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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dreaming Big. How To Instill a Love of Reading in Your Children.

I would like to start by saying I have two vastly different children. My son picked up reading at a very early age of four. By five he was reading fluently and by seven he could read anything and often did. My daughter on the other hand was a reluctant reader. Struggling still at seven to master simple phonics. By eight she started to read more fluently and now at nine is beginning to read novels. It's been a struggle with her. Lot of tears were shed on both sides. I spent many hours talking it out with my husband trying to figure out the best strategy to get her reading better. I even fell into the dreaded comparison trap. Why couldn't she read as well as her brother? Did she suffer from some sort of undiagnosed reading problem?

It has given me years to contemplate what reading has meant to me. In PS they often assigned the reading of novels and then picked them apart like distasteful plates of food. It seemed to me like a general waste of time. It made me dislike reading. As a young person I had little to no desire to crack open a book and read. The joy having been sucked out by Jack and Jill up the hill over and over in the early  years also didn't help me any. The boredom suffered from painful classroom read alouds and contrived book reports made reading in general a unlikeable event. 

I have been forced with my own children to reevaluate what reading means as an adult and conversely what I would like it to mean to my children. I have in large part used an unschooling approach to teaching my kids in the early years. I never purchased a boxed reading curriculum for either child. We used online Reading A-ZStarfall, and lots of reading from childrens books at home. My son loved to read from the get go. He would be found reading books to his baby sister when they had time. I read to them night time stories everyday. I can't tell you how many times I read the 'Little Mermaid' to my daughter. I wanted to burn the book by the time she finally grew tired of it. When they went to bed I encouraged them to read to themselves. If they couldn't read I said looking at the pictures was the next best thing. Often I would find books in heaps in their rooms in the morning or a child sleeping on a pile of books like a dragon on it's horde. 

Moving forward to now every night the kids take something to read with them to bed. They stay up far too late reading. I don't mind so much as long as they can still be wakeful the next morning as well. Now they are on the path to lifelong reading and are loving it. I have added in Exploring Literature from AGS Globe to our school days. It's covers genres, reading comprehension, and writing. What I like about it is it's getting the kids headed in the right direction of writing, something else I had taken a relaxed approach to in the early years. 

So how can you achieve happy, avid readers too?

*Starting early on read to them everyday. Don't stop just because they know how to read. I read still to my kids at nine and eleven. Whatever topic they want now we will read, at least one hour a day I set aside. They don't watch tv shows and it becomes a loved form of entertainment. We have read through several book series since last June.

*Encourage older siblings to read to their younger siblings. Or kids can read to a pet or stuffed toy if they have no other siblings.

*Always when teaching a reader praise over criticize. Help them of course to work through words they don't know but never laugh at them. Remember if they are feeling stressed they aren't enjoying it. Put it away for the day. I actually stopped formal reading practice with my daughter for nearly four months. When we started again she was refreshed and more ready then before.

*Find readers and reading material that engage the child. Just because Charlottes Web is on your  grade two reading list doesn't mean you have to read it. If you think your child won't be interested find what interests them and get some books about that.

*Don't do book reports! They suck the joy out reading. Should they learn to do them? Yes but not until after establishing their love for reading.

*Encourage them to take books to bed, in the vehicle, and buy new books as often as you can. You can easily find books at second hand shops, online classifieds, yard sales. You don't have to break the bank. Or you could even start a book swap with friends with kids the same age. Of course your local library is another way to get new books to read. 

*Give books as gifts to your kids to show them that you think books are just as important as toys.

*Take them to browse the local bookstores. 

*Show enthusiasm yourself for reading and books.

*Read to them some more even as they age. 

*Don't limit your child to books only in their age bracket. I can't tell you how many adult books my son has read. Or how many we have kicking around in our bookshelves. Of course making sure they don't harbor bad language or other offensive materials would be good. 

*Strew- leave books all over the house. We have books in the livingroom, bedrooms, classroom, occasionally the diningroom. Make the books you leave around appealing to pick up and peruse. 

*Most of all have fun with books!

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Free Kids Coding Roundup!

