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Is unschooling really a good idea? - Page 2

post #21 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
I can. I teach English.
To kids who were schooled, right? Maybe the school environment is (at least partially) responsible for their lack of desire to learn?

namaste!
post #22 of 591
I guess really it depends on how you feel about learning. I strongly believe children will want to learn (on their own) the basics. Most kids have a strong desire to figure out the world in which they are a part of. It also depends on what value you place on things like calculus, physics ect.... and your child learning said things. I am very confident in the fact that if my children want to learn those things they will and if not no biggie. It also depends on what you think being successful in life is. Academics are not on my short list of what is truly valuable in this world ( I'm sure others feel the opposite).

You are speaking of my child when you talk about a late reader, my dd is newly 9 and is an early reader. I see no reason why she needs to be pushed to learn to read before she is truly ready. What is gained by that really? When she's 30 will it truly matter that she didn't read when a lot people think a child should be reading? I don't see it as some kind of race and my dd is losing because other children her age are ahead in reading. She only loses when she is forced to learn things she isn't ready to learn.
Why is early reading seen as some kind of ideal anyway?

*excuse any typos, I don't have the energy or desire find and correct them.
post #23 of 591
Also, communication is a two way street. It is not one person's responsibility.
ETA: in response to the comments about accents.
post #24 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself, KWIM?
Of the two grown unschoolers I know personally, one is in medical school and the other has just finished an overseas exchange year at university in Budapest whilst studying green architecture and urban planning a highly academic New England college. This latter student is the one I mentioned in my previous post who started her formal math studies the summer she was 17 (actually, it was 18, now that I recall) and entered college architecture studies, including first-year university math, the following fall.

My unschooled 12yo is half way through Singapore secondary math. She is well into high school level Latin study as well as continuing with French and planning to start Japanese in the fall. She writes at a solid late-high school level and is in the midst of a couple of college-level lecture series from the Teaching Company. She reads voraciously, everything from world history to grammar to psychology to contemporary adult fiction. She's also an advanced violinist and pianist.

Unschooling doesn't seem to have closed any academic doors for the kids I know.

Miranda
post #25 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmamama
Fair enough, but how many of us who learn another language are actually going to be called upon to live in an environment where that language and our ability to use it are our sole means of communication? And if that were the case, I'd imagine (like my daughter, home six weeks now) that we'd pretty quickly learn to communicate well. It's not like we'd be stuck forever at a certain level of language attainment.

To me, the whole point of learning another language (when it's not necessary for survival but just for fun or enrichment or whatever) is to open the window to another culture and worldview.
There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
post #26 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy
There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
I'm curious whether you have any data upon which to base your conclusion. Can you provide anything empirical?
post #27 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy
I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
Well, that's pretty insulting isn't it. But it doesn't really bother me because it's obvious that we don't view the world the same or value the same things. Of course I don't think I'd come here and trash how you are schooling your children even if I strongly disagree with your method.
post #28 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy
As to accented English, well, there have been times when poor articulation, speech and grammar have made it difficult for me, personally, to understand someone. If this wasn't an issue at all, that whole "Ebonics" mess never would have happened; In my opinion, it's naive to say that accents don't hinder communication, and it's just as naive to say that poor grammar and articulation don't likewise hinder communication.
So are we to teach children how to understand every possible accent they may encounter? I do have a hard time understanding the accented English of the native Chinese people I have met. I guess my parents did not realize that I would be around people with these accents and we missed the window of opportunity.

Likewise with articulation and grammar....my kids pick it up by hearing/reading it. It is not specifically taught to them. Their grammar may not be perfect, probably because ours is not, and we went to school to learn it.
post #29 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
because on more than one post over time here on MDC, I'll read a situation like, "My son/daughter is 6/7/8/9 years old and since we've unschooled during our homeschool years, she or he can't read/do math and we now have to enter him/her in the public/private school due to XYZ circumstances."
Did you notice the ages you wrote there? From everything I've ever read (including from professional educators) there is a range in which most kids are ready to read. If that child who learns to read at 9 was in school, they wouldn't be magically reading. They'd be in remedial class painfully sounding out C-A-T while the teacher pointed out how well they were "reading". It's not that these kids won't ever learn to read, it's that they are learning on their own time frame, naturally, instead of having it pushed on them earlier than they are ready for.

