Archives For Homeschooling

Monarch Bible 400 Review

We have been homeschooling for over six years now, but I certainly have not been able to try out all the amazing resources available for homeschoolers. So, I was pleased when I recently got a chance to review one item from Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division. I looked around at what they had to offer and honestly, it was overwhelming. So, I decided to try to find something that I felt was lacking in my homeschool for Em for this year. I had planned to do most of her coursework with books this year, and I felt that she was not as “into” her current bible work as she had been in the past. So I decided to shake things up and try to make bible time more fun for her and chose the Monarch online product Monarch 4th Grade Bible.

Monarch Online Curriculum

 

So what is Monarch? Well, Monarch itself is a Christian online homeschool curriculum for grades 3-12. You’ll really need a high speed internet connection and Mac or PC. You can use this 24/7, and you can choose from doing all core subjects plus electives or just pick and choose some courses. So, I chose to try this 4th grade bible course, which retails for $99.95 and is a license for 18 months. One of the pluses about Monarch is that it includes automated lesson plans and grading.

To begin, I want to share how Monarch actually works, rather than the content of our particular course (I’ll do that next). Here is a bit of a journal of how our experience is going:

We actually began the course on August 6, 2014. I logged into the system using google chrome on PC, set up the “teacher” (me) and signed up for a training the following week. I skimmed the teacher guide, which is available as a PDF. They also offer a student guide in PDF format. So far, I did not really mess with any settings, except to begin. I did find a teacher section where you can email our student so I started off with a simple email.

monarch online homeschool software

I then created a student and added a password. On August 7th, Em began her first lesson. She loved having her own dashboard online and password. I told her to just click around and explore. She promptly skimmed around her dashboard and found the “Spelling Bee” section. She was excited and then went from Spelling Bee to Vocabulocity. She asked “Why didn’t you get me more classes?”

monarch online homeschool software

She then did two days lessons. She seems to be doing okay, and all the settings are pretty much the default setting for grading as she works. As I watch her, I see she is going too quickly, in my opinion and I mention to her to slow down and take it seriously.

She finishes. I go in and run a report of work completed. She gets an 80 and a 60. She is really upset. We talk about how this online work is work and not just a game. She begins going more slowly and paying attention. I think we both pay a bit more attention! I then go in a change settings a bit to allow for more chances to get a question right and go to easier grading scale. I’ll watch her a while and then toughen up again, I’m thinking. I do find it hard to get used to the teacher dashboard, but I need more practice. They give enough help, I think, but you need to sit down and learn the system to really make use of it.

The first two lessons themselves seemed very good. She is used to the NIV version on the Bible and this is set for King James, but I’m okay with that.

I write down a question to see why I can get so many backgrounds in the teacher account, but the student one doesn’t have as many. I want the “girls room” one for Bem’s account… and then I wait for my online training.

When I did the training, I worked with Martie Hawkins, and she was wonderful. We went through a Getting Started powerpoint, and I really recommend doing this, I learned more about the dashboard and curriculum features. I learned more about the dashboard widgets and found out that we could have lessons read to us and that we could choose our own Bible version, and that we could print from the readings. Some other “teacher” stuff I learned from the training included how to block a unit test until ready and how to send problems back to rework.

I learned more about how to set field trips, so work is reassigned and also how to reschedule after the fact, as in a sick day. One of my favorite features of Monarch is how you can log in wherever you are. As far as records, Monarch gives you access to print your students work for 7 years, for say, a portfolio or transcript. They do have a monthly plan/subscription service as well.

I really feel like the webinar training is worth doing. Also, you can see videos online on the AOP site about how Monarch actually works.

Here is my teacher dashboard main screen:

monarch online homeschool software

Okay, I guess I should share about the actual coursework now.  Bible 400 is a study on both the Old and New Testaments. The course discusses Peter and Paul (Saul) specifically. Through the discussions and readings, students learn about the existence of God, Bible study methods, Psalm 23, Old Testament geography, and Christian witnessing.

The actual lessons themselves seem very biblically sound so far, and the use of all kinds of media keeps Em engaged and interested. Whenever she is a bit tired of whatever she’s doing, she can click over a play a game or do some vocabulary that reinforces her lesson, but changes things up a bit. The content includes movie clips, games, audio clips and web links.

