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A Classical Conversation

Join the conversation! An eclectic group of folks have joined in to carry out the classical conversation; some of these folks may share or represent views we don't hold. We need them to be dialectic and have a classical conversation, and they need us too! So thanks for being patient with us and our fellow participants.

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney

Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as the Director of Training and Development for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She and her husband have been home-educating their four children classically since 2005. Jennifer is also a Challenge III tutor in her local community. She is the co-author of Classical Christian Education Made Approachable and the Classical Acts and Facts History Cards. Jennifer enjoys traveling throughout Oklahoma and to other states to speak to parents about home education and the classical model.
Jennifer graduated with an Honors degree in English from Oklahoma State University, summa cum laude. She was a Rhodes Scholar semi-finalist and a National Merit Scholar. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and four children.

The Core Part 3: The Core of Writing

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
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on Tuesday, 22 July 2014
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Postcards is revisiting some archived articles that have not been lost, but may have been forgotten and are worth a fresh read. Jennifer Courtney now serves as Communications Director for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She served as State Manager of Oklahoma from 2006-2010.

 

The Core Part 3: The Core of Writing
by Jennifer Courtney

I hope that this article finds you collecting fall leaves with your children, wandering through corn mazes, and savoring great books with a mug of apple cider. My family has leaped fully into the joys of autumn!

 

This article is part three in a series of articles looking at the core or foundations of classical education as presented in Leigh’s book The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education. In previous articles, we looked at the reasons for pursuing a classical education, chiefly that the classical model works with a child’s natural stages of mental development and teaches them how to think rather than what to think. In the first core subject article, we looked at applying the classical model to teaching children how to read.

 

Now, let’s turn to the core of writing which Leigh outlines in chapter five of The Core. Teaching a child to write classically involves following the trivium skills of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. To lay the foundations for writing in the grammar stage, the fundamental skills are handwriting, spelling, and copywork. Then, dialectic students can progress to the technical vocabulary of grammar and analysis of sentence structure. Finally, rhetoric students can hone their skills of expression by employing stylistic techniques which allow them to express complex ideas.

 

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The Core Part 2: Teaching Reading Classically

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 14 July 2014
in Articles

Postcards is revisiting some archived articles that have not been lost, but may have been forgotten and are worth a fresh read. Jennifer Courtney now serves as Communications Director for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She served as State Manager of Oklahoma from 2006-2010.

The Core Part 2: Teaching Reading Classically
by Jennifer Courtney

 

I hope this article finds you enjoying some good books and some pleasant fall weather.  In Part 2 of our series on Leigh’s book The Core, we will look at teaching your children to read. Leigh discusses reading instruction in depth in Chapter Four. In future articles, we will address the other core areas of knowledge:  writing, math, geography, history, science, and fine arts.

Before we delve into teaching methodologies, let’s look at three important notes on reading from The Core (p. 90). “Children need to spend time with books in three ways:

 

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Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 30 June 2014
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Postcards is revisiting some archived articles that have not been lost, but may have been forgotten and are worth a fresh read. Jennifer Courtney now serves as Communications Director for Classical Conversations MultiMedia. She served as State Manager of Oklahoma from 2006-2010.

 

 

 

Back to School: Exploring the Core of Classical Education

by Jennifer Courtney

 

 

 

Greetings from the state manager of Oklahoma!  The school year has officially begun. In our home, this means that we have the privilege of diving into an inviting pile of new books. Every year, I make it a personal goal to read a book about classical education, and I challenge all of the Oklahoma directors to do the same. This year, I would like to challenge all of our Classical Conversations families to read Leigh Bortins’ book The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education.

 

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Classical Education Myth #5: Classical education isn’t Christian.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 16 June 2014
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Can an education be both classical and Christian? Many parents ask this question every year, unknowingly echoing an age-old query. Parents often associate a classical education with “non-Christian” content such as Greek mythology or philosophy. Naturally, they then wonder how these studies can be Christian. Tertullian, an early Church Father, was perhaps the first to consider whether these two ideas are compatible when he asked, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” The Church Fathers continued to wrestle with the question for centuries, most concluding that all ideas that are takecaptive for Christ may be used profitably by Christians. Examining this ongoing conversation about classical, Christian education will serve to answer many of our own questions today. We will subsequently be able to perceive that our current understanding of classical, Christian education depends more on the medieval church’s idea of education than it does on the ideas of the Greeks and Romans.

