Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Planning and more planning

I've been working a bit each day on summer plans, as well as school year plans. The past couple of days have been focused on looking at my province's math curriculum and pulling out the useful outcomes for the year, so that I can then make some sort of plan.

Let me tell you, some of the things they put in the curriculum... It just leaves me scratching my head! Why oh why oh why?! There are places where my jaw practically dropped going, "Why is this remotely important to have in there?" Like for grade 9. The ONLY outcome for chance and uncertainty is:

"Demonstrate an understanding of the role of probability in society."

What? This is, what, a 5-minute conversation with them? Something that is probably already understood? No calculation outcomes, no, just "demonstrate an understanding...".

In any case, I now have all the outcomes I want listed and can try to create a plan from that for the year. I know Montessori often separates arithmetic from geometry, so the kids work on geometry all year in addition to their arithmetic. US schools typically put algebra into its own course, too. If I think of the math outcomes as being 2 or 3 separate courses, that could help in terms of giving time to work on a concept and integrating different areas a little more.

Boy, have I got some work ahead of me!

I've also fleshed out a better schedule idea for mornings for next week. I'm not so sure anymore about the weekly themes. Not with the little ones, anyhow. On top of that, I've worked on the 17yo's first day and first week plans, laying out a little more my role, my expectations, etc. I know the more I write it out, the more it will simply become a part of my thinking and I'll be more likely to do it automatically, rather than trying to remember or not being sure.

Let me write some of it out again. :D

First, I have done most of the reading and writing for him, what with his LD label. He was supposed to have been learning to use technology, but he got so behind--and I felt guilty for it, because part of me felt I should have done something different--that I didn't end up pressing this issue. Well, I'm going to press the issue and I've already warned him. One thing he will do on his first day back is work on training his MacSpeech software. I know part of his resistance to this is that he has to talk into it and he feels silly and stupid. That's just too bad. lol. He can lock himself in my den if he wants privacy, so that's not a problem. With the training, it's a little tough because he can't fluently read the passages he's supposed to read aloud. That might require me copying out the passages, we work on the reading of them, then he goes and trains the software. It could take a week or two to get the thing properly trained; that's okay. If it's not properly trained, he will just have to correct the mistakes it will make; it doesn't stop him from using it.

Part of the week plan with him is to first of all, each day be aware of when the deadlines are for the 3 subjects that will have deadlines and see where he is in the work. It's a bit of a shame that it's not worked out what to do day-by-day, but the deadlines are usually every week or two, so it's not too bad. The first day of the week, he and I will look at what is due and figure out a minimum for that week (if the deadline is in 2 weeks) or figure out the daily breakdown. When that is decided, I am holding him to it. This means that he works ALL day long until he's done the allotted work and if he doesn't finish, he has to bring it home with him. Same thing for the weekend: if the week's work is not completed, a list will go home (I might email a copy to his dad, too) of what needs to get done.

One thing I've said to my dd is that I'm not going to let his being behind affect our ability to go out and do fun things. He will have to be on track or ahead to come with us, and if he can't come with us, the expectation is he will be at home finishing his work. The school he's registered with was going to implement a new policy where kids have to go into the school until they finish overdue work; if they aren't still doing that, I am going to ask his teacher advisor if we can set that up.

Something that will have to be decided with him is how he wants his schedule. There can be an advantage to just taking a huge block--like 3 hours in the morning--and just working through as much as you can. BUT he has such a tendency to drag things on. I suppose the worst that would come of it is he would have to bring work home. I'll still let him have some say and provide some schedule options. One schedule will have a large block in the morning and two smaller blocks in the afternoon. Another will be the opposite. Another will have 2 subjects in the morning and 2 in the afternoon. Well, sort of. He's got English, science and social studies as his academic subjects, and then phys. ed. and a health-type class. The phys. ed. and health are 2 separate courses, but I'm thinking them as a single course. One of the subject blocks could be split in 2 and he could work on both a bit. The other option is to have him work on those mainly at home and the final block of the day could be "catch-up" and study time. Yet another option is to focus just on the academic subjects, do 2 hours of one, then an hour of another, lunch break, finish the last hour, then do the final subject for the remaining 2 hours.