Quote:
1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
Well, answering specifically for reading and math, my daughter learned to read at 6. That's pretty much average (I've read that 6/7 is average for girls and 7/8 more for boys). Problem already solved and I didn't need to sit her down with 100 EZ Lessons (or anything else) at 3, 4 and 5. Though if I had, it would sure look like she was reading because of my teaching, eh?

As for math, we've got that covered too. She can count, add, subtract, knows basic fractions and has the beginnings of multiplication. All without forced teaching. The other day she showed me a problem that her 8 year old friend (a radical unschooler - much more unschooly than we are) showed her. It looked like algebra to me.

Quote:
2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone? For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.
Overall I think the optimal window thing is not true. The ONLY thing that I've heard it for is, as you said, accents and like others have said I don't see an issue with that. I've sometimes heard people say that there's an optimal window for reading in which case, pretty much none of the unschooled kids I know should be reading right now. I'll tell them to stop

Quote:
3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
It depends on whether you buy into the idea that learning only happens in childhood. Like I said, my daughter already can read and do basic math, but let's say she does get to college age not knowing algebra. Well, she can do what her public educated, gifted but non-mathematically minded mom did and take remedial algebra in college. Or she can do what I've heard of other unschooling kids doing and bone up on algebra, spew it out on the entry test and then promptly forget it (a time honored tradition in the schools )

Quote:
4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
If my kids have to go to school their lives will suck so much I can't imagine being behind or not making a difference. My son would probably be fine. My daughter is very active, very smart, asks "too many questions" (including questioning authority regularly - not to be obnoxious but because she really wants to understand WHY) and is too social to sit next to a child and not talk to them. If she went to school today I'm pretty sure she'd be ahead of the curve in academics but she'd be labeled ADHD and turn into an underachiever pretty quickly.

I unschool for many reasons but one is that I actually think it's the better academic choice. I really think it's in my kid's best interests to learn to think for themselves and grow up believing that they have the power to do and learn whatever they want instead of waiting for someone else to direct them.

Eilonwy, you really think the people in this country who can't communicate are radical unschoolers? Do you actually know any IRL unschoolers, radical or not?
post #30 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy
There are people who were born, raised, and (ostensibly) educated in this country who are unable to communicate effectively because they were left to their own devices. There are people attempting to communicate over the internet, on these very boards, who are so impaired that they cannot effectively communicate through text, despite an apparent desire to do so. I think that's absolutely tragic, and I think that radical unschooling is, of all home education methodologies, the most likely to lead to such an outcome. :
Interesting. Did I mention how I learned Flemish? By chatting with people on the internet. I met my Flemish bf on the internet, then moved to Belgium to live with him. I knew how to read and write in Flemish pretty well from chatting with him and his friends (and using an English/Flemish dictionary) for about 8 months. I got to Belgium, learned I needed to correct a few mistakes I had assumed in pronunciation, and lived life as an (accented, yes) Flemish speaker. I unschooled my Flemish and it got me far enough to be able to live as a Flemish speaker.

It probably depends less on the educational "method" by which a child learns and more on the support a child receives from family and friends as to how well a child learns.

Namaste!
post #31 of 591
Quote:
1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
Not in the slightest. Reading and math are so fundamental to being able to function in society, and our kids want to function in society. They want to be able to do the kinds of things that knowing how to read and do math will allow them to do. For instance, my boys (7 and 9) are interested in baking, games, money, and perhaps most they are interested in self-sufficiency. They want to do things themselves. Math learning and reading have naturally arisen out of this. And a benefit of allowing them to seek it out on their own terms and when they are truly developmentally ready (and only they really know when that is) is that they don't regard it as difficult, frustrating, work, or a duty, or as non-relevant to them (in other words, done only because "I say so".) All they know about the acquisition of this knowledge is that it serves them well. To me, that is the ideal attitude to have.

Quote:
2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone?
I see the desire for the skill being spurred by developmental readiness, given a rich environment in which there are opportunities and natural incentives to use that skill.

Quote:
For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.
I have a hard time seeing fluency and lack of accent happening with lessons at any age, so if I were concerned about these things I would do immersion, as long as the child was willing. And personally, I don't see making the choice to provide that as antithetical to unschooling, any more than making the choice to immerse my child in an environment in which there are computers, homesteading, art, etc. They are learning about the world on their own terms, but to a great extent it is the world of their father and mother and the community around them that they are learning about.

Quote:
3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
Those who are suited for college would feel an impetus to acquire these skills. If my child is not academically inclined, she's not going to have a need to go to college. If she is academically inclined, she would already have been on that road for some time.

