We are giving away one of these fun kits from Paper, Scissors, Stones. The give away ends at midnight on November 30, 2015. We will notify the winner on December first by email.
Thanks for entering and good luck.
We are giving away one of these fun kits from Paper, Scissors, Stones. The give away ends at midnight on November 30, 2015. We will notify the winner on December first by email.
Thanks for entering and good luck.
If you have been working with the Christopherus curriculum for a number of years prior to sixth grade, it can be disconcerting to go from a comprehensive yearly syllabus to a free rough download for the middle school years, reinforced with audio downloads and some recommended books (including some excellent unit studies) to purchase. It is now up to you as a homeschooling parent to expand on the main lesson guidelines to meet your own family's learning rhythm. All these changes require some research and flexibility in teaching from a homeschooling parent. Do remember, however, that your child is still only in sixth grade, and it is important in all main lessons to maintain a lively, imaginative curriculum. This is one reason for the middle school years biographical approach to history and a phenomenological approach to science.
There are good reasons for switching the curriculum from a detailed syllabus to a rough guide during the middle school years. As the Christopherus website notes, the ages from 12-14 mark a decided shift out into the larger community. The child learns by degrees to reach out to others in the community for teaching and learning resources. There are still very clear curriculum guidelines for these years, but the rough guides incorporate a range of materials and a need for flexibility and individuality during these grades.
While it is important to have a good breathing rhythm in your main lesson schedule, you may want to present a main lesson unit in a different order than it is outlined in Donna's Rough Guide to Sixth Grade. If a wonderful Geology resource/teacher is not present until later in the year, then work the schedule to maximize your use of available teachers and resources in the community.
One helpful feature on the sixth grade bookstore list on the Christopherus website is the link to the Sixth Grade Checklist, where you can see on one page all the recommended material and books available on the website that are needed for sixth grade. One update to that checklist is that the Key To Workbooks are no longer at keypress.com but are available online through the McGraw Hill website: www.mheonline.com.
I have taught Waldorf inspired sixth grade a number of times with my own children and in co-op classes on individual topics. So, here are some of my thoughts on a few highlights and challenges of the sixth grade year.
In general terms, children in this age group are beginning puberty and a lot is going on in their bodies. I remember my eldest saying frequently that he just felt so strange. Muscles and bones have developed, hormones are changing and the child is stronger and more earthy. Children can also be more clumsy as they get used to their heavier, changing physical forms. It has been said that Roman history is a perfect fit for the sixth grader since she/he is more practical and wants to claim the world. Donna's unit study on Roman History is excellent for this main lesson. Concepts of cause and effect also become important and the child can sometimes see topics from a rather fixed black and white perspective. This is one reason that sixth grade students work with charcoal and produce black and white drawings, examining light and shadow. As Donna notes in her audio download , these type of lessons work sideways to help balance the child at this age away from rigid or fixed thinking. Another important craft lesson is in woodworking, learning to gouge a bowl or spoon, which helps the child, as Donna notes, to "mould matter", working against resistance to form a harmonious shape.
Breaking things down from the whole into components becomes increasingly important during these middle grades as well, especially in the science main lessons. I highly recommend Donna's From Nature Stories to Natural Science for great insights on how to work with the sixth grade science main lessons, which are Geology and Physics I ( sound, heat, light, acoustics). She also has additional suggestions for a Habitats/Ecology main lesson and suggestions for biographies of naturalists and inventors. Another good resource for Physics teaching (as well as for math) is Eric Fairman's A Path of Discovery, Volume Six-Grade Six. Our family also used the Physics is Fun series. Sixth grade is such a perfect time to begin the study of the physical nature of the Earth with the main lesson in Geology. I heartily agree with Donna that it is important to do field trips ( to study formations, visit a cave) and have a good rock testing kit to identify specimens. This keeps the Geology main lesson material lively and interesting. My daughters also did lovely crystal formation veil paintings for that unit. Several of the sixth grade resource books in Physics and other topics are also available as free downloads from the online website http://www.waldorflibrary.org.
The math main lesson on Business Math also continues the practical emphasis of grade six. You and your child can have the opportunity in this lesson to really look at the business of managing money. The primary text used here is Mathematics Lessons for Sixth Grade by Ernest Schuberth. I think this is a wonderful resource for teaching this main lesson and for math generally. Some families, however, have found it a bit difficult to organize the materials from the book so I am going to give you an outline below for a possible 3 week lesson plan for the main lesson on Business Math.