Regardless, assuming that he will show up around 9 like last year, this will be the schedule:

lunch from 12-12:30
12:30-3:30 (or until leaving)

6 hours to tackle 3 academic subjects is plenty--if he learns to focus. Setting the above limits will help, I hope! A couple of minutes at the beginning will be taken to tackle some skill building--math, vocabulary, etc. This is one aspect I haven't quite figured out yet. But the above is very solidified in my mind and on paper. I believe it will work well. :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am thinking about doing a Shakespeare play this August with all the kids. I know the littlest ones won't be able to participate--or understand much--but to expose the others will be great.

One site (a CM site) recommended A Midsummer Night's Dream as the first one; I think that's a good idea. It's fun, not too difficult. There are lots of references to mythology which might need some prep work. I know there's the movie, but it's been a while since I've seen it and I'm not sure how appropriate it would be! I don't think I'd be able to get the oldest to actually act it out. Hm... That's a whole issue to tackle.

Another site mentioned age 9 or 10, but I'm not sure if Charlotte meant to start at that age or was just mentioning those ages for examples. The 9yo had read A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the oldest kids this August will be 10, 11 and 13, so it should be reasonably good. The little ones (not yet 2, 3.5 and 6.5) might not get terribly involved!

Why do Shakespeare? This has a great explanation, although I do wonder if it's actually true that Shakespeare truly added that many words and phrases to the English language. I will have to find out!

Now to figure out how to actually go about it... Audiobook? Read with stick puppets? (:D)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Summer Montessori-Style

Well, not the summer we've had so far. ;) Although, you know, we kind of have. Not so much with lessons and materials and curriculum and set learning time, but a vacation we took last week which had us learning so much about geology and history and lots of exercise and outdoor time. It was fantastic! And then yesterday... I think the writing "bug" has FINALLY been switched on in my 10yo son. It may change my plans a bit with him this coming year; we'll have to see how this pans out. My best friend--like a sister--spent a couple of nights with us, along with her 8yo daughter. The 8yo and my 13yo started writing all kinds of things on our easel whiteboard. Then they moved to a window. This was all it took to inspire my ds. He copied what they were doing to a certain degree--at least the very idea of what they were doing--and demonstrated that all of the work I have tried to do with him for cursive and printing was not for nought. This morning, he came to me to tell me--with an extremely pleased-with-himself expression on his face--that he knew how to write "c'est". And then proceeded to show me. Ah, it's like a sigh of relief! I still need to push ahead gently, ever so gently with him, but it'll all come together, just like his reading did. I just need to make sure to provide enough demonstration and opportunity.

But this has all nothing to do with summer and Montessori-style! Not how I meant, anyhow. lol.

I'm looking ahead to August, it is just right around the corner. I will have 6 kids in the house most of August; one week will only be 5 because my 13yo will be away at summer camp. So, the easiest one and biggest helper will be gone, which means that week could end up being more difficult. I don't want it to be 100% free time. I've said this before. I know I was exploring scheduling ideas and came across one school's summer program. What they do is have a theme each week. I think this could work beautifully, better than having a specific theme each day. I still need to work out a basic daily structure--and figure out themes--but it's relieving some of the strain of "How am I going to make this work when they are so used to just doing whatever they want?"

Since I'm here, let me explore some theme ideas:

*ds's chemistry set
*hiking or other outdoor activities
*group games (hard to do with a 21-month old)
*art, arts and crafts
*another science focus

Of course, I've only got 4 weeks and I've come up with more themes than that. Cooking might be something better done as a specific day of the week or just an activity to plan in as desired. I think group games have to be squashed (I was thinking things like soccer, catch, kickball, etc.). Art is so encompassing that I could honestly do something different each week for art. Some sort of science week is a must.

I've completely lost my thought flow. At least I managed to get something out. lol

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Things starting to click a bit together

The more I read from "When Children Love to Learn" and from a book by Alfie Kohn, "What Does It Mean to Be Well Educated?", the more I have a clearer vision of how things will unfold next year.

Alfie Kohn's book is one I took out from the library sometime ago. I don't know why I can't seem to sit down and just read through it because every time I sit down, I love what I'm reading. Today, I saw it in the shelves (maybe that's the problem: it's smaller than most books on my shelves!) and thought, "Oh, that's going to be due soon. I should sit down with it." It's at a point that reminds me so much of CM--about how learning ought to be the focus, not results. That's exactly what CM is about--there is no requirement for how much the children should know in the various subjects, it's all about the process and learning for their own sake.

