The Homeschooling Parent: Getting Ready for Junior Year for the College-Bound

The junior year of high school in the American school systen is often said to be THE busiest year for families on all levels.  There are a lot of things that go on during the junior year  for teens getting ready for college, and this can often be compounded for the homeschooling parent who must play teacher, parent, and guidance counselor during the junior year of high school.  Having a good plan in mind is an essential part of preparing for homeschooling high school in the junior year if you have a child who is college-bound.  Things to consider include creation of transcripts (hopefully you have been doing this since freshman year!), testing, choosing a college and scholarship money.

For the creation of transcipts, my favorite resource is “Setting the Records Straight: How to Craft Homeschool Transcripts and Course Descriptions for College Admissions and Scholarships.”  I have read a lot of the work of Lee Binz, author of this book, and I find her straight-forward approach to high school refreshing and honest.  In our family, we have already decided to create transcripts based upon subject, not by year, since this approach aligns better with the Waldorf approach of block teaching and teen-led interests.  For example, our oldest has accummulated quite a few credits in music at this point, based upon hours of work, so we needed a transcript type that will highlight that kind of dedication.

In order to create the rest of a homeschooling portfolio, you need to keep track of hours (120-180 hours equals one credit; usually the lab sciences are what gives one those upper hours of 180 and English courses and such usually clock in at 120 hours); projects and reading lists; completion of a textbook if using a textbook or outline for a particular subject, and a system for grading.  Course descriptions, extra-curricular activities, leadership activites and awards, and reading lists of books outside of assigned school books round out the porfolio.

Testing is another big consideration.  The public schools around me have teens start taking the PSAT and SAT very early and take it many times.  The only PSAT score that counts for the National Merit Scholarship is the one taken in October of junior year so that is something to consider.  The SAT can be taken many times, but I feel if one makes study preparation and quick essay writing a part of homeschooling in the sophomore and junior years, then you shouldn’t have to take it more than twice.  It could be taken in spring of junior year and later towards the end of that school year if it needs to be done twice.  Some students do better on the ACT, and some colleges require one or the other, so it is good to know what the colleges your student is interested in requires.  If your student doesn’t know where they will apply, like mine, then you can take both just to have it done.

Lastly, hunting for colleges can be difficult. Many students these days are visiting and applying to 12 colleges or more and dividing this into “reach”, “fit”, and “safety” schools.  I feel strongly that because applying to colleges cost money and time, it is better to visit more schools and tease out any possible scholarship money in order to pare down the list and not apply to more than 4 colleges. My husband and I were talking about how back in the 80s when we graduated, students generally applied to only two to four schools.  It has changed since then, but I still feel doing the legwork first rather than after applying makes the most sense in terms of time and money.

Scholarships are harder to determine at times.  Many are financially-based; some are not.  There are apps available to help you find out what scholarship money might be available to your student based upon their interests, specific questions regarding background of the student and the family, or more.  I have heard of some students getting scholarships due to athletics or music, but these seem to be far less prevalent than most parents believe are out there.

I would love to hear your experiences and stories about going through the college application process while homeschooling!

Blessings and love,
Carrie

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3 Things In Considering Waldorf Homeschooling

The question that comes up a  lot this time of year is, “Waldorf homeschooling looks interesting…What do I do to start?  What curriculum do I use?”

Before you jump into curriculum, here are three things I think you should look at first:

Understand what Waldorf homeschooling is and isn’t.

