Our 2012 Disney World Bucket List: Hollywood Studios

Hollywood Studios

Last week I shared with you why I don’t do resolutions in the New Year and my first Disney World bucket list for 2012, The Magic Kingdom. Today I’m going to share with you the long list of items we haven’t managed to while visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I hope that we will actually be able to cross some off in the coming year.

Hollywood Studios

Toy Story Mania! – If for some reason a family of five hands over there coveted fast passes to us because some freak emergency has caused them to actually leave the park before using them, then we will try this out. If not, you can read all about the insanity of the ride and why I will not even bother.

Fantasmic!– I don’t do shows like this usually because I despise the crowds after the fact, as I’ve shared before, but we will see.

Disney's Hollywood Studios

Lights, Motors, Action!® Extreme Stunt Show® - I’m not entirely sure why we have never made an attempt to watch this as I’m sure my kids would actually really like it. Oh yeah, that’s right, my kids are obsessed with going on Tower of Terror, that’s right.

Pixar Pals Countdown to Fun!– Again, parades equal crowds, but I’m sure the kids would adore this one if would actually find a seat to watch it one day.

The American Idol Experience– I actually have NO interest in this, but think my 6 year old daughter would love it, so it here it is, ready to be checked off.

Indiana Jones™ Epic Stunt Spectacular!– This one the kids have NO interest in but I would really like to see. I’ve always been a big Indy Fan.

The Great Movie Ride – If we can ever sneak away for an adult only visit to Disney this one will get crossed off, but I just can’t seem to justify it with the kids as we would have to let the little one sit out and take turns.

Studio Backlot Tour – I have mixed emotions on this attraction as I’ve heard it is a pain in the butt for those with strollers (which we always have) thus why I’ve always avoided it. In fact, I generally avoid that whole area of the park.

Sounds Dangerous with Drew Carey – I’ve never been a big Drew Carey fan, but if we could make it without the kids, I guess we could try to cross it off the list of To-Do’s.

Character Greetings – We’ve seen them all while in the park, but haven’t attempted the greeting before.

  • Jake from Jake and the Never Land Pirates
  • Cars stars, Lightning McQueen and Mater
  • Mr. and Mrs. Incredible
  • Buzz, Woody, Jesse from the Disney·Pixar Toy Story movies
  • Mike and Sully from Monsters, Inc.
  • Winnie the Pooh from his new movie, Disney's Winnie the Pooh
  • Stars of their self-titled Disney Channel show, Phineas and Ferb

Star Wars: Jedi Training Academy– I got to watch this for the first time on our last visit and the hubby and big kids caught the tail end of it and looked really intrigued. So now, I MUST get them signed up one time to try it out.

Pizza Planet - My Toy Story loving crew insist that we MUST eat at Pizza Planet next time we visit. They were very disappointed that our last visit was early in the morning thwarting their plans.

The Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant

The Hollywood Brown Derby– I would love the opportunity to dine here kid free one night, hint hint…somebody!

I love to browse some shops at Disney when I can get away from the kids who want to buy EVERYTHING; here a few I would like to make my way into in 2012 while visiting Hollywood Studios.

  • Classic Car Memorabilia (I LOVE classic cars)
  • Once Upon a Time
  • The Writer's Stop

Finally, I’m still pouting over the fact that we missed this year so it is my final 2012 Disney World bucket list for Hollywood Studios must do, The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights.

Want to read more; here are all of my 2012 Bucket List

Home School Encouragement at the Dentist

Teeth!

I just wanted to write a quick note about our latest visit to the pediatric dentist and how you find home school encouragement in the most unlikely of places. You see, we had a second of the three, three-hour long visits to our pediatric dentist to have work done on all the kids’ teeth, which is a whole other post that I may get to one day, on the day after Christmas.

The appointments didn’t begin until 4pm and as I sat bored waiting with two kiddo’s that where getting cranky while Goldilocks was in the back it seemed that the receptionist was equally as bored and came to sit in the waiting room with me and chat. Having read our paperwork, she knew that we home school, and immediately brought up the topic, informing me that she home schools as well.

