayo Bilingual Coloring Pages - TpT | My Shop

K - 2nd grade

Formerly known as a Bilingual Minibook on Cinco de Mayo, the full-page layout lent itself more towards coloring pages than a minibook, so I changed the name. :)  This packet includes three sets of 8 coloring pages; one in English, one in Spanish, and the other bilingual. Each page is accompanied by text telling the story of the Battle of Puebla and its historical impact.

Cinco de Mayo Interactive Notebook or Lapbook - TpT | My Shop

4th - 6th grade

If you've never used an interactive notebook or lapbook, check it out! They are so much fun because they allow your student to read, write, color, cut, and paste to make the learning experience more engaging so that they'll remember better.

You can see examples of how the notebook goes together here.

The REAL History of Cinco de Mayo 1-Page Reading Passage - TpT | My Shop

4th - 8th grade

Only have time for a quick activity? This is a NO PREP one-page history on the Battle of Puebla and Cinco de Mayo. From Benito Juarez's decision to stop paying foreign debts for two years to the impact of the battle on U.S. history, this informational text is written for students in 4th - 8th grade. Includes an 8-question comprehension quiz plus answer key.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Search for STEMnauts Contest

STEMnauts Contest

Calling all middle school and high school students!

If you are obsessed with space or enjoy coding, this is a great opportunity for you! NASA has partnered with Texas Instruments to create and host this super fun contest that features the skills astronauts use in space. And they are searching for young STEMnauts to complete their challenges.

To win great prizes, you and your team of up to 5 fellow students must decipher puzzles and brainteasers using the coding and STEM* problem-solving strategies NASA uses to make human life in space possible. You'll have to have an adult sponsor, but they canNOT help you with the challenges. ;)

Teams must be middle or high school students. Homeschoolers are eligible.

The team with the most points will win:

  • A new Galaxy Gray TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculator for each team member
  • A $500 Amazon gift card for your team
  • Passes to choice of NASA visitor center
  • An assortment of fun STEM and space-related objects, including:
    - ISS Drawstring Backpack
    - Squishy Astronaut
    - NASA Pins/Decals
    - Foam RocketsS
  • A video chat with a NASA subject matter expert

In addition, each of the members of five teams chosen at random will win a Galaxy Gray TI-84 Plus CE graphing calculators.

I think there are only around 150 teams at the moment, so your chances are good! Get in there and start deciphering codes and riddles.

You can enter the contest any time before it ends on May 31st.

My daughter is totally geeked about participating and is lining up a teammate. :)

Good luck!!!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Teaching Children with Learning Differences to Read with Reading Horizons

The following is a product review by homeschooling mom and MommyMaestra reader, Mireya Marroquin Dunn.

As a follower and reader of the Mommymaestra's blog and Facebook page, I'm always so impressed at how much research and resources are shared to us readers. I'm always looking forward to seeing what is new. A while ago, there was a post on the reading program ”Hooked on Phonics." MommyMaestra recommended this program to teach young children how to read.  She partially attributed her children's reading success (they currently read way above their reading grade level) to the program. I also invested in buying a "Hooked on Phonics" kit back in 2003, when my oldest child was starting kindergarten. And it did work well for her. It is really a great program, but what happens when it doesn't work well for every child?

This is what happened with my second child. I was excited about using HOP with him before he started kindergarten, but it just didn't seem that the letters and sounds were sticking in his memory. He was attending a public school, and as time went on, I was naive and started to think that he would just learn it. Many of his teachers informed me that he had a learning delay and that he would catch up eventually. He continued to struggle even though he did have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), and despite the accommodations that were made even though we followed recommendations.

Then, in fourth grade, he was diagnosed with Dyslexia. He continued to make very little progress. I finally decided to pull him out of the public school system and homeschool myself, but still worried about how I was going to teach him how to read. I began to do a lot of research and found the blog of a woman who has eight children, seven of whom have learning differences. She recommended a reading program called Reading Horizons (an explicit, systematic, multi-sensory reading instruction made simple). Her older children learned to read using the online interactive software, called Reading Horizons Elevate.