In the first lesson Em did, Bible 400, she began with an adorable little vocabulary section with cute singing bees. Seriously. She then did a “read this” section which had a story with scripture and then a verse to memorize. I noticed the lesson format varies, say a reading, a video here and there, then a game or two, then a quick quiz, often 10 to 20 questions as the daily work. Quizzes can be true/false, multiple choice or even putting Biblical events in chronological order. I love the approach of mixing it up and keeping it fresh. There is also a dashboard section where kids can do several games and/or flashcards at any time (unless you have it set otherwise). Every unit includes projects which you can pick and choose from, with assignments like writing a letter and all kinds of project ideas.

As far as look and sound in a typical lesson, the only improvements I would make would be to get the voices a little bit more engaging-the reader voices for passages are adults and not silly, which may be preferred by some because it is serious reading, yet my daughter loved the little bee voices and I’m wondering if they couldn’t use more fun voices for the more serious things as well…Yes, I told her I’d tell the creators. When I asked her for her input for the company she did request “they add more characters like the Spelling Bees, and add more games and maybe make it so you can win coins.” Okay, so maybe my daughter has too much internet time!

Overall, I have been impressed. And I say that with all honesty. I have tried to be very honest in my reviewing, as I know people will spend hard earned money on these items and I wanted to point out any negatives as well as the positives. For our homeschool, I like to use an eclectic approach with what types of curriculum I use, usually a mix of books and internet options, sprinkled with delight directed option and field trips. That works best for us so far. But, if you like a consistent online approach where you grade and lead, Monarch is available for all core subjects.

The content in Bible 400 seems good for a 4th grader. The interactive lessons are a good length without being overwhelming. You can set up how long you want the course to take, which gives you the ability to match your students’ needs. You can control everything about the course (besides the content) from the teacher dashboard. You can choose grading scales, and which lessons your student needs to complete. You can skip a test or add a project. Everything loads quickly, there are various media methods used to engage a student. The student dashboard is very intuitive and responsive.

Find Alpha Omega Publications on Facebook  Alpha Omega Publications Homeschool Division

On Google+ https://plus.google.com/+Aophomeschool

Disclaimer: I did receive Monarch Bible 400 Online to try out and review. I have given my opinion.

 

dolphin-tale-poster-art

Looks like I know where I will be this Friday. Dolphin Tale 2 is coming out and there is a homeschool day…Friday September 12th! Honestly, I really enjoyed the first Dolphin Tale movie and my daughter thought it was the most fascinating story ever. The first movie led us to do a delight directed unit study on Dolphins and she is still begging me to take her to Clearwater Aquarium, which I really want to do someday.

While sequels usually don’t live up the original movie in my opinion, I am really hopeful this will be a good movie. In looking at the preview, I’d say it will be an upbeat, exciting movie, especially for kids but a pleasant view for adults as well. Take a look:

As I mentioned, when the first Dolphin Tale movie came out, my daughter was very interested in Winter and all Dolphins. We watched many videos and looked at everything the aquarium had uploaded, including watching Winter via a webcam. It was a neat learning opportunity.

This time around, there are even more learning resources. Take a look at Dolphin Tale 2 on the Homeschool Movie Club Site They have a page specifically designated for curriculum with videos and lesson plans. The videos are created by the Aquarium Director, who is also a homeschool Dad. He is very clear and understandable and I learned a bunch just previewing these videos! There are also printable, color PDF files with lessons, hands-on activities and worksheets.

Whether you are a homeschooling or public schooling parent, I really recommend checking these out. Even a busy child would love to watch the videos. You can access everything for free.

If you want to get super into it—or your child does—there is also a curriculum offered on the page by Classical Conversations. This PDF is over 60 pages long, and is a very in-depth study related to Winter, marine animals and the ocean. I have saved the file myself and plan to use much of it as it looks fantastic and well researched.

In honor of Dolphin Tale 2 and Homeschool Day WIN a fun pack for kids that includes a t-shirt and 1 pair of sunglasses!

dolphin tale tshirtdolphin tale glasses

To enter, just leave me a comment!

