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Susan Wise Bauer on CO-Ops

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This video on CO-Ops was so helpful for me I thought I'd share ❤️ I really am tired you guys and this made me cry. I did the right thing leaving our Co-Op/Common Wealth group this year, I did. I may be struggling with other things but this video helped me re-realize why I am liking what we are doing without Co-Ops. 

 

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Thanks for that. I took my kids to a one day co-op class once just to test it out. They did not like it. It wasn’t a good match. We enjoy doing our own thing way too much to do co-op. 
 

I remember a post I made years ago about co-ops just becoming another form of school. I have a feeling that many are getting a false sense of security with co-ops. But as I said above, I have never joined a co-op, so I say that without any first-hand experience. 

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I am so there with Susan, but I have to eat my words right now.  We just moved again.  (this is the 2nd major long distance move we have made in 2 yrs.)  With older teens, making friends is so hard.  We did join a co-op so they could meet other teens.  (Words I never thought I would utter.)  It is simply fun stuff (like the teens just designed a board game) and it only meets something like 21 Friday mornings for 3 hrs over the course of the entire yr. (so we can still put in a full school day)

They did make friends and that is worth losing those mornings.  They have had their new friends come over a few times now.  This move has been so good for them.  (But, whether or not we will still do it next yr now that they have made friends.....I don't know.  The stuff my elementary student is doing is just stuff.  The teens had a lot of fun designing the board game and it turned out beautifully bc they put so much effort into making it.  I actually see what they are doing as real enrichment.  My elementary dd, otoh, the benefit is really just socializing.  I definitely would not do it just for her.)

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
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I like the ones where you pay per class and maybe need to volunteer as a parking monitor for 3 hours a semester. That's about my level. And even then, I have only done it for 1 year out of the 7 I've homeschooled because I just didn't find the classes to be worth the time commitment and being tied to someone else's schedule.

We are in a sort of coop now too, although not like any I've seen before and they don't call themselves a coop. I pay to be a member and someone else organizes things like science fairs, field trips, play dates, holiday parties, clubs, dances, 4h, plays, choir, etc. But we can pick what we want to participate in. It's really my favorite model for a coop because it provides all the extra curricular opportunities school does, but without school and undue pressure on me to teach a class. 

Edited by MeaganS
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15 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I am so there with Susan, but I have to eat my words right now.  We just moved again.  (this is the 2nd major long distance move we have made in 2 yrs.)  With older teens, making friends is so hard.  We did join a co-op so they could meet other teens.  (Words I never thought I would utter.)  It is simply fun stuff (like the teens just designed a board game) and it only meets something like 21 Friday mornings for 3 hrs over the course of the entire yr. (so we can still put in a full school day)

They did make friends and that is worth losing those mornings.  They have had their new friends come over a few times now.  This move has been so good for them.  (But, whether or not we will still do it next yr now that they have made friends.....I don't know.  The stuff my elementary student is doing is just stuff.  The teens had a lot of fun designing the board game and it turned out beautifully bc they put so much effort into making it.  I actually see what they are doing as real enrichment.  My elementary dd, otoh, the benefit is really just socializing.  I definitely would not do it just for her.)

I think your experience falls into the worth it category. She mentions when the positives of classes in Co-op out weigh the negatives its worth it.

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14 hours ago, MeaganS said:

I like the ones where you pay per class and maybe need to volunteer as a parking monitor for 3 hours a semester. That's about my level. And even then, I have only done it for 1 year out of the 7 I've homeschooled because I just didn't find the classes to be worth the time commitment and being tied to someone else's schedule.

We are in a sort of coop now too, although not like any I've seen before and they don't call themselves a coop. I pay to be a member and someone else organizes things like science fairs, field trips, play dates, holiday parties, clubs, dances, 4h, plays, choir, etc. But we can pick what we want to participate in. It's really my favorite model for a coop because it provides all the extra curricular opportunities school does, but without school and undue pressure on me to teach a class. 

That sounds perfect! I like the pick and choose thing with no commitment.

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20 minutes ago, seemesew said:

I think your experience falls into the worth it category. She mentions when the positives of classes in Co-op out weigh the negatives its worth it.

If they had already had friends, I'm not sure I would classify it as "worth it" in any terms related to our homeschool. In terms of an outside activity, sure. I don't care if fun things add "value" if the kids enjoy doing whatever. But  for our family, outside activities are reserved for non-school time. If we do it next yr, I will more than likely create our school calendar to have 1/2 days on those Fridays so we don't have to morph our days so much to accommodate something that us just for fun. No way I would count those mornings as "school" hrs.