She went on to tell me how her oldest just graduated with a college scholarship and her 16 year old is working to graduate with an associate’s degree already under his belt. I was impressed, but this wasn’t where the encouragement came from. We chatted some more about local home school groups and the yearly convention and it was after that I began to perk up. You see, during our talk I found out that she only ever visited one convention where she felt overwhelmed by the degree of professionalism from other moms, they were never a part of a home school group or co-op and their core curriculum, up until middle school when she chose to utilize the Florida Virtual School, was miscellaneous books and workbooks with lots of life experience, no standard curriculum.

I immediately realized how much I needed that reminder that though it may seem like we are not doing “enough” that the standard cookie cutter education doesn’t have to be it. Our kids can succeed when we do what works for them. I’m continually beating myself up, as I know many home school moms are, wondering how it will all turn out in the end and every few months it is nice to have one of these reminders.

How We Do Disney for Under $200 a Day as a Family of Five: Part 2 the Food

Epcot food and Wine Festival 2009

I have to say that I LOVE the food at Disney World, but eating there for every meal and snack is not budget friendly and definitely will not keep your cost under $200 a day. So on top of our choice to stay at a hotel off Disney property, we also choose to eat most of our meals away from the mouse too. I’m going to share with you how we save money on food while visiting Disney, but first I want to talk about the prices of eating at Disney as a family of five.

Three Meals and Two Snacks a Day

disney resort

If you are spending long days at the parks you can easily eat three full meals plus snacks to stay energized, but if you are a family of five, even opting for Disney’s lowest price options, that could cost you around $160 a day. I don’t know about you, but I try to stick to that for a weekly grocery budget so the thought of spending that much in a single day makes me cringe. Keep in mind too that price is average for those who choose to only eat at quick service restaurants and pick up something simple like a juice and cinnamon bun for breakfast.

If you ate your meals and any of the wonderful table service restaurants, your daily ticket would easily start at $400 a day for a family of five. An insane amount of money for one day of meals and that is why we choose to dine on a budget.

One Meal a Day

First and foremost, we have a one meal a day rule when it comes to dining at Disney. This allows us to enjoy some of the food we love, but not go broke in the meantime. On occasion, we will visit one of the table service restaurants, but for the most part, our one meal is usually lunch and ate at a quick service location.

Make this awesome dessert at your hotel for a fraction of the cost!

Breakfast and Dinner are taken care of at the hotel that has the wonderful kitchenette where we can make our own food for a fraction of the price. Even though we only have access to a two-burner stovetop and a microwave, there is quite a bit you can do. And if you find you just don’t feel like cooking after a long day at the parks, the area surrounding Disney World is littered with great restaurants that come at a much friendlier price tag for a family budget.

Our Biggest Cost Saver

Snacks! Buying drinks and snacks can quickly suck the life out of your daily Disney budget, but they don’t have to since the park is kind enough to allow you to bring your own in. We have a wonderful insulated bag that comes with us on every trip. Packed inside you will always find a frozen bottle of water, two more bottles of water, possibly a juice for the kids or soda for us grownups and then a variety of snacks. Usually this will be fruit gummies, granola bars, bags of pretzels, yogurt tubes and similar items. This way when we’ve only been in the park for an hour and a kiddo starts saying they are hungry already you are not shelling out $5 for a quick snack.

Cork Ireland Sign Epcot food and Wine Festival 2009

I would have to say, that on average we spend $60 a day on Dining while visiting Disney World when we stick to our budgeting rules. For a family of five that is pretty awesome. I’m always looking for ways to save while eating though, so tell me, do you have any great tips to add on how to save money on food while at Disney?

Hint: If you want an opportunity to try out some great Disney food without the price tag of a regular meal, visit during the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot and hit up one of the many tasting menus for the various countries and pay Disney "snack" price to sample some of their great fare.

Our 2012 Disney World Bucket List: The Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom

This is just a first in a series of bucket list for 2012 I’m going to post. You see, I despise resolutions! I mean, really, who wants to make a promise to themselves that they could potentially break. Instead, each year I write up bucket list of things I would like to do or accomplish and mark them off as I go. If I don’t get everything on my list marked off, no big deal, but it does put a big smile on my face each time I get to cross one off.

