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Gearing Up for Another Homeschool Year

By Cindy Rushton

Added Sunday, November 05, 2006

 We need to take time to refresh our minds on God's plan for our families. We need to pull back to let Him equip us for the battle.

[Editor's note: Cindy's second title for this article is "What I Am Going to Do On Summer Vacation". Although our article has been archived, and you may be reading this at any point during the year, my prayer is that you will be able to soak in these fresh, yet timeless principles of refreshing and renewing. It is never the wrong time to begin to seek God and receive His power anew!]


Summer! At last!

Yes! It is once again summer time. I don't know about you, but it seems that this school year has set a record in how fast it has gone by. For me, this year reminds me of my husband's pilot training, which I am devouring. In the plane, we are able to soar higher than I ever dreamed AND at record speeds. I love that we can get where we are going fast, and relatively at a straight course from point-to-point. I want that for homeschooling. Praise God, that with HIS yoke and HIS way, we do tend to soar higher and get where we are going with fewer distractions. As a result, the blessings are so very abundant. In turn, life is passing by as fast as our read alouds!

Oh, that is not the only thing that reminds me of Harold's flight training. In his training, much of it now involves practicing "touch-n-go-landings," where he comes in for a landing, only to gear back up again for another round. I am currently in the midst of a "touch-n-go" with homeschooling. Once again, I am gearing down, only to gear back up for yet another big year. What about you? Well if so, this article is just for you!

Remember your "school days?" What about your summer vacations? Oh, I am not talking about those horrid essays we all had to write at the beginning of every school year. I am talking about the awesome days of summer vacation. The good old retreat from the daily grind! Remember how you NEEDED the rest from the daily grind so you could pull back, kick back, and really have a break, be renewed, refreshed, refueled, and ready for another school year?

We still need that break today as we homeschool. Actually, we need it more today than ever before. We simply cannot expect to go on day-in and day-out for years at a time without gearing down for a good, old summer vacation. We need it now just like we did as children.

So whether you are "on approach" for a "touch-n-go" or you are coming in for a brief "landing" so you can get some rest, this article is just for you! Of course just in case you cannot tell, I could not decide which analogy to pick for the article, so whether you are "gearing up" OR taking a nice, long "summer vacation," my prayer is that after you read this article, you will have the summer of your life! I pray that you will be able to begin the new school year ready for the awesome year ahead! So, without further "ado" may I ask, "What are YOU going to do for summer vacation???" I have a few ideas that may make this summer very, very special!

What About Taking This Time to Retreat?

Yes! Retreat! I remember the day when I first found out that soldiers in the midst of battle retreat. Yes... good soldiers, smack-dab in the middle of battle, raging battle, retreat. I know that some of you may be thinking exactly what I was thinking when I first heard that. Do WHAT? Yes, beloved, good soldiers do retreat in the MIDST of battle. They retreat for several reasons, but there are a few that tend to get my attention as I think of homeschooling my children.

Rest!

First, they retreat in order to rest. I know, I know. You are thinking of all that YOU have to do today. How can a busy mother retreat just to rest? Well, there is power in rest. We need to see that power. We need to experience that power. In real life battles, commanders KNOW the power in bringing their soldiers apart to rest. As a result, they assure that their soldiers retreat in order to get rest. In turn, they are strengthened and empowered for the battle that they must win.

We are no different. In fact, I would say that the battle we face is much more important than any other battle on earth. We are battling for the family. Our battle will make a difference for all of eternity. We battle for the hearts of those we love so dearly. Not so much for their hearts to merely turn toward US, but for their hearts to be tender to our Lord, Whom they come to know better through our encouragement and ministry to them.

We are going to get tired and weary along the way in that battle. We are hit from outside and inside. When the hits are new and fresh, it is easy to pick up the armor to block those shots. However, as the battle continues long and hard and our impact begins to be noticed by the enemy, the hits get harder to block and to withstand because the enemy knows that the only way to defeat us is to get us to quit. The best thing for us at that time is not continuing where we can be annihilated, but to retreat, to rest. Oh, I am not talking about sleeping. Quite to the contrary, I am talking about getting GOD'S REST! Rest for our weary soul. Rest that enables us to go back into battle as a formidable foe! More on this in a bit! For now, let's look at another reason soldiers retreat in the midst of battle. To strategize!