I had been thinking of maybe having my daughter do a pretend provincial exam at the end of the year--well, not pretend, just use an old one. If she wants to then, sure, we'll do it; but I'm thinking now I won't even think about using some of the exam prep things during the year. I don't want her focus to be on how much she will learn for some arbitrary test. It's also got me thinking more about high school and if next year can be a good model year, we can continue that way for her academic subjects until grade 12, even if she's doing a diploma. She can do just the grade 12 courses she needs, with proof that she has been working on the subject matter throughout grades 10 and 11. When she gets credit for grade 12 academic courses, they automatically give credit for the "prerequisite" grades 10 and 11 courses.

This will give us so much more flexibility and we won't have to stay exactly on provincial curriculum--just have to prove that she has covered the prerequisites, is capable, but it doesn't have to be exactly the curriculum. She'd still do German through correspondence (her choice!) and most likely signed up with a teacher for art credit (either through our homeschool board or through a private school here in town), we'd get her phys. ed. credits and whatever other easy option courses she wants to cover as she went along. This feels like such a huge relief: she CAN get the diploma without us sacrificing good learning throughout the first couple of high school years just for the sake of properly meeting the curriculum and doing final exams.

On the flip side, if she wants to be eligible for certain scholarships, she will need official marks all the way through. I think I'd rather say, "Too bad, it's just money." They don't amount to a lot and I think our quality of life and learning is more important than a bit of money to help defray post-secondary costs!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More school thinking

I've written down quite a bit in a notebook about my daughter's ed plan ideas for next year. I don't really want to rewrite them here at this time; maybe once I've somewhat finalized things. Some things I didn't really cover were the approach.

How are we going to approach her studies next year? She wants to cover everything a "regular" grade 9 student would cover. Do I encourage her to have a schedule? Do I simply list out the work that ought to get done during the week and the lessons she needs to see me for? Do I give her even more freedom and have the work for the semester laid out and then she goes her own pace? Do we set up a time for subjects and she goes her own pace? Different things to discuss with her about what she feels would work best for her. I know Montessori likes to integrate studies at that age; I'm not quite sure how to go about that, other than not treating French like a separate "class". Reading and writing can be incorporated with other subjects. I suppose grammar and literature could be "French class", or even separate classes in themselves.

I do really like the Charlotte Mason approach of using living books, learning to narrate orally, then written. The tough part will be for me to find suitable books for science and social studies topics (grade 9 social studies is about our federal government; uh...). And in French, to boot. I think this will be key to her starting to really feel comfortable reading and writing in French. It's ironic, isn't it--here's this francophone girl who would prefer to avoid reading and writing in French. Well, the reading has come along, but for novels, French novels don't interest her. The literary language is something she's not used to (neither am I) and she can't connect with the stories the same way. Translations from English can be horrible, too. But, I have to try to find something.

Where does this leave me? I'm not sure. With a muddled brain. ;)

For my son, he's technically going to be grade 6. If he had to go to school for some reason, he would find it VERY hard. There is so much he hasn't done--his handwriting is worse than my 6yo niece's, I don't think he's ever written more than a sentence at a time in English and never that much in French, all kinds of math that he hasn't covered... He's hit an age where he's much easier to work with in this regard and I really need to get him to do more this year than last year. He made some reasonable progress in math, although mostly just focused on math facts--but he didn't even cover them all, so really, it's not reasonable. I've had the thought of making a checklist by grade level of things students in school learn, but that could be hugely demoralizing. I suppose I could do it by division--a set for grades 1-3 and a set for grade 4-6. Or I could just do up a list of things and tell him that students in school, like his cousins who are the same age, are pretty much capable of doing all these things by the end of grade 6. Maybe that will be enough for him. I don't want to pressure him to get it all done; I just want to see him doing something.

Part of that will require me being consistent with our routines. I'm getting better at pushing through any foggy brain or lack of energy on my part and sticking with the plan for the morning. I suppose my first real aim with him would be to get him to the point of working 3 hours in the morning! I've done it before, worked out a list of "school activities" with him and insisted that he spend his mornings only on things from that list. I could do it again, while including in some specific lessons. I think the lessons will have to be first thing in the morning before any people have arrived. Then he will be free to keep working on what we've covered or picking things from the list. I recall doing folders in the past of work or exploration areas my dd and another girl I was homeschooling could do in the order they wished, but it had to be done sometime that week. Doesn't feel very Montessori, but it worked.