 

Poolside Latin, Anyone? Summer Studies

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Tuesday, 27 May 2014
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In Classical Conversations, we often speak of the wonderful fruit of restoring the education of two generations of students—the education of the students who are in Classical Conversations and also the education of their parents. What does this mean? If we want our children to receive a thoroughly classical, Christian education, it means that we must be willing to pursue a new education for ourselves. We must be willing to tackle some new subjects and ideas that we never learned, and we must be willing to re-learn some that we encountered in school.

 

Does this seem daunting? Perhaps, but not if we take it in small bites. When I served as State Manager of Oklahoma, I challenged directors and parents to read three kinds of books each year: 1. a book on parenting or leadership, 2. a book on classical education, and 3. a book for self-education. In this article, I want to draw your attention to the last two. However, I do not wish to completely ignore the first, so my top three recommendations are: A Mother’s Heart by Jean Fleming (my apologies to the dads), Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Ted Tripp, and Hints for Child Training by Henry Clay Trumbull.

Classical Education Myth #4: This is just too much to learn.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 14 April 2014
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As I have visited with parents over the years about the classical, Christian model of education, many have been overwhelmed by what seems to be “way too much to learn.” Many people have read books about classical education and found their heads swimming with thoughts of Latin, Greek, logic, ancient literature, and history. They find themselves thinking that their students could never tackle all of these subjects nor could they guide their students through them.

 

Nothing could be farther from the truth of classical education. Let’s consider two important ideas about a classical education. First, a classical education seeks to train students in certain skills. These skills are the habits of mind that will help students learn any subject. Secondly, a classical education seeks to train students in these skills by practicing them on quality content.

One-Room Schoolhouse Math: Ideas for the Challenge Math Seminar

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 03 April 2014
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April is Math Awareness Month. Here is an article from the archives to encourage you in your math study and instruction.

 

 

 

 

It has been said that scientists and mathematicians comprise a new priesthood. Our leaders, educators, and policy analysts are consumed with statistics for STEM (science and technology). How are our students doing in these critical subjects? The pressure to succeed in these areas causes us to make some critical errors. We focus too much on earning a credit instead of having students who spend enough time on the material to truly know it and, in turn, to love it. We put an “x” in the check box and move on before the children are ready. Secondly, we forget why we should pursue these subjects in the first place. As classical, Christian tutors and families, we want to turn the conversation so that we pursue these ideas because they lead us to a deeper understanding of who God is and how He has marvelously designed our world.

 

 

 

One of these errors was replicated in my own education. I made an A in AP Calculus my senior year in high school and was able to earn my college math credits before I set foot on the university campus, but this in no way signifies that I understood calculus. As my husband and I have discussed several times, we wish we had understood what we were doing. Instead of learning to memorize and apply formulas, I wish I had understood the amazing applications of calculus. I am excited for the opportunity to do it all over again. This time, I might just understand it!

 

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What Is Classical Conversations?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Friday, 07 March 2014
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And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.      -- Genesis 35:18 (KJV)

 

 

This seemingly inconsequential detail reveals to us the importance of names. With her dying breath, Rachel wanted to name her newborn “son of my sorrow.” Jacob knew that a terrible legacy would accompany such a name, so he renamed his son Benjamin—“son of my right hand.” What a difference!

 

 

Most parents spend hours pondering the names for their children. We acknowledge that there is much meaning to these names. In order to understand the mission of our communities, let us consider the meaning of the name Classical Conversations.

How Blue Book Exams Get at the Heart of Assessment

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Friday, 07 March 2014
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Homeschooling parents desire to give their children a better education than the one they received. However, we often fall back on the same methods that were used in our education, particularly in the area of assessment. Instead, let us pause and think about a true education and how our assessment can serve our purposes. The word education comes from the Latin verb educere which literally translates “to lead out of.” What are we leading them out of? In classical, Christian education we are leading students out of darkness, out of error. We want our assessment to serve our mentorship and discipleship of students. How can we use assessment to lead our students out of error?