Strategize!

I am sure that you could have easily guessed this one. It makes perfect sense for the soldier in battle to step back, take a look at any new advances of the enemy, take a look at successful advances made on his own behalf (just in case they hit the enemy hard enough to become a continued tactic in the battle against that enemy), take a look at where they have come from and where they are going, and plan the next attack. Have you ever thought of the total necessity of pulling back to retreat so you may evaluate your strategy in homeschooling?

If there is one reason that we should all retreat, this is the most important. Without retreating, we will be less prepared than if we are on the "front-lines" all of the time. Why? We need to take time to refresh our minds on God's plan for our families. We need to pull back to let Him equip us for the battle by showing us options for the "attack" and which one is just perfect for us. Yes, He has a plan JUST FOR US. One just perfect for me, one just perfect for you. A plan that is promised to work, to be easy, and most of all, to take us to the end of our battle in victory!

Take this time to pull back and find God's strategy for you. Find His plan. He wants to fully prepare you for battle. Let Him show you His options, His plan of attack. Learn of Him (Matthew 11: 28-30). His ways are as old as time. They work. And, best news yet! They are EASY! Dig into God's Word for HIS how-to's that are JUST FOR YOU! He is a wonderful "taskmaster" as He is gentle, kind, and refreshing. He cares about all of the details, even the preciousness of our children that is so often forgotten by so many vying for our attention. He wants for us to have the very best education for our children, yet make the most of every moment with them. Pull back in the middle of your hot battle and try His way. You will find the retreat you need in order to give you an advantage in your battle that will guarantee victory for you!

Re-Supply for the Battle.

Re-supply for the battle. This one seems so obvious. Battles empty out our reserves very, very quickly. We obviously cannot battle without supplies. A soldier pulls back into a retreat at any time that supplies get low or when they are in need of new weapons for the battle.

We are no different as we carry on in our battle. We cannot go on day-in- and day-out without a full (and overflowing) storehouse of joy, encouragement, and inspiration. I know that I even find myself in the middle of a busy morning using up all that I have on-hand (by breakfast at times!). My only option at that time is my mid-morning re-supply. Oh, get a picture of this warrior at that moment. Prostrate on the floor in the bathroom (I know it is the scummiest place in my house, yet it has a LOCK on the door!). Crying out in repentance and complete neediness. Not getting back up until the Lord has cleansed, renewed and refilled me. How much more do we need a special "retreat" at the end of the year to re-supply for the battle?

It is at this time of year that we need time sitting at the feet of the Lord to re-supply for the battle. We need to re-fuel on joy, HIS joy. We need to re-fuel on encouragement. Do you find any better encouragement than HIS encouragement? We need re-supply on His Word, allowing Him to speak to our hearts, souls, and minds through His own special Word, just for us!

As we are strengthened to go back on the battlefield, we need to also update our "equipment" so we are prepared for advancement or any hits that the enemy may wage against us to push us back. As homeschooling soldiers, we need to "update" for yet another big year. We need to re-supply. Look at the supplies that you have, look at the supplies that you need. Take a look at your schedule, your plans. Find what you need to get where you are going. Get rid of all that hinders (1 Timothy 2). Gear up for yet another big year.

Oh! Take This Time To Rest!

Yep, you read right. Rest! It is OK! Take the time that is necessary to pull back, kick back, and hear God! Turn to Matthew 11; 28-30.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to REST, [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.] Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart, and you will find REST (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. For My yoke is wholesome (useful, good - not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant), and My burden is light and easy to be borne." Matthew 11: 28-30 (Amplified Bible)

Want some of that rest? Kick back for a bit! Take Christ's yoke! The word yoke means obligation or commitment. Jesus Christ has an obligation or commitment to you in all of the areas of your life, especially homeschooling! Isn't that such wonderful news? That means He has a vested interest in every single area of your life! He calls Himself the "Author" and "Finisher" (Completer) of the good work in your life. However, He does not commit or obligate Himself to complete or finish what He does not begin, commit, or obligate Himself to in the first place. We must join with Him for His yoke if we want guaranteed success!