  • It is developmental, and it is about the child in front of you, but it is parent led.  It requires a parent to teach and yes, a parent to lead, after careful meditation and inner work regarding the child in front of them.
  • It does involve what some people see as “holding off” on things until the appropriate time/age, which goes back to the developmental foundation of Waldorf homeschooling.  Can you believe in this developmental piece or not? If not, just move on without worry or guilt.  Find what works for your family!
  • It involves the arts – drawing, painting, modeling, vocal and instrumental music, drama, speech, movement, handwork.  It involves practical work inside and outside the home – gardening, baking, cooking as well.
  • It is not secular, but it is not religious.  It is a spiritual curriculum that involves taking in a totality of a human being – head, heart, hands. Understand that Waldorf Education is based in Rudolf Steiner’s knowledge and insight into the developmental human being. That one really hangs a lot of people up.  Look ahead and see how you would adapt the curriculum for your family if the story content of the grades bothers you and what you will do.  Every major civilization and world religion is covered. Will this bother you? Will the timing bother you?  Find out ahead of time.  If you look up some websites for the Waldorf Schools, you can see what blocks are taught in what grade.  Look all the way through high school and then decide.
  • Understand that Waldorf homeschooling and Waldorf Schools are perhaps a bit like cousins or similar fruits of a same family – grapefruit and lemons.  Waldorf homeschooling can and has to be different in important ways sometimes to make things work at home and for any given family’s situation.  For example, Steiner’s original indications in many lectures were geared toward age ranges, which is more the case at home than specific grades like at a school.
  • It involves your own input into any curriculum – it is about where you live geographically, and your cultural and spiritual background because those things can be worked into the stories of the grades.
  • It involves an element of rhythm to the day, week, month, and year which involves festivals important to your family and your own cultural and spiritual celebrations.
  • Yes, it encourages a slow and simple lifestyle, being home, rest and outdoor play, open ended toys and yes reduced to minimal media usage.  But the hallmark of Waldorf is honestly the development of the child and supporting the unfolding of healthy development.
  • It is about goodness, beauty, truth, responsibility, and love for humanity.  Some parents find this part really hard to bring, especially in  the beginning grades. They worry the injustices of the world are not being taught right off the bat.   And  then some parents find the later grades really hard, when the children’s subjects are no longer just about sunshine and pink bubbles as well.  Look ahead and see if it resonates.
  • Find out the differences between Waldorf and Montessori, Waldorf and curriculums like Oak Meadow, Waldorf and Enki.  They are not the same thing.

Read some of Rudolf Steiner’s works and see if any of it resonates.  You can listen to it on Rudolf Steiner Audio, find it on Rudolf Steiner archives and more.  Many will suggest “Kingdom of Childhood” and “A Child’s Changing Consciousness” for the kindergarten level and things like “Soul Economy,” “Discussions with Teachers,” “Practical Advice to Teachers” to start.  If this seems daunting, I am going to suggest two very different short lectures and you can try just getting the feel of how Rudolf Steiner approaches things. One is “On the Nature of Butterflies”  and “Overcoming Nervousness”

Understand that Waldorf homeschooling takes time. Just like the lifestyle piece of Waldorf in the home involves slowing down, it also involves having time to do school.  It takes time to create main lesson books.   In the upper grades, it is not uncommon to have a drawing take several hours.  It is not uncommon to have to practice and re-do things to get it right, whether that is in handwork or in practicing a piece of music or math.  It is also not uncommon to have to plan rather than have an “open and go” curriculum, particularly in the upper grades.   So it takes time on both the part of the student and the teacher.  This is often a true drawback for working or otherwise really busy homeschooling parents and families, but can also often be a call to slow down and simplify for better health and family life.

Then,after all that, if you are still interested in persuing the idea of Waldorf homeschooling, I actually recommend you start with a consultation with a consultant first before you spend a lot of money on different curricula that you may or may not end up needing.  Melisa Nielsen, Jean Miller, Christopherus, and Live Ed all offer consulting pieces.  Perhaps start there.

If Waldorf Education or homeschooling isn’t for you, that is of course okay!  Elements of Waldorf lifestyle and education can still help lead to great health gains for the child in this fast-paced and anxious world no matter how much or how little of Waldorf education and principles you choose to include for your family’s journey.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

 

From Circle Time To Morning Time All Together

Circle time is something that is fairly well discussed in Waldorf resources; circle time is indeed viewed as the main focal point of the Early Years.  It is a way to help form the fabric of the social cohesiveness of the classroom, mark the seasonal changes and festivals, work together, and develop all twelve senses.  Even in the early grades, the circle time works on the very foundation of learning and is a way to wake up the body, the voice, and the fingers for a day of developing capacities in learning.  Over the years, circle time often morphs into a physical warm-up time for the upper grades, even in the classroom setting.  Many times this includes going for a walk or physical games for these middle school grades.

In the homeschooling realm,  I have often thought about circle time.  Does it always work with just one parent, one child, and the family dog?  Does it work with children who have large age gaps in the family?  What is the purpose and goal of the circle and how can we meet those goals best in the home environment, which is a different thing than developing a social organism of a classroom.

