Homeschooling: Your Questions Answered.

Homeschooling Q&A

On my Facebook page a few weeks ago, I opened up the floor to ask me anything about my homeschooling.  I am not a defensive homeschooler, nor do I think homeschooling is right for everyone.  So whatever you want to know, you’re welcome to ask me, and I’ll answer as well as I can.  If you have questions that weren’t addressed here, please feel free to ask it and I’ll answer it in the comments.

To browse through everything I’ve ever written about homeschooling, go here.

To read the answers from the last time I offered up a Q & A session, go here.

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Michelle asked:  I’m curious how you manage your curriculum. As a Kindergarten teacher, it was all laid out for us. As I look at the all that is involved in curriculum, I think I would be very overwhelmed to try to coordinate everything myself! Do you follow a certain program? Do you look at your state CORE and just try to make sure all of the pieces or covered? Or do you have different method.

This is definitely the hardest part of homeschooling for me personally, because I am not a big fan of open-ended research, and that’s basically what it takes.  Plus, curriculum choices are like blue jeans – they work differently on everyone, so you can’t just copy what another family loves.

Thankfully, CHEF (Christian Home Educator’s Fellowship) does great conventions each year (all over – not just in Alabama, but they have separate websites for each state), and they typically have most of the major curriculum representatives there.  You can look through their books, buy there, and ask questions.

For my curriculum this year, I didn’t make it to the CHEF convention, so I asked my friends, looked at their curriculum, bought What Your First Grader Needs to Know and 101 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, and did a lot of internet research.  I’ve already documented most of my curriculum choices here.

As far as knowing what needs to be covered, our homeschool cover group will be keeping me accountable to this once we’re official homeschooling age next year (the state of Alabama requires that you be in a cover group once your child is 6 years old.)

 

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Jae asked, In what way is the board of education or state involved in your curriculum or testing? Also, why did you choose to go the homeschooling route? What do you feel you are able to provide your kiddies that public ed can’t?

Regarding your first question, this varies by state.  In Alabama, the only requirement is that we are under a homeschool cover group starting at the age of 6, and that cover group is responsible for requiring records and providing accountability.  Once Ali is a little bit older, she will also take standardized SAT tests once a year.

Your second question is a bit trickier, because I never want my answers to sound like I believe them to be true for every family.  I firmly believe that there is no one best choice for education – every family must choose what is best for them.  But some of the benefits that I see for our family are:

1. One-on-One education tailored to strengths and weaknesses: Because I am able to work individually with Ali, I can easily help her excel far beyond her grade in her areas of strength, while paying special attention to making learning fun in areas of weakness.  I believe that she is less frustrated, more excited, and less bored by this tailored approach.

2. Time efficiency: It is so wonderful to be able to get school done in a short amount of time every day and have no homework.  We are able to do this because of the efficiency created by working only on a one-on-one basis.

3. Christ-Centered Education: I know exactly what my daughter is learning and am able to center that learning around our faith.

4. Family Flexibility: This will especially come into play as the kids get older, but it’s nice to take family vacations when we want to take vacations, have extra-curricular activities when we want to have extra-curricular activities, and plan our school year around major holidays and family events.

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It’s a Dome Life asked, What does homeschooling a toddler look like? so far we just read, name colors, animals, etc. Did you do anything “formal”?

My Mom always told me to just have fun with little ones, and that’s exactly what we did.  I never pushed Ali beyond her desire to “play” school, and tried to teach her what she was interested in at the time.

Ali and I learned letters, colors, and animal sounds first (between 1 – 2 years old), then we learned shapes, states, countries, and presidents (between 2 – 3 years old), then writing letters and numbers (between 3 – 4 years old).

I didn’t do those activities because every three year old needs to know the Presidents – I did it to help her brain to develop, and because she’s a geek and enjoyed it immensely.  Plus, it was very easy for her to memorize them, so it was fun to see how far we could take it.

Noah, however, has zero interest in educational pursuits – he’s almost two and doesn’t know most of his letters, is just starting to figure out his colors, and that’s about it.

(He does love himself some animal sounds, though.)