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15 hours ago, MeaganS said:

I like the ones where you pay per class and maybe need to volunteer as a parking monitor for 3 hours a semester. That's about my level. And even then, I have only done it for 1 year out of the 7 I've homeschooled because I just didn't find the classes to be worth the time commitment and being tied to someone else's schedule.

We are in a sort of coop now too, although not like any I've seen before and they don't call themselves a coop. I pay to be a member and someone else organizes things like science fairs, field trips, play dates, holiday parties, clubs, dances, 4h, plays, choir, etc. But we can pick what we want to participate in. It's really my favorite model for a coop because it provides all the extra curricular opportunities school does, but without school and undue pressure on me to teach a class. 

I miss these. We had a great one here that we were part of for three years, but then they closed due to losing their facility (church got rid of all MDO and youth activity hosting, which included our homeschool group). CC is now the primary option if we want a group. There are some other Co-ops that exist but they are all the sort that dictate what primary curriculum you use- like ToG or MP. I really miss my ala carte option. I have a social butterfly and all the park get togethers in the world are still not enough for her. The one day a week enrichment type classes would be amazing for her, but not enough for me to give up control of what I teach and how. 

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As somebody whose kids have always had a 1x/week co-op and who has been a paid teacher at that co-op for 8 years, I agree with SWB.  If the co-op is not adding a benefit to your family's homeschool experience, it's certainly not a necessity.  At our co-op, elementary classes are all enrichment, middle school is a mix of academic and enrichment, and high school is mostly academic although it includes classes that would be electives.  In elementary school, my kids took/take arts classes, hands-on crafty classes, and PE.  These are things that I want my kids to have but I don't like doing - it takes something off my plate that I don't enjoy (my daughter LOVED a lapbook-based class...chances that I would ever do a lapbook are 0%) and leaves me free to focus on core subjects with the kids the other 4 days.  But, if you're wired differently, that wouldn't be the case.  

As they get into middle school, they take their foreign language from experienced teachers or native speakers.  They take the occasional writing class, and otherwise they continue with arts and enrichment. They took/will take a dissection class at co-op because it seems wasteful to me to dissect something with only 1 student at home when a whole group could learn from 1 organism.  I would far rather grade 20 biology tests than try to learn a foreign language with my kids (and, starting next year, likely 2 different ones, one for each kid).  But, it's a preference, not a requirement.  I love teaching biology and love working with high school-aged students.  I do not love languages and, especially when my kids were younger, enjoyed the break from the 'cute ages' to teach the 'almost adults'.  That's why I'm not quite on board with her idea that if you put the time into your kids that you do into teaching a co-op class, you'll be just as well/better off.  It can be true, but preference also matters.  

I'm now looking at high school classes for the next 4 years and am intending to pick a few academic classes to do but also plan to take a few things off my plate in the 'weird graduation requirements' category.  We have to have a certain amount of PE.  If my kid takes fencing at co-op, I know that's 32 hours/year - 2 years is approximately 0.5 credit.  There are a couple of credits that I plan to handle this way, and I'll continue to do the foreign language and possibly some literature at co-op.  We'll also do a lot of credits entirely at home, continuing as we have done through elementary and middle school.  

That being said, I couldn't handle outsourcing all classes, going to multiple co-ops (especially for little kids), or having our entire school plan dictated by outside sources.  That inflexibility would add a lot of stress to our family and defeat one of our purposes for homeschooling...but families who homeschool for other reasons obviously don't have that perspective.  If co-op is adding more stress than it relieves, it's time to opt out.   

One interesting thing that we're seeing, possibly why SWB is posting this now, is that folks sometimes come and want a laid-out plan.  Our co-op doesn't do that - you can come from 1-6 hours and take the classes that will help your family.  Parents have the plan and pick what they want/need for their students.  We choose to be there for different reasons, but we didn't arrive with the idea that we had to have a co-op in order to homeschool - it was more of a 'try this and see if we like it' thing.  If for some reason we had to leave our co-op, my kids would be very upset because we have good buddies there, but academically we'd be fine.  

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I am loving not being in a co-op this year for the first time ever. Last year, it was run out of my small house. We had just three families, a great science teacher doing labs, and me doing Latin and art. That was a pretty relaxing co-op year. It was just the right people doing just what we needed. Dd17 had actually already outgrown what we were doing in the home co-op last year, so we did it on her afternoon out of the house at her job mainly for mdd. The science teacher is done doing homeschool. Dd17 does part time at jr. college now. So we, dd15 and I, are on our own. And I love it. Of course my ker is there, but her "schooltime" is minimal.