OVERVIEW CONCEPT: This 3 week unit covers percentages, formulas and graphing in the context of understanding basic business concepts about money and banking, including simple interest; borrowing; lending; savings; buying and selling; profit and loss; and mark ups and mark downs. On day one, concepts are presented and on day two concepts and explorations are written up in the main lesson book with some homework assignments.
Week One: The introduction of basic concepts of money, graphing and percentages. Teacher prep-read Schuberth book, pages 25-44.
Day One : What is Money? ( and how is it useful?); look at U.S. Dollar and Quarter.
Day Two: Copy and label important parts of the dollar and draw an enlarged quarter and label features. Homework: Two paragraph essay on Usefulness of Money. ( Can also do optional calculations on p.27 and/or work in Key To workbooks on Percent concepts)
Day Three: Consumption or Purchase Money : Discussion of the concept of barter economy and trade economy
Day Four: Help the child create an outline based on your day three discussion. Homework is to write a 2-3 paragraph report on Barter and Trade Economy. First paragraph should discuss straight barter and second paragraph the trade economy. Third paragraph discusses main differences between barter and trade ( trade is more regular and uniform and includes a middle person and barter is more casual and direct).
Also do the calculation questions on pages 29-30 from the book and/or work in Key to workbooks. Idea here is to practice how to find a percent in relation to fractions and decimals and some work in calculating an increase or decrease in percent. Perhaps illustrate tipping at a restaurant by going out to eat one evening!
Day 5: Continue to work through Schuberth problems as given and/or focus on Time Accounts ( pages 33-39). Homework: Child does a Time Account ( Settlement) chart and does proposed homework on page 44 ( family time account chart).
Weeks Two/Three: Focus concept is on simple interest calculations and loan money (banking). Teacher prep -pages 45-78 and supplemental material as needed.
Day One: Discussion of the history of banking ( Knights Templar to today). Perhaps take a visit to a bank.
Day Two: Help the child create an outline and draft on the history of banking ( maximum 4 paragraphs). First two paragraphs on medieval banking and second two on modern banking and borrowing. Stress the relationship between debtor company, depositors, and bank.
Day Three: Write the final draft of banking report into MLB and work on a picture depicting banking relationship with a debtor company. Left side has depositors at bottom with an arrow leading to bank in middle and the debtor borrower on top. Right side shows diagram of debtor company with arrow pointing down, showing repayment of loan to bank and then bank's repayment to depositors. Text gives interest formula: I=PxR ( and plug in some dollar figures)
Day Four/Five: Do some simple interest calculations together. MLB can show an illustration of Interest Repaid to Depositors over time -360 days; 180 days; 60 days with different amounts of capital ($1,000; $2,000; $5,000.)
MLB can also illustrate a simple interest problem (example: Alex deposits $5,000 at 5% interest on March 15. On 9/10 he needs funds to buy a used car. How much money is available to him to buy the car? Show answer using I (interest)=P (principle) x R (rate) x T (time). P= $5,000.; R= 5% or.05; T= 180 days ( full interest is 360 days so 180 days is 1/2 or.50) Show the math in MLB. Amount available is $5,125.
Week Three covers checking accounts and gift money and can also describe promissory notes. (pages 87-91)
Days One and Two: Explore together how a checking account, deposit and withdrawl slips, debit cards and ATM's work. Describe credit cards if desired. Show these items physically and actually go to the ATM if possible.
For homework, take a sample check and deposit slip and fill it out and put into MLB with a brief explanation of process at bottom of page.
Day Three: Discuss gift money (pages 56-7) with homework to write a paragraph describing free money or gifts for good causes or for individual help.
Days Four/Five: Discuss the flow of goods and money in commerce with the idea of notes; profit/loss; mark-up and down (discounts); commission and tax. You can do some problems together or use the Key To workbook, primarily book 3 of Percents and Decimals. ( In general you can do about 10 pages of Key To per assignment and work through the books systematically starting with percents and then decimals. This will take a number of months and will be done three times a week as part of math skills, along with any other main lesson).