It's a world of technology out there. 

If you have been wondering how to introduce your kids to this fast paced world of learning look no further then coding. It's the basis of all the app's, games, and websites out there. I have compiled for you a listing of some of the very best sites to use. The best part is they are all free!

Just click on any image below to go direct to the site!


 Java Programming ebook free to download in English, French, Russian and Ukraine.


 Hackety Hack uses Ruby programming to teach kids from the ground up. No prior experience is necessary.


 Kids Ruby is real Ruby Coding. Ruby coding is used in a lot of major programming areas.


 Kodu is a free kids computer/xbox game programming download from Microsoft Research. This is a fun one for kids looking for immediate easy results.


 Alison is free online learning with a lot of computer programming courses offered. You do have to sign up to use the site but its free.


This one leads to Python a Introductory course through Alison as seen above. Python does have it's own site that you can go directly too but it's no as easy to navigate.

 Codeacademy is a free to use with sign up site that uses various forms of programming as well as animation.


Alice teaches kids programming in an interactive 3D world Blender has a great animation program for free download.


Scratch from MIT is a colorful and easy way to learn simple coding.


Code is an interactive coding learning site. It looks realitively simplistic to use and teaches from the ground up. Kids as young as Kindergarten can start learning!


Code Monster at Crunchzilla is a very easy to use online programming site.


 Stencyl is all about creating great games without knowing coding. The games you create can be played on a variety of platforms including Android, Ipad, Windows, Linux, and more.

With the wide variety out there for free use kids can spend hours having fun learning. Be sure to stick around for our upcoming roundup of free computer courses to learn various aspects to working online and offline.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Freedom From the Box.

“Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions.”


“ The Greek schole which was the original source of school, once meant just the opposite from what the school boy of today thinks of that institution. It meant vacation, leisure, rest. The education of a Greek boy was by private teachers in reading, writing, arithmetic, singing, and gymnastics. But no man ever considered his education to be completed. His leisure time was spent in listening to the discussions of learned men, and thus this product of leisure, this use of ones spare time came also to be called schole.
 Eventually the Greeks used the term for the lectures or discussions themselves, and ultimately it included the place wherein the instruction was given. It was the later sense which descended to English use.”

Author~ Charles Earle

When I read the above I found it interesting to note that in today's world most people equate school with institutional learning. Learning can happen anywhere and at anytime. When I first started homeschooling I spent many nights and days agonizing over what method I would use to teach. I was determined that I would be outside of that dreaded 'box'. Now six years later I can say we have found a happy medium. Although we still have sit down lessons complete with note taking and book work we learn a lot outside of the classroom as well. As with all things in life finding that balance takes time and a lot of trial and error but its well worth the effort.
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Monday, September 22, 2014

30 Ways To Mix It Up In Your Homeschool.

So we've all been there. School's been back in for awhile and the book work is getting everyone down. It's time to mix things up!

  1. Take school outside for the day.
  2. Play background music during work time.
  3. Get some books on cd from the library.
  4. Let kids color or draw pictures about what you are reading while you are reading.
  5. Include movement to your lessons to allow kids to release some energy.
  6. Teach your kids a new game. Dodge ball, skipping, hopscotch etc..
  7. Take a walk through the neighbourhood and discuss architecture, shapes, form, color, plants, animals, vehicles, etc…anything you see can become the lesson.
  8. Try having the kids make up a play for you while you make lunch on the topic they were studying.
  9. Have your child do show and tell with supportive family/friends.
  10. Become engaged in what you are teaching to show the children how fun learning can be, even as an adult.
  11. Take school on the road and do a learning road trip for the day.
  12. Have your child spend a day researching a topic to present on the next day.
  13. Spend the afternoon listening to Mozart or other classical music while painting.
  14. Spend the day in the yard making natural observations. You could extend this by creating a nature journal as well.
  15.  Cook up a cultural feast for dinner.
  16. Have spontaneous field trips just because.
  17. Take time to build something new out of blocks, Lego, clay etc..
  18. Add crossword puzzles into your classroom schedule.
  19. Have the kids write a letter for Language Arts to a family member and mail it.
  20. Use educational board games to reinforce essential skills.
  21. Add some hands on projects to make learning a topic more fun.
  22. Have a pajama day.
  23. Watch movies or documentaries to reinforce learning.
  24. Let the kids teach. They can teach their younger siblings or you.This method is great for evaluation of learning too. By them 'teaching' they are showing you what they know about a particular subject area.
  25. Have the kids put on a play about whatever they are learning.
  26. Include completely random new experiences in your week.
  27. Take a walk in the middle of the day.
  28. Use building toys in part of your lesson. Kids can use them for math, art, science, etc.
  29. Learn a new song together.
  30. Make their birthday a family holiday 

