Dreams, Cloud Shapes, Cats, and Caterpillars. Reflections, Paul’s Pre-K, Weeks 5 & 6

Looking back on the last two weeks, I don’t feel like much formal schooling was done, yet I remind myself that at one point I had considered unschooling and really we’re doing lots of other things outside of the book … Continue reading

Colorful Affirmations. Reflections, K Week 21

I think, when I look back over this past week, the thing that stands out most in my mind is the countless hours that Elizabeth colored.  I personally love to color and colored in my little-kid Disney coloring books through … Continue reading

Quilting for Kindergarteners. Reflections, K Week 9

Elizabeth and I began a new unit this week, centering on the book A Quilt Story by Tony Johnston and Tomie dePaola.  I must admit that I have found these last units much more intriguing than the first, really reaching … Continue reading

Blue + Yellow Doesn’t Necessarily Equal What You Think. Reflections, K Weeks 5 and 6

These past two weeks, our Moving Beyond The Page unit focused on friendship and colors, centering on Leo Leonni’s book, Little Blue and Little Yellow.  Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed this unit, as it involved lots of color blending.  Per the curriculum, … Continue reading

Joining In On The Fun. Reflections, Week 35

One thing I have done over and over again since we began homeschooling was get into it along with my child.  What is ‘it’ exactly?  Whatever we are doing, particularly art projects and play-acting.  Besides art class in elementary, and obviously music, I don’t recall my teachers ever much getting into our work and doing it themselves, I understand that they were busy, but one thing that I have read mentioned over and over in researching homeschooling is that parents are on a journey of learning too and that it is extremely validating to the child learning if the parent is learning right along beside them, working just as they are.  Indeed, working with your child on the same kind of thing that they are doing gives the work relevance, rather than proving that it is just busy work, it shows that it is worthwhile enough to do that the adult would bother to do it as well.

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A pumpkin I painted with Elizabeth.

Elizabeth often asks for me to help her color, particularly with markers.  Most of the time I oblige.  Occasionally she is asking me to color with or for her because she doesn’t want to do the work/is feeling lazy, in which case it is occasionally appropriate to finish the coloring for her, and occasionally it is appropriate for her to finish the job herself, other times it is necessary to just put the project away until a different day.  More often, Elizabeth asks me to work with her just for the sake of doing the work together.  It is comfortable to work on a project with a friend, and makes a big job seem less big.  It is friendly to offer to share something that you enjoy doing as well.  Lastly, it is just kind of the routine that I work along with her, it’s what I’ve done since the beginning to get her motivated and interested.

Both while I am planning our “lessons” and accepting her offer to work on the project together, I keep in my mind the importance of honoring different learning styles.  This is probably one of the biggest reasons that I work alongside her as often as I do.  For me, personally, when I was in high school and college, I needed to see a peer do the work, such as in a science lab, before I could even consider beginning, and it was very hard for me to get through the entire thing alone.  I recognized this in college when I felt the overwhelming need to ask my peers how their labs ended up before I could write mine up – it didn’t matter if I had the same outcome as they did or not on the experiment, I just needed to know what they did and how it turned out.  Luckily, when I went into the Peace Corps, I had to learn to just push myself to make mistakes and put myself out there in order to learn Spanish and do my work as the only gringa in my site, and so somehow overcame this impulsion to have to lean on others. As a result, I can now do things myself.  (Actually, I’ve moved to not caring at all about what other people think and do, for better or for worse sometimes.)

But while I am working with Elizabeth, I try to stay sensitive to the idea that she may need to have me do the project right along with her.  It does help a 5-year-old visualize an abstract concept if she can see it in the process.  Generally, she is anxious to diverge from my directions and make up her own creative creation – which is absolutely wonderful, and at times trying.

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Coloring chicks on Easter eggs.

Perhaps it is not necessary to work alongside her, but ultimately, I find that it is fun.  I mean, who doesn’t miss coloring detailed chicks on Easter eggs with marker, or painting islands from an areal view, or coloring buildings for a community map while discussing favorite places in a nostalgic way.  It is therapeutic.  I homeschool for therapy.  🙂

So the next time your child asks you to join in on their project – go ahead, you might be all the calmer for it, and it might be that they need you to do it with them.