Group Resource Website: http://www.homeschoolmovieclub.com/homeschool_day

Official Movie Website: http://www.dolphintale2.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dolphintalemovie

Twitter: @dolphintale

#DolphinTale2 #HomeschoolDay2014 & #WinterHasHope

dt2_500x500_Homeschool_JB


 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

 

 

Move In Day!

Move In Day!

“Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/Kaplan Test Prep. I received compensation to write this post, and any opinions expressed are my own, and reflect my actual experience.” 

When I was asked if I had any advice about getting kids ready for college, I had to laugh. Do I? Do I EVER!

I mean, come on, I have five children, four currently in college. I could cry you a river.

One, because I miss them, and two, because the college process is a pain, and the first year is the hardest.

I don’t want to scare younger parents. But then again, it’s probably for the best. Go ahead, be afraid. Trust me, your kids won’t. They are worried about the game Friday night, not the Fafsa deadline for 2016.

My main advice is to get involved. I have both public schooled children and homeschooled children. I was actually more involved with my homeschool son’s progress for getting into college because I was worried that as a homeschooler, he would not get access to help that was available through the school system. I bugged him and we did sign up for test prep and did online planning. He ended up having a relatively easy process getting into school as a freshman.

Ironically, I assumed that my public schooled children would get tons of help through the guidance office. Frankly, they did not. They received some paperwork and notice about meetings that were, I thought, pretty useless. I was shocked. I’m not even sure why the school had an office door marked guidance office, that’s how little help they gave.

That all being said, kids do get into college. We are living proof the process did not kill us.

Also, for the record, I do expect a level of responsibility from my kids that not every parent does. I asked them to keep track of deadlines for taking the ACT, the SAT and for getting Fafsa forms filled out and for making sure they made the college deadlines for applications.

If I was able to go back in time and handle things a bit differently, here are a few things I would do:

  • I would start to prepare earlier. As early as Freshman year.
  • Find the websites that can help you and your child. Sites like the KapMap can track progress and warn you about upcoming deadlines.
  •  I would sign myself up (not just the kids) to look at more of the planning tools and deadlines, so I knew exactly what to ask the kids about. Sometimes I was more okay with just looking at the big picture, when we needed to get into the minutia.
  • I would schedule times to talk with the kids about what was going on specifically about college. Talk about what each child was doing to handle the college process. Sometimes, one child would be waiting for us to, say, write a check for a test.
  • I would be meaner about them getting things done.

But even with some things that we could not have done differently in the mix, I know that following a process, akin to what KapMap seems to be, would be helpful.

In looking at the KapMap, I like how specific it is. The KapMap gives you suggestions and clickable links for getting ready for college beginning with your freshman year.

You will find details on things like:

PSAT, Financial Aid Deadlines, ACT and SAT’s, Key College Admissions Factors, Campus Visiting Checklists, Taking AP Exams and more.

I spoke with my son and showed him the KapMap. He thought it was very concise and did a video on his thoughts:

Life is getting more difficult, I believe, and following directions DOES matter. While you can “over” worry, in general, I would say that our most difficult times were because a child missed a deadline and it did cause a problem.

I am including a link to the KapMap for other parents and students to check out.

And, I’m happy to share a special code with my readers!


SAVE $100 when you enroll in Kaplan’s SAT and ACT course through 8/28.* Promocode: SHESPEAKS100.

Check out all that Kaplan has to offer on their site and through social media:

Good Luck!!

Good Luck!!

@SheSpeaksUp

 

Well planned day planner

Back to School is coming up for us!

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Do you have a planner you love to use for Homeschooling?

-GIVEAWAY OVER- In the past I have done a mix and match sort of thing, using some online planners, some apps, some Mom type calendar systems.

I think even when you are being “laid back” it is magnificent to be able to look back and see that record of all the things you do over the course of a year. Humbling in a good way. Every day adds up into such a special year.

But, you can get overwhelmed trying to organize. So, 

this year, I am trying to simplify, go minimal, go old school…whatever you want to call it.

I want a planner to hold in my hands. A planner that can handle all my sudden thoughts and notes.

