Saturday, January 30, 2016

52 Lists: Week 4: Current and Future Goals/Dreams

This week for the 52 Lists challenge, we're sharing our current and future goals and dreams.  When I think of goals, I think of things that will bring more peace, more beauty, more simplicity into our lives.

  • To make time for myself.  Regularly.
  • To continue nurturing my relationship with my husband so we can continue to have a healthy marriage
  • To build strong relationships between each of my children
  • Implement nature study regularly
  • Read more
  • Pray more
  • Set a good example as a wife and mother
  • Organize my homeschool curriculum more effectively
  • Organizing the whole house better would be a more lofty goal
  • To eventually build a new "dream home" on family property
  • Become more involved in and to serve the homeschool community
  • To ignite a passion in each of my children for serving others

Next week we are sharing what we are grateful for, but for now, take a peek at the goals and dreams of the others who are participating!
52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mid-Year Homeschool Update & Routine

I don't know about other homeschool families, but after Christmas break, I always find myself changing things.  It's a good time to shake free of the things that bog us down, and look for new and exciting ways to learn.  Of course, it might be the "middle" of our school year, but it's the beginning of a new Schoolhouse Review Crew year, so there's bound to be some interesting developments as the year progresses!  I already have what I think will be fabulous products lined up to review, and I'll actually talk a little about some of them today.

Morning Routine

Elliott - Third Grade - Original 3rd Grade Plans
Elliott is making good progress!  Since I know his learning style, there haven't been any changes to his core.

Math:  Math U See Gamma - He's halfway through the lessons, even with our extended Christmas break, and might possibly finish early.

Spelling:  He finished the first level of All About Spelling (we switched to AAS at the very end of last school year) and is plowing through Level 2.  He's on pace to finish it several weeks early.

Language Arts:  I did add Sheldon's New Primary Language Lessons a few weeks ago.  (It's an independent review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.)  It's very gentle and Charlotte Mason friendly.  Right now we're doing 4 days/week, but we'll cut down to 2 days next week due to the addition of a writing curriculum!  It's a 3rd-6th grade level program, so he's got plenty of time to finish it.

Writing:  Here to Help Learning is a new crew review that we're starting next week!  It's designed to be used 2 days a week, and she suggests easing up on other language arts subjects those days, which is why we'll reduce grammar instruction.

Penmanship:  He finished his cursive book, but he still needs to work on penmanship in general, so I'm on the lookout for something good.

Emory - First Grade - Original 1st Grade Plans
Emory is the one that had the most changes. He's a young first grader, and this is our first "official" year, so we're still fleshing out how he learns best.

Language Arts:  I dropped PAL during the break, because I found it time intensive and scattered.  I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to review Logic of English Foundations.  This is another current review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.  We're still early into it, but since he's not a "new" reader, he's working quickly through the early lessons.  It covers reading and handwriting.

AWANA:  He also studies and works on memorization each day.

Math:  Horizons had to go.  I'm used to mastery-based, and spiral was driving me batty.  Right now we are reading Life of Fred since I had the first couple books, and I have him do occasional worksheets for reinforcement.  I'm probably going to switch him into Math U See at some point soon, because I prefer consistency of them doing the same program.

Logic:  He's also doing LaLaLogic.  We don't do it as written, he just does a "week" or two of the online activities each day because he wants to mark off all 100 weeks.

Eleanor - Preschool - Original Preschool Plans
She just turned 3 and she begs to "do school like the boys" so I usually do preschool activities with her on and off throughout the week.  No set time, just when she asks, or needs her love tank filled before I start a project with the boys.  Sometimes we do an art activity, sometimes preschool toys, and sometimes we do Before Five in a Row, or use her Favorite Preschool Apps.  Simple and low-key.

Afternoon Routine

I aim to be finished with both boys by noon so that we can have lunch and some downtime to break up our day.  If I time it right, Eloise will go down for a nap and we'll begin our afternoon activities together.  It takes us about an hour, unless we do an art project or something more involved.  These were my rather lofty family curriculum choices.  The reality is that we do two afternoon activities most days.