A great book to check out about learning styles is The Way They Learn by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias.

Share your thoughts:  What are some ways that you learn alongside your child?

Season For Apples. Reflections, Week 31

It is March, spring is just around the corner, the sap is beginning to run in the trees, and I saw a blue bird the other day, but we are playing with apples.  It seems very out-of-season to me, though a unit about seasons could technically be done in any season, we just happen to have a lot of apple activities to do with the one we are currently in because we are reading The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree by Gail Gibbons.  It’s a good thing that I got an 8 pound bag of apples the last time I went to the store because, not only do the kids love to munch them, but we have cored and painted apples, and painted with apples this week.

The first thing that we’ve done each day is check the weather, because seasons cause you to first concentrate on the weather, and here in Upstate New York, we get wild extremes between summer and winter.  We are under three feet of snow right now, so really, the daily weather forecast wasn’t too interesting, the only thing that noticeable changed was the day of the week…  The wind velocity did too, I guess.

In addition to the weather, we’ve also done lots of apple activities.  The first one we did was a service-type project.  I came up with the idea all by myself and was so proud of me!  First we talked about the sphere-shape of an apple whole and the circle-shape when cut in half against the core (so half-way down from the stem).  Then, I dug out the insides and to copy an activity Arnold does with his apples, I had Elizabeth paint them with food-coloring.

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Scooping out the guts.

I also cut off some of the flesh in little designs, which she then painted in as well.

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These apples have (L-R): a moon, a star, and a cloud etched into them, respectively.

Lastly, I filled them up with bird seed, and set them out on or near the feeders for the local wildlife.

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Filled with Black-oil Sunflower seeds.

 

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I got two to stay wedged in the suet feeder slots, which made me happy.

I came up with the idea for this project as a service learning activity because with it, Elizabeth would be making something for our local wildlife, as a gift that is given without getting anything back in return.  The idea came to me from Arnold painting some of his apples for Halloween in the book, but I didn’t want to waste our apples completely so I kept on thinking.  I combined the fact that Elizabeth is loving experimenting with food-coloring and that she has recently been interested in birds since I participated in the 2015 Great Backyard Bird Count, and tried to come up with an artistic yet serviceable project which would bring those ideas together, and this was the result.  I’m proud of me for thinking it up because it does seem to me like a great idea to do just that, and it helps to give me confidence at the prospect of coming up with my own lesson plans with the Global Village School curriculum once we have finished with the Moving Beyond The Page materials.

Another apple-art project that we did this week combined a few activities of the curriculum, in which we listened to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and painted the seasons as we heard them in the music.  Interestingly, when I asked Elizabeth which season the particular music was for, she answered without hesitation, and correctly every time.  For this activity, I sliced an apple into four pieces and she dipped them into the paint and used them as stamps to make her painting.  I also pulled out Q-tips and toothpicks to use as painting tools rather than brushes, just for something different.

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Painting the seasons with apple slices

Before we started, we had to mix water into the tempera paint powder of the paints that had come with the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum manipulatives because our paints were nearly gone.  Elizabeth thought that this was really interesting, and believes that we ought to always purchase powdered paints from now on.  Are powdered paints of a better quality?  They seem a little funky to me, right now; I’m not sure I got them smooth enough, and that affects the final quality.

Well, it does feel odd to do apple activities in late winter (and is a little expensive), but with modern grocery stores, apples can be eaten any time, so lucky us!  As well, any season is a fine season to study them in, not just the autumn.  We have been having a good time pursing artistic past times with apples, and I suspect that we will be continuing on with our apple projects throughout next week.  Have a great one!

Share your thoughts:  What are some fun apple activities that you have done?