For the early years, I have maintained for years the importance of circle time I think due to the foundational senses developed in movement and word during this time, but that the heart of the home Waldorf kindergarten may actually be practical work.  There are quite a few back posts on this subject.  I have created my own circles for years for the Early Years and early grades and feel circle time can often work for all children under the age of ten.

Lately, though, I have been pondering something else. If circle time is about developing a social cohesiveness, what are we doing to develop the social cohesiveness of the FAMILY.  We are homeschooling and it is still tempting to not combine children in main lesson work as most of the resources on the market, even homeschooling resources, are developed by individual grade (not as combined grades or ages, perhaps with the exception of the work of Master Waldorf Teacher Marsha Johnson).  Also, what happens when circle time or a gathering time morphs into something else as the children grow up. It is easy to start throwing the morning walk out the window because we have more academic work that needs to get done with more children.

In mainstream homeschooling, there is often an idea of a “Morning Basket” or “Morning Time” in which all family members gather for any of the following: family announcements, spiritual direction, read alouds, poetry, art or music history with composers, etc.  It serves as a market to begin the day, and a time in which the smallest to oldest can participate.

So how would this look in a Waldorf Environment?

This past fall, I tried something new. I wasn’t quite a Morning Time altogether in a sense because I did Circle Time separate for our second grader. We did have some verses to do together, but the main thing I did was pick an area in geography (Africa) and we all worked together, ages 8 to adult, on   all kinds of  fun things together, including music and singing, poetry recitation, making maps, reading aloud, drawing, and painting.  It was fun, and I think it could be a great way to work in some blocks that are either harder to work into the year or the areas where you want information to be constantly reviewed and refreshed, and a way to tie everyone together instead of sending the notion that learning is only for separate times and we are all on such different levels we can’t possibly all learn together.

So, some ideas for transitioning from a traditional Waldorf circle time to a wonderful family gathering time could include prayers from your spiritual tradition, family singing and accompanying instruments, poetry recitation,  read alouds, geography, math fun, and more.

I encourage you to think about how a wonderful gathering time, which could include a combination of circle time for younger and older children and a gathering time for older children with little ones participating as able.

I would love to hear what you do in your family!

Blessings,
Carrie

Four Things To Do In The Year of Crazy

This year, as many of you know, has been a super tough year on my family.  We began homeschooling for the simple reason of wanting our children to have health in all its forms, and to choose a developmental educational method.  This year, health hit us all in the face over and over as one thing after another happened that involved a sick horse, sick extended family members, and accidents that required lots of follow-up appointments.  I gained a completely newfound  and amplified respect for mothers who homeschool through chronic illness of themselves or their children. The lack of rhythmicy was okay for a few months but honestly drove me (and my children) insane after the first few months.

I think if you homeschool long enough (my oldest at this writing is 16 and a half), at some point you may just hit a year like what we had.  Maybe it is illness or divorce or death or just one thing after another where the hits just keep coming.   In the midst of a year like that, what do you do?

Let Go.  I think the biggest thing I learned this year is to let go.  I thought I was letting go since my some of the children are older, but what I learned is that just by being physically here there is a lot I normally do and don’t think about it.  When I physically wasn’t present due to having to be in hospitals or meeting health care team members, they really had to step up. I always thought they were fairly independent and good at taking charge of household things, but I learned that they could pull it out without any supervision when they needed to. I also learned that I am still doing an awful lot that I probably need to just let go even when things are calmer.

I let go of things that normally  would bother me or seem like a big deal, extending down to end of year activities at this moment that in the past would seem stressful. I simply haven’t even been physically at home sometimes when my kids were.  I was out of state or out of town dealing with medical emergencies.  This year,  things such as end of year things that would normally be a bigger deal to get everything right and ready  are really no big deal  in the scheme of things.  To the things that normally would bother me in the scheme of dealing with teenagers, I asked myself, is it fatal?  Is it so unhealthful that I can’t stand it or is it something we will survive?  Can it be there with limits?  Let it go. Inner work is perhaps the biggest help here.  Pause and listen.