What are the main goals for my son this year? Writing--both handwriting and in general--and working. I do want to see him continuing to work on his math, and perhaps have him increase the amount of time he spends on it (he would happily work on it, but didn't like if it took more than 5-10 minutes!), but the writing and the plain working are key this year. With the writing though, I'm going to step back a bit and use Charlotte Mason non-written narration with him at first, get him thinking about things and how to say them. This is actually a kind of a struggle with him--he doesn't always find his words or says things that we go, "What do you mean?" I do sometimes wonder if they would label him as mildly LD if he were in school, but maybe it's really because he's spent years pretty much just playing--and reading English books.

For all the kids, I do want to bring into our school days picture study, nature study, music study, etc. All the enrichment-type things. Present things to them, ask them questions, have some follow-up ideas prepared for work... Kind of a mix of CM and Montessori. I have decided to read or find an audiobook of A Tale of Two Cities for this coming semester. The 17yo will be covering the French Revolution as part of his social studies work, so it ties in nicely, and I think it's my favourite Dickens book. If I could find a good audiobook of it, I think the kids would like it more than if they tried to read it on their own or if I read it. Another advantage of an audiobook is that I can play it in the van or while we're eating lunch--and I can eat and listen rather than read while they eat and eat afterward.

This reminds me: Daily schedule. I've decided that our lunch hours will only be 30 minutes long. And I will be using a timer. I haven't decided about the daily silent reading. My kids read all the time, so that's fine, but my idea of having daily reading as a way to get the 17yo to read more didn't really pan out. I don't know if I didn't stick with it long enough or what. He will just sit there and do nothing. Mind you, that's not really different from how he has approached his course work, is it? An alternative could be 30 minutes of lunch, then 30 minutes of A Tale of Two Cities (or whatever book we're on), while following along in a book. Hm, that's an idea.

In any case, the 17yo has English (grade 12), social studies (grade 11), science (grade 11), Career and Life Management and phys. ed. (grade 11) to work on first semester. He typically gets here at 9. I'm thinking of insisting on a 9-12 work morning for him, which, for the first while as he adjusts to me not reading and taking dictation from him, could mean he only gets one subject and a bit done during that time, the 30-minute lunch, then maybe, actually, just get right back into work rather than reading: 12:30-3:30. If he gets all of his work done for the day before 3:30, then he's free from work and I will continue the read-aloud (if we followed this plan, we'd do the audiobook during lunch time) or maybe we'd all go for a walk or do nature study or handwork or something. I'm suspecting for the first while that he won't have all of his work done, which means he will have to take it home with him and try to get it done there. At the end of the week, a message will be sent home to his father about the work that was supposed to have gotten done that week, what's left to get done that weekend. I've avoided telling his father much because it just seems to make things worse, but I think this format could work. Really, there's nothing for him to do for phys. ed. at my place, and Career and Life Management ought to be easy enough for him to do at home. He has plenty of time in the 6 hours set aside for work to get his English, social studies and science done. I will be adding in a daily math question--first thing in the morning--as a way to keep some of his basic skills up and possibly even to preview certain things he will cover in math 2nd semester. It still gives him pretty much 2 hours per subject each day. I know that could still be tough for him, especially since things will be very different this year.

Have I shared my plan with him here? I'm not sure I have. Even if I'm repeating myself, I'm going to share because it helps sort out my thoughts and firm it up in my mind that this is what I'm going to do.

The past two years, I have done a large part of the reading and writing for him. He is coded as having a learning disability, but he was supposed to have learned to use programs to read things for him when it was too much for him to read on his own (his reading itself isn't too bad; the pace is horrendously slow) and use MacSpeech to dictate to his computer for his writing. He must, must, must get used to this this year, especially with diploma exams coming up. There will not be any interacting with someone, get feedback with someone, etc. There will either be a person simply reading things or a computer reading things to him. For dictation, a person is going to write exactly what he says--he needs to be in a habit of saying "period", "comma", etc., and then to reread what he's written to decide if it makes sense. While he's had the advantage of being challenged to think through things more as he goes through them, he does need the experience of having to do it entirely on his own. That's what he will do this year. He is doing correspondence/online for all of his academic courses, which takes me out of the picture for lessons and assessment.