Grapevine Studies - This was a review we absolutely loved!  We're about to start a new review as well, so be on the lookout!

Five in a Row - This covers the bulk of our science and social studies, as well as some of our language arts, practical math and art.
**I try to align ARTistic Pursuits with FIAR because Elliott prefers it
**For music, we primarily listen to Maestro Classics, and we did a focused Tchaikovsky composer study with our Christmas row.

Once afternoon school is complete, we tidy up the house and then they are free to peruse activities of their choice until dinner.

The Other Stuff

Co-op:  The kids love it!  The boys did LEGO club last semester, but there won't be any clubs this time.  Emory will continue to have Music, Sign Language, PE and US Geography.  Elliott will continue with Art, Science, PE and Spanish.  Eleanor moved up from 2's to the 3's class, and she will have a simple Story/Activity and Free Play, and then I teach a combined 3-4 year old music class.

Elliott continued his golf lessons until time change and winter weather made it difficult, but before the break, his coach was talking about competitions this year.  We'll see how that goes, but either way we plan to resume lessons in the spring.

As a family we do field trips and movies and random projects together, and of course we get a variety of games and audio dramas and things to review that work well for family time.  We just started our new audio drama last night - The Dragon and the Raven!

This was week "M" for Blogging through the Alphabet.  See what others are sharing!

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

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Saturday, January 23, 2016

52 Lists: Week 3 - Things You Should Be Proud Of

This week's list was a little bit harder for me.  To list out things I'm proud of feels like I'm shouting "Look at me!" and that is . . . not me.  However, the reason I decided to participate in this challenge was to be challenged, to rise to the challenge.  So here we go!

My marriage ~ We just celebrated 10 years!  I am extremely proud of my hard-working husband and his dedication to our family.  I'm proud of our strong marriage and what we've accomplished as a team.

My Kids ~ All four of my kids bring me so much pride and joy, and I delight in being their mama.

My Education/Career Choices ~ I do have an associate's and a bachelor's degree, but please don't tell me it's a shame that I'm not utilizing them.  I chose to leave the work force so that I could educate my kids.  I am proud of that choice.  Also, with this blog, the Schoolhouse Review Crew and other projects I've done as a result of the connections I've made, I am utilizing my education.  It might be in a non-traditional way, but it works for my family.

Homeschooling my kids ~ It is hard.  It is so very hard sometimes.  It also rewarding, and we continue to persevere.  You know, becoming a teacher was one of the top career choices I had before entering college.  I just didn't realize I would be a lifelong teacher to my own children.  :)

Getting Published ~ Being a writer was one of my other career aspirations, so to see my article in a magazine was actually pretty fun.

My Attention to Detail ~ I'm a quiet observer.  I see things, I notice small details.  I remember everything.  I was considered "gifted" in school, but I don't put much weight on labels, and I can probably attribute much of that to my observation and memory skills.  I love that I don't need a planner to remember appointments or dates or to record things that happened to me.

Teaching Myself ~ I've taught myself how to cook (My baked goods are nothing to write home about, but I enjoy cooking new meals) and I've taught myself to do other things around the house that would have seemed laughably impossible to my family when I was a teenager.  Learning new skills is important, and learning is a lifelong process, so I think it's important for my kids to always see me learning something new, even if I'm just learning something I never learned in school alongside them.

See what others are sharing for Week 3!

52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

Favorite Preschool Apps

Favorite Preschool Apps

With a preschooler who likes to "do school" like her big brothers, I'm often looking for ways to engage her in a meaningful way while I'm working one-on-one with one of the older kids, and we sometimes turn to our favorite preschool apps.  I believe that hands-on activities and real-life experiences are the best ways for young children to spend their time, but technology is part of her future, and teaching her to use it appropriately and in moderation is important.