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

6 Ways to Motivate Your Children to Learn.

  Sometimes as adults we forget how hard it is to shake the summer fun off and knuckle down to the bookwork. If you have taken the summer off be prepared for a week or two of feet dragging as you get back into a routine. It can take longer for some kids than others. Some ways you can motivate your child are;

 1. To make the lessons include fun projects.

 2. Have the child read about or research a topic of their choosing.

 3. Reward your children often with praise for work done well. Rewards can also include stickers, a special snack, etc.

 4. Offer breaks from the work. Nobody likes to sit still for too long especially very young children. Breaking up your school day can require more motivation on your part to make sure it isn’t forgotten in all the other days activities.

 5. Switching up your regular routine once in awhile is also another great way to make kids excited about the learning process.

6. Remember too that some days are just not going to go the way you planned. No matter how you try to motivate your student they may just not be ready. It's okay to step away from the books and take a needed break.

Kids aren't horses dangling carrots doesn't always work but when we try to be more creative in our teaching methods it can make the process more enjoyable for everyone. The more children enjoy what they are doing the more they will be motivated to get it done.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Free to Canadian Educators!


I love finding great Canadian resources for my kids and for all of you my wonderful readers. So guess what? I have done it again. Canadian Geographic Education will send you free of charge educational magazines and lesson outlines thorough out the year. You too can sign up to receive teaching kits! Canadian Geographic has a long standing history of delivering quality educational materials. Opening my mailbox and finding a wonderful issue all about WW1 was exciting. With Remembrance Day coming up in November it gives me time to plan and prepare a unit for the kids. I am excited to see what the next issue will bring!

If free educational materials doesn't rock your boat then maybe check into signing up for the Canadian Geographic Challenge. Registration will be open this fall and homeschooler's are welcome to participate.

Remember to check back here for more great freebies as I scour the net in pursuit of those delightful educational products.
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Finding Community Service Opportunities for Kids Under 12.

As a Canadian homeschooling family we are well aware that community service opportunities may be harder to come by. You see in the public school's kids are encouraged to start volunteering in small ways early on. Whether they are taking papers to the office or helping smaller kids on the buses they are actively volunteering regularly. All these hours are tallied and kept on record. In highschool they need 40 during their highschool careers. Well as homeschooler's it's not as easy. You can't say 'for the record my child helped me voluntarily to clean.' Finding opportunities can be tricker still for kids under 12. Legally some places just aren't allowed to have kids helping in any capacity.

Which is why I was so thrilled to find out that TD Tree Day allowed kids to participate with an adult accompaniment. In our case it working out well having two kids and two parents. Especially since the site we were tree planting was an old ski slope that was suffering massive erosion. The local leader of the conservation authority came out to speak about the site and we set to work lugging the trees. Make no mistake these were trees. Some as tall as seven feet. It had rained the night before so it was no small feat to lug on tree easily weighing 60lbs down the vertical slope. It didn't help that a large portion of the slope was rock and gravel.

Our kids did great planting seven trees between them and working just as hard as any adult. Free snacks, t-shirts, and work gloves were a bonus. I enjoyed watching them diligently caring for each tree. While others raced against their friends to plant as many possible my kids carefully built dams to ensure there was no run off during rain storms around the front of the trees. They took their time picking there way through the other tender plants coming up. Careful not to disturb the patches of precious milkweed and tiny saplings struggling to thrive on such an incline.