So, what will my role be?

First of all, as a guide to how to be independent with his work, someone to monitor his time management skills, help him define goals, stick with it, etc. Second, as a test prep person. I will orally quiz him on science and social studies things, give him little practice quizzes for all three subjects, give him English diploma exam prep things, etc. Also, I'll teach him how to actually learn this material throughout the semester, rather than trying to cram it in at the end. Third, as a tutor in the sense of helping build the weak skills or explaining questions he doesn't understand. And as someone to review work he's about to submit, go through the marking guidelines with him, or sample responses with him, and have him self-assess--did you explain enough? does it flow nicely? does it make sense? did you defend yourself with several reasons? etc.

There is plenty for me to do with him without being the actual teacher! He does already know that I'm changing things next year and I've explained how I will not be reading nor writing for him. I've said it more than once. It'll still be an adjustment for him. I've wondered now and then why I didn't do this earlier, but you know what? He wouldn't have cooperated earlier necessarily. Next year is his last year. He knows he needs to do things differently to be able to do final exams at the school and the diploma exams. He knows, too, that nobody will be sitting by his side for post-secondary courses, the way he's had someone up until now. It's his last chance to learn this before graduating (and actually, if he doesn't learn how to do it, he might not graduate this coming school year), and he knows it.

I think I've written a novella. ;) It's maybe time for me to stop. lol

It's a rainy Sunday morning

I've wasted the bulk of the morning away. I feel the need to do something more productive. I could clean, yes, but at the moment, I want to think about school stuff. :)

It's already closing in on halfway through July. Time always goes by so quickly, it's crazy. I have my nieces and nephew who will be with us full-time for the month of August. I actually want to start some light school stuff with all of them at that point, get a routine going of sorts. I figured blogging was a good way to get some ideas out and explore things.

Having a structured routine will be quite a shock, so I don't think I want to force a routine on them--that's a huge amount of sudden control and will likely be met with resistance from the boys. The little girls are always eager to sit and listen to stories, do practical life things, try sensorial materials, do art, etc. I'd like to balance things a bit, though.

The thought coming to my mind at the moment is a basic schedule that we used years ago: each day of the week had a different "enrichment" focus. I can't remember exactly what it was, naturally, but it was something like this:

Monday afternoon: outside play time
Tuesday afternoon: library and games
Wednesday afternoon: science experiments
Thursday afternoon: music
Friday afternoon: art

I think something like that could be useful for the month of August, provide a bit of rhythm to our days without making each day the same. Thursdays are when various groups seem to have their park get-togethers, so those can be definite park days. I would probably decide on if we'd go morning or afternoon based on where the park get-together is that particular week. I'm thinking we ought to change Monday to our library day, then we can have the whole week with our books. The original reason we had Tuesday as our library day was because we went to a park day almost ever Monday afternoon back then. We haven't been regulars at park day for a few years now! There's absolutely no reason to stick with Tuesday. lol.

I do like the idea of getting outside as much as possible. I think I'd like to encourage the main outdoor time to be in the mornings, before the UV and temperatures get too high.

What other things can be done? I still like the idea of a science day--my son has 2 science kits he really likes--but has done nothing from (complicated or he's not sure what to do). Granted, once we get going with one, it could be a daily thing, but that's fine with me. I can adapt the schedule if needed.

Other things:

  • My littler niece is already 3.5+. I have done so very little Montessori with her. Since the boys are likely to do their own thing together in the morning, it's a great time to present things to her. Since her 6yo sister loves being shown stuff, too, I'm sure I can determine some lessons I can give her: cursive, math, geography, science, reading...
  • I'd love to have a read-aloud going on--in French. I put a request for Little House on the Prairie in French, although I'm lamenting that there doesn't seem to be a French version of Little House in the Big Woods, which I think is so endearing and much more at the girls' interest level (okay, the littler one might be totally lost, but she'll like the drawings when they pop up). I maybe ought to find something else, or just read Little House in the Big Woods in English first, then the sequel in French.
  • I think I will really need to plan my week and days to maximize the time I have with them.
  • Just remembered: I learned that my nephew's teacher this past year is known for not teaching a science unit from the provincial curriculum--chemistry. This causes problems for the grade 6 teachers because they are expected to prepare the students for the grade 6 government exams (oh, how I'm glad we homeschoolers are not required to subject our children to such things!) and the exam includes a bit on chemistry. Why, when it's not covered in grade 6? Because it's the government. :/ In any case, if he hasn't done it, then I can cover the chemistry unit with them all during August.
Long-term thinking: next school year.