Why a Disney World bucket list? Well, even though we have been annual pass holders since March of this year there are SO many things at Disney that we have yet to see and do with the kids. The thrill of certain rides has managed to keep us away from so much and I find it ridiculous that after spending a total of 12 days there this year that we haven’t done them. Therefore the 2012 Disney World Bucket list is born. There is so much to list, that I have to split this up into multiple posts, here we go….

The Magic Kingdom

DONE Main Street Electrical Parade and DONE Wishes™ Nighttime Spectacular– Hopefully I can work up the insanity courage to plant my butt on a curb with kids, who undoubtedly will be cranky by that point, to get a seat to see both of these.

Astro Orbiter®- My massive fear of heights has kept me from taking the kids on this though they have begged and begged, I will get over it, or enjoy a nice cup of coffee and let the hubby have it!

Cinderella Castle – I am going to enter EVERY contest that comes ups at the hopes of spending a night in the castle, trust me, this one will stay on my bucket even when I’m making my way around the park in a little motorized scooter.

The Hall Of Presidents– I have been holding out on this attraction until I knew it would hold a little more meaning for the kids. I think an election year is perfect timing.

Magic Kingdom

Liberty Square Riverboat – I can honestly say that in all my visits to the Magic Kingdom, as a Florida native, I have NEVER done this and I’m not sure why. Maybe because I’ve been on so many outside of Disney that it has never really appealed to me?

DONE Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress– I know some of you are probably gasping that we haven’t visited this attraction all year, but I have not so fond memories of being stuck on it for some time on a school field trip.

Walt Disney World® Railroad – With all of the construction going on with the Fantasyland expansion, it just did not seem right to hop on the train without one of the original stops so I’ve been holding out for next summer in hopes that the station will reopen.

Disney's Celebrate America! – A fireworks show for the 4th, maybe, maybe not.

Character Meet-N-Greets – Yeah, in a whole year we have only managed to wait in line for main mouse himself, Mickey. We are total slackers!

DONEMinnie Mouse

Donald Duck

Daisy

Snow White

Ariel from The Little Mermaid

Belle and The Beast from Beauty and the Beast

Aladdin and Jasmine from Aladdin

Mary Poppins

Chip 'n' Dale

Sleeping Beauty

Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Jessie from the Disney·Pixar's Toy Story series

Rapunzel From Tangled

Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen

Dream-Along With Mickey – A nice show at the castle that we usually avoid in favor of the attractions.

Fantasy In The Sky Fireworks – The regular year long show, that we avoid because I hate feeling trapped in the crowds unable to escape with tired and cranky kids that time of night.

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade – Again, you know my thoughts on parades, but I will try.

The Magic, The Memories and You! – A projection show that looks pretty cool, but if I have to deal with butt-heads like I did during the castle holiday lighting you will find me here grumbling again after the fact.

Cinderella's Royal Table – If I’m crazy enough to dream about winning a night in the castle, you know I’m going to shell out the dough at some point to eat in it. ; )

Main Street Confectionery – Do you think it possible to get browse the sweets without my kids in tow to relive my own childhood a bit?

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe – Well, Papa Bear has intentionally kept me out of this shop knowing how much I ADORE Christmas decorations and that anything thrifty about our visits would quickly be thrown out the window the moment I stepped in.

Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party – There may be some freak event that happens over the next few months that convinces me that spending just under $300 for 4 hours of a Disney party is perfectly logical.

Well, that is it for the Magic Kingdom, we will see if I get past my cranky thrifty attitude to mark a couple of them off my Disney World bucket list in 2012.

Want to read more; here are all of my 2012 Bucket List (Still in Progress)

How We Do Disney for Under $200 a Day as a Family of Five: Part 1 the Hotel

Disney's Yacht Club Resort

I have teetered back and forth all year long “Almost” booking a stay at a Disney resort on more than one occasion and just before I hit that binding button with the mouse I come to my senses and remember that we do not need to be in a Disney hotel to experience the Magic of Disney. In fact, we often spend less than $200 a day when we visit as a family of five and that includes our hotel, meals, gas and tolls. So how do we do it, well it all starts with the hotel.