I want Minimal, yet a mix of Mom planner and Teacher planner. A planner that’s not afraid to go Biblical on me, reminding me with verses of my faith. A pretty design wouldn’t hurt.

Plus, not an online planner for me this year. No worrying about whether I have printer ink.

When I saw the Well Planned Day Family Planner, I was drooling to get one. (I even wanted it last year).

But, there is such a thing as a budget, so I waited. And then I got a chance to review it!! (*see my notes at the bottom if you’d be interested in being a #HEDUAgal.)

So far, I like what I see.

well planned day planner

great spaces for thinking through school plans

The planner itself is 8.5 x 11, just the size to fit in your book pile or your school bag. It is spiral bound, 236 pages, with coated covers and color throughout.

The year runs July 2013 – June 2014. It is setup to organize Mom and up to four children at a cost of $26.95. (Watch for sales and bundle prices as well.) Or…win my GIVEAWAY!

well planned day planner

great spaces for memories

While the Planner is not unwieldy, it has some of my “must-haves”

  • It melds organization for home and school together. For example, you have school assignments and record keeping and right alongside, grocery lists and home budgeting.
well planned day planner

We do not school (officially) year round, so this is Mom space for now

well planned day planner

Until school starts, these blocks are MOM spots…later they’ll be more daily task/kid oriented…

  • There are special sections for planning field trips, enrichment activities and books to read.
  • They included perforated report cards. I do mine on the computer, but these are adorable and could make someone’s life easier!

Well Planned Day Family Planner

  • There are monthly tabs and a 2 page layout for each month with big blocks to write in.
  • I love the encouraging articles for each month and the verses throughout the planner.

Well Planned Day Family Planner

Overall, I think this Planner is a nice, sturdy one with a decent number of extra things, yet not too many forms I will never use. I like the convenience of not worrying about printing anything out and I’m just happy with this.

Go take a look at the Well Planned Day Family Planner for yourself AND Enter to win one here! (Giveaway ENDED 8/18/2013)

“For legal reasons, this giveaway is open to US residents only.”

Prepare yourself for all the other cool stuff you will see on the HEDUA website. Because they do offer some great other planners, including a wall planner, an online system, and bundles…oh my. Find what would work for your style!

I do also recommend their magazine, I like the articles and get that myself. And, they have a great facebook page and a talk show and reviews…all good stuff. Take a peek at the HEDUA Facebook Page also.

Now, I said I would share this earlier!

#HEDUAgals

HEDUA has an affiliate program. If you are a blogger and would be interested in earning money just for sharing what you love check out this link: http://hedua.com/cart/index.php/affiliates/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo 11

We had a fun “Box” Day!!

Well, this year I have been very quiet about my curriculum choices. Really, I have been trying to slow down and focus more on our homeschooling. Here is a list of what we are doing at this point:

2nd Grade Curriculum, Emma

  • Sonlight: Core B+C (World History from Creation to the Present)
  • Sonlight: Grade 3 Readers and Language Arts
  • English: All About Spelling, level 2, First Language Lessons
  • Bible: Sonlight curriculum and Little Keepers of the Home
  • Math: Life of Fred, Butterflies
  • Science: Real Science for Kids Pre-level 1, some Apologia
  • Additional History Resources: Mystery of History 2, Veritas Press Cards
  • Physical Education: Ballet
  • Choir

Overall, the biggest change for me this year is using Sonlight. Last year, I felt that all of Emma’s courses just did not mesh together very well and my husband and I decided to look at Sonlight again. This led to me getting the core B+C, which is a one year condensed study of World History. So far, I love the Sonlight. Having everything in one spot and for her exact age is very relaxing to me.

I also ordered the language arts package from Sonlight and I like the readers. I do not like that they cover a whole different time period than the time we are working on with everything else, though. Also, I like the way Margaret Wise introduces grammar with the First Language Lessons very much. So, for now, I am continuing to use the First Language Lessons workbook for our grammar, and using the Sonlight writing program portion of the language arts, and sticking with All About Spelling for spelling because I like that as well. So, the language arts portion is all a bit random, but seems to be working for her.