Favorite Preschool Apps

Note:  We've used these apps on iOS devices only, but I've linked the Android apps as well whenever I could find them with a quick search.

Starfall ABC's
Eleanor learned her letters by name and their initial sounds when she was about 2 1/2 years old just by playing around on this app occasionally.  It's a simplified version of their website, but perfect for preschoolers to navigate independently.
Apple  Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

Kindergarten Bingo:  Letters, Numbers, Shapes & Colors
This app includes three different games.  You can do Shapes & Colors, ABCs or Numbers.  In the parent settings, you can change the letters to be capital or lower case, as well as quiz on letter names or sounds.  For numbers, you can choose to to quiz from 10-100 in intervals of ten.  With so many variations to the games, this app grows with your preschooler, which I really like, and Eleanor (and Emory when he used it) liked earning Bingo Bugs!
Favorite Preschool Apps

Tozzle - Toddler's Favorite Puzzles
This is a FUN puzzle app.  There are puzzles of farm animals, forest animals, fruit, numbers, trains, and so much more.  You can choose any puzzle in any order, but for the most part they do increase in complexity as you scroll to choose.  This was a favorite of Emory's when he was younger, and Eleanor loves it now too.

Favorite Preschool Apps

We've played several Toca apps.  They aren't quite as "educational" as the others on my list, but they've gotten lots of love over the years, even from the boys when they were younger.
Apple   Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

PBS Kids Video
If you and your kiddos like PBS shows, this app is great.  It's free and you don't have to enter any service provider information, as you would with some other television channel apps, which makes it quick and painless, and it's very user-friendly for this age group.
Apple    Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

Alphabet Song Game - Letter Names and Shapes
This app is from The Critical Thinking Co.  (They also have a free computer version.)  Essentially it teaches the names of the letters and their shapes.  It starts with allowing the student to choose from just two or three letters.  It increases in difficulty by having the student choose from upside down and reversed versions of the letter too.  The game covers both capital and lowercase letters.
Apple   Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

Epic!  Unlimited Books for Kids
This app is a delightful library of children's books for preschool, elementary and even middle school children.  The app is free, but there are two types of accounts.  Educators are eligible for a free account, while parents (or anyone) can get a paid monthly subscription with a wider selection.  There are read-to-me books and audio books as well, so there's quite a bit to choose from.  This makes a great alternative to the library or book store for voracious readers, especially in winter months!
Apple   Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

OverDrive - Library Books and Audiobooks
This one is completely free through (participating) library systems.  Just set up your account with your library card and you can access tons of books and audio!  You actually "borrow" the books just like you would physical materials through the library.
Apple   Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

Amazon Music with Prime Music
We pull up children's albums all the time just for fun song and dance sessions.  Of course, I can use this to play classical or other music in the background, which is nice for all ages!
Apple   Android

Favorite Preschool Apps

These are in no way an exhaustive list of Preschool/Kindergarten level apps we've used, but they are some of our favorites and most loved.  You can find a more detailed list of Preschool Apps from Common Sense Media, though I am not familiar with all of them.  As with any media, preview first and use your discretion when presenting any apps, videos or music to your children!

This post is part of a collection of App Schooling articles (for iOS and android devices) which goes live on 1/22/16, so be sure to check out what other Schoohouse Review Crew members are sharing for all ages!

Our favourite Apps for Homeschooling iOS and Android

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Love-Hate Relationships

I had a couple fun ideas for an "L" post for Blogging through the Alphabet, but then life happened and perhaps I stretched a little to get this one posted, just because I didn't want to fall behind.  I've been on time for every letter, and I plan to stick it out this round!  So . . . here's your smile!

This picture just cracks me up.  We were having a lazy day this past weekend ~ jammies and shows with Daddy.  Eleanor was a Rock Star, in case you're wondering.  The dog just decided to sneak in for some love.  They have one of those special Love-Hate relationships that only a pet and her kiddo can understand.  This was a good day, obviously!

Do your pets bond with any one person, or have a love-hate relationship with the little kiddos in the house?