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What Is Rhetoric?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 17 February 2014
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I am going to say the word “rhetoric.” I want you to pause for a moment, close your eyes, and then record your first impression of the word. As moderns, we often think of a sound bite, the speech of a slick politician, or even of outright lies. The word has been corrupted from its original usage. Aristotle defined rhetoric as “finding the available means of persuasion.” We are getting warmer, but, as Christians, we cannot take Aristotle’s definition wholesale. After all, Britney Spears, Madonna, and Lady Gaga are all very persuasive.

 

Classical thinkers made a distinction between sophists—speakers of questionable character who tried to convince people of foolishness—and rhetoricians—speakers of good character who tried to convince people of wisdom. As classical, Christian home educators, we want to define rhetoric as “the use of knowledge and understanding to perceive wisdom, pursue virtue, and proclaim truth.”

 

This year, at our parent practicums, we will focus on reclaiming the original sense of rhetoric, which involved three aptitudes:

Classical Education Myth #3: Classical education is just not creative.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 10 February 2014
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Many modern educators and parents assume that classical education is as dry as dust. How could anyone possibly find it interesting to read stories about dead white guys, chant Latin noun and verb endings, or recite the multiplication tables? There is no creativity in that!

 

Furthermore, anyone who comes from this system of education would only be fit to work in the most monotonous industry. They would not be equipped to write, sculpt, or dance professionally.

 

Those who embrace this idea neglect to consider two things. First, they neglect to consider the nature of children. Second, they neglect to consider the evidence of history.

Putting the Puzzle Together: Integrating the Subjects

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
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on Thursday, 30 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

Do we live in a “uni-verse” or a “multi-verse?” If we agree we live in a universe governed by God’s providence, and not in a random cosmos made up of disconnected parts, how do we reinforce this idea with our children as we homeschool them and study with them?

 

When I went to my first parent practicum, one set of slides during the presentation particularly captured my imagination. I am sure some of you have seen them (if not, they have been reproduced in Classical Conversations' Classical, Christian Education Made Approachable). These were the slides which demonstrated a progression from a modern education to a classical, Christian education. The final slide illustrates the clear connections between philosophy, science, history, math, poetry, and so on.  At first, I was excited about this idea, which was fairly new to me. Then, at home, I began to wonder how on earth to put it into practice.

Rigorous Academics: Preparation for Christian Service

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Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 23 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

From time to time, when I am speaking about classical, Christian education, parents express concern that the pursuit of knowledge or academic excellence is in conflict with preparation for Christian service. These parents rightly desire to instill in their children a love of serving.  However, this is not an either/or choice. Our children do not have to choose quality academics and thus reject Christian ministry. Nor do they have to choose Christian service and reject demanding studies. A classical, Christian education prepares our children to live a full, rich life of Christian service by preparing them to be leaders in any field. So, we must consider that these two aspects of our children’s development are not in opposition. Rather, the accumulation of knowledge, understanding, and wisdom is designed to prepare them for future service in any calling.

Beautiful Treasures: The Core of Fine Arts

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 16 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

“Why should my children learn about painting and music when they are really not interested?” You may have had a friend ask you this question about homeschooling, or perhaps you have even asked it yourself. Studying the fine arts enriches the souls of our children and may spark an interest or talent in something unexpected. More importantly, the arts were created and established by God. If we encourage our children to pursue the arts, perhaps some of them will reclaim the arts for the glory of God. Maybe they will be part of the next Renaissance.

What Do Foundations Students Know that College Graduates Don’t?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 13 January 2014
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A recent article in Forbes magazine claims that poor communication skills are the greatest deficit facing college graduates today. According to a high school presentation teacher: “In this era of email, texting and voice mail, true face-to-face communication is becoming a lost art. While many people are comfortable with private, individual conversations, most people are uncomfortable speaking to groups, large or small.” While I do not agree with all of the solutions presented in the article, I definitely agree with the assessment.

 

Even beyond preparing our students for careers, we should be concerned about preparing our students to be the best possible ministers of the Gospel. As Peter wrote, we must be prepared speakers: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15, KJV).