I’ve recently discovered that Noah is a Kinesthetic learner – for instance, he’s much more interested in and able to learn letters if he’s putting them into a puzzle than if we’re looking at a book.

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Eva asked,  I am the most curious about how you or your mother chose curriculum. there are hundreds of choices and it’s very difficult to make a choice. how do you choose? What do you tell people who are concerned for “socialization?”  What other kind of typical reactions do you get and how do you handle the (mostly ignorant) criticism? What of “overprotecting” our kids, like my husband’s aunt indirectly brought up a couple days ago? yeah, sorry for tough questions :)

Curriculum:  Since I already answered this above, I won’t go into it further, except to say that I’m not sure how Mom chose hers, but I suspect that, like me, a lot of trial and error was involved.  It was also convenient that she ran a homeschool consignment store when I was a kid.

Socialization: I say, “I homeschooled twelve years.  I don’t feel like I am too socially stunted, but you may feel otherwise.”

Typical Reactions: I’ve come to realize that the words “We homeschool” will never bring about a completely unemotional response.  The wide range of reactions is fascinating – shock, excitement, horror, defensiveness, confusion, and awe are a few.  No one ever just says, “Oh – that’s nice.”  I try to go with the flow on the whole thing.

Also, I live in Alabama, so people are typically nice even if they’re horrified, so I don’t have to field too much outright criticism.

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Amy asked, What do you do with the toddler while the kindergartener is schooling? How long do you “do school” each day?

The toddler is a difficult one for sure.  The plan is that he will play by himself nearby while we do school.  Some days he does well, other days he doesn’t.  I also try to entertain him with coloring and stickers, and will play with him while Ali is working independently on assignments.  I have a lot of interruptions, but I figure it’s good for Ali to learn to be flexible.

We do school for two hours a day.

Michele asked, How to enroll, those logistics, etc.

This is completely different with every state.  In Alabama, you have be a part of a cover school, so you have to find one that is accepting new enrollees and find out what their requirements are.  The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has great information for each state.

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Kim asked, how do you motivate the student (you, Ali…) when facing some of the more challenging tasks?

I am certainly no pro at this one, but I try to make it fun when I can.  I give her a lot of choices, which helps her attitude.

(i.e. “Do you want to do handwriting or reading next?”)

I also am a huge believer in rewards, so I have a school reward drawer.  I offer her the opportunity to earn rewards for the tougher tasks.

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Heather asked, I’m interested in reading some linked up blogs on this.. in particular I’d like to hear about different curriculums that are ALL INCLUSIVE (like Sonlight) because at this point that is a major selling point for me – being located in Mozambique and not able to just run out to a craft/book/science/museum store and get all sorts of resources that are needed. I need the schedule, the books, the workbooks, etc and I need them to all come together. :)

I do not use Sonlight or any other all-inclusive curriculum, but I have many friends that do.  They all seem to love it, with the caveat of making sure that you get the appropriate age range for your family.

To anyone who uses an all-inclusive curriculum: will you leave your thoughts in the comments for Heather?  Also – if you’d like to write a whole post about it, please leave the link in the comments!!

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Katie asked,  We’re strongly considering [homeschooling] as well and I’d like more info on how to preview and then choose curriculum. Also how much of a mix of worldly/religious you do (50/50 or???) Then, even though I know a lot of it is location specific, what steps you do to actually enroll w/ state, homeschool group, etc. Oh, and how much of a schedule you follow from day-to-day (read, math, science, etc) and week-to-week (Monday is always library day, etc.) And how much flexibility you have to let Ali decide if she doesn’t want to do math today but do extra math tomorrow. And, unfortunately, how to deal with defending/justifying your choice to others (strangers as well as family) Yeah, just a few questions =) But thanks for doing this and being so open! =)

Phew, Katie!  It sounds like we may just need to have a phone call!  But I’ll do my best..

Curriculum: Already addressed above.

Worldly/Religious: I don’t know that I’m really capable of answering this yet since we’re only in Kindergarten.  I’m sure this will change in various ways as my kids get older, but currently, we have a bible memorization book that we read and learn verses from (and write verses in handwriting), and just recently purchased the What’s in the Bible DVD set by Phil Vischer (of Veggie Tales).  Ali’s history book is from a Christian perspective as well.  However, we get many library books and other supplementary materials that are not necessarily written from a Christian perspective.