Want to know how to tell what His yoke is? Do a "yoke" check! We need to do a "yoke" check to make sure that the commitment we have before us is truly HIS commitment. HIS obligation. This passage in Matthew 11 has an easy way to check our yoke: Does it make us labor, heavy-laden, overburdened? Or, does it bring rest, ease, relief, and refresh your souls. Do you find it to be gentle, meek, humble, lowly, restful, relieving, easy, refreshing, recreational (FUN!), blessed quiet for our souls? Is our yoke wholesome, useful, good - not harsh, hard, sharp, or pressing, but comfortable, gracious, and pleasant, light and easy to be borne?

If we want to really have a truly successful AND happy homeschool, then we must take the yoke of Jesus Christ. We must become students of HIM, learning of Him. He is the perfect Teacher. He lived His whole life doing the very thing that we are called to do... discipling. We can take this time to kick back a little bit and learn from the Master. We can take this time to learn of His methods, His ways, His approach. And we will find rest for our weary souls. We can change our pace, so we can check out our "yoke." We can take this time to swap out all that is not Christ's yoke while grasping on to all that He wants for us!

Scared? Well, summer is the best time to try a few ideas that you are not "sure" about. Maybe you are not too sure about trying something new like nature studies, literature-based Learning, notebooking, unit studies, creating books, or read-alouds. This is the time to give them a try. Your schedule is different anyway. You may find that the ideas work so well that you want to use these approaches permanently.

Summer also gives you the time to take the time to do those "extras" that never seem to get done. You probably have a huge list just like I do. Summer is the time of year to do those extras since the schedule is scaled back. Of course, you may be like me. You may choose to do those extras now AND keep them in the schedule for the new school year too! Just think through those extras. Which ones do you want to do over summer vacation? Fine arts? Nature study? That unit study you are dying to dig into, but never get around to? Those field trips in your own backyard (and along the way to and from your summer trips)? What about having that friend over for tea? Why not take this time to try your hand at those little business ideas that the children never have time to bring to life (bake bread, mow lawns, baby-sit.)? Perhaps, you would like to actually take time to swim, sail, travel, or read. Why not now? What about a book project? Take those studies from the past year and make a finished project that will teach more about language arts than your children learned all year AND have fun teaching them! Whatever YOUR preference, take this time to rest. On this summer vacation, take the time to kick back a bit. Have a little fun. And learn of Jesus Christ. As you gear back up, you will be ready to soar!

Take Time Today to Renew!

We have now retreated and rested, but that is not all that is necessary in order for us to be ready to soar! We also need to renew our hearts, souls, and minds for yet another big year.

There is constantly a battle waging for our hearts, souls, and minds. I believe that one of the strategies of the enemy is to "lull" us to sleep. He wants for us to trust the "auto-pilot" to keep us going. If our "auto-pilot" is the Lord, we can surely trust that He will keep us going. But, you need to know that His approach to parenting is not "chilling" out during the "flight." He wants much, much more from us in this journey. God wants for us to join Him in this adventure. He wants for us to see this opportunity to minister alongside of Him. He wants for us to be His "helper" to bring this work to pass. Because of this, we need desperately to take time to renew to the call before us.

What do I mean by renew? I mean a complete heart, soul, and mind renewal to the call of homeschooling. God wants for us to have a heart for homeschooling. I am not talking about a heart for "school" in the home. I am talking about a heart for having all that Jesus died to give us. Homeschooling is only one means that God uses to restore the family to His perfect design. Yet, so often our enemy distracts us into thinking of homeschooling as another means of education. There is so much more to homeschooling. It is not all about academics. We are given a precious gift of really ministering to the hearts of our children. We are given time and opportunity to train our children up to use all of their special gifts, talents, and bents. We are given the opportunity to really impress upon the hearts of our children our passion for God, life, relationships, and learning. Oh, if we could only constantly renew our heart, we would have a contagious passion that would keep us fired up and on track!