Quote:
4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
Taking into account that it is highly unlikely that would have to happen in our situation, the risk of those possible negatives weighs less heavily for us than the more certain effects of the negatives we associate with a schooled approach.

Excellent questions, thank you.
post #32 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by fourlittlebirds
And a benefit of allowing them to seek it out on their own terms and when they are truly developmentally ready (and only they really know when that is) is that they don't regard it as difficult, frustrating, work, or a duty, or as non-relevant to them (in other words, done only because "I say so".)
This is a big thing for me too. My daughter, who at my best guess is probably about where a kid her age in school would be at math, told me she's a "genius at math" She thinks it's fun and that she's great at it and doesn't have any idea that so many kids think it's hard or boring. I'm one of the many math challenged people in this country. I really think that if I had been unschooled and allowed to approach math in my own time, I wouldn't be as scared of it. Instead I have many traumatic memories of being behind the class or being humiliated (in front of the class) by the teacher because I didn't know my fractions or whatever. Maybe I still wouldn't know any more than I know now (I know quite enough to function in society). Not everyone is a "math genius" afterall But I do wish I had a better attitude about it and I'm thrilled that my dd does.
post #33 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
[/mini-rant]
Anyway, the thing is, in some cases it could be years' worth of material, right? Hypothetically speaking, if a child never felt the need or desire to learn any math and then wanted to get into college, they'd have to go from basic addition all the way through algebra and geometry in what I'm assuming would have to be a relatively short period of time.
I didn't know we were speaking hypothetically , but, yes, and I don't think that would be such a problem. Miranda explained it much more succinctly than I would have. But, really, unless someone is living under a rock, I find it hard to believe that they'd make it to college age without the need for ANY math, yk?


Quote:
And I'm not sure I agree with you about your doubt regarding the "windows" theory,
That's okay, you don't have to agree. I'm just going by my own life experience.

And, fwiw, I did not do well in math myself. Again, the way Miranda explained it is right-on. It was assumed that I understood certain things, and the teaching continued on whether I grasped the information or not. I somehow made it through algebra I, but then that was the end of my math career. It didn't stop me from going on to college, but at the same time, I'm a bit envious of those who "get" math. People who enjoy it and see it as a fun puzzle sort of stump me.
My kids, not having that schooling experience, don't have the idea that math is hard. They (the younger two, especially) enjoy playing with numbers and have discovered a number of concepts on their own that I remember struggling to learn in school.

Quote:
I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself, KWIM?
Well, the way I see is that that all fields are open to my kids. If they are interested in those fields, they will study them. I don't think one has to begin a medical career in elementary school. There are adults who have dropped other professions to return to school to become doctors, etc. I don't think it's ever too late.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eilonwy
Okay, you'd never put your child in school; what if you died suddenly and unexpectedly?
The odds of that happening are too small for me to plan my children's life around. Besides, if I were to die while they are young, I'd think that concerns for their emotional health would greatly overshadow what reading level they were at.

I have one child who learned to read much later than school would have found acceptable. From what I've seen with unschoolers, that's not uncommon, but it's no reflection on their abilities later on. (Incidentally--or maybe not incidentally--my "late" reader went to school for three years. It was only with unschooling that he learned to read.)
post #34 of 591
CB I think the fundamental misunderstanding here has to do with linear time.

The timetable of learning set out by virtually all school systems becomes self reinforcing. By 9 children should know x amount of basic maths, so that by high school, they are ready for Y amount of higher maths.

All of your questions reflect a belief towards a linear path of learning which, if delayed near the start, will surely be delayed at the finish.

Unschoolers don't worry about how their children will do in college or unexpected circumstances because they have many experiences that testify to the power of non linear learning.

The unschooled child may not read until they are 9. But (typically) they don't read like a 5 year old nor do they even read like a 9 year old when they first begin. Very often begin by reading like a 15 year old.

Therein lies the experience I'm describing.

My son is 10. Until a few weeks ago he struggled to spell the simplest words. I tried not to stress over his inability to spell.

Last week the lightbulb went on with spelling. A floodgate in his head broke wide open and he began pointing to objects all over the house and spelling them aloud. He wasn't spelling like a 5 year old nor 7 year old. His skills were at least as good as most 10-12 year olds in high achieving schools. He seems to be improving by the day. He is obsessed with this new (to him) amazing ability. He can SPELL! He is like a baby who just learned to walk. Completely amazed and delighted with this skill.