Much success to you on your homeschooling adventures in Sixth Grade! ~Barbara Benson
Several people responded to my request for blog topics on the Christopherus Facebook support group, Christopherus Homeschooling Families, with suggestions such as personal development, personal growth and re-centering during chaotic moments. I thought I would share with you a few of the awareness exercises that I presented at a Midwest Homeschooling Conference organized by Rahima Baldwin in 1998 that are a follow up to my earlier blog on Reverence in Daily Homeschooling. The primary source material that I used as inspiration for these exercises was Steiner's How to Know Higher Worlds and Anthroposophy in Everyday Life.
Steiner gave six exercises for basic esoteric development (see also http://bestfruitsofpractice.blogspot.com/2008/04/six-exercises-for-basic-esoteric.html; and Self Development through Meditative Practice by Donald Melchior, Ph.D.) and these are great exercises to practice (one at a time generally) for personal development. This blog, however, will focus on a few awareness exercises that I gave at the 1998 conference. They are obviously not meant to replace anyone's religious or spiritual practices but are simply food for thought.
Awareness exercises fall under the general practice of soul hygiene, a conscious repetition of attitudes of truth that allow a purification of our awareness and an experience of calm. Truth can be a buzz word for many of us, but hopefully most can agree that this particular truth is somewhat universal, namely that our thoughts are creative: " Our thoughts and feelings are facts. They are real things and have real consequences." (How to Know Higher Worlds, 43). Since we are creative thinkers, then feelings of devotion and reverence can produce an inner strength. Aside from the attitudes of devotion and reverence you are promoting in your homeschooling daily life, try this awareness exercise from your own childhood:
Recall a memory of reverence or devotion from your childhood. What you can't remember, add imaginatively and be specific so you see a clear image in your mind. Allow that picture to come forward into your present life and feel the sense of peace it creates. It is part of your reservoir of reverence.
Conversely, "every act of criticism and judgment drives away these powers (of devotion and reverence)." (Higher Worlds,18).
Recall an incident of anger and judgment from your past. See yourself facing the person in the incident and feel how that is experienced in your body. Now visualize yourself and the other person stepping away from those angry or fearful bodies. Let your higher selves meet in the middle and embrace. Then bring that feeling of embrace back to your bodies and feel the sense of release.
If criticism of another's weaknesses robs us of reverence, then focusing on the good in another restores that quality (Higher Worlds, 19).
Take a few minutes ( at night before sleep is a good time) and picture each one of your family members. Let whatever obscures the good in them pass away like mist or clouds from your mind and picture the good in each one of them. See this goodness radiating out from them first individually and then as a family unit. Absorb the light of their goodness into you and reflect back your gratitude for their presence in your life.
Reverence and gratitude for our life and our family causes us to be suffused with this inner light. "Just as the sun's rays quicken all living things, so the reverence in us quickens all the feelings in our soul." (Higher Worlds, 21).
Blessings on your homeschooling journey! ~ Barbara Benson
Many couples that do Waldorf inspired homeschooling share similar values on education and adopting a Waldorf inspired rhythm to homeschooling. There are times, however, when one person "discovers" Waldorf and is determined to augment it into the family lifestyle, which often involves some changes in family dynamics. As families transition to a Waldorf homeschooling lifestyle, some of the issues surrounding TV and computer use, bedtime and mass market toys can come up for the couple. Sometimes, a spouse or partner readily agrees to these lifestyle changes; other times, it can be a source of friction for the couple and inevitably the family. Learning to work together as a team, even when the couple is not necessarily in complete alignment on these lifestyle choices, becomes an important factor in homeschooling success. It is challenging enough to begin a new homeschooling rhythm ; it is very difficult if spouses/partners are not supportive of each other's efforts. Here are some suggestions on "team building" between partners.
Good Communication: Make sure that each of you talk through the areas of concern about homeschooling and work to resolve differences. A common area of concern ( especially for some husbands) is that the child will not be " on par" with other children of the same age if the family adopts Waldorf homeschooling. I have had several consultations with husbands where most of the conversation involved answering the husband's reservations about homeschooling. My primary goal in that instance is to help a parent understand the developmental nature of the curriculum. A child may read a bit later in a Waldorf environment, or not focus on some of the same areas as a public school child, but there are good reasons for the layout of the curriculum based on the development of childhood. Once concepts like an imaginative immersion in a main lesson, or using a biographical approach to aspects of history are explained carefully, most concerns are resolved. Also, I have had the benefit of seeing my homeschooled children become young adults that attended college. This does help lend a certain credibility to my words!