Enrolling: This is very location specific, so I can’t answer it.  However, you can check the valuable state information on hslda.org to find out what you need to do.

Schedule: I am a very structured person by nature, so I actually follow a schedule more than I want to.  I am aiming at becoming more varied with fun projects and such, but I would rather just do the same thing every day.

Flexibility: It depends on the attitude in which Ali asks to do something different.  If she’s just being grumpy and difficult, I make her finish what we’re doing.  If she genuinely asks with respect, I will sometimes let her swap subjects.

Defending my choice:  I try to make it as light-hearted as possible.  I hate a debate of any kind, and I also don’t want to sound like I think that I am making some noble or “best” decision.  So I choose my wording very carefully, and often default to the explanation of “I homeschooled for twelve years, so it’s what I understand best” – that is often diffusing, but I know it doesn’t help other people know what to say!

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Kristin asked, I’m curious about structure, schedule, and professional development for you as a teacher. As a teacher, I’ve found one of the most beneficial development opportunities is collaboration and sharing with other teachers. Also, how will you handle subjects in higher grades that are not your area? For instance, I’m not sure I could teach more advanced science or math or foreign languages. Also, are there opportunities for online learning or even future courses in homeschooling? Sorry if my questions are uninformed! I really don’t know much about homeschool. I can say that I had a student a couple of years ago who was a phenomenal writer. I was curious where she went to high school and how she developed her ability. She told me she was homeschooled. I was blown away. The only negative I saw for her was that she had not read some of the works I take for granted students have read ( Macbeth, The Canterbury Tales, are a couple I remember). Do homeschoolers not follow the state curriculum? Sorry my questions all deal with upper grades, but that’s all I know. Being a mom of a kindergartener is blowing my mind. I’m at a loss! On second thought, can I come to your school?

Professional Development: My homeschool support group offers meetings where professionals or seasoned homeschool Moms come in and offer us great wisdom on a different topic each month.  I always come away with a few pointers to add to my strategies.  Also, I discuss homeschooling heavily with my other homeschooling friends, and we learn a lot from each other.  And of course, my Mother is a great resource.

Higher Graded Subjects: I will definitely send them to classes for many of these.  There are many homeschool co-op classes available where they can get hands-on laboratories for science, and professional instruction for higher math.  Also, many private school teachers offer classes or tutoring for homeschoolers after school hours.

State Curriculum required: No, it is not required, at least in Alabama.  This is why the choice to homeschool must be taken seriously – if we choose to be responsible for our children’s education, we must also choose to take on our task with determination and excellence.

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If you’ve made it this far in my Q & A, I’m impressed!!

(I think I lost my own attention back a few hundred words ago.)

Leave any further questions in the comments, or if you’re a homeschool Mom and would like to chime in on any of these questions, please, please please do!!

Leave your comment below!

Comments

  1. 1
    Tonya says:

    Hi! I am a public school teacher who still struggles with rather or not I should home school my own daughter (who is in 2nd grade currently). I am really struggling with the social piece. The “learning how schools work” experience. I understand the curriculum pieces and feel confident I could handle this but schools offer a lot more than just curriculum. They offer social understandings, extra curricular activities, friendships, sports, etc. It’s all those little things that happen in schools. Lunch room chats, locker fun, school clubs, etc. How do you recreate this when you home school?

    • 1.1
      Rachel says:

      We do a lot of activities with friends – both homeschooling and non-homeschooling. I would daresay that there are more opportunities to socialize because of the far fewer hours we’re spending doing school. Also, there are myriads of homeschool extra-curricular activities and sports and clubs and teams for older homeschoolers. The possibilities are endless!

      • Roxaline says:

        I would also add that homeschooling allows for socialization outside of the child’s age group. In a formal school situation the child is grouped by age which in my opinion is not at all like the real world. By homeschooling the child has to learn how to interact with various ages. In our house, my girls have to learn to play with children either older or younger than themselves (sometimes even both). When we go to an organized homeschool function there area many ages together as well. I believe this set up leads to a child who is not only socialized but able to interact with various age groups.