12th Grade Curriculum, Nick

  • History: US Government
  • English: Wordsmith Craftsman
  • Math: Geometry/Algebra, Life of Fred
  • Science: Apologia, Exploring Creation with Chemistry
  • Elective: College Prep Genius, Prep/Take SAT and ACT. DriversEd.com course
  • Foreign Language: Italian
  • Computer Science
  • Physical Education

For Nick, we are kind of down to the wire! He will be taking the SAT soon and he is working on preparing for that. He is doing a lot of Math and writing practice. He is at a point where he could either go onto college or take another year to get ready and take some local classes. We are thinking his SAT scores will help us make the final decision. Should be interesting.

Back to School

Heather —  August 22, 2012
reading resource games

Games make everything more fun!

This Summer has been full of marvelous DOWN time. Aside from cleaning out our school closet and organizing all the paperwork, I have done no official school. Truly, I need the break.

Still, the learning continues. It is funny to see the kids accidentally learning. I find Nick engrossed in Popular Science magazines and Emma pulling out her All About Spelling Board and Science coloring books.  I guess Summer is our delight directed learning time!

With these things in my mind, I jumped at the chance to review a new reading resource from All About Learning Press. This is a full-color supplemental game book, Adventures In Reading with the ZigZag Zebra.

ziggy_supplement_cover__98503_stdEmma first met Ziggy as we used All About Reading (AAR) and All About Spelling (AAS) when she was younger. I continue to use these programs and she really enjoys them. I get no fussing when it is time to do spelling, and the child adores reading.

Anyway, I think my daughter may enjoy using manipulatives much more than I originally thought, as evidenced by how much she likes using the AAS. She loves the magnets and the cards, and the stickers and reward sheets are an extra nice touch.

When using portions of AAR, I feel the artwork is fantastic. I like the hardback books and the obvious dedication to quality. And, on top of all that, the underlying approach to teaching really works.

Can you tell I really like this curriculum?

Well, like I said, when I saw that the company had released a new fun product to go with AAR, I figured it would be good.

And I was not disappointed!

The creativity of some people just amazes me. I got a bright and colorful book of file folder games. There are nine games altogether. Each of the games reinforces skills taught in Level 1 of All About Reading. The games help kids:

“practice important concepts like blending, counting syllables, and recognizing vowels and consonants, and they will have ample opportunity to review the Phonogram and Word Cards from the All About Reading program.”

My daughter and I had a blast cutting out and “creating” our games. The directions are so simple and detailed, I appreciate that. The games are so colorful and truly fun.

making the AAR ziggy game 3

Working so hard! I love her “concentrating” face:)

The more I teach the more I value the things that actually make learning fun and exciting, not just one more chore.

While each of these games goes with a particular lesson, you can also play them just for review and for pleasure. In fact, my daughter is seven, and I was really worried she would be bored by the games because she already does read and is pretty advanced.

making the AAR ziggygame 2

You could also do these yourself and surprise your littles

 

placing the game parts together

everything has been carefully thought out. All pieces are included and easy to put together

pieces all fit inside folder

pieces fit inside front pocket

i love the game setup

you cannot lose the directions

But, games are great for kids and these were perfect for her. Because of her age, she was able to really participate in cutting and pasting and creating the games and she thinks Ziggy is “awesome”, so overall this was just a good experience for her.

And, she is learning all through the Summer of her own free will!

big brother plays game with em

older siblings help more when it is a game:)

What a great way to make learning fun for your child and yourself. I am already in line for the next one!

Some of the things I really like about Adventures In Reading with the ZigZag Zebra:

  • The price is great for nine (9) games, with each game having a real purpose.
  • Each game reinforces learning. All About Learning Press shares exactly what the kids are learning with each game. (You can see that here)
  • The quality of the games, the paper, the artwork is excellent
  • The pages are perforated for easy removal
  • The directions are super clear, and all pieces are included
  •  The games clean up and store well: you can store the instructions and game pieces in the front pocket provided in the book.
  • The games even have an overall theme of Ziggy traveling the world: you could tie this in with your geography.
  • The mascot, Ziggy, is adorable. My daughter loves this one.