The program begins with the basic 26 letters of the alphabet, then continues to focus on:
  • 42 sounds
  • 5 phonetic skills
  • 2 decoding skills
In addition, it teaches and reinforces with a variety of practice methods the most common words, sight words, & some grammar lessons. There are six chapters with 68 lessons in all. It comes with assesments after each chapter and three library assestments to measure reading levels.

It also teaches a unique marking system which explains when and why vowels are short and long. As you progress through the online system, you learn to break apart longer words into smaller pieces by making the appropriate markings. This is to understand the proper pronunciation in multisyllabic words. It also gives spelling tips.

The program reinforces the skills learned by decoding vocabulary words (over 1,000 words) after the lesson has been introduced. Each vocabulary word is presented with an auditory definition and context sentences. They also offer a library section with a wide variety of timed reading passages. This measures fluency. And comprehension questions follow each reading passage.

One of the great things about this program is that it keeps track of your child's reading progress. If your child doesn't master a particular skill, they have the opportunity to redo it before moving on to the next skill. Once my son began to use this reading program, I saw my son's confidence improving and he was not struggling so much with reading sentence by sentence. When my son began the program, he was reading about 5 years below his reading level. Within nine months, he completed the reading program. He was re-assessed and had made an amazing four-year reading improvement. This was so remarkable!

Here's an explanation of the Reading Horizons Elevate Methodology:

I believe so strongly in this reading program that I wanted to help other children who were struggling with reading. So I offered to tutor kids in my neighborhood at my next door neighbor's afterschool homework tutoring center. Since I began tutoring them back in September 2016, they have seen significant gains, too. A few of them even made honor roll this past third quarter grading period! The effects were double because by helping them improve their reading, their grades also improved in other subjects. You can check it out yourself and read what other parents/teachers/tutors are saying about Reading Horizons.

But Reading Horizons is NOT just catered for struggling readers; it is also used to teach children in kindergarted through 3rd grade how to read. This program is called Reading Horizons Discovery.  AND it is even available for English learners to learn the fundamentals of reading. It also has an extra feature with the option to have the lessons translated into several different languages in text instruction. You can also get a pronunciation tab added in order to practice pronouncing the English words with your headset/microphone.

The At-Home Reading Horizons programs (Discovery & Elevate) are offered with two options:
  • direct instructions (book materials with a teacher manual) 
  • or the online interactive software, which has the same material covered as in the text books.  
Read more information on the At-Home Reading Horizons version.

For the online interactive software, Reading Horizons offers a $10 (30-day trial) and if you like it and see progress, you can upgrade after your trial period for $189 for an entire year. This is valid for two students, but you can add three more additional students for $25 each. I honestly believe it's been the best investment I have made for my Dyslexic son. He can finally read!

A very happy & inspired mama,

Mireya Marroquin Dunn

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poesía Alada: poesía y arte para volar

Poesía Alada: poesía y arte para volar
Did you know that April is National Poetry Month? When my kids were little, poetry was a regular part of our reading routine. I still love incorporating poetry into my children's homeschool lessons from time to time. It has so many benefits!

For younger children, poetry helps boost their vocabulary and develops their sense of rhythm and language skills. Rhymes and rhyming improve reading, writing, and spelling.

For older children, poems help with memorization and teach children to look for deeper meanings within a text. They also learn patterns of speech and how words can be used in multiple combinations to create new meanings.

Poetry has value...in ANY language.

So today, I'm excited to share with you a new poetry title from author Mariana Llanos. And this one is completely in Spanish!

Poesía Alada: poesia y arte para volar (aff link) is a beautifully written and illustrated collection of Spanish poetry for children. Mariana has written many wonderful children's books, some of which I've reviewed here on MommyMaestra. But this is her first book of poetry. It is also the first book she's written originally in Spanish.

And I love them all. Because for some reason, they seem to transport me back to my own childhood, which was full of Spanish dichos, poesía, and rimas tradicionales. So, naturally, I feel this should be a must-have for bilingual family home libraries!

Here's a sample. This is the poem for which the book is named...