I actually think dd15 who has been in a weekly co-op her whole life is good with it too. It's an adjustment, but we can actually put our time more into something special just for her with little outside stuff to prepare for and older sis out of the house more. I can also design her science better just for her. 

We do still.do a once a month support group for three hours on one topic for the year. It does have enrichment for one of our classes this year that I help plan, plus field trips and holiday parties. It really is just enough for us. I may stick to this way of homeschooling once a month even when I'm down to just my last elementary kid when mdd starts college in a couple years. Dd5 gets a mom putting special time with them doing a fun craft. She loves it. Plus she still has church classes and dance classes and neighborhood friends.

I always did a lot of teaching and planning at our bigger co-ops, so I made sure my kids were getting what I wanted them to have each year. Plus they got the benefit of other stuff often. It was great. But I'm enjoying the less times a month this year. 

Edited by 2_girls_mommy
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I would stand and applaud except no one would see me except my cats. 🙂

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On 11/5/2019 at 8:54 PM, MeaganS said:

We are in a sort of coop now too, although not like any I've seen before and they don't call themselves a coop. I pay to be a member and someone else organizes things like science fairs, field trips, play dates, holiday parties, clubs, dances, 4h, plays, choir, etc. But we can pick what we want to participate in. It's really my favorite model for a coop because it provides all the extra curricular opportunities school does, but without school and undue pressure on me to teach a class. 

We call that a support group. 🙂

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We do homeschooling center classes because they are my daughter’s favorite part of homeschooling: she absolutely loves them. And I signed her up for a few external classes so I don’t have to deal with some things (but they are paid for, not a coop.)

I’ve also been teaching math at a homeschooling center here... but that’s something I love doing, and again, it’s paid. 

I have no idea if these count as good reasons, but they make us happy.

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We have managed to keep our co-op as great supplement yet not take over our lives. This is our 8th year, and we have 85 kids (nursery to 12th) and 34 families. 

We meet every other week (only 16 total for the year), offering 3 hours of classes (more like 4 for the high school science students). We don't charge tuition, but ask for a donation to the church and a fee for class supplies. All moms teach, co-teach, or help in classes.

We've been able to offer great writing and science classes every year to grades 2-12. We've had fun electives as well as some that were extremely helpful. Ds is in a career skills class right now in which the teacher is arranging job shadowing for the students. I'm teaching a math SAT/ACT prep class, and I've definitely seen the "light" come on in some of their eyes in how much more they are understanding.

Co-ops can be a great thing if you have a board with a vision that will adhere to it in spite of those who would want to change it. Be willing to let people walk out the door and trust that there will be those who need or want what you are offering. 

Edited by mom31257
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9 hours ago, square_25 said:

We do homeschooling center classes because they are my daughter’s favorite part of homeschooling: she absolutely loves them. And I signed her up for a few external classes so I don’t have to deal with some things (but they are paid for, not a coop.)

I’ve also been teaching math at a homeschooling center here... but that’s something I love doing, and again, it’s paid. 

I have no idea if these count as good reasons, but they make us happy.

That is a good reason! Anything that brings Joy and not Stress I think counts as worth it, IMO.

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2 hours ago, mom31257 said:

We have managed to keep our co-op as great supplement yet not take over our lives. This is our 8th year, and we have 85 kids (nursery to 12th) and 34 families. 

We meet every other week (only 16 total for the year), offering 3 hours of classes (more like 4 for the high school science students). We don't charge tuition, but ask for a donation to the church and a fee for class supplies. All moms teach, co-teach, or help in classes.

We've been able to offer great writing and science classes every year to grades 2-12. We've had fun electives as well as some that were extremely helpful. Ds is in a career skills class right now in which the teacher is arranging job shadowing for the students. I'm teaching a math SAT/ACT prep class, and I've definitely seen the "light" come on in some of their eyes in how much more they are understanding.

Co-ops can be a great thing if you have a board with a vision that will adhere to it in spite of those who would want to change it. Be willing to let people walk out the door and trust that there will be those who need or want what you are offering. 

This sounds like a better than most model to me. Its not all year or even all school year but adds in depth classes that are adding to the students lives. SWB said if the Co-op has more positives (well not exactly but pretty close) it is worth it. It sounds as thought yours is a good and positive thing for your family, and any sacrifice is not more than the positives of the classes for you guys!