He is spelling constantly and asking ME for lists and books and words to study. He asked if there were spelling bee's he could find out about attending.

The point is that he is probably, in a short time, going to spell as well as a beginning college student. Without having spelled at 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 years of age.

I agree there seems to be a window in which certain hard wired skills appear...smiling, talking, walking. But these are not dependent on anyone "teaching" them. It's something humans are hard wired to learn from nurturing environments with fully functioning humans around them.

The "windows of learning" issue is about exposure rather than performance. A baby exposed to a second language may prefer the first language instead, or may be a late talker from having heard two different languages. But the benefits of having heard it spoken are far reaching.

A child in an environment that fully supports all of his interests in learning may (in my experience) appear late in "performance" of certain skills. But the benefits of having been exposed to all of their interests *at the moment they were interested* are far reaching. To learn everything right when you want to know it takes time. It's a full time experience. Hundreds and thousands of small moments, fully explored, a mental constellation.

In terms of maths my observation is that our culture is math-deficient and as a parent, my math skills are admittedly lacking. I have known, painfully felt, when my ability to fully realize a math abstraction in the physical space was limited.

So I don't think our home is as maths-rich as it is words-rich. I have known parents who loved maths and expressed them so readily and so naturally, their children absorbed advanced concepts easily. What a gift!!!

So then what about maths? For me this comes back to a quote by John Holt. It went something like 'Because we cannot know what knowledge will matter most in the future, it seems wise to turn out adults who love learning so much and who learn so well, they will learn whatever needs to be learned".

I will expose ds to all the maths I readily can. But if it happens that he is not exposed to someting important at the moment he was ready to learn it, I have no doubt that his talent for learning will bridge the gap later. To learn well all of your life is like a second language in the example you gave. He knows HOW to learn, and that is a powerful skill to possess
post #35 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
1. If you're an unschooler, aren't you concerned that your child will never learn some of those skills that are fairly fundamental to almost every other form of learning -- and I'm thinking specifically of reading and math?
No. This would imply that unschoolers don't or are incapable of learning reading and math unless they are forced to. That would be totally inaccurate in my experience, and in the experience of any unschooler I have ever known.

Quote:
2. If your answer is something along the lines of, "I want my child to decide for him- or herself what's important," what about the fact that she or he may decide they need a particular skill long after the optimal "window" for learning it is gone? For example, research very clearly demonstrates that optimal foreign language learning takes place before about age 12, and that after that approximate age, you can pretty much count on never speaking without an accent and (probably) never being truly fluent.
The optimal window doesn't matter much to me honestly. My kids aren't really interested in speaking a language totally fluently, and if they are and they work at it, they will get close enough for their own purposes.

Quote:
3. What if they decide at, say, age 17 that they want to go to college, but the unschooling method has left them very much unprepared to do that in terms of basic skills?
Then we work at whatever needs to be done to get into college if that is their desire. It's not a problem if we need to study some stuff and build up some skills beforehand. My son is 15 and we are anticipating at least a little of that actually.

Quote:
4. What if your circumstances change, as in the example I posted above, and you now are faced with the fact that your child is considered "behind" when he or she gets into school?
Same thing as the above answer for the most part. Though at the age my kids are now them needing to be enrolled in school is pretty unlikely. (Ds is almost done with "school" from a legal standpoint anyway) We'd just go do whatever we needed to do to get wherever we needed to be.
post #36 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by dharmamama
What's a quadratic equation?
Ditto. I too recognize the term, but could not possibly care any less for what the heck it is or how to do it. Not even a little. Of course I haven't had any coffee yet...:tired lol


Quote:
I don't think we have to cram our young kids full of knowledge in case they might need it one day. I think we need to show our kids how to love life and find what they need when they need it.

I totally agree. The info is always there for the learning.
post #37 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by heartmama
The unschooled child may not read until they are 9. But (typically) they don't read like a 5 year old nor do they even read like a 9 year old when they first begin. Very often begin by reading like a 15 year old.