I have some definite goals forming in my mind--some on paper, too. ;) Dd wants to really feel like she's getting work done and to know that she's at least at the same level as school students for language arts and math. She has also asked to be required to cover the same topics for social studies and science and the general curriculum. It's her "high school prep" year, where she wants to feel like she can tackle a full high school course load her grade 10 year; right now, it just seems scary and way too much work to do. She has started realizing that it doesn't have to be as difficult and time-consuming as she's seen with the 17yo I homeschool--she mentioned a couple of weeks ago how she thought it would take up her whole day to be doing high school courses, but the 17yo really spends a lot of time avoiding work and not working very quickly. She's not too sure about getting the diploma, but if I've looked at things properly, she'll probably be covering everything--except social studies--to get all the necessary credits. Without social studies, she will already have over the minimum number of credits. If we cover social studies our way for grades 10 and 11 and ask to challenge the grade 12 course, she will then have her diploma.

It's funny: I was so against the diploma for a while. But seeing as how she wants to be able to get into anything she would want to in university or some other post-secondary program, it means getting certain credits or alternative. On top of that, there are things she would just naturally be doing or wants to do. Social studies is really the only bane to it all.

In any case, I've really got to start working out the subject plans for next year, especially for French and math. Some of her math skills are weak, or there are things she simply really hasn't done. I want to design something specific for both French and math so that everything gets covered. I will also be putting together checklists for both subjects, probably with columns of, "Covered, Practised, Mastered", so that she can kind of self-assess, too, as the year goes on--seeing what's left to do, what's left to be mastered, etc.

That's enough thinking for now!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Maybe it's my Montessori background, or maybe it's that certain things from Charlotte Mason's books (and books about CM) have stuck with me better than with other people, but I find myself saddened, and sometimes appalled, at accounts I read on CM lists of the level of control parents are using on their children. I feel like asking, "Did you read the books at all?" (I haven't even read them all yet myself!) That wouldn't be very nice of me and I chastise myself for even thinking it.

There are parents who are allowing their child to take an entire day to get a lesson done--is that what would have happened with Charlotte Mason or in one of her schools? No. When it's time to move on, it's time to move on. This battle begins between parent and child when parents do this. The child becomes more determined to not do the work--because he's coming from a more emotional standpoint--and with the parent sticking to her guns, it seems to me she is enabling a bad habit to be formed. This is dawdling. Charlotte Mason said clearly to not allow the child to dawdle. More than that, she put the responsibility on the parent to secure the whole attention of the child. Furthermore, how does this fit with the principle of respecting the child? Yes, that is a CM principle, just as it is for Montessori. Both women had such respect for children, all the while not allowing them to engage in bad behaviour. But nowhere have I seen any mention of forcing a child to sit until they get the adult's decision of the amount of work to be done.

There are also parents who are talking about punishments and rewards in various ways. There was none of this in Charlotte Mason's schools. There's no hint of it. Is it so engrained in our society that those who profess to follow CM don't see how they are going against it?

I suspect, too, that many parents are foregoing the lesson part of it all, which I have to say I don't blame them for, because it wasn't until reading "When Children Love to Learn" that I had any clue that there should be actual teaching from the teacher. That wasn't the impression given by anybody on any of the lists (well, not that I've read, anyhow, but I admit to not reading all the posts) or even what I've read from websites. To essentially leave the child to his own devices in a situation where he should have had a bit of guidance in the beginning of the subject time is very demotivating. No wonder he's going to dawdle. But this goes back to securing his attention, right? The lesson primes the brain for the work; too often, we just expect them to work. Yes, I admit, I'm guilty of this at times, too.

I'm tired, have a headache, feverish and premenstrual. Sorry for the mini rant. ;)