Poesía Alada

Poesía es cuento
y canción con alas.
Poesía es locura
que brota del alma.
Poesía es música
que ilumina al alba.
Poesía son letras 
que forman baladas.
Poesía es el trinar
de aves en la mañana.
Poesía es el rayo 
tierno del sol.
Poesía surge
revuelve y embala.
Poesía descansa
aprieta y arranca.
Poesía vive y respira,
despojada de toda razón.
Poesía se acurruca
en un rinconcito del corazón.

Beautiful, no?

The poems are about topics to which children can relate - the seasons, the ocean, ice cream cones, reading, animals, clouds, and many others.

Poesía Alada: estaciones

Another unique feature of this book is the black-and-white illustrations. Seven artists (including the author) have created drawings to accompany each of the 27 poems. The whimsical images enrich the poems for young minds. Personally, I plan to use this like a workbook and let my children color in the images.

Poesía Alada: Chaclacayo

Mariana has also included a note at the end of the book describing her lifelong love of poetry; how it started and its impact on her life.

This book is a new release, just published this month. I highly recommend it to read to both younger and older children alike.

Poesía Alada: poesia y arte para volar (aff link) can be ordered on Amazon.

And remember, Mariana is an enthusiastic educator and writer. She visits schools around the world through virtual technology to encourage children to read and write. She offers many free author-Skype opportunities for teachers . The Skype visits are designed around four different lesson plans that last about 45 minutes. Wouldn't that be a fun class to do at the end of the year with your students?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Lion’s Story: To Homeschool a Special Needs Child

As we continue to support Autism Awareness Month, I'm happy to publish this exceptional article by Suzanne Mahoney, a Spanish-American mother of two in a multilingual household. She's homeschooling her special needs child and shares helpful advice and resources for parents who are considering homeschooling as an option for their own family.

Lion’s Story: To Homeschool a Special Needs Child

Homeschooling a special needs child can be challenging, but it is rewarding not only for your child’s accomplishments but your own. In Lion’s case, we have seen both sides of the education fence; public school and now for the last year, homeschool. Lion, now 15 years old, has a variety of obstacles to overcome. Some of his diagnoses include cerebral palsy and autism. He is also non-verbal and (until a couple of months ago) a non-walker. Homeschooling challenges can be especially complicated when there are multiple spoken languages in the home. Since birth, Lion had been immersed in a household where three or four languages were being spoken continually. He grew up understanding three of them well. More recently, he has mainly been in a bilingual environment (English-Spanish) and because he was attending public school, his education was solely in English. Now that we are homeschooling, Spanish has been incorporated as part of his communications program.

When the homeschooling of a special needs child, in any language(s), is being considered, you must ask yourself, “Why do I want to do it?” It will be a lot of work, the time commitment may be huge, and not all expenses that you think are necessary will have external funding. But...

Homeschooling empowers both the child and the parent so that what you thought would be an impossible task, is made possible with patience, insistence, and persistence. The attained goals become your reward and your family’s quality of life also improves.

Choices and Sources
Once you have your “why” then what are your choices and sources? Visiting your state’s Department of Education website will be the place to start. It not only outlines the steps to take, but it should also have a wealth of supportive educational materials to guide and assist you. Most importantly, it should contain the legalese and statutes pertaining to Special Education and the available homeschooling programs within your state. This will better prepare you for knowing the what, when, where, why, and how of the homeschooling mission. I cannot stress how important it is to know your legal rights when it comes to children with disabilities, so though it is often time consuming to sit down: just do it. Understand it. It helps to invite a friend over for coffee to assist you in comprehending the lingo involved. Ask a community outreach program or find a local homeschool support group for feedback and ideas. The better informed you are, the better planning, services, and funding you will be able to obtain for your child. Yes! You can homeschool your child and get a few “perks.” It is a matter of knowing what is available in your area and what your child really needs. Check out this page on HSLDA for information about Special Education Provisions in the 50 States and Territories.

To our surprise, our state offers flexibility in providing “perks” that I had not anticipated. For example, you can homeschool and still have the district provide speech, occupational, physical and behavior modification therapies. You can also have your child participate in the school’s extracurricular activities (such as sports, theater, band, etc.) and have transportation provided. The caveat? An IEP (Individualized Education Program) and associated goals would then be required to be written by the IEP team.