Openness to new ideas: A couple in a Waldorf inspired homeschooling environment must learn to be flexible and to stay open minded. Sometimes it takes a little while for a family to see the results ( especially if a child has previously been in public school) of Waldorf homeschooling. Eventually, however, the proof is in the reactions and results observed in the children themselves. A sense of enthusiasm for learning, a joyful spirit of adventure, a relaxed, less hurried pace begins to be clearly observed in the children's behavior, which is reassuring to any parent. There is nothing like seeing the results of a lesson sink deep into the heart and mind of a happy child! It's important to give the family some time ( 1-3 months) to really allow these changes to take effect. Eventually, the creative, rhythmic nature of Waldorf homeschooling makes everyone feel more harmonious about the commitment to homeschooling. A young child may resist the restriction of TV time if he/she watched TV daily, but gradually, the busy and happy child creates a whole new rhythm and loses the need for this type of daily entertainment crutch.
Involvement of both partners in homeschooling: In many cases, only one partner (and often the mother) takes on the primary responsibility of homeschooling. At times, one parent has left a high paying job in order to devote more time to the family and homeschooling. In those instances, the other parent may feel more pressure to support and provide for the family and ends up working longer hours, often away from the home. Even in those instances, however, it is still important for both partners to be involved in the homeschooling process. One of the simplest ways to stay involved is to have the non-teaching parent review the academic work of the children. The way that we accomplished this in our family was by giving a special presentation to my husband after a main lesson. This involved not just showing our main lesson work, but giving demonstrations of mental math, memorized poetry, songs, puppet shows, arts and crafts, and trying to see if dad could answer our posed riddles! Dad was included in all festival celebrations and we made sure that a very special presentation was given at the end of the school year ( and sometimes half way through the year) that involved a longer presentation and a deliciously prepared meal or snack for him. As my children grew, I taught academic co-op classes, especially in History and English. We had quite an elaborate "Presentation for Parents" night where parents came to hear the children read from their main lesson work, attend one of our plays, see our arts and crafts, and learn in greater depth about all the work the group as a whole had accomplished. Each child contributed a dish to the event so we had wonderful pot luck suppers as a result. I remember one late afternoon when parents were coming to hear the co-op's Botany presentations. The children were still in my yard, finishing up their tree sketches. The parents were a bit noisy coming into the house so I got them to stop and just quietly observe their child at work. There was such a feeling of peace and reverence that came over the group as the parents quietly watched their children carefully finish their sketches in complete silence.
I wish you much success in building a successful homeschooling team as parents and a wonderfully warm and supportive homeschooling rhythm for your family! ~ Barbara Benson
Why is it important to instill a sense of reverence into our homeschooling daily life? Reverence is a fundamental " mood of the soul", a sense of love and devotion to knowledge and learning. As Rudolf Steiner noted in lecture 1 of the book, The World of Senses and the World of Spirit, without a feeling of first wonder and then reverence for the universe, our thinking cannot "penetrate to reality."
The young child is naturally reverent. A parent's ability to nurture and enhance this capacity for wonder and reverence is a key factor in the child's developing ability to lead a productive, harmonious everyday life. As a family, instilling a sense of reverence into our homeschooling and our family life allows all of us to express a harmonious daily rhythm and to develop our deeper sense of spiritual purpose as citizens of the universe.
Here are a few simple guidelines for developing a daily rhythm of reverence:
For the first time in 12 years of business, my lack of having a certificate from a Waldorf teacher training institute has been queried. How interesting this whole question is to me!
First, thank you to the homeschooling mother who raised the question – it is, from a certain point of view, an entirely valid concern. Unfortunately, it is a view that state authorities are increasingly taking with regard to Waldorf schools in many parts of the world. State authorities are presuming to be able to judge what makes a good teacher and what does not. Here we have a good example of the tension between that which is quantifiable in conventional terms (outcomes) and that which is something that has to be lived with, experienced and looked at in the light of each individual’s gifts and abilities. It is this latter view that has been the dominant one in Waldorf circles with regard to teacher training until fairly recently.