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On 11/6/2019 at 12:03 PM, ClemsonDana said:

As somebody whose kids have always had a 1x/week co-op and who has been a paid teacher at that co-op for 8 years, I agree with SWB.  If the co-op is not adding a benefit to your family's homeschool experience, it's certainly not a necessity.  At our co-op, elementary classes are all enrichment, middle school is a mix of academic and enrichment, and high school is mostly academic although it includes classes that would be electives.  In elementary school, my kids took/take arts classes, hands-on crafty classes, and PE.  These are things that I want my kids to have but I don't like doing - it takes something off my plate that I don't enjoy (my daughter LOVED a lapbook-based class...chances that I would ever do a lapbook are 0%) and leaves me free to focus on core subjects with the kids the other 4 days.  But, if you're wired differently, that wouldn't be the case.  

As they get into middle school, they take their foreign language from experienced teachers or native speakers.  They take the occasional writing class, and otherwise they continue with arts and enrichment. They took/will take a dissection class at co-op because it seems wasteful to me to dissect something with only 1 student at home when a whole group could learn from 1 organism.  I would far rather grade 20 biology tests than try to learn a foreign language with my kids (and, starting next year, likely 2 different ones, one for each kid).  But, it's a preference, not a requirement.  I love teaching biology and love working with high school-aged students.  I do not love languages and, especially when my kids were younger, enjoyed the break from the 'cute ages' to teach the 'almost adults'.  That's why I'm not quite on board with her idea that if you put the time into your kids that you do into teaching a co-op class, you'll be just as well/better off.  It can be true, but preference also matters.  

I'm now looking at high school classes for the next 4 years and am intending to pick a few academic classes to do but also plan to take a few things off my plate in the 'weird graduation requirements' category.  We have to have a certain amount of PE.  If my kid takes fencing at co-op, I know that's 32 hours/year - 2 years is approximately 0.5 credit.  There are a couple of credits that I plan to handle this way, and I'll continue to do the foreign language and possibly some literature at co-op.  We'll also do a lot of credits entirely at home, continuing as we have done through elementary and middle school.  

That being said, I couldn't handle outsourcing all classes, going to multiple co-ops (especially for little kids), or having our entire school plan dictated by outside sources.  That inflexibility would add a lot of stress to our family and defeat one of our purposes for homeschooling...but families who homeschool for other reasons obviously don't have that perspective.  If co-op is adding more stress than it relieves, it's time to opt out.   

One interesting thing that we're seeing, possibly why SWB is posting this now, is that folks sometimes come and want a laid-out plan.  Our co-op doesn't do that - you can come from 1-6 hours and take the classes that will help your family.  Parents have the plan and pick what they want/need for their students.  We choose to be there for different reasons, but we didn't arrive with the idea that we had to have a co-op in order to homeschool - it was more of a 'try this and see if we like it' thing.  If for some reason we had to leave our co-op, my kids would be very upset because we have good buddies there, but academically we'd be fine.  

I have not been homeschooling a long time but l was homeschooled all my K-12th grade and I think you're about right with current homeschoolers thinking they need a CO-Op. You don't HAVE to HAVE a Co-Op, you can homeschool successfully without one. The Common wealth group we were attending everyone there was 1st generation homeschooling family and thought that in order to have a successful homeschool you had to have a group to teach your kids. I think sometimes homeschoolers hate when people ask about socialization but a lot of them must be subconsciously worried about it because they put their kids in sooo many activities that aren't needful. Now I'm not saying that is the case for everyone but I've seen it over and over again in my area, and for the most part the people I see living that way are stressed out! Its okay to an "at home" homeschooler too, but most in my area seem to forget that.

That said I strongly believe if its bringing more Joy and not Stress its worth it. I also think its a great thing for when kids can take classes you can't teach at home easily. 

I like the way you approach it by knowing and believing you don't need a CO-Op but it was something you tried and the added benefit fits well for your family.

 

I just loved the message you DON'T have to have a Co-OP because I was told that over and over! my experience was stressful to say the least and overall not worth it so it was validating to be given permission to not "need" a Co-op from someone as experienced as SWB.

Edited by seemesew
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My kids refused to join, but I'm teaching at one now.

I have mixed feelings about them for sure. We get in our bubbles for sure... I spoke at a conference where someone asked how many days out of the house for these sorts of things, and I was like, one or possibly two if they're really amazing. And there was almost an audible gasp in the room. Apparently so many people had felt like they needed to be doing more than that. I was like, seriously? No. If you find a great community where you and your kids are getting something out of it, then that's excellent. They do exist. But you do not need to be there every day. That's school.