Virtual School enrollment may be another alternative worth considering depending upon what your State offers. Florida does require that homeschooling be logged, documented, and be available for review upon request.

For now, we wanted as much detachment and freedom as possible from school districts to allow Lion to catch-up in as many of his academics and life skills as possible. Well, we are proceeding with our own carefully crafted goals and we are experiencing fabulous results!

Considerations and Goals:
Each child is unique. His interaction with others is unique. His current school environment is also unique. So, you must create your goals and be realistic in doing so.

Years ago, I remember setting a goal for my child to learn to use his “AAC communications device (his voice)” to say “hello” independently. This seemed to be a logical, realistic, and very valuable skill; a first step towards communicating with us. This basic goal is successfully taught to special needs children similar to Lion.

At that time, he was attending public school. The frustration that we had was in working with the school to design appropriate goals that would benefit Lion. Unfortunately, the school told us that they knew our child better than we did and that we must follow their lead. They stated that they were the educators and we were not. We were overruled many times in the IEP meetings and elsewhere. It turned out that the school’s main driving force was not in benefiting Lion but in limiting the amount of time that they were willing to spend on him. They even stated that the time dedicated to his individualized academics was “15 to 20 minutes a day.” We were informed that there were “other students in the classroom to take care of.” Nor could we get a dedicated aide assigned to him within the IEP. Their methods were not well thought out, were not stressed at school, and were ineffective. For us to do something else at home was too confusing to Lion. We helped as we could but knew that the situation was not what it should be. As a result, Lion lost years. Such is life. But it was very frustrating!

At the same time, while attending school, Lion attained a simpler goal. He learned to feed himself. All I heard from school was that he either needed yet another adaptive spoon or that he had refused to feed himself and thus needed to be fed by someone at school. My solution? I took it upon myself to ignore the school’s methodology and applied my own methods during dinner time. My goal was to accomplish his training in six months. To my surprise, with hand-over-hand methods and a bit of insistence, in less than a month he was eating with minimal assistance. A month after that, he was independently feeding himself. He would still come home from school with the same notes of nonattainment and insist on being spoon fed by me because he had been spoon fed at school. He really had them fooled and they did not take the time needed to listen to me, so they could understand, insist, and change Lion’s behavior. It took us an hour to dine then. But today, he can eat as quickly or as slowly as need be. He has mastered the fork, too! I thought I would never see the day when I would finally sit and enjoy eating without having to feed him.

Be as Creative as You Want
Homeschooling for Lion is not the traditional paper, pencil, and book program. Just as technology has enabled “normal” homeschoolers to explore a vast wealth of global encyclopedic information, so has technology blessed our “special needs” children with the ability to access programs and communication platforms. This is especially evident for those children for whom talking and/or writing was not possible in the past due to physical or mental impediments. Now, many of these challenges have been alleviated by technical solutions that, while not perfect, are certainly helpful.

Lion’s first two years of homeschooling include three global goals:

1) Lion will communicate with minimal assistance using an AAC communication device (we use ProLoquo2go software) with family and friends,

2) Lion will walk independently (using a walker) on both even and some uneven surfaces (trails, the playground, etc.),

3) Lion will learn a variety of self-living skills; undressing and dressing with minimal assistance, toileting skills, transitioning in/out of a chair and the car from his walker or wheelchair, etc.

Just like any human being has good and bad days, so do our kids. The exception is that our children’s behavior tends to be more pronounced than children who don’t have special needs. When Lion wakes up with a cute half sneer in his mouth and the attitude of, “Oh, I’m broken and I can’t get up…” that’s when I know I need to forget what I had planned for that day and revisit what actually is possible to accomplish together. Math? Well, in our house, bread needs to be made. So, counting while measuring ingredients and integrating this activity into the use of his communication device may be the only types of things that can be accomplished… that day.

When his attitude is good, he does much more and it thrills me that he enjoys most of it. Quite a change from his public school days.

We have found that teaching methodologies and best practices may be obtained and learned from surmountable sources of data. Usually, they are available at our fingertips via the internet or a visit/phone call and thus our only limitation is the time it takes to find, question, read, understand, and then apply them. But not everything works for your child.