Our Favorite Budget Savvy Disney World Vacation Hotel

I know your dying to know…..bum bum bum…dramatic drum playing here….it is, Celebration Suites at Old Town. Located in Kissimmee, just two miles from Disney property, it takes us all of five minutes to get to any of the parks. Don’t worry though, if you’re flying in and don’t want to rent a car, there are multiple shuttle bus departures from the hostel to the Disney parks, free for guest.

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Screen clipping taken: 12/20/2011 of Room Layout from Suites at Old Town

What makes this hotel so awesome is that it is an all suite hotel with rooms that feature a living area with Murphy bed (in some cases a sleeper sofa too) a kitchenette/dining area that has a table that seats 4, full sized refrigerator, two burner stove top, microwave, coffee maker and dishwasher. You can bring your own dish/cook ware if you are local like us or pay the very fair fee of $10 to use theirs. Then you have a bathroom of course and the main bedroom which features either two double beds or a king bed, vanity area with sink and nice sized closet. Basically, for their average nightly rate of $60* you get a room that is almost three times as big as the standard rooms at the Disney resorts, with the added benefit of being able to save money on your meals thanks to the kitchenette.

In addition to the rooms, the hotel features multiple pools, playgrounds, a children’s activity center, business center and more.

OldTownCruise.png

Screen clipping taken: 12/20/2011 from Old Town

Another perk of the hotel is that it is literally adjacent to Old Town, where there is plenty of shopping, dining and entertainment, including the FREE muscle car cruise in and Classic car cruise in that occur every weekend on Friday and Saturday nights that are followed by live entertainment, also FREE. Our kids LOVE this and it makes for a nice relaxing break after a crowded day at the parks.

So why doesn’t every stay here you ask? Well, probably because of the fact that they are scared away by the lack luster appearance of the exterior, that while it has a fresh coat of paint, shows it age. The fact is though, that it is a clean, comfortable, affordable and safe hotel for your next stay to Disney.

*We have never paid more than $33 a night before tax thanks to Expedia’s unpublished rates and some clever deducting on my part to single the hotel out based upon amenities.

So, tell me, what do you do for lodging while on vacation or when you visit Disney? Do you stay on property where you are visiting or do you find more budget friendly options? Stop by next week, when I’ll share our tips on saving money on dining while at Disney.

The Moment I Realized I’m One of “Those Moms” and Disney Insanity

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The Christmas Tree at EpcotIt was a busy weekend for our family as we headed out to take in the Holiday decorations at Disney World and the Muscle and Classic Car Cruise In’s at Old Town. All in honor of our oldest 9th birthday, which happens to be today. Happy Birthday to my Builder Boy! While we had a blast, I had a few realizations over our 44 hours spent away from home.

I’m One of “Those Moms!”

What is one of “Those Moms” you ask? Well, it would be one that dresses inappropriately for her age. The problem with this realization is that I really don’t have much of a choice. You see, somewhere in this blog there is a post on my battle with being too skinny, so I won’t go into too much detail again, but the gist is that I have struggled for years to maintain a weight over 100lbs even though I eat a LOT and have had a gazillion test run to determine that there is nothing medically wrong. I’m just fated to be super skinny and really, I don’t enjoy it.

Why, because I am stuff buying clothes from Junior section so that they actually fit which leads to me staring in the mirror at myself wearing a shirt and shorts before we left Friday to realize just how short my shorts were and to see now that I am finally sitting steady at 106lbs peeking out from behind those short shorts are cottage cheese thighs. So, either I only wear jeans out of the house from now on or I figure out some miraculous way to get my butt in shape and have toned legs again without dropping back down below 100lbs making me look like even more of a twig than I already do.

Blah! Until, I figure it out I guess I’m going to continue to be one of “Those Moms” that I stared at like a weirdo when I was a teenage girl because, let’s face it, this is Florida and I was just wearing shorts a week before Christmas, it is not logical to even consider wearing pants full time.