  2. 2
    Giann says:

    This was very well written and your answers were good! Props to you!! :)

  3. 3
    Renita says:

    I just started following you on twitter after a friend linked to your jeans posts. I don’t have kids, I may never have kids, but I’m interested in a general sense. And I’m really curious as to what a history book “from a Christian perspective” looks like. Does it use Bible stories as context? What about more modern history? Does it impose a religious slant to everything or … I don’t mean to sound critical at all, I’m just wondering how historical accuracy mixes with Christian perspectives.

    • 3.1
      Rachel says:

      Great question, Renita – I pondered going more into that, so I’m glad you asked it here.

      “Written from a Christian Perspective” can mean a vast array of things, as I’m sure you can imagine.

      I’ll give some examples of ours:

      Our history book is American History, so it doesn’t have any of the bible in it. However, it’s written in a conversational tone, so the author discusses the consequences of sin, freedom of religion (as the pilgrims were leaving England), as well as the consequences of over-zealous, legalistic religion.

      (For instance, she talks about how the Salem Witch Trials were a sad example of getting too caught up in religion and being blinded by it.)

      She also discusses other religions, Indian beliefs, and other things going on in the time – not in a condescending tone, but in an educational one.

      When it comes to World History, yes – a lot of the bible would be interlaced into the stories.

      For Science books, “written from a Christian perspective” typically means that it teaches Creation rather than Evolution. I do believe in Creation, and there are many really great resources out there with scientific theories and studies supporting that belief (and some fascinating studies regarding the flood and how it caused many of the fossil layers) – it just isn’t the prevailing belief of our culture today.

      As Debi pointed out, many subjects written from a Christian Perspective are rather humorous, like math! But for the ones we do get, I try to be careful to choose ones that teach based on fact (Christian perspective versus religious slant), and educate on both opinions.

      I hope that helps!

    • 3.2
      Leanna Thompson says:

      Don’t know if this will help but before I became a Christian in the 9th grade I had a World History class and we discussed the period (and took several notes on) Nebuchadnezzar. That “sealed the deal” for me later on in my high school years (12th grade became a believer and was baptized). When I saw that the Bible contained actual events that we discussed in public school I know God was real. I am not downplaying Homeschooling at all just giving my experience. As Rachel has said (paraphrased) each family is different and homeschooling is not for everyone. I also was not raised in a Christian home.

  4. 4
    debi Blaising says:

    This doesn’t answer Renita’s question on “from a Christian perspective”, but it might make her laugh. My third child is very literal. One day we were doing math when he noticed his math book said “Mathematics from a Christian Perspective.” He said, “What is that suppose to mean?” Answering his own question, “Billy goes to the store and buys a Bible that costs $10.50. If he gives the cashier $20.00, how much change will he get back?”

  5. 5
    Katie says:

    You are wonderful! Thank you for being patient with all our “outsider” questions. I feel like I need to go thru and make a bookmarks tab for all these links so I won’t miss any! And you’ve suggested a few things for my Christmas wishlist as well so I can get a bit more educated! =) Thank you for taking the time to explain!

  6. 6
    Meredith says:

    My husband and I have been having the “homeschooling debate” for several years now (our oldest is 2 1/2). We are both educators (him middle/high, me pre-k), and he always cites the “socialization” argument (also, the “how can you possibly compete with all the resources that schools have at their disposal?”). Recently, he told me that he doesn’t think I am the kind of person who could (or would want to) successfully homeschool. What do you think about that? Does it take a certain “type of person” to do this right? Also, if your spouse wasn’t completely on board with the idea, what would you do? Continue to try to convince him? Look at other options? We have a few fabulous private schools in our area, but I would need to go to work to pay for tuition (which I’m totally willing to do; it’s just a question of what’s best for us). Thoughts?

    • 6.1
      Rachel says:

      I tell people all the time that it is very dependent on the child and the parent’s personality. Anyone CAN make it work, but it is definitely better suited to some more than others.

      Almost every homeschooling couple I know has a story of how one or the other spouse was anti-homeschooling and finally decided that yes, it was the right solution for their family. So you never know when your husband’s opinion will change! I always tell everyone just to pray about it, and if it’s supposed to happen, his mind will change. And it often does!