Find rhythm where you can.  In the beginning of some of these things, there was no rhythm.  We were needed  or I was needed at places daily in the middle of the day or the morning.  It didn’t feel like  much was happening as far as the academic end of school unless my students could do it on their own.  I set very small goals for schooling, and just felt that any little step was a step forward in our original plans.  It also helped that in general I plan less weeks and less days because I know life happens and I otherwise am too ambitious in what we should be covering.

What was comforting to me came from our unschooling friends.  I got remeinded that there is a lot to be learned in life in general and unschoolers go on to college or whatever their life plans are as well! I also took a very long-term view that everything we wanted to do, or at least most of it, would be covered by high school graduation!  As things would calm down, some rhythm would emerge.  Maybe it wasn’t a normal rhythm, but a rhythm nontheless.  Let go, and grab onto what you can regarding rhythm.  Listen when everyone is tired and says they cannot do one more appointment.  Find the spots of rest.  Don’t push through.

Do what you can.  We did get through blocks this year and math practice and reading practice for our little student and more.  We didn’t take field trips really, but things happened – just at a slower pace.  Waldorf homeschooling doesn’t mean covering 9 blocks a year.  It means sinkly deeply into what you are doing; that less is more; and that skills are being supported and emerging.  It also means total overall health.  All you can do is what you can do!

When it is all over, take time to rebuild.  We are looking forward to a summer of rejuvenation and a new year in the fall.

Many blessings,

Carrie

 

A Month of Joy: April

Looking forward to spring in the Northern Hemisphere? So am I!  It seems to be very slowly moving into the Deep South – we had very low temperatures last week which is unusual,(although today it is supposed to be summer temperatures for some odd reason). We went on holiday to Florida a few weeks ago  to catch some sun and came back to cold.  We used to live in Florida, and I said I would never move back there, but now that I am older and hating the cold even more I am reconsidering! LOL.

This is normally a month of great beauty and joy – the springtime of creation.  The plants and flowers are bursting anew; the sun is out more often and the temperatures are (hopefully) rising.  The world seems fresh and full of possibilities.  In this sense, I too am excited to begin anew.

We will be celebrating:

April 4- Martin Luther King Jr’s Feast Day in the Episcopal Church

April 25- The Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist

and getting ready for Ascension Day, which is May 10th and the Rogation Days of the Episcopal Church, which are the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that precede Ascension.  If you are planning ahead as well, try this back post on Rogation Days and this back post on Ascension Day

What I thinking about in the home:

Spring Cleaning and Deep Cleaning.  I hurt my ankle/foot on holiday and have been hobbling about, but I still love to think of spring cleaning and have plans for deep decluttering and deep cleaning once I am able!  Here is a post on Housecleaning and Homeschooling and a favorite on  An Ordered Outer World for a Peaceful Family

Spring Crafting – I am looking forward to receiving our box from Happy Hedghog Post and also looking forward to some beautiful spring crafts.  I have some great projects on Spring Pinterest Board

Spring Self-care – We are still dealing with a lot of doctor’s appointments for our little guy who fell and hurt his teeth.  I fell on our vacation and had a doctor’s appointment for a very sprained ankle.  But beyond that, I have been in a little phase of establishing new morning, afternoon, and evening self-care routines.  I will be utilizing some of my favorite health care people to build a health care team to help me stabilize some of the health challenges I have faced this school year.  Yay for me winning!  We might also be doing a little moving challenge around our house for the big kids.

Spring Friend Care – I read the other day that the five people we spend the most time with clearly influence us.  I was thinking about the people I spend time with the most outside of my husband and family, and really want to focus on making spring and summer with those beautiful friends as lovely as possible.  In order to have friendships, which are so important, we have to put effort into them!

Spring attitude – Time for a fresh start in the expansiveness of spring!

Can’t wait to hear what you are up to!

Blessings,
carrie

The Original Waldorf Curriculum Is The Simplest

I think my ideal Waldorf curriculum for homeschoolers would stick closer to Steiner’s original indications from his educational lectures, especially the indications found in “Discussions With Teachers” and “Practical Advice to Teachers.”  What I love about these sources is that it breaks down the Waldorf curriculum so simply.  The Waldorf Schools have much more in the way of speciality staffing, and more children and more hours to fill than we do in homeschooling.  Therefore, I think we can stick to  the simplicity that Steiner laid out originally rather than trying to attempt all of the blocks that the schools bring in a year.