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Friday, January 15, 2016

52 Lists: Week 2 ~ Greatest Comforts

I have enjoyed the challenge of sitting down and taking time to think about myself and share myself a little more here on the blog.  The good thing about these lists is that I can open up, without sharing all the nitty gritty details.

My Greatest Comforts

Late night/early morning talks with my Husband

Hugs from my children

Blessed Assurance

Watching babies sleep

Doggy snuggles


Finding answers in the Word

Talking to my mama

My childhood stuffed animal

Eating good chocolate

Receiving surprise mail

Finding old photographs

Listening to the rain

Hearing my kids playing and laughing together

The turning of leaves in autumn

Returning Home

What are your greatest comforts?  

52 lists with Chasing Slow

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 11, 2016

FIAR: Mrs. Katz and Tush

When we started back to school after the holidays, I asked the boys what they wanted to learn about, and we landed on Mrs. Katz and Tush!

This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more information.

Mrs. Katz and Tush

Emory specifically requested to study cats, and I started thinking about our FIAR books.  I knew we owned Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco.  The book is about a little boy and a widowed Jewish woman who bond over a new pet cat, and the unlikely, but lifelong friendship that develops.  Since one of the science lessons was about cats, I pulled out Volume 2, the manual and a few go-along books.  It was a casual week, and it took some interesting turns, but that's the fun part.  You might not guess from the lessons in the manual that we'd learn about rituals of Ancient Egypt, but that's the beauty of delight-directed learning!

Social Studies
Loving your Neighbor, Persecution of Minorities, Immigration

These were several of the lessons from the manual that we covered verbally.  Sometimes the best lessons are discussions we have about more mature topics.  We did read the book Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles, which is about growing up in the 60's in the south, particularly after The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.  It shows us the hurt that can be caused, but it also shows us the depths of childhood innocence and friendship.

Geography - Poland
We kept the geography simple this week.

Language Arts
Foreign Language ~ Yiddish ~ Vocabulary
We covered most of the vocabulary in context.  Since they were foreign words the kids were naturally curious and asked a lot of questions.

We read the book Cats by Seymour Symon, which was very interesting and informative.  The boys enjoyed it.  Especially Emory, but then he was the one that requested to learn about cats. He seems to really like non-fiction, particularly non-fiction animal books.  He loves facts and pictures and we're forever looking up random things online.  (Not for this row, which was last week, but today during school, he asked if we could look up bobcats and the largest, and the most dangerous cats in the world.)

We also completed an Animal Fact File.  It's always interesting to see what the boys will choose to write in these.

They both (independently) wrote about cats being domesticated and/or mummified in Ancient Egypt for their "interesting" facts.  The next morning, Emory was asking more questions, so we got out some books about Egypt, and we spent some time really reading through I Wonder Why Pyramids Were Built.

The interesting thing is that I offered this book on Egypt when they asked to row The Giraffe that Walked to Paris, and they didn't particularly care to read much of it. Now that they had a reason to learn about Ancient Egypt {specifically, why Egyptians mummified their cats} they were fascinated. We focused on pets of Ancient Egypt, as well as the mummification process, and that led to a book on the human body.

One day we did something simple and made a small booklet of texture rubbings from things around the house.  They both used rubbing plates from my scrapbooking days, and some other things they used were the door, table, wainscoting, fireplace and carpet.

Raindrops rubbing plate

I also was lucky that this row had another great art lesson that I could tie directly into ARTistic Pursuits again.  Elliott enjoys new art projects, and even though we're skipping around between the three K-3 books, being able to actually use them more makes him happy.  This time we used Book 1: An Introduction to the Visual Arts.

The two lessons in FIAR were on Textures and Details in Art (and drawing what you see out the window), while the lesson in ARTistic Pursuits was "Artists See Texture" and the associated project was called "You See Textures in Nature!"  The project required them to look out the window and draw what they saw, using oil pastels.