I Can’t Manage a Trip to Disney without People Pissing Me Off

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Before the LightsI have to start with being in the Magic Kingdom on Saturday night. Our main mission, to see the castle lights turned on for the Holidays was achieved but not without me losing my cool before it was over. You see, we managed to get fairly good spots to watch the short show and see the lights turned on. Papa Bear put Little Red on his shoulders and Goldilocks and Builder Boy stood on our Sit-N-Stand stroller for a better view. Then it happened, the super rude person that always pops up when you think your enjoying yourself. He came from the family standing next to us and had his daughter who must have been at least 5 perched on his shoulders, making the pair of them tower over everyone above 6 feet. No big deal, until he kept slowly creeping in front of our stroller and the big kids. I kept checking to make sure they could still see, though my view had all but been obliterated. Then halfway through the show he made his move directly in front of them, completely blocking their view as he waved for another large male to join him.

It was then that I lost my cool, quickly shooting the other man death ray eyes and letting the one blocking our view have it with a view choice words, though none foul. He looked stunned at my mini meltdown rant, but quickly moved out of the way.

Toy Story = Complete Lunacy

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Little Red Hanging Out While the Big Kids were on Test Track at EpcotIt wasn’t until yesterday morning that I became completely baffled though when I realized that though we are annual pass holders I don’t think we will ever have the pleasure of experiencing the Toy Story attraction at Hollywood studios first hand.

You see, we got to the park, which opened at 9am at 8:30am with sole intention of finally getting to experience Toy Story. We made our way through the turnstiles and got a place by the big blue hat, waiting behind the ropes, along with what seemed like a gazillion other people to get to the ride. That is when I first realized that we were not the only ones with this brilliant plan. We made it to the ride at 9:05am at which point the line was already a good 200 feet down the walkway past the attraction. ???? What the #$%*! To make matters worse, as we walked back the other direction the Fast Pass line had managed to already curve around the Little Mermaid attraction. ???? Again What the #$%&!

It was clear that we were not going to experience Toy Story and it was at that moment that I decide NO ride was worth subjecting ourselves to that sort of insanity. Instead, we headed over to Star Tours for some NO WAIT fun, watched the Muppet 3D show and then walked back over for the Beauty & the Beast Live on Stage Show before heading home from our weekend trip.

With all of that being said, I’ve decided that since I DESPISE New Year’s Resolutions, I’m going to write up some 2012 Bucket List, with one devoted entirely to Disney World, because there are so many things that we still haven’t gotten to experience.

One of Those Home School Days that Just Make You Smile!

smiles

It’s usually the really crumby days that leave me compelled to write up a blog post when it comes to homeschooling the kids. Not today though! Today was one of those home school days that just makes you want to smile and reminds you why you do what you do.

We didn’t pour over any math text or phonics lessons today. There were no literature narrations or memory recitations. Instead, it was one of those days when I was reminded that my children have a genuine love of learning and that even if we skip every lesson in the planner for a week, they are still learning. Even when we wake up 6 am like crazy people that actually go somewhere.

Smile

You see, Papa Bear decided to take on a new shift at work last week that has him leaving for work at 3 am and returning in 3 in the afternoon so we’ve slowly adjusting the kids to a new daily routine that includes getting our night owl (Goldilocks) in bed before 11 pm and trying to have everyone up by 6 am. We got up this morning to dreary, drizzling but not cold Florida weather that just sort of puts that blah in any day. So, how do you perk up the mood when everyone wants to curl up and go back to bed, well you turn on a movie of course.

Cat smiling at sanctuary

No, we didn’t settle in for the latest installment of Sponge Bob, but rather the motion picture version of The Nutcracker performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. I fully expected to be blown over by groans and such but instead I sat and watched three children fully enthralled with the production and immediately asking about the correlation to Swan Lake. That was the first “SMILE” moment of the day. I realized how

much my children are beginning to truly love the arts, in all forms, and how much of this they would be missing out on if they were not at home.

Science was covered today courtesy of an impromptu experiment session with dry ice after a Christmas delivery and after 30 minutes of pure joy on their faces, I had my second “SMILE” for the day. Not to be outdone by the third “SMILE” brought on by their complete enthusiasm expressed during the Spanish lesson the older kids had with Papa Bear.

Smile

Of course we can’t forgot about the “SMILE” Little Red put on my face as I was playing tanagrams with her and I realized how many shapes she already recognizes, not because she has been “taught” them, but because she is learning naturally in her environment.