We also need to renew our soul and mind. What do I mean by this? This is renewing our will, mind, and emotions. This can only begin one way. Let's see how Romans 12: 1-2 says that this can begin.

"I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]." Romans 12: 1-2 (Amplified Bible)

I love this passage! I absolutely love anything that can give me THREE EASY STEPS. This passage is one of those passages. Want to renew your soul and mind? Want to renew your mind, will, and emotions at any time, in any area of your life? Here are the THREE EASY STEPS:

  1. Daily come before the Lord sacrificing ALL you are to Him. Yes, beloved, ALL that you are: your plans (everyone of them)... your ambitions (even that college thing!)... ideas (even the best idea can be your idol, your high place, so ALL of those ideas!)... methods (Yep! ALL of them, even if they are great! Even Charlotte Mason's approach, the unit study approach, the Classical approach, the Principle approach, those textbooks, the 'Lifestyle of Learning' approach, the 'Heart of Wisdom' approach. Did I leave any out? That one too! Sacrifice it. If it is of God, He will let you continue in those ideas. If not, well, uh, God has some great ideas for you!)... techniques (Yep, even your beloved ideas!)... fears (Why fear when God knows every single detail of your life and those of your children?)... concerns (There is not one concern that God does not know and have your provision, so lay it down!!!). All must be presented to God as a living sacrifice each day!

  2. Do NOT conform. Are we not a nation of people-pleasers? In no area do I see more peer-pressure than the homeschool movement. We try to please the culture. We try to please the Church. We try to please fellow homeschoolers. When are we going to turn away from people pleasing and conforming to the ways of others? When are we going to repent and turn our hearts intently to our Lord and Saviour? When we do, we will find the freedom to hear Him in each and every area of our lives, even our homeschool. Then we will find the renewal of our souls and minds that we so desire. Then we will be able to "prove [for ourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for us]." Then we will see the glory of the Lord in our homes. Then, we will have the revival that God wants in our land!

  3. Be transformed by renewing your mind! Oh, beloved, reach for this renewal! It will transform your entire life! Of course, this begins as you sit at the feet of Jesus. As you daily immerse yourself in His Word, you will begin to be transformed. You will soon have different priorities... different beliefs... different ambitions. And soon you will be able to prove what is good, acceptable, and perfectly in the will of God. If we never experience this transformation, we will always find ourselves burdened under a yoke of bondage. We will always find ourselves looking in all the wrong places for direction, approval, meaning, purpose, and rest! But, this need not happen. We can have all that Christ has planned for us! Sit at His feet!

Yes! Three easy steps to a complete renewal! Then you will KNOW His "good and acceptable and perfect will" for you and your children! Isn't that great? Just sitting at His feet this summer, sacrificing yourSELF, not conforming to anyone or anything around you, and hearing Him, you will be able to completely renew your mind. Talk about a retreat! Oh, do record this!

Take the time to write what He shows you. Write down where He wants for you to go. Write down what He shows you as you look back. What HAS been learned, where you HAVE come from, what HAS been accomplished. Write down all that He shows you about where you are today. WHERE are they, WHO are they, WHAT is the ONE THING that they need today (academic, spiritual, character, relational, physical). WHAT would you do today if this were the last day you had in life (do it now while you are listening and planning!). Write down what He shows you about tomorrow. WHERE do they need to be (next week, next month, next year, at the end of this homeschooling journey). HOW can you get there? Write down your commitment to this high call. Write down your commitment to the lifestyle of learning for a lifetime, for the long haul. Not to homeschooling, but to a home, to God's design for the home.

Take the time to record your retreat with God. You are going to love looking back later to see His faithfulness. Trust me, after 11 years of seeing God prepare me each and every year AND follow through, I KNOW that He will never leave me in this calling. This helps SO much on those days that I am not real sure that I can press on. All I have to do is look back to see that He will be with me and I know I can go on!

Take This Time to Re-Organize!

Now, I am not a homemaking queen here. Actually, I can reasonably assure you that unless God did have the absolutely most crazy sense of humor, I can probably boldly write (now I am getting scared!) that I will never write a book called HOMEMAKING THE EASY WAY. (If I do now, I will just rename it, or quote this totally unfaithful comment.) Don't get me wrong. I believe that God is a miracle God. He can do ANYTHING with ANYONE. Just look at my life! However, it would take just that for me to ever become a homemaking queen, much less write a book on it. So, I will give you my ever-so-humble and easy approach to homemaking here!