This place is a mess, but we sure have been having fun! Reflections, Week 30

And we have.  We slid back into school after a week off, well really, I couldn’t be kept away and last Friday, Elizabeth and I sat down and did some workbook pages together.  I’ve also been reading The Montessori Manuel by Dorothy Canfield Fisher to see if the Montessori method is a path I am interested in taking, and though I don’t know as I’m considering purchasing a Montessori Apparatus any time soon, I was inspired to do a little activity inspired by Marie Montessori’s blind-folded activities that she often used.  Rather than blind-folding the kids, I put a bunch of stuff in paper lunch bags, matching items were divided with one of each in each of two bags, and had the kids pull the items out  together without looking at them.  I tried to get Elizabeth to guess what the items were without looking, but she wouldn’t go that path, so I did it, as she organized some bags for me.  Seeing how easy matching was for her, I then chose related but un-matching items.  This entertained us for a few days over the weekend.  Paul, seeing how messy we were making things, went his own messing-up route and threw all the toys out of the toy-box so that he could get into the toy-box and play, a few times over.

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This was not even close to the worst of it!

But, we sure were having fun, so let the mess come!

Monday, we began back into normal school, and so for President’s Day (I know that it’s come and gone), we checked out some sites on the iPad about the presidents, as well as used a magnifying glass to observe coin presidents.  Everything is more fun with a magnifying glass!  Elizabeth did especially enjoy one site that we used on pbskids.org, in which she ‘applied’ to be president, and then got to make choices about what to do during her first day in office.  We’ve done this a few times since then too.

Tuesday, we delved into Black History Month, and read about Booker T. Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr.  I have found that slavery and segregation is quite difficult to explain to a 5-year-old because of the injustice and violence of it; indeed, they are abstract terms in our day and age, but since my husband is very dark skinned from his Garifuna heritage, it helped to give us a point of reference to use.  I also turned it around to how she would feel – a 5-year-old does understand unfairness, so that was also a point of reference.  When we finished our work for the day, we returned to the PBS Kids link and became president again.

Thursday, we had a great time.  I had had some plans made for school, but Elizabeth we busy doing ABC stickers when I came up from putting Paul down for a nap and invited me to participate, so how could I say no?  We then set to coloring and she asked how crayons were made.  I had a guess, but deciding that we ought to pull out the iPad and look it up.  We found a YouTube page of Mr. Rogers explaining how they are made that was very descriptive, and interesting I might say.

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Crayon-making.

Well, I had come across directions on making your own crayons by melting broken-up pieces down in metal cans and then cooling the wax in small cups.  At the time I had thought that it seemed like a fun activity that I could do sometime, and I stored the instructions in a file in my brain.  Now I have no idea where the instructions came from though I have looked for them, but instruction-less, we forged ahead and set to making our own.  …They turned out pretty brown, but we don’t mind.  Since they seemed to mix together most while being poured from the can, I tried to dry one can-full in-can, but had to use a hammer to pound it out, which shattered it.  At any rate, it was a fun experiement.

Which reminds me, that though we ‘took a break from school,’ school never really stops here, it was really about my involvement in Elizabeth’s activities last week that changed.  She is ‘experimenting’ as ever with colors and color blending.  Most of the experiments that have been produced so far involve food coloring: dying eggs, making ice cubes, spraying snow, and adding colors to milk mixed with water.  It’s messy, but I let Elizabeth take the lead on her project’s methods, and so she is boldy following her own creative ideas.  I’m thinking that at some point, we need to throw the scientific method into the foray, but for now, it’s pressure-less fun.

What else have we been doing?:

  • Playing Learning With Homer, which I did end up paying to open
  • Having a friend over for a play date
  • Hanging out with my Grandma while I went grocery shopping
  • Starting our next unit about the seasons and weather
  • Excavating a snow fort in the front yard

Share your thoughts:  How do you explain slavery and segregation to young children?  What would you do if you were president for a day?  Have you done any creative winter fun?