In all today, I reminded myself that it isn’t about what we had planned to do that day, how  many books were read or math facts mastered, but instead the realization that when given the tools and the opportunities children are always learning. Moreover, when presented with those tools and opportunities for topics they are passionate about chances are you will find yourself with a big “SMILE.” So, when you think your having a crumby, “Mom’s a bum” day, pause for a moment and look for your “SMILE” moments.

Happy Tuesday everyone!

Home School Educators Referred to as “Amateur Teachers”

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So, I perusing a lovely compilation on homeschooling by Evelyn Saenz, of The Homeschool Club, this morning discussing their decision making process when it came to providing a home education. When I made my way to the comments below, I found this answer in regards to the question “Is homeschooling right for your family?”

I immediately found myself offended. My first thought was of all the glaringly inexperienced teachers I came across in my own public school education. As much as we would all like to think that that the individuals who are nurturing are children’s mind away from home have vast experience and an unsurpassed amount of depth in their knowledge of the subject matter they are teaching, the fact is, many are straight out of college, and find themselves grasping on rails for life in those first few years trying to figure out what they are doing.

A statistical Brief created by the Bureau of Education Information and Accountability Services of the Florida Department of Education shows that in the 2006/2007 school year 61% of the teachers’ highest level of education was a Bachelor’s degree. Among this 61%, the average years of teaching experience amounts to only 9.76 years. Now keep in mind that these 9.76 years of average experience involve adjusting to a completely new set of students each year, and in the case of middle and high school teachers, multiple sets of students each year.

 As a home educator I already of 8.97 years of experience with my son as a mother and his teacher, the only primary teacher he has ever know, giving me the opportunity to fully understand his learning styles, abilities and the best methods for him to personally learn. This brings me to the second reason why I found myself so offended; in my opinion by calling a mother, an amateur teacher in regards to her own child you may as well say she isn’t qualified to be a mother.

This quickly reminds me of a quote from Elizabeth P. Peabody, in her 1887 publication, “Education in the Home, Kindergarten and The Primary School.”

 “Whoever proposes to become a kindergartner according to the idea of Frœbel, must at once dismiss from her mind the notion that it requires less ability and culture to educate children of three, than those of ten or fifteen years of age. It demands more; for, is it not plain that to superintend and guide accurately the formation of the human understanding itself, requires a finer ability and a profounder insight than to listen to recitations from books ever so learned and scientific? To form the human understanding is a work of time, demanding a knowledge of the laws of thought, will, and feeling, in their interaction upon the threshold of consciousness, which can be acquired only by the study of children themselves in their every act of life—a study to be pursued in the spirit that reveals what Jesus Christ meant, when he said: "He that receiveth a little child in my name, receiveth me, and Him that sent me;" "Woe unto him who offends one of these little ones, for their spirits behold the face of my Father who is in heaven."

Now, regular readers of my blog know that I am not religious, though spiritual, but I very much agree with this statement. I believe in a day in age when parents quickly send their children off to daycares and preschools the understanding of the patience and care that go in teaching young children, not math facts or grammar, but the very basic of life that will set them on their way is very much lost. If a mother can carefully teach her child how to crawl, walk, talk and more, even if it is her first child, is she not justly qualified to educate said child beyond the nursery years?

In fact, I would be willing to bet that if you asked most home educators what the most difficult part of educating their children is, it wouldn’t be that which can be taught from books, but rather the morals, values, love of learning and ability to provide their child with a strong self-confidence and self-reliance that will benefit them more than what the mother has taught from the book because this is what allows them to continue to teach themselves their entire lifetime. Public schools may have textbooks, standards and standardized test covered with their so called experienced teachers, but when it comes to the other, I think there can be no more experienced than the home educator.

So, I leave you with this, I do not find myself offended because I believe the public school teacher to be inexperienced or incapable of doing her job, I am offended that in this day and age the home educator still fights to garner the same respect. Of all the jobs, is there really any more sacred than that of motherhood, and are we not diminishing all that a mother does when we cannot place the same trust in her in regards to education as we do to the raising of her children?