Don't do it! Nooooo, just joking! Actually, this is the time of year that will make or break our homeschool. Nothing frustrates me more or distracts me more than a dirty home. (Could be the reason I am frustrated and distracted at times... hmmm!) When homeschooling, my home has utterly sent me into a flood of tears as I felt it bang me on the head for my attention when we would rather learn about volcanos! With this dilemma, I arrived at the easiest plan I could come up with to balance homemaking with my busy life. Here it is for your consideration. It is definitely as close to HOMEMAKING THE EASY WAY as I think I can legitimately get!

First, use this time over the summer to re-organize your home. We usually take a couple of weeks off from lessons, life (I look so scummy that I DEFINITELY do not want a human to see me!), and the regular routine to clean out everything. We work from one room to the next until the whole house has had a complete overhaul. We pull out everything from every crook-and-cranny (An expression of my mom's... have no idea what that really means... we just DO it!). We get rid of the "unnecessaries" by throwing away or giving away. We put away all of those papers and books that have piled up over the last six months (We do a clean out twice a year, spring and fall!). We wash down the walls, windows, pretties around the house (I have a huge collection of tea cups, tea pots, linens, and other beloved pretties that need that tender-loving-care on a regular basis or they go funky!), and put away seasonal clothing. Usually we are so exhausted by the end of this clean-up break that no one has the energy to mess up for several months! This tends to only require daily maintenance until the mess builds up again... usually about six months.

Take an honest inventory of your family life. Find a way to manage this homemaking monster so you can enjoy your family and your lessons. Need more help? Check out the pros of homemaking like www.Flylady.com, Emilie Barnes, or Mary Carney. [Editor's note: I love FlyLady's approach!!]

Second, use this time to re-organize your Homeschool. Yep, I know that the time goes by way too fast. If we want to have the most efficient homeschool, we need to plan ahead. Take this time to do your planning. Set up a "Mommy Journal" with a log of what God is teaching you (last section), your plans for the year, your supplies that you will need, your schedule (re-evaluate it in the light of your new year and all that will be going on in your home -- extra-curricular activities, lessons, lifestyle changes, babies, traveling, care of your parents, job changes), even your recipes that will make each day a bit easier. Scope out the curriculum that you would like for the new year. Of course, don't forget to include the fun stuff that we tend to put off. Plan that in. You will have a much better school year. Gather up your supplies. If you are on a budget, the best way to bless your husband is to buy those supplies bit-by-bit, while they are on sale. Scope out the different things that you will need and buy them when they are on special. For example, we buy truckloads of 3-ring binders when Office Depot puts them on special for "Buy 7, get 5 free." That is one key to encouraging our young writers as we have plenty for them to use AND we have them on hand when they need them. Plus, it helps our family budget tremendously to save that money along the way.

Summer is also the perfect time to clean out and re-organize what you already have. We pull out our notebooks and supplies to re-organize and inevitably this sparks interest as the children finish those studies they forgot about or beg to do a lesson just to use the paints that we have (that are NEW again now that they are found!). It also helps us to take a look back over the things that we have learned over the past year. Oh, seize this time to re-organize. Gearing up will be a lot more fun and a whole lot easier!

Take This Time to Re-fuel!

Oh, the other areas are all fun, but this one is the MOST fun! This one is where YOU re-fuel and re-supply for the call. This article simply would not be complete without the most important aspect -- taking care of the good soldier. That means taking care of YOU!

There is just something about a homeschooling mother that makes everything else somewhat of a priority, yet this aspect seems to be the last thing on our list to do. Yet, if we are to be prepared for this call so we can gear up for the best year yet, we most certainly must re-fuel OUR tanks! However, the tricky part is that we are all so very different that what re-fills my tank would not work for you. So, think over what YOU like!

What do YOU enjoy? What fills YOUR cup? Feel the twisting of your stomach? Getting a knot in the back of your throat? Have you already put this article down 15 times at this part? Been scared of what this might just say? Well, let's think through this TOGETHER!