Overall, I think this is a winner. For $19.99 you can add some fun into your Fall schedule with very little work. (in fact, your older kids can easily do any setup)

I also just have to share an old video of when Emma first got a AAR reader:

If you have not tried All About Spelling and All About Reading, I recommend those curriculums so much. They have just worked so well for us. I have to say, this is a subject I put very little time into with great results. Click the link below to find out more:


*I did receive the file folder games for free for my review. I am also an affiliate for All About Learning Press, so if you make a purchase from my links, I will get a bit of money. By all means, please do use my links if you purchase! But seriously, I do like this company very much and am proud to share about it.

**This book is sold separately from other materials in the All About Reading program.

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child using e-reader on iPad

It is Summer! An extra good time to relax and learn while having a good time…

As a home educator and a mom, I really count on technology to provide my kids with all kinds of resources and activities.

The tech resource getting the most use lately in our homeschool and home is my our iPad.

From using safari for quick research, to watching documentaries, to reviewing apps with whiteboards and algebra, my teens get a lot out of the iPad. My youngest really likes the iPad most for watching shows and playing games. I am okay with that, but I try to find at least educational games and things for her on there.

A new e-reading platform launched by Ruckus Media Group called the Ruckus Reader turned our iPad into a fun e-Reader for my baby!

The Ruckus Reader IS the main technology. Within that, there are loads of digital storybooks you can download for your children. Right now, I think there are about 30 titles that work with this format. The titles range from the storybooks to interactive readers (iReaders and eReaders) that have both the story and then games and maybe video as well, and also some of my favorites — the video books, great stories narrated by celebrities.

The titles are basically for kids 3 to 8. You will see old favorites like My Little Pony, Curious George, Crayola. Many publishers are working with Ruckus Reader, so there are many ebooks so far, and more are being added all the time. I just got a notice to go update and get a new ebook that was just added, in fact.

I like that there is a real variety of fiction and non-fiction, and the videos and such. My daughter is already a good reader, so I am not using the app to teach reading so much, but for the younger children, many of the titles are designed to build upon each other and help children learn to read, while the included games actually measure the child’s progress.

You can download Ruckus Reader titles individually, but it is great to download the whole library! The price is very reasonable at $24.99 for six months, as you get access to over 25 titles. OR, you can get the first title in a series for free, then pay $3.99 each or 2 for $5.99. My daughter and I loved getting the entire library, it felt like Christmas downloading like crazy!

Our favorite titles in this Ruckus Reader?

I love, love the SeaWorld Bookshelf. This includes Sharks, Penguins and Whales.

My daughters favorites include My Little Pony and Transformers.

We are both looking forward to one that is coming: Cyberchase!

There is a nice twist on this App, as it keeps track of my child’s progress and emails me updates, called the Reader Meter, weekly.

So what are the Cons?

  1. I worry that I will lose all the ebooks we have if I do not get this again in six months.
  2. I wish all the ebooks would stay under one main icon on my iPad (I hate having lots of icons all over the screen)
  3. Although the technology for the reading is designed around state standards, it is still a new technology. So far, my meter reader is a little off and doesn’t “know” that my child is a good reader. I have seen this with several of our technologies that keep track of childrens progress. It is still a developing technology.

What are the Pros?

  1. I have tons of really well designed eReaders, iReaders and Videos right on my iPad desktop.
  2. With the six month subscription, I have almost 30 ebooks already, o that is less than .99 cents an eReader, iReader or video. And, I will continue to get more.
  3. All are educational in nature and suitable for her age. She does not get frustrated and need help, but sits and plays.
  4. The titles include tons of characters she knows like Curious George and My Little Pony, plus old classic stories that she enjoys.
  5. Most of these titles have options so they can read the book to the child and they lead the child in the games
  6. The reader meter does keep track of what my child spends time on and I can eve email that info to her dad and grandparents (you can set it to email to up to four email accounts)
  7. The App notifies me when new titles are available.
  8. I love the little library shelves in the App. Adorable setup

All in all, I really recommend the Ruckus Reader App. Go take a look! You can connect with Ruckus Reader:

Website

Facebook

*I received a trial membership for Ruckus Reader in order to do this review. I have given my honest opinion.

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