One might think this is surprising – surely Waldorf teachers have always been trained Waldorf teachers – yes, of course! But the idea of receiving training from a teaching course is relatively new. Until perhaps 20 years ago, the vast majority of Waldorf teachers were trained on the job, by their colleagues, in a living experiential way, with knowledge and meditive practice shared by colleagues whether one-on-one or in the course of teachers’ meetings. Training at a training college was seen as very much second best, not the proper way for someone to become a real Waldorf teacher at all. The ideal really was to become a teacher and at some later date, when one had real life experience under one’s belt, to possibly do a training to deepen what one already had.
Do bear in mind that when Rudolf Steiner began the first Waldorf school in Stuttgart, Germany in 1919, hardly any of the new staff were trained teachers (ie conventionally trained – which of course is a whole different kettle of fish). They came from all walks of life and were hand picked by Steiner on the strength of their inner qualities. His lectures to them, and the observations he shared with them based on his classroom visits were, by and large, encouragement to them to make anthroposophy a living force in their lives and out of that fount of wisdom, to hdevelop the inner resources to become good teachers. Personal qualities – attentiveness, ability to observe children, enthusiasm, patience – married to a creative/artistic approach to life were what was most valued.
Such attention to the inner lives of teachers at Waldorf schools was the modus operandi for decades. All those wonderful luminaries that Waldorf teachers and homeschoolers look to (Pat Livingston, Henry Barnes, Dorothy Harrer – all by the way, my teachers when I was a child !) did not become teachers at the first Waldorf school in the US, the Rudolf Steiner School in New York City, because of having certificates! It was who they were and what lived in them that enabled them to become Waldorf teachers. They then became leaders in Waldorf education because their inner qualities and their inner work married to their life long experience with children, enabled them to so shine.
What was viewed as most important was to have years of living experience in teaching children coupled with the colleagial support of other teachers in the circle of the faculty of teachers and College of Teachers, both of which have also been eroded by legalistic impingement over the years. The importance of the inner unquantifiable is no longer, in many circles, seen to be what is paramount.
And this is precisely the training I received. At the Sheffield Steiner school, at the Merlin Nursery (which I established), at the Ringwood Steiner School, at Pleasant Ridge Steiner school, at the Youth Initiative High School – on the job training, colleagial support and then maybe receiving a training from an institute, were what was valued most highly.
Over the years I often fretted over having not finished my training in the mid 1990s (with the amazing Brien Masters in London) – but I had good reasons to quit (one named Daniel, the other named Gabriel). And by the time life allowed me the time to finish teacher training at an institute, I had, to be honest, moved way past what would have been offered. I, frankly, could have run the training for others. This has been recognized again and again by other teachers, whether in the course of them asking for consultations from me, as colleagues, or as curriculum purchasers. You can go to our testimonials page and if you scroll way down, you will get to the section of testimonials from just a small selection of fellow teachers. People might also be interested to know that Floris Books, now the number one provide of English language Waldorf curriculum materials in the world, has asked me to create teacher’s versions of the Christopherus curriculum.
I should quickly add that I in no way am against the establishment of Waldorf teacher training courses. Many are absolutely marvellous, run by extraordinary people. But…the situation can arise again and again that a person completes such a course, has their certificate but….is not able to teach children. I have met many people who have such certificates and were told at the end of their course that yes, they passed the course but that they needed more real life experience before they could truly be called Waldorf teachers.
I leave it to you all to decide what qualifications you need from the writers of the curriculum materials you use. Feedback welcome in the comments section here on this blog!
About a week after I wrote the last newsletter, I realized that what I had written was potentially open for misinterpretation. I had written that although we do not formally “do school” during the summer, that my sons keep themselves busy by pretty much doing the same things which we do during the school year. I just wanted to clarify this because I want to be clear that I favor children taking a long break from school work and am uncomfortable with the idea of year-round school (and I say this carefully because I realize that many people do this!) The point is that my children, out of their own interest, do things like write short stories or read science books, activities which, if they were taking place in November or March, would be called ‘school’!