What fills your cup? Bible Study? If so, why not begin a new Bible Study JUST for you! The benefits are simply unbelievable! What about reading that book, magazine, or catalog that you have piled up? Oh! The joy! Maybe a leisurely afternoon (or BUNCH of afternoons) at the pool, park, or river is just "what the doctor" ordered to help fill your cup? Perhaps, just the thing needed to re-fill your tank is a day or weekend away at a retreat OR even better, buy the tapes and go for a long walk each day as you work through them. This way your "retreat" can happen over and over again! Speaking of a long walk, why not take the time, beginning today, to carve out time for your favorite mode of exercise. Maybe, if you are like me, walking is the divine appointment with God and His wonderful creation. Or, maybe you will want to ride a bike... skate... play ball... go fishing... play laser tag (we LOVE this one!)... jog... go horseback riding... etc. Take the time today. It will be much, much easier to take that time on a regular basis.

Maybe you prefer a more sedentary life... I am sure you could tell that I do. I devour having a daily teatime or coffee break. I usually take that time to dig into the Word, or write that article that needs to come to life, or to read a great book JUST for me (actually that is an understatement, every book I read is really never JUST for me because I have to share them with my family and friends.) I also love to take that "down time" to scrapbook or pow-wow with my husband, children or a good friend. You probably have your favorite way to re-fill and re-supply. Make a point today to take that time. Then schedule regular times throughout the school year to pull apart to re-fuel.

Want to see a big difference in your homeschool? Take time to re-fuel now and continue to refill all throughout the year. You will find that extra bit of energy. You will find that your time really is better balanced. You will stay fired up. It will be easier for you to stay on track. Plus -- your children will learn even more than ever! Yes, they will be more inspired to learn as you continue learning and living as a mother.

So don't put this one off. Take time to let God fill your cup. Take time to let your friends fill your cup. In fact, take time to fill your own cup. Then, oh, beloved! Tnhen you will be ready to pour forth from an overflowing cup!

Ready???

So, ready? The days are getting longer. The air is a bit (MUCH) warmer. You may feel tired and a bit weary right now. But now is the perfect time to pull back for a bit of a retreat. It is time today to retreat, rest, renew, re-organize, and re-fuel.

I know. I know ALL, I mean ALL of the excuses. I have made them all myself. In turn, I have had too many times that I have been weary and worn. I have had too many times that we have gotten off track and it took a while, a long while (sad to say), to even realize that we had gotten off. I have had far too many times that my attitude and my spirit did not show my family that they were my true priority, much less how precious they are to my heart. I made the excuses. I did not take the time away to gear back up. Everything in life was completely affected.

On the other hand, there is something wonderful about starting a fresh new beginning. I guess because "new beginnings" are what God is all about. Each day we get a new beginning. Each week, we can confidently begin a whole new week. Even each month, we get a brand new month. Oh, and then we have a new year every single year.

I need those new beginnings. I need a fresh start. I love those closed chapters to life... and the new chapters. This is the time to tidy up from the last year and get ready for a brand new year. You are now cleared to land. Whether you are coming in for a temporary "landing" or you are just coming in for a little "touch-n-go," this is the perfect time to get ready so you can soar again.

So, are you ready for another big year? How about the summer of your life? Hey, take this summer to retreat... rest... renew... re-organize... and re-fuel. Oh, and at the end of August I have a little assignment for you. Why not write me an email (Better than an essay, huh?) just to let me know one thing... write me a little note to let me know "What YOU Did on YOUR Summer Vacation."

Cindy Rushton is a wife, mother, writer and speaker who combines her passion for God with her gifts of encouragement and Biblical teaching to minister to mothers around the world. She has become a favorite of many as she has poured her gifts into her writing and workshops around the country. You can find her life-changing books...tapes of her workshops...teaching notes (YES! Copies of her own original teaching notes from her workshops!)...and much more by visiting www.cindyrushton.com. Don't miss her fantastic email fellowship group, TimeForTea! You can subscribe by sending a blank email to: TimeForTea-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

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