      Also, don’t ever feel like if you decide to homeschool that you’re married to it forever. It is definitely something that can be taken year by year, child by child, with an open mind that doing something else is not at all failing – it’s optimizing and finding the best solution for that time and that child.

      I hope that helps!

    • 6.2
      Rachel says:

      I didn’t think homeschooling would work w/the personality differences between my daughter (5) and I but decided to give it a try for Kindergarten. It is going MUCH better than I ever expected or hoped for. So much so that I’m seriously considering keeping her home next year for 1st grade!

  7. 7
    sarah woodson says:

    Actually in AL, you don’t have to have a cover school at age six. That’s just the age at which you have to send your school notice of exemption. I can hear you now…but, but, but! Talk with Darcy T. She was the one who set me straight on that and the incomplete reporting on the recent changes in the law.

    • 7.1
      Rachel says:

      Yes, true. Are you going to exempt yourself next year? I was just planning on going ahead and joining the Academy, but I would love to hear any reasons why it may be more beneficial to wait another year.

  8. 8
    Kara says:

    Thank you for the homeschooling post! We are homeschooling our 5 and 4 year old children with much success. I am completely loving spending these oh-so-important years with them! We have another little one due in just a couple of weeks, so our “curriculum” has been struggling a little. I have decided that for right now, going with the flow is what’s best for us. I would like to recommend the curriculum, Five In A Row. It has been such a blessing for our family, and makes it fun and simple to teach multiple ages at the same time. Both kids really enjoy it! I do recommend a supplement for handwriting and math for those who are ready for that. The laws in Louisiana are fairly lenient for homeschoolers; we just have to submit an intent to teach at home (as a private school) or apply for the state’s approved home study program.

    • 8.1
      Rachel says:

      I’ve heard a lot of people recommend Five in a Row – that’s great!! And yes – they’re 4 and 5. Give yourself some slack for the next few weeks – or months! :)

  9. 9
    Amanda says:

    Regarding all-inclusive curriculum, we began homeschooling when our older children were in 6th, 4th and 2nd grades. We were always pretty sure that once Jr. High rolled around, we’d be taking our kids out of the system, but I was terrified! We chose to use Sonlight, because the thought of choosing curriculum was just completely overwhelming to me. It really made that first year very manageable and gave me the confidence I needed to persevere and to branch out and try other curricula that better suit our needs. This is our fourth year homeschooling, and my children have all benefited greatly. Academically, their work is far beyond their public-schooled friends. They do have their particular areas where they struggle, but they’re able to get through them without too much trouble because of the student-to-teacher ratio. It’s hard – teaching 5 children now and caring for a toddler and the home, in general – but there is grace for each day.

    One other benefit that I would point out is that, due to the flexibility of our schedule, my older girls are available to help new moms, sick/exhausted moms. One young mama called me recently asking if one of the girls would be available so she could just get a nap. They love this! They know that they can make up their lessons if there is an immediate need that they’re able to fill. What a blessing! I am quite a stickler, though, and make sure that the work gets done. :-)

  10. 10
    Kim says:

    I have another question, which could be for the next post. :). Do you receive any funding from the gov’t? Here in BC, Canada, if we register with a school we get $1000 for expenses, plus our school has classes at the community centre for 3 hours a week. In my mind, it’s the best of both worlds – I’m educating at home, but they also get some classroom experience and group activities with a real teacher. It’s not like this across Canada, so we feel very fortunate.

  11. 11
    Dawn says:

    I loved reading your answers to these questions. Homeschooling is one of my favorite topics, and it sounds like you’re doing a great job with it. I started out using Sonlight when my daughter was in kindergarten, up to grade 3. The only reason we stopped was because she is such an avid reader that she had already read too many of the scheduled books. So I just started making up my own curriculum. But using Sonlight really taught me how to do that. Now that I’m homeschooling my son as well as my daughter, I’m using Sonlight for science, and it’s great. It’s one less subject that I need to schedule, so it’s a big help for me.