I think that it is incredibly important for children to have extended time away from academics, from the usual routine, from head learning (even with Waldorf, where there is a balance between intellectual, artistic and active learning). Summertime, at least where I live now and in New York where I grew up, is such a wonderful time to be outside, to play all day, to laze around. I remember each year returning to school after a long summer spent playing under open fire hydrants and exploring Central Park (not to mention the annual family vacation to Atlantic City) and seeing how everybody had changed! New haircuts and sun tans, scrapes and bruises accrued during summer adventures were all interesting enough, but it was also so exciting to see how everyone had changed physically! Both boys and girls were taller and thinner or heavier, more muscular, with longer limbs... It was wonderful to start a new year afresh surrounded by all these changes. Somehow it helped underline for us that we were no longer the 3rd, 6th or 10th graders we had been way back in May.
Such experiences are common in any country, in any school where there is a long summer break (or perhaps winter break in some parts of the world). But having gone to a Waldorf school, I was witness to another element: instead of the dread ‘summer loss’, we children were actually further along than we had been in the spring!
I always shake my head sadly when I hear or read of parents or teachers bemoaning Summer Loss. Bookstores and curriculum catalogs are full of workbooks and ideas on how to combat this feared - and apparently widespread - phenomena. It just seems so odd to me that, having experienced the opposite as a student, teacher and parent, no one in the mainstream educational establishment ever seems to ask the question of why, if children are being taught in the right way, that they forget everything during their summer break?! Surely something is wrong with the teaching if it doesn’t stick!
It seems to me that the obvious answer to the Problem of Summer Loss has to do with methodology that is not based on child development, which does not recognize and understand the whole child, and which does not, therefore, resonate in the very soul of the child being taught. Herein lies the strength of Waldorf education. By teaching the whole child, by uniting the artistic with the scientific and by engaging the hearts, hands and heads of each child, the learning process is so much deeper, more meaningful and longer lasting(!) than by more haphazard ways of teaching children.
As homeschoolers working with Waldorf, we can really fine tune this approach to learning and further strengthen it by adjusting it to the individual needs and interests of each of our children. We can throw in a dash of unschooling and relax a bit, confident that our children will learn and that spending a whole week building a tree fort may be just as important as learning multiplication tables at this point in our child’s life. And, with insight and observation, we may also see that by allowing our children to explore their interests and become completely absorbed in their various projects, that other areas of learning are also enhanced.
This is an important point and can only be understood if one takes a holistic view of learning. If learning is seen as linear, and as a series of merely quantifiable goals then such a statement is nonsensical. If, however, one views learning as a vast interrelated process which may certainly have goals but is also larger than the mere sum of those goals, then one can see how time building a fort can effect how a child can learn her multiplication tables or some other such skill.
So, to return to the question of taking a long summer break, this is one of the reasons I ask each parent to consider such a proposition - to leave school work aside for a good long time. Many homeschoolers have year-round schedules, with a period of weeks ranging from, say, 7 to 10 on and then a week off, throughout the year. I can see the attraction of such a schedule, but I’m not convinced.
By having weeks and months which are largely unscheduled, then children are free to explore their own interests. And this might take time. One might have to grit one’s teeth through several weeks of “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do” before the child allows the muse to speak to him, whispering hints of projects to create in the yard or all over the kitchen table. Or, that child might suddenly learn to read, finding it in herself to dig down deep enough to make sense of what seemed incomprehensible. For another child, long periods of “nothing to do” might become time to daydream, to imagine, to watch the clouds and create his own inner pictures and poetry.
We tend to be afraid of ‘nothing to do’, afraid of ‘the void’. Much of this , of course, has to do with our instant gratification society and our culture of shopping to fill our emptiness. Wouldn’t it be great to teach our children that there is no void, that we are never empty and that there is always something to do? By allowing them to face down their desires to be entertained and kept busy, we help them learn to cultivate their own inner resources and the richness of their inner life. Having long summer breaks certainly isn’t the only way to help children with this, but it is one obvious opportunity which presents itself to most of us.
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The above wasn’t written with the idea of urging parents to not do anything at all together with their children during the summer! Rather, it is to urge parents to 1) consider taking a long break from school work; 2) to not fill up all that time with too many field trips, camps, enrichment programs and the rest; and 3) to think about doing some different things together, things you might not normally do during the school year. Here are a few ideas.
But again, most of all, let the children dream, doodle and explore their own projects. Hint - it’ll go easier if you are absorbed in your own work and not apparently available to play with, entertain or read to!
Would you care to share your summertime activities in the comments below?