Do you know how to make crayons?  If so, point me in the right direction! Please! 🙂

Be My Valentine. Reflections, Week 29

I have lots of photos for my readers this week!  We had a fun week this week leading up to Valentine’s Day, making valentines for family and friends and doing some math with M&M’s.  Elizabeth was really excited about Valentine’s Day this year, as we had been working on the valentines and had gotten a cute little petite rose bush for Chepe which we kept secret in her bedroom until the morning of, and she was tickled pink to have the secret.  I especially liked how excited she was about the holiday, especially as she was not expecting gifts herself, but was anxious to give hers out.  This is a step in the right direction from where I felt we were at Christmas-time.

The Moving Beyond The Page curriculum has a “February Holidays” unit which centers on Valentine’s Day as well as Black History Month and President’s Day.  I think that this is one of my favorite units so far; I decided that the unit met all of my subject goals without modifications, so that was easy.  This week, I merely focused on the Valentine’s portion and tried to get the valentines made and out before the 14th.

064I also got Elizabeth interested in a bit of math by having her add some color and chocolate!  The unit had a little math game of equations written in hearts, meant to be cut out and then cut in half.  The child would then do the addition to find the solution, thereby matching up both halves of the hearts.  Elizabeth color-coded hers, and then I ripped out the M&M’s and she did a thorough job of counting out candies for each number to be added, and then counted them all together.  It doesn’t sound extremely impressive, but it’s one of the first times since we started the curriculum in which she put her brain into the addition and did each part of the equation separately as is necessary.  I was very happy with her effort.

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On Chepe’s day off, we also made a non-Valentine’s-Day-themed trip to an art museum.  The weather here in Upstate New York is bitter, bitter cold, so in thinking about fun things to do out of the house I was obligated to come up with an idea that would keep us indoors.  The day that we went birding for snowy owls, there had been abstract art for sale at the café we stopped at for lunch and Elizabeth was very interested in it, so I was thinking of doing something art-related.  Finally, I came up with a few ideas, and with Chepe’s input, we decided upon the Rockwell Museum of Art of America in Corning because it was about art and cowboys.

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Making a collage on a light-table.

The trip turned out to be a fun one.  I hadn’t been to the museum in over ten years, and they have made an effort to be kid-friendly, with a kid’s art and activity room, as well as scavenger hunt pages for each floor.  I wish now I had taken a picture of the scavenger hunt sheet, but I didn’t.  It was actually so much fun that as we left, I thought to myself that even without children I could have wanted to do it!  The scavenger hunt helped all of us (except hyper Paul) take a look at each picture or the majority of the pottery, and to look for little details to find the images on the sheet.  It was fun.

As a lover of horses and the spirituality of the American Indians, some of my favorite art that we saw was 3-D:

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Lastly, I have some funny photos of our last activity to finish up the owl unit from last week: peanut butter cookies.  Elizabeth had a good time decorating them (and eating the decorations).

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If you have been following Seed To Seedling, you might have noticed that we have not taken a single vacation week since we began in July.  I contemplated it – I had contemplated taking a week off every 6th week – but once we got into the flow, school seemed so non-invasive and fun and easy that I just never did.  As well, Elizabeth asks almost daily to do school, and we occasionally do school activities on the weekends if she/we are not out and about with family.  But the weeks around holidays in which I feel like I have deadlines, like with making the valentines, kind of stress me out, and I have decided that we will take a break this next week.  I have some housekeeping things that need to get done while Paul is napping, and though school doesn’t have to be done while he is asleep, it is a lot easier.  I think a little break will do me some good, though I have my doubts about Elizabeth.  I am anticipating that it will make her sour to start back up, or to do my organized activities again.  We shall see, I guess.

Well, I hope you all have a nice February break if you are taking one.

Share your thoughts: What special projects did you do leading up to Valentine’s Day?  What kind of school break schedule do you plan?

 

Beginning Reading, Art and Math. Reflections, Week 28

Nearly 30 weeks of homeschool so far!  It doesn’t seem possible!  I was feeling a little blah about it around the holidays, like it was just another thing I had to fit in, but lately, it has not felt that way at all.  Elizabeth asks to do school most days, spends hours coloring and tracing letters in workbooks on her own, and is beginning to write and sound out words.  It is very exciting for me to watch her as she begins to read.  It’s like she is standing on the brink of a big pool which is learning and life, dipping her toes into the warm inviting water, but unsure yet how to swim.  Luckily, she has me!  I love watching her and helping her with this.  If she asks, I never refuse to tell her what something says or how to spell it out; even if we are in the middle of dinner there is always time for reading.  I am here to help her into that big pool of reading and I am loving it!