 

This summer at the Classical Conversations Parent Practicums, we will be talking about this very thing. Our theme this year is “Cultivating the Conversation: The Art of Rhetoric.” During the three-day practicums, we will spend a lot of time thinking about how we can teach our children to think and speak well. We will delve into questions such as: “What is rhetoric?” “Why should I teach it to my children?” and “How do I teach it to my children?” Preparing for this season has me thinking about all of the speaking practice children receive in the Classical Conversations program, from Foundations through Challenge IV.

Finding God in Shakespeare

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 09 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals - and yet, to me, what is the quintessence of dust?" (Hamlet II.ii.303-308)

 

When you read this, do you hear echoes of King David's question from the Psalms: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? And yet, you have placed him a little lower than the angels and crowned him with glory and honor" (8:4-5). If you find yourself asking how God can be found in Shakespeare or why Christian parents and students should study Shakespeare, then one answer is that all literature can be used to examine Christian beliefs—to find God and remind our understanding of Him. So, perhaps the real question is, "Why should Christians study literature?"

Does Your Home School Need a Fresh Start for the New Year?

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 02 January 2014
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

“Tomorrow is always fresh with no mistakes in it.” This proverb is quoted by Miss Stacy in the movie version of Anne of Green Gables. I often repeat it to my children. At the start of this new year, I am thinking of painting it over the doorway to our home or maybe screen printing it on a t-shirt or perhaps tattooing it on my forehead. It is ever present in my mind because this fall has been a difficult one for our home school. There have been no earth-shattering tragedies in our home, but we have struggled to find a peaceful rhythm to our days. The pace of our lives has been too frantic and stressful. We have not found enough time to fellowship with one another.

 

So, as we approach the new year, I am grateful for fresh tomorrows with no mistakes in them (yet). I am thankful that God promises me new mercies each morning:

The Incarnation--The Right Time and the Right Place

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Monday, 16 December 2013
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At the time of Jesus’ coming, the world was roughly divided into two kinds of people—God’s chosen people, the Jews, and everyone else, the Gentiles. For hundreds of years, the Jews had been seeking the promised Messiah, but they looked in the wrong kinds of places for the wrong kind of person.

 

They sought an earthly king who would deliver them from earthly miseries. They failed to see the gaping flaws in the system of sacrifices that comprised their religion. Soon, the writer of Hebrews would tell them:

 

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins (Hebrews 10:1-2, KJV).

 

Ask any Challenge II or III students and they will tell you that the second verse is begging to be made into a logical syllogism.

 

If the sacrifices made the sinners perfect, they would cease to offer them.

The sinners did not cease to offer them.

Therefore, the sacrifices did not make them perfect.

 

The Jews sought the Messiah and yet they did not look for the perfect sacrifice.

 

All of these things I learned in Sunday School, but it was not until I began to pursue classical, Christian education that I saw how the Gentiles sought Him, too. With my Challenge III class the last few years, I read how Greek philosophers sought the one unifying principle that would explain the universe.

 

Is it possible that the Gentiles were seeking Him, too?

Simple Celebrations: The Twelve Days of Christmas

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Thursday, 12 December 2013
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Revisiting Some Archived Articles that Have Not Been Lost, but May Have Been Forgotten and Are Worth a Fresh Read

 

 

In the bustle of Christmas, sometimes it is good to plan for simplicity. A couple of years ago, I wanted to be purposeful about protecting our family time together during the holidays, so I orchestrated a family experience of the twelve days of Christmas. In addition to the activities listed below, we read the Christmas story from Luke 2 each night, so that the children easily memorized it by the end of the season. Each evening for twelve nights, we opened a small family gift featuring a family activity.

Classical Education Myth #2: It’s all about teaching dead languages.

Posted by Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney
Jennifer Courtney has been home educating since 2004. In addition, she serves as
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on Wednesday, 04 December 2013
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The most common objection I hear from my students about Latin is—drum roll, please—why do I have to work so hard to study a dead language?

 

I have two answers to this issue. The first answer is that most students quickly discover that Latin is really alive and well. I will not go into a huge amount of detail here, but it has been estimated that 80% of multisyllabic words come from Latin roots. Every week in every seminar, my students find words that were derived from Latin. It seems Latin is alive and well in the words we use today.

 

All right, you may object, a big vocabulary is nice, but that alone does not seem to justify our investment in Latin. What else can we learn?

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