Great post heartmama! I just wanted to say this was our experience too. When Bridget started reading at 6 she completely skipped the beginning reader stage. Within the week she was fluent and before the month was out she was reading things aimed at much older readers. This has also been the case with other homeschoolers we know IRL. I'm curious to see if this happens with my son too (he's not reading yet though he technically read the word "Pikachu" a few months ago )
post #38 of 591
Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Baudelaire
I agree that living a rich life brings along many skills, and speaking as someone who accidentally taught her dd about fractions when we were cutting potatoes, I can see that rich-life-living teaches some things, but with math especially, which has to be fairly systematic, I can't see how just living life would teach it effectively.
I wish you could meet my boys, who are whizzes at math. We have done absolutely nothing systematic with them, and I don't believe they are "gifted" in the sense usually used in speaking of academics. Nor were they precocious. What I think has happened is that learning math only as it became relevant to them and from real-life applications allowed them to develop an intuitive understanding of it. They have an understanding of the relationship between numbers that I believe my traditional math learning interfered with for me (and I went through to calculus, so I'm not talking from a "math is hard" perspective,) and that delights me to no end.

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The other issue, just to be a doubting Thomas here, would be upper-level math like calculus and algebra, which seem to have few "real-life" applications outside of engineering, physics, and the like. I'm not trying to sound dismissive here, really, but just going to the store, making dinner, playing in the park, etc. isn't going to teach quadratic equations
True, but I can't think of anything more worthless than spending energy and precious life learning mathematical equations if one isn't going to have a use for them, or at the very least an interest in it.

What I can see happening is that, because my children enjoy thinking about mathematical relationships they will probably continue to delve further and further into the mathematical world. If they find higher math interesting, they may go on to become engineers or physicists. If not, they'll do other things.

Quote:
I'd genuinely worry that by choosing an US method, I'd basically "opt out" of any heavy-duty academic, scientific, or medical field for my child, pre-empting those choices even before she was fully able to make them herself,
That's assuming that a child whose personality and type of intelligence is inclined toward those fields won't find herself naturally moving toward seeking out the kind of information and experiences that would provide a foundation for them. And it makes no sense to me that she wouldn't, if allowed access to information.

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Hypothetically speaking, if a child never felt the need or desire to learn any math and then wanted to get into college, they'd have to go from basic addition all the way through algebra and geometry in what I'm assuming would have to be a relatively short period of time.
I actually know of someone who did this. He was unschooled. He became interested in math as a young adult, and graduated from college with a math degree.

Quote:
And I'm not sure I agree with you about your doubt regarding the "windows" theory, given that in math specifically, I missed a decent chunk of math at a fundamental grade (first) and was not able to "catch up" later, which pretty much left me up the proverbial fecal creek.
But that is evidence of an unaccomodating school schedule and attitudes about individual variation, not of any natural inherent window of opportunity. I would assume that being in such a situation would introduce an element of stress and lack of confidence in ability that would affect the child's ability to learn from then on, and I suspect that a lot of what we see of lack of skills (e.g. inability to write an essay) and aversion to learning originates with that.
post #39 of 591
CB if you can find copies on ebay or amazon, you might enjoy reading the following:

Better than School by Nancy Wallace, and the sequel Child's Work.

These are autobiographical books from the early 1980's by a foreward thinking unschooling family.

There is also a fascinating book from the 1960's called The Children On the Hill. The authors name escapes me. This is probably the earliest biography I have read of unschoolers. They were not quite what we think of as unschoolers, insofar as their belief in windows of learning was unique and fully realized through non stop readiness to explore a child's interest. The mother nearly neglected to eat or sleep if a child was immersed in a fit of learning. She withheld all limits and judgements of learning. She described laying on the floor beside the crib all night while a toddler dropped a rattle and waited for her to retrieve it. Hundreds of times. Until he had fully explored the experience and went to sleep. To discourage him or fail to help him was unthinkable. She was highly educated and her husband was a mathemetician. Between them all the kids were prodigies. Two in maths, one in music, one in art. It was, at the least, a unique story!
post #40 of 591
I've only just skimmed over this thread. I think Miranda (and others I've lost track of) have spoken well.

My quick thoughts on optimal windows --

I don't completely agree with this. However, I personally think the risk of completely turning my child off a given subject by forcing it when they are young is greater than the risk of it being more difficult to learn later on when they decide they want to learn it.

My dh and I both have some degree of musical talent; we were in our high school bands, sing in choirs, etc. He wants our 6 yo (and maybe our 4 yo also) in piano lessons *now*, so that they won't have to catch up later. I don't want to rush into it. I've seen too many people turned off of it by parents pushing kids into piano when they are young. Even if parents aren't at all pushing, if they simply enroll their kid in music lessons, there is the implication that the parent thinks the kid should be able to do it. If something is beyond the kid's ability, that failure can create a huge mental block. I hope I'm making sense.
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