Emory chose an evergreen tree he could see from his bedroom window.

Elliott picked a deciduous tree he could see from the kitchen window, and he got the "texture" into the tree by outlining it in dark brown and doing the trunk in a lighter shade.  We're still working on filling the whole page.

Like I said, a light row, but very interesting!

This row took place last week, but I realized today as I was writing it, that it lines up this week with Blogging through the Alphabet.  We're on week 11, letter "K" so K is for Mrs. Katz and Tush!

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

52 Lists: Week 1 ~ Words That Touch Your Soul

I came across the invitation at Chasing Slow to participate in 52 Lists - Blog Style.  Writing a list each week seems simple enough, but will still allow me to sit and think, to journal and to share my heart.  I'm really hoping to follow through and participate each week for the year.

Week 1 ~ Words That Touch Your Soul




52 lists with Chasing Slow

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Friday, January 8, 2016

My January Babies

January brings the start of a new year.  No matter what challenges and heartaches the previous year may have held, January is the chance to look forward to new promises, new opportunities, healing, and hope.  January is also a busy month for birthdays in my family, and birthdays are a time of joy and celebration, which is a wonderful way to start the new year fresh.  Two sisters, two nephews, and  . . . two of my own!  Eloise and Eleanor are both January babies!

Eleanor will be 3.  She has a smile that can light up the room and a hug that can soothe you even in the darkest hour.  She's wild and silly and full of life.

She's spunky, spirited and quite the charmer.  Pawpaw's wrapped around her finger, the cousins give her anything she wants, and she's thrives on their doting attention.

Eloise is my baby.  It's hard to believe she will be one.  She's a boisterous little busybody who is ALWAYS on the go.  She started rolling early, could crawl at lightening speed at 6 months, and was walking at 9 months.  I guess it's every man (or girl) for themselves when you're the youngest of four!

She's curious and precocious and loves to screech and squeal and make her presence known.  She looks like Emory, laughs like Elliott, twirls her hair like Eleanor when she's sleepy, but certainly has her own little budding personality.

These two girls have brought so much joy and delight into our family.  After two boys, it's been a delight (and quite surprising) at seeing how different girls can be!  As hard as the toddler and preschool years are, I'm looking forward to watching them grow and learning more about the special persons they are meant to be.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

FIAR: Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

I wanted to start December off with a FIAR book that could lead us into a Christmas study, so I chose Another Celebrated Dancing Bear by Gladys Scheffrin-Falk.  It's a quaint story about two bears who live very different lives, with different careers.  Boris thinks he leads a simple life as an animal doctor, and is jealous of his friend Max, who is a dancer in the circus!

Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

Five in a Row:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

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I picked Another Celebrated Dancing Bear because it takes place in Russia, and I thought that would help us transition into a study on The Nutcracker Ballet and Tchaikovsky.  Also, Elliott specifically requested more ART and I knew there would be some fun art lessons we could do with this unit.

Social Studies
Character ~ Relationships ~ Jealousy ~ Friendship 
When I asked what the book was about, one of the boys talked about how he (Boris) was sad and got a friend to teach him to do dance.  So we talked about how Max was a good friend to recognize Boris's jealousy and to offer to help him, without even being asked.

Russian Geography and Culture
We spent some time learning about the geography and the culture of Russia. While reading, one of the boys asked what the Hussars dance was, so we looked it up.  I found this Gallant Hussars video.

The story disk goes on Russia, obviously.

FIAR:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

I found this cute Russian Map Story Paper, and had the boys color the famous landmarks other symbols of Russia while I read to them about Russia.  Then they could write about something they learned.  Elliott wrote about St Basil's Cathedral, and Emory was fascinated by some of the vocabulary words we learned, so he wrote about that.

Five in a Row:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

Five in a Row:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

They particularly like the book If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Russia.  We've enjoyed all the ones in this series that we've read so far.  Each book focuses on one country, and shows what the life of a child is like.  They have a lot of vocabulary, for words like mama, papa, money, and they always mention favorite foods.  They are also great for pointing out similarities between children in America and around the world - the toys they play with, playground games or sports, celebrating holidays and going to school.  I actually received Russia as a review book a long time ago, but I've purchased some on my own as well.