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Shape art

Arts and crafts have really taken a fore-front in our school lately.  Elizabeth loves painting and coloring.  I don’t often see her drawing with a pen or pencil, but what she seems unable to make come out with finer tipped writing utensils appears with the forgiveness of the messiness of paint and paintbrush.  Much of what she does is just filling in pre-drawn pictures or shapes that float around on the page, but all of these activities help build her hand-writing muscles and improve her visual-motor coordination.  Art was very important to me when I was younger and I love it as a way to express one’s self as well as a coping method, so I can only encourage her interest and creativity.  Interestingly, she has recently started using coloring as her cool-down activity when she is upset.  She spent about a year not knowing how to soothe herself after she discontinued sucking her fingers; coloring doesn’t totally replace the self-soothing that she did before, but it is the closest thing she has gotten.

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Colorful tree with bean owls

I love to support her love of art, color, and crafts.  So school has lots of focus in these activities.  But I have been feeling that her interest in math isn’t at the same level as what is outlined in the curriculum.  This is fine, all kids move at their own pace and will have preferences, but she does need to learn how to do simple addition and subtraction too.  I have found that the math activities in the curriculum guide just aren’t very interesting.  Many of them involve using pom poms on cut-outs and making up word problems with them.  How many times can apple pom poms fall out of a tree or bean owls fly away?  It’s just not really interesting nor applied.  I’ve been trying to think of ways to make math a little more interesting and real-life.  I accept that it’s not necessary for her to be counting by 10’s yet (though she kind of can), nor by 2’s or 5’s or doing addition up to 10, or even subtracting, she’s only in pre-k.  And it’s also ok for her to have her preferences, as well as to advance in one area over some other.  At times, different subjects will be more prominent in her learning than others, and math may come around again.  There have been times in which certain books have really sparked her interest in numbers, shapes, counting, and even simple addition, Richard Scarry’s Best Counting Book Ever would be one of those.  But I guess just acknowledging these thoughts has let me draw more math out of daily life, which makes it non-threatening, easier, and applicable.  Rather than do pom pom math, I’m trying to add a little math into our other school activities, giving both more meaning.

Share your thoughts:  How do you add math into your everyday learning?  What are some of your children’s favorite art activities?  How excited were you when your children began reading?

 

Much Stress. Reflections, Week 24

I have been at a loss about what to write about this past week.  Nothing has really happened, yet much has.  Elizabeth and I did a few things at the beginning of the week together for school, but mostly she has just been doing arts and crafts on her own with all of the new materials she got for Christmas.  It was a Frozen-themed Christmas in gifts so Elsa reigns at our house.  As well, a Frozen-themed birthday party was planned for my girl’s 5th birthday, so I spent all week cleaning and preparing for that.  I also had my first meeting as a member of the local library’s Board of Directors, and nearly had a panic attack thereafter getting cold feet and wondering if I signed up for more than I am able to give.  Lastly, I also felt very emotional this week, very stressed.  I thought it was the party, wondered briefly if I was pregnant again (good God, no thanks!), and then realized that it ultimately was that the cat I adopted from under my porch in college and has lived with my Mom since I left for Peace Corps, had a tumor in his stomach and had to be euthanized this morning.  I found it very upsetting as he was my special buddy when I lived alone in my apartment in the city  He is also the 5th family member to pass on in a year’s time, and I hope that he is the last.

On top of the other stresses, Paul is getting his sixth tooth in six weeks, and hasn’t been taking naps this week.  One day, he also climbed out of his crib, which really makes me feel like there is nothing I can do with him when he is being overwhelming (though I realized that the high-chair is still an option if I need a breather).  He’s also been fussy and not too much fun – he got upset and broke a cupboard door in half by yanking on it yesterday.