Homeschool Accomplishments
Remember Lions’ three global goals that I mentioned? It is almost time to write new goals - over a year early! Half a year into his schooling, Lion has almost completed goals #2 and #3 and has made great progress with goal #1. It is amazing to see Lion spontaneously communicate with us and voice new words in new ways. Lion is beginning to break the “autistic ice!” Sometimes he is so happy with his new skills that he breaks down in a fit of giggles!

Additional Resources
I've also found very useful resources available on the following websites:

Looking Forward
There’s a lifetime for learning. Don’t rush. Do it right. The old adage that you must sometimes slow down to speed up is, oh, so true!


Suzanne Mahoney is a homeschooling a Spanish-American mother of two. She's also a Board Member of Family Network on Disabilities (FND), Board Member of the Family Network for Special Needs Fund Trust (FNSNTA) and past Board Member of the Florida Interagency Coordinating Council for Infants and Toddlers (FICCIT)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#TeachersAppreciateTeachers Classroom Makeover Contest

It is Teacher Appreciation Week, and you know how much I appreciate all the hard work that homeschool and public/private school teachers do for their students. So when I saw that Carson-Dellosa Publishing is hosting a contest in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I wanted to share because the grand prize winner and their nominator will receive a classroom makeover from Carson-Dellosa! 

Carson-Dellosa Publishing wants to hear about the exceptional educators who are making a difference in the lives of children—while also supporting their colleagues! Now through April 23 (that's this SUNDAY!), teachers can nominate a fellow teacher who has helped them get to where they are today. 

To nominate them, visit Carson-Dellosa's Facebook or Instagram pages and tag them in the comments, add the #TeachersAppreciateTeachers hashtag, and explain why they should be appreciated.

I looked through the contest rules, and nothing says that homeschool teachers aren't eligible. So I'll be putting in for it, too.

One grand prize winner and their nominator will each receive a $400 Carson-Dellosa gift certificate for a classroom makeover.

Three runner-ups and their nominators will each receive a $50 Carson-Dellosa gift certificate.

I'm sure you're familiar with them, but Carson-Dellosa Publishing is a fantastic educational product company. On their site, you'll find everything from classroom organization to learning centers to guided reading. They have products for homeschoolers and special needs. I really enjoy looking through their products.

Winners will be revealed during #TeacherAppreciationWeek. The grand prize winner and their nominator will receive a classroom makeover from Carson-Dellosa!

There are not a lot of nominations as far as I can see, so your chances are good. I'd love to see some Hispanic, homeschool, or bilingual ed teachers win!

Good luck!!

NOTE: This is not a sponsored post. This is just me sharing info I saw on my FB feed and an opportunity for my educator followers! xo

Monday, April 17, 2017

Homeschooling in the United States

Homeschooling has been around for centuries, not just in this nation, but around the world. Benjamin Franklin, Abraham Lincoln, Sandra Day O’Connor, Alexander Graham Bell, Beatrix Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Louis Armstrong, Sor Juana de la Cruz...all benefited from a home education.

Homeschooling is considered the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Currently, it is estimated that there are more than 2 million homeschool students in the U.S... and that number only increases each year.

Although homeschool has been traditionally associated with conservative Christians, the reality is that today, homeschoolers are very diverse and they encompass every walk of life: rich, poor, liberal, conservative, white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Native American, religious, non-religious...homeschooling is for everyone. (Notably, it is quickly growing in popularity among minorities.)

Families decide to homeschool their children for a wide variety of reasons. Some are disappointed in their local school options, while others homeschool for religious reasons. Some families travel a lot, and others simply want to nurture family relationships. Parents may decide to homeschool for their child’s safety (bullying issues), or they may have a child with health problems or physical/learning disabilities and can’t get the resources and support they need from their school district. Many child athletes are homeschooled to make more time for their rigorous training schedules. And some parents may choose to homeschool in order to nurture and strengthen their child’s bilingualism. The reasons vary from family to family.