  12. 12
    Sarah says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Thank you so much for such an intelligent, KIND, and Christian discussion!!! I so appreciate it. 3 weeks ago I pulled my kindergartner out of charter/public school and began homeschooling him. Like you said, it’s not for everyone, but for us it has been a great choice! I appreciate your posts and again your kind and christian attitude. Please keep up the good work.

    sarah

    • 12.1
      Rachel says:

      Welcome to a new journey!! I hope it goes very well for you guys. But if you have bad days – don’t think you’re the only one!! You’re more likely to be the only one if you DON’T have bad days. :)

  13. 13
    Shiree says:

    What a great post! We use My Father’s World and we love the all inclusive set up! I don’t have to do much planning because they’ve done it all for me! I would suggest that anyone thinking about or already homeschooling read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. It has really helped to change my outlook on our day to day activities and my relationship with my children. Also, in answer to Why do you homeschool? If I could take Ann Voskamps words and just read them to you I would. She says it so perfectly! http://www.aholyexperience.com/2012/03/pros-cons-homeschooling-christian-educatio/

    • 13.1
      Rachel says:

      Thanks! I need to get that book – I’ve heard several people recommend it. So I just ordered it! I hope it’s an easy read – I have a short attention span for books these days. :-)

  14. 14

    You’re a fantastic ambassador for homeschooling, Rachel! Bravo!

  15. 15
    polymathamy says:

    What a great post!! Yes, I read every word of the post *and* all the comments so far! Thank-you for answering my question :)

  16. 16
    Rachel says:

    If I keep going next year I need to find an all-inclusive. I’m so afraid I’ll miss something important and I won’t have time to create all my own stuff w/two other little ones running around!

  17. 17
    Della says:

    I am loving your posts on homeschooling! I have never been interested…just figured it wasn’t for me. But the more I hear about what goes on at the public schools in my area, the more I wonder if maybe it would be a good alternative. I still have a couple of years to decide, but I appreciate all of the homeschooling women who are sharing their experiences and advice.

  18. 18

    Love this post! We’ve been “homeschooling” Elizabeth for preschool (if you can really call it that at this age!) but debating/agonizing over what to do next year.

    There are four public school boards in our area and at least three different homeschooling associations, so the options seem rather overwhelming.

    We joined a co-op to get a sense of what her peer group might be like if we homeschooled versus sending to school; around here it seems that many homeschoolers participate in so many extra curricular activities that they are almost creating their own school but not all in the same building (and more sports/arts based than is typical at schools here)

    The co-op has been a disaster for us. It isn’t at all what I was expecting. I’ve been trying really hard not to judge but I really feel like a significant number of these parents decided that there was something they didn’t like about school for their kid and decided they could do better, without being willing to spend any time researching educational theories etc. As a result, they have made a lot of decisions that aren’t conducive to learning. Eg 1.5 hour class blocks for three year olds, 3 hours all spent in one room. The behaviour of many is not acceptable to me; I wouldn’t invite them over to my house because I’d be afraid of the resulting wreckage. Many are extremely anti-science (seeing it as somehow threatening to faith). It’s very discouraging. It’s not a group I’d want my kid to be primarily exposed to as her peer group.

    The other big sticking block for us is more complicated. We want Elizabeth to be bilingual (speaking French is very important here as we live on the edge of Quebec and many good jobs require it). Our French is okay, but clearly if we sent her to a French school we’d have more success. It’s not guaranteed that we could get in but the French language homeschooling options (especially for anglophones like us!) seem limited.

    On the other hand, the stuff we’ve done at home has been great. I think Elizabeth has learned more and had more fun than if she was going to school. We like having her around (it’s a lot more family time since we both work from home) . So complicated!!!

    • 18.1
      Rachel says:

      It IS complicated, for sure. And it helps to find a like-minded group. The French thing does add a wrench in it, although there are many good Homeschooling classes here for various subjects. Surely there are French classes available near you? But I’m sure French Immersion school would be more effective in that.

  19. 19
    Eva says:

    i finally got around to reading your post. thank you for answering all of our questions! i wonder if there will ever be a point when i feel like i know what i’m doing or that i’m doing it well enough. sometimes it’s just tough.

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