This might have been one of the most insightful lessons we've ever done.  From the FIAR Fold-n-Learn, I decided to do the Occupation activity.

Five in a Row:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

Elliott focused on things he could do with Minecraft--design video games, become a minecraft shirt designer and create a Minecraft theme park.  Not surprising.  I told him by the time he's ready to enter the workforce, he might have to expand his horizons beyond the world of Minecraft, but those were great goals.

Emory ~ oh boy.  He told Elliott not to get a job because then he'd have to move out.  I suggested all kinds of occupations (things he's previously mentioned like zoologist and firefighter) but he said no, because they're too hard.  He wants to be a Taste Tester.  Not even a food critic, he just wants to eat the food.  He's going to be one of those adults.

Language Arts
We usually just do vocabulary orally as it arises, and the kids actually have great vocabulary and comprehension skills, so I don't do structured vocabulary activities very often.

There were only two words from the long list of vocabulary suggestions in the manual that we we needed to discuss.  The first was elegant, as one of the boys specifically asked what it meant.  We discussed it in context right then.  The other word was czar, because they were unfamiliar with it.  Since Elliott is practicing dictionary skills, he used a nifty little vocabulary worksheet, to learn about the word czar.  Emory used the simplified version of the worksheet, which did not have the synonym/antonym spaces.  (Both are free!)

Expanding Vocabulary (advanced)
Expanding Vocabulary (simple)
Merriam-Webster Children's Dictionary

Acting out a story, parts of a story or even just specific action words is a great activity.  It's helpful for reinforcing verbs and interpreting the meaning of a word or phrase, especially if the word has a homonym, and they have to think back to the story and the context in which it was used.  Plus, it's just FUN!  Even Elliott enjoyed it, because the boys liked to exaggerate their movements and become overly dramatic to make each other laugh.

In the past, it has been hard to get the boys interested in the art related to the books.  This one, however, I knew I could tie into Elliott's beloved ARTistic Pursuits and his request to do more art.  I used K-3 Book 2 and a lesson on printmaking.  We learned how the illustrations in the book were made, and then did our own version, following the lesson in the art curriculum. {There are a variety of lessons on this, and we'll continue to explore them, as they really enjoyed this!}

FIAR:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

Another day we talked more about Russian culture and created this Matryoshka (nesting doll) project from Great Empires.  There was a blank version, but I worried the boys might find having to design all the dolls intimidating, and after I printed these, I worried they might find coloring a bunch of flowery dolls "girly" (although I do not condone them stereotyping activities or actions as such), but gladly, I was wrong!  Emory just decided his would be a family, and thus needed a father.  So he colored the largest one blue and black and gave it a mustache!  Elliott actually enjoyed the history, and we looked up a "how it's made" type video on YouTube.

FIAR:  Another Celebrated Dancing Bear

We ended by transitioning into a study of The Nutcracker and a simple composer study on Peter Tchaikovsky.  These are the resources we used:

The Nutcracker from Maestro Classics
The Story of Swan Lake from Maestro Classics
The Story of Tchaikovsky in Words and Music
The Nutcracker Ballet by Vladimir Vagin
Peter Tchaikovsky (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers) by Mike Venezia

We already love Maestro Classics, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were quiet and attentive during the The Story of Tchaikovsky, as it was more informative, and less entertaining.  The biography was a little long for a picture book, I could have broken it down into two readings, but they enjoyed the picture book version of The Nutcracker.

All in all, it was a good row.  This row happened to focus on geography and art, but I'm finding the more delightful rows are those were I don't necessarily worry about rowing as written, but just doing what meets their interests and needs.  I was also delighted with how well our first composer study went, and I'm looking forward to choosing a new composer!

©2011-2016 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.