Elizabeth has been having her moments too, and I have been reassessing my responses to her when she gets upset.  She gets so mad – so mad that it doesn’t seem possible that a 4-year-old could get that upset – and I’m just wondering if my reactions feed the fuel rather than help diffuse it.  Of all the parenting obstacles that I face, this is the most perplexing to me because I just have no solution.  I find too that whenever I try a different tactic in dealing with her, it is just more tiring and draining, and may seem affective on the initial day, but thereafter everything seems the same or worse.  Mostly, what I want to work on is keeping my cool, and see if that has a positive affect over time.  I’m trying really hard!

These things all affect school because school is at home and the emotional thread throughout the house affects Elizabeth’s learning.  As I have said, we didn’t do a whole lot of organized activities, but she spent lots of time alone coloring and crafting.  This is good because it allows her to do things in her own way and not be overshadowed by me wanting things done in my way.  I want to learn from this.  An example from this week is that she pulled out a box of paper plate bug crafts.  These come with all of the materials and instructions for making them.  My little lady did most of it herself, following the instructions, and I only helped when she asked.  With little help from me, she was able to complete a bumble bee and feel proud of her accomplishment,self validating her  own creativity and ability.  I am trying to step back and let her have her head on more things (a term from when I rode horses 10 years ago, where you give the horse reign so they could relax their head down and choose the pace, the rider would also not be as picky about the exact spot the horse walked), as I can see that my wanting things done just so makes her insecure, as well as affects her responses to her brother.  And I don’t feel bad for having to learn through this, this is a learning experience for all of us, and thinking with a child’s perspective is definitely something that takes practice for someone who hasn’t been a child in 10 years.  Her actions this week, thought, have shown me that she has relaxed a little all ready, and I’m happy.

Wednesday, I’d been planning a trip to the humane society, but the lack of a baby sitter for Brother, and very cold temperatures kept us home.  Funnily enough, I had really been looking forward to going, which is probably why it didn’t work out.  😦  I am planning it for this Wednesday, and looking forward to it.  I don’t want to have to take Paul, I would very much like for Elizabeth and I to be able to take our time at the store in choosing a donation to take, and then to have time to hang out and discuss lots of things while we play with the animals.  I am not planning on adopting, right now with the toddler, it’s just not something do-able.  Yet, going and seeing how the humane society works and what it’s for and how we can support it is something  I would like Elizabeth exposed to, and ties into our unit.

Another thing I plan for this week and that I am excited about is organizing the Craft Closet.  I purchased some plastic organizing containers and my mother offered me some others, and I’d like to get the materials out of baggies and into easy-to-find and easy-to-clean-up and easy-to-keep-organized boxes.  I am planning on having Elizabeth help me organize and label them, with words, to practice writing in a way that shows her how it is useful in real-life.  Then, she will be free to decorate in any way that she desires to make her containers fun and interesting.

I have been reading Growing Up Reading by Jill Frankel Hauser, and it has really made me interested in starting to do more activities with Elizabeth that will help inspire her to continue practicing writing and sounding out words.  I think that before I got the boxed curriculum, I really did a lot of activities that encouraged reading readiness and critical thinking skills, but once I got the curriculum, since the questions were laid out, I asked them, but when she wasn’t interested, I filled her in.  Am I doing more harm in trying to teach her than I did when I was just winging it?  That’s a thought.  At any rate, I highly recommend the book to anyone teaching preschool age children.

As far as Pre-pre-preschool with Paul, we didn’t do too much this week, though he did do his first finger painting!  I definitely put that paper into the ‘keeping’ folder.  He sure does like to draw and paint!  And unlike Elizabeth who was very ambidextrous even through the first few months of school and who we all thought would be a lefty (but isn’t), Paul is a definite righty.

Well, I honestly feel much better after writing this (again, live to write, write to survive).  I hope I didn’t stress you all out!  I hope next week is better, and that your week was better than mine!

Have any thoughts on something I wrote about?  Let me know. 🙂  Thanks!