So all of this work got me to thinking what other opportunities may there possibly be in Canada for our youth.

1. TD Tree Day.
2. Political Campaign offices may need people to stuff envelopes.
3. Mowing, raking, weeding for elderly home owners in your area.
4. Reading, visiting the elderly in nursing homes.
5. Helping out in the clubs they belong to.
6. Collecting blankets, food, toys for the local animal shelter.
7. Collecting trash (safely) from parks, roadways.
8. Christmas toy collection facilities may allow children to help pack up gifts.
9. Organize a Christmas gift drive it can benefit people who are less fortunate or animals.
10. Donate food or supplies to the local food bank. They can collect from family and friends to make a bigger donation if they wish.
11. Organize a backpack and school supply drive.
12. If you have a particularly Techie child have them teach computers to seniors.
13. Contact the local community Meal of Wheels program and make up animal food bags to donate. Many people can't afford the food or get out to get food. Their pets need meals too.
14. Make activity boxes (decorated shoeboxes) up for sick kids in the hospital. They can include cards, travel games, reading materials, stuffed toys.
15. Make bookmarks and donate them to the public library to hand out.

Remember no service project is too small. Record what your child has done and the length of time it has taken them. You will be surprised to see how quickly it adds up!
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Free Canadian Government Learning Resources.

While looking around online for freebies for teaching, I found this great resource. As a Canadian often we are often given free resources but only to download. Sometimes we are lucky and find real hands on materials. Thanks to the Government of Canada for making these resources free for all citizens.

Included is a teacher's packet. It includes all the resources seen as well as some others. I ordered another extra couple of student copies so the kids won't have to share. We have been putting off learning about the government for long enough. I have to say after looking these materials over they are well worth getting. Very comprehensive.

Get your copies here Parliament of Canada
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Quest Clubs Now in Canada!

A wonderfully generous with her time mother and her friend have started the first chapter in Canada of Quest Clubs. I wanted to let everyone know what a great organization this is. For years the local choices have been Girl Guides, Boy Scouts, and 4-H. All are excellent programs but this one is really a good fit for so many.

Their motto 'Ask anything! Explore everything!" really gives you the idea of what the group is all about. The fact that there are 1200 badges and rising is just the icing. Kids love having incentives. Although my daughter insists she just likes the games.

Each badge has requirements for each age group since this group is open for 3-18 year olds. Kids even have the option of making up new badges for areas that aren't covered. Both boys and girls can participate making it a great family option. No more running from one group to another. The only juggling you will be doing is all the paperwork for the badge forms. That's right instead of solely being tested by the leaders parents have some of the responsibility.

We went through the listings of badges and I pulled ones that I felt the kids would have already had some experience in making them easier to gain for first badges. Our troop is still deciding on vest (uniform) colors but at least they will have some badges to fill those up really quickly.

The cost is considerably less than other groups mainly because badges are made to order. Quest doesn't keep surplus badges. Which works great because they will be altering several of the American badges to be Canadian! How many other groups are willing to do that! I encourage you to check out the group. If you don't have a group or chapter in your area start one! Even the leaders can earn badges making it fun for the adults too.

Beyond the badges are other award pins the kids can earn with real Swarovski® crystals in areas like life skills, community service, and leadership. Of course with any of these groups it's just a great way for kids to get out and have healthy fun.

My daughter spent a great deal of time and effort working on her level 2 baking badge. She had to bake a cake from scratch. She chose to make a chocolate pound cake for her fathers birthday. It turned out really well and I think she gained a lot of confidence in the kitchen from this experience. Not to be outdone my son is scheduled to make his cake for his level 3 baking badge later this week. Thankfully he can take it to meeting with him and spare me the calories.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Some Things Take Time.

We entered our second week of homeschool for the 2014-2015 season. Although we technically are a few weeks in as we had a jump start on our classes at the end of last year before we realized we needed a break. This means we are picking up where we left off. I am discovering just how much that can be a draw back. There's review that needs to be happening in most subjects. 