I personally feel we cannot do eurythmy at home but many instead substitute movement with verses and songs; I feel foreign languages are very difficult for most American homeschoolers unless they already happen to be bilingual; and music (flute in particular) can be hard even for the musically talented homeschoolers.  Many homeschoolers will sing with their children, but progression in music really comes with the community groups when children are old enough to be in a community orchestra, band, or choir.  I have come to the conclusion that these areas can be left aside until opportunities in the community present itself, and unless these areas come easy there are plenty of other things for homeschoolers who love Steiner’s indications to focus upon.

Ages 7-9 – Fairy Tales, Animal Stories, and Old Testament stories for drawing, writing from drawing, and then reading from writing.  Math.  Foreign languages (although this is terribly hard for the majority of homeschoolers unless they themselves are fluent in multiple languages); drawing; painting; modeling; music.  To these indications, I would add nature studies because homeschoolers do such a great job with that at home!

Ages 9-12 – Scenes from Ancient History, (4th),  Medieval History (5th), and Modern History (6th) (grades for the United States added by me; original indications by Steiner).  Grammar, the world of animals, the world of plants, geometry, physics, geography. Arthimetic, drawing, painting, music, foreign languages.

Ages 12+ – 15  Knowledge of the varying tribes and races of the world; knowledge of the people of the earth.  Grammmar, minerals, physics, chemistry, foreign language, history, geography, math, drawing, painting, music.

It sounds so simple laid out here like this, with long 6-8 week blocks to really sink into the material.

I think where homeschoolers get bogged down is in all the things the Waldorf Schools do, which we can never do at home, and in their own ideas of not being qualified to carry out an artistically-based curriculum.  It seems overwhelming, but really one must just try it.  The more you actually do it instead of think about it, the more things will come together. 🙂

I promise it is not that hard.  It can be simple.  I think we make it much harder than it is should be.  It shouldn’t be more difficult than other other methodology of homeschooling.  More insights from my re-reading of Steiner’s lectures to come.

Blessings,
Carrie

 

Managing Smartphones for Teens- Part Two

This is the second part in this series about how to manage a smartphone for teens.  The first part of this series talked about the most recent statistics of smartphone ownership for teens, and how teens with phones are still teens and they need your help in managing a tool that can and will impact them the rest of their lives.  Your teen’s  digital footprint is permanent, so that includes selfies, what they have posted on line or commented on, and more!  What teens post will be there permanently and can affect employment decisions by companies and college admissions.  Parents need to have boundaries around this device just like the boundaries in any other part of parenting.

The first part of this series also talked about delaying smartphone introduction, and some tools to look at utilization rates across devices and to set limits through things such as using your router to set Wi-Fi times, using a device like Circle, and having set hours for a cell phone to be in use. If you haven’t read this post, go read it now and come back to read this part!

Other considerations for parents:

This big question parents ask is:  HOW MUCH TIME ON A SMARTPHONE?  I find this is what parents really want to know, but yet there are very few guidelines out there that seem realistic for teenagers, especially older teenagers.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no more than 2 HOURS across devices in a day for all teenagers. This post is about smartphone use, and I agree we must look at smartphone use against the usage of all devices in a day.  However,  I feel in an age where teens especially are having to access homework from a portal and use technology during class and for school assignments, this may not be a realistic estimate for many teens, at least in the  American school system.  For homeschooling families, this may be an easier goal for younger teens, but for high school many homeschooling families are  also utilizing classes on line and certainly older teens involved in dual enrollment are most likely using technology.

There is another  brief article about number of hours acceptable per day here on Common Sense Media but there is a large difference between 5 year olds and 16 year olds!  An article here from the UK  looked at 120,000 15 year olds and somehow came up with the numbers that two hours a day on smartphone was “just right” for benefits versus health; about an hour and forty minutes for video game playing; and 4 hours and 17 minutes for computer usage.  If you add all that up, that’s almost 8 hours a day on a device (!!) , so I personally think that still sounds more like an adult working an office job and not what a teenager, even an older teenager should have!

So, the bottom line is that you are going to have to come up with the guidelines that fit your family and what is going on with your children, and check yourself. Are you using tech to check out of your family?  Are your teens using tech to avoid you?  Do they have device use for school?  How does that tally into the number of hours they are allowed on screens in total?  Are they involved in other things other than devices?  Are they younger teenagers or older teenagers?  Where is their balance in life?