Homeschooling is parent-led. This does not necessarily mean that the parent teaches the child everything (although they might). The beauty of homeschooling is its flexibility. Kids might learn their core subjects from their parent(s) or take classes on specific subjects online or at a local education center. Their entire curriculum may be online and parents don’t teach at all. Or maybe they are part of a homeschool group that meets once a week where the students learn all the subjects in a group setting, then spend the rest of the week at home doing assignments and memorization work.

You DON'T have to spend a fortune to effectively educate your children! On average, families spend about $600 a year per homeschool child. Curricula vary in price. A good, accredited curriculum can cost upwards of $1000 a year, but many families buy the same curriculum gently used on eBay for half or less. In addition, there are many inexpensive or free lesson plans and materials available on the internet and in local libraries.

Remarkably, homeschool students on average score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. Their performance is not impacted by their parent’s level of education or income. They tend to be more mature, more disciplined, and more confident than their public school counterparts. In fact, as a result of their overall academic and social performance homeschoolers are being actively recruited by colleges (see section 8).

Homeschooling can begin at any grade level. While many homeschoolers are educated at home throughout their grade school and high school years (K - 12), there is a large number of children who are only homeschooled for a fraction of this time.

Homeschooling is allowed in all 50 states.
Each state has different laws about homeschooling; a few are more restrictive, but others have very little regulation.

Overall, the popularity of homeschooling has waxed and waned in U.S. history, but currently, it is on the rise and provides an opportunity for parents to oversee their children’s education and help nurture their unique talents.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Homeschooling Multiple Children

Tiany homeschooling her children 

The following is a guest post by Tiany Lindemann Davis, a Salvadoran-Nicaraguan-American homeschooling mother of four & founder of The Homeschool Lounge.

As the homeschooling mom of four boys ages 10, 12, 14, and 16, the most common question I am asked when I tell people that I homeschool is "How do you manage to teach so many grade levels?"

For many homeschool families, this is the most difficult part of home education.

Teaching multiple children together

If you are struggling to teach multiple grade levels, you are not alone. Homeschooling families vary in size and usually have children in multiple grade levels, sometimes ranging from infant to high school. Trying to keep up with teaching multiple children can be daunting, to say the least.

If you can relate, don't lose heart — you can peacefully and successfully teach multiple grade levels.

There are many different approaches one can take to homeschooling multiple grade levels. Here are just a few strategies you might try to implement in your homeschool.

Schedule a block of time with each child

While you work with one child the others can do independent work, one child can read aloud to siblings or older siblings can buddy up and spend that block of time working with younger siblings.

Combine subjects

Science, social studies, history, art, literature, and geography can easily be combined and taught to multi-aged groups. You can read aloud as a family using textbooks or living books and give the older children age-related supplemental activities, worksheets or independent reading on the subject. My Father's World curriculum offers a multi-age family learning cycle.

Unit studies

Unit studies work well with all ages and allow you to teach children the same subject tailored by grade level. While younger children might tell a story through art or play-dough, older children might write a report or take part in a more advance science experiment. You can take some time to create your own unit study or purchase ready-made unit studies by subject.

Try online classes

Older children can easily work independently through computer-based or online learning with curricula such as Switched On Schoolhouse, Time 4 Learning, A+ Interactive Math, IXL and Teaching Textbooks. There is also the option of video learning through a virtual school such as Abeka.

Set up a Workbox System

The Workbox System is a system created by Sue Patrick that can be customized to your family's individual needs. Children are assigned a drawer or set of drawers, cubes or folders for their subjects and daily assignments. I use one drawer for books and one drawer for the day's workbook assignments for each child, and each day the boys go to their drawer to get their assignments and books and start their lessons for the day. Sue Patrick's goal in creating the Workbox System was to reduce organizational time and increase the child's self-control, independence, and learning. This is the perfect solution for large homeschool families.

Use daily life experiences as teaching opportunities

The greatest lessons are those that build and strengthen relationships within the family, and these lessons will be found in everyday life experiences. Cook a meal together for math, building a new fence with dad, or grow a garden as a family.

There will still be days when homeschooling multiple grade levels and personalities feel overwhelming and chaotic but with a bit of planning, a working system in place and much determination you can homeschool multiple children and still keep your sanity.

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