Day 1: The kids were supposed to be tested but after a three day weekend and no study time it seemed almost cruel. So we had to review the chapter that was to be tested. We are still reviewing french as well as working on some new material with pictorial note taking for my visual learner. It went fairly well all in all. They started their artifical stain glass art. My son choose to do flowers and a bumblebee and my little dragon lover of course choose to do, a dragon.

Day 2: Oh this day I want to forget. We had the runaround all day long for doctors appts. Got a wrong diagnosis and ended up eating bunch of comfort/junk food to relieve stress. Not a good day at all.

Day 3: Hoping to regain some ground we lost on Tuesday I was rushing. My daughter having been prescribed nasal spray needing wrangling. I am not a cowgirl and this is no easy feat. I have no idea why the kids are so reticent when it comes to taking meds. Thankfully after the show we got back to business and the rest of the day finished well. 

Day 4: Many emails and phone calls regarding upcoming extra curricular classes. It was a bit of a distraction from schooling. We made it through though and the kids finished most of their schoolwork with only a small amount of homework for the weekend. They also are being given a weekend assignment in science. I am hoping they will show some good time management this year. We definitely have been talking about it enough this week.

Day 5: Our scheduled homework day...well that was the plan..but as you know homeschool sometimes take turns that we don't expect. Today's was running out of the house so we could look over an advertisement someone had created for our extracurricular classes. Then off to snag a few groceries. When we got home homework was forgotten. 

So all in all both a productive week. We hope to be productive next week but with their father coming home from his out of town shift one never knows. I am learning that planning ahead sometimes is pointless. I am getting adept at opening a book on the fly and picking up where we left off.  Flexibility is important.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Popping the Misconception Bubble.

Here is the crux folks. Misconceptions lead to bigotry in all forms. They are unhealthy in so many ways and society needs to weed them out. I just read an article about homeschooling on another blog. Of course I can't resist reading the comments. It amazes me number one, that so many people who don't homeschool themselves seem to be suddenly experts on the topic. Number two, it's shocking just how misinformed some of these people are. Number three, even those who weren't misinformed seemed to feel the need to be rude which only serves to discredit their very valid point. 

I am only one homeschooler of millions in the world. I only have one voice. However I want it known that we shouldn't be blanketed in the same robes of misinformation. We are individuals. We are families. We are your neighbors. 

Misconception 1: Wait for it. Socialization. Simply put the idea that one person cannot socialize when they live in the same world as everyone else suggests that they are closeted away. Now saying hey your child won't have the same social experience as mine is very true. Is that good or bad? Hmm I don't know which is better boxers or briefs? Is it not our own personal choices and experiences which will dictate how we turn out in the end. I don't think we all need to have the same experiences and indeed no one person will have the same experience. Even if we lived in a vacuum our own individual preferences in life would set us apart from one another. 

Misconception 2: Parents aren't qualified to teach. Well I don't hold a teacher's certificate no. However I hold something just as powerful a healthy brain. It's with this brain I have managed to live..ahem..cough 39 years. It's with this brain I have self taught myself many things. It's with my memories of my own school experiences in public school that I choose to pick the curriculum for my children. Curriculum is as I have discovered is as rich and varied as the rainbow. It's indeed a big responsibility to pick what my child will learn. Make no mistake though I intend to do a good job at this. 

Misconception 3: This one is my favorite. You homeschool therefore you have no right to make errors in grammar or spelling or any other educational subject. Well la de da. I am human. I make many errors. Sometimes I am tired. Sometimes I am to hurried to edit properly. Does that make me the wrong choice for teaching my kids. No it makes me real.

Misconception 4: Your kids won't be toughened up to the realities of life. Oh I had no idea that public school offered lessons in skin thickening. I went there but still came out of it lacking that credit. If by this strange accusation one means my children won't experience bullying or criticism then rest assured my child will be passing that with flying colors. They have experienced bullying on the playground many times. They know life isn't all buttercups and daisies. 