Personally, I think wait as long as you can  to have a cell phone or require computer work (so if you are Waldorf homeschooling, this would probably be in high school just like Waldorf schools, so age 14-15); strive for 1-2  hours a day across devices for up to age 14, 2-3 hours a day for ages 15 to 16 and then lessen the controls across all devices for those  16 and a half or so and up in preparation for being out on their own.   You cannot hold it for them forever; at some point they have to become their own authority and manage their own usage.  

Here are few other ideas and tips:

Have a plan: Cell phone contracts can be helpful in the beginning, especially with teens under 16.  Here is an example.   Here is another example.  Again, I  think these are great in the beginning, and for younger teens, but to me once a teen is past the 16 year developmental change, I think the controls should start dwindling.  They are going to be off and on their own and need to learn how to handle technology on their own.

Have “no cell phone zones”  in the house (and this means adults too!) Many families choose the bathrooms and dinner table to be off-limits to phones, and to have all phones docked in a central place at night.  Less temptations.

Choose data plans wisely.  Here is an article about the best cell phone plans for kids and it points out that many times adding a child to your plan will enable you to have control over blocking calls or texts on behalf of that child; that you can cap the number of texts a child can send; you can have a  GPS or a location-tracker on that phone;  control access to mature content and more.  Decide what controls you want, and know that determined teens can get around many of the controls better than you might know, so there must be an element of trust.  This goes back to the age you start to allow these devices access to your teens!

No driving with smartphone in hand.  Not only is this illegal in many states in the United States, distracted driving is a major source of car accidents in the United States, and teens may already be distracted when they are new drivers.  This is a link discussing apps for safe driving with a smartphone that lets you mute incoming texts, etc during driving.  Many new smartphones have these sorts of features right on the phone itself.

Consider social media. The upside of social media is this is where kids are hanging out, whether you like it or not, especially for many girls.  If you think back to when you were on the kitchen phone for hours with your friends or walking the mall (very American in the 1980s and 1990s), this is what social media is today.  Things are so structured for kids, that this is a “unstructured” place to be. As much as many of us as parents don’t like this idea, it is what is going on.

The downside and horrible part of social media includes depression, rejection and exclusion (here is a great article on how to help girls dealing with social exclusion and social media), cyberbullying,  child predators, and more.2011 California study found that teens who were the heaviest users of social media where also the least content, the most depressed, and perhaps generally bored.

Talk to your teens about on-line safety with this article geared just to teens.  This includes not accepting friend requests from people teens don’t know, using privacy settings, not meeting people you meet on-line off-line, not posting things you will regret- remember, the digital image of your teen online is permanent.  For parents, if your child is on social media, you should be on social media and be friends with them. However, most teens are using far more than Facebook or Twitter. Here is a list of more to check out.   And another list, from Common Sense Media, one of my favorite resources. Also be aware that many teens have multiple accounts to keep track of under one platform.  You need to have all passwords and all accounts, and know what your consequences will be if this is broken by your teen.

Talk about the negatives:  Cyberbullying (girls are cyberbullied at higher rates than boys; this article also ties in what happens in real-life in a school setting); cyberaddiction; sexting, (know the sexting laws in your state if you are in the United States!  And make sure your teen understands sexting could be illegal in your state!), teens and Internet pornography (here’s a report on a Canadian study that 40 percent of boys grades 4-11 search out Internet porn).

If your teen is at risk for depression, obesity or addiction disorder, you may need stronger controls. Remember, it is the responsibility of ALL parents of ALL teenagers to  not only set limits, but to engage the child in family activities, activities outside the home, meaninful experiences and to provide that balance that there is real-life out there to be lived and relationships to be had in real life!  Having a smartphone means you have to be MORE involved in parenting, not less involved.  

If you are looking for more information regarding smartphones and teens, here is another link:  Microsoft’s Digital Skills page has great points – like pointing out that  all those selfies that teens post can also end up impacting job interviews and everything else.  The Internet is permanent!  Teach teens to protect their reputation on-line.

I would love to hear how this resonates with you, and what you do in your own family with children ages 12-14 and up regarding smartphones and device usage. How do you stay involved and provide balance?

Blessings,
Carrie