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I do it for community and for enrichment. It is never our meat & potatoes of homeschooling. For us, it is about relationships and doing life together. It all depends on what your family is looking for and needs. In fact, I even serve on the board of our co-op. It's a great deal of work, but I see it as meaningful work that blesses the families in our community. It is a Christian co-op of about 120 families. We run well over 100 events annually and have usually about 50-60 different classes that serve PK-12. There's something for everyone and flexibility in allowing to choose what you would like to do. Noone has to be there all day. Some just come for a couple of classes. Others join for everything but class day. We are that odd duck co-op and have a lot of teens. 3/5 of our families have teenagers. 

 

 

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My DD6 is part of a co-op. It meets twice a month and a total of 6 hrs a month. We do help with the classes and pay a small amount to help with expenses (like our meeting place).

We do it for her. She is very social and loves to be around people. 

They offer a unit study, flex class and P.E.

Last month in unit study she learned about Honeybee's. The mom teaching the class raises them and brought in some for the show and tell portion of the class. This month is about poetry. 

Flex class last month was crafts and this month it's about Christmas music from around the world.

P.E. (weather permitting) the kids play outside on the playground equipment.  Inside physical games when weather is bad. Last and this month her Dad is teaching the class. Which she loves. 

In December will be our Christmas party. No classes that month.

I don't use the co op for educational purposes but for social interaction and connecting with other homeschool families. I found a couple of families from our church in this co op that I didn't know homeschooled.

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On 11/9/2019 at 9:07 AM, Mommyof1 said:

My DD6 is part of a co-op. It meets twice a month and a total of 6 hrs a month. We do help with the classes and pay a small amount to help with expenses (like our meeting place).

We do it for her. She is very social and loves to be around people. 

They offer a unit study, flex class and P.E.

Last month in unit study she learned about Honeybee's. The mom teaching the class raises them and brought in some for the show and tell portion of the class. This month is about poetry. 

Flex class last month was crafts and this month it's about Christmas music from around the world.

P.E. (weather permitting) the kids play outside on the playground equipment.  Inside physical games when weather is bad. Last and this month her Dad is teaching the class. Which she loves. 

In December will be our Christmas party. No classes that month.

I don't use the co op for educational purposes but for social interaction and connecting with other homeschool families. I found a couple of families from our church in this co op that I didn't know homeschooled.

I would love something like this. Twice a month for six hours is that sweet spot that doesn't cramp your schedule, but gives them enough time together where it's not all rushed and there is structured and unstructured time together. That's so great you have an option like that! 

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On 11/11/2019 at 4:12 PM, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I would love something like this. Twice a month for six hours is that sweet spot that doesn't cramp your schedule, but gives them enough time together where it's not all rushed and there is structured and unstructured time together. That's so great you have an option like that! 

I agree! It sounds like a great option I wish I had!

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I love that video from SWB.  I was just talking about it with a friend the other day. I've been considering signing DS11 up for a co-op, but I keep hesitating.  The ones near here don't seem like a good fit.  They are all intense, but in different ways.  I don't want to join someone else's vision of The Perfect School, nor do I want Diet-School.  

I do wish there were more affordable enrichment activities near me.  DS11 does a drop-off art class for 2 hours, once a week.  I'd love another option like that.  There's a coding dojo place about 30 minutes from here that looks cool, but they charge $250 a month (!!!). I can't afford that.   

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2 hours ago, MissLemon said:

I love that video from SWB.  I was just talking about it with a friend the other day. I've been considering signing DS11 up for a co-op, but I keep hesitating.  The ones near here don't seem like a good fit.  They are all intense, but in different ways.  I don't want to join someone else's vision of The Perfect School, nor do I want Diet-School.  

I do wish there were more affordable enrichment activities near me.  DS11 does a drop-off art class for 2 hours, once a week.  I'd love another option like that.  There's a coding dojo place about 30 minutes from here that looks cool, but they charge $250 a month (!!!). I can't afford that.   

That seems really expensive, CRAZY expensive!

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Yeah, that’s a wild price. I’ve paid that much for classes, but like semester long or serious professional training that was more than once a week, like ds’s ballet. That seems surprisingly expensive.

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Everything around here is surprisingly expensive, IMO. Art is $140 a month. Martial arts is $200 a month. Coding dojo is $250 a month.  Maker Space is $100 a month.  Dance and gymnastics are $$$.   I have no idea how people afford this.  Maybe I am just cheap. 

 

Edited by MissLemon

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Interestingly, those aren't the reasons I've heard for joining. Everyone I know who has done any kind of co-op is doing it to add some fun activities with peers, though they still often find it more trouble than it's worth.

I ran a little co op when E was 3-9. It was great and did what we wanted it to do. I feel like B is missing out on having the same opportunity to make friends and see them regularly, but I look at the co ops available and I just don't know if I can manage the effort required. 

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