Misconception 5: What gives you the right to choose what your child learns? They will have a one sided view of the world. This statement is laughable. You are assuming children don't have their own ideas or views on the world. Will I be the main influence? You bet! Is this bad? I hope not. I lead a pretty straightforward healthy lifestyle. My husband is a good father and husband of 18  years. We consider ourselves pretty easy going. So why do we have the right to choose what our child learns? We are given this right by our government. Thank you Canada for being free enough and comfortable enough with your citizens to realize some of us are making choices different from the status quo. 

Misconception 6: You wear pjs all day and have no schedule. Really? Tell that to my kids. I think staying in pjs is a fine idea  but ultimately a little unrealistic when we go out of the home so often. My kids often start their morning hopefully asking 'are we going out today?' If you had the option of dawning some comfy clothes over your business suit wouldn't you? Schedule of course we have one. Is it the same as public schools? No. We can set our hours it's more like being a freelancer. Guess what people in this world do have that option on occasion. Some days are more rigorous then others. Isn't it the same for you?

Oh I could go on but it's so tiring trying to justify all the misconceptions that swirl around homeschool. I try to smile and be pleasant to most everyone I meet. I try to teach my kids to do the same. After all not everyone has been properly socialized.
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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Leave Nothing But Footprints.

This year I have implemented Phys Ed (Physical Education) into our daily schedule. The reason being my kids are at that age where toys and games don't interest them the same as it used to. So to encourage some physicality into the day I thought it was needed.

Today's class, going for a walk on the incredibly beautiful Hub Trail. We didn't make it an overly long trek as we only get one hour for this class. It was humid and sticky today and so quiet. As we walked along the biking path we spotted a dragonfly. Now normally these creatures are pretty adept at escaping before anyone is too close. This poor fellow had a broken limb and apparently had gotten it's wings wet leaving it helpless on the bike path. Concerned for it's well being we used a dandelion leaf and encouraged him onto it before moving him out of harms way. While so doing he bravely fly away although you could tell it was a struggle. We watched him safely cross the highway with baited breath.

It would seem that all of our years canoeing and spending time in nature has paid off. My children are not only intensely interested in the world around them but in making sure no harm comes to the natural environment. Some people may even, okay, they have called us tree huggers. Now I am not likely to be found saving a tree from the saw but you will find me encouraging a youthful sapling to find a new more suitable home.

That said I wanted to share today some great links for learning about Ecology. What a great way to spark the kids interest in the world around them.

  1. Ecology Kids
  2. Kids Do Ecology
  3. Ecology For Kids
  4. The Benefits of Recycling
  5. Kids Ecology Corps
Remember when enjoying nature leave nothing but footprints behind! 
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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What's This World Coming To?

As with all technology it's sure to have some glitches in the machine. Telehealthcare may not have to do with homeschool or be related directly but certainly it is of a concern after our experience yesterday. I wonder how many others have had similar experiences?

My son had a planters wart on his foot which appeared to be getting severely worse. Blisters were forming all over the ball of his foot. Now normally going to your regular healthcare provider would be advised. However that wasn't an option for us so I decided to take him to a walk in clinic. 

This newer, tech savvy clinic used telehealth via satellite link up. Great! How cool there's the doctor on the screen. This is neat! Yes sure it is. However his diagnosis was off through no fault of his own. It's just the tech can't stand in for real life observations. 

The Dr. said my son's planter wart had formed a colony which would need significant treatment weekly for six weeks! This treatment would include cutting and nitro freezing. Now you can imagine even as an adult getting that diagnosis is not pleasant. To my 11 year old it was terrifying. The idea of someone slicing into his foot sent him into a panic. To make matters worse this treatment was needed right now and they didn't provide it at that clinic. 

After traveling across town to another walk in clinic that did provide the treatment we were informed by the in person Dr. that the diagnosis was wrong. Not only did my son not need invasive treatment but it wasn't even a colony of warts but rather a breakout of eczema  next to the original planters wart. You can imagine my son's relief. Mine also.

However this news brought to light the very real fact that if the other diagnosis was wrong and they had been able to provide that treatment he would have suffered needlessly. Can telehealthcare fill in for real live human doctors? I think not. So please be wary of telehealthcare and seek a second opinion when you feel it is appropriate.
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